Coming around
by Tony Malone (

This is a story about squash, about Tom Hudson and about love. In Plato's metaphor, each of us is half of an original, double person. Once in your life, if you are lucky, you meet your other half. Plato talks about "the amazement of love and friendship and intimacy" that befalls the reunited pair. It is often not so simple.

A beautiful friendship.

Tom Hudson, Thomas Aquinas Hudson, was a fellow graduate student. I had spotted him right away - a tall Irish type with a rather plain, ruddy face, light grey eyes, thick black hair and a very nice body. He had been an Ivy League swimmer, although you would not have guessed it from his wiry build, more like that of a cross-country runner. The grey eyes were calm and intelligent. He had a slight stutter which I found endearing, the way shyness in an attractive man can be endearing, and a challenge: the body invites as the person turns aside.

Hudson and I had little contact during my first fall and spring: he was a year ahead of me, we had no classes together, and he had his own circle of friends. We did play tennis once over the summer, when we were matched up at the department's annual field day. And he must have liked something about me because one day in November he came up to me at tea. He was planning to learn to play squash; was I interested? Where I come from, squash is considered a preppie affectation, just a notch or two below yacht racing and polo. But when Hudson suggested it, I was happy to agree.

We began squash together. I found that I loved the game. If you like guys and you like tennis, you will love squash. Because of the contact. It's like a combination of duel and dance, with both of you on the same side of the net, constantly getting in and out of each other's way, one nudging or shoving if the other doesn't move fast enough.

The courts were unheated. When you first dropped the ball it gave a tiny hop, and rolled away. A cold squash ball is very dead. It has to be beaten into life. So the first rallies were not just to get our own circulation going: the two of us, with our own metabolic heat, were warming the room as we quickened the ball. Since we were both beginners we played points and alternated serves. I soon realized that Hudson was winning points about twice as often as I did. He was a natural. But since we were not keeping score it did not matter. We played almost every day, and almost every night I could look forward to being on the court with Hudson the next morning. I think he enjoyed it, too, and this thought gave me pleasure. Squash had been his idea after all, but whenever he pronounced the magic words: "Same time tomorrow?" -a question he asked as often as I did- I felt joy. That is the word.

I soon noticed that my admiration for Hudson's looks, his brains and his sweet temper was turning into love. Not idolatrous, not obsessive, a love that fit with the other parts of my life as if I had been saving space for it. That year I was finding an advisor, nailing down a thesis topic, and taking my final oral examination: a constant state of academic busyness. But part of me kept track of Hudson. When I entered a room full of people, classroom or lounge, at school or at the residence hall, I knew instantly whether or not he was there, even though, if he was, it sometimes took me a moment or two to find him.

Late that spring something, and nothing, happened. We were seated with friends at a large, round table in the residence hall lunch room. Hudson was across from me. I can't recall what we were talking about but at one point he looked up and stared straight at me, just for a second. Donne says:

"Our eye-beams twisted and did thread
Our eyes upon a double string."

We know now that eyes are passive receptors of photons. They do not emit beams. But during that second I felt exactly what Donne describes, that our eye-beams, physical objects with mass and momentum, were tangling one with the other. And more, that the physical impetus of this collision had penetrated straight to my guts.

He glanced away. Normal, twentieth-century life resumed. But inside me the reverberations persisted, as they still do. I had been infatuated before, crushes on guys whose faces or bodies or attitudes caught my attention, but this was different. I was in love with Hudson, body, mind, and soul.

That semester Hudson was scheduled to graduate. It was hard for me to imagine waking every day without knowing that we would be together at some point for a conversation, a meal, or a squash game. Almost at the last minute a vacancy came up in the department. As a good student without a good job he was invited to stay on as an instructor, and, happily for me, he accepted.

The next year was my third and would be my last. By then Hudson and I had evolved a special relationship. On the surface it revolved around squash and school. Underneath, on my side at least, it was as close as one could get to a love affair without ever holding hands, and without the concept, or anything remotely related to it, ever coming up in conversation. In all the time we spent together in the gym I never got to see him naked. Our lockers were distant, the showers had many separate areas, and I guess we were avoiding each other. This was before coeducation: men swam nude in the gymnasium pool. I spent several hours a week swimming laps but it never occurred to me to ask Hudson if he wanted to join me there. I don't know how I could have handled being naked in the pool with him. Unearthly, idealized, one-sided as it may have been, this love was enough to make those months, even at this distance, one of the happiest periods of my life.

