Monday, September 11, 2017

The 14th Reason

I decided to write my 13 Reasons series earlier in the summer when I realized I had a lot of stuff to get off my chest. Such a lot of stuff.

There often have been times throughout my sex blog in which I’ve discussed encounters that have gone bad, or my disappointments with various men. I do have a department of bad encounters tag that I use liberally, after all. On the whole, though, throughout my blogging career I’ve kept most of my entries upbeat and complimentary of my partners. I’ve portrayed my sport fucking as steamy, and fun, and adventurous. Perhaps even as enviable. I wasn’t wrong to do so; the sex I have has been all those things.

But there have been episodes, and periods, in which the bad has outweighed the fun and the good. The handful that made up my series were downright harmful.

I didn’t write about those encounters until now for many reasons. Some took time to process. Years, even. Others, like those involving cyberbullies and stalkers, felt like sleeping bears it might be unwise to poke. A lot of my bad memories, however, I avoided writing about because I was wary of how readers would receive them. Historically, my readers have liked it when I focus on the porntastic. When I write openly about what’s bothering me, they’re not as pleased.

My reader feedback in the last few weeks has kind of borne that out. “It was a LOT of Cory,” someone told me today. And yes, yes it was a lot of Cory. There was a lot of Cory in my life for a year, and to this day I’m still dealing with the physical and emotional aftermath. So yeah, for you, four entries might’ve been an awful lot of Cory. For me, it was either the appropriate proportion of Cory, or given how sometimes he lingers, not enough.

“These posts are painful to read,” said another reader. “Some have made me cry.” I get that. I get that people have been reluctant to comment on some posts because my emotions in them are too raw, or too vivid. I respect that stance, even. People don't visit sex blogs so they can wallow in someone else’s misery. Everyone has enough of his or her own. My personal challenge at the beginning of the series was to write everything out as honestly as possible and damn the consequences. It was a good exercise for me. I recognize, though, it wasn’t everyone’s pair of pajama pants.

“I wish that your blog had just continued from where it left off, a year or so ago,” wrote one reader this week. And, my reader, if you happen to be recognizing your words on my page, fear not. I’m not trying to make you feel badly for your wish. I wish my blog could’ve continued from where it left off, too.

But honestly . . . it couldn’t.

Not writing about these hurts was smothering me. Every time one of my readers would spend weeks telling me I meant the world to him, only to disappear or deceive after we fucked, it weighed me down a little more. When one of my readers would demand more of me than he should, when he’d feel entitled to more than he’d earned, it pushed me down more and more. Maybe the individual disappointments each weighed no more than the lead apron my dental assistant drapes across me during an x-ray. But lay one, then another, then another . . . the cumulative weight suffocates.

It’s painful. They’ve made me cry, too. I wish I could’ve just picked up right where I left off. But I can’t.

When I started thinking about this series, in a fit of pique after my encounter with Bill 101, I modeled it after the (mostly ridiculous) Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, in which a high school girl, prior to committing suicide, recorded thirteen 45-minute cassette tape sides accusing thirteen of her peers for driving her to the grave. Each side was a Fuck you! from beyond the grave to one of her classmates who'd pushed her to that extreme.

Snapping Welcome to your tape! at someone who had pissed you off had become the meme of the spring; I was amused by the thought of appropriating it for the screeds I’d never written about the men who’d upset me.

I actually kind of had to weed from the final candidates the many readers who’d just kind of pissed me off, versus the ones whose actions were actually toxic to my well-being. So out went the guys who’d stood me up, or the ones who made promises they never kept, or never intended to keep. I narrowed my selection down to men who had impeded my creativity, to men who seemingly had gone above and beyond to disappoint. All along I intended to end with the knock-out one-two punch of Cory followed by the boy who fell in love with someone else—which I did. But the story of Cory I had to expand by a chapter more than I intended . . . because, again, there was an awful lot of Cory.

Originally I’d envisioned that the very last essay of the series would have been about its real and most persistent antagonist. That is, myself.

Writing these essays has brought me face to face with my many and abundant flaws. When I write about my monstrous vanity and my inflated ego, I’m not being charmingly self-deprecating. I mean to tell you guys I really do have a monstrous vanity and inflated ego.

Week after week I've had to confront ugly facts about myself. For example:

If I didn’t have such a monstrous vanity and inflated ego, I probably would’ve been strong enough not to go down the rabbit hole after the men who fed emotional heroin to those particular flaws. If cartoon birdies didn’t chirp in my eyes and my pupils didn’t dilate into Looney Tunes throbbing hearts every time some reader on the make started a conversation with Wow, sir, I really love your blog, I wouldn’t have had to put up with half the shit I ended up writing about for thirteen weeks.

If I didn’t think so damned highly about myself, if I didn’t truly believe at heart that I am always, always right, I wouldn’t expect men’s lives to be magically changed by my influence or presence. And then I wouldn’t be disappointed when they turn out, after all, to be just as human and fallible as I am myself.

If I were a more ruthlessly honest person, I’d question the morality of keeping a sex blog at all. Readers of my blog who choose to embark on a physical relationship with me are somewhat fair game; they know the likelihood of being written about. But men who are strangers to the blog? Is it fair of me to write about them, afterward—even if (as I do) I change their names and their circumstances to protect their privacy? What about men in my history, who may or may not stumble across my writings and happen to recognize themselves? (It’s happened, more frequently than makes me comfortable.) What kind of ethical compass do I follow, here . . . if I have one left at all, anymore?

I came away from this series feeling like more of a monster than any of the men I carped about. Anyone who imagined that I enjoyed my pity party would be seriously wrong.

But one of the things I try to do nowadays is to be a little kinder to myself than I typically have been in previous decades of my life. I don’t dismiss my offenses off-hand. Instead, I recognize my imperfections where I can. I try to isolate where I might have gone wrong, and see the path I might have chosen instead. Then I resolve to do better. That was the theme of this series, right? If we could do better, we would.

And I want to be able to do better.

My last thirteen entries took my readers through some dark places. I’ve left the impression with a lot of my readers, it seems, that I’m still feeling in the dark. Let me assure everyone, though, that I’ve been writing from a place of strength, and from a stance of conviction. Devastated as I was after the last two men I wrote about, I bounced back. I had pleasing physical and emotional relationships. I’m healthy. Life is good.

Sure, I was disinclined for a very long time to write entries for my sex blog. (You would be, too.) Of course I’ve been extremely wary of friendly overtures from readers, and I’ve been guilty of extreme over-caution in dealing with them—even with some of the readers I’ve known for a very long time. I often activate my usual icy self-defenses more quickly, these days, than I might have in the past.

But that Divine Spark I wrote about in my Cory entries? The internal pilot light that motivates my curiosity, my sexuality, my creativity—the one I worried was snuffed out for good? It’s been burning again, steadily if not brightly, through every one of the essays I wrote for this series.



Let’s end on a lighter, odder note.

I was about halfway through my series when someone tried hitting me up on BBRT. A younger guy in Manhattan. After he oinked at me, I looked over the handful of public photos on his profile. Nice ass, I told him.

It’s yours if you want it, Sir, he wrote back.

Readers, you and I both know my probable reaction to that one. Hands up if you picture me licking my chops, rubbing my hands together, and preparing to move in for the kill. (My hand is up.)

So let’s discuss that, son, I wrote back, while in my mind a mental soundtrack of bow-chicka-bow-wow started to play.

First off, Sir, let this faggot say that your blog changed his life.

Cue the sound of a needle scratching off that soundtrack. What the actual fuck?

May I see your locked pictures? I asked the guy. He assented, and unlocked. Sure enough, just as I suspected, the face in the profile was of This Faggot, the guy I wrote about in my second essay of the series.

