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My first memory is of my father yelling, “Get out of my way you worthless piece of shit!” and backhanding me so hard I bounced off of the refrigerator door. I was three years old at the time. That’s actually better than my second memory which is when my mother heard this and came running to deflect his attention away from me and ended up with a split lip and multiple bruises for her trouble.

Unfortunately this was the first of many such events. The story of my early life is pretty depressing, but I hope you’ll stick around for the happy ending. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I did!

Dad had seduced Mom when she was barely fifteen and been pressured by his parents into marrying her when she got pregnant with me. He was twenty-four years old and there was a good chance he might have done time on a jail bait rap if he hadn’t. Apparently it was OK to exploit a young girl in those days if you “made an honest woman of her.” When her new husband turned out to be a mean drunk, Mom had few resources to get away. Her education had stopped her sophomore year in high school and her parents turned their backs on her because of her pregnancy. She was resigned to her fate until Dad started slapping me around. Then she vowed to do whatever it took to get us out.

Mom worked all day and secretly went to school at night to better herself. A nice old lady in our apartment building felt so sorry for us that she looked after me for free. Dad was too drunk to notice how much Mom was gone and too busy with all the young girls he was still chasing. By the time I was six she had earned a college degree and gotten a job in a town at the other end of our state. We left without a backward glance. We heard several years later that Dad had died in a drunken fall down a staircase. Neither of us wasted any tears over him.

In our new town Mom tried hard to make up to me for the past. Her job, when she first started, gave us a decent place to live and plenty of food on the table, but not a whole lot extra. One luxury she insisted on paying for, though, was music lessons for me. I fell in love with the first guitar I ever saw. She found me a wonderful teacher who could introduce me to the basics of several styles of music. Like any kid I saw myself playing rock and roll, but to my surprise I was drawn to classical guitar music. Miss Dobbs, my teacher, made sure I was well grounded in all sorts of styles, but she started teaching me the great classical pieces when I was still very young. Women are usually underrepresented in the pantheon of great guitar players, but Miss Dobbs was damn good, especially as a blues player. Right from the beginning music was the central joy of my life.

Mom was worried about me not having any male role models so she also enrolled me in several activities at the local community center which were led by male volunteers. One guy in particular, whom I’ll call Mr. X because he doesn’t deserve the dignity of a real name, taught judo and woodworking classes and made a point of being nice to me. From the start, when I was only eight years old, he singled me out from the other kids and invited me to do special things with him, like go out for ice cream after class. In this day and age most parents would be suspicious of his interest, but Mom had no inkling he was being anything but kind to a fatherless young boy. After all, he was a well thought of married man who claimed that he taught kids because he’d always wanted to be a father, but his wife couldn’t get pregnant. In Mom’s mind it was a perfect situation: a child needing fathering and a man anxious to give it.

Mr. X gained my confidence and then betrayed me in the worst possible way. Of course he told me it was all about love. I started to mature early and by the age of eleven I looked much older. I began lifting weights at the center and was developing a young man’s body. Mr. X started to lose interest in me and I didn’t know how to take it. I was totally confused by that time about what love and sex were all about. Being a smart kid, I started reading about it and came across the word “pedophile.” Suddenly it became clear that Mr. X’s interest had waned because I was no longer a child. What he did to me had nothing to do with love, but was about some twisted sexual appetite.

A year or two later he got caught with some poor kid’s pants down and was arrested. I remember being shocked because I still sort of believed I was the only one. I’ve always told myself that if I’d thought he would do it to another kid I would have turned him in. When he was arrested my mother was horrified and came to me asking if he’d ever tried anything like that with me. I knew she’d be eaten up with guilt if I told the truth so I said “no.” Maybe if I’d been honest I could have gotten help and the next few years would have been different.

I think that’s when what I came to think of as “the wall” grew around my feelings. I just shut down. I felt nothing for anyone, except my mother. I knew her love was real, however misguided, since she obviously didn’t realize how defective I was. The rest of the world, however, was never going to get to me again. I put a mental shield around everything that was tender in me to protect myself.

Just to make this part of my life more confusing and painful, my own sexual thoughts and feelings began to develop. I started getting hard-ons when I looked at pictures of people who were attractive to me and since sex was old news to me, I had no hesitation about relieving the tension myself. I was scared spit less about the whole thing, though, because the people I was attracted to were men.