What was Hudson's take on all of this? It was a mystery to me. I knew he had a complex intelligence. He was well read. He must have known one man can passionately love another. Maybe he couldn't think about it, any more than he could lose his stutter. Maybe he understood everything, and this kind of friendship, and no more, was what he wanted.

Enter Steven Potter.

Then Steven Potter turned up. I don't know where we met him; he was in another department, so it was probably in the residence hall. Maybe in the gym: Potter spent a lot of time there. He had a compact, well-tanned, muscular body and liked to show it off. With that he had smooth good looks and a bright, ready smile, although his small head, low brow and dark, narrow-set eyes always made me think of a muskrat. Almost aggressively jolly and easy to get along with, he quickly became our friend. I felt from the start that he understood everything about Hudson and me, both our ideal friendship and my subterranean love. He had uttered a couple of remarks to me that only made sense as coming from one admirer of Hudson's to another. What I did not expect was that he would deliberately set about to demolish what he had found.

When he learned that we played squash just for points, he was scornful. "That's just like dancing," he said. Exactly. But once this had been said we had to start keeping score and Hudson, the better athlete, always came out ahead. It is not as if I had any illusion about playing as well as he did. But the inexorable totalling of the score, game after game, made it clear that we were not equal partners, not really well matched, and that he was doing me a favor by being on the court with me. "Same time tomorrow?" is hard to say when you have just been beaten four games in a row. We still played but never as often as before; for me it was never again the unalloyed pleasure it had been.

Before Potter entered our group, my love for Hudson had calmed down, slaked by my confidence that he liked me and would always be somewhere near me, even if he never returned my affection. A physical infatuation can grow into a solid and un-passionate friendship. This had happened to me before, and I was both resigned and optimistic about it happening here. But when I saw Potter taking up more and more of Hudson's time, when I heard "We can't play tomorrow, I'm going upstate to meet Steve's grandmother," I recognized the twinges of a new emotion: jealousy. I suspected that Potter was just as gay as I was, and feared that he would be much less scrupulous and maybe much more successful. These thoughts became like a sickness that I could not control.

The apex of my agony occurred after lunch one day, when the three of us were leaving the dining hall. Potter turned to Hudson and said: "Are we still on for this afternoon at the pool? You were going to teach me the butterfly." In my distraction I confused the butterfly with the swan dive, and for the next couple of days was obsessed by the image of Hudson, naked, demonstrating the swan dive for Potter. Butterfly, swan dive, what did it matter? Potter and Hudson had swum, and would probably go on swimming, naked together. Being around Hudson became painful for me, and I saw no possible relief. My thesis work was well under control by then. I was offered an instructorship: I could stay on to be Hudson's colleague for the next two or three years. But instead I took a job at a different, and distant, university. The offer came at the beginning of the summer, while Hudson was away. I moved out before he returned. I left him a brief, friendly note asking him to keep in touch.


My new life.

At my new university I started constructing a new life. I took an intensive language course to prepare for a visiting post-doc appointment I had been offered abroad. I took squash lessons from the local pro. I signed onto the squash ladder at the gym, and played almost every day to defend or improve my position. I found an excellent apartment: a quiet studio high above the city. I worked out the syllabi and homework for the courses I was going to teach. I put the finishing touches on my thesis and began exploring some related questions. There was not much time for social life, but I did not think I needed or wanted any. I was still hung up on Hudson.

"Absence diminishes small passions and increases great ones, just as the wind blows out a candle and fans a fire." In fact the shock of jealousy coupled with the subsequent silence -he had never answered my note- had changed the way I felt. I had grown up. I no longer was interested in our ethereal, boyish friendship; I wanted to take him in my arms, to hold him, to touch him, to take him into my bed. The news came that he had married Delphine, the French girl he had been dating off and on all along, an exchange student at a nearby women's college. His marriage did not stop my dreaming, in fact it made me that much less worried about Potter. What I thought of every morning when I awoke and every evening as I drifted into sleep, in fantasies rich with invented anatomical detail, was having Hudson's body next to mine.

That winter I skied every weekend I could, maintained my progress in squash and started swimming again to keep loose. Physically and intellectually I was in great shape, but I was sick with loneliness. I started seeing a shrink whose first reaction was: "That guy must have meant a lot to you if you had to come so far to get away from him," who raised his eyebrows when I told him I had never had sex with man, woman or beast, and who finally sent me away with this advice: "Treasure Eros." As he explained it, I should be grateful for the God-sent inspiration of being in love. At the time I found this perplexing but over the years I have come to understand what wisdom it is.

