sleeping together 3

On the fourth day, Gawan took me to the outlook he’d shown me the day before and went beyond for a proper hike, though there were paved paths and steps throughout.

falls

He even brought a picnic: nice thick sandwiches and homemade pie for dessert, which we ate while looking out over a dizzying height. But we had mostly walked down to get to this particular height, and the return trip was up the equivalent of something like 40 flights of stairs. I would have eaten more pie if there had been any.

vista

That evening, Gawan and his roommate’s boyfriend wrestled the soft office mattress upstairs and plonked it on top of the hard mattress in Gawan’s bedroom. It turned out to be just right: baby bear’s bed.

On the morning of the fifth day, we explored each other more, and this time it was not entirely vanilla. He visited the leather paddle upon me again (the first time for that had been at the hotel). We fucked again. He gave me oral, explored with his fingers, and wielded my trusty little vibe on me. Whenever I got close, he sweetly crooned “good girl” until I eventually came. He was unconditionally invested in my pleasure and happiness, and he swaddled me in a blanket of warmth and love.

In the afternoon, he drove me to a notable landmark, one of the sights you really should see if you’re in this part of the country, partly just to have a little outing and partly so I could say “Yes, I saw the famous sights”. I had travelled a long way to get here; if I didn’t see any sights, there would be some awkward questions when I got back home.

So by the fifth day we knew we had a bed that was comfortable enough for me and big enough for us both, but we slept on it only once more before leaving town for the first time, then a couple more days here and there. Otherwise, it was a parade of five different hotel beds over the next two weeks.

***

Throughout the trip, I continued to check in with myself, but less and less frequently as the guilt and anxiety failed to materialize. I did, however, experience some guilt for a while after I got home, in response to Wolf’s moods. He had been consistently supportive of me taking this trip and having fun but had nonetheless found it difficult with me away, and more difficult that I was with another man. This almost certainly hit him harder than it would have otherwise because of his depression and anxiety (which was finally diagnosed only a couple of weeks ago).

But he was still unhappy even after I returned. It pains me when he’s unhappy, so I have a tendency to take more responsibility for his mood than I should, but it seemed clear that the trip was the cause of his unhappiness. And this probably hit me harder than it would have otherwise because of my own depression.

Looking back, I suppose I was projecting my own fears: that non-monogamy would hurt him, and when I saw that he was hurting I unconsciously assumed that was the reason and duly felt guilty about it. While it was unresolved, I couldn’t face writing about this trip. We’ve talked about it many times since: he didn’t expect or want me to do anything differently than I had done, and I’ve let go of feeling like his pain was my fault. I think we’re in the clear now.

sleeping together 2

The fire had burnt itself out during the night. The velvet intimacy of darkness barely kept at bay with firelight had given way to the earnest flat grey light of mid-morning.

We abandoned our living room encampment, still smelling slightly of wood smoke, and returned to Gawan’s bedroom. Third day, third fuck. I hadn’t yet spent enough time with him to be fluent in his body language, but I suspected that to someone who knew him well, he’d appear more relaxed, cheerful, and perhaps satisfied than he had in a while.

One such someone turned up rather earlier than expected: his roommate pulled into the drive, already back from her boyfriend’s place where she’d spent the last few days. I was dressed by now but a still bit cold and had thrown on a bathrobe over my clothes, but I thought it impolitic to meet the woman of the house for the first time looking as though I’d just rolled out of bed — it would bring the unstated assumptions a little too close to the surface ­— so I ditched the bathrobe, put on a sweater, and went out to say hello.

It was a little awkward, though that wasn’t surprising. I’d been nervous about this meeting. She and Gawan are like family to each other, and I knew I was being assessed.

That first meeting didn’t last too long though. Concerned about the unhappy state of my back and neck, Gawan had made an appointment for me with a massage therapist, so that was the first order of business. Afterwards, we ran some errands, and then he showed me the commanding view from a nearby outlook.

falls-2

By the time we got home, the roommate’s boyfriend had arrived for my welcome supper, and the four of us spent a convivial evening chatting while demolishing a roast duck.

