(Part 1 of this story can be found here. Part 2 is here.)
For me, sex has always been more than hydraulics. Any regular reader of my blog knows that even my most anonymous encounters are never impersonal. Sex is a surefire shortcut to a man’s most private and guarded self; it knocks down defenses in a way little else can. The way a man will grunt or sigh, the way he’ll shiver from a fingertip on a soft spot, the tenderness and hunger with which he will respond to a passionate kiss, the intensity in his eyes as his desire is fully unleashed—all these things often tell me a greater deal about someone in mere moments than will weeks of small talk. The more I see of a man, the more times we’re naked, hard, and sharing the bonds of semen and sweat, the deeper my knowledge of him grows.
When I look back over the time I invested in Cory, though, I feel I knew him less with every fuck. In retrospect, my almost-year with Cory was like time spent unpacking a Russian nesting doll. Not merely in that he revealed surprise after surprise every time I cracked a layer, but in an even more specific sense. Cory was a series of what turned out to be diminishing—and ultimately very empty—boxes. Every time I’d open yet another shell, I’d reveal another void I could never fill.
There’s always a point in bad relationships when the negatives being to outweigh the positives, when what one thought was a good foundation is revealed to be shaky. The two weeks in which I discovered that Cory was secretly both sleeping with other men, and that he had been reading my blog for god knows how long, were my turning point. They were the eye of the hurricane, or that weightless moment on the fulcrum where everything hangs in suspense to see which way the balance will shift. It’s no surprise that almost immediately after, things began rolling inexorably downhill.
All those months I’d been visiting Cory, he’d painted a rosy picture of his relationship with the employers whom I’d never seen. He told me stories of how thankful they were for his tender care for their disabled son. I heard about the flowers they’d send him from gratitude for Cory’s long nights at the clinic where the boy resided. He showed me photos from the expensive family vacations abroad in which he’d been included; he had a closet full of clothing and gifts they’d lavished upon him. He’d told me they intended to will him the house where he lived, after all. For months I thought he had an ideal situation.
Then, without warning, the relationship he had with his employers turned on its head. No, it didn’t gradually deteriorate. Abruptly, Cory rewrote his history with the family so that the couple who hired him as their son’s caretaker were, and always had been, terrible people. The very same vacation photos that showed a happy family, Cory now described as being of deceivers with insincere smiles. The closet of expensive clothes were no longer tokens of esteem, but expensive ways for the couple to ease their guilt. My memory still told me that Oceania had once been allied with Eastasia; Cory, in a very Orwellian about-face, insisted that Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.
After this sea change, he’d allot me a half-hour tussle beneath the sheets on the mornings I’d spend with him. Then I’d lie there and listen to an hour-and-a-half litany of all the woes he’d experienced at their hands since the last time I’d seen him. They weren’t giving their son the attention they should. They begrudged the son the treatments that Cory felt he needed.
No offense was too petty not to recount in detail. She might have gypped Cory out of a train fare. He might not have been available to pick him up from the hospital when his shift was done at five, so that Cory had to wait until six for a ride home. (Cory didn't drive.) She had said something curt when Cory asked for a Saturday off. He had told Cory that since he was using the pool so much, he might as well goddamn clean it once in a while. She was inconsiderate of what was supposed to be Cory’s free time and asked Cory to clean house in his off hours. He would look cross-eyed at the grocery bills Cory would run up that his employers were supposed to reimburse.
Some of Cory’s grievances had legitimacy. It was indeed unfair that the family would expect him to spend all night at the hospital, sleeping upright in a chair with no blanket, only to forget to pick him up the next morning as they promised. I was sympathetic when he’d complain bitterly about how these wealthy Back Country professionals always seemed to be dining out or ordering cases of wine by the truckload, but would never seem to have enough cash on hand when Cory’s paycheck came due.
