William Henderson
William Henderson

The only sound, us breathing

My wife Holly is starting to appear pregnant. She enjoys being pregnant. And she enjoys breastfeeding. She breastfed our son Avery who is now four months past his second birthday, for 27 months. Holly stopped breastfeeding because her doctor suggested that it might have contributed to the two miscarriages she had. She cried for a few days after hearing that something she was doing for Avery had ended life. I told her that the doctor didn’t know what he was talking about. But he probably did.

Avery calls Holly’s breasts her “owies.” When the three of us shared a bed, he would sleep in the middle, sometimes upside down, sometimes horizontal. He rolled out of bed 14 times in two years. Each time he rolled out of bed, I’d tell Holly that I was writing the event down in my divorce book. Even then, before D, the man with whom I’ve been having an affair for five months, divorce was something Holly and I discussed. An eventuality, not a possibility.

I never liked Avery sleeping in bed with us, but I wasn’t the one waking up in the middle of the night to feed him. I gave up trying to convince Holly to let Avery “cry it out.” Most nights, I’d sleep through his crying, and I’d sleep through his nursing, which happened every couple of hours. In time, Holly slept through the nursing, too. She’d sleep without a shirt on. All Avery would have to do was roll over and nurse.

Despite Holly’s attempts to stop Avery from nursing, he didn’t stop, until Holly got pregnant, and the only reason Avery stopped is because Holly made sure he knew that he couldn’t nurse anymore. But I was sleeping on the couch, and had been sleeping on the couch, and what went on in Holly’s bed – no longer our bed – was her business.

But Holly is starting to show, and sometimes I look at her and I don’t recognize her. Where have I been for the last couple of months? I know where I’ve been, and I know the man with whom I’ve spent my time, but how did Holly begin to show? And why haven’t I noticed that my child – not our child – but that my child was slowly making his or her presence known?

Holly likes being pregnant, not just because she enjoys knowing that she is growing and nurturing a child, but because when she’s pregnant, she gets to wear pants with elastic bands. Even before she needs to wear pants with elastic bands, she does.

After she lost most of the weight she gained when she was pregnant with Avery, she and I, one night, put her maternity clothes into a box.

“Should we donate them to someone?” I had asked.

“No,” Holly had said. “I’ll need them again some day.”

Even then, she knew she would be pregnant again.

If she and I hadn’t stopped having sex before Avery was born, she and I would have stopped after he was born. She didn’t like her body after Avery was born, and she probably didn’t want to deal with my not getting hard with her, because I long ago stopped getting hard with her.

Good thing that in Massachusetts, health insurance covers fertility treatments for married men and women. Doesn’t matter that, in the case of me and Holly, our fertility problem is that I’m gay.

But I have no problems getting hard with D. Sometimes just smelling him – a mix of the lotion he wears and his natural scent – gets me hard. One kiss, and I get hard. And he and I are still having sex once or twice a day. On Fridays, on the Fridays I still get, because D’s best friend has started asking for – and getting – Friday nights, D and I have sex three times. Once in the afternoon and twice at night.

He says he doesn’t mind that I don’t – won’t – bottom for him, but I think he minds. He’s topped before, and he’s been in relationships where he’s bottomed and topped, but I’m not interested in having him inside me. Or, I am interested, but I’m not sure I can handle him inside me.

“It will hurt at first,” D says, “but then you kind of get used to it, and then it feels good.”

“I don’t know,” I say.

“It’s OK, Rabbit. I like what we have and what we do.”

Rabbit, his pet name for me.

The relationship, because I do not think of what D and I have as an affair, is starting to feel like work. We no longer compromise the way we used to compromise. I know my disappointment in him – with him – is because I have expectations, but I have expectations because he told me he wants to marry me. I’m wearing the key around my neck that proves he wants to marry me.

