On July fifteenth, just before midnight, I pulled in front of Lucy’s house. As we had called ahead, she sat waiting on the front stoop, smoking and drinking a beer. She smiled and stamped out her cigarette. I smiled back. She avoided eye contact with me; her smile was for the children.
The kids and I were returning from our annual two-week vacation with my family back home. After two days on the road, I was glad to be getting home. The kids leapt from the car as soon as I parked. I unpacked the trunk as the kids hugged their mother and began excitedly relating the adventures we had on the road and on the lake.
“Bet you’re looking forward to some quiet,” Lucy said to me.
“Oh yes,” I smiled. “I’ve heard enough ‘hey Dad, hey Dad,’ to last for a while. I’m sure you’re glad to get them back.”
“I am,” she nodded. “I really need them, especially when they’re gone.”
I put a bag over my shoulder and lifted two others. “Here, let me get these things in the house and I’ll be on my way; they won’t calm down for a while.”
“I know! They are really bouncing up and down.” Having satisfied the need to acknowledge me, Lucy returned to the children. I set down the bags in the living room. I’m very rarely in the home we once shared, maybe once a year, and each time, I’m struck by the fact that it looks exactly the same. It’s as if time had stopped when Lucy kicked me out five years earlier.
I said goodbyes to the children, kissing each of them, and waved a goodbye to Lucy. I closed the door on my way out, the children’s voices following me to the car. As I drove away, I turned off the radio, rolled down the windows and enjoyed the quiet summer air. Funny, when you think of it, I mused. Twenty years ago that night, Lucy and I had made love for the first time.
Lucy and I worked at the same bookstore. I was an assistant manager; later, we would joke that this was the last time in our relationship that she wasn’t the boss. We had worked together for six months before she took a long look at me and decided I might be worth dating. But first, she had to clear something up: was I or was I not dating William?
William had come to work at the bookstore that spring. He took an immediate liking to me and followed me everywhere. “He’s like your new puppy,” a friend observed. William knew I was bisexual, as did everyone, but, as he constantly reminded me, he was straight. He had a girlfriend. Together, they tended a gay bed and breakfast. Whenever I visited, I read their copies of Honcho and Bear.
One day, William called me upset. He and his girlfriend were breaking up and he needed to move out. His parents lived in the suburbs and he was welcome there, but he didn’t want to return home. I suggested that he stay with me until things were sorted out. That night, he moved in and we began to share the bed in my tiny room.
My friend teased that we were now an item. “No, it’s not like that,” I replied. “William is straight.”
“So? You’ve been with straight boys.”
I tilted my head. “William is straight and Catholic.”
“Ooh.” My friend nodded. “So that means waiting until he says his prayers.”
“Not happening.” I maintained.
Still, like everyone else at the bookstore, Lucy assumed that William and I were having sex. She decided to get to the heart of the matter. One evening after work, she invited William to join her for a beer. They walked to a nearby Ethiopian restaurant. When the beers were served, Lucy got to the point. “So are you and Jefferson doing it?”
William spurted his beer. “What? No! No, no way. I like him as a friend, and he’s bi, so maybe . . . maybe he’s into me that way. But I couldn’t . . . wait, why, did he say something?”
“No, he didn’t say anything. So you’re sure he likes girls?”
“Sure, he likes girls. Why?”
Lucy smiled. “I think he’s sexy.”
William sat back. “No way! Really? Come on, you have to tell him. Come over tonight.” He reached for his beer. “Hurry, drink this. We can get some more beer on the way to our place.”
Lucy laughed. “You’d think you were the one getting a date!”
I closed the bookstore that night at eleven. After accounting and closing up, I walked home, stopping to pick up a six of Rolling Rock. I was surprised to find Lucy and William on the front porch. I sat with them. Lucy passed her one hit. We sat talking and drinking beer. It was getting late and Lucy showed no sign of leaving. I was a little nervous about smoking pot on the porch, so I recommended that we go inside to my room.
As William and Lucy laughed and rolled a joint, I put on an album. I liked Lucy but I was feeling a bit put out. Maybe William wasn’t my boyfriend, but still, I wasn’t keen on him bringing girls home to my room. I didn’t want to be put out on the couch while they screwed.
