Posts Tagged ‘bisexual’


I was working at my desk, and already on my second cup of coffee, when I heard giggling from my bedroom.

The girls were up. It was a little after ten. I had assumed they would sleep longer after our late night together. I saved my work and went to the kitchen. I opened a cabinet and pulled down two cups.

The girls take their coffee as I do, strong, with sugar and half and half. I stirred, humming as a stream of sugar vanished into a whirl. I tapped the spoon twice on the lip of each cup. I carefully lifted the cups and made my way to the bedroom. I rapped on the door with my foot. “Are you decent?” I called.

“No, never.” More giggles. “But come on in.”

I nudged the door with my shoulder. “I thought you might want some coffee.”

“Oh!” Stevie said, tossing her hair as she sat up. “I could get used to room service.”

“Only the finest,” I smiled, placing the cup on her nightstand.

Stevie was a tourist, on her first visit to New York. Her naive awe of the city made her seem younger than her twenty years.

I made my way to the other side of the bed, the side where I sleep.

“Good morning,” I smiled to Stevie’s best friend. I put the coffee on the nightstand and leaned forward to kiss her. Stevie’s friend was a blond beauty, also a tourist, just a few days shy of her eighteenth birthday. Her braces showed as she smiled. I caressed the hair from her face. “Did you sleep well, love?” I asked.

“Yeah, fine,” she said sitting up. “Thanks for the coffee, Dad.”

My daughter Rachel was in town. Rachel brought along Stevie—and yes, she was named for Stevie Nicks—to introduce her best friend to her “other” family and the city she has come to know over so many visits throughout her childhood

I surrendered my bedroom to the girls, and bunked on the couch.

This was the first time she brought a friend to the city, and I was keen to make it special. It could only bode well for the frequency of future visits if Rachel regarded my place as an urban pied-a-terre for herself and her pals.

Rachel lives in a small town, a place where friendships can be a tad incestuous. Rachel’s best friend Stevie has a younger brother who is Rachel’s new boyfriend. Rachel’s new boyfriend is the best friend of two of her younger brothers.

Rachel tells me it can get a complicated. Sometimes her boyfriend comes over to skateboard with her brothers, and she feels left out. Sometimes her brothers feel neglected when he comes over to listen to music in her room, the door left ajar to allow her mother’s frequent peeks, “just checking in.”

“It’s not like we’re doing anything anyway,” Rachel says. “I mean, he’s only fifteen.”

Their visit was to last only a few days, but the girls had arrived with a hefty agenda. Stevie wanted to see Times Square and the tree at Rockefeller Center, and to go ice skating in Central Park, “if,” she added, “we won’t get mugged there.” Rachel wanted to go shopping at St Mark’s Place, and to visit the “glass mall” we toured on her most recent trip. (It took me a while to ascertain that the phrase “glass mall” referred to the new Time Warner Center.) Somewhere along the way, they would also need to spend time with my kids and my ex.

Their first night was the only one we would have on our own as a trio. I had a few items to add to their agenda. Stevie beamed as we took the subway to Christopher Street. She whispered to Rachel, “Everyone is New York is so fine.”

“I know,” Rachel replied, knowingly. “They walk a lot and wear black.”

“That’s cool,” Stevie said, holding her bag close to her raspberry coat.

As we walked through Washington Square Park, Stevie noticed a sign for New York University. “Oh, too bad the Olsen twins dropped out, we might see them.”

“Yeah, keep your eyes open for celebrities anyway,” Rachel said. “They all live down here.”

“Actually, my boyfriend Peter Sarsgaard lives nearby,” I said.

“He’s my boyfriend, not yours,” Rachel corrected. “Can we stop by and see him?”

“I though you had Jake Gyllenhaal?” I asked.

“Him too, he’s mine too. Hey, can we see Brokeback Mountain up here? I really don’t think it’s going to come to the Podunk Palace Multiplex back home.”

“If we have time, I’m game,” I said.

Rachel looked at me, smiling. “What did you say?”

“Game. I said ‘I’m gay-MUH.’ Listen for the final consonant.”

Stevie listened to our banter. “Wait, who is Peter . . . ”

“Oh cool, look,” Rachel interrupted. “A tattoo store. Can we go in?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Let’s browse the flash.”

“Wait,” Stevie asked, “What’s flash?”

“Stevie’s got two tattoos, you know,” Rachel said, raising an eyebrow to me.

“Really? Let’s see,” I asked. “Here, under this street lamp.” I will always take that bait. Stevie lifted her jacket and shirt and bent forward to show the ornate sprawl on her lower back, then turned and lowered her waistband to show the flower on her lower torso.

I stooped for a closer look. “Nice work,” I admired, politely.

“Thanks,” she said, lowering her shirt in place. “My fiancé talked me into the second one.”

Twenty, tattooed and betrothed. There are times I miss the South.

We stopped in shops as we walked towards dinner, the girls admiring overpriced hand-painted jeans and cheap mass-produced sunglasses. I fell back, allowing them time together. I was content to be the third wheel.

Though I did my share of steering. “Hey, a friend of mine is doing some editing over at that Starbucks,” I said. “Mind if we say hello?”

“Sure,” Rachel shrugged.

“We’ll make her buy us coffee,” I elbowed her.

“Hmmmm,” Stevie smiled. “Caffe mocha light.”

At the Starbuck’s, I knocked on the glass. Bridget looked up. “Well, hello, Henry,” she smiled, as we entered the door. I kissed her cheek, and introduced the girls.

“Hi Rachel, I’ve heard so much about you,” Bridget said, scooting over to make room for more chairs. “Nice to meet you Stevie. You girls want anything? Some hot chocolate?”

“Well,” Rachel’s eyes scoured the menu. “We were thinking caffe mocha light . . .”

“Sounds good.” Bridget palmed a twenty my way. “You, boy. Go get coffee. We have girl talk.” They were laughing as I returned with three cups. They talked as we drank our coffee. Now I was a fourth wheel.

Bridget was taking to her new privilege as an insider in my family. Rachel was no doubt filing queries about Dad’s friend.

We finished our coffees and took our leave. Bridget had her work to do, and I wanted to get the girls fed reasonably early. We had a full night ahead. As the girls put on their coats, I leaned over to kiss Bridget. “Rachel is adorable, and yes, she looks exactly like you,” Bridget whispered. “And by the way—the girls just saw you kiss me.”

“People kiss in New York,” I smiled. “It’s sophisticated.”

“Just be ready for questions.”

“We’ll see. Take care. Good luck with your work. Thanks for the coffee.”

“Have fun, sweet boy.”

I walked a few steps behind the girls as they admired windows and vendors’ stalls. That was okay, I thought. Short but sweet. Maybe my secret life can be not so secret with Rachel. At least a little bit.


I turned. It was Thomas.

Thomas: my bisexual twink comedian who loves the trannies.

“What brings you to my neighborhood?” he asked.