What was weird about our conversation, though, was that he seemed to show absolutely either no memory of—or no remorse for—the way he’d led me on just three months prior.

A friend of mine, whom I was exchanging unbelieving texts, kept trying to convince me that This Faggot had read my entry about him and was trying to . . . I don’t know. Get me to admit I’d written it? See if I’d fall for his schtick again?

My argument back to my friend, though, was that This Faggot didn’t really have a clear motivation for coming at me again, without disguising himself, without changing his approach, without seeming to remember any of what had already happened between us. If he’d read the unpleasant (yet thoroughly accurate) account I’d written of him, wouldn’t he be angry? Or, you know, a little more subtle about his revenge?

Or was he just a messed-up ball of denial living so deep in his own fantasies that he really didn’t have any recollection of our tiring encounter? Or maybe just a psycho meth head?

I didn’t know.

So I wrote This Faggot and asked, Don’t you remember talking to me before?

This doesn't think it did, Sir. This Faggot would have remembered the honor of speaking to you. This faggot just knows it always been a fan of your blog and it changed its life.

Right, I wrote back. And we chatted in May.

Can’t remember. Deleted the site for a while.

That’s when I’d had enough. Whether or not he was playing me, I didn’t care. I told him off and told him not to contact me again.

Just when you think it can’t get any weirder, right?



By the way, for the purposes of this guy’s privacy, I’ve completely obscured his profile name in the email exchange I’ve shared above. I’m one hundred percent certain that it won’t be remotely legible and that I totally didn't forget to smudge out his name. Because that’s the sort of kind, caring, fellow I am.

Monday, September 4, 2017

13 Reasons Why/Tape 13: Judas' Kiss

Tape thirteen: the ultimate in this series. What Judas have I saved for last, and what terrific sins did he commit to feature in the culmination of all the crimes I’ve so far documented?

But no. There were no betrayals, no angry recriminations, no furious grudges to be held, when it was over.

Sometimes the last nail to be pounded in the coffin is the softest and gentlest of them all.




I met this last Judas online, a year after Cory had left me for dead. It had been a long, long year of recuperation and regrouping. The winter was especially harsh, both in its extremes of temperature and weather, and in the personal darkness that seemed to descend around me for endless months.

I mourned. I stayed in my house. Within the confines of familiar walls, for month after month I mourned. It was not for the loss of Cory. I spoke in my last entry of how Cory snuffed out in me my own spark of the Divine—that urge to rise above, to be more, to see and feel more, the spark that motivates my creativity and sexuality both. I felt dead inside.

My urges to explore, to inquire, to be more than myself evaporated. In the wake of Cory’s destruction, I felt little more than a silly old man, unfit for human company. My days were long and leaden. Nights, I’d lie in bed awake, weighing the number of months my doctor had originally allotted for me if I’d failed to recover, against the gray and endless days that now stretched out to my horizon and beyond—wondering which would have been the easier burden.

Then he came along.




A man in his late twenties messaged me on Scruff. Right off he told me he was a reader of mine. From what I've read of your blog, it seems you and I are on the same wavelength when it comes to sexual tastes. I think that's the case. I was surprised to find out you're in the NYC metro area. Took me a little bit of time to work up the courage to reach out but I figured I had nothing to lose. You know?

Did I know? Yeah. I knew very well what it felt like to have nothing to lose. At this point, I’d lost my taste for men praising me for my blog. My enormous vanity had been gratified nearly to death; I’d lost my taste for moths gently batting their bodies against my glow, merely because I had the dubious talent of knowing how to type out a sex scene.

Writing isn’t a dispassionate act. It’s ruthless. The author of memoir—especially sexual memoir—dissects every memory, wallows in its viscera, mercilessly searches for the true and the real, and through a dark necromancy, resurrects it upon the page. Every written word should draw blood. The author’s own, if nothing else.

And you know what not writing is? Relaxing. For me, losing the drive to set thoughts to paper was sheer relief. In that period of my life, it meant I didn’t have to put myself on trial every time I cracked open my laptop, only to convict myself over and over again as stupid, vain, and weak. Shutting myself off, keeping my pants zipped, not feeling I had to produce either creatively or sexually . . . it had been pleasant. Dull as fuck, with nothing to show for the live I’d been occupying. It wasn't living—but it wasn't unpleasant.

I'm pursuing you because I find you super hot and very attractive. I'm not just looking to get a notch in my bed post. I've got enough of those already.

Well. Even a dormant vanity can’t help but be slightly tickled by that kind of come-on. And this flattery was coming from someone with the All-American looks of a movie star. Photo after photo he sent me, then video after video. They weren’t merely from his stock selection of x-rated shots, either. He took the photos for me specifically, and addressed me by name in the videos as he stripped clothing from his impressively muscular body and stroked himself to hardness. “This is for you, sir,” he’d say into the camera.

Deep within, what I’d assumed was dead stirred to life.

He animated me after I’d lain dormant for so long. For nearly a year I’d denied myself, frozen myself to need. This boy made me want again. Not merely want. Crave.

I craved his masculine good looks, his strong frame. I lusted for his sexy, photo-perfect body, his handsome face. I coveted his firm, round bubble butt. I was wary of the fact he was a reader of mine. Everything bad in my life had come from readers, the previous couple of years. The cyber-harassment from Mr. BipolarCockSucker, the real-life stalking of Cheater, the long slide in disappointment and poor health from Cory—all the disappointments that had numbed me had come from the men who claimed to admire and desire me for my writing.

Still, we met for the first time within the week.

He was amazing. What soil I thought barren flourished and became fertile once more. I desired him more and more. Miracle of miracles, he desired and needed me, too. When we weren’t seeing each other, we shared our lives with texts and emails. That was how he took me with him in his pocket on a trip to Israel, by pulling out his phone and sharing his experiences at regular, happy intervals. It’s how I showed him my life in the suburbs, from my everyday errands to the wildly erotic thoughts of him that night would bring.

We saw each other, what . . . nearly weekly? Every other week at most? I’d have to take a train into the city and then a long subway ride to his apartment—basically a two-hour commute each way—but for the several hours of sensual satisfaction we shared, it was worth the investment of time. Load after load I lost inside him during those hours. I’d tell my son how beautiful I found him. He’d sit atop me, willing my cock to shoot once again inside of his insatiable hole, and he’d tell me he never wanted any of this ever to end.

How would you feel if I were to write about you? I asked him, after the first time.

His reply struck me as unusually honest. My honest gut reaction is: I'm not sure. I know that's a possibility and I won't know how I feel unless I read it. And I may not do that.

I hesitated before telling him, Well, I wanted to give you a heads-up that I wrote a blog post about you for tomorrow morning. You don’t have to read it. You don’t have to tell me what you thought of it, if you do. If you want to avoid it, you may. But I also wanted to let you know that I am unashamed of how proud and grateful I am to know you, and to be a part of you.

I was thinking of asking you if / when you might write about me. I wasn't sure how to bring it up and an appropriate time didn't seem to present itself, he replied.

There are going to be an awful lot of men envious of you, tomorrow.

I've done what I've done - from the very beginning when I reached or to you because I knew how well we'd fit together. Sharing that with others doesn't phase me. The truth is the truth.

It’s truly rare I meet someone as sincere in his appreciation as he happened to be. When he finally read the first entry I wrote about him the next day, he texted: You are a very beautiful man and an amazing lover. You have an amazing memory for details. I got to live our lovemaking again and enjoy it just as much. Thank you. You make me feel desirable, and special, and more. I can only try to give back as much as you give me.

Best thank-you I ever received.

This wasn’t the last entry I wrote about the boy. There were several, each as special to me as he had become. And as we got closer, the more we learned about each other. I told him in broad strokes of my let-down with Cory; he told me his own fears of abandonment.

