Thursday, January 21, 2010

Making it work....

When Todd returned from Hawaii we could hardly wait to see one another. He had come back to me just as he promised. Our first meeting was difficult for him. He broke down in my arms and told me, again, that he was terrified that he’d fall more in love with me than with his wife. Despite missing me terribly while he was in gone, he haad thought often of letting me go. Each time he came to the realization that he just couldn’t do it. Moreover, he didn’t want to. He was fighting his feelings but continued to tell me that just couldn’t let me go. It always felt good when he said this to me – and he said it many times – but I could feel his torment whenever he did. He didn’t want to feel what he was feeling and I knew that it would take a lot of time for him to realize that, at some point, he was going to have to embrace who he truly was. For a man like Todd this was a terrifying reality. He only knew one kind of “gay” and being with me had shown him something that he never realized could actually exist.

As the months passed Todd and I grew closer and closer. He had good days and bad days. Sometimes he’d be able to go for a week or two but eventually his guilt would be too much for him to bear and he would go back to his place of doubt and fear. I’d never met anyone who did not know how to be truly happy. For Todd, self-torment was the only ‘safe’ place he had. His entire sense of self-worth and happiness revolved around those that were close to him. If things were going smoothly at home he felt okay but the moment there was a ripple of any kind Todd immediately put the blame on himself. Every problem in the lives of his loved ones was somehow his fault because, as he saw it, he was hiding such a big secret that he was to blame for everything. I’d never know such a tortured soul.

Sexually speaking Todd was very new to everything. I was the first man that he’d ever penetrated anally and he certainly took to it very easily! We often discussed his desire to reverse our roles. He had been curious from our first meeting but he knew that it would have to be with someone that he cared about. He just isn’t the kind of man that can do something so personal with someone he didn’t know. Being with me and seeing how much I enjoyed the experience with him made his desire stronger. I knew it was only a matter of time so I decided that I would let him be the one that initiated it when he was ready.

Although our time together was full of love and tenderness his torment and torture were always evident and a constant presence. There was simply no escaping it but when he had his moments of clarity and happiness his laugher and joy filled my heart. When he let loose and relaxed I saw the man that he was so afraid of. It was truly heartbreaking to see him suffer but I had grown to love this man in a way that I had never realized was possible. Being with Todd transformed me from the selfish person I used to be, into a selfless person. I liked me better when I was with him. He continued to express his horror at the thought of his wife discovering his secret and I continued to gently encourage him to openly discuss his fears with me. We’d made an agreement that if he felt like it was starting to be too much for him to deal with then he’d say he didn’t want to talk about it anymore. I always respected his limits and never pushed him further – changing the subject immediately.

When I first met Todd I thought he might be bisexual. It was clear from the beginning the he loved and adored his wife. She was his world and the bond they shared was one that, even in her absence, I could feel. I often told Todd that even though I didn’t know her, I liked her. As we grew closer Todd began to feel more comfortable talking about his wife, his kids, and their life; a life he was desperately trying to hold on to. Over the course of their 25 year marriage Todd’s wife, Stacey, had almost always been the one to initiate sex. Todd told me that it had always been an issue between them but within the last couple of years she had taken charge and “got on him” nearly every day – sometime more than once. I remember thinking, “good for her!” He enjoyed making Stacey happy and he understood that this was a way in which they could stay connected and together. I asked if he enjoyed the experience of making love to Stacey as much as he enjoyed making love to me. He was quick to answer that he did but he also recognized that there was a very big difference but he couldn’t quite describe it. One afternoon I explained that difference in a way that I thought he could understand: I began by using my hand as the pointer on a meter. I told Todd that he loved his wife very deeply and dropped my left hand down low saying, this is how deep you love her. I explained that what he didn’t realize was that there was a whole other level down below the level he was at with his wife –dropping my left hand down even lower. Then he met me. I could see that what I was saying made him uncomfortable but he didn’t tell me to stop. I knew when he would let himself feel the depth of what we were building – I could feel it. But it didn’t last for long. Todd fought it as hard as he could! He didn’t want it - he wanted his wife and I promised him that I would never judge him and I would never pressure him to do anything other than what he wanted. If being with Stacey was what he wanted then I would make sure that was where he went. The way I saw it was that if it wasn’t me it would certainly be someone else. At least with me he was with someone that truly loved him and would keep him safe from himself. He did not want to return to his days of random, meaningless hookups with strange men in places that could get him arrested. He also knew that he could no longer fool himself into thinking that he could go the rest of his life without being with a man. I explained to Todd that his wife has always been at the level that he was now darting in and out of with me. When I said that I knew that Todd understood how unfair that was for Stacey but he just wasn’t ready to hear more. Listening to me speak of the different levels of love and connection was very hard for him but he knew I was right so we changed the subject.

