Conner’s wife bought a tiny throw pillow with an image of two birds kissing which said “home” in cursive, and which Conner would make sure to turn over so it couldn’t be seen. This was more for the other guys’ benefit than his own. Conner bent over the bed and spread himself apart for other guys. When this happened he didn’t want them to look up at the head of the bed and see: home.
Conner was truthful, somewhat, with guys on sex apps.
“You host?” a guy asked him.
“Girlfriend is sleeping,” he said, which turned him on, except it was a lie because she was his wife. It was true that she was actually asleep in their bed upstairs.
“That’s cool,” the guy responded.
“What’re you looking for?” Conner wrote.
“Friends and fun,” the guy wrote back.
“I have enough friends already,” Conner replied.
“Ok,” the guy said, “Pics?” Conner sent him a body pic first.
“Don’t really meet up without a face,” the guy responded.
“Someone’s using my pics,” Conner said, which was also a lie. It both got him out of sending a face pic and made him look more desirable.
“Yeah, so I prefer to keep it discreet,” Conner said. “Are you clean?” Conner asked the guy.
“Yes,” the guy responded. “How about you? You don’t have anything right?”
“I have a girlfriend, man,” Conner said. I have a whole wife, he thought. “You think I mess with that?”
“Ok,” the guy said. “Does your girlfriend want to join?” the guy asked. No, Conner wasn’t up front with his wife. She was so exhausted she’d fallen asleep in the bed reading through case documents trying to prepare herself for an upcoming trial.
“More pics?” Conner asked.
The other guy sent more of his pics. Conner evaluated them but wasn’t impressed so he didn’t send a response. Then, the guy asked, “She want to watch?” yet on a gay sex app people need to learn that no response is a response. Conner finished, deleted the app, then fell asleep on the living room sofa, getting a full eight hours’ restful sleep that night.
Before he was married, Conner was a virgin of sorts, a virgin bottom. Conner never told his wife so she never knew he had been with a guy—only one guy—before they were married. He had blown his fraternity brother in college. It was one guy. It wasn’t one time. They were roommates. While Conner did start watching gay porn at an even earlier age, it would be many years before sex apps were created, so only after being married did Conner start using apps to meet up with other men from the neighborhood.
They never did ass play, Conner and his wife, that is. He worried she would get suspicious. He only hosted guys when his wife was out of town. On one occasion, he forgot to turn the pillow that said “home” back over when he was done. That act, turning the pillow over when there was no occasion to do it, puzzled Conner’s wife, or struck her as strange. At first, she thought, there’s been an intruder. A burglar who had broken into the house and turned over the pillow in the center of the bed to let the couple know, in his own way, that he had been there. Yet, nothing had been taken.
She considered whether it could’ve been Conner. Conner said he loved her and she told him she loved him. He doesn’t love home? She could ask him if he turned over the pillow, and if so, why? No, she didn’t ask. She turned the pillow right side up again. All she could muster to say to him about it was, “I love that pillow.” He didn’t say that he did, too. “I really love that pillow,” she said. Conner thought, does she look mad? Still, he didn’t give her an affirmative response.
Conner’s wife was an epidemiologist, not practicing, but instead, a professional expert witness. She made more money than the lawyers helping them work their cases up for trial. She only did defense work and hated plaintiffs, saying while plaintiffs were poor with an incentive to lie, everyone had a right to a good defense to any type of accusation. She was paid by a law firm that represented companies whose products injured people, facing off, for example, against a woman who melted from the inside out. Conner saw the expert witness materials that came to the door. He brought them inside and looked. From a heavy-duty, hard-surface disinfectant, the woman’s skin had fused together so her eyes, ears, and all cavities closed up. Convinced, Conner’s wife argued that the plaintiff didn’t read the warning. There were many kinds but to Conner his wife was the cruelest kind of liar. Still, she had a career. She got qualified in every jurisdiction. “I’m in trial,” she was fond of saying, with emphasis on the “in.”
Out of state often, fine by Conner. They hadn’t had sex in months. Conner imagined his wife completely sealed up like she had been the one to have a bad reaction. At the thought, he quivered. They spent more time alone than separate these days, her on the weekends with Conner on the couch, and Conner during the week when she was testifying. Or, if they both came home, Conner would say he wanted to give his wife space, then go sleep on the living room sofa.