“I’m here with my daughter,” I replied, pointing ahead. “And her friend.”

“Really? Huh. Man, I have to meet your daughter.”

“If you behave,” I intoned.

I was kidding, but half serious—for two years he has admired Rachel’s photographs on my refrigerator door. He stands naked in my kitchen and asks, “So how long before she’s legal?” I usually reply that I am not setting up my daughter with anyone I’ve been with, so eyes off, boyfriend.

Perverts are lost without scruples.

“Rachel? Stevie?” I called. “Hang on, I want you to meet my friend Thomas.”
We caught up. He shook their hands and introduced himself. The girls smiled that smile girls smile when meeting someone very cute.

“So what are you guys up to?” Thomas asked.

“Nothing much,” Rachel said. “Just looking at stuff, on our way to get something to eat.”

“Yeah, I was just on my way to grab some dinner too.” Rachel and Stevie looked at me. Thomas looked at me.

I supposed this would be all right. “Thomas, if you don’t have other plans, would you like to join us? We’re going out for Indian.”

“I like Indian,” Thomas said, nodding at the girls. “I know a good place on Avenue A.”

“That’s very likely the place we have in mind,” I said. “Come on.”

As we walked, Rachel described the restaurant to her Stevie, who was a little trepidatious. She had warned me that she didn’t like “weird” food, as all tourists will say, but she was open to all the major food groups, so Rachel and I were determined to broaden her horizons a bit.

I could imagine that Thomas was also willing to broaden her horizons. We climbed the stairs to the restaurant. We had warned Stevie to ignore the shouts of competing maitres d’, encouraging us to choose their doors over the one we selected. We were seated. Stevie marveled at the dense tent of lights overhead. “Cool, right?” Rachel giggled.

“Weird, but very cool,” Stevie agreed.

I described a few dishes, as the girls had decided I would order for them. Thomas made his selection.

He was very quiet. Thomas is funny like that. He’s a performer with a great sense of humor, yet he is also shy with new people. That’s as true at a dinner as it is at a party. He tends to listen and watch, observing people and their interactions. You know he is at ease when he begins dropping well-placed one-liners into the conversation. I knew to take the lead until he warmed up.

After we ordered, I remembered that we had failed to pick up beer for dinner. The
Indian restaurants of Sixth Avenue generally lack liquor licenses, so diners must bring their own beer or wine. “I think I want beer,” I said. “Thomas?”

He said that would be great and started to stand. “No, sit,” I said. “Talk. I’m just walking downstairs I’ll be right back.” I excused myself, nodding to Thomas. He would just have to fend for himself with these chatty tourists.

“So, how do you know Dad?” Rachel asked after I left.

“Oh, we just know each other,” Thomas gulped. “So, how was the trip?” Thomas was listening to the girls talk when I returned.

“Everything all right?” I said, unpacking two Kingfishers.

“Yeah, cool,” Rachel said.

I poured the beers. The girls excused themselves to the restroom. Thomas took a sip. “Man, you didn’t tell me Stevie was engaged. How am I supposed to score here?”

“You aren’t supposed to score. You are just here to pretty up the joint. Be nice and make nice talk.”

“Your daughter looks just as Aryan Nation as you.”

“Yeah, if I were young and pretty, I’d be her.”

“Too bad she’s not a slut like you.”

“You want to take this outside? Behave.” The girls joined us. We had ordered a round of appetizers, including the sweet crunchy banana pakoras Rachel likes. Thomas relaxed and kept the girls laughing. When dinner arrived, we passed around silver trays heaped with rice, chana saag, chicken tikka masala, and lamb vindaloo. We tore at the poori and nan, dipping it in daal.

The lights were dimmed in favor of flashing sirens and disco birthday music as the waiters brought Rachel her birthday mango ice cream. “This place is pretty awesome,” Stevie shouted over the music, clapping along.

“Yeah, I love it,” Rachel nodded.

There was a line of hungry diners waiting as we left. The tiny restaurant was so cramped we had to put on our coats outside. The maitre d’ thanked us profusely, as if we had been the only prospective customers that night. “Nice schtick,” I said to Thomas as the girls walked ahead. “They don’t charge much, but you know they do very well.”

“I’m convinced all these restaurants share the same kitchen,” Thomas said, gesturing at the street lined with Indian places.

“This is widely rumored. Like the cole slaw that is ubiquitous in Greek diners. It’s all the same, so it must come from the same source.” We talked until we reached Thomas’s corner.

“Well, this is where I live,” he said.

“Thanks for joining us,” I said. “We are off to be tourists.”

“Have fun.” He nodded to the girls. “Very nice to meet you. Have fun while you are here.”

“Thanks, you too,” Stevie smiled, flirtation dripping from her drawl.

“Nice to meet you too,” Rachel said. She reached to shake his hand. Stevie followed suit.

“Cool.” Thomas took their hands in turn. “Okay, have fun.”

“You too,” I said. He turned and crossed the street. Stevie watched his back.

“What’s up with that?” she said. “I thought for sure we’d get sex off him.”

“I know, what’s up?” Rachel drawled. “He’s just too cute.”

“You want me to set it up?” I teased. I turned toward the corner and raised a finger. “Oh, Thomas . . .”

“Dad!” Rachel punched me. “We are kidding!

“Oh, whew,” I said. “Good thing you stopped me.”

“Were you really . . . ?” Stevie began.

“Don’t encourage him,” Rachel laughed.

“Come on now, no more cute boys,” I said. “We’re off to Times Square.”


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On the drive south, and again on the return journey, my family charted a course through the Shenandoah Valley to visit with my daughter, Rachel.

Originally, the plan had been to pick up Rachel on the way down and return her on the way back, as is our annual custom. We were particularly keen for her to join us this year, for she is at an age—seventeen—which may offer one of her last flexible summers before her life is wrapped up in boyfriends, jobs and college.

Alas, Rachel has always been precocious. She already had too much on her plate to manage a three-week excursion to the Deep South.

Last spring, she graduated high school a year early, leaving her with a few divergent options. Should she stay at home and work for a year, to save money? Should she fulfill our shared fantasy and join me in New York?

She wondered: should she pursue college admissions in her home state, and live near her mom and dad, or in New York, to live with her dad, or maybe in California, near her other dad? And if she did move, what would that mean to her ten younger siblings?

Rachel’s family ties are complex, perhaps a fact of life when a girl has three fathers.

Rachel’s mother Emily and I were never formally in a relationship. The conception of our daughter was due to a certain convergence of coincidences.

The winter of nineteen-eighty-seven was unusually snowy. Because of this, classes were canceled at my college, and I found myself one night drinking at the bar tended by my roommate, Jetboy.

I had long blonde hair. Because of this, Emily felt compelled to braid my hair as I sat at the bar. While I didn’t know Emily very well, I did like her physical resemblance to Molly Ringwald. I also liked that she was so fond of my hair. It felt nice to have her touch it.