I want you to know that I'm at my most vulnerable with you, he said early on. To be totally naked about it: I'm worried about what'll happen if I invest time and emotion in you, then end up losing you for one reason or another. Admitting this is a little scary for me. I've developed a thick skin through some rough times in the past, and the fears I’m sharing with you I’ve never shared with anybody. Not even myself.

I will not just vanish on you, I told him. I was thinking about Cody, when I tapped out the words. I wouldn’t wish vanishment on anyone. You bring out the protector in me. I can’t promise I’ll never be a dick—I can be, usually unintentionally—but I am also at a place in our relationship in which it would genuinely grieve me to upset you. Much of my protectiveness arises from the fact that you have shown so much vulnerability to me already.

Thank you, sir. I trust you.

Every time I met this boy I desired him more. He made me smile when the world seemed determined to make me cry. I’d thought the divine spark in me smothered, but with him it roared back into life.




And then.

Because you already know there must be an and then.

We had made love one afternoon in May. Passionate, connected love, in which he clutched me and begged me to impale him, while I whispered spur of the moment poetry into his ear, or sheer filth, or both as one. Exhausted after the third round, he held me in his arms, and we lay still for long, warm moments while we gazed out the open window at the blue spring sky above the Hudson. “Hey,” he said at last. “Can I ask your advice?”

“Of course,” I said. “What’s up, kiddo?”

“I’m feeling toyed with,” he said. For a moment, a hot rash prickled across my chest as I attempted to account for any wrongs I might have caused him. But then he continued. “I’m feeling pretty low because a guy I’ve fallen in love with gave me the boot.”

Mere moments before, this boy and I had formed the axis of the earth; the universe had revolved around the two of us. Yet even though he still held me, I realized our worlds had begun rotating in different directions. As our orbits spun away from each other, as I watched him recede further and further, he continued talking. “What makes me sad is that I don't feel like there's anything I can do about it. What can one do when someone brings you joy, and you bring them joy, then suddenly he abandons you, seemingly without reason? What happens when someone you love and who you’re sure loves you, turns out not to have the same affection you have for him?”

I said something. I’m not sure what. It was kind. It was gentle. It was supportive. But every word I uttered sounded hollow. Unconvincing. What can one do indeed, when someone brings you joy, and you thought you brought them joy—what can one do when someone brings you back to life, who makes you love living again, who makes you love being in the world again . . . and he turns out to have been in love with someone else all along?

When I could, I dressed, and collected my things, and made my farewell. “Hey,” he said, chucking me under the chin. “Thank you for listening.”

I mumbled some assurance.

Then, before I left, he kissed me. Softly, on my lips.

We never met again. I didn’t turn him down; he simply never asked. I didn’t expect him to. I’d gone from necessary to superfluous, from lover to the father figure one asks for advice about one’s real love life. Without warning, without a change in the barometer, somehow he’d let me go. I’d simply never realized until we were miles apart.

I was at my most vulnerable with this boy. I’d invested time and emotion in him, and then I lost him. The worst fear he'd confided to me had become my reality. He never seemed to see realize the irony in how we'd swapped places.

And that made me saddest of all. The last straw fell gently, it’s true, but it was the feather’s weight that made my burden too much too bear. That spark of the Divine he had briefly rekindled went out once more.

This time, I felt certain it would never return.





I saw the boy six months later. I was grabbing a bite to eat with two friends in a little restaurant in the Village and sitting in the front window, where I could look out at the passers-by on the darkening street. I wasn’t paying attention to the conversation of the pair I was with. I wasn’t paying attention to much, those days. But a familiar face strode by the window. It stopped, turned around, and my boy entered the shop. “Well, hey there,” he said, over the tops of the heads of the other customers.

“Hi,” I said back.

“That’s weird.” He seemed genuinely astonished to see me, though it was plain he felt he couldn't speak I front of my friends. “I’ve been thinking about you.”

I just smiled.

Perhaps sensing awkwardness, he held up his hand again. “Good to see you.”

“Goodbye,” I got to say.

He texted me later that night. I’m glad I spotted you. I had been thinking about you and wasn't sure if it was the right thing to reach out. I want to apologize for disappearing. I was going through some stuff. Still am.

I thought long and hard before I sent my heartfelt reply. As you work out whatever’s bothering you, I hope you keep in mind that at heart you really are a decent person who deserves a portion of the good things going on around you.

Godspeed, I was telling him.

Go on your path. Tread it well.

And next time, try to do better.

Thank you for those kind words, he texted back.





This was my last Judas. But no Judas’ kiss has ever been as sweet, or soft, or gentle, as the final kiss this boy gave me, the last day he’d held me in his arms.






Afterword

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.

Monday, August 28, 2017

13 Reasons Why/Tape 12: Cory 4

(Part 1 of this story can be found here. Part 2 is here, and part 3 is here.)

Of what I knew about Cory—or thought I knew, anyway—the one thing of which I was certain was how much he loved the disabled teen in his care. Cory doted on the boy. The kid was so developmentally challenged that he couldn’t recognize faces, or respond to questions, or even make his own needs known. He simply breathed, and slept, most of the time. Still, Cory spent hours every day finding ways to entertain his charge.

Once a week Cory would sweet-talk the nursing staff at the home where the boy lived and decorate the boy’s room with a new theme—construction paper cacti and cotton ball tumbleweeds for Western Week, cut-out comets and planets and glow-in-the-dark star stickers for Outer Space Week, bunnies and Christmas trees and pumpkins for the holidays that came around three times as often per year as they do for the rest of us. The home’s staff seemed to eat out of Cory’s hand, particularly when he was handing them small gifts during the thrice-annual Christmas celebrations; they’d drag out old decorations from the cupboards for Cory to use however he wanted.

During the long evenings he was on duty, Cory would sit in the chair by the boy’s bed. He’d paste into oversized albums all the photographs he’d taken of himself and his charge, or of the boy and his parents. Sometimes he’d blow them up for the multiple bulletin boards he’d hung around the room, all angled so that the kid could (in theory, anyway) see them from his stationary position in the bed, without turning his head. On bad nights, when the boy was fitful and restless, Cory would stay awake reading aloud to him. His dependent wasn’t aware enough to understand the stories, or really, whatever was going on at any point, but no matter. There wasn’t anything Cory wouldn’t have done for him.

At first, when I heard about all the many devotions Cory lavished upon his patient, I thought him a seemingly bottomless well of selfless love; Cory’s attachment was one of the things that I initially found most endearing. Later on, as he got to know me better, Cory told me the story of how the child ended up in a full-time care facility—and I realized that much of Cory’s extreme dedication to his job arose from guilt.

When Cory had first started working for the boy’s parents, a year or more before I knew him, the teen had lived at home. Cory took care of him in a wing of the parents’ house. Then there was an accident. It didn’t happen on Cory’s shift; it didn’t really involve him at all. Cory really only had one night off a week, and one week he chose to travel into the city for fun. Whoever was supposed to be looking after the boy in Cory’s absence simply didn’t. The kid twisted himself into a position where his breathing was restricted.

Cory arrived back home to find the find the family in the emergency room of a private hospital; the oxygen flow to the boy’s brain had been reduced to about twenty percent of normal. There was enough brain damage to an already-damaged brain that the prognosis wasn’t good. The boy wasn’t expected to live. He stayed in the private hospital from then on.

Despite the fact that it hadn’t been Cory’s shift, or remotely Cory’s fault, and despite the fact that from what I could tell, neither of the parents ever felt resentment toward or blamed him for the accident, Cory felt directly responsible for everything that happened. He blamed himself for not being there, for letting his dependent out of his sight for a single moment. He couldn’t give himself a free pass, despite the earned night off.

