Monday, May 10, 2010

The Small, Wrapped Box

I don't think my portrayal of Gabbie thus far has been exactly fair. I've emphasized many of her worst moments, perhaps making her look like nothing more than a shrew. Why would I stay married to her if she was so awful?

The truth is, Gabbie could be both a royal bitch and a real pain in the ass. But those moments were rare and fleeting. On a daily basis we always got along well.

Her look, for anyone who is curious, was very Elizabeth McGovern, as seen here:

She was good looking, but her fun-loving, out-going personality was really what made her shine.

She was always friendly to strangers and had a warm, compassionate heart. Most importantly to me, she was a smart, strong, opinionated woman. Stupid, weak women were extremely unattractive to me.

In our relationship, Gabbie and I fit together like a hand in a glove because she knew what she wanted in life and I wanted her to be happy. This meant that if she desired something, it was my mission to get it for her. I liked this arrangement because it made me feel needed and useful.

On a day to day basis, Gabbie and I always got along well. Her strong personality and opinions sometimes irritated me, but mostly I went along with whatever she said. Our relationship was positive and vibrant and our sex life generally reflected that, albeit much more mildly. With a young kid frequently in our bed, our sex life existed, but we weren't exactly doing it every night. Once a week was good and once every two weeks was about average. In our earlier days we were much more active. But as is typical, getting older and having kids did not have a positive impact on our sex life.

If there was anything significantly wrong with our relationship, it wasn't that I was gay. It was that I had told Gabbie I was gay. My ten week liaison with Jim made Gabbie permanently insecure about our future together. She was deeply hurt by my departure and felt the best way to protect herself was to expect that, on any random day, I was going to announce that I was leaving again.

The irony is that up until the moment when I actually did leave, there were many times when I wanted to leave. But once I returned, all my desires to leave vanished. As a result, I felt far more secure about our future than Gabbie did.

As satisfying as I found our relationship to be, loving Gabbie did not compensate for my need to be with men. My five month affair with Vince proved to be a decisive experience because it was only after I couldn't be with him any more that I realized how incomplete I felt. At first I thought I just missed sex or I missed him, but as the weeks ticked by and my unhappiness grew, I realized that the ONLY way I could feel complete was if I was able to maintain an intimate, regular connection with another man.

In my search to find another man, another Vince, I frequently browsed a variety of on-line personal ads. My favorites were Yahoo ads because they were free and plentiful. Most of the ads were placed by single men but I decided that it would be better if I found another married guy, preferably one with kids, because then we'd share common priorities and obligations.

In my third week of searching, I found a new ad that seemed promising. The guy was 39, bisexual, married and was almost exactly my height and weight. From what the ad said, he seemed like a good match so I replied. Shortly thereafter we agreed to meet at a large park a few miles from my home.

Marc lived about 40 minutes away but he said he was in my area on business the day we met. At the time, it was not customary to exchange pictures before meeting so we didn't know what the other looked like. As I walked from my car toward the spot where we agreed to meet, I saw a guy who I guessed was Marc, waiting.

As I got closer and could see him more clearly, I was a bit disappointed. Based on his stats, I was hoping he had a young, twinkish look. Instead, he looked over 40, his hair was thinning and his head was disproportionately larger than his body. He spotted me approaching, so I was committed to meeting him (not that I would have stood him up based solely on his looks) but my hopes that I would like him were very much in doubt.

We introduced ourselves, shook hands, and proceeded to spend an hour and a half walking and talking.

In the first few minutes Marc explained that, although he had been in a threesome many years earlier with a married couple, he had never been with just a guy. His 40th birthday was rapidly approaching and one of the things he wanted to do before he turned 40 was to have sex with a man. He wanted to be honest, he said, so he told me that he had received quite a few replies to his ad and had decided to meet three guys. I was one of them.

Basically, he told me that I was being interviewed to see if I was 'the right guy' to fool around with.

At first I was a little annoyed. Wasn't it tacky to agree to meet someone and then tell them they were being interviewed for "a position?"

But the more Marc talked about himself, his family and the kind of situation he was looking for, the more I grew to like him. His approach was not exactly orthodox but his intentions were good. He could've not told me he was meeting others, for example, but the fact that was up-front about his approach gave me confidence that he was a straight-forward and honest guy.