When Todd returned from Hawaii we had agreed to space out our visits further apart. Prior to him leaving we had been so overwhelmed by our feelings that we made time to be together several times a week. Over and over he would express how shocked he was at how he had grown to love me. “I never thought I could feel this way about a guy.” Became his motto. I began to understand that this was his way of telling me how much he loved me without actually having to say the words. When he would say the words, “I love you so much,” I felt his fear and torment. The unspoken part of what he was saying was the he didn’t want to love me. He wanted to be “normal” and only love his wife. No matter what I said he just couldn’t accept that this was how he was born and it was not his fault. Todd had spent his entire life blaming himself for not having the strength to push this out of him. He didn’t want it and he was convinced he could fight it if he were a better, stronger person.

As the weeks passed Todd began to find ways of pushing me out of his head while he was with his family. It wasn’t easy for him but he knew that he had to do it. He used to say to me that he put me on a little shelf in his head and then look once in awhile to make sure I was still there. He started to get pretty good at it too. So good in fact that he began to believe that he might just be able to manage this situation forever. But then he would see me and his feelings for me came flooding back. I could see it in his eyes the second he saw me. I always knew when Todd was connected to me and when he’d disconnect he was a million miles away. There were many, many times that Todd told me that he would lay awake at night thinking that he had to let me go but the next day he always managed to realized that he just couldn’t do it. I knew what he was struggling with because I was struggling with the same thing. There were many nights I found myself trying to find reasons to walk away but I could never bring myself to do it. I knew what we were doing was wrong but what we felt was real – very real – even if Todd fought it with every ounce of strength he had. He just couldn’t bring himself to think of a life without Stacey and I was committed to making sure that he would never have to face that reality. Surprisingly committed!

One afternoon while at Motel 6 Todd and I were beginning to make love when he flipped around and sat on top of me. I had a sense that he was ready to try being on the receiving end of making love. I asked him if he was sure he was ready for it and he smiled his mischievous smile; which told me that he was ready to try. Since Todd was so much smaller than me it was pretty easy for me to grab him and flip him around on his back. I took it slow – VERY slow. As I began to enter Todd his face contorted with discomfort. I was barely in and I could see that he was NOT enjoying it at all so I asked him if he was okay. He looked up at me and said, “Ooouch.” It was just too funny not to laugh as so we burst out laughing and stopped – assuming our usual love making positions.

As Todd prepared to leave the motel that afternoon he told me that he was really sore “down there.” I told him that he would be for a day or two. It lasted a week and I was sure that he’d never want to try that again. I was very wrong!

Week after week Todd and I found time to be together at least once a week. The longest we ever went without seeing one another was ten days and when we’d see one another again it always felt as if we hadn’t seen one another for a month. We talked on the phone almost daily. Some days he was great and some days he was really struggling. Sometimes we’d talk on the phone two or three times a day. We discovered that being apart was much easier for both of us if we stayed away from saying “I love you” during every conversation. Although I knew it was true, I also knew that the words made his reality much more difficult because now it wasn’t just about an attraction to men for him. He had gone to place that he never knew he could and he was scared to death. There is a big difference between a sexual encounter and deep emotion.

In early August I had been invited to the 20th reunion from the high school across town from the high school I had graduated from. I had gone to middle school with most of them and with Facebook I had been in contact with most of them. I decided that I would go but I also knew that Chad wouldn’t want to go. I planned to spend the night. The day I made my reservation I called Todd and asked if he’d ever done any jobs or estimates in Livermore; where the reunion would be held and where I‘d be staying. He said he could make it happen.

We got together several more times prior to the reunion and we began to look forward to that Saturday afternoon. We saw it as a little get away and it wasn’t likely that Todd would see anyone that knew him all the way out in Livermore. I met up with Todd that afternoon in Lafayette and he followed me to my hotel in Livermore. We spent 5 hours making love, talking, ordering room service and just being together and happy. Todd told me over and over that afternoon just how much he loved me. He’d hold my face and with his deep brown eyes looking at me he’d say, “I love you so much Jason. I really do! And it scares me to death.” and then he would wrap his arms around me and hold me tightly. Todd had a way to reach deep into my soul with a look and a few words. He wasn’t the most verbal of men but when he spoke – he spoke truth and that made me love him even more. I told Todd that afternoon in Livermore that sometimes I wondered if I had made it too easy for him. He told me that it was precisely because I never pushed him, never judged him, and accepted all of him that made him want me even more. He said that if I was a jerk and demanding it would be much easier for him to walk away. I just couldn’t be that that person with Todd. With Todd my intentions were pure and honest. Selfless and true. All I wanted for Todd was for him to find a way to be happy. He didn’t believe me when I’d tell him what an amazing and wonderful person he was. He’d spent his entire life believing that he was a bad person unworthy of happiness and even if the day came that I had to walk away from him, I felt that if I could give him a glimpse of the beautiful man I saw then it would be worth it for me.

