Triptychs – Chapter 17
I can’t really be honest, I can’t be honest with myself, without going back to that worst time. The thing that I did, to betray Cole . . . even if I didn’t mean to. The thing I’d pulled, back when I was sixteen; right before that night with Hugo.
I wish I didn’t remember it; I wish I could stop going back there, when I’m feeling down, when I’m feeling bad . . . I really do. But it’s part of me; I can’t help it.
Remember Michael, Cole’s ex? The fucked-up twenty-something guy Cole loved, before Jeremy; the fucked-up twenty-something guy who screwed around behind Cole’s back - ?
I did him.
Three times, actually. Three separate times, I mean; three separate nights.
Yeah; I fucked up, bad.
Oh, it was long after they broke up; it was after Cole and Jeremy got together, actually, after Cole and Jeremy got really tight, and the thing with Jeannine was all settled, and it was so clear they were a couple, for good –
That’s when I did it.
It’s the WHY of it, that’s fucked up; it’s the reason I sneaked around behind Cole’s back to do it, it’s why I can never tell him, why I can never confess, the way I want to . . .
The thing is – I didn’t really want Michael; I never really wanted him that way, the sexual way.
But I wanted that piece of Cole.
Michael was part of Cole’s past, he was a BIG part of who Cole was, what he’d become . . . I’d heard every detail of the kind of sex they had together, the way they talked to each other, the way they WERE with each other, the whole, fucking INTIMACY they shared. I’d seen it, too, I’d spent more than a year hanging out with them, watching them together, seeing that couples-thing, again, that I’d never have with Cole, myself –
Some part of me was deeply, deeply pissed at Michael, because of what he’d done to Cole; because of the way he’d screwed around behind Cole’s back. Because of the way he’d screwed Cole. I was mad at him, I had contempt for him, and I figured he was a sorry-ass loser.
But I wanted that piece of Cole. I wanted to know where Cole’d been; I wanted that experience.
Fuck me. How stupid can you be?
It was easy. It was hilariously easy, actually.
Michael had always wanted me, he’d never made much of a secret of it; he’d always flirted with me pretty openly, and he’d joked about getting me and Cole and him in bed together, doing a threeways.
Except it wasn’t really a joke. He’d actually tried to get Cole to arrange it; he’d really wanted to do it.
Cole told me all about it, of course. He’d thought it was funny, just his twenty-three-year-old boyfriend being a horndog, thinking with his dick. Me, I’d thought it was gross; Michael wasn’t like Jeremy, not at all.
Once I decided I wanted to do him, to have that experience – I’d known it would be easy.
All I had to do, one Saturday night – Cole was away, visiting his dad in Santa Monica – all I had to do was show up where Michael worked; the coffee shop where he was a barrista.
It was dark, and cold out, near closing time. I just came in and stood there, in front of the coffee bar, and I looked at him; not smiling, my hands in my jacket pockets. I just looked at him.
And he knew what I was pulling, the second he saw my face; he flushed, a really, really, dark red – he has really white skin, even more so that me or Jeremy – he flushed, and looked down, a second –
And then he looked back up at me.
It was a surreal experience.
I mean, it was just sex; and in the end, how many ways can you HAVE sex, how many different moves and variations can there be - ?
But for each move, each stroke, every taste of his tongue or his dick, I was thinking of Cole; imagining Cole doing the same things, Cole getting himself fucked, the same way –
Well, there was one big difference; I made Michael use a condom. I put it on him myself, actually, and I made real damn sure it was on right, and it wasn’t an erotic moment right then, not at all. He knew what I was doing, and why.
Still; it was surreal.
And when I went home that night, I’d been elated; tired, but elated. In that secret, buried-private part of me that loved Cole so fucking hard, I felt like I’d really DONE something, felt like I’d gotten closer to Cole, in a way, than I ever had before . . . I felt like I’d shared something deeply, deeply intimate with Cole.
So, later, I went back for more.
And then more, after that.
The realization of what I’d done, what I’d pulled, all came crashing down after the third time I hooked up with him.
Well, it actually started while I was still with him; still naked, in his arms, actually.
It was after the sex; and he was just, holding me. Cuddling me.
And it came to me, all at once – that this demon, this Cole’s Michael, who’d broken Cole’s heart so badly, who’d screwed around behind Cole’s back – it came to me,
that he was human, after all. Just a human, who could cuddle another person in his arms. Take comfort from another person, on a cold, wet winter’s night.
And then it came to me, that maybe he was taking comfort from me, for the same reason I was doing him – because of Cole. Because I was part of Cole’s world . . . and Michael still missed Cole.
He’d said as much. He’d whispered it to me, after we’d finished; that he missed Cole. And saying things, talking, whispering, really wasn’t much part of the experience we’d been sharing, at all.
And then, finally, and most devastatingly – it occurred to me, that I was taking way, WAY too much of my own comfort, from Michael. That what had started out as a kind of desperate, wild, outlaw act, was turning into something – different. Something comfortable; Michael’s basically a nice guy, decent, a sense of humor, and in spite of Cole’s acid snarks, he’s actually really okay in bed . . .
And I knew him. And it was comfortable . . .
Doing Michael once, to see what it was like, to share a part of Cole’s past . . . Maybe. Stupid, sure; but maybe, understandable.
Doing Michael a second time - ? What the bloody FUCK was I thinking?
And then came the third time; and me realizing, finally – I was there for me. For me. Michael’s history with Cole was just an excuse; just an excuse.
Yeah; that meant I was screwing around with Cole’s ex, in secret. Behind Cole’s back.
And then, worst of all – the realization that I had to keep it a secret from Cole; forever. Because I could never explain to him how it all happened, why I’d hooked up with Michael in the first place . . . without blowing my cover; without telling Cole how much I loved him. And I could never do that. Can’t ever do that.
I’d so totally betrayed Cole; the single most important person in my whole life, the one, single love of my whole life.
Can you maybe see why I was so down on myself, that night two years ago? Why I’d thought it was right to try to sell myself to a stranger?
Why a stranger’s belief in me, made such a big different, that next morning - ?
I’ve never told Cole about screwing Michael. I never will. And it’s one more thing between us, one more lie, one more sin of omission, and it’ll hurt for as long as I live.
And that’s why the memory keeps coming back to me, at black, ugly times. Times that make me doubt myself; doubt my own worth.
Times like this.