The first time you meet Steven you unlock your photos and he texts you that he would always be inside you, he would stay inside you all day and all night and never leave you. You already feel a bit giddy then about this man on a different continent and that’s when he asks if it would be alright if he flew you to meet him in New York City when he’s there on business next month. I’m not dangerous, I’m a good guy, he says. I’d take good care of you. And those very particular words slip inside and lodge in your chest and you ask him if he really means that and you ask if he could repeat that and he says yes, when you’re with me I’d take care of you.
I’ll take good care of you too, you say.
You’ve never dated a man with that much money and if you’re truly brutally honest with yourself you would have to admit that it helped make you stone cold smitten in a matter of seconds. You’ve never had a man offer to fly you anywhere, and it’s that prospect, along with the words I’ll take good care of you, at this particular point in your personal history, that shreds you and makes you weak and willing and of course you say yes I’d love to meet you.
You talk and text throughout the next few days, telling each other everything, and when you tell him that you’re really kind of fucked up in the head in several important ways he says that honestly he kind of likes that about you and it doesn’t scare him in the least, and by the third day you know you’re in trouble. By the third day you are telling him that it’s too fucking fast but…
And he says I know what you’re going to say and I feel it too.
You have already begun to build something with him, a castle in the sky, a fantasy of a kind of future where he stands beside you, your shoulders barely touching.
You ignore for the time being the distance between you. For the time being you ignore many things, like the fact that falling for a man this fast means a fast end is coming. No – you are giddy and hopeful and you’ve been living in Bumfuck, Massachusetts and isolated and lonely and a handsome rich CEO foreigner is sending you texts all day long to check in on you and your welfare. You have in fact never known loneliness like the loneliness you’ve felt the past four years. And when he calls you from his car on his way home from work he ends up circling his neighborhood over and over because the two of you can’t stop talking to each other.
He tells you several times that when he’s with a man, that man’s happiness is paramount to him, and that he would endure tremendous pain if it meant the other man would be happy.
You can’t quite remember when Steven first talks about the other man.
The other man lives in your old stomping grounds, San Francisco, where Steven also often goes on business, a man that Steven can’t help but express a bit of wonder over, like he can’t believe that a man that hot would be interested in him. Oh, hot in a completely different way than your hotness, he says to you. He says that he’s in love with the other man but the other man is not in love with him. He loves Steven but not in that way.
You feel a tightness in your chest when he talks about the other man, and the castle in the sky kind of blurs in your brain, but you remind yourself that you and Steven feel the same way about each other, and that’s what matters. You’ll accept that the other man is in Steven’s life because you return Steven’s feelings and the two of you are building something important together.
Sometimes you let yourself imagine him inviting you to move in with him on the other continent, and it’s so many thousands of miles away but here in fucking Bumfuck you’d accept all forms of rescue, some exit door leading out of all the lonesomeness.
He buys you a train ticket to New York City where you meet him in the lobby of his midtown hotel, and he looks like his photos and alone in the hotel room on the eleventh floor he puts his arms around you and kisses you and you just lean all your weight into him and let him hold you while your muscles kind of shudder on their own. The distant sound of midtown traffic.
You’re there for two short days. Daytimes he takes meetings and then comes back to you at night. And you fuck and talk and fuck and talk for two nights.
On the last morning you wait with him for his cab and you kiss and hold him and say good bye and later he texts you and says that when he watched you walk away towards Penn Station he got sad.
You return to your outpost alone.
Every single day, all day long, he sends you texts and calls to check on your welfare. And you feel less alone, and the little green notification with his name that pops up on your phone all day long makes you smile, casts light upon the sturdy castle.
But he also talks to you often about the other man, and tells you things about the other man that’ll burrow into your brain and turn into torture. Steven tells you about the first time he saw the other man, who was coming from his job as a prison guard, and he was still in his uniform, with a tool belt, and the way he walked, his swagger, and the whole hot fucking image, and Steven, who had been a top all his life, thought to himself this man is either going to kill me or fuck the shit out of me, and I’m okay with both.
The other man is Mexican and covered in old gang tattoos and is beautiful in exactly the kind of dangerous way that works on you, too. In fact one day you realize that before you ever met Steven you saw random pics of the other man at a pool party that popped up on your Facebook feed, and you thought to yourself who the fuck is THAT?
So much exquisite pain.
Steven tells you that once they were in New York City together and the other man said something so cruel to him that Steven nearly left him there alone. Steven sometimes implies that maybe the other man isn’t very nice some of the time, and that he takes two or three days to respond to Steven’s texts, and you always respond right away, every time, and you’re always kind to him and you think maybe that’ll be enough, maybe that’ll keep Steven beside you.