Our conversation that afternoon in Livermore remained deep but honest. It was that afternoon that Todd made a huge milestone. He told me that before he met me he’d always assumed that if he’d ever gotten caught it would be time for him to die. This wasn’t the first time Todd has spoken of death if he was ever discovered but it never got easier for me. It had grown to be my worst fear for him. My heart sank as he spoke of how he believed that death was his only option and tears began streaming down my face. I listened intently as he described how before meeting me he couldn’t see any other way. Losing Stacey, the kids and everyone around him would mean he lost everything and he just couldn’t see how he could go on. I knew there was something big coming so when he stopped talking I said, “And now?” Todd looked down at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Now everyone once in a while I think…. ‘maybe – just maybe it doesn’t have to be like that.’” He had no idea what he had just said but he knew that it was big. I looked up at him and said, “Todd that is your kernel of sand.” I went on, “When we met all you could see was darkness and despair but now you have a tiny little kernel of hope.” I was now crying and so was Todd. “Please Todd – PLEASE – hold on to that when things seem bleak!” “Stacey and the kids need you!” “Promise me that you’ll hold on to that, nurture it and help it grow because you need it!” He promised but I knew he was still very scared.

As our afternoon in Livermore came to a close I had gotten ready for my evening at the reunion. Todd hugged me, kissed me and told me that he loved me as he slipped out the door and went back to his family. It had been another emotional day with Todd but he had made a huge breakthrough and I began to have hope that if the unthinkable were to happen and his wife were to ever find out – he would be okay. I’d always told Todd that I didn’t think his wife would abandon him if she ever discovered his secret. Todd painted a very vivid picture of the bond they shared and I was certain that she would support him in any way that she could. Todd never trusted that and I couldn’t get him to believe me but I tried as often as I could.

The day after the reunion Todd left me a message and I could tell by the tone in his voice that he was very upset. I called him back immediately and asked what was wrong. He was crying and told me that he and Stacey had a very rough night. I asked what had happened. It turned out that when he got home from our afternoon in Livermore Stacey was feeling frisky and that night she tried to get intimate with him but he was just too wiped out from our afternoon together. He didn’t go into a lot of detail but he did tell me that she had been very hurt by his inability to perform. I tried to tell Todd that he is human and they do have a lot of sex so maybe he should have a conversation with her and explain that there are times that he just can’t perform because things don’t work. I told him that it was very important that he explain to her that it wasn’t because he didn’t want her or that he wasn’t attracted to her. Todd continued to cry as he told me how hard it was for him whenever he felt as if he hurt her. He was nearly inconsolable. I remember thinking that his reaction to a one time inability to perform seemed somewhat dramatic. I sensed that there was much more going on for him but decided not to push it. He told me that the next morning when Stacey got up he could tell she was still upset and he didn’t know what to do. I told him that I had some suggestions. Ignoring it and waiting until she felt better shouldn’t be an option. I told him to do something different or special for her. Take her for a walk. Take her to dinner. Light some candles and give her a bath. I promised him that those are the things that I would appreciate and I was sure that she would recognize the effort and sincerity in what he was trying to do – thus snapping out of it.

Todd took my advice and the next day when we spoke he was a different man. The torment of the previous day was gone and he had renewed vigor and confidence. He thanked me for being there for him and he told me that he was amazed at how well I seemed to understand Stacey without having ever met her. I reminded him that I had made him a promise to always make sure that he was where he wanted to be and it was clear that he wanted to be with Stacey. How could I not support that for him? It simply was not an option and I so hated to see him suffer.