At the end of April a letter came from Hudson. I recognized the handwriting on the envelope and tore it open. He was coming out to give a talk the next month, and wondered if I could put him up for a couple of days. Could I! I wrote back immediately and arranged to pick him up at the airport. My imagination was running on overdrive. Hudson living with me for two days, sleeping in the same room! Who knew what could happen. When the time came I had a cleaning service fix up the apartment (first time since I moved in), ordered a snazzy bunch of flowers for the table and -such was the wild reach of my fantasy- invested in a package of condoms.

Hudson's flight came in just before midnight. I saw him standing at the curb as I drove up to the arrivals area. He threw his bags in the back seat, jumped into the car, reached over, shook my hand, and thanked me for picking him up. "How is Delphine?" I asked. "Fine, thanks. She sends her regards," he replied and immediately started asking about the arrangements for his talk the next morning. The size of the room, which experts would be there, how many graduate students and of what level. He did not ask me the color of the blackboards and the quality of the chalk, but he might as well have. These topics and some gossip about our fellow students ate up all the time between the airport and my driveway. Just as we pulled in he let me have it: "We're having a baby!" "Congratulations, that's wonderful." What could I say? What difference did it make? Once inside he scurried off to the bathroom, emerged in pyjamas buttoned up to his neck, climbed into the sleeping bag I had set out for him on the day-bed, and turned to the wall. I got into bed and lay in the dark silently laughing at my own craziness. Treasure Eros? To have our bodies within fifteen feet of each other in the same dark room, but as remote as if half a continent apart, was difficult to treasure.

His lecture the next day was a stellar performance. I realized the stutter was gone. His mastery of the material, the charm and eloquence with which he explained it, had the experts smiling and the graduate students awed. I was proud of him and of our friendship. When the department took him out to lunch I tagged along, watching him be the visiting celebrity, waiting to walk back with him when it was over. "I'm booked up for the afternoon but what are you doing later?" he asked, "How about a squash game?" He had brought sneakers and gym clothes; could I lend him a racquet? Sure. I reserved a court for the end of the day.

The game.

It was almost June. Neither we nor the ball needed much warming up. I mentioned when I started this story the jostling and shoving that happen in squash. In fact, once you get used to another player there is very little of this crashing around. You develop an intuition about what he is thinking and which way he will go. Hudson and I had not played for months, but we could still almost always anticipate each other's moves. On the other hand, it was clear from our first rallies that my strokes, timing and placement had greatly improved. When I won the first game, Hudson looked over and remarked: "This place seems to be good for you." I think he had started out easy and was not able to catch up once he let me get ahead. The second game was much tougher. Some of the points seemed to go on forever, with each of us making one impossible save after another. We went into overtime but Hudson won. We were both panting and sweating heavily by the end; it took a couple of minutes of walking up and down the court before we felt ready to start the third game.

This game was even fiercer than the second one. I think we both felt that this was the last act of the competition we had started two years before. I have never played harder or better in my life. At 13-12 Hudson was serving from the right. His overhead went slightly wide, so that instead of dying in my corner it was going to carom around towards center court. The only way to deal with a shot like that is to "come around." Here's how it works. You're a right-handed player standing in the left rear corner of the court. The ball is going to bounce off the wall to your left, off the back wall behind you, and then off the floor to your right. In order not to lose sight of it you follow it around, making a complete turn counterclockwise. After it hits the floor you catch it on the forehand and hit it forward. The problem is that since you have been tracking the ball, facing into the corner, you have no idea where your opponent is when you make your shot. It's the opponent's job to move across the court in front of you while you are turning, so that he'll be out of the way of the ball. There's a lot of geometry involved and it all happens pretty fast and not always as planned. Every squash player has been drilled in the back or the butt because of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It hurts like hell and leaves an ugly bruise but rarely does any real damage. The custom is to shout "Coming around!" as you start the maneuver. And so I did.

I was halfway through the turn, facing the back wall, when I heard the clatter of Hudson's racquet hitting the ground. I held off and looked over, as the ball bounced harmlessly into center court. Hudson was on his back. He must have skidded in the sweat we had dripped on the floor. He lay with his back against the wall. I dropped my racquet, ran over to him and looked down. He was still cowering, as if waiting for the impact, with his forearms over his face and his knees drawn up over his groin. Something about the helplessness, the vulnerability of his position sent a wave of feeling over me. I had never loved him, never wanted him so much. "Let me help you up." I said. Without waiting for a response I reached down and took him under the shoulders. I felt the muscles in his side tense and then relax as he let me pull him to his feet. My knuckles were now touching the wall behind him and my face was only inches from his. Our eyes met, briefly, ambiguously. I leaned forward and kissed him quickly but squarely on the lips.