And I hate lying. I tell myself that what I’m doing isn’t wrong, but I know what I’m doing is wrong. I don’t mind that I’m cheating on Holly. I don’t even feel like I’m cheating on Holly. I’m allowed love. And I’ve found love. And she will find love. She’s beautiful, and under different circumstances, if I were straight, she and I would be happy. But I’m not straight, and I’m with D, and the moments I look at Holly and wonder how I haven’t seen her body change to accommodate her pregnancy are eclipsed by the moments I’m with D, wondering why meeting him took so long.

One night, he and I have ordered sushi. Spring is slowly becoming summer. He talks about getting his window air conditioner out of the basement and putting it in the kitchen. I tell him that I’ll help, and he says that he knows that I’ll help.

“What do you think about moving in after the lease ends?” he asks.

“What about your roommates?”

“I’ll ask them to leave. I’m the one on the lease. They’re subletting from the girl I lived with first.”

“I don’t know,” I say. “Maybe.”

“Why wouldn’t you?”

“Would we have enough room?”

“Yeah. We’d turn their room into the kids’ room, and we’d turn the front bedroom into your library, and you and I would share my room.”

“I know we’d share your room,” I say.

I’m quiet. The sushi comes, and D goes to the door to pay for it. He pays when he can. I earn more than he does, so I don’t complain when he can’t pay. Then he tells me about ordering $100 worth of sushi with his best friend, just to try some of the different items on the menu, and I wonder why I’m not worth $100 worth of sushi, "just because."

D comes back and puts the bags of our take-out on the table. He gets plates and napkins. I open the containers and the chopsticks.

“What are you doing?” he asks.

“Getting everything out,” I say.

“But Rabbit, I’ve been saving all of the sets of chopsticks we’ve gotten with our takeaway.” He opens a drawer in which are probably 40 pairs of chopsticks. I hadn’t realized how much sushi we have eaten. These chopsticks represent our time together. These chopsticks are us; they have never been torn apart, and if we have our way, we won’t be torn apart.

“I’m sorry.”

“That’s OK,” he says. He gets out a real set of chopsticks, hands me a set, and he takes the open chopsticks and puts them in the drawer. “Now you know.”

While we eat, occasionally feeding each other a bit of what we’ve ordered for ourselves, I think that this is how we were the night he confessed to really liking me. And I liked him confessing that he really liked me.

He looks at me looking at him.

“So, you know when I was with my best friend a couple of days ago, we were smoking and I got a little paranoid, which sometimes happens, and I Googled you.”

“You probably found a lot of stuff that I’ve written.”

“Yes, but I also found some stuff listing Holly as having your last name,” he says.

I don’t say anything. My hands get cold, and I feel sick to my stomach.

“Are you, or were you ever, married?”

I think that this is the moment. I need to say yes. I don’t want to keep lying. We are a pair of unbroken chopsticks. He has to understand. We got married when we were young, when I thought I could be straight, but we aren’t happy, and haven’t been happy in years, but don’t know how to divorce in a way that doesn’t hurt Avery. Or the new baby. But I don’t say any of that.

“No, we’re not married.”

“But she has your last name.”

“Yes, she has my last name. Holly changed her last name when Avery was born to make everything easier.”

“For insurance reasons?”

“Yes, and for school, when he starts going.”

D looks relieved.

“It’s not a big deal, her having my last name. Do you want my last name?”

“I don’t want to give up my last name. Would you want mine?”

“Maybe we could hyphenate,” I say.

Even though Holly is not one of my Facebook friends, she has a Facebook page. All D would have to do is search for it – and I don’t understand why he hasn’t sought out Holly’s Facebook page – and he would see that she lists her relationship status as married.

Rain, which we can hear on the windows in the kitchen. Wind. I know if we look at the weather Web page that is always up on D’s computer, we will see a large area of green and yellow over this part of Massachusetts on the weather map.

After dinner, we take our glasses of wine into his bedroom. The glasses, not even half full, are what remains from a bottle of wine we opened with dinner. I don’t even like wine, but I drink it every night I’m with D, who loves wine. We get into bed, start taking off our clothes.

When did we stop undressing each other, I think, but then I stop thinking about undressing myself because he is naked and hard, and I am naked and hard.

