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Grope Therapy

Josh Sabarra

When someone begins a statement with the phrase, “I am not the kind of person who,” no matter what follows the qualifier, he or she is, in fact, that type of person. I was not the kind of person who would have an open relationship.

“Are you telling me that you want to see other people?” Gavin asked me, not surprisingly laid back and dispassionate at my suggestion. His temperature never seemed to move above or below medium broil.

“Not see other people, per se,” I replied. “I want to continue our relationship, but I also want the freedom to have sex with someone else here and there.”

“That’s what you said when we started hiring hookers for three-ways,” he countered. “That wasn’t enough for you?”

“The threesomes were fun, but I need to feel what it’s like to have sex with another person, one-on-one.”

“So, basically,” Gavin shot back, “you want to have your cake and eat it, too?”

I couldn’t help but laugh. He rarely applied American idioms to the appropriate situations, and, in his mind, he was likening himself euphemistically to baked goods. By my logic, anyone who used that cliché simply wasn’t smart enough to buy two cakes, but there was only one person in that room who was up for a Mensa membership.

“You know that you were the first and only person I ever had sex with,” I reminded him. “I have to know what that connection feels like with someone else. It’s just a physical thing.”

I actually believed my own words. At the time, I thought they represented a delayed sexual awakening; something inside me, though, knew that I was searching for more. I didn’t feel emotionally linked to Gavin. Sure, he was someone to sleep next to, but he wasn’t the diamond-dipped romantic hero I had dreamed of.

“Whatever you want,” Gavin said half-heartedly. “We can try it and see how it’s working out in a couple of months.” It was one of the only times in my life that I kept my mouth shut. I got the answer I wanted, and I didn’t cloud my head more by counting the cost on Gavin’s behalf. I also didn’t count on how quickly a life changing sexual opportunity would cross my mattress.

My friend Ricki Lake would often host Broadway sing-along nights at her Brentwood home, evenings that I looked forward to every month. Gavin was never interested in musical theater, but he would tag along for the food, drinks and company. On one particular occasion, the gathering included our friend Alan Cumming, one of his pals from New York (whom I will call Daniel) and some showbiz folks such as Rachael Leigh Cook and Kathy Najimy, an aging actress.

By his second Stoli, Gavin was able to tolerate tunes from Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Little Shop of Horrors but had little appreciation for the magnitude of talent in Ricki’s living room.

“Can we leave now?” Gavin said in almost a whine. “I have to be at work early tomorrow; I can’t roll in on my own schedule like you do.”

“It’s only 11:30PM,” I said, “but you can head home whenever you’d like. I am going to stay awhile.” Fortunately, we had arrived in separate cars.

“That’s fine,” he replied, “you have fun.” He kissed me on the forehead, the way he would a friend, and said his goodbyes to the others.

“OK, the party pooper has left the building,” I announced the minute I heard Gavin’s car pull out of the driveway. “Now we can get down and dirty. Who knows some Sondheim?”

We covered Follies, Assassins and Sweeney Todd until nearly 4:00AM, when guests began to fall asleep in their chairs. I grabbed my car keys and started to walk towards the door when Alan cornered me in the front foyer.

“Are you going home?” he asked.

I’d had a crush on Alan since I first saw him on Broadway in 1998; his impish grin and Scottish brogue gave him a uniquely offbeat sex appeal. And, admittedly, I pleasured myself more than a few times while looking at the nude ads for his vanity cologne, “Cumming.” In fact, when I would hear my married friends talk about their celebrity “free passes” – the movie or rock stars whom they would be allowed to sleep with if the chance ever presented itself, regardless of their marital commitments – I always said that Alan would be at the front of my line.

“It seems like everyone is tired out,” I said, “so I figured I’d be on my way.”

“It’s morning already; you might as well bunk here.” Alan gave me a coy wink that was as naughty as it was adorable.

“You and Daniel are in the guesthouse, right?” I asked, even though I knew the answer.

