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Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself

It had arrived. Although this would be my third year “participating,” I was legitimately scared. I wasn’t sure why it was so scary, but honestly, I was petrified for so many reasons.

My first interaction with Pride Weekend was a mistake. I was making my way to Governor’s Island for a polo match with my family when we found ourselves “stuck” in the parade route. The following year was the first year I was out when the weekend came around. It wasn’t pleasant as I witnessed my relationship crumble before my eyes like an out-of-body experience. I missed the parade that year, but I got a sampling of the other aspects of the festivities.

My fear was grounded mainly in the unknown. While I am a gay man, I do not participate in the typical gay culture. I’ve never been a big fan of gay clubs and what goes on there. I come from a background of a traditional relationship. In the gay world, that is like finding a diamond in the rough. The clubs seem to be the antithesis of this. They are a hot-bed of drugs, promiscuity and raunchy behavior. I know all gay men who go to bars don’t fit into this stereotype, but this stereotype is founded in truth. While I’ve been to a handful of gay clubs, and my comfort level was rising, I still had no idea what to expect. Never before had I been to a circuit party. I was venturing into the abyss, and this caused me incredible anxiety.

While I have learned to let go of the men in my past, I still carry the scars of my relationship with them. They’ve all hurt or used me in some way, shape or form. My biggest fear in life is being alone, and this fear is fed by thoughts of cheating, which is birthed from my baggage. The idea of CK with another man broke my heart. I had clear definitions of cheating, but there were worse things floating through my imagination — Like cheating in a form I feel is unfaithful, but the offender does not.

My relationship with CK was building a great foundation, however, the cement was still wet. We were only dating two months and ten days — Very young for any relationship. In the first month, I had strong suspicions I wasn’t the only man entering his bed. Things didn’t always line up and some of the clear indications were there, however, our relationship was still just forming. I knew there would be a transition period. While he told me he was only interested in me, and I was the only man entering his bed, I was aware how we met. I was also aware of his intentions before we even met through his first major slip-up on Grindr. I couldn’t expect monogamy from the first night — That wasn’t realistic.

While I was fairly understanding and looked the other way early on, I was not going to tolerate infidelity as our relationship progressed and strengthened. For starters, my heart wouldn’t be able to handle the pain, and lastly, it wasn’t safe for my health. I needed to trust him to be faithful. Outside the heartbreak, frankly, we were having unprotected sex. We’d been tested, but there are no guarantees. I trusted him with my life, literally, and if he was sleeping with other men, he was treating my life carelessly.

I sincerely had a feeling his intentions had evolved, but I couldn’t be sure how he would react when faced with temptation. I hoped I was the only man for him. As a result, I was petrified for the life of our relationship. I’d watched my relationship with N publicly combust the previous year, and I didn’t want a repeat.

I’m sure many of you reading think I am overreacting. It’s just a party… It’s just a parade… It’s just a weekend… Well, not to me. To me, it was a litmus test for the strength of my love for CK. I didn’t want that love to be tested, and I didn’t want to have to make a decision that could end my relationship with CK. He was my Superman. He was my world. If I lost him, my world would come crumbling down.

We had plans to go to a huge party at XL Friday night, Matinée circuit party Saturday, and the parade Sunday afternoon. I was venturing into this unknown abyss with faith and hope I could persevere. The thought of CK dropping X and losing control of his inhibitions with some other guy caused me great pain and panic attacks. The idea of another man’s hand groping his package caused me panic attacks. Picturing him dancing shirtless against another shirtless man caused me panic attacks. Every time these scenarios and many others entered my brain, my heart rate would increase drastically, I would start to sweat, and I would get light-headed.

All this added up to me being petrified and frustrated. When I asked CK what clothes I should pack to bring to his apartment for the weekend, and I didn’t get any cooperation or help. It all became overwhelming. To begin with, this wasn’t something I was looking forward to, and his lack of cooperation made me lose my sh*t. “Okay Babe. I’ll talk to you in the morning. Have fun tonight!” I said on the verge of tears as I hung up the phone on him.