I spent many long mornings in bed with him, naked body to naked body, holding him tightly in my arms from behind as he sobbed about the incidents of that evening. Over and over he relived his perceived failures. Sometimes the snot and the tears would make him so incoherent that I couldn’t understand a word he’d say.

I didn’t need to understand the words. I felt as if I were tiptoeing around that black abyss of despair hand in hand with him. There was nothing I could say—nothing anyone could say—as solace for so deep a grief. No platitudes, no reasoning, would make him feel better. The guilt should not have been his to grapple with. Had I been Cory, though, I would have struggled with the same regrets.
So directly responsible did he feel for their tragedy, I honestly thought many times that there was no way his remorse would allow him ever to leave the family.




Which is why I was very surprised when, in late autumn of that year, Cory abruptly announced he was quitting his job. After the incident in which he lied about his recuperation from his anal surgery to trick me into having sex, he’d decided to take a week and visit his family back west. The week turned into two weeks, then three.

I was relieved for a break, to be honest. I wasn’t having to worry, every time I saw a men’s restroom, that Cory was in there forcing himself to upchuck; I wasn’t barraged by his never-ending woes and worries. The headaches and chills and fatigue I’d been experiencing for several weeks disappeared when he did—which made me realize all the more that they mostly like were a result of the relationship’s stress and tension. With Cory away I felt unusually light-hearted. More energetic. In a better mood.

For three weeks my shoulders unclenched. The furrow in my brow disappeared. I was able to spend my free time as I pleased. I still wasn’t having sex elsewhere, but I was beginning to envision a life post-Cory . . . if it ever came to that.

Then he returned. Cory had been back maybe all of two days when he invited me over and sat me down on his bed. “I’ve got amazing news,” he told me. “I’ve given my two weeks’ notice. I’m getting the fuck out of here and moving to Brooklyn.”

I’m not going to lie. I was stunned. For a moment or two I was fixated on the getting the fuck out of here part of his sentence. It’s the kind of thing someone says when everything is rancid and they can’t wait to get away. That might apply to his employers . . . but surely he didn’t mean to include me among the things he was abandoning? Or did he?

That was my first thought.

My second and more disloyal realization was that yes—the burden I’d been bearing for the better part of a year might be lifted if Cory were to move away. All those mornings I’d spend listening to his bitching, all those times I’d fretted about what he was and wasn’t eating, My constant worries about his colon were creating the same stresses I’d experienced with my mother, growing up. If Cory were in Brooklyn, though, those apprehensions would all be gone. Well, not gone. I’d still worry about him. I’d just be doing it at a safe, almost relaxing distance.

Almost immediately, I realized how terrible these thoughts really were. The shock of the announcement had set me off-balance. That’s all.

When finally I summoned speech, I somehow turned into my father. So, Cory was giving up a good-paying job with free room and board? For what? Did he have a job prospect already? No? How was he going to support himself in Brooklyn? What was he going to do?

Cory, however, had it all planned out, in a vague, millennial kind of way. He would be moving in with a friend near Prospect Park while he decided what to do next. Maybe he’d take up modeling once again—he still had designers urging him to return to the business. Maybe he’d get a degree in nursing. Maybe he’d just wait and see what opportunity presented itself.

He must have seen the stunned expression written plain across my face. “Hey, hey—we’ll see each other,” he told me. “Absolutely, we’ll keep seeing each other. You can visit me in Brooklyn any time you want. We’ll walk Poochy in the park. Nothing will change. It will be like now, only in . . . you know . . . Brooklyn. Okay?”

“Sure. Okay.” I said the words aloud, and then repeated them to myself as he proceeded to rattle off all the fantastic things he could do in the city that he couldn’t do out here in the suburbs.

My simultaneous reactions of feeling abandoned and feeling elated only heightened my guilt. I really should have celebrated with Cory; if he was really that miserable here, getting out was the best thing he could be doing.

I couldn’t muster enthusiasm, though. Quite honestly, I felt discarded and hollow. Cory and I weren’t boyfriends in any traditional definition of the word, I realized. I had no hold on him. I had no right to resent him for leaving me for greener pastures.

Yet we’d been so close, for most of the year. I still felt bereft at the thought of him so far away.

Why was I already mourning him when he hadn’t even left? Cory and his dramas had drained my energies and left me exhausted. Every time I visited, I felt heavier and less enthusiastic. My body was still sabotaging me as well; I’d feel feverish and fatigued on the days I was supposed to see him. Sometimes my muscles would be wracked with pains before breakfast that would vanish after my shower. My energy was waning, day by day. Gathering up the strength to visit took a lot out of me, even though we weren’t having sex of any sort.

Cory had a crapload of stuff to dispose of, though, in the two weeks before his departure. He had two closetfuls of clothes and a large room full of his scrapbooks, photo albums, and memorabilia. He made plans to stash it all in a local storage facility.

I suggested that I help him move his boxes in my car. Sure, he said. He’d be happy for my assistance.

Cory, however, seemed absolutely unwilling to start packing. I offered to lend a hand, but despite the hard deadline of when he had to be out of his employers’ house, he didn’t betray any concern about getting ready. A week slipped by in which he didn’t really do anything. At the week-and-a-half mark, I couldn’t tell any difference in his quarters. Two days before the move date, I made him swear he’d spend all his time packing. On the Thursday morning he was supposed to vacate, I said, I’d be over at nine in the morning. We’d make as many trips as necessary in my car to the storage cubicle. Would he do that for me? Did he promise?

He promised.

But when I arrived at the house on that last Thursday morning, I found him sitting in his room, seemingly without a single concern, pawing through old photographs. I clenched my jaw and looked around the bedroom suite. Cory hadn’t packed a fucking thing. Oh, there were a couple of cartons in which he’d tossed some dirty laundry, but all his clothes, his books, his bags of junk and memorabilia—it was all still there in the same old places.

Was he going to change his mind and stay after all?

When I asked that question, he looked surprised that I’d dare think such a thing. Of course he was going. He just had to get organized, that was all.

I was ready to spend the entire day—morning, afternoon, and evening if necessary—to help him move. He, however, didn’t seem rushed at all. “Maybe let’s just put these in your trunk.” Cory indicated the six cartons with the dirty laundry. “I’ll take care of everything else later on. You don’t have to worry about all this. A lot of it’s just rubbish, anyway.”

With what car was he planning to move the rest, I wanted to know? He didn’t drive. How was he going to get out of here by his deadline? Who was going to help him? He was all alone out here except for me.

“Oh,” he said, still looking at his photographs. “I have a friend. He’ll help.”

I felt betrayed on any number of levels at that moment. Who was this mystery male friend? I’d set aside the entire day to help Cory move. I thought I was the friend, here. I’d thought I was Cory’s only friend, honestly. Despite the fact that I felt like crap, I’d planned to sweat and get the job done, no matter what. Cory was making me feel as if my contribution meant nothing to him—as if all my depleting energy had been spent on him for zero purpose.

But at the same time, I felt too weak to argue much. My strength was at a low point. I knew deep inside that I didn’t have the vim to schlep boxes for hours on end. So with pressed lips and a dead heart, I moved the half dozen boxes into my car and coerced him into a few things into a couple more. Then we drove to the storage facility and dropped them off. The trip, including schlepping boxes into his cubicle, took all of twenty minutes.

“So is that it?” I demanded, when I drove him back to his house. I know I must have sounded upset, and hurt. “You don’t need any more of my help?” I was hoping Cory would change his mind. I was hoping he’d tell me he needed me. He’d always needed me. In some foolish way, I counted on him needing me.

Once again, I was hoping for more than I received.