“A lot of the time I feel like I’m waiting for you to get divorced so we can begin our life together,” he says. He touches my cock.

“That’s very much what you are waiting for,” I say. I kiss his chest, and then lick down his stomach. “Is that OK?”

“I love you. I don’t mind waiting.”

He handcuffs my hands together above my head.

“I want to be in you,” he says.

Thunder, in the distance. I can’t see the windows in D’s bedroom, but I expect that if I could see the windows, I’d see lightning, somewhere in the distance.

“OK,” I say. Saying OK and letting him try, balances my decision to continue lying.

The lube is cold. I hadn’t expected the lube to be cold.

He pushes inside of me. It hurts. I had expected it to hurt.

“Should I stop?” he asks.

“No,” I say.

I try to enjoy it, and I do briefly, but then I don’t, and it hurts, and I can feel the length of him inside of me, and I don’t want to feel the length of him inside of me, and I ask him to stop.

“Just hold on a couple of more minutes. It will stop hurting.”

My eyes are closed, and I’m gritting my teeth, and sex shouldn’t feel like this, and the metal of the handcuffs is starting to cut into my wrists.

“Stop,” I say. “Please stop.”

He doesn’t stop. He keeps pushing in.

“Please stop,” I say.

And he doesn’t.

“You’re raping me,” I say, louder than I had intended. “You’re raping me. Stop. Get out of me. Get off of me.”

He pulls out of me, and rolls onto his back.

I feel empty. I hadn’t expected to feel empty without him inside of me.

He unlocks the handcuffs. My wrists are red, but I’m not bleeding. I roll onto my back. I pull the blankets up. I want to cry, but I can’t cry because he is crying.

“What’s wrong?” I ask.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you. I thought you were playing.”

“Come here,” I say. He comes closer to me. “We can try again some other time.”

Thunder, sounds a bit closer. On my back, I can see the windows in D’s room, and I see the flash lightning makes. D’s computer enters sleep mode and the screen goes dark. The computer had been the only light in D’s room. The only sound, our breathing.

I can’t keep up the lies, or the two lives. Holly knows something is going on, but doesn’t know the right questions to ask. She doesn’t like how I have alcohol in the house, or that I’m drinking, on the nights I am home. And on those nights when I’m home, D is with his friends, getting high, also drinking, and doing whatever else he does when I am not with him. He says he’s just getting high, but sometimes I don’t believe that he’s just getting high.

He wants me to ask him to marry me, I think, because while we talk about the inevitability of marriage, he stops short of saying that he will ask me. Only those few times near my birthday, when he first brought up marriage. His waiting for me to ask him makes sense. He needs someone to pick him. He is tired of picking men who will not stay. And I pick him. He doesn’t even know how much my picking him will cost. And I think that once he and I are engaged, because I know he will say yes, I can tell him that before we get married, Holly and I will get divorced, and he will understand. Because he loves me, and because he wants a life with me, and because he will have said yes.

I have to guess at his ring size. When I bought Holly’s engagement ring, I needed 12 months to fully pay for it. D’s I pay for all at once. Not enough for Holly to notice the withdrawal, and since she doesn’t look at our bank statements, she’ll never see the jewelry store’s name on our statement. The ring arrives a few days before Holly, Avery, and I are leaving to attend a wedding in North Carolina. A woman with whom I work has invited us, along with several other colleagues. When I told D I’d be gone over the Fourth of July, he asked to come.

“Holly is coming,” I told him.

“I can help take care of Avery,” he said, which was probably the closest he could come to asking me to invite him.

I wanted to invite him, but I couldn’t invite him. He said he understood, but I don’t think he did. He made plans with friends for the few days I’d be gone. A party was planned, but he wasn’t sure he’d go. Holly, Avery, and I would be back at some point on the evening of July Fourth.

“Maybe you can come over after you get back,” D said. “If you’re not too tired.”

“We’ll see,” I said. “I would have driven us back from North Carolina that day.”

“I’ll miss you when you’re gone.”

