Saturday, December 30, 2017


Here’s a dream from last night.

Charlie and I temporarily live in a small apartment on the third floor, just above the tree line, with windows on three walls. We look over an open patio/hallway on the second level below, lined with bookcases and desks, exposed to the elements. It’s unclear to me if this is a private office or a public area, as it opens onto the street.

Charlie is away for the day. A man suggests I open a male brothel to operate while she’s out. I’m unsure of the idea, but succumb to his adamancy. He recruits a half dozen dwarves. They roam the apartment nude. I have to eject one, who is handsome yet disruptive. Another is very eager for me to fuck him. He curls before me like a roly-poly, tucking away his arms and legs. I resist, as I don’t think I should fuck him. I finger his ass, which splashes shit onto my hand and floor. I feel pity and suggest he should wash up. He returns and I tuck him under my shirt, unsure whether or not I’m fucking him, but allowing others to think I am. Only then do I notice he’s missing his left hand.

He’s left a mess in the bathroom. I begin to clean when I find him cowering in a corner of the shower. Pope Francis tells me that he is a traumatized war refugee. I feel more pity. I tell him he’s safe here; I won’t make him leave like the disruptive one. Francis becomes disgusted by the shit and excuses himself. The refugee is now my responsibility.

I’m walking through the open patio/hallway. The office workers make me feel unwelcome, though I feel this is a public area, and owe no apologies.

My dad sends a video to my phone. He’s chauffeuring Warhol, Bowie, Mapplethorpe, William S. Burroughs and Patti Smith; Smith is nodding on drugs. They’re on their way to an amusement park in the 1970s. They look like kids, I think, before realizing I’m strapped to the front of the moving car. I’m happy there.

I’m at a venue showing the footage of a “secret concert.” I’ve seen the film before. Now, the surviving performers are assembled for a dinner. I see Chrissie Hynde, whom I’d forgotten to be in the concert, and Patti Smith. She was in the car, I recall, and the only passenger still living.

I begin to draw two larger-than-life figures in charcoal. They are seen from about mid-waist and loom menacingly. There’s not much detail in the figures. I obscure them further with heavier, darker lines. The act of drawing feels cathartic.

Liz and I are going to an art reception in upper Manhattan. The area has changed since I was last here, long ago. Liz tells me she is transitioning, and I thank her for letting me know. We leave the reception with Patti Smith. She’s talking about my drawing, saying that if it hurts, I should keep doing it. Listening prevents me from speaking to Liz, who has advanced ahead of us. She’s taken off her shirt to show she’s very well muscled. She’s at the top of a hill, but going along a disused road. I call her back, saying there’s a better road ahead.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017


Here’s a dream from last night.

My brother and I share a small cabin on our family’s compound. We each have a twin bed. I keep my nightstand in front of the cabin, near a picnic table. I’m preparing for school, which is nearly over. I collect odds and ends from the top of my nightstand, all junk left there by others. This is a regular morning task and inconvenience.

I return to dressing, my left hand still filled with coins, ticket stubs, used gum. It’s hard to focus on tasks, but I’m in good spirits. School is nearly out. I notice that my dad has brought out a keg of the beer he brews; he’s sharing a beer with my brother. Before school! That’s great. I hurry so I can join them for a quick one.

The keg is under my nightstand, which I notice is again littered. I go to tidy it, shoving the junk into the nightstand’s drawer. I think to tweet “Just sorting drawers, as I do when I’m running late.” The thought amuses me. I reach to my pocket for my phone, but it isn’t there. I’ll need to find it before I leave. I search the area around the cabin, including my brother’s nightstand, which is inside the cabin beside an open window.

Returning to the cabin door, I see the keg has been put away. I open the door to find a man dressing just inside. He apologizes; he needed a place to change into a suit before his shoot and the bathroom was taken. I hear the shower running. When it stops, a short pregnant woman emerges, wrapped in a towel. They’re actors who have rented the cabin for the day. This is common in my family. It was assumed I’d already be at school. I say I’ll get out of their way. I tell them about my nightstand and the tweet I’ve planned. I show them the contents of my left hand—now large plastic pennies and a shell, like a child’s treasures.