Now, I know there are endless theories about how this happens. Was I gay from birth or because my father rejected me or because I had been molested by a man? Who the hell knows? From what I read, science has yet to determine what causes any of us to form the sexual orientation we do, hetero or homo. To me, it didn’t much matter where it came from, anyway. It was how I was.

I knew what society thought about gays so I kept quiet and didn’t act on my feelings for several years. In the last year of high school a male classmate came on to me because, he said, I was the most beautiful man he’d ever seen and I never had a girl around, so he was hoping I was gay. It’s true there was never a girl in my life. I love women, but I’ve never had a desire to sleep with one. Like it or not, my future was clearly with my own sex. I got it on with the guy and it was pretty satisfying physically, but emotionally I remained numb. He introduced me to some older gay friends and they were all over me immediately. I never needed to have a lonely Saturday night again.

I began to understand the rules of gay culture right away, at least as it was practiced in our town. There was a clear pecking order and stepping outside it seriously reduced one’s status. Basically it amounted to the fact that young, good-looking guys could put their cocks wherever they wanted and older or unattractive ones were grateful receivers. If a top status guy went down on somebody it was considered a magnanimous gesture, but only the low ranked guys took it in the ass. I came into the group as a top-of-the-heap stud. Everybody wanted to service me and I admit I loved it. The emptiness of this behavior didn’t escape my notice, but since I was determined never to connect emotionally with anyone again, I was willing to live with it.

By the time I graduated from high school, I was six foot four, with a dark beard, and a deep voice. It was easy to get into gay nightclubs, especially since the door guards were given large tips for NOT checking the ID of the best looking young studs. I went there often and let good-looking men pick me up. I never wanted anything from them except sex, so I hardly ever gave them my name or paid attention to theirs. For awhile I really thought I was enjoying myself. What gay guy wouldn’t love to have a dozen great looking men fighting to go down on him? Or any number of less attractive ones begging him to fuck them? Yet, every time I went there I felt the hole in my gut that had been there forever, getting bigger and bigger. I became steadily more depressed. I’d use sex like a drug to dull the pain. Sometimes it was gratifying enough that I didn’t think about suicide for several days.

Things were much better in my daytime life and that’s what really kept me sane. I went to a fine local university to study music and finished at the top of my class. Just a few months after I graduated I auditioned with the symphony and got the job! Because guitar is not an instrument that is needed in all programs, I also had time to do make appearances on my own. I got an agent and he set me up several gigs right away. Because of my age and appearance I was in high demand to play on college campuses.

My career took me to places I had only read about and expanded my horizons in many ways. By my second year out of college I was playing several dates a year in Europe and Asia. I was able to buy Mom and I a much nicer home and I was becoming mature enough to know my sexual lifestyle was stupid and unsatisfying. I quit going to clubs when I was twenty-two. After I got a clean bill of health from a doctor (I may have thought about suicide, but I still always used condoms) I discreetly started “dating” nice men that I met through acquaintances from my previous gay hangouts. I know some of them would have liked to have a relationship, but “the wall” was as high as ever and all I had to give was sex. I wasn’t even willing to let myself form a real friendship. I held everyone at arms-length. Actually at two or three arms-lengths.

Thanks to my music I was pretty happy as long as I didn’t dwell on that empty feeling that never left me. When I played, I came as close to pure joy as I knew how to. I would often arrive well before rehearsal time at the symphony just to hear myself play in our acoustically excellent hall. I was playing a Spanish piece one day, thinking I was alone except for some stagehands. I heard a noise behind me and looked around and saw a man I had never seen before.

“Don’t stop, please!” he said. “I love your playing. I’m so sorry for distracting you.”

This guy could certainly be a distraction, all right, I thought. He was extremely attractive. He had dark hair and eyes, though not as dark as mine. He wasn’t as tall as I was, but he was well-built, especially in the shoulders. The black T-shirt and jeans he was wearing outlined a really fit body. I especially noticed the muscles in his lower arms and his sinewy hands. I flashed on the thought of those hands on my body and felt a stirring of desire that took me by surprise.

I got through the rest of the piece somehow and, when I finished, he came over and put his hand out to shake. “I’m Justin Lawrence. I’ve just been signed as assistant conductor and pianist.”

I shook his hand and felt how strong it was. Year of piano training, I assumed. My own hands are very strong and agile as a result of my work, too. “I’m Michael Malone,” I told him.

