The fewer secrets you have, the more people seem willing to give you theirs. An almost reckless candor about my marijuana use and promiscuity has made me a repository for disclosures that people are reticent to make to others, namely their sexual turn-ons or asking where to get weed.

Whether interviewing someone for a story or building authentic relationships with loved ones, being vulnerable, and creating a space that promotes unguardedness, is a requisite for trust and intimacy. Throughout the years, my favorite compliment to receive from friends, lovers and strangers has been about the comfort they feel in my presence, with no weight of pretense or fear of judgment.

I’ve had friendly acquaintances who never made full disclosures about the struggles they were going through — drug use, homelessness, health problems, etc. — but made clear their appreciation for how our time together allowed them to pause their avatar, catch their breath or simply tune out the chaos outside our company. Rather than trying to diagnose or rescue them, we simply felt the breeze of each other’s exhales.

Despite my comfort in relationships with people whose default existence is turbulence, it remains startling to meet someone with an upbeat aura and see them gradually descend into instability. I was recently smoking a blunt with a longterm hook-up before we commenced the acts that have bonded us for five years, but instead of thinking about sex, I was weighing my obligation to stage an intervention.

Me and this guy had smoked weed, had flings and established an easy rapport over several months before he sent me a text asking if I knew someone with molly.

“Sorry, that’s not my scene,” was my standard response, intended to be equally non-judgmental and definitive. Our hook-ups continued, and eventually he asked if I had a coke connection.

“Sorry, that’t not my scene,” I said, and repeated again when he later asked if I partied, which I always associate with crystal meth without interest in any clarification.

It’s not hard to ignore a random hook-up’s personal crisis, but someone doesn’t become a multi-year regular without having an energy that I appreciate and want to affirm. As someone who celebrates unattached sex, it’s nevertheless important for me to not reduce my partners to soulless flesh for whom I care nothing about outside of an orgasm.

We have hooked up maybe a couple of dozen times over five years, a span in which he has lost his car and job. This was my first time at his apartment, and he mentioned that he would soon be forced to move in with a friend.

“This is my baby KoJo,” he said as he rubbed his dog with lonely affection. I resisted reminding him that was the name he gave me when we first met, and which I thought was his name until that exact moment.

It was humbling to realize how futile it would be to make life suggestions to someone whose name I don’t know, and just as dispiriting to recognize that, like for many gay men, KoJo and a semi-anonymous booty call may be the closest thing he has to a lifeline. Still, I lack the tools or resolve to stage any liaison-based intervention, so we eventually go into his bedroom to make secrets.

“I always enjoy your energy,” I say when I hug him good-bye. “I hope everything settles down for you soon.”

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