Loving Men-Curiosity (Pup Stories)

Curiosity is the child in us.

I entertain my curiosities daily. When I think of myself living my life, I picture myself sandboxsitting in a large sandbox with my lovers pretending we’re sailors or bulldozers or explorers. While we’re undressing, I imagine we’re adventurers, and the unclothing of our bodies is akin to typography, scanning the mountainous terrain of shoulders and abdomens and hips and buttocks.

And each time I’m with my lovers, whether we’re in Paris or Charlotte or Palm Springs or Buenos Aires, I’m wholly entertained by them.

As lovers love, we’re also very curious about life.

I love my life. I really do. I’m blessed to be in the company of my lovers: Jean-Baptiste, Marc, Pup, and Luciano. They’re my seasonings, my pepper, my flavor.

Last night Pup and I were dining al dente. When we sat down I immediately took my napkin from the place setting and placed it in my lap. But Pup didn’t.

“Don’t expect me to put the napkin in my lap,” Pup chortled, “the napkin goes on your lap when your first course is served.”

“Oh, really,” I responded.

“Listen, Harlan,” Pup added, “I have excellent table manners.”

And then out came our iPhones and off we went to the races. We were foolishly scouring the internet for proper table manners, followed by belly laughs and smiles.

Curiosity is fueled by a distinctive degree of humility.

Loving Men-Kindness (Pup Stories)

Every act of kindness is a small miracle.

I have disabilities: I wear a full-length leg brace on my right leg; I must use forearm crutches to ambulate; I have scoliosis; I’m a jalopy.

Pup, on the other hand, is a shiny, new Tesla: Sleek, sexy, and a tad nerdy.

But on the county roads of daily life that we frequently travel, Pup has accepted my limitations, and I, his.

Pup kindly watches me struggle with something (and believe me, I struggle with a good many things), then swoops in to help.

For example, last night we went to Target to buy a mixer. Pup told me to wait, that he’d kitchenaideretrieve a power cart so that I wouldn’t have to exhaust myself walking around the store. His expedition to secure a cart was in vain, however. But that didn’t stop Pup. Oh no (and this is the Rhodesian Ridgeback showing), he stepped up to every department manager and pointed out that a lack of concern on the part of Target staff was a direct violation of the ADA. It was as though I were being taunted by a bunch of bullies, and he jumped in to defend me.


Or, after we’d eaten our first dinner together, Pup watched my feeble attempt at placing my leftovers in a to-go box, then grabbed the plate and the box and deftly transferred the pulled pork, baked potato, and mac and cheese. Finally, he inscribed the top of the container so I’d know what treasure lies within.


Or last night, on the way home from Target, I was struggling with an impossible pound bag of M & M’s. For some ungodly reason, I have never been able to tear open their bags, mandmand when I do, the bloody bag explodes, sending candy everywhere like chocolate shrapnel. But as Pup was driving, he reached into my lap, gently removed the bag from my hands, held it to his mouth, and, while I was screaming “fire in the hole,” easily tore open a corner with his teeth, then tenderly placed the bag back in my hands saying, “here you go, sweets for my sweet.”

Sigh. Sniffle.

Pup is my champion. Though young, he pulls out my chairs, moves obstacles from my paths, slows his walk so we’re side-by-side, reaches into my breast pocket for my billfold, removes espresso that’s older than 90 seconds.

Pup has become my very own super-hero.


Loving Men-Days (Pup Stories)

A lover is nothing if not a mirror of your soul.

Pup and I spent another glorious day together. It was in a word, magnificent.

But it didn’t start out that way. God no, it couldn’t have started out worse.

Pup wakes up every day at 6:00 a.m. That’s when he responds to my texts and phone IMG_0004-2messages. And last night I was on a tear. So, at 6:00 a.m. I received a barrage of texts pointing out what a boor I was, that he’d listened to my voice messages, that he’d been busy all day with school and work, and why didn’t I just chill.

You see, I’d once again shot myself in my proverbial foot.

I’m impatient. Boorishly impatient. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to have a day job; I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be stretched for a time; I’ve forgotten what it’s like to try and dovetail a lover into an already hectic lifestyle.

We were having a pissing match!

And Pup can lay into me as pointedly as I lay into him.

We, Pup and I, are now mirroring each other. We’re picking up on each other’s anguish and anger.

“Why” I shouted at him via text, “do you make it so fucking difficult to love you?”

“I fear love,” Pup returned.

“You frustrate the piss out of me,” I reacted, “No one fears love, Matthew. They fear hurt. Love and hurt come in the same package. The difference between love and hurt is trust!”

“Love is hard for me,” he replied quietly, “I trust most people, and I know I trust you.”

Pup and I are like most people. We’re afraid of being hurt by expressing how much we care about the other. It’s exposing; it’s raw; it’s unblemished. And yes, it’s terribly frightening.

But once our chest-thumping is done, once we’re finished biting at each other, we calm down and talk cooly, intimately.

“I love you for who you are,” I’ve told Pup. “However you are. Maybe that makes me weak.”

“No,” Pup said softly, “I think it shows how strong you are.”

I love that Pup.




Loving Men-Capacity

Whoever you think you are, you aren’t.

When my recent odyssey began, I was half of a thirty-year relationship. I was a dog owner. I was dependent on prescription medications. I was sane.

And then all the constructs of my life began to crumble. All the structures that I had cantileverederected over the course of my lifetime began to lose footings; I suddenly realized that I had built my entire life on stilts set haphazardly on an overlook. And now it all was beginning to shift, to disintegrate; the cliff over which I’d cantilevered my life had decayed.

Everything I had come to believe that was so self-important was expunged, as though it never existed, as though it had never been. The decimation was absolute.

And then Life began.

Whoever I thought I was, I’m not.

And unlike most, I’m not trying to stop my marbles from rolling off the board game.

I’m not playing marbles any longer.

I was talking to Michelle this morning when she said, “You’re living the dream, Harlan.”

And I started to think about this: For so many years I wondered what it would be like to love as many men as I love now? Not for the tally, but because I have this tremendous capacity to love! I’m brimming with affection and romanticism!

Recently, I thought I was an odd duck. On many gay dating sites, the focus is the couple“hookup”. I am not a “hookup” type of guy. As I explain, I’m not a sprinter but a marathoner; I prefer conversation before consummation; I enjoy unwrapping my presents slowly, shoulder by shoulder, belt loop by belt loop, zipper tooth by zipper tooth.

I was never afraid of ridicule because of my profile. Because I knew, I knew that men of any age will see my devotion to romance as refreshing. That I have a tremendous capacity for beauty, touch, and wantonness. And I wouldn’t need to convince anyone of anything.

Just be with me, I say, be with me and feel me.

Loving Men-Attention

You never know how much you miss something until it’s returned.

My day with Pup was brief. Eight hours at best. But in those 640 minutes, my attention was drawn across a table, to the driver’s seat, towards a melting gelato. Everywhere but on myself.

When we left the museum, Pup put his hand on my thigh and I picked it up and studied holdinghandshis naked arm, the long shimmering hair that flowed like a river in one direction, and when combed opposite, like the hair on his head, sprung stubbornly back like a rip current.

After dinner, the server gave me a box for my leftovers. Pup watched as I slowly shoveled my pulled pork into the container. All at once Pup said, “Here, give me that for God’s sake,” and expeditiously scooped my cooled meal into the styrofoam.

“When I was a kid we had a lot of leftovers,” he said, “but you didn’t know what was in the containers, so I used my fingernail, like this, to write what’s inside,” as he inscribed the styrofoam cover.

As we sat in the parking lot of my hotel, Pup and I were both turned and leaning against our seats, heads tilted against the headrests, easily looking at the other. “What?” Pup asked.

“Nothing,” I replied quietly.

“Why are you staring?” he pointed.

“Because you’re staring,” I said and turned away.

Aware of my correction, Pup put his hand on my thigh and caressed it.

“I was embarrassed that I got caught,” he said.

“It’s called affection, Pup,” I said.

“It’s called attention, Harlan. People don’t give it away as generously as you do,” Pup replied.


Loving Men-Pup

His name is Matthew, but I call him Pup.

ridgebackPartly because he reminds me of a Rhodesian Ridgeback, and partly because he’s younger than I.

“What should I write about today, Pup?” I asked while he drove me through the streets of Charlotte.

“I don’t know,” Pup said, “you’re the writer.”

Today, Pup and I met for lunch at an outdoor pizzeria across a busy intersection from the coffee house in which he works part-time as a barista. It was a beautiful day in Charlotte. Not too warm, with a gentle breeze.

We developed a wonderful cadence; an ease of conversation; the give and take of interest. The only quiet spots arose when a question was posed that required a thoughtful answer.

After pizza, we went across the street to the coffee house. Pup ordered me a double espresso. “How’d you know I liked double espresso?” I asked him.

“Because you said it at lunch,” he answered.

“Really? I mean, really, you listened?” I asked surprised.

“Of course I was listening,” he replied quietly, “What did you think I was doing during lunch?”

Following, Pup and I climbed into his car and drove around Charlotte. Pup pointed out gentrified areas, tony areas. I felt such an ease around him. When I would get pensive and stare out the window, Pup would prompt “What’re you thinking about?”

“Oh, I’m just far away, Pup,” I answered.

“From me?” he asked.

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 presetTurning to face him, watching him drive, I placed my hand comfortably on his thigh, “Oh no, Pup, not you. I’m very close to you.”

Loving Men-Transparency

When one is transparent, nothing stands between you and another.

I practice transparency daily. It is an active practice. It isn’t meditation or prayer; it doesn’t involve solitude or retreat; it isn’t reflective.

Transparency is invisible. It is the antithesis of barriers. It’s what does not come between people.

Imagine standing eighteen inches from another person. Simply standing. You are looking right into the other person’s eyes. And there’s absolutely nothing between the two you. No suspicion, no unfinished business, no questions. You’re simply standing there and swallowing the other person.

In the past, I built walls and fences and reasons why I couldn’t be intimate with people. I placed these impediments between us to safeguard myself. And it worked. I distanced people. I protected myself. I was as insulated as a cold water pipe.

And alone.

pupThe other day I met Pup. Pup lives in Charlotte. We exchanged two simple phrases, and then I lobbed my telephone number and asked him to call me.

Five hours later we were talking on the phone. With tremendous ease and humor; with nothing in between us but five short miles. Pup called a mystery man out of curiosity. And like children in sandboxes, we played, entertaining our curiosities with laughter and silences.

“I like how you use the word ‘lover’ to describe your lovers,” Pup said to me last night. “You don’t talk like other people,” he admitted quietly.

“It’s like there’s nothing between us,” he said.

Indeed, Pup. Indeed.