Cory gave me a smile. In the ankle-deep golden leaves littering the driveway of his employers’ home, he pulled me close and held me. For a moment, out there in the fading warmth of autumn, enclosed in his arms, my head on his chest, I again felt protected. Safe. He thanked me, told me I should go home, then turned me around and pushed me in the direction of the driver’s side door.

“We’ll see each other in Brooklyn,” he told me. His big hands reached out for mine, and squeezed them fondly. “Nothing will change.”

Every time he’d said those words before, in the preceding fortnight, I’d believed him. Or I’d wanted to believe him, at least. This time, as he uttered the promise with his face close to mine, I knew he was lying. He was telling me goodbye.

I’d always felt as if Cory collected me. He was done, now, and I wasn’t wanted anymore. He was tossing me out with the rest of his rubbish.

I blinked, but said nothing. He gave my hands a final squeeze, opened my car door for me, and with one hand on my back, gently pushed me into the driver’s seat.

I started the car and rolled down the window, parting my lips to tell him that I’d see him soon, in Brooklyn.

“Oh,” he said, cutting short anything I might have had to say. He bent down and looked through the window open window. In an off-hand, light-hearted voice he added, as if telling me about possible traffic delays on the route home, “When I was in surgery last month the doctor said I had what looked like syphilis. I guess I probably gave it to you. So you might want to get that checked out.”
Then he waved and turned to go into the house, leaving me behind with my mouth hanging wide.

I haven’t seen Cory since.




The doctor was kind. He took my temperature, poked and prodded, and asked me questions after I told him what I thought was wrong. “Do you know who might have transmitted it to you?”

I knew exactly who. Yes.

“Um, a regular partner? A one-time. . . ?”

I’d been seeing someone, I said. For almost a year. He’d only told me the week before I should probably get checked out.

The doctor was sympathetic. “He talked you into doing things, didn’t he?”

I didn’t know how to answer that question. Had Cory sweet-talked me into becoming his satellite? What words had he used? What hex had he cast?

Or had I simply fallen into his gravity, unable to exit my orbit around him?

I could only shrug.

“Well, the usual early onset symptoms of syphilis include short-term fevers and fatigue, admittedly,” he said. “Did you have any sores?”

No. I knew to look for chancre sores. I’d never had any.

“You may have been asymptomatic. It’s not uncommon. Do you mind taking off your shirt?”

I could barely fumble with the buttons. When finally it opened, he bit his lip. “Well. This certainly doesn’t look good.”

I shook my head, not understanding.

The doctor stood me up in front of the mirror. All across my chest, from neck to waist, my skin was mottled. The rash covering me hadn’t been there in previous days or weeks. It hadn’t even been there that morning, when I’d dragged myself into the shower before my appointment.

“We’ll have to run tests, of course, but when syphilis has progressed to its secondary stage, it presents in rashes like yours.” He kept on talking, his voice reassuring, as I stared at myself, stunned, in the mirror. “Of course, I’m sure you’re aware, there are many other sexually-transmitted co-infections that can occur with syphilis, up to and including HIV. I’m afraid have to test for a wide spectrum of possible infections. We’ll cross our fingers that the syphilis is easily treatable via injection. I’d hate for you to have to undergo a spinal tap.”

“Spinal tap,” I echoed weakly. I couldn’t tear my eyes from the scarlet and white needlepoint of my skin.

The doctor put a hand on my shoulder. “Let’s take it one step at a time,” he suggested.

I barely had the courage to nod.




I tried to get in touch with Cory in the weeks after, as my strength slowly began to return. I sent off trial balloon text messages, suggesting we get together and talk. I tried sending emails saying it would be great to see him. My motivations were never angry. I didn’t want retribution. I didn’t want an apology. I simply wanted to know what had happened? Why had I been so essential one moment, and so disposable the next? I wanted to know, was he well? Had he moved on?

At what point would it be all right if I moved on, too?

For every twenty texts I’d send I’d receive one in return. Garbled, incomplete responses, often sent at four in the morning. I’d ask when we could get together, how his new place was, whether he’d found a job yet, when was he coming back to pick up his belongings, if he’d heard from his former employers. Eventually I’d get back a photo of Poochy, or an LOL, but nothing more. Even those rare replies quickly evaporated

Before he’d moved, I’d purchased a luxurious leather-bound photo album for Cory’s Christmas gift. Now that it was December, I proposed getting together for lunch or coffee so I could present it to him. Great idea, he answered—which was the only text I received from him after his parting that was close to an actual sentence. But Cory never replied when I tried to set up dates. In fact, he never responded again to anything I sent. After Christmas, I stopped trying.

That was that, I thought.





One year later I got a text from Cory saying he was here, in town. I immediately texted back and asked where he was staying, and for how long he’d be here. He never replied.

Two years after that, he did the same thing—he texted to say he was visiting again and would I like to spend my Tuesday morning with him? For a fraction of a moment, I remembered our Tuesday morning trysts, flashes of warmth and brilliance and flesh against hard flesh. Then I sighed, too tired to care. Too tired, in fact, once again to have my heart dragged around the same way a dog scrapes his ass on a sidewalk. I turned off the phone, and simply didn’t reply.

I couldn’t invest any more energy. He’d worn me out.

For the longest time I imagined that what Cory and I shared was something beautiful and special. I thought of our passion as a spark of the Divine. A gift from the universe. A warmth and glow that transcends the everyday.

When two men meet and make a connection that seems more than ordinary, when the fireworks they create are good, and true, and memorable, and worth celebrating—that’s the Divine in them both,  mingling and speaking through their lovemaking. Those fireworks are the universe rejoicing and crying, Yes! Yes, this why life is lived! Enjoy!

Cory killed the Divine in me, for a very long time. He cast water on the fire and trampled out the embers, leaving nothing but smoke and char.

I still have the leather photo album I intended years ago for Cory’s Christmas present. It’s sitting in my closet, in a gift box, waiting to be given. Several times I’ve thought of repurposing it, of passing it to someone else. But I bought the album for Cory, and to Cory I still think of it belonging. It’s difficult for me to exhume it, much less simply to give it to another.





It’s been difficult to exhume these memories, too. But here’s a coda—and I’m still not quite sure what to make of it.

Earlier this year I was going through some old digital photos on my computer. I cleared out duplicates, got rid of the crappy shots, revisited old memories. I was browsing through photographs I’d taken in 2012 and froze still, as I came across one that triggered a forgotten memory.

The photo came from a hot morning in late spring or early summer of that year. A visiting friend and I had gotten up early and taken ourselves to the train station near me, for an excursion in the city. I don’t remember what we did that day. The museum, maybe, or a park.

My friend and I were sitting on a bench on the Manhattan-bound side of the tracks when a young man climbed the steps to the platform. He was tall, lean, and handsome—a youth in floppy basketball shorts and a tank top and large, dark sunglasses. He smiled and nodded at me as he passed; I watched him side-eye me from behind the glasses as he kept his head facing forward.

I knew I’d been cruised and thoroughly checked out; my smirk of pleasure from the passing spark made my friend raise an eyebrow. The stranger strode past and sat down on another bench a little further down the track.

“I can’t believe that dude is taking sneaky shots of you,” my friend told me a minute later. I looked over, and sure enough, the young man was oh-so-casually holding his camera so that the lens pointed in my direction. His thumb was poised over the spot on his screen where the shutter button would’ve been.

I was flattered, and only slightly embarrassed. “Well, two can play at that game!” I told my friend, cocking my phone. Smirking, I took a single shot of the youth taking photos of me. I don’t know whether he saw me doing it or not. But it was a silly, comic start to what was a light-hearted day of fun with a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time. The train arrived, and I forgot immediately about the boy from the train station.

Years later, I found myself staring at that photo I’d taken that morning in 2012. His hair was slightly shorter, and the sunglasses he wore covered most of his face, but the youth I’d captured one bench down from mine, his phone stealthily pointed in my direction, had been Cory.

