Triptychs – Chapter 9
Cole and Jeremy’s apartment. The smell of lasagna, beginning to fill the space.
“But I was supposed to go to visit dad that weekend . . . ” Cole was saying, kind of doubtfully, as Jeremy and me came back to the table.
“That’s all right, dear, I can manage myself.”
“Mom, no! I really want to help set it up. Can’t you get it the weekend after that - ?” That wheedling note in his voice, that he uses on his mother sometimes; I grew up hearing it, and I grinned at him, as I sat down.
“What - ?” from Jeremy, as we both settled back down in our chairs. I saw him glance at Cole.
“Mother’s buying a record player. Can you believe it?”
An amused mouth-quirk from Jeannine. “It is NOT a record player. It’s a home sound system, which happens to have a turntable. It’s a high fidelity sound system, and that describes all the components, including the turntable. Cole’s going to help me set it all up, when he gets back from Santa Monica; I’ll have it delivered on he weekend of the fourth, dear,” she went on, turning to Cole, “but I won’t open the boxes until you have time to help. All right?”
“Oh, perfect!” from Cole. Delighted.
“Why a turntable?” I couldn’t help asking.
“Sound quality,” from Cole. His expression was priceless; the definition of skepticism. “Can you believe it? She thinks analog sound reproduction is better than digital sound reproduction.” His eyes slid sideways, to her.
“And have you listened to a vinyl record on a high-quality turntable, recently?” from Jeannine, mildly.
“Do I have to?” from Cole. “I mean, really, Mother – ”
“I have,”, she interrupted. “At Marguerite’s, last month; your mother was there too, Trevor,” she said, nodding at me. “And the sound quality was very different, I could tell very easily; and that made me interested in the whole question, of digital versus analog. As it turns out, there are many people who prefer well-made vinyl records played on a good sound system, to CD’s and especially to digital downloads.”
“Okay,” I said. “That’s interesting. There are lots of people who think that digital filmmaking is kind of cold. That it lacks something you get with real film.”
“Exactly,” she said. “Although the arguments in this instance are rather technical. But even apart from all that,” she went on, picking up her wine glass with a crooked-up smile, “I’m getting tired of re-buying all of my music, every time a new playback standard is released. I’m not looking forward to DVD-Audio, or to SACD, or the next New Standard to come out. And, I’ve got some old vinyl records I wouldn’t mind listening to again, too.”
And that brought a little snigger from Cole. He really was being kind of bratty tonight; he was in such a good mood, I loved seeing it.
“Yes, dear?” from Jeannine, with that dangerous smoothness that she does so well. Only, we all knew she was just playing off of Cole, this time.
“I was just wondering which of your old albums you wanted to listen to. The Best Of The Partridge Family? Or maybe, what’s-his-name – yeah, Rick Springfield’s Greatest Hits?”
“Actually,” she went, with that little head-tilt again, “I was thinking about some of your grandmother’s opera records. She always took very good care of her records, and it’s been years since I’ve listened to any of them. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Partridge Family . . . ”
Another muffled snigger from Cole; and Jeannine’s eyes took on a predator’s gleam.
“ . . . and not that any of us should be embarrassed about our early musical tastes. Why, I remember, dear, when the soundtrack to ‘The Sound of Music’ was your favorite; you had to listen to it at least once a day – ”
“Really?!” from Jeremy and me both together; Jeremy looking at Cole with a big grin on his face.
“Absolutely. ‘These Are a Few Of My Favorite Things’ was his favorite song, as I recall. He used to get up and dance to it.”
“Hey!” from Cole, spluttering with laughter. “I was five! I was five years old!”
“I distinctly remember you still listening to it when you were six – ”
“Okay, six, then. But I didn’t have a crush on Julie Andrews. Unlike you, with David Cassidy – ”
* * *
Yeah. When Jeannine found that erotic video of Jeremy and Cole at the beach, that I’d made – she almost called the police; she almost filed charges. She was still reacting to the scare about him maybe getting HIV from Michael, of course. Cole said she just, lost it.
But in the end, she didn’t call the police. Jeremy, in his quiet, gentle, way, stood up to her – putting himself in huge, huge danger, in the process – and when she saw what he was really like . . . she backed down. At least, that’s what I’m guessing happened, from hearing about it. Piecing it all together.
God; it was a mess.
It was all such a mess; I was going through my own hell, my mom and me both, because of the shit that had happened in my own family; and Jeremy wasn’t going to jail, but Jeannine and him weren’t exactly on friendly terms, there was still this kind of looming threat over him, and Cole was out-of-his-mind worried, really worried, about the both of us . . .