“Me too,” I said. His turn to miss me. My turn to be gone. Let’s see how he likes it when I go somewhere and have fun without him. No. Stop those thoughts. No expectations. No disappointments. The ring, in a box, in my underwear drawer. Silver. I designed it. A "W" on it, several horseshoes. Lucky when I found him. Lucky when he found me. The ring doesn’t fit my ring finger, but I think the ring will fit D’s ring finger.

And I want to be tied to him that way while I’m gone. Fitting, getting engaged to him on the eve of leaving for a wedding.

He’s in his bed when I get to him after work. The ring is in my pocket. I get into bed with him, and he pulls the comforter up over our heads. He kisses me.

“I don’t like when you go away,” he says.

“I never go far,” I say.

I reach into my pocket, which is difficult in the confines of his comforter, and I pull out the ring. I put it on his left ring finger. The ring is too big. D lifts his hand, looks at the ring, points his finger down, and we watch as the ring falls off and into D’s bed.

“It doesn’t fit. I’m sorry.”

“Rabbit,” he says, and then he doesn’t say anything. Then he’s kissing me and he’s crying and I’m kissing him and I’m not crying. The ring is between us, and then D picks up the ring and puts it back on his finger.

“I can get it re-sized,” I say. “When I come back.”

“I love it,” D says, whispers really. “I love you.”

He unhooks the necklace he has on, and puts the ring on the chain.

“Will you marry me?” I ask, because I think the question needs to be asked.

“Yes,” he says.

“I’m sorry it doesn’t fit.”

“It’s perfect.”

D uncovers us and gets out of bed. He rummages in his closet until he finds what he’s looking for, and then he throws a pair of socks at me.

“What?” I ask. “I’m fine.”

He shakes his head at me. He reaches for my feet, and one at a time, de-socks them. My socks have holes in them. Most of my socks have holes in them. Holly long ago gave up asking me to throw out socks with holes in them.

D throws out my socks.

“Don’t even think about taking those out of the garbage,” he says.

“OK,” I say, even though I had been thinking about taking the socks out of the garbage.

A proposal and a new pair of socks. The line between dating and marriage is even blurrier. This, what D and I have, what we’ve been building, problems and all, is a real relationship. He was right, when he said that we do both sides of a relationship well.

I add knowing I wear socks with holes in them to the list I keep of reasons why I love him.

While I drive home to Holly, who wants help finishing getting ready for our drive to North Carolina, I text D: “I want to spend the next 57 years with you. I want to wake up next to you, and go to bed next to you, and take care of you. I want to see the life our children will have. I want adventures, and I want to travel. There may come times when we want nothing more than to walk away, but I promise to always come back. I believe in us. I believe in you.”

“You know you will have to tell me all of this in person,” he responds. “I will not settle for a text-message proposal. I won’t even settle for a bedroom proposal while we are in bed. I want you there, on one knee, and I want to see you cry. I want it in public and messy. I don’t want you to ask me safely. I want to know that you mean forever when you ask me for forever. And when I say yes, and I am definitely saying yes, then you will know that I mean forever and that no one else will do. I want to look into your eyes when you are proposing, and I want you to look into mine when I say yes.”  

“Does this mean we’re not engaged?” 

“I love you, and I want to marry you,” he says. “We’re engaged.”

We’re engaged.

Several times while I'm driving back to North Carolina, I turn down the music on the radio. Holly is in the back seat with Avery. We have discovered that traveling with Holly in the back seat with Avery is the easiest way to keep him calm and entertained. Each time I start to say something, I watch the way Holly is with Avery, and how happy Avery is, and even how happy Holly seems, even though she is clearly uncomfortable in the back seat, the seatbelt tight around her stomach.

I don’t know how to tell Holly that I have fallen in love with someone else, let alone that I have asked him to marry me. A he. She won’t be surprised. I don’t think anyone will be surprised. Everyone since I was in fifth grade would be proven right. Gay. And OK being gay. As long as my wife is OK with an amicable divorce where we share custody of our child. Of our children.

