Five years ago, at the age of 26, Phil decided to take a chance.
Bored with the bars, tired of one night stands, uninterested in the easy carnality of urban gay life, he sat down and wrote a simple, yet heartfelt description of himself and posted it in the gay section of Yahoo Personals.
Almost immediately, he got a response from a man named Donald.
Donald was just a year younger, lived nearby and miracle of miracles, was cute, smart, funny and employed. He and Phil exchanged a series of sweetly escalating emails, then agreed to meet for coffee. At the coffeeshop, Phil and Donald chatted easily, comfortably, with a decided lack of tension. The next night, after a lovely dinner, they slept together.
The sex was as natural as their first conversation had been. It flowly easily, wordlessly, without negotiation. There was none of the "I am this, so you must be that" sort of dynamic that gay men so often endure. In the morning, before Phil rushed home to prepare for work, they had sex again, and it was even better.
At the office, Phil was especially buoyant, which did not escape his coworkers' attention. He thought about calling Donald several times during the day, but resisted. Finally, before he left for the day, he sent Donald this one word email: "More?". When he got home, the reply waiting for him was: "Yes!".
And so they began dating. There were movies at first, followed by parties, followed by short trips. Then, they met each other's families. Phil's family was cool at first to Donald, gradually loosening up over subsequent visits. Donald's family was initially friendly, but wary. Donald's mother had lost her brother to AIDS in the mid-80s, and now her own son had brought home the physical proof that he too was having gay sex. Phil and Donald assured her that they had both tested negative for HIV before they began dating, and were only having safe sex with each other.
That's when Phil realized they were boyfriends. Even saying the word felt a bit middle-school to him, but oh, how it felt good to say things like "OK, great, see you there, I'll bring my boyfriend."
Maintaining their separate apartments, the relationship continued, deepened, flourished. Friends presumed to assume that non-cohabitation meant non-monagamy, but Phil set them straight. "He's my man. I'm his. And that's ALL there is."
The only real sticking point between them was Donald's persistent feeling that he "wasn't good enough" for Phil. Phil was an Ivy League educated professional in a high-profile job. Donald had graduated from a small local college and was toiling away unnoticed in a sprawling corporate environment. Phil did what he could to assuage Donald's feelings of social inadequacy, but occasionally it rose to the surface.
About three years ago, Phil caught Donald in a lie. A little lie, it seemed, at first anyway. On a whim, Phil had gone by Donald's house late at night expecting him to be home, where he'd said he'd be, only to find the apartment dark and cold. He called Donald's cell, concerned, but got his voice mail. A few minutes later, Donald rushed in.
"You said you'd be home tonight," Phil said flatly.
"I know, I was just...," Donald said.
"Are you seeing someone else?" Phil cut right to it.
"No! Of course not! How can you say that?" Donald said unconvincingly.
Phil went home. The next morning Donald called him at his office and asked to meet him after work at their favorite restaurant. They'd hardly glanced at their menus when Donald started speaking, not meeting Phil's eyes.
"Hey listen. About last night."
"What about it?"
"I haven't been seeing anybody, I just want you to know that," Donald said.
"But...." Phil waited.
"But, I did have sex with someone. It's the only time I've done it and I'm so sorry, I don't know why I did it and I swear I won't do it again and ...," Donald's apology continued to spill out.
Phil threw his menu down and walked outside. His heart pounded, he wanted to cry and he wanted to put his fist through a wall. A dozen scenarios raced through his mind but his mind kept drifting back to one thing. Feeling safe in his "monogamous" relationship, he and Donald had begun to slip up every now and then when it came to using condoms. Mostly, yeah...they were safe with other. But sometimes, they had taken chances, done things they'd never have done with a new person. Stupid things, yeah...but they were monogamous boyfriends, you see, so it was OK.
At home that night, Donald begged forgiveness and once Phil was convinced that the incident had only been a mindless fuck, a simple hook-up, with no emotional entanglements, he decided to let it go. Other than this admittedly major trangression, the relationship had been rock solid, Donald was the best thing that ever happened to Phil, and they decided to "work around it."
Donald promised Phil he'd never cheat again, and Phil believed him. But to himself, Phil resolved one thing. There'd be no more slip-ups, no more taking chances.
Continue to Part 2......