by Matt Siegel
It was an acquaintance and former editor of one of those gay lifestyle magazines who advised twenty-year-old me to tone it down if I ever wanted to find a boyfriend. This coming from a man obsessed with anything Disney-related; the walls of his West Hollywood condo adorned with carefully framed Snow White and Fantasia animation cels. “You don’t need to tell them how much you love Belinda Carlisle on your first date,” he said. “But I do love Belinda Carlisle! That quavering vibrato!” I whined. “Well,” he said, “they’ll find out eventually, and by that point they will love you, Belinda and all.” While I hate(d) him for saying it, I understood the algorithm: gay men are attracted to men, so the more you resemble a man, the more desirable you will be to a gay man. [Insert frowny face emoticon.]
Disturbed by the revelation, I conducted a yearlong college research project analyzing a sample of geographically diverse male-for-male personal ads from the 1970s through the then-present-day (2002), and the data confirmed Disney Gay’s notions: “No femmes” (typically paired with “no fats”) was an expression echoed throughout the ads regardless of location or era. There existed a staggering discrepancy between those specifically seeking out masculine men (almost everyone) and those specifically seeking out effeminate men (almost no one). How tragic that heteronormative ideals of masculinity were also pervasive among my own people. That my resplendent effeminacy hindered my chances of attracting men, and thus, my chances of being loved. That I might have to trick a man into fucking/dating/loving me.
Like many of my gay brethren, during the mid-nineties and in my early teens I found my way to gay Internet chat rooms via CompuServe, and so began my foray into one-stop man shopping. I spent hours on the computer entranced by the possibility of finding a man. My mother would intermittently burst into the room interrogating me as to what exactly I was doing (these were the days before parental controls and “To Catch a Predator”). Blocking the computer screen as best I could, I’d tell her I was searching for song lyrics. Song lyrics. I corresponded with adult men, some of whom I invited to my parents’ house to fool around while they were out. The fracas that would have ensued had my mother and her attorney husband walked in on one of those scenes. But I was desperate — and determined, to the point where, at thirteen years old, after watching a “Geraldo” episode about NAMBLA (the North American Man/Boy Love Association), I pulled the white pages from the shelf above my mother’s desk and attempted to find their contact information. (FYI: They’re not listed.)
When using a site like Craigslist to orchestrate anonymous sex, I created a number of email accounts utilizing pseudonyms which were often the actual names of my childhood bullies: Adam Kepler, Jay Alter, Aaron Lacy — sexy, authentically homophobic names. I had to keep creating new ones because I would cyclically declare an end to my harrowing search for love sex, delete the associated email address, and, days/weeks/months later in a familiar moment of anguish, start the process over again. Fueling it was a mostly irrational desire that one of the anonymous encounters might evolve into something meaningful even with the knowledge that, as Dr. Patrick Carnes, leader in the sexual addiction field, contends: A relationship that begins with anonymous sex is more often than not doomed to fail. If it happens to survive and thrive, it is in spite of the fact that it began in such a way.
Though in recent years there has been less of a need to use email to conduct high-tech sex hunts thanks to membership-based websites and smartphone apps, when getting back to basics on a site like Craigslist, I began using my regular email account with my real name. I figured that if one of my potential suitors were to search for me, he would have to sift through numerous webpages about the esteemed Matt Siegels — the Boston-based radio host of “Matty in the Morning”; the New York Times contributor; the sexy poet and recent Stegner Fellow — before discovering a small trove of revealing and likely off-putting information about this Matt Siegel.
Much of the information came courtesy of my now-defunct column on a popular online gay magazine and blog of the same name, The Unabashed Queer. I maintained that I was not the Unabashed Queer, rather, that I strived to be an unabashed queer, supporting others and myself in exorcising identity-based shame, which I felt was at the root of my reckless sexual behavior. I explored my own experiences with sissy-phobia in the gay male population, gay sex clubs, HIV scares, as well as my unfortunate stint on a reality television show. Then there was my mildly successful YouTube comedy series, This Is She, which opens with the voice-over, “I’m Matt Siegel, and I’m too lazy to get a sex change.” In regards to procuring a man, this information was unlikely to do me any favors.
So what was a queen to do? What she did best: perform. Unfortunately, they would be the dullest performances of her career.