When Jetboy returned to our apartment that night, he walked in on Emily and me having sex.

He would get accustomed to the sight. For the rest of that winter and into the spring, Emily and I fucked and fucked.

She would hang out with her friends at the dorm, smoking pot and listening to bootlegged cassettes of Grateful Dead concerts. When she was good and baked, she would call me and ask to come over.

I always said yes.

Emily and I each had a “real” relationship back home. Our nights together provided a salutary opportunity for sex while we were at school.

Jetboy didn’t mind at all. He thought it was cool that we went at it regardless of his presence, though he declined our occasional entreaties to join us.

As the academic year drew to a close, Emily and I prepared to return to our lives back home. I happened to be at the dorm when her boyfriend arrived to help her move. I shook his hand and helped Emily load her things into his pickup truck. She waved goodbye and smiled as they drove away. I waved and smiled in return.

In July, I heard through the grapevine that Emily was two months pregnant.

I counted backwards.

I called her.

Emily confirmed that yes, she was pregnant and yes, the child was mine. But her boyfriend assumed it was his, and she preferred to keep it that way.

She said she would not be back in school for the coming year.

Emily was nineteen. I was twenty-two.

I had made an erroneous assumption. My real girlfriend Pablo and I relied on her birth control pills. I assumed that any woman who didn’t insist on condoms was on the pill. Emily seemed unconcerned about birth control, so I figured she was all set.

Turns out she wasn’t on the Pill. Turns out she was opposed to birth control. Abortion too, for that matter. So she was going to have my baby and raise it with her boyfriend.

I might never meet my child.

Needless to say, I was a little distracted as I began my senior year. I had a very big secret to keep.

When I returned home for Christmas break, my family was poised for a great milestone: my brother Jesse and his wife Teri were expecting their first child. My parents, then in their mid-forties, were about to become grandparents.

Just before New Year’s Day, I was with my family in a hospital waiting room when Jesse came out, his eyes tearing, to announce the birth of my nephew Tracy.

I hugged him, crying.

A week later, in a hospital in rural Virginia, my daughter was born. Emily named her Rachel Ann.

No one in my family knew. Very few friends knew.

I called Emily every few days to check on her and to listen to our baby gurgle and cry.

A few months later, after graduation, I began to date Lucy.

One summer night, as we lay in bed nude, sweating under a fan, listening to Wire, I told Lucy I had some things to confess.

First, I’m bisexual.

Second, I have a daughter I’ve never met.

I knew that her mother and brother were gay, and that her father had left the family when Lucy was four. I tried to joke that by being a queer absent father, I was either perfect for her, or the worst possible match.

She held my hand.

“You are not bisexual if you are with me,” she said into the night. “And you have to meet your daughter.”

She convinced me. I went to Virginia to meet my six-month-old baby girl.

Rachel had blue eyes like her mother and me. She had wispy blonde hair. She had her mother’s soft open mouth. I held her, scared and nervous.

I kissed them both goodbye at four that afternoon. I had to be out of the house when Rachel’s real father returned from work.

I told Lucy how amazing it had been to hold my daughter.

“I’m sure,” she said. “When will you see her again?” I hadn’t thought of that. Of course, I should see her again.

I invited Emily to bring the baby to visit me. She agreed, and I drove out to pick them up.

By this time, Rachel was walking.

I wasn’t ready for Lucy to meet Emily and Rachel. That was just too weird, I thought.

“I can wait,” Lucy said. “But will you be sleeping with Emily?”

“We haven’t had sex in over a year,” I said. “But what difference would it make if we did?”

“It will make a difference to me,” she said.

I agreed that my sexual relationship with Emily was over.

For a weekend, Emily and I took care of Rachel. Our baby toddled around my room, knocking down books and chewing on album covers. She slept between us at night. Rachel is blurry in every photograph from that weekend, unless she was sleeping.

In time, Lucy would meet Emily and Rachel. We traveled out to see them fairly often, always when her boyfriend was away. I took photographs of my beautiful baby, her beautiful mom, and my beautiful girlfriend, smiling, playing, enjoying one another.

This works, I thought. I can’t believe it, but it works.

One day Emily called to say she was leaving her boyfriend. She was in love with someone else, a guy I had never met named Phil. They were taking Rachel and driving to San Francisco the next day.

I tried to talk her out of doing anything rash. I realized I had absolutely no say in the matter. Emily could do whatever she wanted with our daughter.

Lucy convinced Emily to talk with a friend of ours, a family lawyer who would at least offer some advice. Emily agreed.

She took only one part of our friend’s advice. She left a note for her boyfriend saying she was gone for good, and she was taking the baby.

The baby, she added, is not yours. With that, she was gone.

A few months later, Lucy and I flew to San Francisco. We visited their tiny apartment in the shadow of a freeway overpass. We took Rachel to the Presidio and the zoo.

Emily was pregnant. She seemed very happy.

At Christmas, she received a summons. Her ex-boyfriend was suing for custody of Rachel.

Emily and the baby were to appear in court in Virginia, in a small town where the ex-boyfriend’s father was a leading figure. Of course, Lucy and I drove down for the hearings.

When the ex-boyfriend and his family arrived at court for the first hearing, they saw me with Emily. I was holding Rachel. His mother blanched. Rachel was a carbon copy of me.

The ex boyfriend had promised to be civil in these proceedings. He was a sweet guy, and he had my sympathy: his child had been taken away. But I also knew that if he had custody, my tenuous relationship with Rachel would be severed. He had no reason to keep me around as another father.

Emily had a court appointed lawyer who seemed unfamiliar with her case.

His lawyer stood to say that Emily was a pot dealer and devotee of the Grateful Dead. She represented a flight risk as she had already left for San Francisco; furthermore, she was obliged to follow the Grateful Dead to all concerts.

This was pure fabrication. Emily didn’t follow Dead shows. And while she and her ex boyfriend both smoked, it was he who was the dealer.

No matter. The judge concurred with his argument, and ruled that while the case was being decided, Rachel was better off with her father and his family, community members of good standing.

Rachel was taken from Emily’s arms and placed in those of her ex-boyfriend’s mother.

Emily screamed.

Lucy and I were shocked. Our friend the family lawyer had told us that babies generally remain with the mother during a custody battle unless there was a clear danger to the child.

Outside the courthouse, Lucy took Emily by the shoulders. Both were crying.

“Listen to me, Emily. Listen to me!” she said, looking to her eyes. “I am calling my family. We are paying for you to have a real lawyer. You are not losing Rachel. Do you hear me?”

Emily nodded, too stunned to do otherwise.

Lucy called her family. Lucy called lawyers. Lucy wrote checks.

I signed affidavits asserting my paternity. I offered myself for blood tests. I initiated my long relationship with the sovereign government of the State of Virginia.

When the judge issued a final ruling, Rachel stayed with Emily.

That summer, Lucy sat with me as I told my parents I had “important news.” I held Lucy’s hands in my lap.