We wound down and said our goodnights. Where to sleep this time? Not surprisingly, Gawan wanted to use one of the multiplicity of beds in the house instead of the couch (which was no longer private enough anyway), so we went downstairs and tried the mattress in his office. Third night, third bed. It the same size as the one in his room but less of the surface was available. It was also softer and it sloped down slightly on my side.

Since access to the office was from outdoors and the bathroom was a long, inconvenient way away, I took out my contact lenses in the office rather than doing so upstairs and then fumbling about blindly, past the pool, in the dark.

I slept poorly. I was cold and I got bumped once or twice. When I had to pee during the night, I got as far as the lawn and thought, fuck it, good enough. This was even more like camping than the air mattress by the fire in the living room. Not good.

 

sleeping together 1

My trip to visit Gawan was a big game of musical beds. At the end of my first day of travel, I slept on my air mattress on Mr. PS’s floor. While those interminable airborne hours stretched out of shape, I slept in my seat, but unfortunately, despite being deluxe, it could in no way be mistaken for a bed. When I arrived, Gawan collected me at the airport, took me back to his hotel and (eventually) tucked me in for a nap.

When nighttime finally arrived in this time zone, I was reminded that my sleeping arrangements would be (as I had predicted) the subject of some debate. The hotel room had two beds — a double and a single — so there was plenty of space for both of us to stretch out. Except that Gawan didn’t want space. This was the first time in eight months that we were in the same room and he wanted to close the distance between us completely. Given the fact that I was still run down from travel, he was prepared to concede the point — tonight.

The next day was my first day at his house. We slept together for the first time that evening. It was a watershed, not just for our relationship but also for me personally: this was the first time I had embarked on a sexual relationship while having a good sense of who I am and a bit of a clue about what I want, as well as really understanding that it is always my choice whether to have sex or not.

It was also the first time I had been (ethically) non-monogamous. I’d given the issue a tremendous amount of thought. Intellectually, I was confident that I thoroughly considered all the angles and had come to a rational conclusion rather than conveniently justifying a hot but unwise choice. But it’s impossible to predict one’s emotional reactions with absolute certainty, especially when I was doing something that I’d always been told was wrong. Wolf’s attitude — he’s completely invested in my happiness and wants me to have fun, though he’s not exactly enthusiastic about this specific kind of fun — resulted in me feeling a bit more ambivalent than I would have otherwise.

When Gawan and I stood together on the threshold of that new shared experience, I checked in with myself and found… I felt good about it. I was going in with my eyes open and liking what I saw. Immediately afterwards I checked in again: I didn’t think guilt or anxiety was probable but it was certainly possible, and I needed to pay close attention to my feelings and respect what is, not what I thought ought to be. Fortunately I still seemed to be OK. In fact, I was happy, content, satisfied, and thus better than OK despite being in uncharted emotional territory. No second thoughts.

In addition to sleeping together, that night Gawan was adamant that we also actually, you know, sleep. Together. Aside from just enjoying it, he also sleeps better when he has someone to cuddle. And I can hardly fault the man for not being able to get enough of me.

I, on the other hand, have difficulty sleeping and manage best in my own bed. I had built up one hell of a sleep debt over the course of a few years of waking halfway through the night and not being able to do much more than doze in the hours that followed, a problem for which I’m now taking (mild) medication. If I wake up because I’ve been, say, bumped, I still may not fall asleep again for another hour or more and when morning arrives, I’ll likely be in a seriously foul temper. So, really, ensuring that I have a good sleep is actually a public service. That first night at his house I agreed to share his bed on condition that he keep to his side and let wake me up naturally.

Morning sun lit the room. I looked over and saw his broad back; I couldn’t tell whether he was awake, so I touched his shoulder gently and he immediately turned to me, a smile lighting his face. And we started the second day with our second warm, loving, vanilla fuck.