Hey! Nice ad and pics. I’m 27, bi, discreet, 5’7, 130, hwp, good-looking guy here. Spend a lot of time outdoors, cycling, hiking, kayaking, etc….
Based on his photos, the respondent was a mix of something pretty — some sort of Central or South American and Caucasian, I guessed. High cheekbones, strong jaw, thick eyebrows, and I’ll resist the cliché of describing his skin as having an olive complexion, even though it did. Long hippie hair hung right above his shoulders — black, silky-sheen hair; the kind that would be unceremoniously hacked off of a Sudra woman mid-slumber and sold to a hair extension company. Sometimes he wore it in a haphazard ponytail: a messy pony. I wished I had the kind of hair that could be carelessly twisted into a messy pony, but I was stricken with curly, frizzy, Jewish hair that only grew out, never down. A messy pony accentuated the illusion of effortless physical beauty which I found much more appealing than “perfect” grooming. (I detest a defined brow.) His body was smooth except for the grossly termed “treasure” or “happy” trail that lead to his surprisingly circumcised loot, if you’d like to prolong the pirate metaphor. He sported a goatee that actually worked on him, amping up his camp counselor/river guide aesthetic; he looked like the type of guy who banged bitches in a tent.
I never claimed to be immune to mainstream standards of male beauty, but I had been pushing myself to expand my perceptions of sexiness to include someone like me: visibly detectably gay; neither bi or discreet. That said, I wanted this guy. I wanted him because he was hot, and part of his hotness had to do with his status quo masculinity. I watched gay porn, I did that college research project; I knew what sold. I would have to perform to ensure my chances of a successful hook-up with him.
I prepared the house for his arrival:
- Hid Preparation-H hemorrhoidal wipes that lived in the magazine basket next to the toilet.
- While there, moved Vanity Fairs to the back of the pile, replacing them with neutral National Geographics.
- Hid “Absolutely Fabulous” DVD collection…
- …and my hardcover copy of Bette & Joan: The Divine Feud. Well, maybe not. If he knew the queer significance of AbFab, Bette, and Joan, then he was gayer than he let on.
- Set condoms out in a nonchalant manner. Entering a bedroom with lights low, a flickering Yankee Candle in Apple Pumpkin Spice, and condoms stacked neatly on the bedside table beside three brands of lube and a bottle of poppers is too premeditated, and thus, reads as desperate. Any indication of a desire for romance is the biggest turn-off in a casual sexual encounter.
- Placed towel that I used to wipe my dog’s muddy paws in close proximity to the couch for use as a cum rag — my bamboo-rayon/cotton blend towels were for post-shower drying only.
- Selected appropriate background music. I couldn’t risk “Heaven Is a Place on Earth” shuffling onto my iTunes playlist, so I finally took advantage of my DirecTV music channels — the 800s. 801-Honky Tonk, 802-Classic Rock, 803-Bluegrass… settling on 809-Reggae, which would speak volumes about my assumed character. Not only is reggae almost exclusively male-performed music, but it also tends to include fiercely homophobic lyrics. Perfect.
Floodlights illuminated the peace sign that he flashed at me through the window as he approached the front door. “Showtime, Synergy,” I said to myself, in homage to the title character from the 1980s cartoon, “Jem and the Holograms,” about a woman who’s able to maintain a holographic alter ego by touching her pink star-shaped earrings whilst simultaneously uttering those words. Unlike Jem, I wore no cute accessories that evening, just my nondescript costume (blah jeans, meh t-shirt), to complement my assumed nondescript persona: the ignoramus who is only gay in the bedroom (or in this case, on the couch, for a bed would be too intimate). I would have to restrict all of my gestures, vocal lilts, and commentary on the “Real Housewives” of various cities.
“You want a beer?” I asked, as if I, myself, was a beer drinker. In reality, I thought beer tasted like liquid wood, the flavor exuded from chewing on a Popsicle stick, but the previous house tenants had left a stash in the fridge. I left “man” off the end of my question (You want a beer, man?) because I couldn’t betray myself to that extent. I had recently scolded an Urban Outfitters employee for referring to me as “man” several times throughout our transaction. “Sweetie, Honey, Sugarball,” I said, “I’m not upset, but you should know that not everyone appreciates being referred to by their perceived biological sex.” It was the assumption that all men spoke like that that really burned me — that all of us identified first and foremost as men. None of my gay friends called each other “man” or “dude.” We called each other “Miss” or “Queen” or “Mary” or “Miss Queen Mary.”