I’m driving and wondering, what if I didn’t return to school? I can’t even remember what I’m studying. I’d probably have to take one make-up class this summer. I wonder if I would take an easy remedial math or advanced trigonometry. I know I’m good at math and this gives me satisfaction. I arrive at school. It’s changed a lot since I was a student. I go to the library to research an assignment. All I need is Books in Print listing on “villains.” I could do this anywhere, really, but I like the idea of doing it here. I find the volume, noting the familiar layout of the place, and how much smaller the library seems now that I’m an adult. I photocopy the page and go to the restroom. I feel studious and accomplished. As I leave, I realize I’ve misplaced my glasses. I retrace my steps. The library is closing. Lights out, doors shut, chairs moved to block passages. I return to the room in which I found my listing. Inside are cartoonish monsters who seem to be in discomfort. I don’t want to bother them; I just need my glasses.

I return to the check-out desk for help, but the librarians are distracted. I see someone giving a child a tour of the library. I decide to make another look around. As we come to a stair where one of us must give way, the child falls into a seizure. I lay down beside him until it ends. When I stand, my presence has been noticed. The tour guide wants to know who I am and why I’m there. I genially reply that I’m a former student and tell her about my research. She stiffens. I’m nice but realize I’m trespassing. A librarian asks me to leave. I tell him about my missing glasses. He offers to pay for them from discretionary funds. As he writes out a receipt, I think of my spare pair at home. Maybe I’ll keep the money.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas! New York, New York. December 24, 2017. 

Sunday, December 24, 2017


This story was originally posted on December twenty-eight, two-thousand four. It is also told on Kevin Allison’s Risk!

Leaving Marla at the subway, I walked quickly through a drizzle to pick up the kids. I arrived about ten minutes behind schedule.

The kids were excited to see me. Lucy was there too, for an after school meeting. When she saw me, she rolled her eyes and sighed loudly. She took me by the arm and led me to one side, telling the kids to stay put.

She gave me a quick, familiar lecture on the importance of being on time. I nodded, listened, agreed. That ritual completed, I returned to the kids and took them home.

That night, Lucy was picking us up to go to her mother’s house for Christmas. Last year had been the first Christmas since our break up. Per our tradition, we spent the holiday with her family at her mother’s house. It had been awkward, but we bit the bullet for the kids’ sake. There had only been one fight—between Lucy and her mom, about her mom being too familiar with me about details concerning our divorce—but fights between Lucy and her mom were also a family tradition.

Lucy and I had a good Thanksgiving this year. She’s been very civil with me lately. I hoped for the best.

Mind you, this holiday had enough landmines to blow us all sky high.

My ex wife and I would be there, with our three kids. My ex mother in law, a lesbian, had invited an ex girlfriend to join us for dinner on Christmas Eve. My ex father in law would be there, at the home of his first ex, and bringing along his second ex wife (he has three from which to chose). My ex brother in law was bringing his ex boyfriend.

To add a dollop of optimism to the occasion, my ex sister in law would be there with her fiancé.

So many exes. Another ex-mas with Lucy’s family.

After school, I fed the kids and cleaned up, packing a few things to see us through the weekend. I poured a stiff drink to fortify my nerves.

Lucy arrived around bedtime, and we packed the kids into the car. I sat in the back between Lillie and Collie; Jason rode up front. We talked about Christmas until the kids drifted off to sleep. I talked with Lucy to keep her company as she drove, catching a few moments of sleep myself.

After few hours, we parked in front of Lucy’s mother’s house. Her mother was asleep and everyone else was arriving the next day, on Christmas Eve.

Lucy roused the boys, and I carried Lillie inside. We undressed the kids and tucked them into bed. We unpacked the car. I took Lucy’s bag upstairs to the room we used to share. I carried mine into the study off the dining room, where I would sleep on a futon.

We repaired to our separate quarters to put on pajamas. Lucy came downstairs to have a drink and watch television with me in the study. We talked and began to unwind.

