Thursday, December 01, 2016

World AIDS Day



From Lester Blum's series "I Still Remember," currently on view at the LGBTQ Center of Durham, North Carolina. Shot November 2015 at Paddles, New York NY. I wore the leather jacket of my high school boyfriend Donnie, who dies of AIDS in 1992.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Twelfth Blogoversary


New York, NY. October 7, 2016. Photograph by Kenny.

Twelve years ago today, I posted my first story to this blog.

My wife and I separated in two-thousand-three, after fifteen years of sexless monogamy. I started dating and returning to my pre-marital roots in bisexuality and general sluttiness with friends. It was a time of extraordinary transition, as I adjusted to a new life, divided between time as a newly divorced father and a bold arena of sex in New York and online.

At the suggestion of a drinking buddy, I started this blog to document the surreality of it all. One evening, I sat with her, bourbons in hand, and created a new name for myself—“Jefferson”—never imagining it would stick

I really had no idea what a blog was. I thought of the Internet as a kind of safe deposit box, a place I could store my writing. I knew it was public but I had no idea anyone could unlock my stories without the magic code of its URL. Little did I realize that people might search for “orgy” or “blowjob” and wind up reading my life. The blog quickly became popular. Soon, readers wanted to meet me, even have sex with me, based solely on my writing. After spending half of my twenties and all of my thirties in a monogamous dry spell, it felt amazing to be desired.

Blogging changed my life. It led to romance, love, travel, community, storytelling and, now and then, controversy. Eventually, my ex-wife would discover this blog and use it to sue for full custody of our kids and out me to my entire family. To her chagrin, my family continued to love me. The State of New York was unimpressed by my ex-wife’s anger and sustained joint custody. In the process of venting her ire, she outed me in the expectation of doing harm. Instead, she gave me freedom: I was no longer anxious about leading a double life. My life became one of great transparency.

Not that this is without complications.

Recently, I posted a couple of stories from the time my freedom and my blog were new. One Life, Take Two was launched just two weeks after the reelection of George W. Bush, as recounted in Cockblock the Vote. Timeline aficionados may note: the story of March twenty-ninth,two-thousand-five, took place just days before Aprils Fool’s, when I first met Madeline in the flesh. The saga of our early romance, as described in our respective blogs, was compiled in Jefferson and Madeline.
 
I've enjoyed revisiting my blog, my beautiful, beautiful blog. I may continue. I may not. For now, meet My Celia. Enjoy!

My Celia                        

It’s been over a year since the break up.

For most of that year, I have hosted sex parties in Manhattan. I suppose I will need to catch you up on how that transpired. I’ve made great friends and lovers at these parties, and yet I haven’t often had the feeling of falling head over heels for someone.

Until my Celia.

I met Celia at a party at my place last spring. She arrived late with a guy who comes sometimes. The regulars were already naked, well fucked and relaxed.

Celia sat on a bed and chatted with us. She was dressed in jeans and a black t-shirt, worn backwards so that the logo was illegible. As we talked, Jane removed Celia’s clothes, and had soon stripped her naked. Jane kissed her torso as Celia leaned back, opening her thighs; we heard her gasp as Jane’s mouth reached her clit.

Being gracious like she is, Jane soon turned and offered me Celia’s body. I set to licking Jane's drool from Celia's labia.

As we fucked, as we did almost immediately, I decided not to stop fucking her. This is not the best form at a sex party, particularly for the host; one really should offer new guests an opportunity to work the room.

I doubt that Celia cared much for etiquette. She had gorgeous hazel-green eyes, focused intently on mine. I kept her gaze, noticing details at the periphery. Celia had a lovely face: aquiline nose, pre-Raphaelite features, framed in long black hair.

I was soon very curious to know more about the woman I was fucking, and so thought maybe we could take a break to chat.

"I would really like to talk with you," I said, meaning "Maybe we can stop and talk."

"Sure . . . what do you want to talk about?" she replied, as if I meant we should have a conversation while fucking. I was willing.

"So, where did you grow up?," I asked. I learned that she grew up in New England, she is an art student, and she would be working on a farm all summer. Within those first few moments, I gleaned that we had art in common, the sex was great, and I wouldn't be able to see her again for months.

I finally let her have sex with some of the others. Later we kissed, as intently as we had gazed. As she left, she stood in the door, giving me long, hungry kisses, as her date waited for her.

As it happened, she had an art show up, and as it happened, I was in the neighborhood the very next day. I was glad to see her art was good.

The summer passed.

Two weeks ago, I got an email from her, saying she was back in town and wanted to return to the sex parties. Cool!

I suggested we get together, and proposed we go check out the new Museum of Modern Art on opening day, as I had special tickets. It turned out she did too.

Later, we learned that the opening day was free to the public. So much for special access.

We decided to meet at an exhibition by Barbara Nitke at Art@Large gallery, get lunch, and see the museum--which we knew would be hellishly crowded. Nitke’s photos have to do with sadomasochism (SM). While not into SM herself, Nitke has an empathic insight into the lives of those who are. There is a strong sense of intimacy and care in her photographs.

Celia was late for our date, which was fine with me. We saw Nitke's work together. Celia says she knew many of the images, having seen Nitke lecture at the Eulenspeigel Society, a New York based organization for those into SM.

(I catalogued those details—Celia already knew Nitke and the Eulenspeigel Society?)

We lunched, and talked about out first encounter. It was her first sex party, she said, and her moment with Jane was her first encounter with a woman. She liked it, but she was taking downers at the time, which she regretted.

I referred to this as a pretty unusual second date. She agreed: first sex, then a lunch date. We were doing it backwards. She says she is surprised that she feels so shy.

She talked about her gaggle of girlfriends, and how she makes nude films of them, but can't imagine sex with them—though she really wants to be bisexual, as it's hip (it is?) and of course, there are more options for sex if you are bi.

She opines that the MoMA is going to be crazy crowded, and maybe we shouldn't go. This leaves her with two hours to kill before her yoga class . . . what can we do? Well, I suggest, we can go to my place and kiss. She looks at me like she can't believe I suggested this. I can't believe it myself—I am really getting bold.

"Okay," she says, "but I really am feeling shy about this. Is it too early to drink? Do you have any bourbon?"

"A girl after my own heart." I actually said that out loud.

Soon, we are at my place, on my couch, sipping bourbon. Soon, we are kissing. Fully clothed. For a long, sweet time.

Soon we are nude, in my bed, kissing. Touching. For a long, sweet time. She is so into gazing, touching, kissing, and I am melting, melting, melting. As the time passes, and her yoga class approaches, I think it will be wise not to start fucking. But I do go down on her. And she cums. And she cums again as I kiss her and hold her very close.

I should mention that she does intense yoga five times a week. And she is a semi-pro athlete. She has a strong, lean body. When she held me firmly, she knocked the breath out of me. Mind you, I was pretty breathless.

I tell her to go, it's time. She declines to leave. We fuck. Like all the foreplay, it's slow, and intense. At one point, I'm on top of her, holding myself up with my arms at full length. She is about to cum. She sits up, putting her arms around my shoulders. She lifts her ass from the bed. She is clinging to me, hanging from my body in air, pushing herself down on me. She cums. I can scarcely believe she made my body work that way.

We are back to kissing, touching . . . she discovered my sensitive nipples, and slowly tortured them. Exquisitely.

I am laying on top of her, tracing a finger along her nose, her lips, her cheeks. I take a breath. "You are really beautiful," I say. "You don't have to be. I would be nice to you anyway. But it helps that you are."

She looks down at me. "Are you bi?" she asks. I say I am. "I do well with the bi guys," she says. Why is that, you think? "Must be my physique," she says, flexing a bicep that would give pause to Charles Atlas.

She said she was hungry. I went to the kitchen and produced Spanish rice, steamed shrimp, and fresh calamari sauteed in garlic. We eat nude.

As we eat, we talk about the Nitke photos. She mentions liking one in which a man is fully bound to a flotation board, adrift in a pool. I say that there was such a sense of risk in that position. She says she likes the feeling of being bound.