I think that was the wake-up call CK needed. I don’t think he fully understood how much anxiety this all created for me. I voiced my frustrations for weeks leading up to Pride Weekend. I told him I was going out of my comfort zone, but I was willing to do it as long as I got some hand-holding. I needed help to get over this. It was just another fun weekend for him, but it was a big deal to me.

After a few minutes, he called me back. We discussed things a little more rationally, and CK’s tone changed. He finally realized I was struggling and tossed out the life-preserver. Now that I knew I had him in my corner, I was a little more relaxed, however, I still wasn’t completely comfortable. It was going to be a long, stressful and exhausting weekend both physically and emotionally. I bit down then and there, and braced for impact as I packed my bag and walked out the door.

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One Giant Misstep for Mankind

Tuesday arrived, and that meant back to work after the holiday weekend. It’s always harder to get back into the groove when you’ve been away from the office for some time. Everything takes just a little bit more effort.

That morning, CK and I woke, and although we didn’t have sex, we certainly fooled around a bit. After showering together to conserve water 😉 we got out the door at a decent hour for once. This is quite an occasion for us. It’s normally tough balancing our responsibilities and our libidos, but at times, we manage to master the scale.

We both needed a bit of help getting through the day, so a Starbucks pit stop on the way to the office was essential. We hopped in the long line waiting to order a caffeinated beverages. I would have taken mine intravenously through a central line at the door if given the option. Alas, we filled the time with chatter amongst the two of us. That is, until one of my coworkers walked by.

This wasn’t just any coworker. This was a coworker I’d been on many pitches with. She is one of the biggest names in my agency, running a global piece of business across multiple agencies. Over time, she’d grown to be a fan of mine, but not without hiccups first. Days earlier, her husband entered the hospital with heart issues. This was the first time seeing her since we heard of the incident, so I wanted to giver her space. Anyway, enough back story.

She passed me with two coffees in hand, and we said hi to each other. She sat right next to where CK and I were standing in line. When her son came and joined her at the counter, she took a second to introduce me to him. We shook hands, and they went back to enjoying their morning. In the five seconds for all this to transpire, I panicked.

I am not “out” at work. A few coworkers know I’m gay, and I assume most/the rest suspect. But, in that moment, I didn’t know how to handle the introduction of CK. He was standing right next to me, and in my panic, I acted like he didn’t exist. I failed to mention him at all.

I didn’t want to say, “Oh hi! And this is my friend, [CK].” If he’d done that to me, I would have been quite offended. We were much more than friends. This was the man I was in love with, not simply a friend.

On the other hand, I didn’t want to say boyfriend. I didn’t think that was the moment I came out to her. When the time came for me to be courageous and stand up as who I am, I was a coward.

I try to be strong and proud of who I am, but sometimes I really disappoint myself. I have tried to keep some separation between my personal and work life, but standing there with CK next to me, I should have stood proud. It didn’t matter what I said. She knew who he was in the end anyway.

CK was very upset. We’d had a discussion about my poor introduction skills over the weekend, and then I pulled that stunt. I knew instantly he was upset, and I knew I failed. I started to talk to him about it, but I could tell he was fuming. We talked about it for the rest of the time we were in Starbucks, with the exception of the moments we stood in silence because of the tension. As we walked to the subway/my office, the conversation continued as I explained what happened and how I panicked. I also explained that I wasn’t making excuses for myself, and this was something I needed to get over. I am going to be gay for the rest of my life.

In the end, he understood and accepted my apology. I asked for his patience. I have only been out for two years. He, on the other hand, has many more years on me being openly gay. I even went as far as to publicly chastise myself in Twitter that day to show him how sorry I was. Earlier in the weekend, we discussed opening our relationship up publicly to Twitter. I’d admired how @AustinWilde and @AnthyRomero send each other messages and love across Twitter. I wanted to share that with CK. We started sending each other messages publicly expressing our love for each other. When he sent out the message, “@Onegayatatime baby, i love you,” I melted a bit. As a joke, I responded, “Who is this?” He didn’t appreciate the humor, and immediately deleted the tweet. From the other room, I discovered this and asked him about it. He was angry, and I began to cry. That message meant the world to me. It was the first time he expressed his love for me in a public forum, and it was gone. Or at least I thought so. I did, however, manage to save it by screen-grabbing my phone before it was gone forever. We both took a step back and realized what happened and how much we loved each other and moved on.