Then one day Steven tells you that he might be moving to San Francisco because the nature of his job is changing and in order to grow his business he needs to be in the States, and right then and there the slow motion car crash that’ll be your life begins. Because the other man lives in San Francisco, and you imagine the two of them moving in together, even if the other man doesn’t feel the same way about Steven. And you lived in that city for 18 years, until one day you were dumped and the rents had gotten insane and so you left the city, and it felt like an exile, and the thought of the two of them together in your old home, the one that hurts to think about, feels like something you can’t withstand.
And sometimes Steven will say that he wants a triad or something like it, some kind of polyamorous arrangement, and maybe the three of you will be together, and then the other man can fuck the shit out of you too, and you’d all be happy. And because you love this man and because you can’t withstand the lonesomeness much longer, you try to imagine that other kind of castle and how it would feel inside and if maybe you could be happy there.
But fuck. You want to feel special.
And sometimes Steven will get a little sad and weird and say that if you stay with him eventually you are just going to get hurt. And you’ll first get mute and pull away and then later get angry and call him and he’ll stammer and say he’s sorry and that the two of you will work something out.
What that something is, what that castle is, remains murky.
And eventually Steven admits that he hasn’t told the other man about you, that you’ve remained a secret from the other man, that the other man doesn’t have to carry the pain and the burden of jealousy over you, as you do over him, and you know deep down it’s because Steven is terrified of losing the other man. The other man’s feelings remain king.
And sometimes his texts on certain days feel like nothing but small talk, and small talk makes you feel alone and empty inside. And sometimes he tells you that he doesn’t like arguing with you because you’re too fucking intelligent – a genius even – and he always loses, and you tell him it’s not a contest but he won’t listen.
And all throughout your months together he talks freely of the other man, and the frequent pain and jealousy the other man stirs up inside Steven, and sometimes you kind of float up out of your body and look down at yourself and you think, what kind of man puts up with all of this talk of another man? You think you’re being pathetic, putting up with it. But even though your very body harbors multiple jealousies of the other man, you love Steven and you want him to feel free to tell you anything, even if it’s his worries about the other man.
You think maybe this generosity of yours will be repaid.
And the things he tells you about the other man will work their way right into your marrow and will never leave you. The other man, Steven says, can walk into any bar and everyone’s heads will turn, and the other man can go up and talk to anyone, seriously anyone, and people will ask Steven if he’s with the other man and Steven will say yes, and they’ll say man you are lucky.
And how big the other man’s dick is. And the fact that the other man considers all men bottoms, even the ones who say they never bottom, because he can get them to bottom for him.
And these are things you can’t do, and that’s a dick you don’t have.
And despite all of this, despite all of the things Steven tells you about the other man, you know that there are things you don’t know, that Steven holds some things back, and it makes the castle seem blurred and fragile. And the next time Steven comes to the States he doesn’t come to New York City and you don’t see him and instead he spends all his time in San Francisco with the other man.
And those are days you don’t know how to endure. They’re in your city together and all you can do is imagine them, and of course it’s Gay Pride, so there are photos of all the people you used to know popping up on your Facebook feed, and one day you see a photo of Steven and the other man that the other man has posted, the two of them at the parade, the other man shirtless and covered in tattoos, and the other man has included below the photo the hashtag “husband.”
The moon covers the sun. Cities slide into the ocean. You are ruined.
And you saw this car crash coming, and you had every chance to exit, to grab your balls and your dignity and jump and yet you stuck there as your car skidded towards death.
And you text Steven about the photo and all Steven says is yup he posted it, and yup the other man put the word husband in there. And then he says I’m sorry for all the pain I’ve caused you. And you think to yourself that’s not fucking enough. But all you can say is I don’t want to be a second place boyfriend. And he just agrees and says yes you deserve better. He doesn’t beg you, he doesn’t fight for you, he just patronizes you. And the castle implodes, the fucking thing too fragile to withstand the real world. And you should have known that, you should have seen that.
But he’s not in love with you, you say to Steven, and you say I’m in love with you, as if that would be enough. Because you’ve forgotten that men will always pick the ones who resist, men love their pain, and he tells you that his bond with the other man is different and complicated and they’ve known each other a year longer than he’s known you.
And somehow in the giddy rush of meeting, somehow in the first few days and weeks and months, you missed the simple fact that Steven loved you but worshipped the other man.
You stop talking to him.
You confront and try to endure the silence on the other side of the separation, the lonesome roads of your Bumfuck town, the dead end job and the dim apartment and the couch and the television. And you must go through the following days without the man checking in on you. He no longer checks on your welfare.
But you fell in love with me, you want to say to him.
But you said your lover’s happiness was more important than your own.