But alas, his bed was too hard and my back ached something fierce. It was fine for play but no good for rest and that evening I refused to sleep on it again.

No matter, I had my air mattress, and even if it wasn’t perfectly comfortable I could rely on it for a decent sleep. He, however, was feeling thwarted. At bedtime on that second day, was drained and cranky: I was still travel-weary and then I’d tired myself out taking a private dance lesson.

The bedroom was a bit too small so we set up in the living room, where he inflated the mattress for me and arranged it on the floor in front of the fireplace. He got as comfortable as he could on the couch, beyond arm’s reach. I had a lovely, refreshing sleep. Gawan, not so much.

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watershed

I started telling the story of this trip (including a rough draft of this post) shortly after I returned home. I got the first two posts out before the writing of it slowed dramatically. Around that time I was starting to find it difficult to write anything; I think this was connected to my deteriorating mood, which culminated in a diagnosis of depression at the very end of 2016.

But on top of that, it’s just been difficult to write about because momentous things happened, and since both Wolf and Gawan have access to my thoughts here, those thoughts needed to be very settled before I’ll share them.


After the lengthy train journey, we arrived in Gawan’s town and drove home. I knew this whole trip was going to be a big deal, filled with one novelty after another. I’d never been to his country, never mind the big city I arrived in, his town, his house. There would be “his people”. Our travels together. And any developments that may happen in our relationship.

I was concerned about being overwhelmed by all the newness. There was little I could do about it beyond “wait and see”, but I asked him to give me a little photo tour of the homestead to help me adjust more quickly when I finally arrived. Between that and having stalked the place on Google Street View, I felt more at home out of the gate than I would have otherwise.

Usually when two people are establishing a new relationship, each knows what he or she wants to happen, but is making educated guesses about what the other person wants and is hoping those wants are complementary. This was different in that I was more sure of Gawan’s desires than my own: Gawan knew he wanted to fuck but he wasn’t sure if I wanted to, and I knew Gawan wanted to fuck but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to.

Before I left on this trip, I had decided — by rationally considering my thoughts and feelings in excruciating detail — that I wanted to have sex with him. But I was well aware that I might not feel it in the moment, or I might have an emotional landmine blow up in my face. This wasn’t a simple matter: I was choosing (ethical) non-monogamy for the first time ever and it remained to be seen whether I could and would act on that decision.

Gawan confided later that the hug at the airport had pleased him. What he’d gotten from my warmth was a certainty that sometime during the trip, and sooner rather than later, we would fuck. I wouldn’t have put it that way. I had a level of comfort with physicality that I hadn’t felt during our first trip together, but it was a sitting-on-his-lap-and-cuddling kind of feeling — intimate but not especially sexual.

Of course, I had imagined what it would be like to have sex with him. I didn’t see BDSM happening the first time. Even though it seemed to be part of our relationship, BDSM was only one (for now, small) aspect. This had to be simple, and it wasn’t going to be a scene. It would be about initiating a connection on a new, physical level. I had discarded the hotel as a possible location, which left his house. The house we were now at.

After supper we got settled, and then played around. We kissed, he gave me oral. He smacked me with the wood-and-leather flyswatter I’d bought for him months earlier, before we had even met. And we fucked.

This is the most highly anticipated fuck I’ve ever had, and the most rationally planned and considered. I had been thinking about, imagining, constructing, and musing on it for months. I’d thought very little about what it would feel like physically (it would feel how it felt and I had no particular expectations), but I imagined how it would feel emotionally from every possible angle. So how was it?

It was affectionate and kind and sweet.

It was warm and connected.

I felt safe and loved.

It was just what I needed it to be.

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a day in the city

I’m picking up the thread of the Gawan story again, which I dropped after the last post here. I think the main reason why I left it for so long is because it took time for me to process everything that happened. But now that I’ve booked the flights for my next visit with him, I need to get this story told.