I recall how she came when I was holding her, on top of her, as she pulled me closer to crush her.

"I can bind you," I offer. She produces rope and ankle bracelets from her bag, saying they were intended for a possible film shoot later that night. I dig up handcuffs and other stuff. She is soon strapped to my bed on all fours.

I torture her nipples. I tell her I am going to verbally abuse her. "Yes," she murmurs. I ask her why, with all that we've been doing, she has not sucked my cock? "Are you bad at it or something?" I ask. She opens her mouth, wide. I feed her my cock, and fuck her face hard. She can take it very well, so I commend her. Then I slap her for making me wait for that.

We had already established that she is an ass virgin, and so I take her to task for this. How can I let her fuck my friends if she can't even do anal? So I move around and give her a hard spanking. I lick her hole, and blow air in her. She moans. She can't help but fart. I spank her for this, and do it again. "This will burn, but only for a second," I warn. I take a sip of bourbon, and blow it up her ass. I plug it with my thumb, and then a butt plug.

I fuck her pussy.

"Can you take candle wax?," I ask. Never tried it, she mumbles. I drip wax on her back and ass for a very long time. She squirms until I tell her to be still. (Later she asked: was I making too much noise? I can try to be less responsive. Oh no, I say. You did very well.)

In time, I release her and take her to the shower. I wash her body, and flake off the wax. We go back to bed and it's tender again. She falls asleep. I read.

We woke up entangled, touching . . . her fingers are never still when they can be caressing. We spend the morning in bed. There was a joy in this, so palpable, for me at least, that I had to take care lest blurting out, "I am so in love with you."

I had to remind myself, I really don’t know Celia so well. Not yet.

I make her breakfast—bacon, eggs, and her first helping of grits. We were both very sated. We talk about how she just broke up with her boyfriend, and she had broken with her other two lovers in the last month. I say I am hers, when she wants me. Her eyes fix on mine. “That’s right,” she smiles.

My friend Todd calls. He reminds me that we are going to fuck this woman from Texas that night. I had offered to host, and said I would line up some others to join us. I had invited Thomas, that was easy, but I was so busy with Celia all weekend, I didn’t do much more.

I asked Celia if she wanted to do a group thing that night. She pondered it but declined. She was already well sexed. So was I, really.

Around two or three, I kissed goodbye to my Celia. I had a gang bang in a few hours. I would spend that time in the thrall of my Celia, picking up flecks of candle wax, and writing to my friend Dacia about her.


The blog continues with Preparations.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Where's Jefferson?





Where's Jefferson? Costuming by girlfriend's four-year-old niece. November 23, 2016. Port Kent, NY. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Cockblock the Vote

With so many competing events on weekends, our gang had decided on Tuesdays as a good midweek pick-me-up sex party night. We’d been having our biweekly bisexual gatherings for a little over a year when we encountered a snag: we had an orgy scheduled for election night.

I sent around a note asking for a show of hands. Should we veto the party? Organize to watch the results? Or ignore politics altogether with sex as usual? Our landslide decision was to compromise: we wanted company for this nail-biter and we didn’t know how to be together with clothes on.

And so it was that on Tuesday, November second, two-thousand-four, we gathered on the Upper West Side of Manhattan to go down on each other as George W. Bush went down in flames.

We began as usual, having wine in the living room, catching up on the two weeks since we were last together. The election naturally flowed into the conversation. All but one of us, a non-citizen, had voted that day. New York would go for Kerry, no question, but the results from four years prior had left us all too jittery to be complacent.

Mark joined our rally, arriving late as usual. This was our signal that it was time to get naked.

“It feels weird to have the television on,” I said as we undressed in the bedroom. “I can’t really pay attention to sex when Peter Jennings is talking.” I muted the sound. We stood nude by the light of candles and cathode, enjoying the familiar sight of ourselves glowing.

The yoga instructor turned to kiss her husband, the nurse. Jen and Phil were sweetly in love and always started off together. Lynn and I followed suit. Others began to touch and talk softly, in pairs and clusters. The matched couples always had the advantage of first call on the bed that wouldn’t be empty again.

Jen and Lynn lay back on pillows. I reached for a condom, not bothering to offer one to Phil. I entered Lynn, leaning forward to kiss her, lingering as we felt our bodies welcoming each other. I sat back on my haunches, holding her thighs as I gently fucked her. She glanced at Phil, smiling as he watched us. I leaned over to kiss him. He wrapped an arm around me, pulling me into a deeper kiss. My hand traced down his chest, his pulsating abdomen and down to his bare cock, soaking in his wife’s slit. Lynn groaned; I felt her fingers touch my cock as she worked her clit.

Mark put a hand on my back, stroking his cock with the other. “Hey, sorry to interrupt; everyone is so busy! But Lynn, you still look like you could use more.”

“Oh yes, I was just thinking that, Mark, thank you,” Lynn replied, twisting her body to receive his cock in her mouth.

“Pulling all the levers, eh, Lynn?” I joked, but if my voting booth allusion was funny, she was too busy to notice. I looked over my shoulder at the television: the northeast was turning blue.

Phil and Jen switched positions so that she could blow him. “Yeah, lick your pussy off my dick,” he encouraged.

I ran my hand along her pussy and brought my fingers to my lips. “That is pretty delicious. How about I fill that vacated position?”

“Actually, would you mind if I go first?” Phil asked.

Jen took his cock from her mouth. “You just did go first . . . ?”

“No, I’m sorry I was unclear: do you mind if Jefferson fucks me and then you, instead of the reverse? I’ve been craving a dick in me all week. Do you mind, Jefferson?”

“Whatever y’all decide,” I grinned, continuing with Lynn. “Plenty of me to go around. I’m here all night.” I leaned over to kiss Lynn, running my tongue along the cock in her mouth. “Honey, if you need me, I’ll be right next door.” She puckered her lips on Mark’s cock, blowing me a kiss mid-blowjob.

I pulled out of Lynn and flung my used condom toward to wastebasket. It landed close with points only for effort. I retrieved it on my way to the bathroom to wash.

When I returned, Mark was fucking Lynn and Phil’s face was buried in his wife’s pussy. His ass wiggled in anticipation. I picked up lube and walked across the bed on my knees, tearing open a condom package.

Mark was fucking Lynn, I was fucking Phil, Phil was devouring Jen. This would be my favored set for the night. I tended to fuck Jen as prelude to fucking her husband, and signaled my last dance by fucking Mark. Then I would relax with the remaining guests before crawling into bed with Lynn and a nightcap. For now, it was novel to reverse my usual order with this sweet couple.

I checked the room. Everyone was doing well, with some having repaired back to the living room. Beck was playing down the hall. A few more red states in the south. 

Jon stood on the bed next to me, steadying himself with his hands on the ceiling as he joined our cluster. A few moments later, he turned to the television. “Hey, is it weird that I’m the only Republican here?” I laughed so hard his cock nearly fell from my mouth.

“Guys,” he said. “My side got Florida.” Everyone stopped to look at the television. Jen and Lynn sat up against the wall.

I reached for the remote. “ . , . to repeat: ABC News is now projecting President George W. Bush has won the state of Florida. We add this to his wins in the Carolinas . . .”

“No! No, no!” Jen shouted. “You take that back. Fuck.”

“Pretty early, too,” Phil noted. Jen wriggled from our bodies and left the room. Phil pulled away to follow.

“Jefferson . . .” Lynn began, scooting forward to sit next to me. I wrapped an arm around her.

The room watched in silence. Soon, more results: blue hugging the Great Lakes, red filling in below. Texas, of course.

“I need a drink,” I said, rubbing Lynn’s calf.

“You and me both,” she said.

We found Jen on her belly on the couch. Phil was rubbing her back. She was crying. Lynn and I passed into the kitchen to pour bourbons, then repaired to the terrace. We sat nude in the still, cold night, watching the traffic.

Mark came to the terrace door, wearing his coat. “Hey, you guys, I’m heading out. A few of us are walking to the subway.” Lynn got up to hug him. I followed him to the door to say goodbye to our departing guests.