Each time I turn down the music, I turn it back up, and I look at my family in the backseat, and sometimes Holly sees me watching through the rearview mirror, and she smiles at me, and I smile at her, and I think that we have not taken a road trip in a very long time.

The drive to the town in North Carolina where the wedding will be held is long, and I drive the entire way. D texts several times, and I respond, when I can. At a rest stop in Connecticut, I take a picture of my reflection in a bathroom mirror. This is me without you, I write, preparing to text D the picture. before I press “send", I realize my ring finger is visible in the picture, and with my ring finger visible, my wedding band is visible. I don’t send the text.

I leave the wedding band in the ashtray in my car each time I’m with D, and I never forget, because I can’t forget, but one Friday night, after Holly made me stay home long enough for her to take a shower and shave her legs, and for me to get Avery ready for bed, I didn’t think about my wedding band when I got to D’s apartment. I was thinking about having lost two hours with him, and I only thought about my wedding band when I was already inside D’s apartment, walking down the hallway leading into the kitchen.

I was taking off the ring when D met me in the hallway, and the ring slipped out of my hands and landed on the floor. I picked up the ring and put it in my pocket.

“What was that?” D had asked.

“Just a quarter,” I said.

That night, when D took off my pants, before I fucked him from behind, he leaning against a wall in his bedroom, me, still the best sex he had had, I worried that the ring would fall out of my pants pocket.

The wedding happens, and the reception happens, and I send photos to D, and I send him photos of the room in the bed-and-breakfast where my family is staying, and he says that he would very much like to stay in a room like that with me, and I promise that one day we will. I send a picture of me in a suit to D, who responds: “You’re not smiling.  You should smile more.”

Holly and I drive back to Boston on the Fourth of July. After each 100 miles, I think that in the next 100 miles I will tell her. But I don’t tell her, and I don’t tell her, and I don’t tell her, but she knows I’m thinking about something, and that I’m unusually quiet, and she asks me what’s bothering me.

“I’m worried about how much pot D is smoking,” I say.

“He doesn’t get high around Avery?” She’s in the front passenger seat, and Avery is asleep in his car seat, and the remnants of our drive-thru lunch at a Bojangles is on the floor at Holly’s feet. The car smells like chicken and biscuits.

“Once, but he didn’t do it in front of Avery. D hadn’t known we were coming over, and when I got there and realized he had smoked, I left with Avery.”

“I don’t want Avery around a drug addict.”

“He says he’s not addicted.”

“If he feels the need to get high most days, he has a dependency,” Holly says. Part of her training and education to know these things; part of her job to tell other people that someone they love is an addict. “He may not feel he is physically addicted, but he is psychologically addicted, and I do not want Avery around drug addicts.”

“I’m trying to figure out how to help him stop. His best friend is an addict, and so are his roommates. They don’t make things easy.”

“Wanting to help is noble.”

“I care about him. He needs my help.”

“Maybe you should spend less time with him and more time with your family,” Holly says. She has one hand on her belly.

“I know I haven’t been around much. It’s just hard sometimes.”

“It’s hard for me most of the time. I need you at home.”

“I’ll be around more.”

This conversation with Holly, an echo of the conversation D and I had the night he wanted to end our relationship. But she can’t just leave, or she can, but she won’t. Leaving wouldn’t be in the best interest of our child. Of our children.

When I drive across the border of Massachusetts and I still haven’t told her, I know that I will not tell her. Not right now. Not like this. She and I had had our first real date on the Fourth of July in 1998. My parents had decided to end their marriage on the Fourth of July in 1993. I could not do to Avery on the Fourth of July what my parents had done on the Fourth of July to me and my brother.

We get home at the same time the fireworks start. Avery is awake, and Holly is pointing out the different colored lights. I know D is out there, somewhere, watching the same fireworks. I should text him. He’s expecting me to text him. But I can think of no way to explain leaving to Holly. Work won’t work as an excuse, not tonight. Not tomorrow. No work. Federal holiday. I turn off my phone, not that I think D will call; neither of us are phone people.