I had met enough guys to know that many of them could not cope well with their sexuality, or, all they were interested in was a one-time hook-up. Like Peter and Vince before him, Marc stood out from the crowd because he was different. He was real, he was sincere and he was not afraid of his sexuality. By the end of our long walk I was very confident that Marc would choose me. Maybe he didn't know it, but I did. I knew that the other two guys he was going to meet were probably going to be like most of the guys I had met: shallow or skittish or both. I was the real deal.

Marc thanked me for meeting him and said he would let me know in a few days, after he'd met the third guy, what he had decided to do. I wished him the best, fully confident that I would be meeting him again soon.

A week later Marc called and told me he'd like to meet again; he clicked with me far better than he had with either of the other two guys. Damn, Cameron you are so smart!

The first time we had sex was the day before Marc's 40th birthday. We met at his house. He worked as a sales rep and his home office was his base of operations. His wife worked about thirty minutes away and never came home unexpectedly. He had an almost 2 year-old son who was in day care.

In the first two weeks of our affair, Marc and I met 5 or 6 times. That was a lot for me---I was lucky to see Vince twice a month. Each time we met, Marc told me more about himself, his family and his past. We also had superb sex. We had a natural rhythm together that I had never had with anyone else, including Gabbie. Vince has very sensual, which I liked. And although Marc was less sensual than Vince, being with him was more intimate and erotic.

Sex with Marc made me feel more connected to him than to any man I had ever been with before. But as great as the sex was, what I most valued was how quickly we became genuine friends.

Part of the appeal of Marc was that he was an honest, straight-forward, no-drama guy. Together, we had a very mature relationship that was neither needy nor hierarchical. When we got together, we were equals, both sexually and as partners in the relationship. Neither of us would have wanted it any other way.

One of the first milestones for Marc and I was the birth of my second kid, John, in December of 1997. Because of John's birth, I hadn't been able to see Marc for more than a week. When we did meet, it was for a quickie in my office. Of course I was already happy to see him, but I was greatly pleased and surprised when he handed me a wrapped bottle of wine and offered his congratulations. Maybe he had re-gifted the wine and had put very little thought into the gesture, but I was genuinely touched. In fact, I have yet to open that bottle. It's still stored away in a safe place in my office; I have this idea that one day we will drink it together, maybe when John graduates from high school.

Although I'd had a few relationships and had been with many men, that bottle of wine was only the second gift I had ever received from a guy. The first was a small plastic shark Jim bought me after he spent a day away from me at Marine World. I still have the shark too. It's buried in a box in the attic.

Marc was not a sappy guy but he had excellent manners and was very considerate. The wine was more of a means to acknowledge John's birth than it was a token of whatever affection he had for me. But the joy I got from receiving it was very much on my mind when Christmas came only two weeks later. We hadn't talked about exchanging gifts---I knew he would have said we shouldn't---but I really wanted to give him an object that would forever remind him of me and our time together. I knew it couldn't be anything too personal, that would offend him, so after wracking my brain I eventually settled on the idea of a rare coin. I don't remember what I chose---something European, with no real tie to either of us, but I decided the idea of the tangible, forever-valuable gift was more important than what was on the coin. I spent about $30.

I was somewhat nervous about giving it to him because I worried that I was crossing a line with him. I wasn't suggesting that we leave our wives, buy a cottage and pick out curtains together, but the gift implied a deeper emotional connection than us simply being fuck buddies.

Marc was uncharacteristically speechless when I gave him the small, wrapped box. His silence was not because he was overcome with joyous emotion. Instead, he wrestled with his natural inclination to be polite and his interior discomfort that I was implying our relationship was something serious. After a few protests he accepted the coin and then politely but firmly laid down the law: no more gifts.

As soon as I gave him the coin, I knew I had made a mistake. I could see the discomfort in his eyes. Maybe I was testing the limits of our bond; maybe I wanted to see if Marc was open to being lovers and not just fuck buddies; or maybe I just wanted to always be remembered, the way I would always remember him. In any case, Marc handled the situation very effectively. He didn't freak, instead he was gracious and clear.

From that moment on, I understood the limits of our intimacy and I was never unhappy about them.

When I saw him again the following week Marc had a box for me. It was a gag-gift that had probably been given to him: shoe inserts that added an inch to the wearer's height. I thanked him for the 'lifts' and then promptly called him a fucker. Not long afterward, I took my revenge by fucking him hard in the ass.