What Jeremy’d done for me, around that time, that had caused the whole mess with Jeannine – what he’d done for me, I’ll never, ever forget. And what Cole did for me then, after – being there for me, talking me down, spending time with me, at this one most critical crisis of his own life –
Yeah. We’re brothers; we’re more than brothers.
But I still couldn’t tell him, how much more than a brother he was, to me. I couldn’t tell him, how fucked-up about him I was, inside my own head.
About both of them, him and Jeremy, in a way.
Making that video – and what came after – well. Making that video is what fucked me up. Fucked me up, big time.
* * *
“Well, okay,” Jeremy was saying. “I’ve got one of my own.” He said it with a sheepish, sideways smile.
The conversation had gone from, Embarrassing Music From Your Youth, to just-plain Embarrassing Moments From Childhood.
“When I was a kid, in San Diego, my class went to see ‘Peter Pan’, at a pretty good little theater downtown. The original play, not the musical.”
“Uh-huh,” from Cole, happily. Expectantly. Jeannine looked enigmatically amused; I just grinned.
“And – well. You know the part where Tinkerbelle gets poisoned, and she almost dies? And Peter is, like, sobbing, because he thinks she’s already dead?”
“Yeah,” from Cole. I could see the glint in his eye, as he reached for his wine glass.
“Well,” went Jeremy, still smiling, still embarrassed, looking down at the table. “I started crying, too. In front of everybody; I couldn’t help it . . . ”
“You shouldn’t be embarrassed by that, dear,” from Jeannine. “I love the play – the original play, it’s very different from the musical, or the movies. And that’s a very disturbing scene, it’s supposed to make you cry.”
“I was fourteen,” went Jeremy, in a small voice. And Cole, I swear, almost, almost snorted wine out his nose. Me, I just tried not to laugh.
“ – Fourteen?” from Cole. Eventually. Trying to breathe, right. Jeannine was hiding her smile, behind her hand.
“Well, it wasn’t like I was blubbering, or bawling, or anything like that!” Jeremy was trying not to laugh, too, I could tell. “It was more like I kept . . . leaking. The tears just kept coming, and I couldn’t stop . . . ”
Uh-huh, I thought, as I grinned over at the both of them, Jeremy and Cole. It was so totally Jeremy; so totally Jeremy.
* * *
Yeah. Making that video, of Cole and Jeremy – it really messed with my head. Some ways, I’m still getting over it.
And in some ways, it maybe started making me sane. Maybe.
I mean, think about it; there I was, so totally fucked-up in love with Cole, and not able to tell him, ever . . . and Cole wanted me to film him and Jeremy, doing it. Doing it.
As in, fucking. Jeremy fucking Cole, to be precise.
Can you imagine what that was like?
No. Wait. That came out all wrong.
No, I didn’t mean it was some kind of ordeal, or painful, or like that . . . although I guess it was painful on some level, like so many things about Cole and me are painful. On some level, anyway. But that’s just how it is, it’s part of my life.
No, maybe it was painful, but I really meant that it was . . . intense. A hugely, utterly intense experience for me. One of the most intense experiences of my whole life.
I mean, doing this . . . anal sex . . . was something I’d dreamed of doing with Cole, SHARING with Cole, since we were in middle school. I mean, dreamed, literally; I used to wake up at home, hard, from dreams of fucking Cole, dreams of getting fucked by Cole –
And I knew it’d never happen. There was that line in our relationship; I knew it would never happen, that I’d never share that part of him – except for his descriptions of it, of course; he always told me all the details, with Michael, and then with Jeremy, and I lived for that, I really did.
And so, then, out of nowhere – I got the chance to SEE that side of Cole; to see it, to witness it, to SHARE it –
And, fuck-me, it wasn’t just a matter of seeing Cole and Jeremy doing it; I had to film it. I had to frame it, get the close-ups, get the sound . . . and get it all, right . . .
It was the most erotic experience of my life, up to that point. Is that, like, perverse, or what?
Well. Maybe not all that perverse, after all.
Truth is – Jeremy and Cole are really, really hot together. Really hot.
Watching Jeremy do Cole, watching him fuck Cole – Jesus, fucking God. I mean, Jeremy is so GOOD at it; he’s careful, and slow – a lot slower and more gentle than Erik; but, then, he has to be careful and gentle, because he’s so big, down there, I’d forgotten how big he was –
And, my God, the revelation of watching Cole DOING that, watching Cole get fucked, get PENETRATED –
Cole wasn’t – isn’t – a passive bottom. No, no way; Cole fucked himself back on Jeremy’s cock, at least as much as Jeremy carefully, deliberately fucked into Cole.