He chose a beer that I nervously opened because I nervously opened all bottles — beer, wine, baby — because I would fuck it up. I was notorious for leaving half a cork in the neck of a wine bottle and being forced to poke it down into the wine, picking cork bits off my tongue for the rest of the evening. I had always admired the guy who could use a lighter to crack open a cold one, the guy who girls and fey boys like myself handed bottles to at parties. I blocked the beer from his view, successfully opening it on the second try. Tonight, he was my “bud.” Just two buds kickin’ back with brews jerkin’ it. I was dying inside, yet my eye was on the ball, to use sport-speak (and not to use some sort of lame sexual innuendo). I escorted him to the couch where we sat, and where I had trouble looking him in the eye. Only a truly sociopathic imposter could look his victim in the eye. I was no sociopath.
Turns out he had a name: Jayke — with an inexplicable (and, I think, reprehensible) “Y.” Jayke-with-a-Y leaned back into the corner of the couch, splaying his arms out, taking up space as men are prone to do. He was a Chatty Cathy, which was a relief, as my character would not hold up under lengthy conversation — my voice would eventually go gay without an amount of effort that I was unwilling to expend. He worked at an upscale sporting goods store hocking backpacks, bivy sacks, crash pads, quickdraws, and ice axes. In his spare time, he rode BMX, spending hours alone in empty parking lots spinning and balancing and smoking pot. I had always associated pot use with masculinity. Fags, it seemed to me, were not pot-smokers; we were meth-smokers, booty-bumpers. We liked uppers, drugs to fuck on. Pot dulled our outrageous characters and sex-drives. Pot killed the fresh beats of a Palm Springs white linen waxed chest circuit party.
Jayke reflected on pot: “My spiritual guide, who I go down to the Amazon to trip with, he tells me to eat cannabis, and before eating it, say a prayer to the spiritual god of ganja, you know, to its spirit — give offering, give thanks.” His long-term aspirations: “Yeah, I just wanna get on my bike, do some shit, bring my camera and a couple things and just fuckin’ inspire people to get outside and do shit or just, like, change their lives, you know?” I cut in here and there, if only to gauge his interest. The more he spoke, the longer he’d stay, the longer he stayed, the greater the likelihood was that he wanted me, or some aspect of me. I asked if he’d like another beer. He accepted, signaling his interest.
The period from meeting to hook-up was taking too long, and I was growing increasingly bored, so I placed my hand on Jayke’s inner thigh. We moved closer and, instead of kissing me, he unbuckled his belt, yanked his pants down, and gingerly guided my head toward his lap — a gesture I had never appreciated. After a few seconds, I moved my face close to his to initiate a kiss. I needed him to feign a connection, to create the illusion of intimacy in order to heighten the experience. Despite the kiss, I couldn’t get hard, so I told him not to worry about me, to just go ahead and come, which I wouldn’t be helping with besides some oh yeahs and the occasional shoot that load. To further expedite the process, I asked where he wanted to come. “Where do you want me to?” he replied. Ugh, I didn’t care. How about at home in a sock? He finally settled on his stomach, and while he was still huffing and puffing, I delivered my standard exit line: “You want a towel?” I got up and tossed one at him because my character liked baseball. It was an underhand toss as not to give myself away.
Jayke wiped the towel across his stomach a few times and, much to my chagrin, remained naked on the couch drinking beer. His prattle continued: “It was the Moors that came into Europe during the dark ages to show the Europeans the fuck how to live!” “I’m 27. Gotta get my shit together. This is the age when all those musicians died — Janis Joplin, Jim Morrissey.”
“Morrison,” I couldn’t resist.
The interaction was reminiscent of the times I’d spent with my pot-dealers. You made the purchase, took a few bong hits together, but then you couldn’t be rude and leave immediately because you risked jeopardizing the weed connection, so you stayed and listened to the stoner wax poetic on whatever was sloshing around his airy noggin. Eventually, I interrupted Jayke, explaining that I had more work to do (read: vacate the premises immediately). Was he so naïve that he didn’t know that the point of these acts was immediate satisfaction, drive-thru validation: In-N-Out, Kum & Go, Burger King?