Lucy suggested that we play strip poker. William lost, but refused to part with his boxers. Then Lucy lost and refused to remove her panties. She did concede her breasts. Finally, I cheated so that I would lose and undressed. “This is the point of strip poker,” I chided. “You get naked to see what happens next.”
What happened next was that Lucy kissed me. My hands touched her body, finding William’s hands already there. This was really nice, I thought. I hadn’t had a threesome in such a long time.
The three of us fooled around, kissing and touching, until I recommended that we go to the roof. Being nude outside and making out was even hotter. Soon, I was going down on Lucy, my knees scraping on shingles. William watched, stroking his cock. After a moment, Lucy stopped me. “Hang on, that’s a bit much. Can we stop for a second? I need to catch my breath.”
“Sure.” I grinned and moved to be next to her. I nuzzled my face into her neck.
“Listen,” she whispered. “I’m here for you, not William. Can you make him go away?”
I sat back. “I had no idea.” I turned to William. “Hey buddy, can we have some time alone?”
William was taken aback. I was asking him to walk away from a naked woman, something contrary to his every instinct. “Um, okay,” he said, still holding his erection. “I’ll, um, meet you guys downstairs.”
“Thanks, buddy.” I watched as he climbed the ladder back to my room. I turned back to Lucy. “So I thought I was crashing your date.”
“No, he was crashing ours.” We kissed. That night, we had sex until well past dawn. She declined to sleep over, saying she had to feed her cat. The following night, she came back.
I had received a video camera for college graduation just a few weeks earlier. I videotaped everything. That night, William made a video of Lucy and I making love. Our sex was slow and sensuous, just right for a summer night with soft lighting and ambient music.
William’s video interspersed footage of us with shots of my room: the lamp, the bookcase, the poster of Rilke. After a while, he put down the camera and joined us. His energy was entirely different from ours. Watching us through a viewfinder had left him keyed up and anxiously aroused. He had sex with Lucy abruptly, pulling out to shoot on her stomach. Lucy would later say it was the fastest sex she had ever had. I offered the excuse that William had probably never been so turned on in his life.
Lucy wasn’t interested in more sex with William. He knew he was a third wheel, so he set out to add a fourth. He began to date Lucy’s best friend. She joined the three of us almost every night, nude, talking, laughing, smoking pot, making love, passing around the video camera.
I thought about that summer, twenty years later, as I drove home from Lucy’s house. These were among my fondest memories of what it was like to fall in love with Lucy. I had replayed these memories in my mind over and again as our marriage became increasingly devoid of intimacy, replaying the videos now and then to remember more precisely what we had said and how we had felt.
I hadn’t looked at videos in quite some time until after my divorce, when William suggested we dust them off. “Wow, we were so young,” I said. “I was one skinny kid.”
“And look,” he grinned. “We both had hair.” We laughed and then fell silent, eavesdropping on our younger selves. I watched as he massaged Lucy. “Oops, sorry about that,” he winced.
“Ha, no worries,” I said, watching as he and his girlfriend made love on a couch.
The day after my return from vacation, I called my daughter to let her know that she had left a game in my car. There was no answer, so I left a message. I hadn’t expected an answer, really. I was sure they were still asleep and tuckered out
The next day, I got a call from a lawyer. Lucy had filed for full custody of our three children on an emergency basis. I was told I would soon be served. I was stunned. Lucy's lawyer reluctantly answered my questions, repeating that I would soon be served. I was confused. What did this even mean?
My hands shook as I called Lucy. No answer. I left a message and called her cell. No answer. I left a message and called my son. No answer. I left a message and tried Lucy’s cell again. No answer.
The following afternoon, a messenger arrived with a package. I opened it and found a stack of papers about the size of a Manhattan telephone book. I learned that Lucy had discovered my blog and was using that as the basis of her motion. I flipped through the pages, reading over and again the words “sex,” “sexual,” “bisexual,” “orgies,” “hypersexual.” Blog posts were excerpted throughout. Attached at the back were pages and pages of printed posts.
I called Lucy. No answer. I left a message and called her cell. No answer. I left a message and called my son. No answer. I left a message and tried Lucy’s cell again. No answer.