Much of the time, though, Cory would blow his stack over trivial matters. She might say good morning to him in the wrong tone, for example. Cory would sit in the kitchen in the morning with his arms crossed, staring coldly and waiting for him finally to ask what time Cory needed a ride to the train station, and then Cory would become silently enraged when he just kept reading the paper. Justified or not, Cory’s response to both levels of provocation was equally outraged and dramatic. I quickly learned not to ask him questions (“Well, why didn’t you just remind him you needed a ride to the station?”).
I was just there, I learned, to listen. Not to contribute.
I spent so much time absorbing his problems, though, that it took months before I realized Cory knew nothing of me, or mine. When I first met Cory, we fucked like demons, and spoke very little. As time went on, he talked more and fucked less. Yet in all those hours he ranted while I listened, I rarely had the opportunity to share something personal with him. He knew I was married, for example, but didn’t know anything about my relationship. He never asked about my spouse—not a name, not a number of years we’d been together, not whether we had an open or closed marriage. He never asked if I had children, or what I thought of the weather, or my opinions on the news. I knew everything about his extensive family—all his brothers and sisters, even the names of the nieces and nephews. He never once asked about mine. He knew nothing about my childhood, my education, my interests.
There was no reticence on my part, mind you, no sudden shyness that kept me quiet. Every time I attempted to talk about my experiences, or if I tried to bring up some relevant observation from my past that might shed light on the topic at hand, Cory simply managed to steer the subject back to himself. Eventually, maybe without realizing, I gave up trying.
I lay in the bed and let Cory’s stream of constant grievances wash over me like a river. As I said, My function was to listen.
Over time I gave him little gifts. A set of bamboo knitting needles for his birthday, some DVDs I knew he’d like, an inexpensive scarf from Uniqlo, a hat that I’d knit for him. Every week he’d peel off whatever underwear I was wearing and keep it for himself—so he could be close to me when I was gone he said. As time went on, I rarely got any of that underwear back. The entire period we were together, Cory’s only gift to me was a two-dollar elastic bracelet of colorful peace signs painted on plywood, that he bought from a street vendor in Union Square.
I realized too late how very little reciprocity we shared. I’m not whining about it. The fault lies squarely on my shoulders.
One morning I showed up at the house a few minutes early to find Cory stumbling out of the bathroom. His naked body was unnaturally pale as he grabbed the door frame in support. Long wet tendrils of shampooed hair clung to his face as he looked up sharply, plainly surprised to find me standing at the top of the servant’s stair. “Help me,” he whispered, shaking and shuddering.
I grabbed him by the shoulders and assisted him, slowly, into a seated position on the top step.
“No. Don’t.” Weakly, Cory tried to push me away. He was horrified that I'd caught him in this state. “I’m fine.”
He wasn’t. Something was obviously wrong.
For long minutes I sat there on the top step with my arm around him, his wet head resting upon my shoulder. I tried to keep him warm with my body and with a dry towel I’d grabbed from the rack on the bathroom door, but still he trembled and wheezed.
Only when I told him I was going to call emergency services did he stop me.
He held my hand in his and looked me dead in the eye. I knew some kind of confession would follow. “Don't hate me. I’m bulimic,” Cory said at last, in a little boy’s voice. He’d been battling bulimia for several years. He was seeing a therapist about it. There were good weeks and bad weeks, and I’d managed to walk into one of the worst weeks in a long time.
“I thought you’d stop seeing me, if you knew,” he concluded with his head hung low. Not once during his explanation did he break his sideways gaze, though. Now, he waited for my reply.
Of course he’s bulimic, was my first thought. Why the fuck wouldn’t he be.
The new information made me feel even more tired than I already was. My strength seemed to have been waning rapidly in those recent weeks. Every little new revelation about Cory—the cheating, the blog secrecy, the war against his employers—chiseled more and more out of me. And now, this.