“I expected you here last night," he says. “I waited up as long as I could, and when I woke up, I was sure you would be there, and I was disappointed that you weren’t here,” D says.

July fifth. I told Holly I wanted to get out of the house and see a friend. She probably knew I was coming to see D, but she was tired, and was getting ready to take a nap with Avery. D had worked earlier. I met him at his apartment a few minutes after I knew he would get home. He was in his bedroom, reading.

“I feel you no-called, no-showed on our relationship,” he says.

“No-call, no-show?” I ask. “I don’t work with you. Don’t treat our relationship like I’m an employee.”

“That’s not what I meant,” D says. “It’s just I didn’t go to a party last night because I thought you’d come home to me, and you didn’t.”

“I was tired. The drive was long.”

“You could have told me you weren’t coming over.”

“I didn’t tell you that I would come over.”

“But I expected you to come over.”

D isn’t wearing the ring on the chain around his neck. I look around his room, and I see the ring. It is on top of its box.

That night, before I leave, I take back the ring. I don’t tell D that I’m taking the ring. I do it when he is not looking. I tell myself that I take back the ring to get it resized. And I probably take back the get it resized. When I’m home , I tell D that I took back the ring. I didn’t want him looking for it, convinced that he had somehow lost it.

“Should I consider the ring mine or not?”

“Consider the ring my promise to spend the next 57 years with you,” I say.

One night, when Holly asks me to take Avery out for a while, I go to D’s apartment, and the three of us spend time there before we go grocery shopping. D stocks up on Avery snacks, and I think that moments like this, shopping, Avery in the front of the cart, early evening, is the life I’m signing on for and the life D is signing on for.

Before taking D and his groceries back to his apartment, I suggest dropping off Avery. If we don’t drop off Avery, then I’ll have to take him home not long after getting back to D’s apartment.

“You can meet Holly,” I say.

The decision to introduce the two is calculated. Holly will be watching a movie. The living room will be dark. Avery will be excited to see his mother. Holly will shift her attention from D to Avery. D won’t suggest staying very long; his perishables won’t keep in the car. D won’t see Holly’s engagement and wedding rings. Holly won’t see that I’m not wearing my wedding band. The two will meet. Nothing untoward will happen. D will be satisfied that he has met the mother of my children. And Holly will – will what? Not like I can ask her if she thinks D is cute. Holly will see the man who is spending time with Avery. There. Enough reasons to suggest the meeting without worrying that one or both of them will realize what I’ve been doing.

I’m right. The living room is dark. Holly is sitting on a couch watching a movie. She pauses the movie when Avery runs in and jumps into her arms. D lingers at the door to my home. I stand beside him.

“Holly, this is D. D, this is Holly.”

I’m not nervous, or I tell myself I’m not nervous because I can’t pull this off if I’m nervous.

“Hi,” D says. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“Hi,” Holly says. And "Hi" is all Holly gets to say before Avery is tugging at his mother’s arms and face.

“I peed, Mommy,” Avery says. His announcing when he has peed is relatively new. I think Holly and I should have started potty training Avery months ago, but Holly wants to wait until Avery tells us that he is ready. A mistake. Another mistake I’m letting take place because I don’t want to fight with Holly.

The three of us watching Avery, because Avery demands to be watched.

“OK, so I’m going to take D home,” I say.

“See you both later,” Holly says. “Nice meeting you.”

“Nice meeting you, too.”

D and I walk down the hallway to the elevator that will take us from the third floor, where Holly and I live in this condo, to the ground level, where my car is parked. Somewhere near my parking spot, Holly buried part of our second miscarriage. Regardless that she thinks the miscarriage happened solely to her, the miscarriage happened to both of us. She never told me where she buried the part that she buried.

“You’ve met her now,” I say. “Doesn’t she look really pregnant?”

“It was dark. I couldn’t really tell. Maybe next time we can stay longer?”

“Absolutely,” I say.

Our six-month anniversary is approaching. In a few weeks, D tells me, I will become the longest relationship he’s had. Man or woman. Not that he dated many women, but the women he dated never lasted longer than a few weeks. A few days beyond six months. I don’t know how he has dated for half his life without dating someone much longer than six months.