And . . . oh, God. The expressions on Cole’s face . . . the sounds he made . . .
No. Way to get sidetracked.
The thing is, though, none of that is really what made it so hot, to me; none of that is what GOT to me, so deeply, so thoroughly. Not the technique; not how beautiful they were, together, beautiful bare boys, on a blanket on the sand . . . doing those things, those moves . . .
No. What made it hot – and believe me; I’ve seen enough porn, enough erotic video – what made it so hot was the way they loved each other. The naked emotion they showed, as they fucked; the way they kissed, and gasped, and caressed and licked each other.
The way they made love to each other. In the real, full sense of the word; physically, and emotionally.
I mentioned before, how making this video – and editing the final version together; don’t forget, I spent hours with the footage I shot, editing, piecing it all together, getting the sound right on the DVD’s, making it all work –
I mentioned that making this video, doing this video, in some ways helped make me sane.
And that was how. Seeing real love, as part of lovemaking, as part of sex. Realizing, how much I’d been missing, with my casual dating, my hookups, my not-serious sex . . .
Realizing, finally, and gratefully, at last, that Cole was safe; he had Jeremy, they were in love, Cole was going to be okay . . . Cole was going to be okay. Without me.
So. That part of making the video – that was a good thing. A healthy thing, on the whole; and the part of the experience that I’m glad has stayed with me.
It was what came after, that really messed with my head. Although I think I’m mostly over it, now; but still, it messed with my head.
* * *
“So, Cole, dear,” from Jeannine; leaning back a little in her chair, one hand on the stem of her wine glass. Her head just slightly tilted. “I suppose I shouldn’t even dare ask about your own embarrassing moments; after all, I’m your mother, I’m probably responsible for most of them.”
And my eyes slid toward Cole’s, as his eyes slid toward mine; just as I’d known they would.
Of course, our most embarrassing moments would be shared, him and me; they just would, we’ve always had a tendency to dare each other, to set each other off, to get into situations we shouldn’t get into.
The look between us? Trying to figure out an embarrassing story, that was clean enough to tell in front of Jeannine; most of them weren’t. And of course that alone was hilarious, as soon as I realized what we were doing, and I just cracked up, I couldn’t help it . . .
And Jeannine saw it all, of course; she doesn’t miss much. Her ironic half-smile, the smile she shares with Cole, deepened, as I tried to stop sniggering.
“Well,” from Cole; with another sideways look at me. “There WAS that time at that late practice? With the girl’s track team - ?”
“Oh, Lord,” I went; grinning at the memory.
“What?” from Jeremy. Smiling, himself.
“Okay,” from Cole; I saw his eyes slide towards his mom, thinking a second, then he looked back at Jeremy. “Okay. So, you know how on a swim team, there’s always the discussion about suits? Regular suits, I mean, not the new high-tech body suits?”
“Yeah,” from Jeremy, slowly.
“I’m sorry?” went Jeannine; and I grinned at her.
“It’s about times,” I said; on the verge of laughing. “About whether you get better times wearing a suit, or swimming naked. It’s an old argument, it comes up every year.” I grinned over at Cole. “So at least once a semester, on our team, anyway, we tried to test it out; we did time trials in our skins, just to see the difference.” I looked over at Jeremy. “I’ll bet you did too, on your team; right?”
And he flushed bright red, and looked down, not meeting our eyes. “Yeah,” he went.
Okay. So maybe Cole, and Jason and me, were always the ringleaders, bringing up the discussion; getting the other boys into it. Hey, it’s FUN to go skinnydipping, and it’s fun to get the new freshmen out of their suits – and it is a legitimate question, after all; an avenue for scientific measurement. Right?
“Cole thinks he’s faster without a suit, by the way,” I went on, grinning at Jeremy; “and for me, there’s no difference, it’s insignificant. What about you?”
“I’m slower,” he went, in a low voice, blushing more than ever now.
“Really? Figures,” I said, “what with – OUCH!”
“So,” Cole went on smoothly – he’s had a lot of practice kicking me, when my mouth starts running off – “so, one day we had a really late practice, there was nobody else around, and the coach let us try it again; Coach Monaghan, he was pretty cool about it. So we were in the water, or standing around on the deck – ”
“With no suits on,” from me, grinning, remembering –
“And it turned out, the girl’s track team had a late practice, too,” from Cole. “And it was a pretty hot day, and they decided to go swimming, after . . . ”
“With suits,” I put in.
“With suits,” Cole agreed. “And so they got to the windows outside the pool – ”
“And they watched us for, like five minutes or so at least, before anybody noticed.” I glanced over at Jeannine; she was smiling, but she didn’t seem all that impressed, which was a relief. “One of them had her cell phone, and she, like, took movies of us. I think she got in trouble for that . . . So, it was pretty embarrassing.”