I stepped back, my mouth open, still breathing hard from the game, proud of what I had finally dared to do and apprehensive of what would follow.

Tom looked over at me with a slight smile on his lips. He reached up and placed both hands on my sweaty T-shirt. I felt the pressure of his fingertips on my chest. He looked into my eyes and gently, almost imperceptibly, shook his head. I noticed the slight back and forth yawing of his eyes in their sockets more than any motion of his face, but I understood. I stepped back, blushing, my mind racing for something to say.

Tom spoke first. "I forgot to tell you, but I promised Dalton I'd have dinner with him and his wife." Hank Dalton was the department chairman. "I didn't think our games would last so long. I have to hurry." "Can I give you a ride?" I asked. "Thanks, don't bother. I'll grab a shower here and walk over. I'll see you later." With that he unlatched the low door built into the back wall of the court, ducked through and was gone.

I picked up the racquets and the ball and walked around in circles for the next few minutes. My lips remembered the feel of his mouth, I could still almost see him in that unguarded moment when our faces were close and my dream had seemed possible. But that moment was gone. I went through the door he had left open, hurried to my locker, took out my street clothes and left the gym. Running into him in the showers was the last thing I wanted to do. I went home.

After the game.

I had expected us to eat together. The sirloin, the beaujolais, the candles would have to wait for a happier day. I imagined Tom, married man and father-to-be, fitting in perfectly at the Daltons'. Their three small children were most likely crawling all over him. I was hurt that he had waited so late to tell me he had a dinner invitation. His carelessness told me something I did not want to hear. I worried about his gym clothes. What if the Daltons noticed what he was carrying and used it to start an innocuous conversation? "So how was your game?" How much would he tell? Would it be: "By the way, Hank, one of your instructors kissed me on the squash court this afternoon"? I had to get out. I showered, dressed and went downtown. Wandering up and down College Avenue, dodging the oblivious, self-absorbed couples, stepping around the panhandlers, waiting for lights to change, looking into restaurant windows at people enjoying themselves in company, it was uncomfortable but it beat sitting around my empty apartment. I could focus on what was in front of my eyes and avoid reliving the afternoon's events. After an hour of this aimless walking my feet were sore and I was hungry. I ordered a burger and a beer at the Campus Grill and ate, standing up, with the fluorescent overheads humming in my ears and discarded wrappers rustling against my feet. Then I headed again for home.

I took another shower to try to relax. The beer had helped and the warm water helped a little more. I turned it up hotter and let it beat on my shoulders. I methodically soaped my chest and belly trying to keep my mind a perfect blank. It must have been a purely physical response to the grazing of my fingertips past the top of my pubic hair as my hand slid across my abdomen, but my cock started to rise on its own. I let my hands swoop lower in their soaping, compressing the scrotum and letting the balls squeeze gently out of my grasp on each rotation, sliding my soapy fingers along the shaft, pressing it up against my stomach, letting it snap away when I reached the tip. I concentrated on the pure, bare sensations piped to my brain from my hands and my groin. Then my cock demanded more. I switched to a more rapid hand-over-hand friction, encircling the slick shaft with each thumb and forefinger and sliding the circle up until it popped off my swollen glans. This was good but not enough. I went into the classic single-handed jerk-off, faster and faster until ... .

Nothing was happening. I was stuck. The pressure had built up but I could not release it. I refused to call in a fantasy because I knew what fantasy would come, and how much more wretched I would be afterwards. And then I found a way out. I spun around and flipped the water control to cold. I had to jump back when the first icy blast hit my chest but forced myself to step back in, still pumping away at my meat. I gasped and shook and the jizz came spurting out, instantly swept away by the water. I turned off the shower and stepped out. The whole front of my body glowed pink from the cold. The rough toweling scraped pleasantly across my chest. I felt emptied and clean.

I looked around for pyjamas and found a pair my mother had sent me for my last birthday. An elegant item with piping and a monogram, Mom's idea of what the successful young scholar should wear. Not mine: they were still pinned together in the original tissue paper. I took out the pins, unfolded the pyjamas and put them on. Feeling the smooth cotton against my skin I thought to myself: there will be life after Hudson.