And you’re plagued by visions of the two of them together. And all the praise that Steven had put upon the other man. And all the ways you can’t measure up. They haunt you, every single second of every day, and you are fucking torn up inside, and you want more than anything to have Steven back in your life.
You can’t see yet that he’s a schmuck. After two weeks of silence you run back to him and you text him and say that you miss him so fucking much, and he says he misses you too. And you tell him you want to see him and he says it’s complicated and we’ll have to see. Let’s just see.
You’ve run back to your tormentor and begged for scraps.
And in the following days the man gives you nothing but small talk, and the small talk makes you feel worse, it makes you feel alone and empty inside, and you try to get him to open up but every time he heads you off at the pass, and he’ll no longer call you so you can’t hear his voice.
You will never get what you want from him, you tell yourself. Never. You say this to yourself all day every day and yet the pull towards him is relentless because you have your nose pressed up against the glass of their lives together, the two of them, and all you can see is their love and their fucking and the way they curl together in bed every night. And you want inside of that so badly. You want to be both of them.
You want Steven to take care of you the way he now takes care of the other man.
You are a grown man in his mid 40’s and all you want is to be taken care of. Rescued.
I’ll take care of you, Steven first told you. When you’re with me I’ll take good care of you.
Say that again, you’d told him.
Ah, but there’s the caveat. When you’re with me. Which was two short nights in New York City. Which is not now. Which is not when he’s in San Francisco or flying back to the other continent.
And your head – as usual – is your greatest enemy. You want to be free of this torment, the images wearing grooves within the wood of your brain, the two of them over and over all day long, images that make the breath leave your lungs and spread heat through your head and chest. And the vise around your heart. The image of the two of them meeting for the first time. The two of them fucking. The two of them lying in bed together talking and how that night led to Steven taking care of the other man, flying him around the country to meet him in cities where he does business.
Fuck fuck fuck. They won’t stop. You want to make them stop. How do you make them stop? You keep circling the fucking drain. Fucking make them stop.
Even when you jerk off, you’re enslaved to them.
What are you hoping for? Seriously, what kind of delusion are you holding out for? You keep coming back to this point, over and over: you will not get what you need from him. After the day’s ride through painful images, you pull into the same old station, the same old destination, the same Bumfuck town. Give it up. The futility of wanting Steven. The futility of wanting what he gives the other man. The futility of wanting to be more like the other man so that you could attract Steven and other men. The futility of fucking hope.
Give up the fantasy. You’ll need to do the next part of life alone. You’ll not be taken to San Francisco to live in a big house. You’ll have to do it all alone, like you’ve been doing it, scraping by. You’ll have to rescue yourself. Alone you’ll move to a new city, find a job and an apartment.
There’s no quick fix. This is an addiction. Thoughts of the two men, texts from Steven, all of them are like quick hits off a crack pipe. And there’s no easy way through all of this pain and self-torture. There’s no fucking short cut. You have to feel all of the pain, you have to just walk through it and feel it and feel it and feel it. And feel what life throws your way, and stop hiding from it, stop numbing out with television and cell phone and vodka, stay open and raw to it all, because you’ve been shutting out all the good shit, too.
Is there good shit ahead? Can you believe that, after four years of brutal lonesomeness? It feels like you’ll never get any more breaks in life. You’ll struggle and scrape and live in constant fear, and you’ll compare your lot with others and you’ll always have less.
A hard life ahead. That is what you fear, and are close to believing. None of what you wanted in life has panned out, and it won’t ever pan out, and you’ll keep struggling and kicking, alone, until your death.
No, you want to be free. And you must take a good hard look at your barren life, at all the emptiness you can’t tolerate and so your brain instead whips up an obsession for two schmucks. And if you ever want to be happy again you have to change. Fucking change yourself. Somehow take care of your own fucking self. Figure out how to care for your lonely melancholy ass. Do nothing that comes naturally to you, actions that will care for your haunted fucking soul. Actions other mortals take for granted, like eating vegetables and showering every day.
Who do you want to be in one year? Five years? Think about that for a change. Fuck stupid men. Fuck the schmucks. Sit with the pain and the fear. Stop numbing out. Sit with it. Marinate. Soak it up.
Someday you’ll write all this down, hoping that your obsessive thoughts will fade if forced into a narrative, hoping that then you’ll control them, lead them around like a dog on a leash. And the words will gush out of you and you’ll read them all and think to yourself Man I hope nobody ever reads this shit. It’s like a window into insanity. You’re like a 12-year-old girl strung out on too many pop songs, you think, and your particular kind of craziness, if broadcast, will ensure your solitude.
Better keep this locked up, you think. Better keep this to yourself.