I returned to find Jen reclining on her side, her cheek resting on a hand. “Phil went to get our things,” she said. “A while ago. I guess he got sucked into the news.” She looked to the hallway. “He would’ve come back if any of it was good.”

I sat on the coffee table, listening.

“How is this happening?” she asked. “I mean, nine-eleven . . . he lied, just lied, about weapons of mass destruction, he’s stupid, he lies, this idiotic war . . . and John Kerry, he’s not perfect, I know, but . . .” Her voice trailed off. “It is impossible, impossible to imagine anything worse.”

“I hear you,” I nodded. “Nothing could be worse.”

Consent Violation and The Disinvited Guest

Consent is key.

This is an oft-repeated slogan in my community. If we say it often enough, in simple words, we can be assured that everyone gets the idea. It binds and unifies us in a singular thought.

Ever wonder what it means?

Several years ago, my central community was in crisis. We regularly met for a sex party, in the same place, with the same people. But then, a decision was made to open the party to many more people. Suddenly, there were strangers in our midst, excited and thrilled to be in what they perceived as a playground of sex, drugs and rock and roll (or, at least, electronic dance music). We still thought of ourselves as a community, though now, we were a community where no one knew everyone.

A group of women had an idea. They organized a day-long meeting of long-time members of the group to brainstorm ideas for positive change. Perhaps the community should grow with new members. Perhaps it should not. Perhaps membership should be gradual. Every suggestion would be respected. To ensure this, there were rules of order, among them: no silencing and no shaming. The goal was to improve our community—we could take pride in its evolving culture and identity, possibly sustain growth but above all, maintain a bedrock of safety.

There were many subjects offered for consideration. Of course, consent was a central discussion.

At one point, as ideas flew, a moderator with a marker stood at an easel and asked for the meaning of “consent.” In rapid succession came these replies:

“No means no and the absence of no does not mean yes.”

“Most consent can be seen in body language, not heard in words.”

“People coming to this party know what they’re getting into. They consent by being here.”

These thoughts came faster than they could be written. They were spoken by three long-time, experienced and influential people, who were articulating their first thought on consent, a subject on which we were all in agreement.

Do you notice? Their replies were diametrically opposed.

The moderator had asked for “meaning” rather than “definition.” Not surprisingly, the responses had been subjective: one voiced as a slogan, a second as a communication style, a third as a reality check on personal agency. Had more participants responded in that first moment, we might have added still more meanings to a word all would swear to be a central unifying tenet in our community.

So much of what we consider “consent” happens in that first moment of understanding.

Let’s imagine the three respondents decide to play together. Each says they consent and all move forward on that agreement. What is that agreement? One understands that concrete statements will be clearly articulated and firmly enforced. A second understands that in the context of communication styles which may or may not support vocalized words. A third understands that they’ve all agreed from the starting gate and so full speed ahead. Things between the three of them may go very well. They are very likely to go awry.

As in any subculture, ideas and tenets vary in meaning and emphasis due to time, geography, generations and more, much less gender, race, class, age and other identifiers that can obscure understanding. Take, for example, the above example: three people of roughly the same age, who frequent the same environment and presume to share common values, learned that they are misunderstanding one another all the time.

In my many years in a variety of scenes, I’ve observed shifting trends in sex-positive culture, even among universally agreed upon subjects. Consent is without question emphasized more today than it was twenty years ago. It was important then, of course, at a time when, in my view, a greater emphasis was put on safer sex than is true today. At that time, safer sex was still a relatively new paradigm to absorb and teach. Now, HIV is treatable and a generation has come to adulthood after the initial crisis. Today, the crisis is consent.

I’ve been called a “consent violator.”

As anyone might, I instinctively react to such a label with defensiveness and denial. It’s hard to see oneself negatively while believing oneself to be a good person, always striving to be better. Accepting such a label means acknowledging that not only am I imperfect, as are we all, but flawed, in ways that are possibly unique to me.

I am a good person who is a consent violator.

Accepting that feels awful, but opens the opportunities for change and growth. If I believe I can be a better person—which is one of the things that gets us out of bed in the morning—then I can be someone who does not violate consent. To achieve that, I need to put aside the reaction of defensiveness and open my ears to hear.

I am a consent violator.

Three-and-a-half years ago, my life was shattered by a break up. I plunged into heartbreak, churning my pain into numb words and tears, abnegating my body and medicating my wounds with alcohol. After five years with my primary partner, I accepted offers from relative strangers for BDSM play. I was not clear on boundaries, with myself and others. I apologized, for what that was worth. In order to heal, I had to become a person who was not hurting myself and others. I was fortunate to have caring friends and—can you believe the luck?—a girlfriend who is a Buddhist and a therapist. It took me time to hear her. She led me to accept help, not just from those who love me, but from professionals. I continue to find help in harm reduction, therapy and treatment for depression. I accept responsibility for my past and take present actions to avoid triggering situations, patterns of self-destructive behavior and, sometimes with difficulty, destructive relationships.

I have had my consent violated.

A teenaged girl used me for sex when I was four years old. I’ve always remembered this with clarity and never thought it meant much in my development. I’m learning now, in my fifties, that this was wishful thinking. I can see the relevance of this childhood trauma to my response to times when I’ve experienced consent violations on the scene and within trusted relationships.

Taking stock of one’s past may require setting right some records. Recently, a story has circulated alleging a past consent violation. The story is no secret. Anyone who knows me well has heard it told. Moreover, it’s been referenced on this blog since two-thousand-nine.
 

In early two-thousand-five, a friend asked to bring an acquaintance to our party. As I vetted her, she told me that she had genital herpes, adding how common that is and how many people have it and don’t know. “Thanks for letting me know,” I replied. “Just do with our group what you would normally do: let your potential partners know so they can give informed consent.”
 

That was a problem, she told me. She didn’t want to inform anyone for fear of being rejected. It wasn’t fair, she said, repeating that genital herpes is very common, and many people have it and don’t know. She would be no different than those who don’t reveal their STI status because they don’t know it.
 

This was a red flag for me. She intended to lie to my friends and to deny their informed consent. I was very uncomfortable being complicit in her lie. However, our shared friend argued that everyone should use safer sex on the presumption that people may be dishonest or unaware of their STI status. This was a case in point of dishonesty; now, we would also label it a consent violation. Yet, in deference to the insistence of our shared friend, I invited her acquaintance into my home and didn’t reveal her dishonesty.
 

(Note: I have had partners with herpes. I know this because they disclosed honestly prior to contact. I was able to give or withhold informed consent accordingly.)
 

Per my clearly stated preference, the guest and I never engaged in kissing, oral sex, intercourse or sexual acts—despite her repeated requests, in person, in front of friends and on her blog. Our sole physical interaction involved a sex toy, witnessed by a room of people, at a party on March twenty-ninth, two-thousand-five, her third visit to my home.
 

Our guest had heard my then-girlfriend describe our use of the toy, a speculum, and asked to use it. I agreed to participate, wearing latex gloves. The interaction was negotiated and consensual. When she asked to stop, we did so immediately. In aftercare, she said that the sensation reminded her of something that had happened years before. Comforted by the many friends who had witnessed our interaction, she returned to the party.
 

Soon, as she discussed our parties in her sex blog, my friends discovered the dishonesty of her STI disclosure. On these grounds—her deliberate lie that put others at risk without consent—I was asked by my friends to disinvite her from future parties, and did so.
 

She responded in her blog by expressing sadness and loss, eventually describing our sole interaction in a negative light. Her blog comments were sympathetic, while regularly pointing out that she described a negotiated, consensual scene that ended on request, followed by aftercare.
 

She concurred that the scene was negotiated and consensual. However, she maintained that once consent was withdrawn, the scene should end immediately. The toy had, in fact, been removed as quickly as was safely possible, requiring a trigger mechanism to disengage. I engaged it the moment she wanted to stop, asking, as I did so, if she was okay. She repeated the request even as I safely removed the toy. The scene had stopped immediately.
 