Unmistakably Cory.

Cory, an entire six months before I met him in 2013 for what I’d thought was that first time, lounged on the porch railing of that enormous house in the back country.

I couldn’t get over the coincidence of it.

What had happened, here? Had he known all along—? When I said I felt he’d collected me, did that mean—?

If it was coincidence, that is.

I stared at the photo for a long time, unable to move, unable even to breathe. One thing I knew about my percolating questions: because they had to do with Cory, I’d never have answers to any of them.

When finally I managed a deep breath, it felt ripping a bandage from an unhealed wound and causing it to hurt fresh, all over again.







Afterword

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.

Monday, August 21, 2017

13 Reasons Why/Tape 11: Cory 3

(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?”

Silence.

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.”

More silence.

“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.”

“Sweetie.”

“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.)




Afterword

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.

Monday, August 14, 2017

13 Reasons Why/Tape 10: Cory 2

(The previous installment to this story can be found here.)

When I think about Cory these days, it’s always with bafflement and a sense of loss. I sense as if I’ve missed something; I want to throw my hands in the air, shout that I give up, and hope that someone will simply tell me the answers I seek. The main reason I chronicle my life is because doing so gives me the opportunity to tell my life’s story as I understand it. Very often the recounting is the only thing that helps me understand. Cory, I just don’t understand.

It’s taken a very long time to tell this story about my time with Cory because of this lingering uncertainty. When he was done with me, I was left debilitated and bewildered; physically I felt like I’d been trampled by all the bulls in Pamplona. Even now, I’m still trying to sift through the experience in order to figure out which parts were real, and which were his lies. Why things happened the way they did. How can I put together this puzzle when the biggest chunks are still missing?

Thinking about Cory makes me feel like a minor player in a bigger story. Like a walk-on character who lacked the grand perspective to understand what's going on around him: a Rosencrantz in someone else’s Hamlet.

And perhaps that's all I was to him.




It was sometime in the summer that I started having my doubts.

Cory liked to taking selfies of us during sex. He’d be lying on his back, legs sprawled in the air, and while I knelt between them, thrusting and pounding and sweating, he’d cooly reach over to the bedside table, grab his beat-up iPhone, and stretch a long arm to position it underneath the action. While I still fucked away, he’d review the new shots, sliding his fingertip from capture to capture, impassively deleting the bad ones before grabbing my head and pulling me down for a passionate kiss.

After we’d both shoot our loads, we’d hide under the sheets and review the photos together, looking up as he held the phone above our heads. Images of cock and hole, hard flesh and hairy ass would flash by as he’d swipe them across the little screen. “Let me text these to you,” he’d say. I have several of those selfies, still. One I don’t even remember him taking. In it, I’m sleeping in his arms, my face peaceful, even beatific. His face is in profile, his lips softly pressed against my forehead, his eyes closed as if he, too, is sleeping. Don’t we look beautiful together, he said, when he texted me. I had to agree.

Of course, that photo is a lie. Only one of us was unconscious. The other feigned slumber, while he took the shot. It’s a little detail—but it means a lot.

But none of these little disloyal thoughts crossed my mind that summer.

One morning we were cuddled in bed together, enjoying our post-coital ritual. We looked at the photos and murmured to each other about how much we’d enjoyed the sex. He showered me with compliments; I accepted them with a smile and a shy glow. I remember sighing happily, stretching out like a cat, and then snuggling next to Cory in sleepy contentment. Thinking I was napping, he continued to tap at his phone. Through heavy eyelids, I lazily watched as he switched apps to check his email.

I wasn’t snooping. I would never have gone through his email on my own. But he held the phone so that we both could see as he scrolled down his Yahoo! inbox, where I could plainly view the subject lines of all the mail he had waiting there. Craigslist reply 9045: Hotel top looking for bareback bottom, one of them said. He tapped it, unfurling into a long spiral of re: re: re: re: Craigslist reply 9045s that indicated a very long back and forth correspondence.

There were more Craigslist emails from other ads, more sexual correspondence—dozens of them in total, all within the week before, with titles that implied not that he’d been only hunting online, but that most of the guys writing him were after second or third helpings of Cory’s ass.

My brain casually assimilated and absorbed these facts before I realized, with a cold and painful shock, that none of these emails were intended for me to see. I turned my head, tried to slow my breath, and willed my heart to stop its tattoo. After a moment he must have realized that he was exposing his private correspondence. He attempted to change back to the photo app. He couldn't do it quickly, though, with only one hand.

I remember watching him clumsily try to cover up his embarrassment, then finally closing my eyes. I pretended I hadn't seen anything.

In my stunned silence, I remember thinking: Okay, there’s that.

Throughout the previous winter, spring, and most of the summer, I’d been sexually exclusive with Cory. I’d save my loads for him, merely because my doing so gave him pleasure. I was happy not constantly to have to take long trips into the city for encounters that ranged from bad to mediocre. I loved the sex we’d had. After I accidentally saw his emails, it took me long months before I started having sex with other men again—but I consider that morning the point at which I stopped thinking about Cory in terms of sexual exclusivity.

To be absolutely fair, he’d never expected me to keep my dick in my pants. Several times, in fact, he’d told me he was perfectly all right with me fucking other men. But he loved hearing that I wanted only him. He loved when I’d say I didn’t need any other receptacle for my loads than his ass. He knew quite well I wasn’t looking elsewhere—and even though he’d theoretically given me my freedom, he’d specifically told me many times over, even up to and including that week, that I was the only man he was having sex with.

In fact, so flattered was I by his many assurances that he’d been with no one else, that he needed no one else other than me, that I'd been more than willing to have him as total focus of my erotic life.
How much it stung, the discovery that I wasn’t the only object of his desire.

But I’d been stung so many times, by so many men, that I kept the complaint to myself. I hardened myself against letting it hurt. I thought the betrayal was worth living with, in exchange for his company, his compliments.

I never knew whether or not Cory was aware that I’d seen those emails. Something came up soon after, though, that pushed his secret dalliances from top of the list to least of my concerns.

Not even a week had passed, after the morning I accidentally saw Cory’s emails, when he wanted to show me some videos on his laptop. We were curled up together in bed, sticky and sweaty and weighted down with Poochy’s considerable bulk, when Cory hauled his notebook onto his lap and started searching for something. Probably a dog video. He loved clips of hounds making funny noises, or begging in a cute way, or riding skateboards or whatever it is that viral canines do.
Cory wasn’t finding the particular video quickly, though, by typing generic keywords like funny dogs into YouTube. So he decided to open up his browsing history, and find it from the list of sites he’d recently visited.

Again, I should’ve shielded my eyes—or more truthfully, he should’ve been a hell of a lot more self-conscious about exposing his browsing history while he knew we both were looking at the screen. Among the various YouTube pages he’d visited were not only a long list of Craigslist links, but a series of addresses that all began with mrsteed64.blogspot.com.

Seeing my blog in his browsing history brought me up short. The shock I felt was even greater than witnessing his Craigslist correspondences; I actually felt feverish, and as if I needed to throw up. My health had been up and down recently, anyway. While Cory played that damned dog video, I felt waves of nausea and disgust roll over me.

At last , when I couldn’t stand it any longer. I excused myself to the bathroom, where I leaned over the toilet for three or four minutes until I was sure nothing was going to come up. Then I went back to the bedroom, collected my clothing, and made an excuse to leave a little earlier than usual. Cory just lay in the bed, watching videos and laughing to himself, never realizing that anything was wrong.

