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Chapter 1: Tactical Error
We had known each other about three and a half weeks when we made what can only be described as a tactical error: We went on vacation together. My brother and his family had a time share on Antigua which they could not use due to the sudden and overwhelming arrival of chicken pox. Not so bad for his twin boys, age 5, but devastating for his wife, age 35. He knew that I was finishing a season of summer stock and was exhausted. He was pleased to be able to provide what he (and I) thought would be an excellent way for Paul and me to spend some time alone together and to have non-stop sex. I am blessed with a straight brother who is gratefully unencumbered by the typical homophobia. Of course, if he ever took the time to actually consider my existence this might not be the case, but since the only aspects of my life that he acknowledges are the fictional ones he creates, there is little chance of anything changing. He is not as bothered by my sexual orientation as he is by my sexual encounters, the low number of which he finds quite distressing. "I thought you gay guys had sex all the time," he has often said, voicing an all-too-common misconception. "I thought you were all obsessed." To which I respond with only one word: projection. Had he not been able to offer the Antigua time share, I feel sure my brother would have been moved to arrange a suite at the Hôtel Georges V in Paris and two tickets on the Concorde if it would give his younger brother a chance to stop extolling the virtues of safe sex and actually practice it.
In anticipation of our departure, Paul and I went shopping together; we both needed new bathing suits for our adventure. Shopping with Paul was a new kind of hell. Of course I was so charmed by him that even the endlessly aggravating task of shopping with him seemed to be perfect. It was the annoying characteristic that meant the relationship was real. If I could find myself wanting to scream at him for something as insignificant as a style of shopping, then this wasnt just an idealized fantasy we were living; it was grounded in the grating reality of truth. That's what I told myself.
This is Pauls style of shopping: First, you go into the store and walk through all parts of the Mens section--including formal wear--even though you are there to buy a bathing suit. And you dont just semi-consciously skim through the clothes, you look and touch everything that you might possibly want anytime in, oh say, the next five years. Only then do you zero in on the bathing suit section. Here you are not hampered by anything as insignificant as size --no, no, you look at ALL the bathing suits in ALL the sizes. Then you pick out a few to try on--again ignoring any size restrictions that you might be tempted to consider. Then you discard those that you would really like to get but which are either too big or too small (!) and PUT BACK those that actually fit. Why do you put them back? Because you must then LEAVE THE STORE, do something else for a bit and then GO BACK. This "doing something else for a bit" can create a small obstacle, because you know what you are trying to do, you're trying to buy a bathing suit, that is your focus and your focus doesn't change. You just have to try to distract yourself for a bit. So you end up discussing the various possible distractions but never really have to pursue any of them, because by the time you have finished discussing them, it's time to go back in and again try on the finalists from twenty minutes ago, compare them several times, then finally, FINALLY buy the one that was the obvious choice from the beginning.
At first, I thought this go away and come back again was a "If you love something, let it go..." kind of thing, that if the bathing suit you wanted was still there when you came back, you were meant to have it. I later realized that it was actually God trying to give me a hint. It was a clue of the come here/go away sort of ride I was in for. At the time I could have used something a little more explicit. I was too infatuated to pick up on any subtle warnings. If God wanted me to be aware of what I was getting myself into, shouldnt He have sent a telegram or at least left a message on my machine? I thought Paul was just as infatuated with me as I was with him, and maybe this was my own sort of projection. Maybe it was, but Paul was certainly giving me material to work with. I may have over-estimated the longevity of Paul's feelings, but I wasn't inventing them outright. I mean, Paul pursued me at least as much as I pursued him. Its just that once he had me, I wasnt such an interesting toy to play with for very long. But I get ahead of myself.
The trip. We were going to a Caribbean island for five days. I packed my new bathing suit (after the ordeal of buying it I was tempted to bring nothing else), one pair of shorts, two T-shirts, socks and underwear. And I wore jeans and a shirt-shirt for the plane. In my mind, the majority of the time would be spent wearing little more than the sheen of our co-mingled sweat and I saw no reason to weigh myself down with useless fashion. I took my small gym bag, went downstairs, got a cab and headed to Pauls apartment where I was to pick him up and off we would go to the airport. I had called him as I was leaving so he could be outside when I pulled up. And he was. He was waiting on the sidewalk with a small duffel bag in his hand and a huge suitcase at his feet. I was a bit shocked.