“Yes. You can just hop into bed with us.” Part of me was jumping out of my skin; my celebrity crush was interested in having sex with me. I had ignored interest from men for so many years, and it was excitingly heady to get it from Alan. Another part of me was thinking about Gavin.

“Let me grab a bottle of water, and I will meet you and Daniel upstairs in a few minutes,” I said.

“Don’t take too long,” Alan answered, making his way up the stairs to Ricki’s guest suite.

As I walked into the kitchen to get some hydration, I said goodnight to Ricki who was sitting cross-legged in pajamas on a stool at her counter.

“You’re staying over, huh?” she said with a tone of judgment.

“Well, it’s now 4:15AM. What’s the point of driving home?”

“I don’t think this has anything to do with driving in the dark,” she smirked. “I think this is about Alan.” She had noticed that he was paying attention to me during the evening.

“Maybe he’s just being friendly,” I said, even though I knew better. “Plus, he has Daniel with him upstairs, and aren’t they both in committed relationships with men in New York?”

“Um, Alan wants to be more than friendly with you, trust me. Plus, they both have open arrangements.”

“Do you think I am wrong to sleep with them?” I asked. It was less of a question for Ricki and more of an out-loud thought process for me. In retrospect, asking Ricki Lake to be the arbiter of good romantic judgment was like asking Charles Manson if he thought someone was a good person. Her fling with a married musician who had children didn’t strike her conscience as questionable. She showed up at his LA gigs like a stage door groupie, even after he made it clear that it was just a one-time – OK, maybe two-time – thing.

“What would Gavin say?” she asked, stirring the pot, as always.

“We talked about opening our relationship, actually. So I think he’d be fine.”

“Then I say you should go for it,” she said, mixing her messages. What a surprise from the devil on everyone’s shoulder.

With my bottle of Arrowhead, I walked slowly up the outdoor stairway to Ricki’s guesthouse and knocked lightly on the distressed wooden frame. I saw the movement of two naked bodies just behind the slotted shades that covered a glass-paneled door, and I paused for a moment before accepting their call to, “Come on in.” I was thrilled by the idea of turning my Alan Cumming dream into a reality – how many people can say they have actually had sex with their celebrity crushes? – but I was grounded by two nagging concerns. First, Daniel was partnered with an HIV-positive man, and, even with protection, the risk scared me. Second, while Gavin and I had briefly discussed the open relationship scenario, we had not ironed out the terms by which we would explore other sex partners. For example, were we to stay away from people we knew in common – such as Alan – or were they fair game? I had no interest in compromising my honor even if it meant fulfilling a sexual fantasy.

Everything was moving through my head on fast forward until I opened the guest suite door. I decided in an instant that I had spent too many years playing by the rules, and I needed to live a little. As I stepped into the room, time seemed to slow down, and I heard voices in a gargled, drawn out lilt.

“Why don’t you hop into bed,” Alan said, already stark naked and tucking himself under the covers.

“Will you be comfortable? I’m not sure there is enough room for three people,” I replied. Naturally, I knew we could all fit, but my nerves were making me tentative.

“Sure there is,” Daniel said, “if you snuggle closely between the two of us.” He was standing next to the left side of the bed in a pair of black bikini briefs.

Self-conscious about my body, I removed my shoes and socks first followed by my dark blue jeans.

“You still have your shirt on,” Alan said, “and your pants.” It took me a moment to realize that Europeans sometimes refer to underwear as “pants.”

I removed my orange t-shirt and climbed onto the bed between Alan and Daniel, quickly covering myself with the bedspread before the bright lights of the bedside lamp could highlight my surgically contoured torso. My mind was racing as I felt Alan’s bare ass against my crotch and Daniel’s semi-erect penis at the base of my spine. I was the filling in a man sandwich, the idea of which would have blown my mind before it actually happened. My nerves had the better of me, though, and I wasn’t confident enough in my looks or my sexual experience to do anything but lay quietly between them.

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