A few years ago, a cute 30-year-old television producer named Adam met a grad student named Colin at an East Village gay bar called IC Guys. They started dating, enjoying a sparky, playful relationship. "We liked to get each other's goat," Adam recalls, "which created huge sexual energy. We were like David and Maddie on Moonlighting." But despite their mutual affection, they decided they were better off as friends.
Normally, that's where the story would end. But one year later, Adam got a call from Colin's new boyfriend, Jimmy, inviting him to a surprise birthday party for Colin on the roof of the Hotel Shelburne. When Adam met Jimmy, he immediately found him very attractive. "I said, 'Nice to meet you,' " Adam recalls. "Jimmy said, 'Really nice to meet you.' " Once the birthday boy showed up, he and Adam chatted extensively, enjoying the chance to catch up, and when the hotel bar closed, a group of guys decided to continue the party at a midtown bar, Tenth Avenue Lounge.
Before leaving, Adam and Colin went downstairs to use the bathroom. "We were finally alone, talking," says Adam, "and of course, since he had a boyfriend, I was more interested in him because I couldn't have him. We were flirting, and we made out in the bathroom, kind of pressed up against the wall, sexy. I said, 'Your boyfriend is really cute,' and he said, 'Yeah.' It was playful, in a 'We're so bad' kind of way."
This wasn't the first time other men had been interested in Jimmy. "I never felt possessive," says Colin, 27. "But I wondered if everyone was using me to get to him."
When Colin and Adam emerged from the bathroom, they joined an unsuspecting Jimmy and a fourth guy, and split a cab uptown. The Fourth Wheel sat in the front seat next to the cabbie while Adam, Jimmy, and Colin sat in the back, Jimmy in the middle. Someone had given Colin a huge bouquet of rainbow balloons, and there were so many that they blocked the three men from the view of the front seat and the side windows.
Turned on by the secret bathroom make-out, Adam flirted with Jimmy, and then Colin began going down on Jimmy. As he did, Jimmy turned to Adam and the two started kissing. "Colin looks up from what he's doing," Adam recalls, "sees us, and says, 'Oh.' It was an 'I caught you guys' look."
"Jimmy and I had never done anything like that before," Colin remembers. "He had done that in another couple, and he and his boyfriend ended up breaking up right afterwards. But I was excited."
As the make-out got more intense, they started giggling, loudly enough to alert Fourth Wheel, who asked through the wall of balloons what was going on. At the Tenth Avenue Lounge, the guys went into a back room and continued their make-out session, joined by Fourth Wheel and some other guests. Eventually, a group of five went back to Colin's apartment and got naked.
Over the next seven months, the Try-Anything Trio got together another half-dozen times. "We would run into each other at bars," Adam remembers. "It was all kismet. It was never too planned. That's why it happened for such a long time: because it didn't happen very often."
One night, Jimmy and Colin ran into Adam at a bar in the East Village. "It seemed like it was going to happen again," says Colin, "and he said no. I had just returned from a trip and Jimmy was going on one, and Adam said, 'The two of you should be together.' We thought it was such a gentlemanly thing to do that we attacked him on 3rd Street against a chain-link fence and sent him on his way."
When Adam's birthday rolled around in the spring, the three fooled around in his bedroom on a pile of coats while another couple watched from the doorway in shock. Often, the morning after they hooked up with Adam, the couple would cocoon. "We would always spend some time together, just the two of us," says Colin.
The final interlude took place at Colin's house that spring, which was the first time penetration was involved. Colin and Jimmy wound up having sex, with Adam directing them and interacting with both. Once it happened, Adam says, "it felt played out. We had already gotten through all the fun stuff—wondering whether we were going to kiss, the thrill of the hunt, wondering how far we would go. But the final time was fulfilling a perfunctory fantasy."
Beyond that, he felt he could see the dynamic between Jimmy and Colin in a way he had not been able to before: "I felt like I was watching a part of their relationship. They were into the sex, but then they became uninterested in it and each other. It suddenly became less sexy, more rote, even though I was there."
"From what I remember about that time," says Colin, "it was great."
Colin and Jimmy wound up breaking up a few months later. Colin doesn't think the triangu-dating sped up the breakup, but he does think the competitiveness between him and Jimmy was a problem: "Jimmy liked to be the center of attention and was very good-looking. He had a pathological need to be liked, and it would come through in all situations."
Adam says that at the beginning, he had a thought of stealing Jimmy away from Colin, but it faded quickly. What he liked about being the third man was the freedom to come and go: "It's like being a grandparent. You don't have to do anything with a child, like change the diapers. It was fulfilling and fun, and then I got to go home and sleep in my own bed." Adam is now dating someone new and doesn't think he would want to bring in a third. Colin is also dating someone new, and they've already had a few threesomes. "There probably is a reason through history that couples seem to end up in pairs," Colin says. "But there's a certain freedom in being able to make these decisions for yourself. I felt good that I got to decide it for myself."