“Yes, I know. I saw you play last year in New York. I’m a fan. You are an amazing musician, Michael.”

Justin had the warmest eyes I’d ever looked into. He seemed to take me in and wrap a soft blanket around me. I found it disconcerting and highly erotic. “Jesus, man,” I told myself, “he’s undoubtedly straight. You can’t afford to get all gaga over the guy.”

“We’ve still got nearly an hour before the rehearsal,” Justin said. “Would you be willing to play something with me? When I’m a dried-up old man I want to brag that I once played a duet with the legendary Michael Malone.”

Justin’s smile was as warm as his eyes. Kindness and tenderness seemed to radiate from him. I didn’t have the faintest idea how to feel about that. I’d had very little kindness from men in my life. Frankly, it scared me. I almost let my fear push me into making some excuse and refusing to play with him, but I got control of myself and said, “Sure.”

We agreed on a Bach piece that we both knew and started to play. It only took a few stanzas before I was aware of two things: Justin was a world-class musician and his style was a perfect match for mine. We played as if we’d done this together a hundred times. I often appeared in duets with pianists and it took hours of rehearsal to mesh half as well as Justin and I did by some magic instinct. I was completely blown-away by the wonder of it.

That day was the start of something totally new in my life: friendship. Without noticing how it happened I took a few bricks off the top of my “wall” and let Justin into my life. We got in the habit of meeting for lunch whenever we could and we talked for hours, if we didn’t have to be somewhere. I learned that Justin was divorced with two young sons who lived with their mother nine months of the year and came to him in the summer and for two weeks at Christmas. He was crazy about his boys and showed me new pictures of them nearly every time we met. More than once I thought about what it would have been like if I’d had a father who loved me like that.

At first the friendship was very pleasing to me. Justin and I had a million things in common. We didn’t always agree about everything, but it was easy to respect his perspectives. He was a great companion for some of the things I liked to do, like watching movies (both artistic and crudely funny), checking out what was new in the bookstores, and going to hear all kinds of music. We would go for a run several mornings a week. I opened up to him in a way I never had with anyone before. It felt good to share myself like that, but it wasn’t long before I realized it wasn’t enough. One day Justin smiled at me and I realized that I wanted to kiss him more than I’d ever wanted to do anything in my life. Now, my one steadfast rule had always been that I didn’t kiss anyone, except my mother. I would suck a cock, but never suck face. Somehow it seemed more personal.

I had shared a lot with Justin, but I’d never told him about my sexual orientation. I was as far into the closet as a person can get and I just didn’t know how to bring the subject up. I was beginning to think I would have to end the friendship rather than let him see how deeply attracted to him I was.

Justin took the matter out of my hands, however. One day he just calmly told me that the reason his marriage broke up was because he was attracted to other men. He’d done some fooling around with guys in college, but his feelings frightened him and he set out to prove he was straight. When the girl he tried to prove it with got pregnant he married her and stayed faithful to her. His mind was never at peace, however. He constantly had thoughts about having sex with men. By the time his wife had their second son, he knew he couldn’t live a lie anymore. He felt horrible about what he’d done to her, but he’d told his wife the truth and they divorced. She’d been bitterly angry at him at first, which he felt he deserved, but since she had fallen in love and remarried, she had tried hard to understand and forgive him.

He’d never gotten into the bar or club scene and had only had two short affairs, but he knew he’d made the right choice. “I know I’ll find a man I can love someday and we’ll build a life together. Or maybe I should say I’ll find a man who will love me back. You see, Michael, I’ve already fallen in love.”

I’ve been through some scary shit in my life, but nothing rivals that moment for sheer terror. With everything in me I wanted to be the man he loved, but I knew that I didn’t have a clue how to love him back. It had honestly never occurred to me that romantic love would ever happen to me.

I don’t know what part of me was making the decisions when I blurted out, “Justin, I’m gay, too.” My brain certainly hadn’t planned on saying it. I might have been able to get out of there unchanged if Justin hadn’t smiled at me then. That huge, warm, welcoming smile just took possession of me and the next thing I knew I was holding him in my arms and kissing the life out of him. For someone who had never kissed, I sure knew what I wanted to do. I plunged my tongue into his mouth and tasted every corner of it. I licked his beautiful, full lips and opened my mouth to his probing tongue. Thank God all of this happened in his apartment, because I think I would have done it in the middle of Main Street if the circumstances had been the same.