Which makes me sad. And a little angry. Not at the other men. I stopped being angry at the other men the afternoon D told me that if we broke up, he’d move on and I an I not believe D’s side? But maybe I got the version that helps D sleep at night. Not that thinking about these exes keeps him up at night. He says he never thinks about exes. And I don’t want to be another man about whom D doesn’t think. Even though each fight D and I have convinces me a little more that he and I will break up before we get to I do, I know I will not forget D. How can I? I love him, and I believe that once you love, you love. You may no longer be in love with the person, but you still love him. Or her. Or them.

D disagrees. He and I have talked about what happens to love after a relationship ends. D thinks the love disappears. He’d like to believe that the love remains, he says, but he hasn’t loved anyone enough to want the love to remain.

“What about me?” I asked.

“What about you? Are you going somewhere? You’re stuck with me. I’m going to love you forever because you’re going to love me forever and because we’re going to be together forever.”

“You think so?” I asked.

“Don’t you?”

“Yes,” I say. We had been drinking at a bar in downtown Boston. I had suggested inviting his roommates, who I know don’t like me, but who I think I should make an effort to convince to like me, but D didn’t want to invite his roommates. The bar we chose is one of the few gay bars in Boston. You’d think, with Massachusetts being the first state to legalize same-sex marriages, and with its liberal New England nature, that the gay community would have more geared specifically to it.

And maybe that’s the problem. Because the gay community has fought for assimilation – my take on the battle for marriage – the need for establishments to cater to the gay community or to market themselves as gay-friendly has dissipated.

But D and I, are at a gay bar, and D points out a man who is talking to several other men. I am not wearing my glasses. I left my glasses in my car. I don’t like going out in my glasses. I can see well enough to get around without my glasses, except when I drive.

“That guy works at my doctor’s office,” D says.

“Does he?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you think he’s cute? I think he looks like a stoner.”

I can’t tell, but he looks like he’s in good shape, at least from where I’m standing not wearing my glasses.

“Stoners don’t work at doctor’s offices,” I say.

“Stoners work everywhere,” D says. He finishes his drink. A white-chocolate martini. I introduced him to white-chocolate martinis. To clear white-chocolate martinis. Forget the name of the drink, and forget how you think the drink tastes. The drink is one of the best – if not the best – drink I’ve had.

“Do you want another one?” I ask. “My treat.”

“Maybe we can share one?” D says, as if he’s asking.

“Of course we can share it,” I say.

I want D to kiss me, because we’re in a gay bar and because no one here knows Holly, but D doesn’t kiss me. He says he has to go to the bathroom. I watch him walk away from me until I can’t separate him from the other men in the bar, standing with their friends, drinking, making plans, thinking about their boring job at the front desk at a doctor’s office.

An evening on my own. D worked late. But he’s expecting me to come over later, and I’ve decided that I will spend the night. I’ve started spending the occasional night at D’s apartment. I tell Holly that I’ve had too much to drink on these nights, and she agrees that sleeping at D’s apartment is in my best interest. She thinks I sleep on the couch in D’s living room. But I sleep on the left side of D’s bed, which is my side of the bed, but which is D’s side of the bed when I’m not there, so sometimes I end up sleeping on the right side of the bed, because D says that the left side is the better side of the bed. And sometimes we go to sleep so that our bodies overlap.

I unlock the front door and climb the stairs leading to D’s front door, and I think, as I often do when I climb these stairs, that I will not enjoy carrying all of my things into D’s apartment. The next time he talks to me about moving in, I think, I will suggest he and I get a different apartment, one with an elevator. Or maybe one that only has a first floor.

I walk into D’s bedroom. I’m early. He is sitting at his computer. His bong is out. He is packing a bowl.

“I’ve had that kind of day,” he says. He gets up and kisses me.

“You always have those kinds of days lately,” I say.

The things we say when he and I say these things sound like we’ve memorized the lines for a school play. He says his part, and I say my part, and he says his part, and I tell him that I don’t mind and that I love him and that I don’t want to smoke with him.

