A New Path

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Babes

It was peculiar to feel being the stranger and interloper at the funeral of the woman you’d been married to for fifteen years, but that’s exactly how I felt as I stood graveside at Denver’s Fairmount Cemetery and listened to the priest drone on talking about who must have been some other woman than Emily. This was particularly so, as every time I looked up, across the grave, beyond Emily’s first family—her “real” family I’m sure they thought—my eyes met those of Diego’s, who stood on the fringe of the crowd.

There was a bit of a crowd. Emily was—or had been—a fairly well-known Romance novelist. And, although she’d enjoyed my escorting her to big events, I’m sure that most here at graveside thought Kenton Boyd was her husband. Emily’s children were gathered around him and his shoulders were shaking as the casket was lowered into the ground.

Why weren’t my shoulders shaking? Why couldn’t I assert myself as Emily’s husband? Their divorce hadn’t been amicable. He had been a womanizer. Why did Emily’s children gather around him today rather than me? I’d been lovely to them—the self-centered, grasping brats.

Which reminded me—I’d have to look again at the date I’d said I’d be out of the house—our house in Breckenridge, Emily’s and mine. Already there’d been a wrangle over her half of it. So, I’d just said, “Screw it; I’ll move out. Sell it and send me half.” It’s not like I was a kept man, even though Emily was ten years old than I was. I worked and made good money. In fact, I had another house to go to that didn’t have a mortgage and was all mine—Emily and I had pretty much kept our finances separate other than the Breckenridge house.

Who would have known, standing here, wondering whether the priest would shut up before it started snowing, that I’d come to the decision that I was flying back to Richmond next week—to the family house I owned in the Fan District there? I could live pretty much anywhere. I’d only come to Denver—to Golden, really, up into the Rockies west of Denver—because it gave me access to both coasts for my male modeling career. And my book editor job was all handled electronically anyway—I could live anywhere. That had been my stumbling block over the last week. I could live anywhere, so it had been hard deciding where that was. Skiing had been what Emily and I had shared as passions; publishing was what we shared as career context. My passion for skiing had died rather quickly, though, on crutches, with a broken leg—as, I had to admit, had my passion for Emily, if I’d had that to begin with. It too had hobbled along on crutches for too long. And even in publishing, we were in two different worlds.

But I had changed my life for her. It hadn’t been anything like my former life—before meeting her. I’d been faithful our entire marriage, unlike Kenton Boyd, standing there and receiving the condolences due the spouse.

I involuntarily looked up again, my eyes searching out Diego Cruz. But he had gone. He wasn’t there. It had been in guilt that I had looked up—guilt that was probably largely responsible for my disconnect from this event—the burial of my wife. But I could still say I had been faithful to her to the end—to her end.

I just couldn’t say I’d been faithful to her much past the end—shockingly so.

Diego was crying at Emily’s funeral, which made me feel all the worse that I was stoic. He had been devoted to Emily for those two years that it took cancer to take her. We were wealthy enough to have round-the-clock nurse companions. Emily didn’t have to go into the hospital at the end. We had nurses to do for her what Hospice would, in our own home. Diego had been one of those nurses. He was the nurse who was with her—and me—at the end.

Diego had been as solicitous of my needs and of the effect of cancer on us as he was of Emily’s needs. We had grown very close, Diego and I. I hadn’t been married to—and faithful to—Emily for so long that I didn’t recognize the source of my good relationship with—close attraction to Diego—or that it was reciprocated. Diego hadn’t made any secret of his preferences. I, of course, had. I’m not even sure Emily ever suspected. I was seeing other women when we met. I am bi, really, I can get it up and carry through with it with a woman as well as a man. Emily and I had a sex life—just not a robust one and certainly not one that produced children. She was already too old to risk that, or to fit children into her schedule, when we married.

There was no reason—no need—for me to tell her about the affairs equally with men before we met. Bisexuality wasn’t something people talked about in relationship to themselves in the early 1960s. They were told it didn’t exist, so they tended to try not to even think about having such urges themselves. Emily certainly didn’t join in with the innuendo hanging in the air when I told acquaintances that I modeled male underwear and swim wear for International Male—which I still did a year shy of fifty, thank you very much. She had no interest in the world of male modeling, so she probably bahis firmaları had no inkling of the suppositions many people made about male models—somewhat akin to male dancers and male figure skaters.