Duress can cause time to feel frozen. In her blog, she began to focus on the moment between asking to stop and the completed execution. The scene had ended immediately, but she wondered: how did I have time to speak if I was acting as quickly as possible?
 

Her blog commenters weighed in. One pointed out that a rope top packs safety shears so that it a scene must end, it can end as quickly as possible, though cutting rope will take a few moments. A commenter noted that if his girlfriend is on top during intercourse and he asked to stop, it would take a moment for her to move away. Compliance to consent withdrawal should be immediate. It may not be possible to be instantaneous.
 

Her replies turned against me personally. She posted that she knew my home address and parenting schedule. She could direct anyone who wanted to crash our party or worse, to do harm to me. She darkly joked that it would hurt me if my then-five-year-old daughter was raped.
 

She said this of a child. The child of a father who had himself been violated at age four.
 

Until this time, I had remained in contact with her. I expressed concern and apologized that the scene had caused her distress. I had enjoyed her company and felt bad about the necessity of removing her from our group.
 

Her threats lost her my sympathies. She had lied to my friends and put them at risk without consent. She had threatened my children. I cut her off entirely. I was angry at her threats and grateful to live in a doorman building.
 

A few years later, in March two-thousand-eight, my ex-wife discovered this blog and sued for full custody of our children, claiming that my sex life endangered the children. I ceased all parties and took down my blog. After a year in court, and an extensive review of all submitted material, including this blog, the State of New York ruled in two-thousand-nine that the children were in no danger and joint custody remained intact.
 

Per court order, I made no detailed public statements about the custody case during its duration. During my year offline, a pair of bloggers conjectured as to my silence. I had dated one of the pair briefly before ending our relationship to focus on the custody case. Seeking to cause mischief, the two bloggers contacted the disinvited guest and encouraged her to repeat her story, suggesting she leave out her shifting accounts and threats, referring to our sole physical interaction as “assault.”
 

In August two-thousand-eight, as a precautionary measure, I backed up all blogs that may have proved pertinent to my case, including that of the disinvited guest (no blog other than my own ever came up in court; the State of New York was concerned with the welfare of the children, not with the blogs of people who had no knowledge of my parenting). Her many blog posts from two-thousand-five concerning myself and the March twenty-ninth gathering had been expunged, leaving voids in a blog that had been updated daily. At no point prior to summer two-thousand-eight was the word “assault” used.
 

When the case resolved, I restored my blog and wrote about the events of that year: the custody case and the online flame war of sex bloggers, including the disinvited guest. Since two-thousand-nine, this writing has been continuously available here and linked at my FetLife account. I have often told the story onstage, for many years, to large and small audiences, in multiple cities. In two-thousand-ten, the story was also compiled and published as Feverish, Sad Drama. Anyone who knows me closely has heard the detailed story privately. It’s no secret.
 

In public accounts shortly after the custody case, I generally avoided specific details about the disinvited guest for a simple reason. As bloggers conjectured about my undisclosed custody case, they were unaware that while my ex-wife’s case rested solely on my sexuality, the state was concerned only with the welfare of the children. Opposing counsel wanted to prove that my sex life put my children at risk. The disinvited guest’s online threats could be used in an effort to prove them right—she had offered to provide my address and parenting schedule to anyone who might do harm, specifically targeting my five-year-old daughter for rape. It was not in the interest of my family to draw attention to her threats.
 

Over the years, the disinvited guest has sought to interfere with my opportunities and relationships, no doubt bolstered by my reluctance to address her reception during the two bloggers’ smear campaign of two-thousand-eight, while I was offline and my custody case remained active. She could be confident that I would not respond. And rightly so: I could afford lost opportunities, but I could ill afford to return to court with my ex-wife.
 

However, she references events that occurred over eleven years ago. I have long since left the address she visited. Two of my three children affected by the court’s custody decision have passed the age of maturation. I do not foresee my ex-wife returning to court. If we do go to court, I’m confident the threats of the disinvited guest would no longer be relevant.
 

I have no interest in revisiting this story. I regret that recent events compel me to do so, reluctantly.
 

To reiterate the key elements of the story:
 

  • She knowingly lied about her STI status, refusing to reveal that she had genital herpes, and put others at risk without their consent. I was complicit in her dishonesty. When her lie was revealed, she was disinvited from future parties. I apologized to my friends.
     
  • Our sole physical interaction was negotiated and consensual. Her request to stop was met immediately and followed by aftercare, including weeks of conversation.
     
  • Following her dismissal from our parties, she bitterly offered my address and parenting schedule online to anyone who would harm me, my friends and my family, specifically targeting my then-five-year-old daughter. I immediately severed all contact with her.
     
  • Her early accounts of our sole physical interaction confirmed a scene that was negotiated and consensual, ending on request as immediately as was safely possible. Three years after the fact, in two-thousand-eight, she created a new account of the story, deleting her own contradictory and shifting original accounts as well 
  • as all comments. She did so with the stated intent of negatively affecting an active custody case. Once more, her target was my family.
     
  • She never had any direct contact with my children.
Our narratives do not neatly dovetail. Our memories of a moment over eleven years ago are not in exact concurrence. I’m sure she has replayed the memory many times since it occurred. I know I have. I know she has told the story many times. I have as well. I’ve read her shifting accounts. Now, she has read my account. We are unlikely to fully agree.
 

Research demonstrates that revisiting a memory in mind, words and/or images, gives it form and shape that move it further from fact, not closer. She can hold fast to her facts. I can hold fast to my facts. We can call in the surviving eyewitnesses to learn their facts. Everything that is known about the mind and memory indicates that the more views we add, the further we will be from a firm truth—particularly, as in this case, concerning a traumatic experience of fleeting duration. (To be clear, I don’t mean to diminish trauma with the word “fleeting.” Much research on trauma focuses on limited moments of time with lasting durations of impact.)
 

I’m immensely grateful to my extraordinarily patient partner.
 

Comments are closed. Anyone with questions or concerns may contact me directly at onelifetaketwo@gmail.com.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Tenth Blogoversary

Ten years ago today, I posted my first story to this blog.

My blog began with long emails I wrote to my friend and drinking buddy Audacia Ray, processing my experiences with sex and dating after fifteen years of monogamous marriage. My marriage with my ex-wife Lucy had been characterized primarily by abstention; for half of our twenties and all of our thirties, neither of us had much of a sex life.

Suddenly, at age thirty nine, I found myself awaking like Rip Van Winkle to a transformed world. In my years as a devoted husband, I had moved to New York, the Internet had been invented and I written a book on sexual social history. I was prepared to launch my new sex life, though certainly surprised by the surreality of it all. For years, I had felt constrained and undesired. Now, I returned to the desires of my once-slutty youth, jump-starting my long-dormant bisexuality and group sex activities, emerging into my new discoveries of kink and BDSM.

When I began One Life, Take Two, I had no real conception of blogging—still a new phenomenon—conceiving of blogs as a sort of safe deposit box to preserve one’s writing online. Sure, it would be public, I knew, but no one could really find it.

I had assumed erroneously. My blog quickly became popular, drawing media attention and, to my greater surprise, offers of dates from people who enjoyed my writing. I’d had sex with people who though I was attractive, or smart, or funny, but to have offers from people who had never met or seen me, based solely on my writing, was astonishing. Soon, I was part of a network of fellow sex bloggers, many inspired by my own blog, creating community, education and, with great joy, the uncovering of the workings of my own heart. I fell in love.

In time, as the stories below relate, my blog was discovered by my ex wife, who immediately sued for full custody of our children, using this blog as the sole basis of her motion. I took down the blog and abandoned my online persona. Two envious bloggers, including an embittered former partner, used my absence to run a smear campaign against me. Finally, over a year after it began, the custody case ended with no changes to joint custody. I returned to blogging and documented the bizarre episode as Feverish, Sad Drama.

Still, my blogging remained intermittent. During the course of the custody case, my ex wife had outed me to my family, including our children and my parents. The smear campaign had further demonstrated the hazards of a public sex life; among other actions, the attackers had also outed me with absolute impunity. By the end of that period, in mid-two thousand nine, I was deeply involved in a relationship I had little interest in exposing to such scrutiny. I enjoyed the privacy and security afforded by a relatively private life.