I wanted to strip him naked and take every part of him into every part of me, but I cared too much about him not to stop myself and let him know how messed up I can be. “Justin, I want you more than I’ve ever wanted anyone in my life, but I have to tell you this. I am totally fucked up in more ways than I can count and I’ve never loved another human being except my Mom in my whole life. Certainly not any of the men I’ve had sex with. I have no idea if I can give you what you want. What you deserve!”

He was breathing as hard as I was and I could feel his heart pounding against my palms as I held him away from me so I could try to think. His pupils were dilated and the veins in his neck were visibly throbbing. Our lower bodies were pressed together and even through our heavy jeans I could feel that my rock-hard cock was pressed against one that was equally aroused.

“Michael, maybe you are going to break my heart, but if I run from this I’ll regret it forever. I want to make love to you. You can call what you do to me by any name you want to.”

Suddenly it was very important to do this right. My lust was telling me to rip his clothes off right here and get at it, but I wanted it to mean more than that. “Let’s go to the bedroom,” I said and took his hand.

When we there I began to remove his clothes with shaky hands. He was wearing a white oxford shirt, open at the neck, and I undid the next button down and kissed his throat. He sucked in his breath. I was so hard that I was afraid the skin of my prick would burst open, but I kept on moving as slowly as I could. I opened the next button and swirled my tongue through the hair on his chest. I could feel how firm his muscles were beneath the skin. Symphony conductors get great upper body workouts and Justin also lifted weights for strength training.

I was wearing a polo shirt which I hadn’t buttoned and Justin buried his face in the collar and kissed my chest. I’d never been particularly noisy when I had sex before, but I couldn’t hold back the moans when his lips touched me. He lifted the shirt off over my head and looked at me. He’d seen me stripped to the waist many times when we ran along the riverfront path, but he was feasting his eyes on me as if he’d never seen me before. If all the blood in my body hadn’t been in my cock, I’m sure I would have blushed under his scrutiny. When his eyes had had their fill, he pulled me against him and wrapped an arm around me. With his other hand he pulled my head to his mouth and plundered mine with his tongue.

I undid the rest of his buttons so fast I ripped a couple of them off and finally we were pressing our naked chests and stomachs together. The heat of his flesh over the steel of his muscles was intoxicating. A wild feeling welled up in me and I bit his shoulder. He growled low in his throat and began to tear open my jeans. I assaulted his waistband with equal fervor. Somehow our jeans came off and our shoes and socks. Then I pulled off his black briefs and his body was naked in my arms. My own briefs were torn off my legs and we fell onto the bed.

God, I just wanted to crawl inside his skin! I wanted to meld with him in some way I couldn’t even explain. I needed to possess him and I needed him to possess me in a primitive, animal way. I had thought I could make this slow and romantic, but I had been so wrong. Never in my life had I been as out of control. I slid down Justin’s body and I took every inch of his hard, thick cock in my mouth and I stimulated it with every skill I’d ever learned. I sucked and licked. I plunged and pulled back. I took his balls in my hand and I rubbed them as hard as I could without hurting him. I fucked his cock with my mouth to the back of my throat and slid it out again to it’s beautifully cut tip. I knew he couldn’t hold out against this assault for long. He was moaning my name over and over and I knew he was close so I sucked hard and dug my fingertips into his butt cheeks with just enough pressure to push him over the edge. His cum filled my throat and I felt a kind of satisfaction I’d never known before.

“Oh, God, Michael. I had no idea. I thought I’d had sex before, but I was wrong. THAT was beyond anything I’ve even dreamed of,” he gasped.

I was so thrilled that I’d given him such pleasure. But as the joy of it filled me, I could feel the panic coming on. I didn’t deserve this! I didn’t deserve his love and I would lose it. I couldn’t become dependant on it. My mind was trying to poison what was happening, but Justin took my prick into his mouth and my mind shut up. I let myself go into a world of only my senses and let the waves of pleasure wash over me. He wasn’t as experienced as I was, but his lovemaking technique was as matched to my needs as his music was to mine. He made love to my cock. There is just no other word for it. His lips and tongue didn’t fail to explore a millimeter of it. I couldn’t have sorted out the pieces of what he was doing for anything. It was just all perfect and he drew an orgasm out of me that reached to the bottom of my soul.

Afterwards we wrapped our arms around each other and, for a while, I was the most content I had ever been in my life. I was so close to peace and joy I could taste it. That’s when I had to fuck it up.