Jayke took the not-so-subtle hint and put his clothes back on. Once we were at the door, I deviated from my charade and, with what to lose, reached to hug him goodbye. It was purely instinctual; whether or not I chose to take him up on it, he had attempted to engage me for the past few hours, and I guessed I appreciated it. But he recoiled, only wanting to shake hands or bump fists, I imagined. “Your dick was in my mouth,” I heard myself say. He conceded and hugged me.
I am a firm believer in harm reduction. If I made the decision to engage in high-risk behavior, I figured I might as well take simple steps to reduce any potential negative consequences. For me, that might have meant using condoms, not swallowing semen, perhaps letting a friend know the address of a hook-up’s house. The potential harm was not limited to STIs and Jeffrey Dahmer types, but also included grave emotional upheaval. So, as with previous guys, when Jayke left my house, I deleted all of our correspondences, eliminating any trace of him. We owed each other nothing. If I expected more, I would likely be disappointed and take it out on myself.
A week later, Jayke contacted me to get together. I wasn’t about to miss the opportunity to partake in my favorite pastime (feeling validated), so I immediately kicked it into high-gear gussying up for his arrival. I douched using Fleet Naturals: a non-laxative enema, “for any time you want to feel fresh.” I changed into pants that accentuated my ass, which Jayke would be dining on that evening. I plugged in the holiday lights that outlined a window — I had always been a firm believer in lighting’s potential to affect one’s mood. I switched on a lamp by the couch, then I switched it off. Then on again. I left it on. I turned the TV off, expecting that Jayke had a “KILL YOUR TELEVISION” sticker affixed to his inevitable Nalgene bottle. I tossed a book on the couch to create the illusion that I’d been leisurely reading during his 40-minute commute to see me.
From the couch where I was not reading, but checking Facebook, headlights hit the back wall of the living room. Showtime, Synergy. We made no physical contact upon Jayke’s entrance. My dog, who was used to being fawned over, appreciated Jayke’s coyness. I, on the other hand, had never been one for coyness, and was in serious need of a good fawning-over. I offered Jayke a glass of Chardonnay — twist-top. He didn’t usually drink Chardonnay, he said; he prefered the earthy tannins of a red. I preferred the airy crispness of a white, as did all the women in my family.
Jayke blathered about some Chinese people he had helped at work that day. They spent an hour with him and didn’t buy anything. Foreigners always did that, he said, and which he had my permission to say, according to the low standards of political correctness that I had set forth in my mind, owing to the fact that he was half-Iranian (not of Latin descent as I had thought). He repeated stories from his previous visit (stoner) and I pretended it was the first time I had heard them, the way I pretended to still be interested after I’d come and was waiting for him to do the deed — out of courtesy.
“Alright,” I announced, moving in on him. We kissed and I wondered if he was doing so solely for my benefit the way I sucked his dick for his — not because either of us particularly wanted to. I always gagged an embarrassing audible gag that resulted in tears sneaking out the corners of my eyes. Could my inability to withstand the discomfort of engulfing an entire dick have served as further evidence of my lack of masculine prowess?
The following day, I initiated a mini background check on Jayke. Thanks to the obscure spelling of his name, “Jayke + BMX” was all I needed to retrieve a slew of sexy images of him with his hat on backwards, wearing a t-shirt that said “dank,” standing beside his butch BMX comrades in front of walls of mediocre graffiti. I even found videos of him doing his BMX thing — tricks, I think they’re called. I emailed select images and a video link to friends with subject lines like “we’re fucking” or “he fucks me.” One friend replied with an image of a Backstreet Boy who looked unsettlingly similar to Jayke. My pal Kate said she wanted my sloppy-seconds: “He must go both ways!” And he did — ish.
Jayke had said that hooking up with women made him nervous, and that he hadn’t done it in two years. Well, it made me nervous, too, and that’s why I hadn’t done it in thirty-one years. He was quick to add that he could never envision marrying a man — uttering the words as if the mere idea was grotesque and absurd. No, he could never envision marrying a man, nor living the “gay lifestyle.” This made him the second man I’d been with to declare the “gay lifestyle” not for him, leaving me to wonder what the fuck, exactly, said lifestyle was. Was it lisps, limp wrists, and sashay parades? Was it depraved, underground, unprotected sex with multiple partners? Was it Anderson Cooper and Doogie Howser, M.D.? Was it here and queer and ought we get used to it?