I was with my girlfriend, but we looked somber. This was clearly not an announcement of our engagement.

My friend Donnie had already been diagnosed with AIDS. Mom looked as if she might cry.

“I’m sorry I have taken so long to tell you this,” I said, swallowing hard. “But you have another grandchild.”

Dad looked confused. Mom suddenly smiled. “You and Lucy are expecting?” she asked.

Lucy and I stumbled over one another to tell the story.

That night, the four of us were in a car driving toward Rachel.

As I made introductions, my parents shook hands with Phil. They rubbed Emily’s bulging belly.

And they fell in love with their granddaughter.

In time, Emily and her ex-boyfriend made peace. He remained a part of Rachel’s life. She refers to him as her “other dad.”

Emily and Phil got married. They traveled around for a while, then settled down in Virginia. They had seven children after Rachel, each pregnancy unplanned but welcome. Rachel helped to deliver each of her siblings.

Emily and I settled into a kind of fraternal relationship. I love her like a sister. We agree on very few things: my Deadhead hippy fuck buddy became a born-again fundamentalist who home schools her kids and insists that they attend rallies against gay marriage.

Whatever. We’re family.

My parents and children mingled with Rachel’s full family this summer. My kids played with Rachel’s other siblings, riding skateboards, chasing her dog, and holding the baby.

There were too few moments for Rachel and I to be alone, but we drank those moments in great gulps.

For now, Rachel has decided to wait about leaving her hometown. She loves New York, she told me, but this is home. She enrolled in a community college. She continues to work as a waitress at a cool café. And she got her own place. She lives in a cabin with a fireplace, a pool and a big Jacuzzi tub. Her Beatles memorabilia lines the walls.

She pays for school and her cabin with the money she earns. Her brothers and sisters take turns sleeping over, when she wants company.

My parents and I took her to Wal-Mart to help fix up her place. She asked me for a Bodum coffee carafe like mine.

Shortly after I returned to New York, I received a card from my daughter.

Hey Dad,

It was so great to see you and everybody last week. I am writing this on my patio with some great coffee—thanks!

I’m so sorry I couldn’t go south this year. When can I come up to New York? Maybe for my eighteenth birthday. Then we can smoke cigarettes and watch porn—you know, the usual, but now it will be legal.

I love you Dad. Call me!


PS When is my boyfriend Marcus coming to New York? Maybe at my birthday? I know you think he is yours, but he is mine. Ha ha!

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What a tender kiss he has, I thought.

Verdad and I were making out at a party. I ran my hand up his nude arm to his shoulders, then to his smooth cheeks. His soft skin sparked my fingertips. I traced a lazy finger along his forehead, his brow, his aquiline nose.

My touch returned to his cheek, only now it felt scruffy and unshaven, the cut of his jaw more angular and manly. I pulled back to look at him. It wasn’t Verdad.

Whoever it was, he smiled.

“You know,” I said, looking away. “This is a little awkward, but I don’t recall your name. Your face is very familiar, though.”

“You don’t know me, huh? Look closer.”

I looked.

“Anything?” he shrugged.

“Nothing. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. Here, try this.” He joined his thumbs and forefingers into circles, and turned his hands upside down on his face, mimicking glasses.

His image came into focus for me.

“Oh God, of course,” I slapped my cheek. “You’re Elvis Costello.”

“Yeah,” he grinned, pointing to his eyes. “Contacts. No one notices me. Anyway, it’s Declan—nice to meet you.” He extended a hand.

“Likewise,” I said, taking his hand. “I’m a big fan.”

“Well, thanks. I’m a big fan of those kisses.” He tugged my hand, pulling me closer. “Give us more.”

His lips touched mine, and my chest heaved. It was like the weight of a thousand butterflies landing on my heart.

That, or the weight of an eight-year-old boy.

“Daddy, Daddy!” Collie jumped on my body. “Time to get up-py, up-py!”

“What? What time is it?”

“Breakfast time, breakfast time! Wakey wakey!”

Where the . . . oh yeah. My room at the lake house.

“Okay baby, you can go tell Papa I’m up.”

“You’re not up up.”

“I will be, I just have to get dressed. Go. I’m coming.”

“Okay, I’ll be back if you fall asleep.” He trotted out, leaving the door ajar in his wake.

I fell back on my pillows. Two weeks without sex were taking a toll. These dreams were insane.

Two weeks. Huh. I rubbed my eyes. When I was married, I could take month after sexless month with nary a blink. Guess I am out of shape.

I dropped my feet to the floor and pulled up my shorts, stooping to adjust myself to the least conspicuous position. I pulled on a t-shirt that dropped to cover my hips.

“Well, well!” Dad called from the griddle. “Great day in the morning! Is this an official sighting of my wonnerful, wonnerful son, Hanklin?”

“I’m afraid so,” I shuffled past, hugging him. “It won’t get much prettier than this.”

“Did you sleep well, honey?” Nanny smiled, slipping her hands around my waist. I turned my hip to her—or rather, turned away my still-aching groin—and kissed the top of her head.

“Very well. A little too deeply. You?”

“Well,” she said, squeezing me. “At my age, if you wake up at all, that’s a good night’s sleep.”

I kissed her again. “This may be the last sunrise you see, old woman, if you don’t get out from between me and my coffee.”

My kids were seated at the table, eating bacon, eggs, grits, biscuits and fresh peach slices. I poured my coffee, streamed in half and half and sugar, and sat thickly next to Jason. We exchanged glances.

“You’re up early,” I said.

“You’re up early,” he deadpanned.

“Yeah, but you look like death.”

“Yeah, but you look like death.”

“Stop copying me.”

“Stop copying me.”

I sipped my coffee, smacking loudly.

“Ah reet, ah right, that’s good java, daddy-o,” I said in my best Wolfman Jack impersonation

He coughed into his juice.

“Too easy,” I said, returning to my cup. “Even at this hour, I still got it.”

“You can keep it,” Jason retorted. He paused a beat, trying not to lose the rhythm before delivering his zinger: “At least I got my hair.” He and Collie burst into laughs.

I put down my cup, aghast, and punched his arm. He punched me in reply.

“Do I have to separate you?” Dad asked, delivering my serving. “’Cause I will, right down the middle.” He bonked a fork on my head before setting it next to my plate.

When Dad was home, the vacation was much easier. He would wake early and find Nanny on the porch, where she had watched the sunrise. After a cup of coffee and quiet conversation, they would go to the kitchen and pull out the griddle. From their beds, the kids would smell bacon and follow the scent into the kitchen, like cartoon hound dogs sniffing wavy lines in the air to their source in a rabbit warren.

No alarms, no wake up calls.

I was allowed to sleep for so long as the kids let me. It was never very late, but there is nothing better than waking to the sight of children eating a breakfast you didn’t have to cook.

After we ate, Dad went to prepare the boat for the day while Nanny washed dishes and the kids watched television. I took my coffee to the computer to check email, generally a fixture of my morning routine.