This was going well. We were being nice to each other. It felt very familiar. Fingers crossed for the weekend.

eXmas continues with eXmas Eve, eXmas Morn and All SalesFinal.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Luna C.

In spring twenty-sixteen, I ended my relationship with a young storyteller, Luna C., after one-and-a-half years. I felt the break up was necessary to sustain stability in my life. I wanted to focus on my relationship with my primary partner as we moved beyond our first several years to a place of planning for our shared future.

My girlfriend helped me to understand that I could better enjoy the “one life, take two” I had created since entering middle age by avoiding the hazards of self harm, alluring though they may be. She encouraged me to take care of myself. I came to accept that my fortunate good health stands a better chance of enduring if I refrain from abusing it. I undertook harm reduction to curtail my alcoholism. I showed up for regular physicals. I entered into therapy. I turned my creative energies to writing a memoir.

As I had for the duration of a custody case nearly a decade ago, I put aside the risks and potential chaos of public life in favor of private quietude to take care of myself and those I care about. I’m now over fifty. If we’re going to stay together for the long haul, my girlfriend says, I goddamned well better stick around for it.

As Luna and I adapted to our break up, we shared a concern for the future of Foreplay! A Sexy Storytelling Open Mic, a free weekly show I created and hosted for five years. It fostered a substantial community. Luna and I met there when she first developed an interest in storytelling. As our friendship grew, we developed a shared rhythm in nurturing the evenings. I took care of the front of the room, running the stage, as she worked the back of the room, interacting with regulars and encouraging participation. The regulars adopted my loving nickname for her: “Mama Luna.” Luna and I cherished “church,” as she called the open mic, and made it the start of our weekly sleepovers. After shows, we’d go to her place or mine to devour greasy food, get drunk, watch cartoons and bask in what we created.

“What are we going to do about church?” she asked as we pondered our break up.

“This isn’t a divorce. We don’t have to divide custody,” I assured her. “It may be an awkward transition, but there’s no reason we can’t continue performing together.” I paused. “That said, often when there’s a rift within subcultures, one or the other faction will try to destroy the community. That’s so commonplace as to be trite.”

Whatever happened between us, I was certain Foreplay! would continue. I believed the community was more important than either one of us.

One day, she asked to meet me for a long conversation before Foreplay! She didn’t want to come to the open mic, as she wasn’t up to seeing everyone. It wasn’t the same since our break up. I said I understood and hoped that feeling would pass in time. She would always be welcome. As for me, I had to go. I ran into many of the regulars as they assembled. One comic pulled me aside to say he planned to interview Luna for his podcast. In the interview, she spoke sadly of our break up, acknowledging that we split because I wanted to be with my primary partner.

As we endeavored to remain friends, we met weekly to sort things out. I set boundaries: we met in public, neutral places, generally outdoors. If things felt sexual or I felt uncomfortable in any way, I would leave. After each meeting, I sent a safe text to my primary partner. Under no circumstances was I going home with Luna.

Things deteriorated between us. On one occasion, Luna insisted that I “act like a human” by going home with her. I left. On another, when I reiterated my refusal to go home with her, Luna punched me in the face. I left. The next time I saw Luna, one of her friends—a stranger to me—threw a drink in my face. I left. Luna’s violence ended things for me. I would remain civil toward her at Foreplay! and other open mics, but I had no further interest in maintaining a friendship offstage. 

Luna asked some of the regulars to meet her elsewhere on the nights of the open mic, saying it was too hard for her to attend. As they complied, I understood the communal empathy even as I saw a typical indicator of subcultural fissure: mutual friends asked to choose between one party and the other. One night, she showed up at the venue without entering. She sent in another regular, who scanned the room to see who was in attendance. They left together a moment later, their private roll call complete.
Though I was now out of her life, Luna continued to discuss me and our break up on social media. Seeking to curry favor, a middle-aged motorcycle dude Luna occasionally fucked introduced her to the blog of Tricia Nixon, a middle-aged woman I declined to date years ago. Unbeknownst to me, my former acquaintance maintained a cul-de-sac on FetLife in which she inveighed against many things, including the kink event where we met, sometimes numbering me among her complaints against it.

