By Zachary Scott
It was just supposed to be a boy’s weekend: a chance for the four of us—my friend, his boyfriend, my husband and me—to hit the theme park, ride some rides, get the shit scared out of us at the haunted houses, eat crappy food, and drink a lot of cheap wine and whiskey. That’s why we rented the cabin. Number 11. A respite from the gallivanting about the park; a refuge from any onslaught of bitter cold rains that the weathermen were calling for.
The night we were due to arrive, we stopped off at a chain restaurant attached to a travel plaza for a quiet, hastily prepared, low quality dinner, only to be overwhelmed by a massive group of uninterested parents and spoiled tweens running amuck. We paid the bill and got the hell out of there.
“Let’s grab some soda and snacks for the weekend while we’re here,” our friend suggested. We all swung into the attached travel mart.
He caught my eye almost from the moment we walked in: tall. And taller still, standing on a raised platform behind the counter. His smile seemed genuine, even though he looked exhausted, and the loud woman in line at the register was being a pain in the ass, complaining about anything that she could – you know the type. I meandered through the aisles, collecting the garbage that would be my diet for the weekend. I kept an eye on him, watched as he handled one person after another, outwardly just as happy to see each of them. I envied that he appeared to like his job – I had just left retail and was fucking thrilled to be rid of the hassle that is customer service. When my turn came to be rung-up, I stood at the register and was only able to mumble a “hello” to the cashier and steal quick glances. Behind his black-rimmed glasses were gentle green eyes – innocent eyes. I was putty. Inarticulate. At a loss for words – a rarity for me.
“We’re staying at the cabins this weekend,” my friend casually said to the cashier. Apparently this was a regular coffee stop for him and the two were acquainted. “You should stop by when you get done.”
As we walked out of the store, I swooned over the cashier to my friend— more so when he said that the cashier was gay and smart and good at his job. My friend informed me the cashier had recently been promoted, that he was actually the co-manager, second in the chain of command. I nodded, impressed. Smitten. Anxious about meeting him more properly later that night.
Once situated in our cabin, the four of us started in on our revelry by breaking open a bottle of wine and settling down to drinking, joking, and catching up—the start of our weekend going as planned. In the morning we’d have breakfast and hit the park.
“Let’s text him!” I announced to everyone. “Make sure he knows he has to come over.”
We did. He did.
By the time his shift ended and he finally arrived, I was already pretty well into the wine, and the other guys had made a dent in the whiskey. Liquid courage steeled my resolve. We were better introduced and then the five of us sat around chatting and drinking, and it wasn’t more than fifteen minutes before I sat down next to him on one of the beds and told him that I was going to make out with him before the night was over. He just smiled, said he was cool with that. Good.
We did make out. Somewhere along the way, amid the flowing booze and flowing conversation, shirts were unbuttoned, jeans unzipped. Soon discarded clothes began piling up about the room in little mounds. Flesh and sweat. Wine and poppers. Skin. Skin. Skin. Touching and kissing and biting and all the carnal pleasures of an unbridled sexual energy. Our energies blended seamlessly, like we were supposed to be there, together, that night, that moment, naked and intertwined— connected on a level I’d only ever experienced once before.
We spent most of that night curled up against each other – he between my husband and me – whispering all the things you’re supposed to know before fucking: Where are you from? What do you do for work? Where did you go to school? Did you ever have a pet? I had at least learned his name, KC, first. I am a class-act, after all.
At some point, KC and I stole away to the small bunk room at the back of the cabin. There, the two of us became one…for a little while. I woke up, blurry-eyed and dry-mouthed, with my head on his chest, as grey, stormy morning light filtered through half open blinds. Rain pelted the windowpane. We were supposed to spend the day in the park. I hoped it would stop.
We hadn’t planned on any of that happening. None of us. But it did and no one seemed unhappy about it. KC went off to work and the four of us went about our day as planned. The rains stopped for the day, but a bitter cold hung in the air. We ate shitty, fried food, drank lots of hot coffee, and knocked into innocent kids on the bumper cars. My friends got me to ride roller coasters, me screaming my head off. When the sun, hidden away by clouds all day, finally sat, we started to hit up the several haunted houses and spooky mazes scattered throughout the park, and I shrieked more than once. Vulgarities flew. I ran like there were real zombies and murderesses chasing after me. I felt alive, energized, emboldened, and I didn’t know why. I even laid in a coffin for a burial simulation on our way out of the park.
That evening, KC returned to our cabin and night two was less eventful: some wine, some snuggling, some horror movies, and a quick trip to the all-night medical cabin after I sliced my finger open trying to use a pocket knife as a bottle opener.
The five of us parted ways the next afternoon – everyone returning to their own homes and lives. I’d recently quit my decent-paying retail job and had a lot of spare time. So after our weekend together, the three of us—KC, my husband, and I—spent weeks talking, texting, and video-chatting. When KC visited he slept in our bed. The three of us were becoming a unit of sorts – my husband and I had a boyfriend. But something in my gut told me I was the one falling the fastest, the hardest. We were in uncharted waters, without a compass, because society had taught us all that romantic relationships were meant to be in pairs.
“I still have my moments of immense sadness, where I catch myself on the verge of tears. I let them out when it’s safe.”