I returned to the papers. One particular excerpt caught my eye. The preceding paragraph asserted that my sex partners are permitted to fantasize about my children. That’s absurd, I thought. I looked up the original post. The excerpt had purposefully been shorn of context so as to distort its meaning. “You want to play literary critic?” I said aloud. I reached for a pen and Post-It notes. “Let’s go.”
As I read Lucy’s motion in more depth, I was struck by two curious assertions.
Lucy said that she discovered my blog after it was featured in Time Out, New York. Apparently, a friend had read the feature and thought it might be referring to me. Lucy would have wanted to know more; at the time, she was working hard to have my family removed from an apartment her father owned. She went to the Time Out website but couldn’t find the cover story article then posted on the site's front page. The feature was on newsstands that week and remains online to this day, but Lucy apparently lost interest in looking further.
A few weeks later, our eight-year daughter approached her. “Mom, did you know that onelifetaketwo.com is Dad’s secret website?” Lucy said this was news to her, but she didn’t bother typing in the URL her daughter had conveniently provided.
At the end of June, Lucy's therapist recalled having read the article. She agreed that it sounded like me. She provided Lucy with a copy. Then, at long last, Lucy read the feature. As it happened, I was going to be leaving town for a vacation with the children the next day. It was also the first day of Lucy’s long-planned sabbatical from her job. It was incredibly fortuitous that her discovery came at the very moment that she would have free time to address it. Fearing for her children’s safety while they were in my custody, she did what any concerned mother would do. She told me to have a nice trip with the children and contacted a lawyer. She hired her attorneys on July second.
I read over this timeline a few times. It made no sense. Lucy? My Lucy? After so much effort and energy spent in our divorce, despite her continuous hostility over the course of several years, she expected it to be believed that she was so disinterested? Despite her concerted efforts in making me homeless, Lucy cared nothing about reading “Dad’s secret website,” even lacking the basic skills to navigate Time Out, New York's website?
I flipped through the motion. I noted that many of the pages provided by her lawyer’s office had been printed well before Lucy had contacted them. Why on earth, I wondered, would Lucy’s lawyers print selections from my blog before she brought it to their attention?
I checked for IP addresses on my StatCounter. I asked other bloggers to check theirs. I took notes.
The other curious thing was Lucy’s repeated assertions that she had no idea that I was bisexual or interested in group sexual activities. This simply wasn’t true. She knew that I was bisexual before she knew me. She had asked William about that before our first date. She had known Donnie, my high-school boyfriend, and she understood when I needed to care for him as he died of AIDS. We would name our first child in his memory. She understood that Donnie’s influence in my life was one reason I continued to identify as bisexual even when Lucy and I were monogamous. We discussed this over and again in couples’ therapy. Friends I’ve known for twenty years or more could attest that Lucy has always known of my sexuality. So why claim otherwise?
This would vex me until my first meeting with my attorney.
“She had to show a change of circumstance,” I was told. “In order to file on an emergency basis, she needed to show that she had newly discovered information that she did not have at the time of the original divorce settlement.”
“But she’s always known I’m bisexual!” I said. “She knew about my group sexual activities, too. Heck, she even participated in them with me.”
My attorney sat back. “Really?”
“You want to know what’s more?” I tapped my finger on the desk between us. “I’ve got that on videotape.”
She laughed. “Well, you may want to hang on to those tapes.”
Lucy would repeat her alleged timeline of discovery and her claims to be ignorant of my sexuality throughout the fall. As we prepared for court-ordered psychiatric evaluations, Lucy began to claim that the videos did not exist and I lied in saying otherwise. She then changed her story to say that the videos did exist, but I was lying about their content. Her story shifted until she settled on the central fact: I was lying.
Some people believed her. This was important, as her entire claim of an emergency situation rested on two necessary facts: she was ignorant of my sexuality and had only recently discovered it.
“This is absurd!” I complained to my attorney. “This isn’t a case of ‘he said, she said.’ This is a verifiable fact. One of us is lying about the existence of the videos and their content. If I’m lying, I’m being dishonest. But if she’s lying, she’s lied in court motions. Isn’t that perjury?”
My attorney paused for a moment. “I think I need to see these videos,” she said.