The story you're about to read is my first at Nifty.  A couple of disclaimers:  First, this isn't going to be your standard stroke-piece.  It'll have sex; some pretty graphic sex, in fact.  But for the most part, this is a tale of the heart.  So don't write me and tell me it's not hot enough.  And then, the standard disclaimers:  Read, if you're of legal age.  If you're not, you don't have my permission.  Like I'm gonna know.  And go away if sex between males offends you.  You shouldn't be here anyway.

I dedicate this tale, or at least the telling of it, to everyone who understands the feelings of possibility and pain that come with being not "merely-gay" or "merely-straight."


I took a few days at the end of my final spring break to be by myself.  Instead of the standard beach trip this time, my crew--jocks, most of us, and their women--had gone to the mountains of Colorado.  I'd be lying if I said I had a bad time.  It was great.

But I'm not really a "mountains" kind of guy.  No, for me it's the beach.  The ocean.  The sun and the surf.  Specifically, the Texas Gulf Coast:  Mustang Island, where I'd played as a child occasionally, where I'd spent every free weekend I could grab for the trip as a teenager...and where the tides had turned for me.

I was about to enter into a new phase of my life.  I was leaving college and had it in my head that I was supposed to be all grown up.  Actually, I wasn't leaving college altogether.  I was going off to grad school and delaying my entry into the real world for a little while longer.  But Angie and I had set a tentative date.  I took that seriously; and as the weight of that decision, that commitment, settled in on me, I needed time to myself.

Angie was fine with that, as she always is.  I don't know another woman as willing as she is to let her man be who he is.  I never feel like I have to hide who I am with her.  She understands that the depths get murky sometimes and that I need time and space once in awhile to stay in the game.  So we flew back to Dallas on Thursday and she spent the remainder of the break with her parents.  She wanted to catch up on stuff with her sister and brother anyway.

The day after we got home I made a call to an old friend, then drove over to his house and picked up a key to a condo down on Mustang Island that I knew almost as well as if it were my own.  I'd made the request of Ruben's parents months earlier, and my old high school jock crew and their parents, well, we've all walked a lot of road together.  It seems sometimes almost as if their parents are mine and mine are theirs.  There's a bond among families of teammates.  It's not a bad thing.  So I knew I could have the condo, if I asked, for a piece of the week.  That's how it happened that it wasn't being rented out for spring break.  Friday morning, having thrown some gear and clothes and toiletries in a bag, I borrowed my dad's SUV, and set off for the eight-hour drive to Mustang Island, the place where I first fully experienced my life as a locus of powerful, and not-too-easily-navigated, cross-currents.  I needed to be there with myself, my thoughts: thoughts of my future, my past...but especially, of Matt.

I checked in around five.  Did the necessary paperwork, wrote the check for the cleanup service that would set things right after my stay, walked around the corner from the front office, took the elevator to the third floor, and continued a good fifty feet south, until I was standing at the door of the condo.

I put the key in the lock, turned the handle, opened the door...and found myself staring into a roomful of ghosts.

Memories assaulted me with a ferocity I wasn't prepared for.  Sounds, words spoken and left unspoken, feelings as familiar as my own breath, but not as matter-of-fact, all came back to me as I walked in.  A heaviness threatened to settle in and I wondered for a minute if I should have come here alone.

But these ghosts were mine and nobody else's; and anyway, the haunting was part of the reason I came.  I needed to deal with my ghosts:  phantoms of other possibilities; memories that trail off into dead ends; wishes for square triangles; and the chimera of The Endless Summer.

I shook off the feelings and began to walk back to the lobby.  There I grabbed a luggage-cart, and, hauling out all my gear from the SUV, wheeled the cart first into the elevator and then into the condo.  After I'd put my stuff away, I stripped off my jeans and polo shirt, changed into some beachwear, took the elevator back down, and walked down the long boardwalk to the beach.

If you're a "beach" kind of person, you understand how the salt-and-sea-life smell can sort of take you away.  I spent about an hour walking up and down the shoreline, transfixed by the beauty, aching over having been away too long, and remembering.

How does a person live with, and own, the choices he has to make when life presents him with a prepackaged, limited set that doesn't really meet the deepest longings of the heart?  That's what I was here to think about.  I'd been deeply in love with Angie for years.  To be the love of her life and the father of her children, to grow old with her, loving her, making love to her...contemplating these things filled me with joy and optimism about our future.

And yet, even as I looked forward with anticipation to our impending life together, as I dreamed about our future together as a house in which our souls, hers and mine, would take up residence...I was aware that for me, because of the way I'd been made, and because of the currents that were stirred into being here at this very place along the Gulf Coast, there would always be in that house an empty room, a place where I spent time alone and lonely; and I understood that that room would always be empty.

I also understood that there would be a nameplate on its door, designating the space for someone who would never live there with me:  "Matt."

I had come here for these few days to remember, to regret, to love, and to make my peace with that.

Copyright 2003 by Adam Phillips.  I'd love to hear from readers.  Email me if you'd like at