That day, CK met my old coworker who left to go work at his agency. After meeting him, she reached out to me to tell me how cute he is. I was thrilled. She’d heard me talk about him quite a bit when I first met him, and now she finally got to meet him. After messing up the morning, failing to share my joy and the love of my life with a current coworker, at least I could share it with a previous one.

That night, we discussed going to an event together, but in the end we didn’t go — I think possibly out of anger for the morning. We spent the night apart. I filled my free time with a late night run. As I ran along the waterfront in Hoboken, I wondered what he was up to in the city. Any time we were separated, I wondered what he was doing with a twinge of suspicion. It was hard not to. Guys in my past treated me poorly, so my self-esteem was very low. The thought of me not being enough for him was not so far-fetched, however, I just left these at suspicions. I never acted on them or accused him of anything. They were simply figments of my imagination…

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Ladies and Gentleman, My Boyfriend

The morning after my “wild night,” I woke early. I was happy to realize I didn’t have a hangover, but I had a lot to do. I sat at my desk and went through circulars to make a grocery list, I went over my to-do list, I cleaned my bedroom, did two loads of laundry and sorted through my clothes to get rid of some of them. It was a very productive morning. The only thing I didn’t get done was to make it to the gym.

Around 11:00am, CK called. I didn’t want to call him because I was afraid of waking him. I knew he wasn’t a morning person. I was happy to hear his voice. He told me he needed to do laundry and wouldn’t come to Hoboken until about 2:00. I was fine with that. It allowed me to finish what I needed to get done for the morning.

I planned to head over to the Hoboken Arts and Music Festival around 2:00. That’s what I told P and my sister. As I was walking out the door, he called to apologize for running late. He was just walking out the door to hop on the PATH. Obviously he wasn’t going to arrive at 2:00. I told him I’d be at the festival, and I would make my way to him when he arrived.

I managed to find P, my sister and her friend without much effort. P had her dog, Baby, with her and needed to find her water. I told them I needed to make my way to the PATH to get CK, and they were welcome to join me. They all followed. We waited at the PATH for some time before he finally arrived. It was close to 3:45 before he finally arrived. He was running late as usual. I happily introduced him to the three of them, and we made our way back to the festival to find lunch.

Before he arrived, I had a worry in the back of my head. We were used to showing affection openly, but not in Hoboken. I still wasn’t out to everyone I knew around town, and I had my reservations about PDA. I was trying to get over it. There was no reason I shouldn’t feel comfortable being myself. But, I can’t lie. I was very nervous.

That being said, I greeted him with a hug, and we spent a large portion of the day holding hands and our arms around each other. This was a first for me. I did relax a bit and began to let my guard down.

We found the steak sandwiches I’ve gotten many years in the past and hopped in line. My old roommate (also my favorite roommate) was making his way toward us, so I told him where we were. I introduce him to CK, and he reminded me I’d met the girl he was with in the past.

As we ate, we walked uptown chatting. He mentioned wanting to do something special for my birthday that Friday. He asked if I’d be able to get out of work early, and I told him it shouldn’t be a problem. All I knew about this surprise was that it would cater to my adventurous side. I thought it was incredibly sweet of him to plan something special for me.

When we reached the north end of the festival, I was ready for dessert. I hadn’t passed anything along the way I really wanted, so I decided to hit up Ralph’s for some cream ice. I ordered the peanut butter cookie dough, and we shared it. It was utterly amazing.

P, my sister, her friend, CK and I were all heading to City Bistro to grab a drink on the rooftop bar since it was such a nice day. We found a seat and relaxed. I could tell one of the guys on the roof was making comments about CK and I, but I didn’t care. I continued resting my hand on his leg or putting my arm around him. I noticed two guy I thought might be gay and informed CK of the “Pickle game” I’d learned from Boston in Miami. We agreed they were gay.

The time came for us to head out. CK wanted to go for a ride on the motorcycle, and I needed to start dinner. We had to stop at ShopRite on the way home for supplies, and it was a bit of a walk home. CK wasn’t happy, but he did it — Not without complaining most of the way.