But after I had walked around dousing all the lights (I left one small lamp by the door) and had crawled into bed, life after Hudson seemed full of Hudson. I had kissed him. How would I face him in the morning? We had been best friends; we had a lot in common. Could this one episode kill everything? I tried to make an accounting of what was on my plus side, but I could not concentrate on the task. A more philosophical approach was equally futile. "Treasure Eros" might help in the long run but it was inadequate so close to ground zero. Despite the beer, the shower and the Vitamin J, I could not sleep.

I had not been in bed more than half an hour when the door opened gently. Tom turned off the lamp, undressed and changed in the dark. I heard him enter the bathroom, piss, wash up, and brush his teeth. But I did not hear him climb into the daybed. I looked over. I saw him silhouetted against the window, facing out. After a while he spoke: "You're not asleep, are you." "No," I answered. "Could we talk?" "Sure." I got up and walked towards the window. Tom sat on one of the dining chairs and motioned me towards the daybed.

Tom's story.

"First of all I'm sorry for running out on you like that. Second, I lied to you: I did not have a dinner invitation. But I had to be by myself, to think. You went way out on a limb there. I felt I owed you an honest response. But I haven't been very honest with you or with myself, and I needed time to sort out how I really felt and what I should say. You see," he paused, "your kiss... that was not the first time a man kissed me." This was not what I expected to hear, but I said nothing. "I was very lonely last summer. You had left; Delphine was back in France with her family. I saw a lot of Steve. We played squash, we went hiking. It's as if he could read my mind: he would always show up or call just when I really needed company. And I was glad to see him. You know how easy he is to get along with. We went on canoe trips. And one day, when we were out on the river, we got snagged by a sunken log. It was frightening. We capsized. The current had us trapped against the log under the canoe. We had to struggle to get free. Then we had to fight the river to get the boat and the paddles over to the bank so we could bail out and start up again. The rest of the trip was smooth sailing, but we were totally pumped. We sang stupid songs all the way home. I made hamburgers and we drank beer. Too much beer, I guess. After supper he came up with a smile and took me by the shoulders as if to say: `We made it!' but what I actually heard him say was: `I'll always be here for you, Tom, because I love you!' I felt his arms around me and his lips on my mouth."

I slowly shook my head in the dark. Tom went on. "I kissed him, too. I hugged him like a wild man. I had been so lonely, and here was a man in my arms, a man I liked, a man who told me that he loved me." He stopped. After a moment or two I spoke, looking away. "And?" There was silence, and then: "We did it. Steve said: `This is your first time with a man, isn't it?' He knew everything. He was gentle. He did everything to please me. And I liked it."

I pulled my feet up onto the daybed and hugged my knees. All I wanted was for the story to end.

But it was not over. "It's not as if he seduced me. I like women, but this other part of me had been ready for a long time, and waiting. And that summer I felt safe to experiment. I was almost engaged to Delphine; I was on track for a normal life." Another pause. Then he continued: "The next night we made love again. I liked it even more. And the next night, and the next... I found myself during the day looking forward to the evening, when I'd be with Steve. I noticed that my feelings for him were changing. He was not just a buddy anymore; we had shared secrets; his body had been my school book and my lab bench. I started falling in love with him. He could tell, of course. And then, out of the blue, he told me he was going home for the rest of the summer. He disappeared. Maybe since Delphine was coming back at the end of the month he knew we would have to stop. Maybe I was coming on too strong and that scared him off. Or maybe he had gotten what he wanted and it wasn't fun for him any more. Maybe they needed him at home? I'll never know, but I was bewildered and very unhappy. It still hurts."

He stopped for a moment. I had nothing to say. I kept my face wedged between my knees. "You may have wondered why I never answered your note. Now you know. I needed someone to talk with but it couldn't be you. I knew that much of the time I spent with Steve earlier was time taken from you. I couldn't ask you to share in my misery."

"Delphine returned; we had talked about getting married but now I wanted it to be right away. I felt I could not live alone any more. And it was the right thing to do. Delphine is my life. I'm closer to her than I ever have been to anyone. I trust her and I know she trusts me. Our life together has been good for me: my work has taken off now that I'm settled. Then Delphine got pregnant and now the baby is well on its way. I'm very happy when I'm home with them. I feel I've found where I belong in life, and where I should belong."

Hudson turned away from me, towards the window. "Which brings us to you and me. You are the best friend I ever had. I hope none of this will change that. But you need someone, you deserve someone full-time, not a guy with a job and a family half-way across the country."