Outing someone is a truly shitty thing to do. However, being out is exhilarating. My ex wife and the two smear campaigners clearly sought to do harm. In the end, they did me a favor: I was no longer constrained by the need to avoid public exposure. If I chose, I could appear in photographs, video, audio and on stage. 

This freedom led me to storytelling. After time on the stages of the Moth and elsewhere, three years ago I began to curate and host Bare! True Stories ofSex, Desire and Romance, based in New York and frequently appearing in other cities. My years of blogging proved a good training ground for encouraging others to tell their own stories and now, much of my time is spent traveling the East Coast, telling and listening. 

I've been fortunate for the wonderful correspondences, friendships and loves to enter my life since I first hit "publish" on this blog.

Every year on my blogoversary, I reprint the tale that began this journey: a remarkable weekend-long first date (if you don’t count the orgy at which we met). If you enjoy, read back to find other stories.

If you miss me here, find me at my accounts on Facebook, FetLife, OKCupid and Twitter. Follow Bare!, come out to shows to say hello.

For now, meet My Celia. Enjoy!

Photograph by Adrian Buckmaster. New York, July 5, 2014.

It’s been over a year since the break up.

For most of that year, I have hosted sex parties in Manhattan. I suppose I will need to catch you up on how that transpired. I’ve made great friends and lovers at these parties, and yet I haven’t often had the feeling of falling head over heels for someone.

Until my Celia.

I met Celia at a party at my place last spring. She arrived late with a guy who comes sometimes. The regulars were already naked, well fucked and relaxed.

Celia sat on a bed and chatted with us. She was dressed in jeans and a black t-shirt, worn backwards so that the logo was illegible. As we talked, Jane removed Celia’s clothes, and had soon stripped her naked. Jane kissed her torso as Celia leaned back, opening her thighs; we heard her gasp as Jane’s mouth reached her clit.

Being gracious like she is, Jane soon turned and offered me Celia’s body. I set to licking Jane's drool from Celia's labia.

As we fucked, as we did almost immediately, I decided not to stop fucking her. This is not the best form at a sex party, particularly for the host; one really should offer new guests an opportunity to work the room.

I doubt that Celia cared much for etiquette. She had gorgeous hazel-green eyes, focused intently on mine. I kept her gaze, noticing details at the periphery. Celia had a lovely face: aquiline nose, pre-Raphaelite features, framed in long black hair.

I was soon very curious to know more about the woman I was fucking, and so thought maybe we could take a break to chat.

"I would really like to talk with you," I said, meaning "Maybe we can stop and talk."

"Sure . . . what do you want to talk about?" she replied, as if I meant we should have a conversation while fucking. I was willing.

"So, where did you grow up?," I asked. I learned that she grew up in New England, she is an art student, and she would be working on a farm all summer. Within those first few moments, I gleaned that we had art in common, the sex was great, and I wouldn't be able to see her again for months.

I finally let her have sex with some of the others. Later we kissed, as intently as we had gazed. As she left, she stood in the door, giving me long, hungry kisses, as her date waited for her.

As it happened, she had an art show up, and as it happened, I was in the neighborhood the very next day. I was glad to see her art was good.

The summer passed.

Two weeks ago, I got an email from her, saying she was back in town and wanted to return to the sex parties. Cool!

I suggested we get together, and proposed we go check out the new Museum of Modern Art on opening day, as I had special tickets. It turned out she did too.

Later, we learned that the opening day was free to the public. So much for special access.

We decided to meet at an exhibition by Barbara Nitke at Art@Large gallery, get lunch, and see the museum--which we knew would be hellishly crowded. Nitke’s photos have to do with sadomasochism (SM). While not into SM herself, Nitke has an empathic insight into the lives of those who are. There is a strong sense of intimacy and care in her photographs.

Celia was late for our date, which was fine with me. We saw Nitke's work together. Celia says she knew many of the images, having seen Nitke lecture at the Eulenspeigel Society, a New York based organization for those into SM.

(I catalogued those details—Celia already knew Nitke and the Eulenspeigel Society?)

We lunched, and talked about out first encounter. It was her first sex party, she said, and her moment with Jane was her first encounter with a woman. She liked it, but she was taking downers at the time, which she regretted.

I referred to this as a pretty unusual second date. She agreed: first sex, then a lunch date. We were doing it backwards. She says she is surprised that she feels so shy.

She talked about her gaggle of girlfriends, and how she makes nude films of them, but can't imagine sex with them--though she really wants to be bisexual, as it's hip (it is?) and of course, there are more options for sex if you are bi.

She opines that the MoMA is going to be crazy crowded, and maybe we shouldn't go. This leaves her with two hours to kill before her yoga class . . . what can we do? Well, I suggest, we can go to my place and kiss. She looks at me like she can't believe I suggested this. I can't believe it myself—I am really getting bold.

"Okay," she says, "but I really am feeling shy about this. Is it too early to drink? Do you have any bourbon?"

"A girl after my own heart." I actually said that out loud.

Soon, we are at my place, on my couch, sipping bourbon. Soon, we are kissing. Fully clothed. For a long, sweet time.

Soon we are nude, in my bed, kissing. Touching. For a long, sweet time. She is so into gazing, touching, kissing, and I am melting, melting, melting. As the time passes, and her yoga class approaches, I think it will be wise not to start fucking. But I do go down on her. And she cums. And she cums again as I kiss her and hold her very close.

I should mention that she does intense yoga five times a week. And she is a semi-pro athlete. She has a strong, lean body. When she held me firmly, she knocked the breath out of me. Mind you, I was pretty breathless.

I tell her to go, it's time. She declines to leave. We fuck. Like all the foreplay, it's slow, and intense. At one point, I'm on top of her, holding myself up with my arms at full length. She is about to cum. She sits up, putting her arms around my shoulders. She lifts her ass from the bed. She is clinging to me, hanging from my body in air, pushing herself down on me. She cums. I can scarcely believe she made my body work that way.

We are back to kissing, touching . . . she discovered my sensitive nipples, and slowly tortured them. Exquisitely.

I am laying on top of her, tracing a finger along her nose, her lips, her cheeks. I take a breath. "You are really beautiful," I say. "You don't have to be. I would be nice to you anyway. But it helps that you are."

She looks down at me. "Are you bi?" she asks. I say I am. "I do well with the bi guys," she says. Why is that, you think? "Must be my physique," she says, flexing a bicep that would give pause to Charles Atlas.

She said she was hungry. I went to the kitchen and produced Spanish rice, steamed shrimp, and fresh calamari sauteed in garlic. We eat nude.

As we eat, we talk about the Nitke photos. She mentions liking one in which a man is fully bound to a flotation board, adrift in a pool. I say that there was such a sense of risk in that position. She says she likes the feeling of being bound.

I recall how she came when I was holding her, on top of her, as she pulled me closer to crush her.

"I can bind you," I offer. She produces rope and ankle bracelets from her bag, saying they were intended for a possible film shoot later that night. I dig up handcuffs and other stuff. She is soon strapped to my bed on all fours.

I torture her nipples. I tell her I am going to verbally abuse her. "Yes," she murmurs. I ask her why, with all that we've been doing, she has not sucked my cock? "Are you bad at it or something?" I ask. She opens her mouth, wide. I feed her my cock, and fuck her face hard. She can take it very well, so I commend her. Then I slap her for making me wait for that.

We had already established that she is an ass virgin, and so I take her to task for this. How can I let her fuck my friends if she can't even do anal? So I move around and give her a hard spanking. I lick her hole, and blow air in her. She moans. She can't help but fart. I spank her for this, and do it again. "This will burn, but only for a second," I warn. I take a sip of bourbon, and blow it up her ass. I plug it with my thumb, and then a butt plug.

I fuck her pussy.

"Can you take candle wax?," I ask. Never tried it, she mumbles. I drip wax on her back and ass for a very long time. She squirms until I tell her to be still. (Later she asked: was I making too much noise? I can try to be less responsive. Oh no, I say. You did very well.)