My former acquaintance provided Luna with a handful of negative things that have been said about me in the course of my seventeen-year public sex life. Tricia Nixon knew very little about me; we’d only met a few times. Luna and I had been very close. She had heard my stories on stage and in bed. She had eighteen months of intimacy and trust to exploit. With the encouragement of Tricia Nixon, Luna decided that a public statement would be compiled with the intention of revealing that despite all outward appearances, Jefferson was actually an awful person.

The statement would focus on three blog links concerning scenes dated from years before I met Luna. She had no direct knowledge of any of them, though she’d heard the stories before. I’ve told them publicly. Anyone who knows me privately has heard them. They aren’t secret.

One link concerned an event from two-thousand-five, a story I had told on my blog, on stage and privately with Luna. After Luna resurrected the story more than a decade after the fact, I wrote about it at greater length in a blog post published in November twenty-sixteen, citing the author of the link Luna circulated as well as numerous eyewitnesses.  

Tricia Nixon made her own contribution by running a concurrent flame war. Commenters were encouraged via direct messages from the original poster to stoke the thread with incendiary language and speculations. Though I was the burning effigy at its center, the flame war was unknown to me until Luna brought it to my attention, demanding that I respond to its comments. If I refused, she threatened to post screen shots of our past text messages. That struck me as odd—why would she do so, and why would I care? Threats aside, I declined Luna’s invitation to a beheading. I had no knowledge of these strangers; for all I knew, they included sock puppets. They certainly had no knowledge of me.

Tricia Nixon's feverish flame war brought Luna’s compilation to four links. Two of these concerned BDSM scenes that were nonsexual. The other had been well known for more than a decade. So it was that an anonymous broadside intended to depict me as a “sexual predator” relied on the testimonies of four individuals with whom I had never sought nor engaged in intercourse, repackaged by a woman with whom I now refused to have sex.

Luna disseminated her broadside widely, hiding her identity behind the unattributed guise “calloutcommunitypost.”

At the same time, Luna redoubled her efforts to divide the Foreplay! community, insisting that no matter one’s own positive experiences with me—indeed, no matter her own positive experiences with me—I was secretly a bad person. As word of her actions spread, I decided to hand the open mic to another host. I believed the community was more important than either of us.

Not surprisingly, most people who received Luna’s anonymous broadside responded viscerally to her carefully crafted vitriol. Few would bother to read closer or investigate further.

The anonymous broadside caught the attention of a reporter, who contacted me for an interview. She wanted to write a profile on me for a class at the Columbia School of Journalism, supervised by the school’s dean, a respected journalist who would act as editor of the piece. At first, I ignored the request, thinking it would be foolhardy to comment on Luna’s anonymous campaign, particularly with a stranger. Eventually, I was persuaded to meet. The reporter told me she was concerned with larger issues, not break-up gossip. She offered a disinterested view. I was impressed by her integrity and process, and agreed to participate. In effect, I allowed her to fully investigate and narrate my story. She warned the results would be honest and not necessarily flattering. I replied that I preferred transparency to flattery. I braced myself for the results.

The reporter interviewed many people, including Luna and Tricia Nixon. When the profile was concluded and edited by the school’s dean, the reporter permitted me to read it and make a limited number of copies available to interested parties, including the reporter’s many interview subjects. The reporter found nothing of substance in Luna’s unsigned broadside. I offered her profile publicly beginning in February twenty-seventeen. The public offer was concluded some time ago.  

When I began to circulate the investigative reporter’s profile, I was contacted by people who illuminated Luna’s continued behavior against me. This came as no surprise: the litmus test of a relationship’s toxicity is how toxic it remains after you’ve left it. Yet I was stunned to hear from others Luna had similarly targeted.  

Luna had many sexual relationships during the time we were friends, including one with a comic she admired. We regularly talked about their relationship, which she told me she regarded more seriously than her casual hook ups. As it happened, not long after I broke up with Luna, the comic also broke up with her in favor of another relationship.