I wasn’t sure how much time I would have.

Sure enough, the familiar squeaks and squawks of the dial-up connection proved as great a lure to some bloodhounds as the smell of bacon had been to others.

I was quickly reading and responding to a few notes when Mom came downstairs, holding her new Maltese puppy. “Good morning!” she beamed at the children.

“Good morning,” Collie replied on behalf of himself and his sister, neither of whom diverted their eyes from Spongebob Squarepants.

“Well, look who decided to get out of bed,” Nanny teased, with more than a hint of malice.

“Good morning, Mother. Any eggs left?”

“Well, I guess I can put some on. I was just cleaning up . . . ”

“Why, thank you, that would be nice.”

Jason was clearing his plate and passed by the computer. “Wow Dad, you got eight hundred and eighty two messages!”

“Yeah, a lot, right?”

I was reading an email from Luis.

Hey Henry,

How’s it going, sweetheart? I’m seeing Jen tonight. Any chance we can meet you at your place?


I had just hit reply and typed a few words—“I’m out of town until next week”—when Mom flew across the room, as though her curiosity had sprouted wings.

“Somebody wants to say good morning to you, TJ!” She shoved the puppy’s snout in my face.

As I recoiled, I saw Mom sneak a glance at the computer screen. She had used the dog as a diversionary tactic to spy on me.

“Your dog is very cute,” I said, pushing it back. “And very nosy.”

“You working or writing one of your friends?”


“Well, who are you telling you are out of town?”

“Mom . . . please.” I closed the laptop cover. “I don’t listen to your phone conversations. Don’t read my emails. Please.”

“I don’t know what’s so damned interesting,” she said, pulling her dog close. “But I can take a hint.”

“Here’s the hint again, Mom, in neon: mind your own business.”

“How do you want your eggs?” Nanny called.

“Scrambled is fine,” Mom replied, on her way to the kitchen. “Y’all got cheese?”

I signed off, leaving unread the bulk of my emails. I took my coffee and left to retrieve the children’s swimsuits.

My father raised comedians. My mother raised privacy advocates. My adolescence was filled with her intrusions.

“Mom, I can hear you breathing. Can you hang up the extension? Mom? Okay, look, I’ll talk to you tomorrow at school—my Mom won’t hang up.”

“Mom, do you need the bathroom? I see your shoes under the door. I’ll be right out.”

Now, in retrospect, she claims to have acted from love. It’s a parent’s duty, she argues, to be on top of what her children are doing.

“You didn’t know when I took your car for a joy ride,” Jesse teases.

“I stole so many of your cigarettes,” Lee laughs.

“I’m still shooting up,” I add, scratching my arm.

“You using that good shit I sold you?” Frank asks.

We know better. She had never heard the phrase “tough love” when she started prying in our things. She was just nosey by nature. Her sons were generally good at hiding the evidence. But sometimes we slipped.

I remember waking from a nap one afternoon during my senior year of high school to discover Mom in my room, reading a torrid mash note from a girlfriend of mine. I had fucked this girl, but good, and she was begging for more in very explicit terms.

Mom knew this girl was black. She was shocked.

“Mom, what are you doing?”

She crumbled the note. “You . . . you can do much better,” she managed, before leaving the room.

“You should leave that note. Mom? Mom! That’s my note!”

My diploma was still warm in my hands when I moved out of the house.

(And if you think I’m a rake now, you should’ve visited my bachelor pad at age eighteen.)

No surprise, then, that I never felt the compulsion to come out to my family about my bisexuality. That was mine and none of their beeswax. It’s an open secret, nothing more.

I had told my future wife that I was bisexual when we began to get serious—that was her beeswax, after all—but throughout our relationship, she never knew my ATM or email passwords.

It wasn’t as though I had secrets to protect; we shared a bank account and I was generally content with fidelity. I just needed some measure of privacy. If she wanted to know about private matters, I preferred that she ask me, rather than take it onto herself to open my accounts. For fifteen years, that was largely a matter of principle.

It proved prescient when my ex wanted some reason to dump me, and searched everywhere for the presumably hidden weapons of mass destruction that would support her foregone conclusion that war was justified.

It may seem odd that a blogger should feel so strongly about privacy. I mean, no one has forced me to detail my life so intimately as I do. And yet I do so with a great concern for being as honest and direct as possible.

Because while I value privacy, I also value honesty. These things should not be contradictory.

I enjoy living a life that is open and welcoming. I treasure the people who appreciate that openness without prying and tugging for more than I offer. Not surprisingly, perhaps, I can trust them enough to open still further.

Pity those who just can’t resist the temptation to rummage through my medicine cabinet or dig for gossip juicier than that I so willingly offer. They risk finding themselves tossed unceremoniously to the curb.

Prying eyes followed me through adolescence, and through my marriage.

Hopefully, I am free of that now.

On this trip home, I took care to dump the cache when reading news or email on the family computer. I used a secure laptop to write or check blogs, using every password protection I knew.

I’m all grown up, and still worried about Mom digging in my business. Because, sad to say, she still does. I long ago developed strategies to create privacy in a den of spies.

When the sex dreams got too bizarre and I needed a moment alone, I reverted to the tried and true refuge of my adolescence and marriage.

Me and Rosie Palms in my fortress of solitude.

“Mom? Dad? I’m in the shower if anyone needs me.”

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That night, after my talk with the teenagers, the sex dreams took a turn for the incestuous.

Following our afternoon on the boat, Lynn’s boyfriend had broken up with her via telephone. Lynn made a tearful call to break this news to her mother, my brother Jesse’s ex wife Teri.

This got me to thinking about Teri. I realized I had not seen in her in a couple of years.

My subconscious took hold of that realization. I would see Teri that very night.

In appearance, Lynn and her brother are perfect amalgams of their parents’ combined traits. Both parents are attractive, blonde, blue-eyed, with glowing smiles.

Their children share that description, but for one additional factor. In marrying Teri, Jesse had added several inches to the gene pool. She is around six feet tall, as are the kids. My brother Jesse, at five foot seven or so, is dwarfed by his ex and their children—an amusing detail in any family photograph.

My brother and his wife broke up a decade ago when she decided that she was a lesbian.

This came as a great surprise. At the time, Jesse and Teri had two young children and a new house.

My brother was distraught. Are you sure? he asked. Can’t we work something out? Maybe you can be a lesbian without divorcing me? Shouldn’t we stay together for the kids?

What else could he say? Divorce and homosexuality are equally alien in our family. All we know is that families stay together, no matter what.

It wasn’t possible, Teri said. She was already in love with someone else—a woman.

My parents were equally distraught. I might even venture that my mother’s distress surpassed even that of her son Jesse, arguably the person more affected by Teri’s decision.

To their great credit, though, my parents made it clear to Teri that that they loved her no matter what. Divorce or no divorce, she was still their daughter. She was still family.

