I am always humbled by the talent of the writers in this space and how generous they are with their time and wisdom. Special words of honour and praise to plumsuede Plum, you are a wonderful writer - your ability shows not only in what you produce yourself but how you strengthen the work of others that seek your advice - thank you so much.



This is my third cigarette. I blow smoke rings at the window and watch how they frame the view from the top of Tremont Avenue. The darkness in the loft seeps around me and joins the night beyond the glass.

Justinís sleeping. He leaves tomorrow and Iím trying to find a way to say Ďlaterí, that lets him live his life, but doesnít sound like good-bye. I think about the things that will change when heís gone; how the loft will be neater, my fridge emptier, that Iíll have more space in the shower. I will miss his presence, but I know Iíll still have his voice on the phone, his messages on my e-mail and his promise that heís coming back.

But I wonít have his touch. And Iím trying to figure out when needing physical contact became so fucking important that the threat of its absence feels like an impossible void.

Before Justin, I had a very pragmatic approach to touch. I wanted contact that gave me maximum satisfaction and minimum aggravation. No names, no emotions, no hassles, no next times. Just heated hands on sweaty skin, carnal knowledge and excellent timing. I had perfected cumming without feeling a thing.

But touch with no feelingÖpleasure with no painÖaction with no regretÖcreates self with no soul.

I can remember the night I decided that no one was going to hurt me again. I was twelve, and my father felt the need to teach me to be a man, with a back-hand that split my lip and sent me running for the refuge of the backyard. Crouching in the dark, listening to angry voices pierce the night air, I waited until the house fell silent, then stretched out on the cool, damp ground and watched the fireflies dance on the grass. They would come so close I could almost touch them. They brought light but no warmth. I could enjoy them without feeling. And I learned from that.

In many ways, I absorbed my fatherís lessons better than heíd ever hoped. He didnít want to raise a weakling; emotionally or physically. He taught me that feelings are expressed through withdrawal or rage, and that weakness of any kind is contemptible. I learned well. All of my anger has been channeled into success, self-indulgence and a sense of morality that is grounded in brutal truth. I may be a fag, but Iím no pussy.

In many ways I know that my life hasnít been devoid of touch. Debbie provided me with a home when I wanted a safe haven and hugs when I looked like I needed them. She fed me and nagged at me and tried to fill a hole that was bottomless.

Michael has always handled me. His unquestioning belief in the ďBrianĒ I created both supported and emboldened me. And when we were young, I needed Michael as much as he needed me. He was the part of me that I had smothered. He still hoped, he still dreamed and he still had room for silliness and wonder. His unrequited crush hung between us and, I know, I fostered it. I needed to feel that unconditional love. Weíre through that now and heíll always be my friend. But I never wanted Michael in the way I want Justin.

Lindsay and I are close too. And I know that some people think that Lindsay is my female Justin. I have to laugh at that. They are both blonde, artistic and cultured. But Justin has a dick, and it goes without saying, thatís important to me. When Lindsay and I slept together it was mainly because I didnít know how else to tell her that I really cared for her, that she was valuable to me. Sheís more than a friend and sheís not my lover, we just are, and I could give a shit if anyone else gets it.

And Lindsay gave me Gus. He entered into my life as little more than a science experiment. Running through the halls that night at the hospital, I felt stoned amusement at best -- until he reached out and touched my face. Then, I was suddenly dead certain I would walk in front of a bus for him. Even now when he slides his hand into mine when we cross the street, when he cries into my shirt and pats my back to make himself feel better, I know that I will always be there for him. He trusts me. He sets a standard I want to live up to.

Even with this, I know that I would still be fucking my way through Pittsburg on auto-pilot if I hadnít met Justin.

Justin has touched in me ways that no one ever has. That no one ever dared.

To Justin, taking care of me is an expression of his love. He was raised in a house where temperatures were taken and monsters were scared from under the bed. He fusses over what I eat, pays attention to my moods and does small things to make me happy. And, in the beginning, it almost drove me crazy. What amazed me was Justinís resilience to my resistance. He never once thought the problem was him, no matter how many times I laid it out for him. Heís a stubborn little fucker. And in the end, it turns out, my Achilles heel is having dinner ready when I work late, low-fat popcorn for movie night, and notes in my pocket which make my dick throb and my heart squeeze.

He also spends time trying to figure me out. Justin is convinced that all the skills that children need to develop into functioning, productive, adults originate from play. I know this because he held forth on the subject one night when he was writing a paper on the importance of art in playtime. He told me that he had come to the conclusion that the parts of me that were developmentally stunted were a result of never playing as a child, of never being played with. I thanked him for his analysis. Knowing that he thought I was developmentally retarded put a new spin on the age difference in our relationship. Then I told him to fuck off!

But he thought he was on to something. He brought home stackable bubbles and insisted that we blow them around the loft. I freaked out at the mess until I realized he was able to stack more than I could and then spent the next hour becoming the undisputed champion. He demanded that we get an X-box and shamelessly uses Gus as an excuse to play hide and seek. Heís made playing with me a mission.

And that includes the bedroom. For as often as there is heated, pounding sex there are times when the intensity subsides, when the sex is easy. Times when I laugh and moan, sometimes in the same breath. Like the times when Tab A somehow misses Slot B, or when in the heat of the moment someone slides off the bed. He is always incredibly responsive when I play with him. And I am amazed at the things that I let him do to me. What his devious little mind can conjure. What my body is always so willing to go along with.

Before Justin, I had always discounted the benefits of second times. And Iím still not sure that I wasnít right. Until I met Justin there was nobody I wanted to do it with a second time. After Justin, everyone else I could have, paled in comparison to what I knew I would have, with him.

It isnít just his natural talent in bed. Iíve had great cock-suckers before. And men that can milk your dick with their ass arenít so rare. Itís more about how connected he is to me. Itís what he knows about me, and how he uses it. How he knows that my legs shake when Iím rimmed right. And how he knows that Iím publicly all about control but that he can having me screaming his name in five minutes flat. How I love it when people watch us fuck, but that I want all of his attention only on me. Itís how he can read my mood and roll me on my belly knowing that I need him to lead even when I canít ask. How he knows that talking dirty turns me on, but telling me he loves me makes me cum. How after we are both spent, I like to lay my head on his chest and have him rub the ridges of my ear.

Itís impossible for me to identify exactly what it is that makes our sex transcend just fucking. It just does. And if Justin wants to call it making love Ė well I guess silence is acquiescence.

I step back from the window and feel a shiver pass through me. I head towards the bedroom, climb the stairs and approach the bed quietly. As long as heís asleep, heís not leaving, Iím not ready for that yet. I sit on the edge of the bed and watch how his breathing causes the sheets to slide across his back. I want to trace the line with my fingers, to feel the smoothness of his skin. I want this moment to last a little longer.

I stretch out beside him, immediately feeling his heat. I want to tell him how cold I was before he came into my life. How scared I am now.

I gather the sheets in my fist and drag it towards me. He follows the warmth, rolling into me, slowly opening his eyes. He searches my face and frowns at what he sees. But I donít want words right now. I need him to leave marks that I can see and feel long after he has boarded the plane. I just needÖ

ďTouch me Justin".