In retaliation, Luna anonymously posted his full name, photograph and other personal information online, decrying him as a sexual predator. She railed that he had multiple partners and shared photographs without permission, apparently missing the irony of making this condemnation as she did precisely that. She exulted that she was organizing other women to harm his reputation. The comic immediately recognized Luna as the attacker. He had her IP address.

Luna went further in her anonymous attacks. In a bizarre twist, she contacted the comic’s former girlfriend and, using intimate information he had privately shared, posed as another woman he had dated. Thus disguised, with a tone of sisterly solidarity, Luna offered purloined photographs and entrusted secrets in an effort to elicit an ally in talking trash about the comic.    

The comic was contacted by his former girlfriend. They easily identified this new “friend” as Luna. They had her IP address.

Such stories abounded. Luna gossiped at clubs, trolled websites and contacted venues—generally anonymously, always professing community concerns—to allege that numerous men and women in the comedy scene were sexual predators. Some targets of Luna’s ire were people she had fucked in the restrooms of the same venues she now hoped to influence.

Hearing these stories, I felt some sadness for Luna. She had physically attacked me and relentlessly undertook to damage my reputation. Still, I empathized that she acted from hurt. I hoped my former fucking-and-drinking buddy would find peace.

I was nonetheless angry to learn she used me and my stories to harm others. She was concerned primarily with disseminating her righteous upset, no matter who was hurt in the process, no matter that her crusade betrayed trusts, fostered hearsay and relied on deceit.

Such were my feelings when I was contacted by a stranger. Susan introduced herself by saying that while we had never met, she had heard Luna’s stories about me and others through the twisted grapevine of the city’s comedy scene. Luna’s stories had caught her attention when they struck close to home—Susan was the woman the comic dated after breaking up with Luna. We traded a few wary notes. If Susan wanted me to commiserate about her boyfriend’s experience with Luna, I wasn’t interested. I didn’t really know him. Luna was well in my past.

After several exchanges, we agreed to meet. Cautiously, Susan began to lay out the story of her life. She’s a survivor: you name it, she’s survived it. Now, she’s in her early forties and doing well for herself. She makes a good salary working a corporate job she enjoys. After years of telling her stories to friends, she recently began to tell them on stage. Revealing her storied past is risky, she knows, but she owns her experiences. They inform who she is. By being vulnerable on stage, she feels stronger in coming to terms with her struggles, failings and successes. She thinks she’s got a book in her.

I heard that.

Susan thought to contact me after Luna’s anonymous broadside was published in a Facebook group formed for New York City storytellers. Luna had sent it to the group’s administrators hoping to do further harm to me. (She succeeded. I was summarily banned from the group solely on the basis of Luna’s defamatory attack. The administrators did nothing to investigate her anonymous broadside, not even to determine its author or her motives, and offered me no opportunity to respond or appeal.) Luna’s inflammatory words were triggers for Susan, and, she suspected, no doubt others among the nearly five thousand members who use the group primarily to discuss storytelling shows. It also struck her as essentially unfair that I was not permitted to speak on my own behalf. This led her to wonder: what was my side of the story, anyway? I had largely remained quiet on the subject in public.

Luna’s anonymous broadside brought me to a stranger’s attention, just as it had with the journalist. I once more offered a timeline of events as I knew them, as outlined here and elsewhere.

Susan added more that I didn’t know. While the comic was dating Luna, he had sent her photographs of Susan in the hope of sparking a threesome. This was done without Susan’s knowledge or consent. Susan, who had never met Luna, declined the suggestion. After the comic broke up with Luna, she attacked Susan, posting an intimate photograph, her full name, references to her storied past, her current career and her sexual activity.

“That’s revenge porn,” I interrupted.

“Yes,” Susan agreed.

“That’s a consent violation,” I went on. “What’s more, it’s criminal: revenge porn is a felony in a majority of states. That’s jail time.”

“But not in New York State. Trust me, I’ve looked into it.” Susan went on to say that she had no idea the post was even out there until she was interviewed for a six-figure job. The job was a cinch pending a routine background check. That’s when the company discovered the post. Susan was denied the job due to Luna’s revenge porn. She has a letter to prove it.