(This by contrast to Teri’s own parents, self-styled sophisticates who told Teri to clear out her childhood bedroom in their home, as they no longer had a daughter.)

Mom called me with the news. I was stunned and felt terrible for Jesse and the kids, not to mention my mother, who could barely talk about it without crying. I hated what this was doing to my family.

But, I said, if this is what Teri wants, then that is the way it is.

How can you say that? my mother asked. They have children! What about their responsibilities to them?

I know, I replied, but what is the alternative? If she’s gay, she’s gay. She can’t stay married and pretend otherwise. I’m sure they will continue to meet their obligations in a new family arrangement.

Besides, I went on to say, it was very brave of Teri to come forward with this revelation. Coming out is very difficult, particularly given her family’s reaction. I felt compelled to support that. In fact, I was happy for her.

Mom hung up on me. Perhaps I had gone too far.

Teri’s girlfriend left her not long after the divorce was finalized. Teri told Jesse she had made a terrible mistake and asked him to take her back.

It’s too late, he said. He was already engaged to someone else.

Since then, Teri has dated a string of men. None has quite stuck.

Naturally, this family history has been much in mind since the end of my marriage. Mine was the second divorce in my family, and my marriage was also ended at the wife’s behest.

“She’s going to regret this,” Mom says of my ex, “Just like Teri did.”

“Maybe so,” I say. “And if so, just as in that case, it will be too late.”

Mom nods. “Good. You can do better.”

The conversation with my niece and nephew must have brought those thoughts home. Thoughts of Teri brought her into my dreams.

I suppose that if I were going to have sex dreams with a family member, it was commendable that my subconscious had the decency to switch dials from my niece and nephew to their mother.

In the dream, I was giving Teri a tour of a house my parents had recently purchased. It was large, ancient and utterly devoid of furniture. “Kind of drafty,” Teri said, shivering.

“If you are cold, I can show you a little secret to this house,” I said. “But you have to keep it between us.”

“Oh, I’m curious,” she smiled. “Show me.”

“You promise to keep it secret?”

“I do.”

I bit my lip. “Okay then, follow me.” I led her into the butler’s pantry and opened a closet door. “This way,” I said, reaching for her hand.

We descended a dark staircase, entering a sauna. “Hey, that’s a nice surprise,” she said.

“Isn’t it? I love a sauna.”

I opened the door and led her into the steam. When my vision adjusted, I could see that the sauna was full of nude men. Some were touching one another. All noticed us standing there, fully clothed.

“Oh!” Teri exclaimed, her hand rising to her mouth.

“I’m sorry,” I said quietly. “This must be men’s day. Come on, let’s go this way.”

I led Teri into a room with plastic mats on the floor. I recognized it as a swinger club.

I only vaguely recollect the rest of the dream. It had to do with me fending off advances from entreating couples as I led Teri in search of the staircase upstairs.

I awoke and lay in bed, wondering at the occasional transparence of dreams.

Teri, so far as I know, is the only other member of my birth family to have any experience with bisexuality. Yet our experiences are so different that there is no reason for me to expect that she would understand my current life better than any other family member.

That following evening, we took Lynn back to her mother’s house. Teri came out to say hello to me and my kids. I stepped out of the car to hug her neck.

“Well, you look great,” she said, pulling me close. “You’re getting some sun.”

“Why thank you, I feel pretty. And you look as lovely as ever!”

“No, no, I’m fat! Look at me”

“Nonsense, you are wasting away, you scrawny thing,”” I said. “You need to get some meat on those bones. Now come over here and say hey to the kids.”

It felt familiar to indulge in this exchange, so common among reuniting Southerners.

Teri leaned into the car and cooed at each of my children in turn. Lynn reminded the kids that this was her mother. Teri reached around the car seats to hug my Mom and Dad.

“My goodness,” she said, standing to face me. “Your babies are so big! I feel so old.”

“Tell me,” I replied, my arm on Lynn’s shoulder. “I’ve been hanging out with this one, you know.”

We talked about our growing children for a bit before my kids grew restless. “We should get going to eat,” Mom called.

I kissed Lynn’s cheek and stepped forward to hug Teri goodbye.

“Keep in touch,” she whispered into my ear. “We’re still family, you know.”

I buried my face in her hair and kissed her neck. “Bye, Sis.”

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Light Bulb

Autumn 1983. I was nineteen.

Peabo and I were boon companions, and had been since the first day of ninth grade. He introduced me to Harry James and the Sex Pistols, cigars and imported beer, live music and long hair.

After we each scrapped our ways out of our respective high schools, we moved into an apartment together and became painters.

It was a great place, affectionately known as the Bohemian Love Pad. We kept the fridge stocked with beer and the floors littered with spare change.

Peabo knew pretty much everything about me, but he did not know of my sexual exploits with Allan or Donnie. I was too ashamed to tell him. I wondered if they were anomalies, or if I was on my way to gay.

Mind you, I had the world’s coolest girlfriend.

Not long after we started dating, she ditched her given name in favor of the appellation “Pablo.” She was smart and funny as hell. She had flaming red hair, pale skin and full lips.

And could she fuck! Pablo loved sex like no one I had ever met. And I bet she could’ve sucked the chrome off a trailer hitch.

Pablo knew about Allan. I told her about it, and not only didn’t she consider it weird—she found it arousing. Pretty soon, we were getting naked with Allan every now and then.

I couldn’t talk about any of this with Peabo. I would not even know how to begin to tell him. How could I explain that despite the fact that he regularly heard me and Pablo going at it like gangbusters, his best chum might be gay?

One day we were sitting around the Bohemian Love Pad, listening to David Bowie’s “Man Who Sold the World.” I said something about Bowie being gay.

“He’s not gay,” Peabo corrected. “He’s bisexual.”

“What’s that mean?”

“It means he likes men and women, both.”

A light bulb went off in my mind. God damn it, that’s what I was! I was bisexual!

People sometimes complain that they don’t want their sexualities labeled, but for me, it helped tremendously to know that there was a word for what I was.

I was not a freak. There was me, and there was David Bowie. I was not alone.

Allan, though—that boy was straight.

Around this time, Allan told me that Peabo had asked him if he thought I might be bisexual.

I froze. “What did you tell him?”

“I told him about you and Donnie. I didn’t think it was a big deal that he knew.”

“If you didn’t think it was a big deal, why didn’t you tell him about you and me?”

“Hmmmm, that’s a good point.”

Good point, my ass.

So Peabo and I had The Talk. I explained that I preferred women, and while I had sex with men, I really didn’t like it that much.

“Too bad you don’t like it,” Peabo observed. “Though of course, no one is making you do it.”

Now, that was a good point. I was still not ready to accept my sexuality. But, I was on the right path.

At least I had a name for it.

Peabo’s only disappointment was that I had kept this from him. This was my first intimation that keeping secrets might hurt someone I cared about.