"Wait a minute," I said, "When you tell me I deserve better than you, doesn't that mean that you and me is not out of the question?"

There was a silence. He took a deep breath and said: "Yes, I guess I was telling you that for me it is not out of the question. But the answer has to be no. This afternoon I saw a lot. Things I always knew or should have known. I saw that you love me." He paused, and turned to face me. "You would never let me down. That's the point: I would have to let you down. I can't give up Delphine and the baby. You and I would fool around and then it would be over. I've made my choices, now I have to live with them. Please let it go. It's best for both of us."

End of story.

I slid off the daybed and walked over to his chair. "Get up," I said. He stood. I reached out and took him in my arms. I could feel the heat of his body through our pyjamas, and the play of his back muscles under my hands. "Look, this is it for me. There has never been anyone for me before, and there will never be anyone I can love like you. We don't have much, but we are going to have to make the most of it. Starting now."

I slid my hands down to his waist. His head was beside mine, facing over my shoulder. I turned and placed my lips on his cheek, working them gently forwards across the stubble of his beard. At the last moment he twisted his head slightly towards me. This signal was all I needed. I started kissing his lips. Lightly at first but then more hungrily. He matched me step for step. As his body relaxed towards mine I felt a stiff penis brush against my thigh. I let my hands slip down, and through the thin cotton of his pyjamas I kneaded his solid, soft, muscular butt. "Stop." he whispered. He pushed us apart. "Why don't we take off our clothes and get into bed?"

I watched him strip in the almost-darkness. His skin glimmered in the faint streetlight as he pulled off his pyjama top and stepped out of the bottoms. He stood silently watching me as I undressed, then took my hand and led me towards the bed.

Just as we got there he turned, put his arms around me and fell backwards onto the sheets, pulling me on top of him. I heard him chuckle and felt the rumble of laughter deep in his chest. "What's so funny?" I asked. "When I asked you to put me up I was sort of hoping something like this would happen," he answered, and I said: "That makes two of us." He chuckled again, reached down between us and wrapped his fingers around my cock. I started rotating and pumping my hips in a slow sex-dance as I fucked his hand. He pulled my head down for a kiss, the first one he had initiated, moving his mouth against mine in time with the rotation of my cock in his fingers. I slid my hand between our bodies, over his belly and down. My fingers found a sturdy rod with a plump, furry set of balls already nestled up against its base. I lightly grazed their surface, trying to keep my movements slow and even, knowing that I was a hair's breadth away from exploding and figuring that Hudson was pretty close, as well. But it was no use. You know how the tension builds higher and higher until suddenly it crests like a wave but before breaking lingers, way up there, for a few moments of almost unbearable intensity? I hit that crest in no time at all. I squeezed Hudson's cock savagely in my fist and jerked hard; once, twice, three times was all it took until he groaned and my fingers, wrapped around his shaft, felt the pulses of sperm racing through. I caught some of it in my other hand, sat back and rubbed it along my own penis, using it to lubricate my strokes, speeding tmy wave to its crashing end. No need for fantasy this time. His body spread out before me was enough. In a blur I glimpsed him staring at me, wide-eyed, open-mouthed, as my seed spat over his chest and abdomen. Then I collapsed onto him and rolled to his side, with my arms around him and his around me.

That was the first time we made love that night. Once I almost blurted out "Where did you learn that!" but I held off. I knew the answer.

The sunlight woke me the next morning, streaming in onto the bed. I had been sleeping with one arm across Tom's body, my head on his chest and a knee pulled up over his thighs. I disentangled myself, sat up and gazed back at him. The top sheet had slid down to his waist. My boy athlete, my idealized soulmate, was now the smoothly muscled man-god in my bed. I was looking into his face when he opened his eyes and smiled. I bent over and kissed him.

"What are we going to do?" he asked.

I told him my plan.

And then what?

That was twenty years ago. Tom and Delphine have five children, one of them -as good looking and as expertly bilingual as his dad- at the college where I teach. We are both professors in our departments, each with a couple of books to his credit. The five co-authored papers on our publication lists have brought us the added advantage of visits back and forth.

And always there are the national professional meetings, in January and in August. They last four or five days. When there are squash courts available we play. We usually come out even, but sometimes I suspect he is letting me win, for old time's sake.

Our perennial rooming together has raised no eyebrows. Our profession meets in enormous, anonymous hotels. And those who know us know that we have been close friends, squash partners and active collaborators since graduate school. Besides, who would suspect a devoted father of five of having kept up a twenty-year sexual liaison with a priest?