***

In April of 1998, six months into our affair, Marc and I spent most of a day driving along the ocean in Marin County, which is just north of San Francisco. It was his idea to spend a few hours outside, fuck, then have lunch. I suppose the day could have been seen as romantic, and to a degree it was, but I knew Marc's limits. I think the trip was as much about having sex with a guy on a beach as it was about being with me. Regardless, the trip inspired us to try something more daring. We decided to try to "normalize" our friendship so that we could be more open about doing things together. The goal was to arrange a way for all of us to meet, Marc and his wife, Gabbie and I, then exchange business cards and create a public friendship from there.

We came up with a plan to take our kids whale watching in Monterey Bay. The spring is prime whale watching season in California as the Grays migrate up the coast from Mexico to Alaska. We bought tickets weeks in advance for the same boat, on the same cruise, on the same day.

For me, the arrangement became unexpectedly awkward. It turned out that Gabbie and I spent the three days prior to the whale watching tour camped out in a parking lot, waiting for a chance to buy a new house. This event marked the beginning of the housing boom for me because we were couple number two of nearly forty who spent at least one night camped out in the line to buy a house.

The fact that this was yet another house we couldn't afford was an irrelevant point. Gabbie wanted the house so, of course, we were going to buy it.

It happened that the whale watching tour was the same day that we were pulled from the home-buying line to complete the contract for the house. We were lucky to be at the very front of the line. Even after rushing through the paperwork we didn't finish until 11:30am and the boat tour left Monterey at 2pm. The drive-time to Monterey was 2 hours and 15 minutes. So, after sleeping in the car for three nights, I forced Gabbie and the two kids to "hurry up and get in" and drove like a demon to Monterey. We literally ran to the boat and made it with less than five minutes to spare.

Well, half of us made it. As Gabbie was about to board she was told that bringing babies was strongly discouraged; they cried the whole time because of the shifting of the boat. Gabbie reluctantly suggested that Conrad and I take the tour and she and John would wait for us. I hated making her wait an hour and a half but it was the only option that made sense. Even then, without her on the boat, a crucial part of our plan was foiled.

Marc and his wife Joan were the only other couple who brought a kid on the boat. Marc's kid, Martin, was two years old and my kid was four, so it didn't take long for the two of them to find each other and interact. Eventually I was having a conversation with Joan and Marc, but mostly Joan.

Between the engine noise of the boat and the sound of the waves crashing around us, it was very difficult to hear. We were practically shouting at each other, making for a rather awkward conversation.

Conrad did his part to help, however. About half way through the tour he told me that he didn't feel good. A few minutes later he puked on the deck, right in front of Joan.

As you might imagine, he was ready to get off the boat. I spent the remaining time on the cruise consoling him. Joan offered sympathy to both Conrad and I, but Conrad's incessant whining (shut up kid, I'm working a plan here!) pretty much left my ambitions for the meeting in ruins. Who wants to be friends with some random guy whose kid pukes in front of you on a boat?

As if the day wasn't disastrous enough, we never saw a single whale. Lots of dolphins, but no whales.

When we got back to land and I told Gabbie what had happened, she decided that our soiree to Monterey was over. We loaded the kids back in the car and drove the two plus hours home. Overall, it was not a fun day.

The following week, Marc and I each tried to parley our meeting into something more, but our efforts fizzled. Gabbie had no idea who I was talking about and all Joan remembered was Conrad barfing in front of her. Our idea of making our friendship public was a bust. And having once failed, neither one of us was eager to try again.

***

Marc never told me that he had a "Bucket List" - a list of things he wanted to do before he "kicked the bucket" and died, but he sure liked ticking off different kinds of experiences. He had already had a MMF threesome, a FFM threesome and now he wanted a MMM threesome.

Marc wanted me to ask Vince if he wanted to be our lucky third. I hadn't emailed or spoken with Vince in more than a year and a half, but he, somewhat to my surprise, was into the idea.

We rented a hotel room and after making the introductions, we all got naked. We did just about every combination of sucking and fucking you could imagine. It was fun.

It was an experience worth trying at least once, but honestly, it wasn't super hot. It was awkward for Vince, I think, and his awkwardness made me worry that he wasn't having the best time. Also, I don't think Marc and Vince were very hot for each other. Even so, everybody came twice so I'm not sure that we could complain too much about how things went.