As for Pablo:

On some alternative universe, Pablo and I bought a farmhouse, where we are in love forever, fuck each other and Allan, and raise a passel of red-headed babies, not entirely confident of their paternity, not worrying too much one way or the other.

However, in our universe, I left my hometown to go to art school.

She was hurt, but applied herself to our long-distance relationship. We did very well, actually. She even organized her life to live closer to me as she pursued her own studies.

But when things got going with Lucy, I had to break up with Pablo. She said she understood. But she didn’t want to remain friends. She couldn’t forgive me.

She married a nice fellow. They live in New Jersey. I think she works in Chelsea.

She wants nothing to do with me.

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Tainted Love

In the autumn of my senior year of high school, my heart was broken for the first time.

Debra was a junior, a vivacious and silly girl, with freckles, porcelain skin and wavy hair. She was hanging out with Allan when she got to know me. We decided this was it, and fell fast in love. We held hands, wrote each other notes, the works.

She lost her virginity on the floor of my family’s den. My family was asleep. I built a fire. We had wine. It was so perfectly romantic.

My then nine-year-old brother discovered us the next morning, asleep, naked on a blanket. Poor Debra was mortified—she was a good girl, forever to be considered a slut by my mother.

Debra became the first woman with whom I had sexual intercourse on a regular basis.

I say “regular basis,” but that’s not quite right. See, she had a reason she wanted to lose her virginity that night—her parents were moving her to Seattle at the end of the semester. And she wanted to lose her virginity to someone she loved as intently as we loved one another.

We had a month remaining in which to be lovers.

Our friends became co-conspirators, sneaking me into the girl’s dorm, pretending she was at a sleepover when she was with me, anything we could dream up.

Just as intensely as Debra loved me, so too did she worship Donnie.

Donnie was much admired, without question the most talented actor in our school. I scarcely knew him—we had a few classes together—but everyone extolled his sense of humor. He was also very handsome, with blond hair, blue eyes, chiseled features. He was rail thin.

A skinny blond funny boy—those were my best attributes too. I was a little threatened by Debra adoration of Donnie, but he was gay, so I had no insecurities about our romance.

Debra desperately wanted Donnie and me to be friends. I was game, though the circumstances felt forced.

One evening, I saw him in the window of his dorm.

“Evidently we are supposed to be friends,” I called up.

“So I hear,” he replied. “We’ll see, huh?”

Debra’s last night came too soon. Donnie arranged for me to sleep in his dorm room, though I would actually be sneaking over to the girl’s hall.

Debra’s roommate slept elsewhere. Debra and I stayed up all night, talking, making love, crying.

At dawn, I crept back to Donnie’s room. I feel asleep on the floor.

Donnie woke at eight, and took Debra to the airport. She didn’t want me to do that.

When Donnie left, his friend Chuck felt me up as I slept. I stopped him. Geez, how insensitive. Chuck was a creep.

Donnie didn’t care for Chuck, but he felt responsible to watch out for the other gay kids.

The deflowering of Debra, and our subsequent torrid romance, was the soap opera of the season. Everyone followed it, and expressed their regrets to me when she was gone.

It also identified me the boy who could put an end to a girl’s virginity. Debra’s friends queued up. I was suddenly having a lot of sex.

One night, Donnie and I sat on a porch, watching a party across the street. We talked about Jesus, we talked about Tom Robbins. And just like that, we were friends.

I told him about my experiences with Allan. I had told no one else. He was touched that I confided in him, and asked all the right questions. It felt great to have him to talk with about how mixed up that felt.

He took me to my first gay bar, a small dive called Belle’s. We were underage, but that was no problem. I had free drinks and we danced. Donnie never drank.

It was only a matter of time before we were having sex.

The first time, in his dorm room, he blew me. He complained that it took so long to get me off. Think of it as staying power, I said.

The truth is, though, I was nervous. Donnie was gay. That struck me as somehow different than being with Allan, because we were both straight. Allan and I loved each other, but it was always pretty clear that our primary sexual partners were women.

It would be a while before I understood bisexuality.

Donnie and I traded notes throughout the days at school. He put his notes in interesting containers—a cup, a found envelope, a chocolate box. They grew increasingly elaborate in format, requiring me to open secret panels, or to fill in blank areas to read the full text.

I opened up to him in our correspondence.

Donnie fell in love. That scared the hell out of me.

A group of us went skinny-dipping at my house one night. It was late, and by some miracle, my family did not wake up.

We wound up in my room, splayed about naked on the floor, in pitch darkness. I was massaging Jamye, slipping my finger inside her.

Her sister wanted a massage too, so I rubbed her. It was nonsexual, as we didn’t go there.

Anyone else? I offered.

Donnie signed on. I straddled his buttocks and ran my fingers up his spine, branching outward along his muscles. He squirmed under me. He raised his ass. My hand traveled between his legs; he was hard.

Elsewhere in the room were the sounds of couples kissing. I could hear Peabo coo soothing words to Jamye’s sister.

Donnie was sucking me. Loud, wet and fierce.

His mouth felt so good on me. But I worried about the noise. If anyone heard the sounds of sex coming from this corner of the room, they would know it was us. I would be outed.

I lay back and stretched myself to reach Jamye. Her head was near mine, her body stretched in the other direction.

She was asleep, or feigning sleep. I found her face and kissed her lips. She pretended to sleep through it. I scooted back to suck her nipples, loudly. Donnie stayed on me as I moved, sucking me, loudly.

I wiggled to her hips. I raised a leg so that I could get my mouth down on her. She moaned softly and ran a hand down my chest, to my belly.

I stopped her hand before she reached between my legs. There would have been a surprise there.

Donnie worked me until I was about to come. I stopped him.

Light was coming in my window. The sun was rising.

I saw my friends off.

Once Donnie confessed his love for me to his best friend Michelle, she set her sights on me. It was a stupid thing, but she wanted anything he had.

She was a gorgeous black girl, and I was easy. We started having sex.

Donnie was hurt. His letters to me were filled with betrayal and anger. And, perversely, with the tenderest expressions of love.

He loved me too intensely. I didn’t know what to do with him.

He would be pissed at me because of Michelle, but forgive me immediately when I agreed that his new favorite song, Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love,” was insanely great.

After graduation, Donnie moved to New York. I came up to see him often. It was a twenty-four hour trip by train, each way, but I couldn’t afford to fly. I was working for minimum wage in a movie theater.

I came to know the city through his eyes, by his side when I was here, through his words in the letters he wrote.

In the summer of nineteen-eighty-five, I was in New York with my parents and grandmother. After being a good tour guide all day, I was given the night off to hang out with Donnie.

He gave me a sex tour of the city. We were twenty-one.

He worked at the box office of a gay cinema in Times Square.

At his theater, men watched porn projected on a vast screen. I saw men walking onto the stage and going behind the screen. “Where are they going?” I asked.

“Behind the looking glass, Mary. Come on.”