In time, I release her and take her to the shower. I wash her body, and flake off the wax. We go back to bed and it's tender again. She falls asleep. I read.

We woke up entangled, touching . . . her fingers are never still when they can be caressing. We spend the morning in bed. There was a joy in this, so palpable, for me at least, that I had to take care lest blurting out, "I am so in love with you."

I had to remind myself, I really don’t know Celia so well. Not yet.

I make her breakfast—bacon, eggs, and her first helping of grits. We were both very sated. We talk about how she just broke up with her boyfriend, and she had broken with her other two lovers in the last month. I say I am hers, when she wants me. Her eyes fix on mine. “That’s right,” she smiles.

My friend Todd calls. He reminds me that we are going to fuck this woman from Texas that night. I had offered to host, and said I would line up some others to join us. I had invited Thomas, that was easy, but I was so busy with Celia all weekend, I didn’t do much more.

I asked Celia if she wanted to do a group thing that night. She pondered it but declined. She was already well sexed. So was I, really.

Around two or three, I kissed goodbye to my Celia. I had a gang bang in a few hours. I would spend that time in the thrall of my Celia, picking up flecks of candle wax, and writing to my friend Dacia about her.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Valentine's Day


This story is also told on the “The Sweet Hereafter” podcast of Kevin Allison’s RISK! Show.

We planned a quiet Valentine’s Day. It fell on a Thursday and early the next morning, we were getting into a car with a married lesbian couple to drive to Washington, D.C., for Dark Odyssey Winter Fire, an annual weekend-long kink event at which I’d be presenting.

Kay always joined me for these events, often acting as my “demo bottom,” meaning I’d use her body to demonstrate whatever technique was being discussed. Of course, it was also an opportunity to display her nude beauty, always a real crowd pleaser. Our easy banter and comfort with one another made us appear like a magician with his assistant—a sleight of hand in which the audience is largely unaware that only the assistant’s collaboration insures the resulting magic.

I had heard of an organization offering HIV tests as part of a study. Not only were the tests free, each participating subject was reimbursed twenty-five dollars. We were due for testing anyway, so I proposed to Kay that we each get tested and regard our combined fifty bucks as Valentine’s Day mad money; we could have our fingers pricked, get the results, enjoy an early dinner on this study and get to bed by midnight.

She laughed that this wouldn’t exactly be our most romantic Valentine’s Day. We’d set that bar pretty high four years prior when I took her to see Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, then to her first sex party and capped off the night with a pre-dawn dinner at White Castle (which, in case you don’t know, puts on a very nice Valentine’s Day).

I noted that the organization targeted gay men. I sent an email to ask if the study was available to bisexual men and women who have sex with men who have sex with men. No one had asked that before, I was told, but yes, we were both eligible. I made reservations for our Valentine’s Day date.

I was waiting in the lobby when she arrived from work. “These things always make me nervous,” she said as we took the elevator. “I mean, I’m not worried or anything, but still . . .”

“It’s anxiety provoking,” I agreed. “I’m not worried either, and you get results in about twenty minutes, but that’s a tough twenty minutes.” She knew this; we’d accompanied each other to get tested many times. We’d even taken her sister to her first testing. I took her hand. “And remember, honey: fifty bucks.” I rubbed my fingers together. “That’s a lot of White Castle.”

She shook her head. “I’ve found a cheese restaurant. Leave that to me.”

We signed in and waited briefly in a small room filled with posters, brochures and bowls of free condoms. I stuffed my pockets with condoms, as I always do. Kay swatted my hand, as she always does.

A man emerged from an office. “Jefferson and Kay? Hello, I’m Herbierto. I’ll be your counselor and conducting your tests today. Would you care to step into my office?” We gathered our coats and followed. He offered us chairs in a small room and began to sit. “Well, this is refreshing. I have to say, we rarely get male-female couples.” He stopped mid-sit. “I’m sorry, that was presumptuous. Do you identify as male and female?”

“Yes, that’s right,” laughed my beautiful, femme, long-haired girlfriend.

“I appreciate being asked,” answered her bald, bearded boyfriend.

“Well, one can’t be too careful, right? Okay, so I’m going to ask some questions, just very standard intake before testing, and then we’ll do the tests themselves. Have you been tested before?” We had. “And do you want to get tested together?”

“Sure, we’re each here to get tested,” I replied.

“No, I think he means, do we want to get our tests done at the same time. Together,” Kay said. “Is that what you mean?”

“Yes, I’m sorry if that was confusing,” Herbierto said. “Some couples do, some couples don’t. If there’s any concern or preference, of course we can do it separately.”

“There’s no concern,” Kay said, looking at me. “Right?”

“Oh, no, right. I’ve just never been asked that question. Sure, we can do it together.”

“Okay, good. I’m going to make notes as we talk and you’ll sign these forms.” Herbierto’s copper bracelets jangled on his desk as he wrote. He ran through standard questions I’d heard for over twenty years, Kay for about five. We’d both been tested in the previous year. Neither of us used intravenous drugs. Neither of us had any immediate health concerns. Neither of us feared we’d put ourselves in danger if we had a bad result. We both understood the testing procedures as Herbierto described them. We volunteered that we were in an open relationship. “Oh, that’s interesting,” Herbierto noted, scribbling. “Do you have other regular partners, or many, or . . .”

“We each play with other people at parties and stuff, but honestly,” I said, looking to Kay for confirmation. “Not that much lately.” I hadn’t realized it until then, but we rarely had sex with our friends at parties. Not like we used to.

“I’m seeing one other guy, for about a month,” Kay volunteered. “We only play safe.”

“Yeah, and I guess I’m dating two other women,” I added. Only two? Was that right? 

The discussion led to our revelation that we go to orgies and that the next day, we’d be off to a kink event. Now we all let down our hair a bit; Herbierto knew about such things, and so we felt comfortable talking about them. In time, we moved to the lab for the tests.

The tests are simple. We’ve done them many times. A finger prick to each of us and we were sent to the waiting room. We had twenty minutes of anticipated undue anxiety. I held her hand as we talked about the cheese restaurant she’d discovered, keeping our minds on the night ahead. It wasn’t yet eight. We’d be there before nine.

Herbierto called us back into the lab. Kay and I sat next to one another in folding chairs. 

“Okay, so I have the results to give you. One of you is nonreactive and the other is reactive.” He looked at me. “Jefferson, your test is reactive.”

My mind numbed. “What . . . what does that mean?” Kay asked.

“It means that your test came back nonreactive to antibodies to the HIV virus, meaning HIV isn’t detected. Jefferson’s test came back reactive, meaning antibodies to HIV are detected.”

She looked at me and then to Herbierto. “Is there any chance that’s wrong?”

Herbierto shook his head. “Everyone wants to think that, but these tests are ninety-nine point eight percent accurate. ELISA tests—that’s what they’re called—are the most often used because they’re reliably accurate. So what I can do now is try the test again.”

“Yes. Do that,” Kay said. She turned to me. “Baby, what’s happening?”

I shook my head. “I just . . .” I had nothing to say.

“Jefferson?” Herbierto stepped toward me. “Are you going to be okay taking the test again?”

I nodded. “Yes, let’s do another.” Herbierto pulled on gloves, unwrapped a test and pricked my finger. Kay followed him to watch it be processed as Herbierto explained the steps and showed her how to read the results. I sat in my chair, arms resting numb in my lap.

The test results were the same: reactive.

I was then given another test. The Western Blot test required smears of my blood on a card. The card would be sent to another lab. Those results would be back in one week.

Herbierto took us down the hall to meet with the project director. The two of them explained that I would need to come back in a week to hear the confirmation result of the Western Blot test. At that time, they would begin to walk me through the steps of treating my HIV.

However, at this time, we needed to address Kay’s situation. We had had unprotected sex within the previous forty-eight hours. Therefore, she needed to immediately begin a regimen of post-exposure prophylactics, which would require prescriptions they were unable to provide. They would accompany us, now, as we walked to the emergency room at Mount Sinai, where she would be tested again and given medication.