When I woke up again in the mid-afternoon, we went out into the city to locate some food. We ran across a little Mexican fast food place where we ate some amazing nachos (I may have been biased: hunger is the best sauce), and boozy margaritas dispensed from a slush machine. Whether it was objectively good or not, it was deeply satisfying and I was likely grinning the whole time.

We wandered around the city centre, mostly just to see it, but I also did a spot of shopping. We were out for some time, the overcast skies darkened from sunset and thickening clouds, and although the timing was a little awkward (not long after our last meal, but a last and necessary opportunity for food for the evening) we decided to eat again.

First choice, despite the fact that it was now raining rather heavily, was an outdoor restaurant at the water’s edge. They had an indoor space so it seemed feasible. A stylish and almost certainly gay waiter, protected incongruously by a clear plastic rain poncho that looked like a garbage bag with a hood, turned us away apologetically: the restaurant simply couldn’t operate in this weather.

Second choice was a restaurant at a nearby landmark, looking out over the water from indoors, but by this point it was dark and pissing down rain so the ordinarily charming view was barely visible, and we were seated at a prep station well away from the windows. I watched a woman delicately assemble some kind of salad with artisanal slowness. Her kit included a small multi-chambered plastic box — the sort of thing I would expect to contain beads or other jewelry findings. In it were tiny nasturtium leaves and little white flowers (possibly nasturtium too, but I didn’t recognize them), which were plucked out and carefully placed with kitchen tweezers. Kitchen. Tweezers. I would have paid even more attention to the whole process if I’d realized that this was my salad. I wasn’t expecting a sort of performance art as part of the dining experience.

It was bucketing down when we were done, so we made our way as far as we could under awnings in search of a cab.

Back at the hotel, it was getting late and I was getting tired so we dealt with the practicalities of sleep. I prefer to sleep alone and, as I discovered during our first date, Gawan much prefers to share a bed. I’d been anticipating that this issue would come up again, especially since I had the sense that on our first date (where the room was equipped with two single beds and we slept separately) we’d arrived at a standoff rather than a truce. He advocated for sharing the double bed but eventually agreed that — for tonight — we could each have our own.

The next morning when I woke, I invited him into my bed to cuddle. We weren’t early waking up, or getting up, or getting packed. The phone rang just as we were making our exit about 20 minutes after what I presume was checkout time. I figured it was the front desk calling to pester us out.

It was raining again. We dashed down the street to a little restaurant where we had a very late breakfast masquerading as lunch. Our table was outdoors behind the restaurant in a little courtyard of pale painted brick walls, and we struggled to get ourselves and our bags under the umbrella that sheltered the light metal table and chairs. As we were finishing up, so did the rain, and we thought it a good time to make a break for the train station down the block. A few minutes later as we approached our platform in the darkened station, the rain started up again, eventually pelting down impressively, like hail, on the train’s metal roof.

I took the window seat, he the aisle, with our luggage perched on the seats facing us. I watched the foreign landscape and flora move past the train’s windows, sometimes wet with rain, as we trundled companionably toward his home during our first full day together.

the fantasy and reality of my arrival

In the lead-up to the trip, I spent some time fantasizing about Gawan. That didn’t come easily though: it made me feel disloyal to Wolf.

After my first date with Gawan, I happened to mention to Wolf that I hadn’t really done any fantasizing about that trip in advance, which surprised him. How would I know whether I actually wanted to do anything sexual with Gawan if I didn’t even try it out in the safety of my mind first? Good question. Wolf not only didn’t mind, he expected it — and it was a valid exercise to help me figure out what I wanted.

But I was also aware that a fantasy is fiction, designed by me, for me. What Gawan did in the fantasy would be exactly what I wanted, limited only by my own self-knowledge. I didn’t want to set real-Gawan up for failure compared to fantasy-Gawan, and I didn’t want to set myself up for disappointment when I eventually had to face the fact that real-Gawan wasn’t psychic.