I followed him. We walked along a narrow corridor behind the screen; looking up, I saw porn actors, seventeen feet high, as projected light.

We went upstairs. There, we found a park, created from stage props and Astroturf. Men were having sex on park benches. I had never seen men have sex, and now I saw dozens of them.

Donnie held my hand as we toured around.

He took me to a few of his haunts. We ended up at the Anvil, in the meatpacking district. We walked into a bar with a dance floor. Go-go boys in jock straps danced on the bar, and many of the dancers were shirtless. We swam into their midst to dance.

After we were good and sweaty, he took me downstairs.

Porn was being projected on a screen, as men blew each other on plush sofas.

We sat as far as we could from the action. As we talked, a man came over and jerked off in front of us.

Donnie took me further.

There was a narrow corridor, lined with men. They turned and smiled at us as we approached. It was pitch black at the opposite end.

I decided I had seen enough.

Back at Donnie’s tiny studio, we kissed as his roommate slept.

He asked me to keep my socks on as he blew me. Why, I wondered?

He wanted me to fuck him. He had just started to bottom. No, I can’t, I can’t.

I was just too freaked out.

I cabbed back to the hotel. My family was more than freaked to see me drag in at sunrise. I escaped into sleep.

Five years later, I was out of college, and Lucy and I moved to New York. Donnie, of course, was still here. Debra had moved to the city as well.

Donnie helped us unload the truck when we moved. We hung out as I settled into the city.

I was well into Lucy then, and certainly not up for sex outside of that relationship. Donnie never brought it up. We were good as friends.

One afternoon, I met Debra for coffee. We had a high time talking and catching up. We were both thrilled to be back in a place where we could be friends again.

After a while, she said, “I should get going. I told Donnie I’d visit him in the hospital.”

I knew what she was going to say next. I had to pretend otherwise. I had to.

“Hospital? What happened?”

Nothing had happened. I knew.

“Hank . . .”

Stop. Don’t.

“Donnie has AIDS.”

He had not told me.

I went with her to the hospital.

I saw Donnie almost every day for the next two years.

On the morning he died, I was in a cab, racing to the hospital.

It didn’t matter if I was there when he breathed his last. His family was there. Our friends were there. He was already doped to incomprehension. I had already been with him through the worst of it.

I needed to be there.

The cab’s radio was much too loud. The sun was too bright. The sky was shrill.

Three blocks from the hospital, the song on the radio ended. I heard the opening tones of “Tainted Love.”

He was gone.

I don’t believe in omens, but he did. Donnie delighted in good endings.

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Straight Boys In Love

Love at first sight is real.

September nineteen-eighty, early morning, still life drawing class. I was sixteen.

Allan was standing with some other jock sophomores, leaning against the flat files used to store our drawings. He had his fingers shoved into the pants of his tight jeans. He wore a clinging baseball jersey with red sleeves.

He was smiling.

His smile was broad, stretching between his full cheeks.

His dirty blond hair was wavy and long on top.

I could draw you a picture of how he looked in that moment, so imprinted is it in my memory.

We didn’t have many opportunities to talk initially, as we were in different classes. He already had a circle of friends, and I was just beginning to meet people at this new school.

One day he mentioned that he needed a ride home. I volunteered to drive him. Soon we were commuting together. I would pick him up in the mornings, and take him home in the afternoons.

During that drive, for about an hour every day, we were alone together. And during those drives, talking and singing along to the early Beatles, we fell in love.

I was sixteen, he was fifteen.

We didn’t talk much at first. I was a little nervous about his beauty and my attraction to him. He was shy, he would later tell me, because he thought I was one of the smart kids—what if I thought he was dumb?

This was before Allan came to realize how smart he was. He developed into a philosopher of sorts; there was nothing he couldn’t talk about until sunrise, thinking through every angle, every permutation, of the most abstract ideas.

But at fifteen, he was still unaware of his uniqueness.

He lived alone with his mom and her mother. To pick him up for school, I would pull up outside his building, honk my horn, and wait for him. If he took too long, I would get out to hurry him along.

One morning, I went to fetch him. He opened the door nude.

His mother and grandmother were gone.

He apologized for being late, saying he just woke up. He needed to iron a shirt and he’d be ready to go. Come sit in my room while I get ready.

I sat on his bed as he ironed. I tried to avert my eyes. The room was a mess, scattered with clothes and junk. He had a smooth body, naturally muscular, still growing out of his baby fat. His small patch of pubic hair was blondish, kind of salt and pepper. His cock was . . .

I couldn’t get over the fact that he was nude, right there, in front of me. My heart was racing.

He sat on the bed next to me.

He kissed me. He kissed me!

He asked me to take off my clothes.

I had never touched a boy. Neither had he.

I undressed and we kissed. I held him close. I didn’t know what to do with my hands. I didn’t know what to do with my desire. I only knew I wanted all of him, now, before this moment was taken away.

This might never happen again. How was it happening now? No one had done what we were doing.

I’m not sure if either of us came. Afterward, we lay in his bed. He said that would have been very hot if a girl had been there. I agreed. We dressed and went to school.

I was in a daze as the school day unfolded around me. The world was normal. I wasn’t. I was full of feelings about Allan and what we had done. We weren’t gay now, were we?

Things settled over time. Allan and I were very close. We loved each other, and said so, along the lines of saying “Ah love yew, man.”

We had sex now and then, always at his initiation, never as often as I wanted.

We were at a party a year later and had to do a beer run. He and I collected bills and change and headed out in my car.

He drove. He wanted to drive. I swallowed my father’s admonishment that under no circumstances was anyone other than me to drive my car.

A few beers often turned him sentimental. He grabbed my leg and proclaimed his love for me, his best friend.

I kiss his cheek and told him I loved him.

He changed course and drove to Jamye’s house. We knew the door was unlocked, and no one was home—Jamye and her sister were at the party we just left.

We went upstairs to her room. We undressed and kissed, making love in Jamye’s bed.

Allan never really had a girlfriend. As our circle of friends developed in common, and as he gained in confidence about his brains and his beauty, he tended to sleep with whichever girl was into him at the moment.

I always had a girlfriend. Allan slept with pretty much all of them.

Years later, at my wedding reception, Allan congratulated me on finding such a pretty bride. I thanked him, noting that she was the only girlfriend I had that he had not bedded.

He pushed me, laughing. We then realized this was only a slight exaggeration.

Allan finally found pretty bride of his own.

We grew up to be married men, but kissing and loving one another remained a part of our friendship. Everyone knew we loved each other. His mother used to wonder if he would have been happier with me.

In the summer of two-thousand-and-one, I was back home. He drove over from Atlanta to see me. We met for beer in a garden, and talked for hours.

He dropped me off at my parents afterward. We kissed. I pressed into it, taking his tongue in my mouth.

He laughed. “Ah love yew, man,” he said.

“I love you, baby. Always will.”

That was the last time I saw him. Allan died of a sudden heart attack a year later.

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