Jayke rarely saw a hook-up more than once. I figured he must’ve liked me — or the arrangement — because just as I would delete our correspondence, I’d hear from him again. In preparation for our next rendezvous, I made a visit to the local sex shop because it seemed that I had a difficult time staying erect for guys I found especially hot, petrified that any action I made would turn them off — not because I didn’t want to lose them, but to avoid any sense of rejection. In an attempt to resolve the issue, I sought out a cock ring, which, for those not in the know, typically resembles a thick rubber band and is placed at the base of an erect penis in order to constrict blood flow and maintain the erection. The clerk was a rough-and-tumble man, explicit in both his and his wife’s personal reviews of the merchandise: “Her favorite is the Triple Clit Flicker Vibrating Cock Ring, for obvious reasons.” I appreciated his candor and decided on a gelatinous twist-tie looking number in fuchsia, adjustable in size, and able to squeeze both the balls and the base of the shaft. When I returned home to try it on, I found the aesthetic of my cock-and-balls strangled by a hot pink noose paired with the stinging sensation from lack of blood flow to be both worrisome and unsavory.
The cock noose went back into its package for later regifting. In order to combat any sexually debilitating anxiety, I unwound by pre-gaming with my longtime frenemy Jose Cuervo, who had historically transformed me into a carefree slut. While Jayke and I were making out that evening, I paused and took a decidedly aggressive approach. “Fuck me!” I demanded — just like that. “Do you want me to fuck you?” he asked back. What was this Simon Says bullshit? YES, I JUST SAID THAT. Later I realized it might have been an attempt at verbal foreplay. We ascended the precariously steep ladder to the loft bedroom, me praying not to suffer some sort of calamity along the way. Jayke pulled a condom from his jeans pocket: Kimono, a brand I had never heard of. I hoped it wasn’t some baa, baa, black sheep lambskin condom that provided zero protection against STIs. “America’s thinnest condom family,” per its packaging. Condom family?
Jayke removed his shirt revealing his sinewy upper body: small waist, broad shoulders, flat stomach, with hair in only the right places. I followed suit, attempting to appear confident as I struggled out of my t-shirt like a child needing help from mommy. Maybe I was prolonging the moment until I had to expose my moderately hairy chest and stomach. No matter how many times a person had seen it, I dreaded every unveiling. I was the first boy in junior high to sprout all that unwanted mess, and I remember thinking how spiteful G-d was to do that to me out of the 39 other boys in my class. Wasn’t I busy fending off homophobic children? Why turn me into some 14-year-old hyper-male-bodied mutant? I was meant to be a twink. As soon as I acquired the funds, I planned to endure six to eight sessions of skin-snapping laser hair removal.
It turned out that the loft was a good place to fuck due to the slanted ceiling which provided something to prop my flailing feet against. Jayke was slick with sweat from the heat emanating from the wood stove below. I, however, remained dry because in addition to being a bossy bottom, I am a rather lazy bottom. When we finished, he repelled down the ladder (“On Belay?” “Belay on.”) and asked which towel he should use to clean himself up. “The black one on the shelf,” I told him. He’d graduated from the dog’s towel to the more plush guest towel.
That night we slept together for the first time. The room was pitch black, and in a playfully frightened voice, Jayke remarked that he couldn’t see anything, and pulled me ever so close, frequently alternating positions, perhaps reveling in our first experience of actual intimacy. He emitted a couple of girlish giggles which led me to believe that maybe in the dark he felt free to gay it up a little. I liked that he was taking those risks. I would become his outlet for that. He would need me.
Something happened the following week while I was visiting my mother in San Francisco for my birthday: Jayke began sending me texts, chit-chat texts, “just cuz” texts. “I got broke the fuck off in Tahoe snowboarding, so damn icy up here!” Once I googled “broke off + snowboarding” and learned that it meant to fall off or crash, I replied with some lighthearted albeit lackluster comment about him returning in a body cast. After strategically not replying to his subsequent message, he sent another one: “I thought you said something about your bday, too, so if that’s going on, happy birthday.” I saved his contact information in my phone.