They met at church, St. Agnes Evangelical Lutheran Church. At one of their services, the pastor actually taught that the Bible says justice is perverted, that it’s the most certain thing. Conner and his wife got married in that church. It was past time to get married, but when Conner said, “I do,” he remembered he almost fainted. At the time, his wife thought, my husband has such deep love for me. By then, she was already ignoring the signs.
Conner didn’t want to get caught. Still, he didn’t travel for guys. It was exhilarating, that feeling of the door unlocked, bending in wait, palms down and crossed over Conner’s head on the bed. He would message multiple guys. He often wanted to take them non-stop in one night. If they failed to show, so what? He wouldn’t need to drive home. It wasn’t as if his wife was nearby. If for some reason she arrived home unannounced and Conner was caught by surprise, he already planned to hide the top in their walk-in closet. Of course, he was fortunate enough to have never needed to do this yet.
Although the guys never failed to show, that doesn’t mean they never flaked. On one occasion, after his wife had flown out earlier in the day, Conner had a guy come over.
“You’ve got a nice place here,” the man said once he arrived.
“I’m not gay, I’ve got a girlfriend,” Conner responded.
“I’m not either,” the guy said.
“You’re really good-looking,” Conner said. Made sense, he thought.
“Now turn around,” the guy snapped. Conner turned around. The man looked into Conner like a telescope, then said, “No, thanks,” and left. Conner would remember this guy as the perfectionist. Conner was an amateur bottom after all.
Later that month, Conner’s wife was flying out again for another case, this time to a circuit court in Tennessee, and this time she confided in Conner that the lawyers wrote her expert report which she simply signed. All communications between an attorney and an expert witness were absolutely privileged according to the law. In this case, a new plaintiff, but the same spray with the same warning label, “May cause blindness, deafness, hearing loss, death,” when you turned to read the bottle in your hand. The lawyers told Conner’s wife to include the words “assumption of the risk” in her expert report under a separate heading on account of their specific jurisdiction. And this time, the plaintiff’s medical records established a history of an STD. The lawyers said, “You can use that on causation, right?” The law firm, and ultimately the insurance company, paid Conner’s wife almost fifty thousand dollars plus they covered travel and lodging expenses. On the stand, the defense lawyer would ask for her opinions and she would regurgitate the lawyer’s own opinions back.
“I hold my opinion to a reasonable degree of medical certainty,” she testified for the record.
Another time, Conner met up with another guy. He was short and had a massive underbite like a bulldog, but it made him look so masculine, so Conner was pleased. He told Conner, “Open your fucking mouth” so he could spit inside. Conner bent over the bed for him. The guy took off his belt. One and done, Conner thought, although it was many. He had sex with many men like that except he did not consider himself to be gay. Conner never considered that taking any of these guys actually made him gay. Some of these men, in person or on their profiles, said they were married, as well. He thought: he was not gay. He believed since it wasn’t openly known, meeting up with a guy didn’t make him gay.
The following night, Conner asked another guy on the app if he “partied.” This guy did ecstasy and meth. While bending over waiting, Conner felt the sweat trickling like insects crawling down his legs. The drugs must have made this guy a pugilist. Conner liked a rough-houser. A little like being manhandled. Maybe more like being shaken. This man was high and full of jolts and jerks. Once, when the man tweaked, he slipped out, demanding, “You put it back inside,” so Conner did like he was told while the man grimaced down at him. Conner felt bubbles in his guts. He sucked in. He was embarrassed for it was as if you’d held a flat-head paintbrush above the bed, allowed one droplet of paint to accumulate, then fall to blot the bedspread. Oh, shit, that she will definitely see, Conner knew.
When he rubbed the bed with a wet washcloth from the bathroom this would only make the shit stain larger. After the man left, Conner took the bedspread off and washed it. But, the stain was still there. He piled the bedspread in his car and drove one street over, stuffing it with a balled-up fist down a stranger’s garbage can. The trashcan was stationed at the side of the house. Conner got out of the car and sprinted. He had not purchased a replacement by the time his wife returned, so when she questioned him, Conner said, “I always hated that bedspread,” and remembering the pillow, for a second his wife thought, my husband cannot be gay.