Things moved along pretty smoothly after our afternoon in Livermore. So smoothly in fact that Todd was beginning to get comfortable being out in public with me. One afternoon he picked me up from work and we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito to have lunch. We picked a nice seafood place and sat outside on the patio with passerby’s walking passed us throughout lunch. I could tell that Todd was enjoying the experience. He began to realize that if anyone ever saw us he could just say that he’d been having lunch with a client. His eyes – to me – were a dead giveaway as to what he was thinking though. “I so want to jump over this table right now and kiss you!” he said. “I know! So do I.” I said. Visit by visit Todd and I began to strengthen our bond but I always knew that the bond he had with his wife was his priority and I was totally committed to supporting that. I knew that without that bond Todd and I could never be together because he would fall apart.

Chad and I bought a travel trailer several years ago. When Todd and I had first started being together we had agreed that we would never do anything other than talk if we were ever in the other’s house. The way we saw it was that was ‘sacred’ ground and we would not disrespect that. But the trailer was moveable! One afternoon when I was working at home Todd and I were trying to decide where to meet. We didn’t want to get a motel room but being in my car always made Todd very nervous. I called Todd and told him to meet at Wal-Mart in American Canyon because I had a surprise for him. “I can’t take anything from you Jason.” “Stacey will find it.” I told him that I knew that already and told him to trust me. At this point, in addition to his love, I also knew that Todd completely trusted me. He agreed to meet me at Wal-Mart that afternoon.

After Todd and I made plans to meet at Wal-Mart, I began to hook up the trailer to my SUV. I arrived at Wal-Mart about 20 minutes before Todd and found a spot out of the way to park and get set up. When Todd arrived he called me because he couldn’t find me. I guided him to where I had parked. The moment he saw me and my surprise his face lit up and he was smiling from ear to ear. I told him that this was private, and no one would bother us in a Wal-Mart parking lot. We ate lunch in the trailer and when we were finished Todd came over to me, reached down, and gently placed his hand on my cheek. “Thank you! You’re amazing… I can’t believe you did all of this for me.” “You just keep making me want you more Jason!” I smiled up at him and told him that it wasn’t that big of a deal and if helping him feel safe meant I had to be creative then I was more than happy to do it.

We spent several hours in my trailer that afternoon making love and talking. I asked Todd if he was attracted to other women besides his wife? Todd didn’t skip a beat when he said, “No!” I must have looked a little surprised because Todd said, “I know.. I’m fucked aren’t I!?” I smiled at him and told him that as long as Stacey was where he wanted to be then that is exactly where I would make sure that he went. Lying in bed with our legs intertwined that afternoon I began to get a very good sense of who Todd was. It became clear to me that afternoon that Todd was actually gay. I didn’t tell him that but I continued to listen. He had always talked about Stacey in general terms unless he was talking about how much he loved her. On this afternoon he talked about Stacey the woman. The one and only woman he truly loved. I was fascinated! Truly fascinated at the similarities that Stacey and I seemed to share. I told Todd that afternoon that Stacey sounds a lot like me. He said he already knew and felt like I was the male version of her. “Why can’t I just have you both?” He said only half jokingly. I laughed and told him that would be up to Stacey but I was going to guess she’d go with no. As time went on and Todd spoke more and more of Stacey I began to like her more and more as a person. There were many times when I told Todd that he needed to step it up and be more supportive of her. She couldn’t always be the bad guy and Todd needed to be a sterner parent. He knew I was right but it was still very hard for him.

I pulled the trailer out one more time and we met at Wal-Mart for few more hours. We tried to stay away from motel rooms as much as possible. The next time we were in the trailer Todd made another milestone. This time the trailer was still parked at my house but we felt that was okay since we weren’t in the house. We just couldn’t do that. We had lunch and drank some margaritas. As we began making love I saw the look in Todd’s eyes that told me he was feeling adventurous. Sure enough, in one fell swoop he flipped around and was again sitting on top of me. He was grinding himself on me and I knew what that meant. This time we took it MUCH slower. Todd eased himself down onto me very slowly. When he’d grimace I’d lift him up and off of me. We did this for awhile and then I grabbed him and lifted his entire body up and put him down gently on his back. I spent the next 10 minutes using my fingers to relax him. This seemed to do the trick because when he was on his back and I went slowly he could take all of me. I started slow and then before I knew it we were going at it quite forcefully. Todd was shocked at how much he enjoyed it. Frankly, so was I! The first time we had tried it I barely got in more than an inch and now he was grabbing my hips and forcefully pulling me to him. Still being new at this he began to feel discomfort after about 15 minutes of it so we switched back to our usual roles (no complaints from me!) and spent the rest of the afternoon talking and making love.