It was the panic, of course, and the negative thoughts. I was afraid of trusting in his love, afraid of needing it, terrified that I was unable to give back what he needed. When I should have looked him in his kind eyes and told him I loved him, instead I got up and said, “That was hot. Thanks.” I put my clothes on and went home, without a backward glance. Justin never said a word.

By all rights he should have refused to ever look at me again, or maybe beat the shit out of me. I deserved it and I knew it. I’ve never been a drinker, because of my father, but I got plastered that night and I stayed plastered for three days. My mother had no clue what had happened, but she called the symphony and told them I was sick and then she told me, “I don’t know what brought this about, but I didn’t get us away from your father to have you end up in the gutter. Get yourself together, son. I won’t cover for you again.” Then she put her arms around me and asked, “Do you want to talk about it?”

“Oh, Mom! I had real honest-to-God love in the palm of my hand and I pissed it away. I must be the biggest jerk in the world.”

“Have you told him you regret whatever you did, son? Asked for forgiveness?”

It took a second for the pronoun to register. I just looked at her and said, “Him?”

“Michael, even if I hadn’t figured out years ago that you’re gay, seeing you and Justin on stage together would have made it obvious. The two of you are so aware of each other that I expected to see lightening arc between you. He seems like a really good man. Why don’t you try apologizing? This hyper macho act you put on isn’t working for you anymore. Let down your guard, dear.”

I promised I’d think about what she said, but I felt so unworthy of being forgiven.

I continued to wallow in my agony, but I gave up the anesthetic of booze. Finally the fifth day of my self-made hell, I struggled out of bed, brushed my teeth, and took a shower. I was just finishing putting my clothes on when the doorbell rang. Mom was at work so I answered it. There was Justin on my doorstep, looking just about as ragged as I did.

My first impulse was to say something cold and stupid again, but I held it back. My second impulse was to throw myself in his arms and beg for forgiveness. A true coward, I held that back, too. I just stood there and stared at him and finally he pushed me aside and came into the house. I think I was preparing for a well-deserved punch in the nose, but what I got was a hot, angry kiss.

“This is too stupid for words, Michael. I’m not putting up with it another minute! What in the HELL is wrong with you? And don’t even try to tell me what happened didn’t shatter your world the way it did mine. I know it did. I could feel it.”

I have no idea where the words came from, but I poured out my whole life story. I told him about my father and Mr. X and how the way they treated me made me feel. I told him about how I had had sex many times, but never made love until I was with him. I told him about “the wall” and how afraid I was that it could never be breached. He listened without a word. On his face where I was afraid I’d see rejection I saw only compassion and kindness. He wept unashamedly at what had happened to me, something I had never let myself do. When I was done he took me in his arms and held me solidly against him. Strength and gentleness: Isn’t that what all of us dream of?

“We’ve got a challenge ahead of us, Michael, but we’re going to take it on. I’m not letting you back away from me out of fear. If you decide you don’t love me, so be it, but you are going to risk it and I’m going to stay for the duration.”

The next few weeks were painful, but necessary. I started sessions with a psychologist who specialized in helping adults who had been sexually abused in childhood. She was very wise and she helped me see a lot of things more clearly. She showed me that I had become an abuser to myself by refusing to let my real feelings out.

I told myself I should stay out of Justin’s bed until I got my head straight, but, of course, I couldn’t. I went to him every night. I loved how it felt to feel him cum in my mouth. His whole body would vibrate with passion just before and then he would cry out my name with his release. Afterwards he always told me he loved me. I know it hurt him that I wasn’t ready to say it back, but he didn’t withhold any part of himself from me while I worked out my demons. I just couldn’t let myself spend the whole night with him, though. It seemed more intimate than I thought I could be.

In spite of that, our lovemaking was amazing. One day after I had orally satisfied him and was expecting him to give me the same pleasure, as he always did, he handed me a tube of lubricant and said, in a husky whisper, “I need you inside me, Michael. Please fuck me.”

It was so easy for him to ask for what he wanted. Why was it so hard for me? Of course I did what he asked, and it was beautiful. He hadn’t done it very often and he was so tight. The physical pleasure for me was better than anything I had ever experienced before. His body welcomed me with the same warmth and love he’d showed me in a thousand ways. I’ve pounded lots of assholes, but I became part of Justin. We moved together in perfect sync and I stroked his beautiful cock as we did it so we came at almost the same moment. Again, he said he loved me.

