This continues my “Cuddle Chronicles” series. Check out Part 1, “The First Guy I Ever Cuddled With.”

I used to be so innocent. Sheltered. Paralyzed by loneliness. I couldn’t imagine befriending another man, let alone hugging one. Let alone cuddling on a couch with one. Let alone sharing a bed with one. Let alone this, let alone that.

After my friend Cody and I played footsie on the couch that night, I expressed a lot of morning remorse. Something about it felt off. Nothing had “happened”; no genitals were touched, no obvious lines crossed.

But were some less obvious ones maybe crossed?

Why had that hour with him on the couch aroused me more than anything I’d ever experienced with another person not on a screen? Did the dampness in my underwear suggest something sinful, something sinister beyond four feet colliding?

Weeks passed after “the incident,” and I learned to be okay with what had happened. Like gasping for breath after an 800-meter sprint. I’d gone twenty-some years without any kind of meaningful touch with another man, and suddenly I’d just gorged on an hour of footsie.

Of course I’d need to catch my breath.

Cody affirmed we were okay, and I learned to believe him. I started to look back on that night with less regret and more fondness. Sharing his bodily warmth in the dark of his house was endearing, tender — beautiful, even.

The next time I saw Cody, I barreled into him with a giant hug. We went to his car where he took a call, and I just leaned into him in the driver’s seat for a solid fifteen minutes while he talked to a friend.

Between our last visit and this one, I’d crossed a threshold where lingering touch was no longer alien, no longer daunting, no longer anything sinister or potentially sinister. On the contrary, I felt comforted, connected with my brother in his car.

I felt anchored by his touch, secure, no longer lonely. Is this how everyone else felt all the time having same-sex friends?

I stayed with Cody for a whole week on this visit, and we planned all sorts of adventures along the way. Sites to behold, Pixar movies to check off my list, and much more cuddling in between.

Before visiting him, I can’t remember our ever talking about what would happen at night. Cody had a bunkbed in his room, even though he lived alone. The top bunk was made for me when I arrived, but I didn’t sleep in it once. It just sorta . . . happened.

The first night, we watched Up while leaned against one another. When the movie ended . . . we just stayed in the same bed. We lay down and wrapped our arms around each other in the stillness of night.

I felt far less trepidation about our lingering touch this time, and still no temptation or desire to take things any further. I honestly didn’t want to do anything overtly sexual with him, and I didn’t perceive that from him either.

But I experienced the same arousal, the same dampness, the same lingering questions about lines being crossed from footsie several months prior — if not sinful lines, then relational boundary ones.

Was sleeping with my friend as beneficial as the physical rush it brought me? Would sharing a bed with him be a step forward in platonic intimacy, or would it actually be detrimental to us — and to me?

~ ~ ~

I suppose the first time I actually slept with another man would have occurred in late middle school or early high school. I ran cross country, and occasionally we’d take weekend trips to compete in larger meets hours away. The boys shared a couple hotel rooms, which also meant sharing beds.

I slept beside several guys on our team over the years, and something about it always made my heart race. To be able to turn over and look at a guy just lying there with his eyes closed. So still. So pretty.

So close.

I remember scooting an inch closer (maybe more like a millimeter) to diminish or blur the boundary between us in the bed. To bask a bit more in his breath. To hope he might adjust in his sleep and unwittingly inch closer to me himself. Maybe even to experience his incidental touch.

It never happened, the touch part. Cross country season after cross country season, hotel trip after hotel trip, I always hoped for that happenstance touch with a teammate in the night. But it never came.

Still, even without his touch, there was something satisfying about sharing such sacred space with another guy. About staring into his shut eyes and admiring his innocent face.

Something deeply curious. Something pulsing. Something a little arousing.

Something I could never quite pinpoint in all those shadowy years before coming out to myself.

~ ~ ~

When Cody and I slept together the first night, I didn’t want morning to come. Our arms wrapped around each other, we took turns spooning all night long.

How much did I even sleep by sunrise? An hour, maybe? It’s like I wanted to absorb every conscious moment of touch and intimacy I could while the sun was at bay.

I’d simply never felt a thing like it.

Night one turned to night two turned to night three, and I noticed something happening the more Cody and I slept together: the more unsatisfying it all grew.

The more we shared a bed, the more we cuddled, it was never enough. I kept begging the sun not to rise, but still it rose again. Mornings and afternoons felt jarring, disconnected from such consistent human warmth.

By night four, something happened: Cody turned away from me in the middle of the night. He broke free from my arm and flopped to the other side of the bed.

I winced. Did I do something wrong? Was my touch now repulsive? Was he conscious or unconscious of his heartbreaking action? Should I scoot closer? Or should I . . . wait for him to flop back?

He wouldn’t flop back to me the rest of the night. I felt like a blinking battery. Or maybe more like a battery overcharged?

It happened a couple more times before our week together ended: our sleeping together, our starting out cuddling, and then his eventual breakaway. The most overt time it happened, I’d grown so obsessed with his touch that I’d placed my hand on his head, only for him to turn away seconds later, my hand dropping limp to the mattress.

It all felt so fulfilling and deflating and addictive and demoralizing, one intense cycle after another, all night long, all week long.

We “debriefed” about our week together after I’d returned home. I mentioned our sleeping together, his constant breaking away.

“Yeah,” he messaged me. “Sometimes I just felt smothered lol.”

Another wince. Maybe worse than the one I suffered in bed with him.

The concept of being “smothered” was foreign to me. Could there be such a thing as too much touch? After twenty-some years, my soul still felt starved for it. I couldn’t get enough touch from another man. How could Cody, how could anyone ever have “enough”?

And so my journey with same-sex cuddling continued to evolve. A journey that would soon lead to a wretched turn in the bend . . .

Have you shared a bed with another man, platonically or otherwise? What voices did you hear, what feelings did you feel? Have you experienced sleeping with another man as good or healthy, or was it detrimental either to you or the relationship?

    Thomas Mark Zuniga

    I'm a storyteller and story-liver in Asheville, North Carolina - the Jewel of the Blue Ridge. I'm YOB's cofounder and editor, and I also host our bimonthly podcast. I've written a couple books, including a memoir in 2013 where I first came out to the world. Once upon another universe I anonymously blogged about my faith and sexuality under the Xanga username, "twoBeckonings." I'm an INFJ, an Enneagram 4w5, and my spirit animal is the buffalo. My favorite place in the world is the one where coffee and vulnerability meet.

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