I don’t know why the discovery seemed so unsurprising. There’d been warning signs all along. I knew Cory was particular about his food. There were a limited number of restaurants we could visit when we ate out, because, as he told me many times, he didn’t trust the cleanliness of others. I knew he was obsessed with his weight. I’d several times watched him eat half of a salad and have the rest boxed for me to take home, because he ‘didn’t eat the same salad twice.’ He had been a working fashion model—guilty by profession, basically.
But, weary as I felt in that moment, I did what I thought was the right thing. I gathered Cory into my arms and reassured him. I wouldn’t stop seeing him. It’d be all right.
Everything would be all right.
Now I had a new burden added to the usual shovelfuls of grudge against his employers I’d been shouldering. I’d have to hear weekly progress reports about his therapy. I helped keep track how many times Cory had made himself vomit that week. I knew intimately how many calories daily he was trying to force himself to keep down. I listened to him complain about the ounces he’d gained, consoled him when he’d lose a pound or two.
And I'd hold him in my arms as he grieved two warring visions of his future: either as fat and homely, or skeletal and dead.
Then—god. It got even worse.
Within a month after the bulimia revelation, Cory unexpectedly revealed he had Crohn’s Disease, a chronic ailment of the colon. I knew Crohn’s Disease well. My mother’s lifelong affliction with Crohn’s had cast a shadow over our family for as long as I could remember. One of her brothers and her father had battled it as well. Crohn’s affected what we as a family could and couldn’t eat, how long we could stay out, the distance she could venture from a restroom in case of an emergency. It affected my mother’s mobility and dampened all happiness; she was in constant pain. My mother’s Crohn’s had a whole list of triggers around which our family tiptoed for decades.
Chronic illness was something I’d coped with all my life. I would have been sympathetic and experienced with Cory, had I known all along about his condition.
But no. The epiphany came without warning—as everything bad always did with Cory. There came a time in the very late summer when Cory announced that there was something I didn’t know about him—and that’s when he told me he had Crohn’s, and needed surgery on his rectum. The procedure had been planned for some time.
“It’s happening tomorrow, in fact,” he concluded. Yes, the man I'd been seeing for months gave me less than twenty-four hours’ notice before major surgery.
I don’t remember the particulars of what he needed or why. Repairing an abscess, maybe, or there might have been some fissure that needed correcting. What I do remember with clarity is the agony of insecurities he experienced when he finally confessed to the chronic illness and the impending procedure.
It was because of me that he’d kept both secret, he said. The only reason I saw him was because he gave me his hole; with his ass out of commission, Cory was certain I’d stop seeing him.
Of course he has Crohn’s, I thought to myself. Why the fuck wouldn’t he.
Once again, I felt old and tired. Cory was exhausting me. Day by day, problem by problem, he was wearing me out. My aches were beginning to have aches. I was sure I was developing an ulcer, so upset was my stomach.
But again, I tried to do the right thing. I didn’t begrudge it. Shouldering Cory’s burdens had become reflex by now. It was something I was there to do.
Biting back all the resentments I had about yet another concealed secret, about the lack of preparation or warning or even common courtesy he’d given me, I put my arm around Cory. I told him not to be silly. Of course I’d still see him. If he thought I only liked him for his hole . . . well, that was just wrong. I’d be with him any way I could, hole or not. There were things other than anal we could do sexually to keep each other satisfied. Heck, we didn’t even have to have sex at all. We could visit, talk, walk Poochy together, sit by the pool and make fun of the celebrities in the gossip rags he liked to read.
I told him I wasn’t going anywhere. That I’d be there for him. Of course I would. No, I wasn’t mad. Yes, I understood. Certainly I forgave him.
As a reward Cory gave me one of those smiles that warmed me like a sun. When he thanked me, it sounded sincere. I bathed in that smile, and let his approbation erase all the physical aches and upsets I’d been feeling. Being there for Cory was my role. My job.
We parted that morning before the surgery with what I thought was an understanding.
I didn’t see him for two weeks after the procedure; he stayed in the city with his ex while he recuperated, until his specialist cleared him to return to the couple’s house to live and resume work.