“And you’re sure it was posted by Luna?” I asked.

“I have her IP address,” she confirmed. The whole thing pisses Susan off. But she survives, she says, adding” “That’s what I do. I survive.” She went on to land another six-figure job. But here’s the part she says she can’t forgive: “Luna goes around railing about rape culture, wrapping herself in the mantle of third-wave feminism. All the while, she’s anonymously knocking down a woman she’s met exactly once—one time!—even costing her a job, precisely by engaging in consent violations, shaming, harassment and revenge porn . . . that’s the epitome of rape culture. All because she lost a boyfriend. And don’t get me started on the other thing.”

“There’s not more,” I replied, rapt.

“Oh, yes. The fun never stops,” Susan said. “Turns out I’m a rapist.”

“You don’t say.”

“I had sex with a woman Luna knows,” Susan explained. “Word got back to Luna and then she’s telling everyone I raped this person. The woman hears this, gets pissed, and confronts Luna, saying the sex had been consensual and the story had been told in confidence. This woman had fun! We’re friends! And still Luna goes around saying, oh Susan, you know, she’s a rapist because, you know, rape culture.”

I sat back. “You have a book in you,” I marveled.

In the following weeks, I spent more time getting to know the woman Luna sent my way through her own relentless, obsessive attacks, becoming friendly with someone who would otherwise be unknown to me.

Recently, Susan contacted me, upset. While on a business trip, she was called into a meeting with her employer. The company had been sent an anonymous email detailing Susan’s storied past and including numerous explicit photographs. Susan listened mortified as the company CEO went on. She was assured that the company values her. They don’t care about vicious anonymous emails. The company fully supports her. Susan’s job is secure.

The CEO went on to inform Susan that the company’s attorneys replied to the email with a cease and desist letter.

“Of course they did,” she laughed. “They have Luna’s IP address.”      

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

New York, New York. December 12, 2017.


Here’s a dream from last night.

I’m with a group shopping for Christmas gifts. I’m on a budget. I want to get gifts for my kids and I can’t afford gifts for everyone who will be gathered together. I’m inspired to buy an automotive care set for Rosa Parks. She probably doesn’t have a car and I’m sure she’s dead, but it seems appropriate, if only as a memorial. It comes with a loudspeaker, so she could use it to give speeches, and an umbrella, in case it rains. It’s hard to find the set in the store. When I do, there’s no price tag. I pick it up, hoping I can afford it.

Gifts are being unpacked into a garage. Kids are not allowed to peek. I see that many people have picked up automotive sets identical to mine. Maybe I can return mine without notice. There’s an abundance of pricey items. I’m drawn to a bicycle and decide to ride it. On my way from the garage, I see it is full of Partridge Family memorabilia, including some fine art prints. In one, Susan Dey is blurry and making a face.

On the bike, I encounter four boys making a film as their gift. I stop to watch. I’m impressed by their ingenuity. Their creativity will be appreciated more than any store-bought gift. They enact foursomes, including the kids from “Stranger Things” and The Beatles. The kid who plays Paul is a standout. He doesn’t imitate Paul. He seems to just “be” Paul, saying things in his aesthetic and outlook, as in homage.

A guy runs into our midst, disrupting things. He’s good looking and arrogant, demanding attention. We’re annoyed. Another guy invites me to join him in looking for gifts. We go to a consignment shop, very minimally installed with unique items. I admire a spindly chair sculpture. He picks it up. I ask him not to buy it for me, but he says he’ll do what he wants and walks away.

I find a small antique television, set in a handmade wooden box. It’s been retrofitted with a device so that one can speak into the monitor and see the words become memo texts. I try this but can’t figure it out. A young goth woman is mopping nearby. She begins to clean near me. I offer to get out of the way, but she tells me not to bother, I’m not even touching the floor. I’m laying over a rocking horse and it’s true, I’m elevated. She says she liked me in The Man Who Fell to Earth. I say I’m not really David Bowie but I am a fan. We want to talk about Bowie but I’m not supposed to be Bowie. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Fort Tryon Park, New York, New York. December 9, 2017.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017


It had spiraled so fast.