"How often are you planning on changing?" I asked as I attempted to lift the monolith to the trunk of the cab.
"I know," he laughed "But I started putting things in and I couldnt stop. I kept seeing things I wanted to show you and books I wanted to give you. I got a little carried away. I couldnt stop myself." He held up the small duffel and said, "My clothes are in here. That's filled with stuff," he said indicating the massive bag with which I was herniating myself.
What could I do? He was so excited. He looked so cute standing there with an embarrassed smile and those impish eyes. He was so damn sweet. He wanted to show me things and share things with me, so much so that he couldnt stop packing. I flashed back to the Christmas when my brother was so excited by the present he had gotten for our mother that he gave up his traditional ransacking of the house in search of his own gifts. That particular Christmas he just wanted to give our mother the gift he had picked out for her. He sat there trembling with excitement and beaming with pride as our mother unwrapped a shiny new Mr. Potatohead. My brother had so wanted it for himself, and had so wanted our mother to be as happy as he would be were he to get one, that he could conceive of nothing greater. And indeed, he cried when my mother offered it to him to play with. "No," he wailed, "Its for you. Its for you to play with." So when Paul stood on the curb blushing and giggling at the cornucopia of delights he had packed in order that I might be as thrilled as he, I felt honored. I felt charmed. I felt loved.
Loved and slightly remorseful, for I had certainly not reciprocated. I had only brought a few perfunctory pieces of clothing that I was planning on not wearing. The only shareable contents in my bag were little foil packets of latex. He brought treasure, I brought rubbers. He was thinking about sharing, I was thinking about schtupping.
But the time we had spent together at the theater brought me to that point. I was following what I thought was a natural progression. During the last week of the show, Pauls physical longing had become palpable. The housing at the theatre had not been conducive to sexual liaison, too many people in too few rooms. I imagine that if we had really put our minds to it, we could have solved the problem of finding a place and time to be alone together. That was certainly what our bodies were seeking. But to me, letting our bodies dictate our actions seemed shallow and reductive. I admit I was horny, I was lust-filled, no denying that, but somehow I didn't feel the need to act on that immediately. Whereas each passing day seemed to send Paul into a deeper state of frustration. So in a channeling of energy that I was quite proud of, I was inspired to try to overcome the mediocrity of the play we were doing.
We arranged to meet during the day to rehearse our scenes and try to imbue them with a depth that was not supplied (nor, truth be told, supported) by the text. We talked about the characters' relationships, we created a common story, a kind of history of what came before the events of the plays first scene. Of course this kind of work normally happens during the rehearsal period, but when you have barely two weeks to get a show up and you have been working non-stop all summer and your material has all the dramatic significance of a bucket of hair, you tend to content yourself with memorizing the lines and not bumping into the furniture. But passions had been ignited.
One afternoon, we were running through a particular section of a scene: Paul was sitting in a chair and I was walking back and forth hyperventilating and spewing forth all this drivel into which Paul was trying to interject the very information that would solve the problem that was about to render me apoplectic. It was one of those wacky theatrical moments where if the characters would just listen to each other all would be peachy and the conflict would end. Of course the play would end as well, so they continue on for another 45 minutes and then the curtain rings down. It was one of those scenes. So I was walking back and forth spewing, but Paul was not interjecting. I kept going, and he kept not going. So I stopped. I turned and looked at him. He beckoned me over to him.
"What?" I asked.
"Come here," he said.
"Why would I come there? I'm in a state, I'm going off. If I come there the scene is over.There's no conflict. What?"
"No, come here," he said. "Not in the play, just come here."
So I went there.
"I cant act with you right now," he said standing up and taking me by the arm, "because all I want to do is kiss you. I want to kiss you. I keep looking at your mouth. I try to think what my character is thinking, but all I think is look at that mouth. I dont care about this stupid play. Im sorry. Ill surrender my Equity card. I'm totally unprofessional."