Truth to tell, I really wasn’t all that embarrassed; and neither was Cole, we really aren’t all that body-shy. Swimmers are used to competing in front of crowds, almost-naked, after all.
But what we DIDN’T say was that Gareth, poor, beautiful Gareth, popped a boner as soon as he saw the girls in the windows – and they were big windows, floor-to ceiling, plate-glass windows . . . and, there wasn’t much he could do about hiding it –
Of course, Gareth popped boners in the showers with us pretty frequently, anyway. And in the pool, and on the deck; he did it a lot. Jason and Cole and me plotted like anything to get him to fool around with us; but we never had any luck . . .
“And that’s it?” from Jeannine. Still smiling.
“Well, some of the girls wrote up some notes,” from Cole, looking at me. “And they got around, and reading THOSE were embarrassing. But the punchline is, one of our teammates, Gareth, got really, really popular with the girls, after that.” He smiled, a little wistfully, and I laughed.
* * *
What happened after the video, that day at the beach – it wasn’t Cole’s fault. I mean, he couldn’t know how it would affect me, how it’d brain-burn me; how could he?
It all goes back to that moment, that one moment on the beach, after they’d both finished, they’d both had their orgasms, and they were lying there on the blankets, panting . . . Cole spooned in Jeremy’s arms, his back to Jeremy’s front –
Jeremy still inside him.
Yeah, it was that one moment, with the video camera set down, and after I’d finished taking the last stills – I’d been taking stills in between video scenes, all through the shoot –
It was that one moment when I was done, and I turned from being a human camera, absorbed with the work, even while I was freaking out – it was that one moment when I turned into a bystander, instead. Seeing . . . the whole thing.
Me, standing there; awkward, harder than I’d ever been, leaking like a faucet. A bystander.
Naked, of course; duh, it was a gay nude beach, and we’d been in the water already, a lot.
Yeah; in a lot of ways, a lot of complicated, emotional ways – that was my own, real, Most Embarrassing Moment. Of my whole life.
And Cole didn’t get it. Of course; like I said, how could he - ?
I remember when he looked up at me, from inside Jeremy’s arms.
“Uhhhh . . . I think I’m going to go for a walk,” I’d said. Awkward; awkward. Just wanting to get away.
Well, just wanting to get away, and alone, and stroke myself the two or three strokes it would take to make myself explode all over the sand; to be more exact. And maybe begin to process what I’d just seen.
And then Cole’d whispered something to Jeremy, and then they were apart, and Cole was kneeling up, and he looked at me –
And I knew what he was going to do. Fuck-me, I knew, and I was like, paralyzed.
“I think we owe him,” Cole’d said to Jeremy; then he’d looked at him. “At least a hand job.” Another look at Jeremy. “Don’t you think?”
And fuck, the look between them at just that moment, that instant . . . Jeremy’s got issues of his own about monogamy, about fidelity, and I knew it, and that look between them, I was still paralyzed but so afraid it was going to be disastrous between them, and it was going to be all my fault –
It wasn’t really about me; at all. I knew that.
Well, partly it was about Cole wanting to do something for me; something special for me, the kind of thing he’d never done for me, before . . . the kind of thing he’d never done for me, with me, while he was dating somebody else.
But partly it was about him pushing Jeremy, of course. Testing him; daring him. Yeah; an awful lot of it was him testing Jeremy.
So it really wasn’t about me; I wasn’t really responsible.
Or that’s what I told myself, anyway; still frozen, uncertain, standing there exposed.
And the moment stretched . . . Jeremy’s eyes locked on Cole’s, a battle of wills, and I swear, I thought Jeremy was going to just, get up and walk away; I swear, I saw his muscles twitch like he was going to do just that . . .
And then, something between them – changed.
There was some kind of, I-don’t-know, non-verbal decision thing between them . . . I could tell there was, and in a way it was a kind of separate shock, that they were already so close that they were doing that; he’d never had that kind of communication with Michael –
Anyway, it was like they had this whole conversation all their own, for a second, that I couldn’t read; and then Jeremy looked at me, he LOOKED at me, and I knew he wasn’t pissed at me, whatever else was going on, and he smiled, and fuck-me, if it wasn’t a kind of daring smile of his own, a kind of echo of Cole’s own smile . . .
“Yeah,” he went. “Yeah, we do owe him.” And he patted the blanket beside him, the space between him and Cole. “Get on over here,” he said.