When he returned, though, he’d somehow changed. Cory had always been super-aggressive in bed when he wanted to be fucked. Now he was a sexual piranha. “I don’t care if I’m not healed,” he’d growled. “Fuck this hole.” He wanted my dick so badly that I was afraid he might bare his teeth and devour me for it. I used to be aroused by the hunger in his eyes when he’d demand I fucked him. Now I was a little frightened by the intensity of that stare.
I’d tell him no, we couldn’t fuck until he was fully recuperated.
Those weren’t the words he wanted to hear. “Just do it. I don’t care if it hurts. Fuck me.” He’d shove me down to the bed and sit on my groin. So hard would he pin me, that sometimes he’d leave fingerprint bruises in the flesh of my shoulders and upper arms. He’d grind his ass against my dick through my shorts to attempt to arouse me to the point where I’d have no choice but to mount him. He’d dirty talk me, tell me how much he needed me. Plead.
I’d just chuckle, too weak to struggle, and treat his demands as jokes. I didn’t care how provocative he got. We weren’t fucking until he healed. On that, I was firm. When I wouldn’t rise to his bait, he’d go dominant and order me to stop fucking around and get to work on my boy’s ass. I tried to laugh it all off. I’d tell him that while I wanted him—and I still wanted him as much as ever—we were going to hold off.
I’d be patient, if he would. Waiting would be for the best.
It was a month after his surgery that Cory sent a text asking me to come over. He’d had a follow-up appointment with his specialist—which I’d at least known about in advance, this time—and she had given him the go-ahead to have anal sex once more. We’d have to experiment to see how much he could take without pain, he said, but he was officially healed. Yes, he was certain the doctor had said it would be all right. Would I please consider it?
His texts seemed almost meek. I was surprised he was permitted to explore anal so soon. However, when I arrived at his place and looked him in the eye and asked him again if he was certain he was ready, he reassured me that he had official medical approval. As he undressed me, lovingly, slowly, he tossed off some information from his doctor about the natural healing powers of the mucosal membranes. He kissed me sweetly, and lay me down upon the bed, and rattled off a convincing checklist of advice she'd dispensed about going slow and monitoring his pain levels. “I missed this cock,” he murmured, as sweetly he began to lick it to life. “I'll stop when it hurts. I promise.”
This was a different Cory from the one who’d tried to command me to fuck him, all through his recuperation. This was a sensual Cory, a Cory very much like the man I’d first met the previous winter.
At last, giving in to the urges I’d suppressed for a month during his recovery, I agreed to go through with it. If we went slowly, I added. He suggested that he sit on my cock, so he could slide down on it at his own pace.
The sex started well enough. It felt so good, so right, to be inside my lover again. He took his time to accommodate me. Inch by inch my slick dick slid into his hungry ass. Squatting over me, Cory moaned and shivered with pleasure. I asked if he was all right. He closed his eyes, smiled, and assured me that yes indeed, he was.
Soon he escalated the pace. He jerked a load onto my chest within the first thirty seconds I was all the way inside him, then rapidly started working another as he bounced up and down on me. Sensual Cory disappeared; greedy Cory was the man on my dick now. With increasing violence, he caromed back and forth, several times bending my cock alarmingly. When I popped out as the result of his violent bucking, he grabbed my dick roughly and tried to cram it back inside him. “Hey, hey!” I warned. He didn’t listen. He was too busy shooting a second time while he yelled his release at the top of his lungs.
“Stop,” I shouted, when he tried to keep going. “Stop!” The fuck had become so uncomfortable for me that I demanded he let me extract myself. I was horrified to find a small amount of blood on my dick and on the sheets when I pulled out.
There was a terrifying moment of silence as we both stared at the stain. Then Cory leaped up, ran into the bathroom, and slammed the door. I heard the lock click.
Stunned, I sat quietly for a moment. Then I gathered my strength, padded naked to the door, and knocked. “Go away,” said Cory.