He pulled me down behind a chair so that we were blocked from the door and laid a lip lock on me the vehemence of which was so impressive that I forgave the lameness of its technique. The truth is that Paul is a lousy kisser; he is all wide-open mouth and jamming, static contact. There is no finesse. If there is one thing I am secure about, it is my kissing. There is no getting around it, I am a good kisser. Paul is not. This, too, is a sign of something, I think. In fact I have a notion that a lack in the kissing department is an indication of some serious psychological problems. I worry about someone who cant kiss. And I cant abide someone who wont.
In my one and only anonymous sexual encounter, I had sex with a guy who had the no-kissing thing. Before then, I hadnt even known that it existed. I was in college and I was sitting outside one day when this guy walked by. I looked up from the book I was reading, met this guy's eyes, and I suddenly became aware of having "a type." Medium height, thick messy hair, broad shoulders, skinny in a way that implies too many hours in the library, and wearing little glasses. And from my spot on the bench, that is exactly what I saw staring at me. I was embarrassed and flustered, so I tried to throw myself back into my book, but I snuck a glance and saw him disappear into the Life Sciences building. A few minutes later he came back, I couldn't stop myself from looking at him. He met my eyes with a startling candor, then came over, sat down and started talking to me.
"I thought you were looking at me." he said.
"Well...uh...I mean...um..." stammer stammer stammer.
"At least I was hoping so. My name is Madison. You're really attractive."
"Uh," blush until my head turns purple "Thanks."
"Do you want to get together sometime?"
"Sure." I said, while thinking, "Does get together mean a date? And what kind of a name is Madison?"
"Why dont you meet me in the Quad later. How about five?"
"Okay. Ill see you then. I cant wait."
"Yeah, me too."
I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting through lectures, wondering what had just happened, and why it had never happened before. I went to the Quad at five and there he was. I walked over to him. "Come on" he said. I followed him to the parking lot. "We cant go to my place, my girlfriend is there, can we go to yours?"
"Well, no actually." Girlfriend?! "My roommate's there."
"Thats okay, I know a place we can go."
At this point, it dawned on me that dinner and a movie were probably not on the agenda. Sex was. I was a bit disappointed, but because of my glaring lack of casual sexual encounters I decided what the hell. Madison led me through the parking lot, where he stopped to unlock the door of a gray BMW convertible (it dawned on me, "Oh, thats what kind of name Madison is"). We got in and he drove up into the hills. He parked at the base of a barely marked trail. "I know a place up here," he said. I then understood it was to be an alfresco encounter. He led me into the woods and to what was an ideal spot. Concealed, but not confining. The expanding bulge in the gym shorts he was wearing caught my attention. I deftly removed them, then he undid my jeans, and there we were: pants around the ankles. I pulled him towards me and kissed him for all I was worth. He started to return the favor then pulled back. I didnt really think anything of it. It was obvious that his attention was a bit lower on my body. I guessed that he was merely distracted. I went to kiss him again, and he said, "I dont do that."
"Oh, okay," my mouth said, while my mind thought, "You have your hand on my dick, but you wont kiss me?"
Anyway, I sort of shrugged it off and proceeded to give him a most enthusiastic blowjob for which he seemed deeply appreciative. Then he gave me an equally enthusiastic hand job, which was surprisingly satisfying, despite it being of slightly lower value on the sexual scale. And that was it. He reiterated his appreciation and offered the compliment "Guys give much better head than girls" to which I could only defer to his greater experience. He drove me back down the hill. I got in my car (a 66 VW Bug that I often had to push start) and drove away. It had been nice. Not the most long-lasting feeling of fulfillment, but definitely nice. Apparently, Madison did not share my contentment. On the rare occasion that I saw him on campus, he would get terribly nervous and would not meet my eyes. What was his problem? I had never done anything to make him think I would blow his cover--no pun intended. What was he afraid of? Did he really thing that I would shout after him, "Hey Madison, thanks again for the wank, but next time how bout a little French?!"