We gathered our coats and waited as Herbierto and the director went through the steps of closing their office. We were the day’s last clients.

“Oh, nearly forgot.” Herbierto stepped behind the reception desk and made notes in a ledger. “Here,” he said, placing it on the counter. “Sign here and initial here. I need to give you each your twenty-five dollars for participating in the study.”

“This is the hardest twenty-five dollars I’ve ever earned,” I said, scribbling my signature. 

Kay and I held hands as we walked to the hospital with Herbierto and the director. It was a cold, clear night. We passed couples with flowers and red balloons.

Herbierto took us to the reception desk in the emergency room and explained our situation, adding that it was time-sensitive, as we had recently had unprotected sex. Kay filled out forms as the four of us sat waiting. Soon, Kay was called back. I was allowed to accompany her. Herbierto and the director offered to remain in the waiting room for as long as it took.

We sat with a nurse and Kay was once again interviewed about her medical history and our sexual activity. We were then brought to a bay and told to wait. Kay sat on a bed.

We were now alone for the first time since meeting for our tests. Kay began to cry. “Jefferson, I don’t understand. How is this happening?”

I sat next to her, pulling her head to my shoulder. “I don’t know, girl.” I kissed her head. “This is so hard to believe.”

“Is there something you’re not telling me? Please, tell the truth.” Her words were soft.

“No. There’s nothing.” It was true. I couldn’t recall anything that had happened since my last test that would have put me—us—at risk. “There’s no . . . I’m being truthful . . . I can’t think of anything.”

She sat back. “But you would tell me if you did. You’d have to.” 

I rested a hand on hers. “I would.”

She slumped forward. “What if I have it, too?”

I felt my own tears, now for the first time. “Baby, no, that would be the worst. I’m so glad you’re okay.”

“For now. I have to keep getting tested.” She brushed the hair from her wet cheeks. Her words faded into tears. I held her hand to my lips. We sat quietly. 

Time passes slowly in an emergency room. Eventually, a nurse in red scrubs came to us. Once again, Kay was interviewed about her medical history and our sexual activity. Blood was drawn. We were told to wait.

It was about eleven. We agreed that there was nothing more that Herbierto and the director could do that night. We could manage. I went to the waiting room to let them know. Both offered to stay longer, but if we were sure we’d be okay, they’d go. They both hugged me and implored me to call if we needed anything.

Kay’s test came back nonreactive. She was given prescriptions and samples of her medications. She was to take them twice daily for three months, when she would be due for the first follow up tests. She swallowed two of samples and signed some forms. We gathered our things and left by midnight.

We walked past the darkened park and closed shops. We knew we should eat and, in a curious way, we were determined to have our Valentine’s date. The cheese restaurant was closed, as were most in the area. I knew of a place near St. Mark’s with nice ambience. We arrived to find that at this hour, it was a hookah bar with a limited menu. I suggested we get away from the cloying smell, but she was hungry and tired, so we stayed. Over hummus and wine, we relaxed.

“It feels weird to just be sitting here, like nothing’s happened,” she remarked.

“It does. I mean, happy Valentine’s Day.” I raised my glass. “Not our most romantic, but certainly momentous.” She laughed and clinked her glass. “Now, let’s talk about anything other than the elephant in the room.”

As we talked, we realized that we were due to meet our friends in a few hours to drive to a kink event where I would be presenting. “We can’t do that,” she said. “It doesn’t seem right and I can’t stop myself from crying every time I think about this. Not that I’ve stopped thinking about it.”

I had to agree. There was no way I could spend a weekend presenting on sex and kink having just learned that I’m HIV positive. Not only that, some of my presentations involve hands-on interaction. While I always used gloves and barriers for these, I would need to tell my demo bottoms of my new status. I wasn’t ready to do that. I wasn’t ready to tell anyone.

We returned home. I wrote to the event organizer to regretfully withdraw from the roster. I texted our friends to say we wouldn’t be able to join them; we could pay for gas as promised so that they weren’t stiffed. My excuse was an unspecified “family emergency.”

The event organizer replied the next morning that all was understood and to be well.

Our friends replied with concern. Are you and Kay all right? Are your kids okay? Don’t worry about the gas money; what’s going on?

I replied that I appreciated their concern, and thank them for it, but this is all I can say for now. They understood and offered love. They’d be with us when we needed them. I asked them to pass on word to our friends that we were sorry we’d be missing them.

Kay and I now had a three-day weekend in which to adjust to the news.

I could tell that I was numb. I didn’t feel denial—I was sure this must be true—though I didn’t understand how it could be true. I didn’t want to think about it. I knew I would have to, once I met with Herbierto again to go over treatment possibilities, but that was six days in the future. I still had this remaining time in which no one had to know my status, and I didn’t have to acknowledge it with every choice I made. 

For now, I wanted to make coffee, as I always did, and to spend days with my beloved, as I always did, and to avoid sex with her, which would be alien and saddening.

Kay responded differently. Her mind raced with questions. How did this happen? What would she tell Jed, the friend she’d just started dating? What would this mean for us? Would we now just be friends, or roommates? Would she get sick? If not, would she find someone else to be with, though she loved me, and wanted me to know that, but what if . . . ?

I listened as she worked out these questions, replying, over and again, I know, it’s hard, we’ll figure things out as we can. I’m sorry I’m not in a place right now to come up with answers to these questions, but we will. I’m sure counseling will help and that was my next step. She understood, but her mind raced.

Whereas I felt resigned to powerlessness, she couldn’t rest with that. She busied herself on websites, learning more about symptoms, treatments, options.

I felt I already knew all I wanted to know about HIV. I had ended my primary education on the virus in nineteen-ninety-two.

When Lucy and I moved to New York in nineteen-ninety, one of the things I most happily anticipated was reuniting with my high-school boyfriend, Donnie. He’d moved to the city just after graduation, and I’d visited him often over in the intervening eight years. Now, we’d be able to visit frequently.

He and his boyfriend Chris helped us to move into our new apartment, a fifth floor walk-up on York Avenue. Always thin, Donnie seemed emaciated. He nonetheless insisted on carrying our air conditioner upstairs on his own.

Not long after, I met my high-school girlfriend Debbie for coffee. As we parted, she said she was going to visit Donnie in the hospital. “Oh no, what happened?” I asked, knowing the answer, hoping her answer would be better news. Maybe he’d only been hit by a bus.

“Jefferson, Donnie has AIDS.”

I knew that. I knew that.

I joined Debbie on her visit. Donnie was sheepish when he saw me. “Honey, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you yet.” He threw up his hands. “Surprise!”

“Well, you sure got me this time.” I sat next to him in bed, resting my head on his shoulder.  

Over the next two years, I was one of a handful of friends who helped Donnie to die. Because I resembled him, I collected his benefits when he was hospitalized. We made his medical decisions when he was unable. We took shifts so that he was rarely alone. We helped him to walk until he was no longer able. He died with Chris by his side, as I took a cab in a vain attempt to outrace death. The last time I touched the young man I loved, who had been the boy I loved, it was through a vinyl body bag.

At age twenty-seven, I had had enough of HIV.

Now, I was the infected boyfriend of Kay, age twenty-eight.

The next day, Kay found a clinic that offered the RNA test for HIV. The test is more reliable than ELISA, the finger prick test that we’d been given, but less commonly given due to its exorbitant cost: typically, upwards of five-hundred dollars.

The clinic Kay found charged three-hundred dollars for the test. She was going to make an appointment. “Do you want me to make an appointment for you, too?” she asked. “I’ll pay for it if you can’t.”

“No, thanks, baby. I’ll get my confirmation this week. No sense wasting the money. Besides, I don’t think I can take hearing the news again.” I understood Kay’s desire for more information. My diagnosis gave me more information than I wanted. Hearing more about it was soon to become the focus of my life.