When we got home, we cuddled in bed for a few minutes before I told him I wanted him to help me with dinner. As I put the beef roast in the oven, I asked him to slice the potatoes for the scalloped potatoes on the mandolin. I warned him quite pointedly to be careful since the blade was so sharp, and I’d already cut myself pretty severely on it once, as did my mother. When he was cutting the last potato, he sliced his finger pretty badly.

I immediately ran to his rescue. He was bleeding pretty bad, but not enough for stitches. He sliced off a small piece of the tip of his thumb. He was now the third person to cut themselves on that mandolin (Him, my mother, and myself). He couldn’t believe how well I was handling the blood. I told him I was a lifeguard for seven years and had my own share of accidents involving a lot of blood. “Awww. Baby, you’re my lifeguard,” he said. I bandaged him up, told him to hold his arm above his head, gave him some painkillers and told him to sit on the couch. Maybe asking him to help was not a good idea. I thought it would be romantic, but it turned out tragic.

When dinner was ready, we ate in front of the TV. He raved about how good dinner was. We watched the shows I normally record on a Sunday night. It was really nice to have him fit so nicely into my routine. That was a sign our relationship had a solid foundation.

When we got tired, we made our way to my bedroom. He must have been really tired, and he kept dozing off. I wanted sex, but it was quite obvious that wasn’t going to happen. It’d been quite some time since we had sex, but I would have to settle for some cuddling instead.

He was out cold, so I brushed my teeth and came back to bed. I must have roused him, because he too got out of bed to brush his teeth. We turned out the light and fell asleep in each other’s arms.

It’s rare to find me happier than when I wake up next to him. It’s impossible not to have a smile from ear-to-ear. Warning: The following may be too graphic for some. As per usual, he began to give me a bl*wjob. It was one of his favorite morning activities. He told me he wanted me to finish for him. This is an immediate killer for me. I begin to concentrate on that alone. (I really need to see someone about this!) After a while, I told him it was time to shower. I scooped him up and carried him to the shower. He began bl*wing me outside the shower as well. I was too distracted in the bathroom, so I grabbed his hand and led him back to the bed. He felt amazing, and when he began teasing my boys with his tongue, I used my hand to get me over the edge.

“Baby. You taste so sweet today!” he told me. I was a bit shocked to hear this considering N told me I tasted awful. This made me like CK so much more in that moment. Seconds later, he exploded all over his own abdomen. It was incredibly hot to watch.

We went back to the shower and cleaned up. That morning, we joked about water sports. He threatened to pee on me in the shower. I told him if he did, I would certainly be returning the favor. When I saw his warm stream hitting my feet, I delivered on my promise. Both of us immediately got weirded out, and that ended immediately. “Yea. That’s definitely not going to be a thing!” I exclaimed. He nodded his head in sever agreement. Afterwards, I bandaged his finger once again and gave him a band-aid for the road.

We got ready and made our way to the PATH. I had to say goodbye to him in Hoboken to get my allergy shot, and he hopped on the PATH.

Monday, he called me as I was picking out a wedding card at CVS. He wanted to know if I was still in the city so we could meet up for a bit. I’d just gotten off the PATH five minutes prior. He was hopping elevator, so he told me he’d call me when he got up to his apartment, but I didn’t hear back from him.

I sent him a picture message of a t-shirt saying “I would cuddle you so hard.” He didn’t acknowledge the message. When I called later that evening, he seemed weird. He told me he was reading Hunger Games and sounded like I woke him up. The conversation was very short and awkward, so I just said goodnight and went to bed.

We made plans for Tuesday, but work got in the way for him. I proposed getting together Wednesday night at my place for Revenge again instead. I also left work early to pick up my new custom-made bed. I was so excited! I brought it home and assembled it. It was amazing. I sent him pictures, and he responded, “Can’t wait to break it in!” He also asked me if I would be interested in a show at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade. I told him that sounded great. Later Tuesday night, I texted him, but got no response until 12:30, just after I dozed off.

The question of fidelity did cross my mind for a hot second. I wondered if we needed to have the exclusivity conversation or was that covered under the can I be your boyfriend conversation? It wasn’t that I didn’t trust him, but my mind can run wild at times. I was just going to keep it in the back of my mind until I decided whether it was necessary to bring it up…

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