What was important was that there had been no affairs, no falling off the wagon at all, in the fifteen years we had been married. That I fell—and fell big—within hours of her death, though, was what was making me feel so guilty as I stood out here in the cold cemetery, aching for the ordeal to be over—anxious to get onto another path in life, even though I had little idea what that would be.

Two hours after Diego came to me in tears and informed me that he had found Emily dead when he’d taken her dinner tray to her, Diego and I were in the guest room, on the bed, and I was fucking him.

Neither of us, I’m sure—I’m sure more about Diego than myself—had imagined us doing this—ever, probably, but certainly not when Emily’s body was still warm. But I was in shock. She had been doing so well. Nobody told her blood clots that she was doing so well, though. And Diego was in grief, both for Emily, genuinely, and in panic that it had happened on his shift.

We came together, really, with me comforting and assuring him. He was the one with the tears. I was the “everything will be all right” one. Why was it that I couldn’t cry for Emily, even then, I wonder. I was concerned for the living, though—for Diego in those moments. I held him in my arms. I stroked and then kissed away his tears. He clung to me, his body fitting perfectly into mine. He returned the kisses more fervently than I had intended, but with all of the shared neediness of the months we’d been together, concentrating on Emily, but working closely together and sharing our fears and interests—and our secret knowledge.

I don’t know if I pulled him over into my lap, facing, me or if he straddled me. It doesn’t matter, we both were equally guilty and equally compelled. I don’t know who unzipped who, either. I do know that I was holding our hard cocks bundled and stroking them together as we hungrily kissed.

We wound up on one of the guest beds, me on top of him, both of us pulling at the clothes of the other, becoming intimate with our hands. Diego telling me how much he’d wanted me for months, gagging at the thickness of me in his mouth, begging me to fuck him. And so I did, nudging his thighs open, kneeling between them, pulling him up into my lap; entering, entering, entering him as he moaned at the thickness and length of me; and fucking him deep, hard, and long before I creamed him at the core and he blasted up my belly.

We lay there, panting, afterward, bringing ourselves back down to earth slowly. Neither one of us apologized or expressed regret. My guilt didn’t set in until later; I don’t know if Diego ever felt guilty. Mine wasn’t because I had released my control after fifteen years of holding myself in check. And it wasn’t from fucking him that once. It was more that I fucked him again, after I was completely in control of myself, taking him from behind and above, him writhing on the bed on his belly, crying out how thickly and deeply and gloriously I was possessing him, before I did anything about Emily lying dead in our bed on the other side of the wall.

And now, what about Diego? I had just made the decision to move back to Richmond. I just then realized that Diego had figured in my indecision on where to go from here. Something in the back of my mind had been telling me that I needed to do something about Diego. But wasn’t that part of the guilt? I hadn’t been with Diego since that evening, although we had talked on the phone—or at least sat through long silences on the phone, neither one of us being the one who wanted to disconnect. Could I be with Diego, though? Did I need to continue with the comfortable, convenient lie I’d lived the last fifteen years? If I met with him again, fucked him again, would the guilt rise up of the evening I fucked him twice with my dead wife in my bed just on the other side of the wall from us?

I looked up again, hoping that Diego would have returned to where I could see him and that something in his eyes would tell me what to do. But he still was gone. So were most of the other mourners, including Kenton Boyd and Emily’s children. Most were walking back to their cars. So was the priest, his cassock flapping in the breeze that had come in to deliver the first of the snowflakes. I knelt by the still-open hole and put my hand on the railing of the elevator mechanism. I bowed my head.

Anyone looking back at me would assume I was showing my grief. They wouldn’t know how hard it was for me to give up the comfortable, convenient lie of the last fifteen years.

* * * *

I was driving south on Brook toward the heart of Richmond, trying to beat the effects of Hurricane Frederic back to my Monument Avenue townhouse in the Fan District, when I saw him huddled in a bus shelter. I was acquainted with Neal from a new place for gay guys, the Rainbow Connection, kaçak iddaa being established downtown in a warehouse district where Interstates east-west 64 and north-south 95 converged. I’d served him dinner and played basketball with him a couple of times. I didn’t know him well, though, and didn’t want to, as I was attracted to him, but I didn’t want to have that complication with any of the guys at the shelter. It wasn’t a snobbish thing; it was a complicated relationships at a place I’m volunteering thing. So I drove on by.