I’d told him how hard it was for me to make myself sexually vulnerable; to offer my full trust and show any neediness. So he knew what it meant to me when I rolled on my back and said, “Justin, I’m asking you – no, BEGGING you, to show me what it feels like to have a man inside me who truly loves me.” Tears came to his eyes as they did so easily. I silently prayed for the day I could let my own emotions out the way he did.

He held me and kissed me for a long time before he put on the lube and put his cock inside my body. We did it with me on my back so I could look at him. I’d never in my life done that before. He stood beside the bed and watched me as he pushed himself inside me, then drew back his shaft to the head. Each forward plunge filled me with his heat and his passion. He was slow at first, but he sensed the rhythm I needed, as he always did, and soon we were pounding our bodies together as if we could become one flesh. He didn’t touch my cock and neither did I, but for the first time, I realized I was going to climax without that. When I splashed my cum all over him and my own belly, Justin cried out and I could feel his release filling me up. Afterward I rolled to my side and he lay down behind me and spooned against me. I fell into a deep sleep immediately.

I had fallen asleep in such a perfect state of contentment that I was shocked when the nightmare came. I’d had them most of my life, but this one caught me by surprise. I couldn’t remember most of it afterwards, thank God, but my father was there and so was Mr. X and they were hurting me. They were telling me I deserved to be hurt. I was trying to run. I was sweating and running and getting nowhere when suddenly I was awake and Justin was holding me and saying over and over again, “You’re safe, Michael! You’re safe in my arms! They can’t hurt you anymore. You AREN’T worthless! You’re worth anything. Everything! Your mother was willing to die for you when she would step between you and your father. I’d die for you, too, and if you’ll have me I’ll live for you. Along with my kids, you’ll be the center of my life.”

I turned and looked at him and I knew right down to the bottom of my soul that every word of it was true.

“Michael,” he told me, “it’s safe to love me, because I’m going to love YOU until my dying breath.”

I don’t know what words I babbled then, other than the longest string of “I love you, I love you, I love you …” that anyone ever said. When I was sure I had gotten my message across, I rolled on top of Justin, buried my face in his chest and cried my heart out. I cried for every miserable moment of my childhood and adolescence and as I did I could feel the memories losing their power over me. “The wall” splintered in a million pieces inside me and I was flooded with a joy I hadn’t known existed. He held me through it all and supported me with his remarkable strength and gentle heart.

Today is our first anniversary. Not of the first time we made love, but of the night I surrendered my heart without reservation. Our lives are often complicated these days with performance schedules and the kids coming and going. They call their stepfather Daddy George and they just naturally started calling me Daddy Michael. I don’t have the words to say how much it means to me.

Because I knew that most abusers have been abused themselves, I talked to my psychologist about the kids. I would rather cut off my dick than hurt them! She gave me some tests and she told me they confirmed her instincts.

“You’re missing a key part of the abuser profile, Michael. They always have a sense of entitlement. ‘I was used so I have a right to use others.’ You have none of that in you at all. Not to mention you show no signs of being sexually attracted to kids. Those boys are totally safe with you.”

Once I felt secure about that, I asked Justin and the kids to move into my house. We have plenty of room because Mom had recently surprised me with the happy news that she was in love and planning to marry again. My new stepfather is a great guy and he adores Mom. Now that I know what it means to be loved, I am so happy she’s found someone to give her that wonderful feeling.

For Justin and me, our commitment is total. A few months ago the symphony asked everyone to write new biographies for the concert programs. After all the listings of where we’d studied and where we’d performed, we have a little space for personal information. Justin wrote, “Mr. Lawrence shares his life with his two children and the love of his life, guitarist Michael Malone.” No closets for us anymore! After I read his bio I wrote, “Mr. Malone would not have a life without his beloved partner, conductor and pianist Justin Lawrence.”

I hear the symphony got a few calls of protest when the programs were handed out the first time, but we got far more support than I would have dreamed. Donations went up immediately and the next time Justin conducted he got a standing ovation before he even started. After another concert two of the horn players came up to me and one who is known as Jolly, a plump fellow in his fifties, told me, “Don’t think you boys are alone. Pete and I have been blowing each others’ horns for years. All of us in the orchestra, straight and gay, are proud of you two for claiming your right to love each other.”

I appreciate the support, but even if the whole world were against us, I’d stay right where I am: Safe in his arms.

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