The complicated geometry of a trio

Special for Infobae of New York Times.


Two adult men can comfortably sleep in a double bed. Three can fit if you don’t mind snuggling, or waking up to strange noises in the dark.

One morning in July, I opened my eyes and saw my boyfriend kissing the boy who had lived with us for a month. Since I don’t really like sex before brushing my teeth, I smiled, muttered “sexy” and turned around.

That summer that became our way of sleeping: my boyfriend, our new lover and me. If we added our chihuahua at the foot of the bed, the space was very small. It is a miracle that we did not lack sleep. In fact, we felt the opposite. After six turbulent years together, my boyfriend and I were falling in love all over again. Not from the other, exactly, but from this Third.

Long before I met the Third, our relationship had become repetitions of the same drama, our fights rehearsed through years of repetition. But now we had a guest star. With a new script in our hands, we wonder, could this be our return?

My boyfriend and I met on a blind date in Washington DC when I was a sophomore in college. He was tall, smart, handsome, years older than me, and he laughed at my jokes. He adjusted to what he was looking for and also paid the bill. The next morning, I told my roommate, “I think he’s the one” (which, admittedly, was crazy). By the end of the month, we were spending every night together.

It was my first relationship and his, so we went through several first times together: the first fight, the first “I love you”, the first meeting with the parents and, after a year and a half, the first infidelity. We tried to break up, but the intensity (or madness) of our love was addictive. I spent many a night crying performatively in the library before I called him back.

After graduation, I was determined to move to Los Angeles and become a film director. That plan had several flaws. First of all, I didn’t take my boyfriend into account. With all the deluded confidence of a college senior, he saw no problem. My student days ended and now real life began. He didn’t like it.

We tried to break up again, but we crossed the country together: he to San Francisco to study law and I to Los Angeles. When we moved back to the West Coast, we tried to break up again. He wanted commitment; I, space. We spent a year apart, but when he accepted a summer internship in Los Angeles (coincidence?), we decided to try again.

By the fall, he had transferred to the University of California and we had signed a lease for a room in West Hollywood. We adopt a dog. We discussed at Ikea. We open the relationship.

It was important to me to reject all heteronormative structures (read: I wanted to sleep with other people) and my boyfriend reluctantly agreed. Despite our new arrangement, we were in many ways the same couple, just older and maybe a little more tanned.

Enter the Third. It was a sweaty June day and we were at a pool party for the gay dating app I work for. Dancers moved around the DJ booth, more than one co-worker wore trunks, and the open bar was loud. The atmosphere was prepared for love.

My co-worker introduced me to his friend from the East Coast, who was interning at a Los Angeles TV station for the summer. The friend asked me to take a picture of him on a swan-shaped pool float (did I mention we’re gay?). It seemed to me that there was something special in the way he caught my eye. Well, that and it was adorable. My boyfriend agreed. That night, he came home with us.

We had tried threesomes before, but rarely with success, and never with a repeat participant. It had always seemed to me that the experience was a dangerous balancing act in demonstrating the same desire for my partner as for the newcomer. It was a challenging theater that took me so far inside my own head that I was unable to be present.

But with this man, it was different. In a rare feat of sexual chemistry; no one was left out.

Before long, he was spending every night with us. My boyfriend took him to his practices in the mornings and we met at night for dinner. On the weekends we went to spin class together, swam in the Pacific, ate ice cream, and danced at warehouse parties. With all his youthful energy and his optimism, the Third had resurrected our joie de vivre. This was our summer of love.

The rules were poorly defined, that is, there were none. My boyfriend and I didn’t talk about what was going on, other than gasping, “Isn’t that amazing?” We knew the Third’s internship would end in August anyway, so why worry? There was no time to lose.

In the middle of July, I realized that we were falling in love. We were in a tapas restaurant downtown and the Third was telling a story about his childhood. I turned to see how my boyfriend was staring at him while he smiled. His expression denoted such infatuation that for a moment he wanted to erase his smile at once, thinking: “You don’t look at me like that anymore.” But then I blinked and realized that I had the same goofy expression.

We were both committing the same crime at the same time, so everything would be forgiven, right?

Not quite. When our group chat fell silent one afternoon while they were together, I found myself rushing home from work early hoping to catch them “doing it.” It never happened like this, but I began to resent his driving to work together. I started checking the live video feed from our dog’s treat dispenser camera in the living room. Jealousy reared its atrocious little head, made even more grotesque by the guilt of knowing that I too longed to spend time alone with the Third.

The geometry of a trio is complex. With a pair, there is only one straight line connecting two points. But by introducing a third point, many more configurations emerge, only one of which is an equilateral triangle.

Although the Third slept between us in bed, sat across from us at dinner, and walked between us holding hands, the angles on our trio kept changing.

One afternoon, I discovered that my boyfriend had bought the Third some new cycling shoes. It was a shallow cut, sure, but it turned out, for me, to be a shared drive to bring the Third closer to our respective sides of the triangle. Not to mention: where were my shoes?

Little by little, our conflicts from past seasons began to reproduce. In early August, our fights got so bad that one night we had to go out on the street. “We’re embarrassing ourselves,” I said furiously. My boyfriend was pacing the sidewalk, full of anger, while I peppered him with questions. The late-night dog walkers had stopped to watch when my boyfriend said, “He makes me feel like you used to!”

It was one of those ugly phrases you accidentally say during a fight that rock both sides with its precision. We both knew it was true, and I totally understood it because I felt the same way.

The summer ended. It was time for the Third to fly back home. We dropped him off at the airport and exchanged tearful goodbyes not only to the trio, but also, we must have known, to us as a couple. We pulled into the 405 in my boyfriend’s bright orange convertible and sobbed all the way home.

The Third brought a light into the dark and dusty room of our relationship. That light woke us up, energized us, made us vulnerable again. But it also lit up some boxes that we had been trying to keep hidden for years. Boxes so full of resentments they would make even a hoarder blush. Before we were a trio, we could ignore our problems, file them away. But once we had a witness, we could no longer deny the evidence.

That August, we broke up, and this time the breakup stayed. Our hearts were broken three times, but we changed. That last summer together reminded us how beautiful love can—and should—be.

After the breakup, I moved into a one-bedroom apartment. This time, I opted for a queen bed, all to myself.

Sometimes I look at her and am embarrassed by her suggestion that I fill her with multiple lovers in various sexual choreographies. But, most of the time, she spent her nights alone, sleeping in the center. I spread out

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button