Jayke came over the evening that I returned from my trip, bearing a Tupperware container of three hastily iced red velvet cupcakes full of marijuana-infused butter. “I made these for you,” he said and smiled. He asked about my week in San Francisco. I realized that I had very little to say about it. Or to say to him about it. I hadn’t revealed much about myself due to my fear of repelling him. “The truth is, Jayke,” I might have said:
“…my mother and I went shopping the entire time — an activity I imagine you despise. I was the gay son she has dreamed of, taking her to upscale vintage and consignment shops, yaying and naying potential purchases. I realized this week that she is a compulsive shopper. Every store we entered, she threw a fit over at least one item. She offered to buy me a hundred-dollar James Perse t-shirt. ‘I can’t condone anyone paying that amount for a t-shirt,’ I told her, to which she commended my prudence. Later, I shared my concern that she might have a problem regarding her shopping habits, which, shockingly, I observed her take into consideration and ultimately half-admit. In fact, I just received a text from her boasting that the only shopping she did today was at the grocery. ‘Did you buy any pharmacy items?’ I asked. I had previously notified her that I was placing a moratorium for both of us on the purchase of pharmacy items. I tend to seek out the more medicinal pharmacy items to shield myself from any potential physical discomfort. I have a full arsenal dedicated to avoiding hangnails, nasal congestion, sunburns, rashes, dandruff, razor burn, plaque, dry eyes, and bug bites. She leans more toward the beauty items — especially hair products. I shudder to think of the amount of money she has poured into serums, treatments, rinses, pastes, gels, and sprays full of empty promises. And her hair still resembles an only-slightly more elegant Kate Gosselin wig: bangs with a bouffant. I’ve tried to convince her to go in a more organic Helen Mirren direction but she’s unwilling. Each morning she spends hours at her vanity futzing with everything from her neck up, and when she seems to be finished, she continually re-checks herself in the mirror. It makes me sad.”
“Not too much,” I told Jayke. “Just ate out a lot, walked around….” Perhaps I preferred him talking at me. I looked around the room for conversation starters. Grapefruit — I had already asked if he liked grapefruit. The words scribbled on my dry erase board: “Imposter/performance.” He didn’t know that those words were written in reference to him — to us — okay, fine: to me. We spoke at length about the scandal surrounding the college football player, Manti Te’o, and the girlfriend who he had never met and who turned out to be a gay man, with or without Te’o’s knowledge. Jayke recounted a story of being harassed at a gas station in Alabama. The gas station clerk asked if he and his male friend were “kissing cousins.” “I almost punched the dude!” Jayke said, inexplicably causing my dick to go hard.
Sprawled out on opposite ends of my dilapidated couch under an electric blanket and holding each other’s feet, I was royally fucked up and marveling at Jayke’s beauty — his bone structure and how the blanket’s placement cut his face off at a divine angle. Overwhelmed, I blurted out how handsome he was. He didn’t return the compliment, and yes, I wanted it returned. “I’m not a big talker, usually,” he said instead. I was relieved at his level of self-awareness, and wondered if it was a veiled compliment, that apparently he felt comfortable with me. I was even more assured that I might one day make a great therapist, having managed to appear engaged while internally reeling from the effects of wine, pot cupcakes, and Viagra.
That day I had taken Viagra for the first time. I got a few from a friend — most queens I knew kept some on hand regardless of their age or penile functionality. I’d still been experiencing erection issues with Jayke, and it was my impression that taking Viagra would cause all the blood in my body to whoosh to my dick and remain there for twelve hours, leaving me with an indestructible erection and teetering on the precipice of unconsciousness, but sadly, no. Perhaps the purported side effects of Propecia had caught up with me after four years. Propecia is a drug men take for prostate issues, but in smaller doses has been shown to promote hair growth, and thus prevent hair loss, which remains one of my main personal objectives in life. But I suspected the boner problem was more psychological, due to the inherent disconnect caused by having a closeted sexual partner combined with the anxiety of becoming attached to a person who still owed me nothing and could turn me out at any time.
I didn’t sleep well that night, tripping out, hyper, wishing I was at once walking around, talking, singing, entertaining the masses, but stuck in bed in the dark with Jayke clinging to me — always an arm or leg strewn over me. I loved his touch, but was prone to overheating, so I gently removed parts of him from me, when, out of nowhere, I became ravenous. All I’d eaten that day was Adderall (prescribed) and Viagra (not prescribed) and drug cupcakes, so I slipped out of bed, tiptoed into the kitchen, and poured a bag of sunflower seeds down my throat, sticking to my lips and face, followed by slurps of watery undercooked oatmeal.