“I’m not going away,” I said in the calmest voice imaginable. “Are you all right?”
He didn’t answer. I was so weak, so overcome with disgust at what I’d done to him, that all I could do was slide down against the door frame until I was huddled on the floor.
“Tell me you’re all right.”
“I can’t.” He sounded petulant. I knew how scared he must be, and my heart ached for him.
“Are you still bleeding?”
I didn’t know what to do. “You can hate me,” I told him. “It’s okay. I’m sorry. This was all my fault.”
“Sweetie. You’ve got to tell me if you’re still bleeding.”
At last he spoke. “I don’t hate you. It’s not your fault.”
“It is my fault. I’m the one who—“
Then he began to speak, all at once, in a rush. He’d lied to me, Cory confessed. Yes, he’d gone to his doctor’s appointment, but she hadn’t been satisfied with his healing. She’d told him not to expect anal sex for a full three months after the surgery—not merely one. And maybe not even after three. Crying, he told me through the door that he’d been certain I’d spurn him if we postponed fucking any longer. So he’d decided to be untruthful.
“I lied to you,” he said. “I told a fucking lie and it’s all my fault. Not yours.”
“Just go away.”
My naked rump rested on the cold wooden floor. I hated myself at that moment. I knew he’d claimed the fault as his own, but I wouldn’t cede the blame. At the very least, I’d been a damned fool to allow myself to be duped so easily, just to have butt sex. Very calmly, in the same tone of voice I always used when being there for Cory, I said, “I’m not going away.”
“Please. Go away. I don’t deserve you.”
“I’m not going—“
“Get the fuck out!” he said, with force. Then, more weakly, “Please.”
I sighed. Something deep inside me broke, that morning. I didn't know what to do any more.
It was with effort that I pulled myself up, knowing that I needed to leave. “You have to call your specialist,” I told him through the door. “You have to see if we messed something up. You have to get it fixed, if we did.” I repeated the words over and over again until he heard, until he said them along with me, until he promised. He’d phone the doctor as soon as I left, he said. He’d get it fixed. And in the future he’d be honest with me—totally honest—about when he’d be able to fuck again.
Only when I felt he was telling me the truth could I leave with a good conscience. I dressed and said my farewell through the locked bathroom door. I sounded calm, but inwardly I was furious. Furious at myself, and for the first time, furious with Cory for the lies he’d been so eager to tell me.
As it turned out, that morning was the last time Cory and I had sex.
(To be continued. But only one more part, I promise.)
During my hiatus, I’ve received from readers a lot of very sweet emails wishing me well. Most of them have recognized the amount of work I’ve poured into my blog and have expressed their thanks. I’m so grateful for those sentiments.
Many people who’ve written, however, have made the assumption that the reason I have decided to take a break is because of the so-called haters—that is, the men who leave nasty comments on my blog, and those who go out of their way to make sure I understand how contemptible I am to them.
I’ve had plenty of haters over the years. They wear me down, yes. But more than anyone, the men who have sucked the joy out of my writing (and to a certain extent, my life) are those who meant well. They’re men who claimed to admire me, who wanted to meet me—and many of them did—and who then, whether out of clumsiness or fear or whatever, failed to recognize they’d gone too far. A man can only withstand so many successive blows to the ego (even an ego as Jericho-sturdy as mine) before it begins to tumble.
What’s more, every single one of these men read my blog. They’re men who subscribed to my point of view, who enjoyed my writing. Or read my writing, at least. Some of them wanted to be written about. Others never intended me to know they were blog fans.
Maybe one of these men is you.
If it is you? Although there’s a small and petty part of me that wants to flip a finger in your direction, I’m not going to. I’m moving on as I write this series. A friend of mine shared with me something his grandmother used to say that I truly believe: People do the best they can. If they could do better, they would.
My advice, if you think you recognize yourself . . . or even if you don’t: do better.
All of us could stand to do better.