As threeways go, it wasn’t much of a threeways. It was me, between them; my back, sitting up, to Jeremy’s front, me leaning back on his chest, actually; Cole in front of me, between my legs. Both of them using their hands on me.
Every second of it is burned into my brain; I swear to God, it is.
I was so torn, I was so fucking torn.
Afraid, on one level, that I was fucking up their relationship, Cole’s and Jeremy’s, by doing this . . . By letting myself do this.
Aware, really, REALLY, aware, that this was the first time I’d fooled around with Cole in months and months . . . and it might be the last time for this, ever, it might be the last time I ever had this intimacy, this ACCESS to Cole . . .
And with the sound of the waves as a backdrop, the warm of Jeremy’s skin against my back . . . the feeling of Jeremy’s hard dick, against my butt . . .
Yeah. That fact, that one fact, that Jeremy was hard while they were doing me – well, that both of them were hard, actually; Cole’s dick was standing straight up, too –
The warm, of skin on skin. Cole’s face, as he jacked me; he was so totally into it, as he always was, when it came to sex. Jeremy’s hands, all over me, my chest, my balls, my nipples, oh-fuck –
And then Cole leaned in close and kissed me.
It was only quick, and it was only once; but he kissed me, and it was wet, and it was erotic, and he’d only done that, like, two other times in our lives, since that moment in his bedroom when we were thirteen . . .
And then he was leaning back, and he was licking some of my pre-cum off of his fingers, his brown eyes just sparking at me, delighted, and then his warm hand was around my dick again, and Jeremy’s fingers were on my nipples, and oh, fuck-me, I felt Jeremy’s warm breath on my neck, and he was licking me, he was LICKING me, warm and wet, on my neck, just about exactly when Cole’s hands, those hands that knew me so well, made me COME . . .
Yeah. It’s burned into me.
The experience; every second of the experience, it’s burned into me.
But even more than that, that one experience – it’s the awareness of the possibilities, that’s burned into me; burned into me, so deep. Because, if it’s happened once, this traitor part of my mind keeps insisting . . . it can happen again. Could happen again.
They’d both been hard, when they did me.
And so, fuck-me, for the next year and more, whenever I’d been to their apartment, I’d try to keep my eyes away from the stairway to their sleeping nook. I’d try to keep from remembering the elaborate jerk-off fantasies – well, more emotional fantasies, than jerk-off fantasies, though I spilled a lot of come over them – the fantasies that had me over at Cole’s and Jeremy’s late, and tired, and Cole would put a hand on my shoulder and ask me to stay, and Jeremy would smile that special smile at me, and take my hand, and they’d pull and push me up the stairs, laughing . . .
And you know, I could just feel everything in those fantasies in my mind, everything so FUCKING real . . . the touching, the warm, the lying between Cole and Jeremy up in that nook of theirs, being held by them, safe and warm and naked . . .
And so, since it’s so warped, so wrong, I’ve been trying, I’ve really been trying, to forget those fantasies. To forget the real-life memories of that time at the beach; the time they made me come.
And it’s all totally burned into my brain; you know? It’ll never really get out of my brain, out of my head. I just need to grow out of it, kind of get around it, instead; yeah, get past it. You know?
* * *
“Do we have everything?” from Cole; sitting down at the table, scanning our plates.
The lasagna was finally ready, cut up and spooned out and heaped on our plates, steaming, delicious-looking, surrounded by even more of Jeremy’s raw veggies.
The lasagna smelled wonderful; and something about the familiar smell, and sitting there with the three of them – these three people I loved – well. It felt so GOOD. So indescribably good.
Yeah, I’ll live with the after-echoes, from that day at the beach; it’ll always be with me. But, now, was now; tonight was tonight. And tonight, felt good. Happy.
It felt like that unattainable home, that I craved.
“Yep,” went Jeremy, happily; “we’re all set.” I picked up my fork –
“Just a moment,” went Jeannine; and we all looked at her.
She smiled her slightly-quirky smile at us, as she lifted her wine glass by the stem. “First, I wanted to thank you both, dears, for inviting me – ”
“Me, too!” I broke in, lifting my own glass, in a hurry.
“ – and second, I’d like to propose a toast.” She lifted her glass a little higher, and we copied her.
“To my sons,” she said, still with that little, ironically-lopsided smile; but solemn, at the same time. “To my sons; all three of them.” And she looked at each of us, in turn, and she reached out, and clinked glasses with us, all three of us, and Cole, Jeremy and me all clinked our glasses, too, multiple times, chink, chink, chink.
And as I sipped my wine, grinning inside at her words, shot through with her words – I realized; maybe, just maybe, in some ways, you don’t have to actually live in a place, for it to be your home. In the ways that having a home, matters.