Kay and I celebrated five years together. Shortly afterward, she dumped me for a new guy. Now, a few weeks later, I was without her at kink camp. I felt discarded, reeling, out of place in a familiar space. Kink camp was full of memories of her, most beautiful, some painful—most painfully, and most recently, with the new guy who displaced me.

“Oh yeah, welcome to the club,” a friend commiserated. “You’re not in the game until you’ve had your heart broken at kink camp. This is where my lover dumped me.” She went on to enumerate the many legendary break ups within the community that occurred on these very grounds. Someone should put up an historical marker, I thought: “So-and-so was crushed here.” 

I was booked to present classes, organize an orgy, host a storytelling show and run a cabin. I would be surrounded by friends and love. That would give me strength.

But, I also knew, I was vulnerable. My feelings were unstable. My body was failing me. My spirit was broken. Fortunately, my mind was sharp. Knowing that returning to camp might trigger a sadness I could not control, I asked three friends to act as my emotional buoys. If I ever feel lost at sea, I told them, I want to know I can come to you for support. I may never come to you. I may come to you at any time. Without hesitation, all three agreed. None knew I had asked anyone else.

I asked two of these people as they are friends to both Kay and me. They had known us as a couple. They knew I was hurting and they knew she was hurting. They loved each of us. The last part was the most critical: I knew that, no matter how I felt or what I said, they would not respond by denigrating her. It’s easy for people to say to a friend that his ex is a bitch or a jackass whom he’s better off without. I couldn’t hear that, as it’s not true. Kay is a kind, caring person. I loved her. I was in misery without her. We were in a bad place, but that wasn’t because either of us is a bad person.

The third person I asked was Lee Harrington.

In the aftermath of my break-up, Lee had been a good confident, sharing the wisdom he’s gathered in life, not least of which was the experience of his own current break-up. “It’s interesting to hear your story,” he said, “Because in my narrative, I’m in Kay’s position. I’m the one breaking someone’s heart by following my own.” He had fallen in love with someone living in Anchorage, Alaska, and decided to move there, leaving behind his partner of many years.

Lee had met Kay, but didn’t know her well. This didn’t matter. I could trust that Lee wouldn’t stoop to negativity. When I made this request, he replied, “Of course. I’m honored to be asked.” 

Be careful what you ask for: you may just receive it.  

Lee knew I wasn’t eating. At every meal, he would appear by my side. Not to scold me for picking at my food, but just to be present. He’d sit and join in conversation with my other friends, touching my back, and being there. 

If he saw me crossing the campus, he’d change his path to intersect with mine. He’d ask what I’d been doing and what I was doing next. He’d tell me where he’d been and where he’d next be. All by way of casually checking in on me and letting me know where he could be found.

He often passed by my cabin—at a dead end on the way to nothing—to chat.

I’ve seen Lee present at events many times. He’s a great teacher and has taught me many skills, particularly with rope, at which he is a master and I’m his clumsy pupil. Lee is a shaman of spiritual sexuality, a guide to those who seek that path. I’ve not been very curious about “woo woo,” the self-deprecating phrase Lee uses to refer to something he takes very seriously, and so, I had not learned much about his views and teachings. In that regard.

On the Saturday night of camp, Lee was to lead a spirit walk. In deference to my love for him and his care for me, and in acknowledgement that we would soon be living far apart, I decided to join the walk. 

We convened at one o’clcok in the morning. We were about a dozen in number. Lee told us that this was to be a silent journey and we were to use no flashlights. Our destination was the labyrinth. We were to follow him along a path in the woods. We walked, listening to the sticks and leaves crunching underfoot. I walked in the rear, barely able to distinguish the dark form of the person ahead of me or my feet below, which I watched to avoid tripping. As a result of walking in darkness, we moved slowly and carefully. 

Lee stopped the procession and illuminated a flashlight. He spoke words intended to help us reach a meditative state. His voice was clear, his words simple and poetic. He then doused the light and continued along the dark path.

Once more he stopped, lighting his face and speaking in a deliberate, rhythmic tone. Once more he extinguished the light and moved onward.