So I let my mind roam, but cautiously: I imagined my arrival. I’d go through passport control, heave my bag off the carousel, exit through double doors that hid the public arrivals area from view. Once I passed through the doors, there would be a crowd of people standing beyond the barrier and looking expectantly in my direction. Somewhere in that crowd, one man was looking for me. I’d scan the faces. Ah, there, to my left. We’d smile at each other, while I pushed my cart toward him and closed the distance.

The way I’d constructed the scene turned out to be gratifyingly accurate. I got a few details wrong: passport control was done by a camera not a person; the airport was a little older than I’d envisioned, and the ceilings lower. But that irrelevant detail of him being to my left — that was actually correct. I hadn’t predicted that he’d pull out a bottle of Coke with a flourish, out of (very valid) concern that my blood sugar was about to crash.

Next step: the hug. When Gawan had arrived in my city many months earlier, we had our very first hug. I’m naturally reserved, and I was finally meeting in the flesh a man whose presence in my life had so far been limited to a flow of data through the internet. That first hug was kind of awkward, which, knowing me, was probably inevitable. He was exhausted from a grueling trip, but I know I was holding back.

When I imagined this second meeting, I crafted a new hug. It was the culmination of long hours of airports and airplanes, months of pensive waiting. I felt more sure of him, of the relationship, of myself. So I’d fling my arms around him unreservedly and press myself against him, my head against his chest, and smile contentedly (not that he could see), just savoring being there, with him. Did I imagine all those details, or am I remembering how it actually happened? I’m not sure. Does it matter?

Once we got to the quiet train station, he strode away from the few other people and claimed a seat on a bench at the far end of the platform. I cuddled up next to him. As with the hug, this was a way of overwriting the ambiguities of the first date — and my overly conservative estimate of the proper personal space allowance when sitting on a bench beside my internet boyfriend.

The plan was to stay at a hotel near the station for the first night, then trek back to his place the next day, which gave me two likely settings in which to imagine our first fuck. Despite its inherent sexiness, I did not see it happening at the hotel. I’m not entirely sure why, but I suppose it felt a bit rushed and impersonal.

That’s not to say that the hotel room was a scene of chasteness and decorum. It was small, and the two beds (one double, one single) filled it, such the most inviting place to sit was at the foot of the double bed. We came in, we sat, we kissed, we touched. My pants were off within about 5 minutes after the door closed, and I was naked not long after that.

I had gotten much more rest on the plane than I’d thought possible, so I didn’t immediately need a nap. What I got instead was a spanking, followed by a touch of the flogger, and then the leather paddle (in other words, “the travel kit”), while wearing a pair of black, fun-fur-lined leather cuffs.

half-assed
The original image had a certain, very NSFW, symmetry about it.

I was more than satisfied, and happy to leave things there. Fatigue eventually caught up with me and I crashed.

addressing doubts one step at a time

I regularly go for walks on a favorite route that’s cheery and pleasant and fairly quiet. There’s a certain kind of thinking that happens at a walking pace, and I found myself thinking a lot on that route.

At a walking pace, I analyzed my “first date” with Gawan. There were good bits on that trip and bits that were less good. Overall it felt neutral. Our connection via email and Skype was good and strong, but in person something seemed to be missing. Our last hours together were during a long, tiring and stressful travel day, and as I climbed aboard the shuttle bus and saw him wave from the door of the hotel, I checked in with how I was feeling, looking for sadness and disappointment about our parting. There wasn’t any.

I’m sensitive and I absorb a lot of information so when new things happen it takes me time to process; I wasn’t likely to come up with answers during the trip itself.

