1 + 1 = 3

At the start, dating two people you meet within days of each other seems less a dilemma than a happy problem. I always assume that bad news will eliminate someone: has jealous boyfriend in Australia. Has toddler fetish. Has absurd excuses for incompatibility—"We're both cats."

Nineteen-ninety-four was the first time. Fletcher had gotten my attention at the gym, wearing spandex jogging pants on the cross-country skiing machine. We ran into each other during a drunken night out. I stole him from the guy he was talking to and spent the entire next day getting acquainted with his compact, sinewy body. Not long before that I'd met Phil at a sex club. I'd called him but hadn't heard back. Convinced that I never would, I hooked up with Fletcher. Then Phil called.

It wasn't as if I got along with one guy but the sex was lame and the other really turned me on but we were incompatible. They were both hot, and I got along with both of them. Fletcher was a musclebound shorty with a chipped front tooth who loved Johnny Rotten's autobiography. Phil was slim and had golden fur all over. He claimed to have crank-called the Rainbow Room demanding that they deliver a burrito. In bed, things were better with Phil at first. He liked to go for hours, starting with a massage and delaying climax until we could synchronize orgasms. I decided to tell Fletcher we should be friends, since I hate having to keep secrets. But then Phil kept hinting that he wanted out, and our communication broke down, sexually too.

Two years later it happened again. On a Thursday in early December, I cruised an affable Wisconsin farm boy I'll call Luke; the next day I met Raoul, a hunky film school grad. Since Luke had a gamma globulin deficiency, he was very cautious about sex. "If I got HIV," he said, "I'd be dead like that." He was very affectionate, which I liked, but innocent, which didn't go so far. We had sex only once or twice, long make-out sessions ending in mutual masturbation. Raoul, on the other hand, was quick-witted and cosmopolitan. He thought it perfectly normal to get it on five times a day.

On New Year's Eve, I invited them both to a party at my place. Luke arrived early. I felt I ought to tell him about his rival, just so he'd hear it from me. I said too much. He burst into tears and left, just in time for me to snag the 1996 Heel of the Year Award for dumping a cute farm boy on New Year's Eve. Almost like payback, Raoul traveled a lot after that and never called.

This past August, it happened a third time. On a Wednesday, I discovered that Karl had not dissed me; we'd miscommunicated. That Sunday, I met Al on the beach at sunset. They were polar opposites. Karl loved Lacan and sported rad tattoos. He'd once edited a porno mag. The soft-spoken Al worked for a charity that helped impoverished children. Glancing at the golden donkey I'd won in 1996, I decided that instead of pursuing the ironic bad boy and dismissing the mensch, I wouldn't do anything. I wouldn't sleep with either of them (actually Karl pleaded celibacy on our second date—never a good sign), I wouldn't pick favorites, and I wouldn't tell them about each other. I'd just let go and let God.

Gradually, I lost interest in Al as a potential boyfriend. Then Karl gave a Christmas party without mentioning that he runs gatherings like a waiter at Luna. I took his rudeness personally. Eventually, he shut the party down and demanded that everyone join him at a nearby hustler bar. I declined. My friend Andy, who lived in the East Village, offered me a ride partway home.

The previous week, I'd had a staring contest in an East Village bar with a tall, handsome guy who wore a soul patch, but we hadn't met. Instead of going home, I decided to return to the same bar. Andy dropped me off. "I hope you meet the man of your dreams!" he said. "I've stopped dreaming," I told him. I didn't really think I'd see Soul Patch Guy. I knew that if you blew an opportunity, that was that. Yet there he was. Joe was a doctor. He opened up the conversation by gushing about One Hundred Years of Solitude. Soon we left, and Joe hailed a cab. "Do you have a boyfriend?" he asked. "Nope. You?" "Nope." A taxi rolled up. We got in and sped away.

 
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