For Vince, the threesome turned out to be very bad idea.

For whatever reason, he was not careful about the emails he and I exchanged and his wife found them. Things got ugly from there and to patch things up as best he could, he promised his wife that he would never speak to (or email) me again. He told me what happened in a short telephone call a few days after the threesome. That was the last time we spoke.

Now that I've been thinking about him, I've been tempted to friend him on Facebook, or at least send an email. But after the initial hellos and catching up, I wouldn't know what to say. And why would I say hi now? Should I tell him that I've been writing about him? I don't think so.

Maybe at some point in the future I'll email him.

***

As I mentioned, in our earliest weeks together Marc and I met at his house during the day. After about two months of meeting there, he changed his mind about the safety of that option; one day his wife came home early because she was sick.

Fortunately, it was not a day that we had planned to meet, but the idea of his wife walking in on us...well, we stopped meeting at his house. For a while, we tried other options. We met at my office, which worked, but was awkward. Or we met outside somewhere.

As time rolled on, we eventually settled into paying cash for a cheap hotel room. At first we tried to vary the location, to avoid the embarrassment of regularly renting a room. But after a few months we settled into renting a room at one particular motel in Berkeley. We took turns registering and paying.

We met most frequently in our earliest days but as time passed we settled into a routine of meeting twice a month at the same motel. Every time we met, whoever didn't pay for the room brought sandwiches for lunch, some kind of snack or dessert, and a bottle of wine.

I relished our afternoons together. I felt like I was living a whole other life, away from Gabbie and the kids, away from work. We each had pressures at different times about different things, and we talked about them with each other, but talking was therapeutic and even bringing real-life stresses into our bed was strangely relaxing.

The days with Marc were glorious. And not just because of the sex. The sex was an essential ingredient but the fact that we had a genuine friendship and that we enjoying just talking to each other, all of that together, was idyllic.

***

On an entirely different topic, I want to give a nod to Adam Phillips. In 2003 he started writing what has become a very influential sexual biography on Nifty.org.

Adam is a fucking asshole. He's hot tempered, opinionated and very impatient.

He's also brilliant.

He's multi-layered and never dull; he's a genuinely crazy-smart guy.

Adam was inspired by John Walsh's Fraternity Memoirs, and, starting with an email he sent to Walsh, Adam wrote his story, Cross Currents, for the Nifty Archive.

Walsh's story is hotter but Adam's thoughtfulness, particularly on issues of bisexuality and relationships, make his story a must-read, especially for young bi guys.

Here's a link:

http://library.gaycafe.com/nifty/gay/relationships/cross-currents/

Cross Currents is unfinished, but Adam has promised to complete it this year.

I should mention that he made similar promises in 2008 and 2009.

Adam has two blogs, one on the right, Divers Gems and another at GayAuthors.org:

http://www.gayauthors.org/forums/index.php?app=blog&module=display§ion=blog&blogid=205&

3 comments:

  1. This was wonderful addition to your first introduction of yourself. I appreciated the honest way you present the manner in which you understood what you needed after the time with Vince, pursued your needs, and then you and Marc almost unexpectedly came together and defined such a fulfilling relationship. This is of course every Bi man's romantic dream of sorts, you found a soul mate not just a nice man with whom to have a sexual liason, a bonafide affair. I realize your life's story has a way to go up to the present so we await the next chapters. I hope you continue to add these nice long pieces which you so carefully craft. Thanks also for your other reading recommendations

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  2. you made me want to go out and find a fuck buddy just like Marc. I am a bi married man too. The problem is I get bored of fuck buddies in the sense that I want to be friends with them but get tired of having sex with them. I shall try again.
    and i totally relate( and understand) to your relationship with gabby

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  3. Cameron, Thanks for this story - it has a quiet surface of routines and daily life, with undercurrents of such strong longing. I loved the way you brought out how we connect with people because of who they are as individuals, as well as because we have may a need to have just anyone in a particular role at a particular time (e.g., a man to have sex with before age 40). I also loved the cautious working-out of boundaries, and the attempts to "normalize" your relationship by putting it in a family context. All so human. The image of Gabbie being left behind on the dock is so memorable - very poignant, and reveals your sensitivity to her situation, in which she is also metaphorically trying to board a boat that is sailing without her.

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