On his way out the next morning, we kissed goodbye for the first time, and Jayke asked if he should return after work.
I was at a neighbor’s house when Jayke arrived at the cottage that evening. I had told him to let himself in. Walking the path back to my house, guided only by moon and starlight, my pace increased as I got closer. I saw him through the window and pictured our reunion, which played out exactly as I had imagined. My dog galloped past me onto the porch, waiting at the door panting, tail wagging, pleased to see Jayke’s now-familiar face approaching. Jayke and I held each other and kissed.
As Jayke talked blunt wraps and weed strains, without asking I fetched all the supplies he’d need for a blunt: a piece of cardstock, a grinder, a lighter. I imagined he appreciated my forethought — I was bucking his ideas of the “gay lifestyle,” penetrating that hypermasculine marijuana territory. He held the unfurled blunt wrap with both hands and ran his tongue over the top, an image I had always found tantalizing. My college years were devoted to marijuana, watching nail-bitten dude fingers expertly roll joints and blunts, a skill I could never master, what with constantly trembling hands due to the assorted SSRIs in my system. Since that time, I harbored a “blunt fantasy” that I might someday be the object of one of these skilled men’s affection.
I leaned against Jayke, my back against his chest. One of his hands settled over my heart — quaint. His other hand held mine in that sensual way, all fingers intertwined. Jayke passed me the blunt, sometimes craning his neck to shotgun weed smoke into my mouth. He hacked deep-seated coughs because real stoners take that shit to the head — always got something to prove. I held the blunt between my index and middle finger like a damn dame taking leisurely lady puffs. I let the darkest gray of the smoke seep from my mouth, vacuuming it back up through my nose like a Frenchie expertly drawing on a Gauloise. My heart began straight up palpitating from the weed, so I guided his hand away from the center of my chest while taking discreet, calming, intranasal breaths. I silently commended myself for handling the marijuana and for my ability to be who Jayke wanted me to be.
One particular evening I planned to make dinner for my man. My man. I would be playing the role of elegant housefrau.
I showered, making sure to lather every nook and cranny. I moisturized my face to avoid any unsightly dry patches. I inspected the skin around my slight widow’s peak. It had been flaking excessively — big flakes that I enjoyed rubbing off and examining while I watched television. I ran Aquaphor over my lips. I dabbed on my signature fragrance — Century by Odin New York: Complex in structure but simple in character — just a dot on my wrists and neck. I donned an electric blue shirt that served to further enhance my admittedly remarkable irises.
We would fuck before dinner, on an empty stomach, with more energy. The sheets were always cold so I preheated the bed with the electric blanket set to level 8. I lit a fancy scented candle — essences of honeysuckle, wisteria, and jasmine — and promptly blew it out. Subtle.
While checking my teeth in the mirror, I heard his car roll over the gravel in the driveway then go silent. I scurried to the kitchen to remove the wine bottle that had been chilling in the fridge, and poured him a glass. When he walked in, I smiled and handed it to him. “For you.” He took a sip, set it down, and kissed me hard, squeezing me until my back cracked. I placed my hands against his chest, coyly pushing him away, as if to say, “But, honey, the kids are in the other room.” I told him to check out the bed. “It’s pre-heated, baby. I did that for you.”
I removed my pants, leaving me in a button-down shirt and briefs. I had always wanted to wear this costume, reminiscent of some cinematic moment where the ingénue wakes in the middle of the night to find her lover is gone. She pops out of bed naked except for a pair of sheer La Perla panties and grabs the first article of clothing on the floor, which happens to be the oxford shirt her man wore to work yesterday, the same one that she slowly unbuttoned the previous night before performing mind-blowing oral sex on him. It fits her like a short dress. She parts wind-whipped curtains and walks out onto the balcony to find him clad only in pajama bottoms, hunched over, hands on railing, wrestling with assorted inner demons. Wrapping her arms around him from behind, she presses her porcelain cheek against his powerful man back. They say nothing. Taking his hand, she leads him back into the bedroom where they have sex even though he is distracted. Jayke was 5’7 and only wore t-shirts, but that night, I was that woman.
Following my performance of many selfless sexual acts, I began to prepare dinner. “You handle the fire and I’ll fix the food,” I told Jayke, quietly giddy as I farmed out salad fixin’s, feeling the refrigerator light shining against my face. While he was on bended knee by the woodstove arranging kindling, I chopped away at the kitchen counter repeating a little ditty: “I’m making a salad for my man. My man.” The greens were local and organic — triple-washed: red and green Swiss chard, kale, tatsoi, arugula, spinach. For texture, I added snippets of sugar snap peas and sesame sticks. For color: yellow bell peppers, purple cabbage, carrot-colored carrots. The flavor profile: nutty, lip-puckering, tingling. I wanted that salad to be everything.
We were on the couch; me leaning against him while he devoured the salad. He loved it, and he told me so. “God, this is the best salad I’ve had in a long time.” (Ordinarily, I would have found his earnestness questionable in its sincerity, but it fit so well into my housefrau fantasy.) And when he finished it: “Wow, I didn’t think I’d be able to eat all of that, but it was so good.” He kissed me. I had done right by my man. My man.
Between sips of a fine dessert wine, I asked Jayke what he deemed the all-time scariest moment of his life thus far. He said it was when he came into close proximity with a grizzly bear and her cubs in the wilds of Alaska. When he returned the question, I had to take a moment. I thought of a night when I had to flee a police raid on a popular cruising locale — a story I wouldn’t share with him. Instead, I told him about the time I was en route to London when, out of nowhere, the plane dropped, causing me and my fellow passengers to scream and grip each other’s arms as gravity sucked us from our seats and our heads hit the ceiling, followed seconds later by a similar colossal plummet. “What about the other day with the dogs?” Jayke asked. While Jayke and I were on a walk, my 35-pound dog had run up to an untended 90-pound Bull Mastiff and got right in its face. I had reflexively grabbed Jayke’s forearm as I did to the stranger sitting next to me on that London flight. “Oy vey,” I had said, otherwise frozen. “That was so cute!” Jayke said, laughing. And driven purely by instinct. Authentic.
I fingered the rubber band around Jayke’s wrist. He rubbed the back of my neck. “Hey, do you think I can wear yellow with my skin tone?” he asked, tugging at his t-shirt. “You know about fashion.” How did he deduce that? He’d only seen me in t-shirts and jeans or naked. I sat up and took a gander. “Yeah, sure,” I said. He kissed me and turned toward the table breaking up weed to roll into a joint. I got up to fetch rolling papers for him.
“So,” he said, “I have to make a confession.”
Shit, shit, shit. I wanted nothing to do with confessions. Not at that moment. Not after I had just made him that gorgeous salad. I didn’t want to hear about a secret girlfriend. I didn’t want to hear about a secret boyfriend. I didn’t want to hear that he had been fucking anyone else. I didn’t want to hear that those bumps beneath the head of his dick that I had asked him about were, in fact, genital warts. I didn’t want to hear that he’d lied to me in any way. There could only be one liar in the relationship.
“Okay,” I said, taking a yogic breath.
Jayke looked up at me.
“I Googled you — “
I released the breath and felt my face go red.
“I saw your videos… I read your articles.”
Show’s over, Synergy.
He resumed his weed project. If we hadn’t been in my house, I’d have packed my things and skedaddled.
“Oh yeah?” I asked nonchalantly, as if my head wasn’t about to explode. As if I wasn’t readying myself for a fist in the face, or at least a stern talking-to for my lies by omission. As if I wasn’t preparing a speech: I’m sorry, Jayke. I shouldn’t have pretended to be something I’m not. I just, I thought maybe you’d get to know me, and….
“What’d you think?”
I sat back down beside him. He put his arm around me.
“They’re bold and raw. I love them.”
“Did they… um….” How would I ask this? I chose a distanced, academic approach: “Did they align with how you had previously viewed me?”
“Yeah,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “You’re a proud gay man.” Was I?
“Well, I have an admission for you, too,” I said. “I love Belinda Carlisle.”
“Who’s that?” he asked.
Matt Siegel is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program. He has previously written for The Huffington Post, The Hairpin, Flaunt Magazine, and The Advocate.