But D goes off book.

“I don’t have to smoke right now.”

“It’s OK,” I say, trying to get us back into familiar territory.

“No, I don’t have to.” He puts his bong on its shelf in his closet. He gets into bed, where I am sitting.

“Tell me about your day,” he says, and I tell him about my boss, and how I’m starting to dislike her, and about the dinner Holly made, which I picked at because I half expected to eat with D, and about Avery and the new words he’s learned in the last week. I ask D about his day.

“I rode my bike to work, and I rode my bike home, and I took a different way home, and somehow I got lost. But I figured I’d find my way home, so I rode around, and I started to recognize where I was, and I stopped to get some ice cream.”

“Did you bring some home?”

“It melted, so I put it in the freezer. Do you want some?”

“You know I won’t eat it.”

“I know, but I thought I’d offer.”

We’re quiet.

“Are you OK?” he asks.

“I’m OK. Just tired. I’ve been thinking about your birthday. It’s coming up.”

“I know, Rabbit.”

“Well, it’s your last birthday before you turn 30. How do you want to celebrate?”

“I don’t care what we do, as long as we do it together.”

“Do you want to have a party?”

“I haven’t had a birthday party in a very long time.”

“Let me plan one. Tell me who to invite. I’ll take care of the rest.”

“OK.”

He kisses me, and our kissing is familiar. How well I now know his body. His scars, and not just the scars on his arms. The way his arms and legs bend. How he likes me to scrape his head when we’re fucking. Over and over. My fingernails; his scalp. I know the way his body tastes, his cum. And he knows me as well. My scars and how I taste and the way I bend. I like knowing someone as well as I know him. I used to know Holly this well, and she used to know me. But she didn’t. Not the same way D knows me.

He kisses his way down my shirt to my belt. He tries to take off my belt with his mouth, but fails. He unsnaps my jeans, and pulls out my cock. He starts to go down on me. I’m sitting up, and then I’m on my back, and my eyes are closed, and I think that he and I continue to have sex several times a week, if not several times a day. We spend more time fucking when we’re together in his bedroom than we spend doing anything else. Except maybe eating and drinking wine. And smoking. Or he smokes, and I don’t smoke, and I hate his smoking, and he doesn’t let on that he knows I hate his smoking.

I open my eyes, and I turn my head, and I see D’s phone. I reach for D’s phone. I know the password to it, and I push the four digits that unlock D’s phone, and I select the video camera application, and I start recording D giving me head.

D sees what I’m doing, and the way he is giving me head changes. When I come, D doesn’t swallow it, as he usually does. He lets some of it land on his face and neck.

I put down his phone.

“Was that OK?” I ask. The same question I asked the first time I fucked him asked about recording his giving me head. We’ve recorded the audio at concerts and shot video at concerts and occasionally we’ve recorded conversations we’ve had – not counting the videos we’ve shot of ourselves solo that we’ve sent each other – but this video is the first video either of us has taken of us having sex.

“That was hot,” D says. “I’m going to watch it later.”

I laugh. I know D will watch it later, and that he will tell me later that he watched it and jerked off to it and then he will suggest we record other things. And I will say yes, because he’s right; recording him giving me head was – is – hot.

“I’m glad you’re mine, Rabbitƒ,” he says. “I’m glad I’m yours.”

I think each time we use words like "mine" and "yours" and "ours," we remind the universe that we belong, not just in it, but to each other. As if words like "mine," "yours," and "ours" have power. But words are powerless, and I am powerless, not just in this relationship but in controlling what will happen when D and Holly know everything. Which they will one day have to know.

“Stay the night,” D asks. “Stay as many nights as you want.”

“You know I can’t,” I say. I’ve changed my mind. Regardless of how hot the sex was, and how hot recording the sex was, D will now smoke, and I don’t feel like being around D when he smokes. At least not tonight. We’ve had sex. I can go home.

“I know, but I’m going to ask you every night to make sure you know how much I want you here.”