The afternoon of Todd’s first REAL foray into being on the receiving end of sex with a man Todd brought up the possibility of an overnight trip. He had done a job in the Fort Bragg area and needed to return to finish it up. Because he had to drive the huge boom truck he usually drove it up the day before so he felt that he could tell Stacey that he had to head up the night before. The thought of an entire night together was almost too much for either of us to think about. Nevertheless Todd began to make the plans and before we knew it we had a set plan in motion. I was going to tell Chad that I’d be spending the night with my best friend and Todd would tell Stacey what we’d already discussed. The plan was set.

The week before our planned Fort Bragg get away things in my house got very rough. My daughter and I have always butted heads but this situation had pushed me to my limit. She is a wonderful young woman but she is equally as stubborn. Through the struggle with my daughter that week Chad and I had a very difficult time. Our marriage had been strained for a long time. I had never really gotten over the way in which he cheated and it was this new situation that really brought that home to me. When Chad looked at me and told me that he loved me but he just didn’t know if he wanted to be with me anymore, I was heartbroken. I knew that we all needed some space so I made one of the most difficult decisions of my life. I decided to take our trailer and park it at my best friend’s house for awhile. Chad helped me get the trailer ready and I left with a broken heart – having no real idea of when I‘d be home again. I tried not to tell Todd because I knew he’d worry about me and I hated to be a burden to him. He already had more than he could deal with on his plate and I didn’t want him to see me as someone that “needed” him. Todd and I have never been very good at keeping anything from one another. Of course I told Todd what was going on and of course he was concerned. For some reason I just couldn’t keep anything from him – nor could he from me.

I left my house in the trailer the Sunday before the Thursday that we were planning to go to Fort Bragg. The following Tuesday I was working at “home” and Todd came to my trailer to spend a few hours with me. I tried so hard to be strong and not break down but Todd had a way of reaching into me and pulling things out. After we had made love, I was lying in Todd’s arms as we began to talk about how I was doing with everything going on in my home life. I was suddenly hit with a surge of emotion and I completely broke down. I had tried so hard to be strong but it was useless. I sobbed and sobbed as Todd held me tightly. I didn’t even realize how much I had been holding inside but it came pouring out of me. When I had pulled myself together I look up at Todd and apologized for having lost it. Todd smiled at me and said, “Jason I was prepared for that. I’m always breaking down and crying with you I’m glad that I am able to be here for you.” It felt good to hear him say that and I knew that he meant it. Still – I didn’t want him to see me as being “needy” so I made him promise that no matter what happened between Chad and I, he would not take it on has is fault or his responsibility. He promised.

Chad and I spent a lot of time on the phone that week and we did our best to work through as much as we could while apart but I began to realize during that separation that I was actually not sure if I wanted to be with him anymore. I was very clear that it had nothing to do with Todd but being with Todd made me appreciate what being wanted feels like. At one point I went out and looked for an apartment. The act of taking charge of my life was empowering for me! I was terrified at the thought of such a life changing decision but I was also relieved to know that I had options. Of course there was the issue of money and how I would pay for it. I had told Todd about the apartment I had found and mentioned that I wasn’t sure how’d I’d come up with the money. Immediately Todd said that he couldn’t do much but he’d help out with as much money as he could. Although I thought it was a very sweet offer, I immediately told him no. I told him that I would never take our relationship there. His business was struggling and his son was just about to go off to college. I told him that I would NEVER want to take anything away from Stacey and the kids. It was sweet that he had offered but my problems were not his problems and even if he brought me cash, I would not take it. My clarity on the issue was a little surprising to me. Ten years earlier I would have jumped at an offer like that but with Todd I was a different person. With Todd the limits of our relationship were clear and I would never blur them. When and if the day ever came that he told his wife or his wife found out, I knew I would have to walk away because his only responsibility would have to be his family and helping them heal. It scared me to death but I knew that was how it would have to be. Mixing money into the situation would only add a complexity that neither of us were prepared to deal with.

That afternoon in the trailer Todd and I talked about our upcoming trip to Fort Bragg. We were both excited but we were also nervous. Todd told me that he was worried that he’d realize that ‘this’ was what he wanted and be so scared of it that he’d run away from me. I told him that I was afraid of exactly the same thing – that he’d freak out and run. Still – we agreed that it was an important step and we agreed to stick with our plan.

Chad and I managed to work things out to the point that we agreed I would come home on the Friday I got back. It was a relief because even with our problems I do love Chad very much. On Thursday morning I woke up and began to get the trailer ready for my return the next day. When everything was packed and I was ready to leave Todd called to say that he was on his way and he was looking forward to our time away. SO WAS I!

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