I’ve never had a relationship start online before. When we finally met for the first time, maybe I was simply flooded with the whole collection of real-life little details and just needed some time to internalize what I would have picked up over the course of months in an ordinary courtship. Physical presence. Body language. The approach–crest–dissipation of a smile. How quickly he walks. Would he steal food off my plate, or object if I stole from his? Bandwidth limitations subtly interrupt the flow of conversation, and Skype’s simulation of eye contact is pure fakery.

We had both already said “I love you” many times, but even though we were, for once, close enough to touch, I sensed a different kind of distance. Why? He had been somewhat ill throughout the trip, so maybe he didn’t seem like himself because he didn’t feel like himself. Also, the location we chose ended up being a lot of work, and a great deal of energy that would have been better spent on each other instead went into the most basic of tasks.

There was definitely still something between us though. Maybe the first meet was always going to be challenging. Maybe when we chose our destination we bit off more than we could chew. I concluded that the first date likely wasn’t representative and that I should give it another try. I wanted to meet again, preferably someplace easier, ideally on his home turf. See who he is when he’s at home, literally.

During moments of play, I had noted that I was only doing things I’d done in high school (i.e. not much), and that this felt oddly comforting. But later I was shaken when I realized that my epiphany hadn’t actually transformed my thinking about sexuality as completely as I’d both believed and hoped. If the hang-ups were absent with Wolf but present with Gawan, then I hadn’t had an attitude overhaul — I’d simply created an exception for Wolf, and sex with anyone else was still fundamentally scary.

At a walking pace, I dissected my epiphany, shaved off slices and put them under the microscope. I recalled that trusting Wolf had come first and intuited that trust was the key here. Even though I already trusted Gawan more than anyone aside from Wolf, it somehow didn’t seem like enough. Why not? Sex makes me feel incredible vulnerable, like handing someone a razor-sharp knife and baring  my belly. I wanted to resolve this issue before our second date, which would give me months rather than the years it had taken the first time, and I fervently hoped I could figure it out in that time. I fed my trust of Gawan by meditating on what he had already shown me: interest, empathy, kindness, support, patience, being unequivocally on my side and never diminishing me in any way. And I eased down my excessively high threshold by asking myself what more I could reasonably expect him to do or say (conclusion: nothing), and questioning whether the feeling of not enough trust was because I didn’t trust myself.

At a walking pace, I examined monogamy. Cheating — unilaterally breaking an agreement you have with someone who trusts you — is wrong. But through respectful (re)negotiation, the parties should be able to agree to any terms they like. I don’t think that sexual non-exclusivity is inherently wrong, but it is entirely unfamiliar to me. I’d been monogamous forever. Wolf agreed that I could have sex with Gawan if that’s what I wanted. But how far could I get by rationally deliberating about something as emotional as sex? What would my gut say in the moment? Or after?

At a walking pace, I asked myself whether having sex with Gawan was what I authentically wanted or what I thought I should want, since I’ve had difficulty with “want” sex versus “want to want” sex before, but one incident gave me some insight. This is sort of a polyamorous arrangement, we hadn’t had sex with each other, and we hadn’t asked each other for sexual exclusivity outside of pre-existing relationships, which for him would have amounted to celibacy. Some time ago he let me know about a BDSM scene that he had arranged with someone new and which would include sex. Rational me understood perfectly. Emotional me punched the wall. (Unfortunately, I know how to throw a punch. It took months before my hand stopped aching.) I rationally examined my reasons not to feel jealous, and then felt jealous anyway. Perhaps it was because he would be having a hot experience with another woman and I wanted it to be me.

What would I regret more, sex or not-sex? Sex would force me to confront long-standing issues about vulnerability, trust, monogamy, and commitment that I may or may not have managed to resolve sufficiently. Not-sex would mean I’d miss out on potentially fun experiences (maybe even adventures), and a deeper connection with someone I love. I decided that not-sex would be the bigger regret.

So, at a walking pace, I picked apart every issue until they lay in shreds at my feet. When these issues ceased to pop up every time I hit my stride, what did come to mind was this: I guess I’m ready for our second date.