Back at home, I spent the rest of the day trying to figure out what the hell was going on. Never, at any point, had Cory mentioned that he’d read or known about my blog. Not once. Nor had I mentioned having one. Remember, I met Cory a mere six weeks after my enervating, grueling experience with Cheater, who’d secretly been reading my blog long before he’d tracked me down and lured me into his bed. The possibility that history was repeating itself again, so soon, was making my stomach flip.

On the other hand. . . . Once I was a little more calm, I had to admit that if Cory had been a covert blog reader, he had acted remarkably little upon what knowledges he’d gleaned. Cheater had come at me determined to push every button. He’d weaponized every word I’d written in order to get me to fuck him, and employed every bit of trivia to keep me unloading into his hole.

I never got the sense that Cory had done anything like that. Our sex had been damned good—up until that point, anyway. Even in retrospect, though, not once did it seem calculated or false.

Cory had never committed any of the misdemeanors of which other readers in this particular series were profoundly guilty. He hadn’t nagged to be written about. He hadn’t read entries about himself—and by that point there’d been a few—and then expressed displeasure. Never had he seemed to pretend to be into anything he wasn’t, in order to gain my approval; never had he given the appearance of fabricating stories to coerce me to want him. At least, not as far as I knew.

Was I even sure that Cory had been a reader of my blog all along? Perhaps he’d just stumbled upon it, and was shy about mentioning the discovery. Maybe he’d been a reader, but hadn’t made the connection between the blog and myself in real life. He could simply have resolved to remain discreet about his knowledge.

Did the discovery really change anything? I wasn’t sure. The nausea the initial shock had induced lingered for days, causing me more than once that week to jump up from my seat and run to the bathroom. Nights, I’d wake up feverish and sweating as well, only to flash back in the dark to the sight of my blog’s address on his computer’s screen. The physical aftereffects were concerning—but following the trauma I’d experienced with Cheater, they didn’t really surprise me, either. On some level, I was learning to expect betrayal. Even from Cory.

That week was one of the few in which I only saw the boy during our regular Tuesday assignation. I used my suddenly perpetually-upset stomach as an excuse for the rest of the week to keep to myself, while I mulled over what I wanted.

It would have been very easy simply to pull away from Cory after that double whammy. Maybe I even should have. Was closing myself off what the universe wanted me to do, though? After Cheater, after Mr. BipolarCocksucker, perhaps my instincts of self-preservation were kicking into overdrive too easily. If I’d retreated—if I’d told Cory I couldn’t see him any longer, if I’d invoked that clause in our agreement that would make him disappear forever—would I be throwing away something good, for little reason than fear?

That wasn’t like me, I told myself.

People disappoint each other, I reasoned. I’m well aware that in the past I have let down those closest to me, sometimes in a major way. I probably will again in the future. But did they walk away after one or two offenses? Sure, Cory had perhaps made mistakes, either in fooling around and being a secret blog reader, or else in accidentally cluing me in to both. Were those mistakes enough to stop seeing him? Or should I be giving him another chance?

By the following week, my health had recuperated slightly, and I’d come to a decision. Tuesday arrived. I drove to the house where Cory lived, parked, let myself in the side door, walked up the little servants’ staircase and into the suite where he lived. I kicked off my sandals and shucked my shorts and tee. Then, as Cory sleepily smiled at me and lifted the sheet, I crawled into the bed and pressed my naked body and hardening cock against his.

I, too, smiled.

Part of me wants to say this was the worst and most fateful decision I’ve ever made. Honestly, though . . . by then, all the damage yet to be discovered had probably had been done.

(To be continued.)



Afterword


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.

Monday, August 7, 2017

13 Reasons Why/Tape 9: Cory 1

How long did I put off writing about Cory? Years. He blasted into my life like a natural disaster, swept me off my feet, and tossed me around. And like an act of God, he vanished and left me for dead, trailing a lengthy wake of destruction behind him.

I wrote several entries about Cory, long ago. They’re still there. I can’t re-read them, though. The memories are still too. . . .

I’m not surely how neatly to end that sentence. Too raw? Too confusing? Too embarrassing?

Perhaps all those completions apply.

Some context. I wrote earlier in this series about Cheater, the man several years back I fucked savagely and repeatedly, only to discover, after he’d exhibited a number of stalker-like behaviors, that all along he read my blog and used what he’d learned to ingratiate himself with me.

Cory followed Cheater by a mere couple of months; he was my attempt at a rebound into a more sane sexual relationship.

You know what they say. Out of the frying pan. Into the white-hot core of the sun.

Cory and I were lovers. For the better part of an entire year, I saw Cory more or less exclusively. I invested more emotion in him. . . .

And here’s another sentence I don’t know how to finish. Saying more or less implies an equation that needs balancing—an algebra of exchange requiring justification on both sides. However, there was no equity between Cory and I, in the end.

Let me fire off a few test rounds:

I invested more emotion in him than I ever intended.

I invested more emotion in him than he ever did in me.

I almost want to say I invested more emotion in him than I should have, but even at the remove of a few years, I don’t yet have the perspective necessary to determine that one.

I wish he were that easy to write off.




For six weeks after Cheater’s stalking, I shut myself off from the world. I was afraid to open the door and find another bag of dog turds, frightened even of going to the supermarket and running into him there. Scared of my own shadow, I was for a little while. I felt betrayed, and silly, and old.

I met Cory online in that winter of my solitude, one lonely and frigid Tuesday morning. When he opened his private profile photos for me to view, I found myself both intimidated and taken aback by his beauty. His photos were grainy selfies taken with an older model of smartphone, but despite their potato quality, they still stunned me at first glance.

I was startled by Cory’s mane of impossibly sleek long hair that hung in a raven curtain to his waist, his haunted anime-size eyes, the cheekbones that could slice cheese, the strong, almost comic-book-hero chin. I gazed at the shots of his long, lean, naked, twenty-seven-year-old torso, and felt an old, familiar stirring. Not merely in my pants. Although I’d cut the wires to my sex drive a month and a half before, after Cheater, Cory’s photos got the mental engine revving again.

Eventually I summoned up the courage to ask Cory what he did for a living. He told me he was a runway and fit model for a major fashion house in the city. Previously he’d starred in multiple print campaigns for other major designers. He offered to text me some photos of his print work. The engine thrummed into a higher gear at the sight of him objectified in international jeans and men’s fashion ads for big, big names.

What decided me, though, were the selfies he took and texted as he urged me to come to his place. He was naked once more in those candid shots, his lean body stretched out on his mattress, his dark eyes drilling into the camera lens with the intensity of laser fire. He’d taken those shots for me. He wanted me. And he wanted me right now and then. On a cold Tuesday morning, his need for me warmed me more than a summer sunbath. I hesitated only a moment more before swigging some mouthwash and hopping in my car.

Another reason I agreed to visit that first morning was because Cory lived so close. The address he sent was less than a mile away, up the street I was living on at the time and around a few corners. To be honest, I had to challenge myself to go through with the meeting, rather than let myself be daunted by his youth and extreme good looks.

I’m easily cowed by beautiful men.

What terrifies me even more, though, is wealth. The address I thought was close by turned out to be in what we call the ‘back country,’ that fabled green section of this already-wealthy town where the estate lots are measured by dozens of acres instead of hundreds of square feet. The few corners were so alien, and I became helplessly lost among the unmarked roads and thick greenery. When a broad boulevard appeared before me that wasn’t on my GPS’s maps, I gave in and phoned Cory for directions. It turned out that the boulevard was really his driveway.

This endless, long thoroughfare was his fucking driveway, I thought to myself as I drove my jalopy up to the estate at the top of the hill. The notion that I would be stripping naked with someone who actually owned this sprawl made me tense and sweaty. The house, once it loomed from behind the primeval forest, was one of those nineteenth-century Gothic revival homes straight out of a Shirley Jackson novel. Expansive front porch. Widow’s walk high above the house’s center. Stone porch. Room tacked onto room tacked randomly onto room like the Winchester House.