You should know that I tend to jump into things head-first without first checking the depths. I’m impulsive. Sometimes it works out well and enriches my life. Sometimes it fucks me over. I’ve come close to drowning more than once. I knew I was jumping in too quickly, too naively believing that a long-distance, closed triad could work just because our hearts, my heart, insisted we were falling in love, the three of us.
And for a while, it worked. The quick trips across the state were no big deal, schedule-wise; I had tons of time. But I dropped the ball in about a dozen other areas of my life. I was broke. I was falling behind in my financial obligations, in my volunteer obligations, in my writing obligations. I was moonstruck and doe-eyed, and the world was rose-colored. I lived for it. Each visit, each text, each phone call was another hit of a drug I was hooked on.
Then I landed an amazing fulltime position doing work that really mattered and fulfilled me like no other job before. It meshed well with my work at our church. It meshed well with my teaching. Suddenly I was picking up the mess I’d made, fulfilling my adult responsibilities. That’s when we started to realize that long-distance was fucking hard. That’s when making time for trips across the state became a chore. That’s when opposite schedules meant my husband and I were asleep before KC was done with work. We had talked about him moving closer at some point, but we were still too new for that to be a rational reality. The logistics alone, even if we were at that place in the relationship, would be a nightmare to navigate.
We managed to get through the holidays. We even had a network of friends and family who knew about our relationship, who supported us and loved us, but who had cautioned against haste. I had thrown that caution to the wind, and now it came hurtling back at me, bitter and cold. Not because things were bad—we still got along well—but because the rose-colored tint had begun to fade from my glasses. I was for the first time assessing the situation as an adult, not a moonstruck teenager free to act on whims without significant repercussions. Each day that passed I came more fully to the realization that what we had wasn’t sustainable. Not at this point in any of our lives, at least. I knew what was coming.
It was the one time in my life when I was the first to realize that a relationship had to end. I loved him, I still do, and a part of me probably always will. He was more than a passing fancy, more than a fling, more than a chance for me to entertain my curiosities. As hideously cliché as it is, love isn’t always enough to make something work. Not in the real world. Not when we’re adults, with active, involved, busy lives. Not when two of us are at a new chapter of our lives, careers on the climb, reputations building, while the other is still figuring himself out, dealing with his own responsibilities, his own obligations and past mistakes. For weeks we barely connected, and when we did, there were often disappointing conversations about not being able to make it out more often, about how much we missed each other and hated the distance, physical and emotional. I had seen the writing on the wall and tried readying my heart, tried finding a sense of resolve.
When my husband and I finally accepted that it was time to break things off, it was me who did the breaking. I was clearly the one who had fallen the hardest, fastest, deepest—a side-effect of leaping headlong into things. And the night that it happened, KC was so upset, so insistent that we set a weekend for another visit – something that my scheduled wouldn’t allow, something that I, as the creator of my schedule, wasn’t allowing. Somehow he had ceased to be a priority. So one evening, over our video-chatting app, I dropped the ax. I am the strong one, I told myself. I am the communicator. I am the fixer. I am the take-care-of-everyone guy. As gently as I could, I stumbled through a summary of how things had deteriorated, as if he wasn’t aware of the status of our relationship. My breath trembled, my chest tightened, my head pounded. I fumbled words. I choked back tears. You know how you start to peel off a bandage, slow at first, as it painfully pulls at your little arm hairs, and then, in frustration and pain, you just yank. That’s pretty much what it was. I struggle to find more poetic and flowery words to describe the pain, the guilt, the shame I felt as I watched him cry. I was ripping his heart apart.
I still have my moments of immense sadness, where I catch myself on the verge of tears. I let them out when it’s safe. I sincerely hope that one day the three of us will be able to have something – a post romantic friendship. Space is what we need now. Time to heal.
I consider myself a very liberal person, open to most anything, and I try my best not to judge the lifestyles of others. I knew what polyamory was. I think most people have heard of it but don’t around discussing it in polite society. But the one thing about Queer Culture is that polite society has fucked us over so much for so long that we are safe engaging in these taboo situations, even if only discussing them.
Having a husband (whom I never once stopped loving or loved any less) and a boyfriend opened my mind to immense beauty and clarity. I’ve got chronic trust issues that a lot of time, therapy, prescription drugs, prayer and meditation have helped me to take a hold of; however, knowing that my husband could romantically care about another man and be intimate with him while still loving and caring for me, made me more secure in myself and my marriage than I have ever been. I became a more compassionate and empathetic partner. I learned how to listen better, communicate better. I became a more confident and reliable friend. I became bold. I had often talked the I-don’t-care-what-people-think-or-say talk, but secretly, I had been afraid to walk the walk. Those days are behind me. Now I know that I am strong enough to live authentically, uniquely, and truly, without fear or hesitation.
My husband and I were not seeking out a new romantic experience. We were in a good place across every area of our life together. I do not for a second believe that the Divine tests us, but the Universe knew we needed something. I do not believe that this just happenstance. I tried to reason it away for a little while. I argued that because I had such a limited exposure to romantic relationships – I have literally been with my husband my entire adult life – I was more susceptible to falling into this trap. And then I want to throat punch myself because it wasn’t a trap. It was brief and beautiful and challenging, but it was no trap. It was no mere infatuation. It was a short, fiery romance born in cabin 11.
Zachary Scott is a graduate of The Mountainview Low Residency MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction.