I still don’t know to what degree Ray regrets his immediate, positive reaction to my, for lack of a better term, offer. It’s rather selfish to call it that, since what I was offering was the opportunity for him to, well, service me. Of course, it’s more complex than that. He knew that I did not see asking him to participate in my sexual activity, limited as it is, as a means to increase my pleasure. Since I view the act more as “necessary release” than “actively pleasurable,” and Ray knows that, I believe that he understood that I did not seek to use him for base purposes, but rather to include him, as best I can, in what, for most people, is an important and meaningful act.
For several weeks, I wondered if I’d have the courage to, as he said, knock on the wall that separates our bedrooms should my body’s needs overcome me. I’d heard him masturbate, once even tried to join him, still separated by the wall, to see if listening to his pleasure would somehow stimulate me. It didn’t, not even when he moaned my name during his climax. Things seemed so bleak then that I wept, wishing he would come to me, not for release, but afterward, so that we could…hold each other as we slept. A hopelessly naïve and romantic notion, I know, more suited to a twelve year old mooning over a sports star than a man in his forties.
One morning, my body forced a decision. It was a Tuesday, only that and nothing more, and I was hard when I woke up. I thought about knocking on the wall, calling Ray to me, going to him. I knew if we did this, it would fundamentally change his life much more than mine. Ray is a man of emotional depth, and would view this act as important, as a step forward in our relationship, and is furthermore a man of conviction and commitment. If I were…we were to share it, he would do his best to honor that with fidelity. No more one-night stands picked up in bars (and how I hated that I drove him to that) or with blind dates (I’d met one of those dates once, and while she was uncomfortably direct, the loyalty Ray had engendered in her in the few hours they’d passed together spoke well of both of them; I like to think that’s what most of his one-night stands, regardless of their provenance, were like).
Although I would certainly never demand physical fidelity from Ray, he would be emotionally incapable of what he would see as a betrayal of what we share. Unless his need for physical connection and intimacy drove him to it, which would not bother me in the slightest, but would make Ray feel diminished.
But he hasn’t gone out since the night I’d deliberately lubricated my conversation with Jack Daniels, culminating in my hasty and possibly ill-considered…offer. He has helped himself to himself, as it were, and that last time, the time that made me so maudlin, he had called my name as he did so. “God, Fraser, Fraser,” he’d said, and at the time I’d concentrated on trying to find his broken and desperate voice arousing (and failed at that, for good or ill). It was only later that I realized that he’d used my surname. Mostly, his moans during acts of self-gratification are indistinct, or half-broken curses and pleas, with an occasional “Ben” thrown in. He never calls me Ben in conversation. Usually, I’m Fraser, or “Benton, my friend” or “Benton buddy.” I think “Ben” is a construct of his own mind; “Ben” is his night lover who looks like me, sounds like me, and in some ways acts like me, but is a version of myself that finds sex as compelling and emotionally necessary as Ray does.
I remember Ray telling me that he’s not even sure I would be the same person if I were…sexual. He said he wasn’t even sure he’d know me, or even like me. And I don’t think he was lying, or trying to tell me what he thought I wanted to hear. I think he would be astonished and not necessarily delighted were I to become someone else overnight (for all I know, if things really worked that way, I might wake up heterosexual which would be the cruelest of jokes on both of us). But when he’s thinking about sex, thinking about it enough to indulge himself that way, he apparently, at least sometimes, has a sideways version of myself he thinks of.
But not that night. He was thinking of me, of Fraser. And he hadn’t gone out for the night since our conversation. I don’t want to read too much into those acts, or lack of acts more accurately, but it seems as if, having responded positively to my…offer (oh, how I am beginning to loathe that word, so smug and patronizing), he already has made some kind of deeper commitment to me than before, unrequested but given freely.
I hope, and I knock.