I thought we’d made eye contact, though. I thought he had recognized me. So, I didn’t make it more than two blocks farther on when guilt got to me and I turned around and went back.

I don’t know for sure how I’d gotten roped in to helping out at the Rainbow Connection, which was everything I had been trying to avoid when I’d moved back to Richmond from Denver seven months earlier. I did not specifically seek out volunteering there, of course. I’d gone back into the church and one of the young priests there, Father Thomas, had latched onto me, declared I needed to get involved in the community, and had pulled me into the Rainbow Connection. It was sort of a perverse thing for him to do, I thought, as he was the first one to take confession from me since Denver, and I had confessed to my proclivities and about Diego. The penance he had given me was to march into the jaws of the lion.

The priest was young, athletic, modern-thinking, and hyperactive in the community. He also was handsome, with dark, sultry Mediterranean looks, and, like me, had done modeling before he went into the priesthood. That gave us mutual pasts to connect us, but it also made me uncomfortable and antsy. I had regretted that he had been the one to take my confession. Any of the other priests in the church, older and more plodding, would, I assume have accepted that I wanted to escape my sins and was being a recluse for that reason. They wouldn’t have pulled me out of the renovation projects I’d steeped myself in in the old Monument Avenue townhouse and forced me to face my demons.

Father Thomas said he’d faced demons too. That didn’t make me one bit more comfortable with either what he told me I needed to do or how I reacted to him personally—and as my priest.

The Fan District of Richmond in the late 1970s was deep into urban renewal. The district was named thusly because the streets fanned out west from the state capitol center. Monument Avenue, where I lived, was a promenade with a tree-lined grassy median with a parade of statues of southern Civil War generals and figures running between the two sides of the street. All of the houses were set abutting each other or set close together and most were large piles of brick, many with multistory porches on the front of them. The Fan District had once been the prominent residential center of the city and once more was becoming that as the wealthy moved back in from the suburbs. I had returned in time to know that the value of my property—a three-story, fifteen-room mansion set on an English basement with a separate entrance—would go up exponentially if I did some restoration work.

Since I wanted to work myself to a frazzle to avoid thinking about what I really wanted from life, I’d put every working moment that I wasn’t editing a book or zipping off for a photo shoot in bringing the house back to life and health. Father Thomas had cut into that after five months of being the recluse by pulling me into the Rainbow Connection, which included a clinic, a soup kitchen, a shelter, and a recreation center for the city’s gay homeless and down and outers.

That’s where I’d come into contact with Neal, a young blond guy in his twenties, who availed himself of all of the Rainbow Connection’s services and who could always be counted on for a pickup basketball game. In that aspect, the Rainbow Connection was a godsend for me too, as I started counting on getting my exercise there while I was helping out in soup kitchen. I’d played pickup in the church’s gym with Father Thomas, and the prospect of better gym facilities as he described them at the Rainbow Connection had been the lure he used to get me involved in his pet community project.

I pulled up beside the bus shelter, crossing to the other side of the street, pointed the wrong way, and rolled down my window. It was only then that I saw the small dog huddled by Neal’s leg. Neal was huddled over too, several backpacks around him. It was raining already and the wind was pulling rainwater into the shelter.

“Is that you, Neal?” I called from the window I’d rolled down. I damn well knew it was Neal, and he knew I knew it was. The look he gave me hinted that he’d known I’d passed him by the first time too. “Hurricane’s almost here,” I said, although, thank god, most of the pizzaz of Hurricane Frederic had been knocked out of it before it got to central Virginia. “You need to get inside. Hop in. I’ll drop you off at the shelter.”

“Can’t go there,” Neal answered. “They won’t take Petey.” kaçak bahis he gestured to the small mutt pressed into his leg and trembling.

“What have you done with Petey before when you’ve stayed at the shelter?” I asked.

“Just got him last week. Or he got me, I guess.”