I have since come to feel sorry for him. He did seem terribly sad and more than a little troubled. I think he is probably a good guy, who was just really, really scared, and being really, really scared is a big drag.
The point is, that Madison was my first encounter with the no-kissing thing. And I liked kissing. I so longed for a stellar kiss. I vowed that I would never have sex with another non-kisser. Which is too bad on the Madison front because from the little of it I sampled he probably would have been a stellar kisser, if he "did that." Whereas Paul did it and wanted to do it but was not especially adept at doing it. I did not really care, however, because I was honored by the enthusiasm of his effort. He tried. And he wanted me. He wanted to kiss me. He wanted to give me what I longed for and dreamed about. His desire itself was the prayer. He didnt have to get it right, at least not then and there; his enthusiasm was enough.
So, on that afternoon, wedged between a ratty wingback chair and some worn flocked wallpaper, all rehearsal ceased. Paul and I were locked in oral contact, and I was happy. I couldnt hold him close enough. My hands were on his head, wrapped around his shoulders, gripping his butt, pulling and pulling every bit of him against every bit of me. I pulled his shirt out of the back of his pants and slipped my hands onto the heat of his back, kneading every muscle. He pulled my sweatshirt up and grabbed my chest then ran his hands down and spread them across my stomach. Slipping my lips from his for the briefest moment, I drew his T-shirt over his head and tossed it aside. Our mouths slammed back together heightened by that rush that comes with the first contact of naked skin--the magnetic heat of our torsos welding us together. I think I actually moaned in anticipation of his pulling my sweatshirt up over my head. I was ecstatic and yearned for a more complete union. But he didnt pull my sweatshirt off. He kept kissing me for a bit, then pulled away and with no lessening of desire said, "I wish I could take you somewhere right now and really share this with you." The sincerity of his voice almost made me come. He pulled my sweatshirt back down over me and smoothed its front in a sort of caress, then gripped my head in both his hands and looking fiercely into my eyes said, "God, I want you so much." And he hugged me to him in what was surely a sincere expression of a true desire. A desire that overwhelmed and thrilled me. I had never felt so wanted. Which left me wondering. His desire was so present that defeating its consummation confused me a bit. I mean, I believed him. I knew that he wanted to make love to me as much as I wanted to make love to him. On that I am sure we were together. I was just a little unclear about the obstacle. I was there, I knew the state of his arousal, it was right there hunting for and raging against the state of my own, separated only by a few measly layers of white cotton and blue denim.
"If only we didnt have to leave for that fucking theater," he said. He let go and retrieved his shirt from the floor. As he passed it over his head, he paused to lean over and kiss me again. "Oh, I hate this stupid play," he said.
I said nothing. I just sat there. I must admit I was sort of numb. I felt his frustration. I agreed with it. I mean a part of me was trying to figure out why we had stopped, but then I glanced at my watch and saw the time and I heard the floor boards creaking with steps of our housemates. I started thinking that Paul was right: It really would not have been right to have sex in that room. Not because someone would catch us at something dirty, but because it was a common room. It would have been a violation of the other people in the house. It would have been rude and selfish and blah, blah, blah, blah. Paul was right. And I was not really thinking on my own, I wasn't thinking about any other options. I had abdicated to Paul. So I just sat there with my mind spinning. I felt like a kid who needs an older and wiser person to set the boundaries his own enthusiasm would have him ignore.
So, we put ourselves together. We went to our respective rooms and got ready to go to the theater. There was an unspoken thrill that we passed back and forth all evening. Across the dressing room I would feel his stare and know that he was telling me how much he wanted to be with me. And as I held his hand in the curtain call I sent him wave after wave of desire, telling him just how much I burned to be with him. We were two guys whose lust was mutual and unmistakable and determined to find a way. That is what I told myself. And I firmly believe that Paul had that same desire. We both had it. Its just that I didnt have anything else, whereas Paul was carrying around a few prized trinkets that were not to leave his side. At least not for my benefit or in my presence. He had not put an end to our love making that afternoon out of respect for the rights of a group of housemates, but rather in deference to that voice in his head that would not let him go one step further. I have come to believe that his flesh was willing but his mind was weak.
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