My Unholy Polyamorous Sex Life

It’s a private hell where secrets weigh heavy.

Andrew Ricketts
4 min readSep 1, 2023

--

I’m listening to Fran’s voice note. She’s sharing the encounters with me from two recent dates. They both ended at her place with passionate sex. She feels encouraged to tell me because I’ve tabbed myself “open-minded,” and, discreetly, enjoy the depths of voyeurism with two of my five partners.

But I’m feeling sick, toes tingling and heart dropping with each detail. I haven’t felt this way about her before. That’s what made it fun, not thinking of anything. Just pulsing and being. We’d fire off stories almost as if we were each other’s diarists and needed to unload the memory lest it dissolve. We churn through partners in New York and maybe some of them vanish before we’ve fully allowed them into our psyche.

The one Fran was previously jealous of, Rao, I saw on the bus back from the beach this weekend. We pretended not to see each other and it was the highest form of dignity both could bestow. Don’t let the awkwardness of strangers-turned-lovers-turned-strangers-again ever interrupt a commute. That’s just Brooklyn etiquette. Besides, I was with a date, the tall herbalist I hadn’t seen in months and, of course, my attention was needed. It struck me that I’d once laid in bed, limbs stretched out, nude, hoping I didn’t die for a minute more so I could feel a love this great. When twenty-somethings love you it feels foolish and significant much too quickly. That love wilts in a un-replied text from me to Rao that reads “Big hug emoji,” sent three despairing weeks after our breakup.

Back to Fran’s note, about the 31-year-old lover she’s just met and keeps hitting it off with, and the next night’s newly divorced dad who’s coming around to intimacy in the arms of my lover. Bravo for him, by the way. I doubt I’d survive divorce without monastic isolation and sedatives. On his birthday, she’d invited him out (because she is sweet that way and remembers birthdays, and that middle-aged birthdays spent alone are quiet suicides). He said he felt angry, hollow, like he could hurt someone, but that he wouldn’t know what to do in any case. She asked for the check after attempting to comfort him, and asking questions. He was reticent, adrift like he didn’t want to be there, or at least not while making eye contact. And this was the benumbed man she’d enveloped on an arbitrary Sunday night two months later.

I shouldn’t care. Really at all. He seemed broken. She always had higher hopes for me, soaring to peaks that don’t exist or need to. I shouldn’t care about his heartache matching her loneliness better than my delinquency did, but I am so entangled with my lovers that I sometimes sponge their worst feelings, make them my fault, my incapacity.

I don’t even live with Fran. I live with Aubrey. I obsess over Aubrey. She’s now dating a man I hate that I like. He’s tall, smart, with big arms that he seems to keep toning. Arms as big as my head. They’re always cackling on the phone together. He’s funny and easy. She downplays this, but it’s louder than any dish clang, beats down every floor creak. They really need to stop. The nights she spends with him are a storm, and I’m captaining a capsizing vessel until 3 a.m., fighting envy squalls, facing down jealousy surf.

She said she’ll be back at 10 in the morning. Or she doesn’t know. Or whatever I ask, this is payback, for those nights with Amaris, Holly, Iquo, and hungover rides I took to her cold spine stiffly planted in our bed. The bed of phone-fencing, and mat-pinned retaliations, curses muttered, snores. Buzzing, schmaltzy gurgles. The no-threesome bed (until it was one). The no-people-other-than-me-on-my-side bed (until the warm imprint of Big Arms). The no-kink bed (until someone left those loosened restraints). What a horrendous site for a pleasure palace. I spied on her in that bed. She clicked the camera off, shuttered me after.

There is no room in my bed for the mates tossed in and out of it. We are unholy. The sacred pacts break one after another, until I curse the idea of beds and go on to stain every couch in the house with transient love, un-replied love, stripped-down, barebones love. Primate shrieks and not enough relief to get me through solitude storms. I order fried chicken sandwiches when Aubrey’s away. I imagine Amaris knowing how lonely and fragile I am while she touches herself and suddenly frosting over with repulsion. I hear Aubrey laugh and smile and come again and again in Big Arms’s bachelor pad. I know there isn’t enough furniture there. No couches with caged memories, or beds of regret, just folding chairs and a big leather sectional, and designer cologne, and one shower curtain. One dish rag and one blender. Simple single things for laughs to bounce off of before returning home to the unholy sights of untidy toy drawers, my condom stashes.

I have come to the sights of younger versions of her. I have showed them out the door quickly when I didn’t (and couldn’t) come. With them, I made flaccid tributes to her and left the sheets unclean and wanting.

I don’t do this with Fran. I let her tell me stories, and rejoice that I’m never angry about them or her. Until today. Today, I’m angry and sullen, and my polyamorous sex life has just ruined everything.

--

--

Andrew Ricketts

I’m a Caribbean and American writer from New York. My stories are about coming-of-age, learning how to relate, and family. It’s a living, breathing memoir.