“And you’ve been sleeping outside since then?”

“Yep.”

“Well, get inside the car—both of you—the hurricane’s almost on us. There’s a motel nearby that will take a dog, I’m sure. I’ll treat you to the night. No one should be out in weather like this.”

By the time we pulled into the motel lot, a motel that was seedy enough that Neal wouldn’t think I was putting myself out too much to stand him a room here, the streets were awash with water the drains couldn’t handle and the wind was bracing. There wasn’t any trouble in having a dog in the room, as I had hoped there wouldn’t be. It wasn’t the Ritz, they had the room, and there wasn’t any prospect of anyone else dragging in to rent it in this weather. In fact, they probably were pleased to be renting the room for the entire night. It was the kind of motel where rooms usually went by the hour and the biggest charge was for changing the sheets.

I helped Neal and Petey into the room with Neal’s backpacks. The wind had come up enough that it was a struggle to get out of the elements. As we entered the room, a tree came down across the motel entrance in back of us. It was obvious I was spending the night too. Fortuitously, I had been driving home from a photo shoot in Washington, D.C., so, after ascertaining from Neal that we’d be OK doubling up—tripling up, if Petey was taken into consideration—I fought my way back to the car and brought my suitcase in. By then I was soaked to the skin, my clothes clinging to me.

Neal gave me an appraising look when I struggled back into the room, making me realize that being soaked to the skin was quite revealing. He’d seen me in the altogether in the locker room before, but here, like this, was much more embarrassing. I excused myself and took my suitcase into the bathroom with me, drying myself off with a threadbare towel that was hopeless at wicking off moisture, and redressing in shorts and a T.

When I came out of the bathroom, Neal had stripped down to his briefs and was sitting on the end of the bed. It hadn’t occurred to me, but he, of course, had been soaked as well.

“Finished in the bathroom, if you need to get on something dry,” I said, my voice tighter than I wanted it to be. He was a beautiful young man. A bit thinner than he should be, but well-muscled and in perfect proportion. He was blond, with blue eyes, and looked both vulnerable and worldly wise at the same time.

There was only one bed in the room, a double. Neal was sitting on the end of it, his arms outstretched and his fists pushed into the mattress on either side. Petey was nestled up by his bare leg. “So, I owe you thanks from getting me out of that storm,” he said, giving me a saucy look.

“As I said, no one should be out in a storm like that. Just sorry that I have to stay here too,” I said. I looked around the room, trying to think how we were going to do the sleeping arrangements. Maybe the storm would let up enough that I could check on whether there was another room I could get. Chances on that were slim, though, at the guy in the front office was obviously in the midst of closing up when we checked in.

“I’m not.”

“You’re not what?” I asked, looking back at him, not entirely on his wavelength, but close enough to be a bit concerned and off center.

“I’m not sorry you have to stay here too. And I don’t think you’re really sorry either.”

Blushing, I cleared my throat and grasped at a change in topic. The only chair in the room was covered with backpacks, so I stood there, probably looking as lost and uncomfortable as I felt. “Do you have any idea what you can do after tonight, if the shelter won’t take Petey? Can I make some phone calls to see if there’s someplace else that—?”

“Rainbow Connection is convenient to my work,” he said.

“You have a job?”

“Yes. I work in construction. We report to a warehouse not far from the rec center and get sent out from there. It’s just not enough to pay for room in addition to food—food now for both of us.”

“Maybe Petey isn’t—”

“Not an option,” he said, his face taking on a look of panic. He was very arousing with the vulnerable look. I felt myself hardening up. “I don’t have anyone. Now I have Petey. And Petey’s got me.”

“OK, I can understand and appreciate that. Construction, you say?” Again I was anxious not only to keep a conversation going rather than what I really wanted to do with Neal and snatching at solutions to his problem. The solution dropped into my mind, and, unfortunately, leaped out of my mouth before I could analyze it for danger. “There’s an apartment in the basement of my house that’s not finished, but it’s functional. Better than a shelter certainly. And my house is on Monument, within a walk of where you report to work. Maybe . . . if you’re interested . . . you could live there for now . . . until you found someplace else. You could work off any rent by working on the apartment . . . you say you’re in construction.”

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