And there, sprawled on the wide stone railing of the porch, sat Cory, seemingly unaware of my approach. He pecked away on his iPhone, barefoot on that cold winter’s day, wearing nothing more than a white tee, blue jeans, and a pair of oversized brown sunglasses. A waterfall of dark hair cascaded over his right shoulder and down his chest. There were no photographers, but he looked all the world as if he were shooting a denim company ad on a spring day.

Then, as I pulled my car to a stop, he looked up from his phone and lifted his glasses. With his eyes he smiled at me; his lips followed suit shortly thereafter. He reached out an enormous hand as I stepped out onto the drive. My hands are large. Cory’s paws made mine seem like a doll’s. I extended my own to shake. But he took it in a clasp, held it there, and didn’t let go.

Of course I assumed he owned the place. He’d told me he was a successful model. And Cory certainly acted like lord of the manor. With my hand feeling tiny in his, he led me through the front door and into a main hall stuffed with country antiques. Through another door he escorted me into a gourmet’s kitchen, then up what used to be a servant’s stair to the house’s east wing. His house had wings.

Cory had a suite at the top of the narrow little staircase, private and quiet, bathed in sunlight from the skylights set in the twenty-foot ceiling. Still holding my hand, he guided me to his bed. I don’t know whether he sensed my nervousness. Perhaps. But he lay me back, and settled the pillows behind my shoulders, and urged me to relax. Then, with one hand stroking my hair and the other tugging impatiently at my zipper, he whispered to me how beautiful he found me. How much he had always desired me.

I melted. I was hooked.

Over time I’ve come to realize that Cory collected me. He’d made up his mind, added me to his online shopping cart, and clicked the button demanding express delivery. He seduced me with a directness that, in retrospect, turned out to be astonishingly confident. That confidence, though, was tempered with a tenderness I so badly needed, though, after my stalking experience with Cheater. I’d just gotten out of a bad run with a guy who’d studied my blog and used his knowledge of me to get what he wanted. With Cory it seemed—it seemed—that perhaps this time around I might get as good as I gave.

Cory knew he had me with the sex, though. Sex between us was always incendiary. He would beg for my dick inside him, three, four, five times a session. Thrust for thrust he’d meet me, crying out at the top of his lungs, telling me how mine was the only dick he wanted. Sometimes he would lay me back on the mattress and ride me, slowly, deliberately, milking me with his ass muscles, stealing the loads I might greedily try to keep from him. He could be romantic, then nasty, on the turn of a dime. The entire time I’d keep stealing glances at his handsome face—glances only, as staring at Cory for too long could be blinding, like staring into the sun—and wondering how I’d gotten so lucky.

Every visit he’d surprise me. One day he’d step out from behind a door to greet me with a romantic kiss, his body naked and still steaming from a hot shower. Another time I’d find him spread face-down on his mattress, legs apart, designer underwear torn slightly, the words OPEN HERE scrawled with permanent marker on the fabric, ready for me to rip open and ruin. One day he’d keep my underwear and make me wear his, and then return my own on my next visit, caked with his semen.

And then he would pin me to the bed and hold me down while once more he rode me, taking his pleasure deliberately, almost cruelly, until at last he would blast an enormous load on my chest and face. He was aggressive about his needs, and I’d strive to match Cory’s hunger, fuck for fuck.

As I said, there was enormous confidence in Cory’s assumptions. He assumed from the beginning, for example, that I’d be his confidante, as well as his lover. Immediately, willingly, I became his grateful, sex-addled sidekick. I tagged along behind him whoever he wanted to go, just like his dog, Poochy. He and Poochy and I would huddle beneath the sheets in that sometimes-glacial room while he’d tell me about his life. I learned that he was a twin, one of two brothers in an enormous Mennonite family from California. I learned that as a child he’d fallen down a well, and that the manhunt for him had lasted days. I learned that he’d been an enormous billboard idol in Japan of almost rock star proportions, during a campaign for a brand of footwear.

Soon, though, the image I carried of him as the wealthy and reclusive young owner of this fashionable old back country manor eroded, to be replaced by something much more banal. Through his stories, I found out the house and property actually belonged to a couple that he worked for; she was some kind of high-powered financier, he did something in politics. They were rarely home. I never saw them.

Cory had indeed been a model for many years, but was taking a so-called break from the business. In the meantime he was earning his living by acting as caretaker of the couple’s son—a paraplegic teen with severe mental disabilities. He was a nurse, essentially, though he didn’t have a nursing degree. The couple loved him, he said, because he gave them hope. They intended to will the house to him after their deaths. This was his home forever, he told me. I'd always be welcome.

I lapped it up, utterly undismayed by any of the revelations. I was addled, I know, by Cory’s good looks.

Spencer, my dancer, had been breathtaking in his beauty. He’d not been an actual male model, though. And I mean no disloyalty—none in the least—when I say that compared to Cory, Spencer’s looks were ordinary.

Every time I basked in Cory’s presence, I’d find myself astonished by his sheer star power. I’d arrive at the house in the spring and find Cory stretched out in the sunlight by the pool, naked and waiting for me . . . and every time, all over again, a wave of helplessness and admiration would wash over me, as strong as it had the first time we’d met. Cory and I would walk through Manhattan on hot summer weekends together, hand in hand, with Poochy on a leash, and I’d notice how everyone—men and women alike—would stare at him, and murmur quietly to each other, trying to figure out if he was a Someone.

Wherever we went together, people would assume we were a couple. The envy in their eyes made me viciously happy. The first time he’d reached for my hand in public, however, I’d balked. I didn’t grow up in a time of public displays of affection between homos.

“Don’t worry. I’ll always protect you,” he told me then, and grabbed my fingers in between his, just as he had that winter morning we’d met.

I believed him.

I believed it all.

I believed when he told me how beautiful I was. I believed when he told me he’d been exclusive with me during the winter and spring. I believed, and I’d saved all my sexual energies exclusively for him. Our Tuesday mornings turned into Tuesdays and Thursdays, with evenings sometimes thrown in. Sometimes we were sneaking time for each other on weekends. Anytime I had a couple of hours to myself and Cory wasn’t working, we’d meet, and strip, and fuck, and talk.

I allowed myself to be flattered by the attentions of a younger, more beautiful man. I basked in the warm glow of his shining glory. I was proud of how he turned heads, male and female alike, when we were out together. Shamefully, I confess I relished that glorious moment when they would realize Cory was mine.

Was I in love with him?

Ah. Well.

Our sex was so intense that somehow I never noticed how I’d sped past and over that first flush of love—I wasn’t allotted an in-love stage in which I pined for Cory, yearned to see him again. Without me realizing, Cory maneuvered a beauty-addled, silly old man into a more complex manifestation of almost paternal love in which I cared for him, in which I wanted to be supportive, in which I needed to help him solve his problems and get his life in order.

We fucked hard. Cory made me feel desired. He admitted me into his orbit, and as a consequence, I felt grateful to be a minor satellite to the blazing sun of his beauty. However, a satellite is never truly one with the object of its gravity. It revolves around the greater mass while all the time, it attempts to avoid the crush of its inexorable pull.

No. I wasn't in love with the boy.

I let Cory tell me he loved me, though. He’d say the words as I was impaling him, or when he approached a climax. “Let me be in love with you,” he begged me early on. “You don’t have to feel the same. I won’t be a threat to your relationship, your home. If you ever want me to go, just say the word and I’ll disappear. I promise.”

After the trauma of Cheater, I needed to hear assurances like those. From beginning to end, we had that bargain—and never did I have to take him up on his promise.

Because in the end, Cory disappeared anyway.

(To be continued.)



Afterword

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.