Kay’s appointment was scheduled for the following day. We spent that day as we normally would—minus sex—regularly commenting on how odd our normality felt. I fielded texts from friends at the kink event. All expressed concern for our “family emergency.” On most weekends, no one would notice if we simply laid low. On this weekend, I had been booked to make a public appearance and our absence was observed by many.

On Saturday morning, we picked up our CSA, dropped it at home, and walked to get Kay’s third HIV test in as many days. I waited at a Dunkin Donuts as she went into the clinic. She soon returned with the results.  She was negative, confirming the nonreactive result of the ELISA test. We hugged outside the doughnut shop, relieved at this more definitive return. 

We decided that we should go ahead to fill the prescriptions, as that had been the treatment when Kay first tested negative. We could discuss this with Herbierto when I went in for my result.  

This result was good news, of course, if perplexing: I was HIV positive and my partner of five years was negative. Did this mean Kay might have been exposed much more recently than my most recent negative result? If so, did that close the window even more on the activity that caused my exposure? I didn’t want to raise this with her, but I racked my brain for possibilities and found none.

We didn’t want to discuss this with anyone until we’d had time to process it ourselves. Kay didn’t have a pending date with her new boyfriend Jed, so she didn’t need to bring it up yet. I’d planned to be at the kink event and had no dates planned, either. At one point, I questioned how I would raise this with my kids.

“What if you didn’t?” Kay asked.

Her reply seemed to be formed in a language I didn’t comprehend. Of course I would tell my kids, and all my family. I’d be obliged to tell my sex partners, present and future, if ever I had a new sex partner, which I preferred not to think about.

I never really considered withholding this from my kids. But the thought that it was possible—that doing so could spare them worry—reminded me how much treatment had changed since Donnie died two decades ago. His diagnosis had been a death sentence. Now, treatment had advanced so that people have lived with HIV in good health for several decades. I was forty-nine. If HIV causes my death in three or four decades, well, then that’s how I’ll die. I would’ve lived a full life.  

Having tested negative allayed Kay’s fears, yet nothing seemed fully resolved. She’d keep taking the prophylactics, keep getting tested, for months. She remained anxious. “I know, I shouldn’t think this,” she said. “But you’re older. You already have kids. I want that, too. I want kids, but if I’m sick . . .” I had no answer to that. My greatest fear was that I’d infected the woman I loved, denying her the life she might’ve lived.

But for our overriding fixation on HIV, the weekend progressed as any other. We watched movies. We putzed around the apartment. We went out to a nice dinner at our favorite local restaurant, enjoying the romance we had been denied on Valentine’s Day. On Monday, Kay returned to work, leaving me alone for the first time since the diagnosis. It was a relief, in some ways. “I’m sorry, you‘re spending so much time comforting me,” Kay had said. “I should be comforting you!” I replied, truthfully, that taking care of her helped me. I felt better and, through her feelings, more connected to our new reality. Now, I was alone with my own feelings. 

I kept drifting back to Donnie. I remembered how often he apologized for putting us out with all the time and effort his care required. We told him to stop being foolish, we loved him and this is what love does. Yet it did envelop our lives and psyches. My time was divided between Donnie, school, work and my girlfriend Lucy. There were times I had to participate in major medical decisions—Donnie’s need for pain relief, his dread of becoming addicted to morphine, his apparent lack of understanding that any possibility of addiction would be dealt with by his imminent death. There were times I had to ask my boss for long lunches so I could race to feed Donnie’s cat, not facing my own lack of understanding that Donnie was never coming home. It was possible that I would be putting those who love me through similar demands, extraordinary and mundane, echoing Donnie’s lament of helpless apologies.

It was too soon to reveal my diagnosis. It was possible to keep it secret, to a point. I could spare my family some anguish. But my life has been too public for anything to remain fully discreet. If I told one person about my HIV, I might as well have told everyone. Gossip travels fast. The secret would be out.

Pondering my work as a sex educator—particularly in the immediate light of having canceled my presentations at a kink event—I felt it would be wrong to keep my status private. If my goal has been to be open and talk honestly, then I would be cheating myself by denying the truth to others. Perhaps my future, then, would be in educating myself and others that HIV doesn’t have to mean the end of one’s sex life.

I regretted facing the inevitable decriers, those who say that bisexual men are the highest risk in transmitting HIV between homosexuals and heterosexuals. That argument has been around since the beginnings of the AIDS crisis. It’s pernicious denigration, no worse for being untrue, and sex-positive advocates work hard to correct such stereotypes and misperceptions. And yet here I was, the very embodiment of that idea. I had publicized my bisexuality and hypersexual behavior, and now, I had HIV. I was living proof that my life and writing are unsafe examples. In this, my work may have done more harm than good.  

Weekday routines focused us somewhat on getting through the days. We did our work, ate our meals, slept wrapped in one another. There were times we stared unproductively at blank screens, felt uninspired to cook, lay awake, talking.

Kay wept. I remained numb. We were waiting for the next step: the confirmation of my status.
Herbierto contacted me to confirm an appointment. It was a time Kay couldn’t join me. We would’ve preferred otherwise, but Herbierto said this was all they had and the appointment would take time. Kay and I would meet when she was off from work.

When I arrived, Herbierto ushered me into the lab and offered me a seat. He leaned against a counter.

“I’ve been doing this since I was thirteen and I’ve never seen this. Jefferson, your Western Blot came back negative. You do not have HIV.”

I was stunned. Of the swirl of questions taking form in my mind, the first I asked was, “You’ve been doing this since you were thirteen?”

Herbierto laughed. “Yes, I was a young activist and went into medicine to help people with HIV. Did you hear the rest of what I said?”

“Yes. But is it possible it’s a mistake?”

“No, it’s not. It’s even more definitive than ELISA . . .”

“And that was, what? Ninety-nine point eight percent accurate?”

“It’s a good test. But what it does is test for antibodies to the virus. Western Blot tests for the virus itself. A false positive with ELISA is very rare, though it does happen. Usually the subject’s immune system is in flux, like maybe they had a flu shot or they’re pregnant.”

“I haven’t had a flu shot,” I said. “And I’m pretty sure I’m not pregnant.”

“Sometimes, very rarely, it just happens.” He sat next to me. “This must be very confusing.”

I shook my head, disbelieving. “I had HIV for a week. But you’re telling me I don’t have it anymore.”

“That must’ve been a rough week. Yes, now we know you don’t. Now, just to be thorough, we’re going to run an RNA test . . .”

“Kay did that last weekend. It came up negative.”

“Good, I’m so glad. I hope it gave her some peace. We don’t usually run it here, because it’s expensive, but you’re a special case.”

“I look forward to an end to being special.” Herbierto ran the test. It confirmed my status: negative. We went to talk with the project director, to go over all the results and discuss how I felt on hearing them. I was urged to call if I had any questions or needed anything else.

“Oh, and one more thing,” Herbierto said as I prepared to go. “You get another twenty-five dollars for participating in the study.”

“This is the happiest twenty-five dollars I’ve ever earned,” I smiled, signing the ledger.

Outside, I called Kay. “I have good news and good news,” I said. “I’m negative. And they gave me another twenty-five dollars.”

“Oh my God,” she exclaimed.

“I know, right? We made a combined seventy-five dollars.”

“Jefferson, I can’t believe this. This is such good news. So unbelievable! Are they sure?”

“They are so sure. They ran Western Blot and RNA and just kept telling me. I’m negative.”

“Where are you? I’m leaving work. I’m so happy! I love you! God!”

That night, Kay and I had a second Valentine’s Day dinner. I thanked her for the roughest week of our lives. “I can’t believe how well you handled this,” I said, holding her hand.

“Yeah, by crying all the time,” she laughed.

“Sure, that’s natural. But honey, we went through all this, and none of it made sense. Yet you believed I was confused and not holding back information . . .”

“Well, I did doubt you. I mean, how is it possible?”

“Understandable, but . . . you let there be trust. When it was impossible.”

She squeezed my hand. “Because I love you.”

“And you never once, in all that, said we were finished.” I kissed her hand. “I have never, never felt this safe with someone. I love you.”

That night, we finally made love.

Finally, I cried.