We arrived at the labyrinth. The labyrinth is a permanent fixture at camp. I had seen it many times by daylight. It’s a gravel circle about fifteen feet in diameter, with its paths demarcated by slightly raised stones of a darker color. Now, it was illuminated only by a dozen votive candles around its circumference. A drummer sat on a bench, providing a steady heartbeat.

Lee instructed us to take places around the labyrinth, standing and facing its center, directing our energy there. As our number roughly matched the number of votives, we gravitated to the candles, each of us standing near one.

Lee told us that each of us in turn would follow our path into the labyrinth. Once at its center, we would mediate on anything we cared to choose for as long as we chose. Then we would follow our path out of the labyrinth and return to the outer circle, making way for the next person. We would move around the circle in a clockwise fashion; as it happened, the final walk would be mine.

“There are many paths in the labyrinth,” Lee intoned. “Some are short and some are long. Some are easy and some are hard.” With that, Lee sat in a beatific pose at the labyrinth’s entrance.

The first walker entered. He made his way around and around, closing in on the center, stopping once it was reached. I could only make out his dark shape as he stood silently for a few moments. I remembered to direct positive thoughts toward him. We’re meeting tonight in an amazing place, I thought. We are fortunate. You are good. You are loved. In time, he raised his arms with a sudden victorious gesture. He then followed his path out of the labyrinth, taking his place near me. We each stepped to the left to make room as the next person entered the labyrinth.

And so it went, each person walking to the center, meditating, returning. In time, it was my turn. I entered the labyrinth.

In the darkness, I couldn’t see beyond the next step. The candlelight was, if anything, more distracting than illuminating, causing peripheral glares. I landed one step, then the next, walking with care along my spiraling path, the drum beating my steps.

I reached the center. I looked around at the others and back to Lee. I closed my eyes.

I meditated on Kay.

I love her so much, I thought. I need and want her in my life. I know she is trying to be friends. I am trying, too. I know the pain will subside and that will help. I do not want to hurt her, as I do not want to be hurt by her. I hope she will be full of forgiveness for me, as I try to be full of forgiveness for her.

I opened my eyes. I looked around at the forms facing me, their features lost in the darkness. I looked down and began my walk away from the labyrinth’s center. I followed my path as it lead around, twisting in ways the path inside had not. Soon, I realized I was heading back inward. I couldn’t correct the path.

I found myself back at the center.

I felt a wave of disappointment that was nearly claustrophobic. The labyrinth walls were only inches high. I knew I could escape just by walking off the path. But don’t seek escape, I told myself: you are back at the center. Meditate. Focus. Why was I back at the center?

I meditated on my return.

I had meditated on Kay and our relationship, primarily on hopes of building on our past in creating our future. Perhaps this was not what I should hope. We are not together and we will not be together again in the same way. She has made that plain. But even if she offered, I couldn’t go back—I couldn’t bear more heartache. My hope should be that I find my way without centering on Kay. I needed to find my own path.

I opened my eyes. I took a step. I took another. In a few steps, I was out of the labyrinth.

Lee was standing, smiling. He opened his arms. I walked into them. We held each other for a long time. When we released one another, we kissed.

Lee turned to face the others. He called us into a closing circle, gave thanks and wished us well on our journeys. I held hands with those who had shared this experience together. We left the labyrinth area along a more direct path, Lee lighting the way with his flashlight.

As the company parted, Lee and I made our way to a fire pit. We found friends there and sat to talk. Lee and I began to talk about personal histories, sex culture and shared interests. Those around the fire joined in and still, primarily sat, listening to our exchange.

Gradually, people began to head off to their beds. Lee and I were alone, continuing our conversation, until the night’s chill told us it was time to part. It was nearly dawn.

We embraced again. “Isn’t that strange how I wound up back at the center?” I asked. “No one else had that happen. I’m glad it did, though. I got more clarity.”

Lee put his hands on my cheeks and looked into my eyes. “There are many paths in the labyrinth,” he said. “Some are short and some are long. Some are easy and some are hard.”

Monday, December 04, 2017

New York, New York. November 13, 2017.