Spring 2001

looking for love in online places

M - hitachi_girl and Justin - justinlove

Warm. Soft. Bamboo.
These words are our secret handshake. A password only a fellow alien could offer. We were hustled with poetry.
I try to cut and paste his salon.com personal into this document and end up with a staircase of e.e.cummings-like attributes. Some are his some are things he's looking for.
friendship
                  dating
                               Hair color:  blonde
                                               Self-love:
                                                         sometimes
Eye color:
                                                          brown
                                                              
Self-deprecation:
                                                                          
    often
                                                                                
play
                                                                Age:
                                                                        26
                California
But this is all too normal. It says nothing. It started with chaos. I was over at my erotica writer friend Helena's getting drunk and stoned. Porno and bikers on TV. Helena disappearing in a haze of bad smoke and low blood sugar. I decided to stick around `til her husband got home to take care of her. While she was out of it, I got her laptop fired up and went online. Into the abyss.

The first thing I did was to check responses to my personal. I know what you're thinking. Hey, I do alright on my own. I created it mostly out of curiosity and amusement. I wasn't on but a few minutes and I got an instant message. From Justin. He had read and enjoyed my ad. Or was it the other way around? I can't remember. Maybe I read his response to my ad and saw he was online and sent him a message? Recollection of a barely recollected night. In any case, there was much curiosity that night. In text and image. So we partook in a short dialogue.

"You're cute and smart and interesting and I could fuck you in half," I typed. I remember that part. I can't remember anything he said. But it must have been good for me to take off my pants so fast. Note: taking off pants = foreshadowing.

I gotta admit. This kind of talk and the evening itself was uncharacteristic of a person who spends her time reading psychoanalytic theory for pleasure. Or was it? I also have the Cadillac of vibrators and lead an erotica writing group. My thinking that night was: take this boy for a ride. We got to talking about ourselves, sharing information about our writing mostly. Fast exchanges. Fast minds. Always hot. You think, where will I lose this person? Can they keep up? Then they throw you for a loop. It puts a smile on your face. Fencing with words. And he was cute. Have I already said this? So I think I said something like, "it's like seeing somebody really beautiful on the street and just going up to them and tracing the shape of their lips with your finger tip or running your hand through their hair." My text was probably more lucid than my brain. The primal part of me was typing that night. There were strange attractors. This is the beginning of chaos. The Butteryfly effect.

Emails followed. And strangely, I felt this need to apologise for the way I was the night we met. I think it dawned on me that I'd met more than some cutie that I might exchange a few dirty words with. But I think I also wanted to be honest about who I was. That I was kind of a serious, hypercritical person, etc. And I had a fierce argumentative streak. Although he didn't get much of a taste of that. I knew I risked losing his interest by revealing that I wasn't always as playful as I had seemed. But it was more important that I be honest. And I sent him my writing to think about. He seemed complex enough to work out the contradictions of a varied sensibility. I communicated with all parts engaged and fully operational: thinker, pornographer, artist, politico, animal, observer. Shove and retreat. Steel and wobble (as one guy put it). Then this: he was coming to Toronto, in February, for a conference on computer gaming.

Naturally, there was discussion about a possible meeting. Things were getting busy in my life then. And when I received a couple erotic stories he'd wrote, I was fast with my response. I didn't have time to think about anybody's writing but my own. A pitfall in relationships between writers. I thought the stories had a lot of problems as erotica and gave them a straightforward critique. Too much blow by blow sex. Good erotica is seduction that leaps off the page and makes you beg for it. A long chase with a small, but sweet, reward. Desire is desire of desire. A Lacanian economy. I felt there was more challenge in him so I got theoretical. I wanted to see what fired up his synapses. Try dancing to another kind of music. But he retreated. Then I didn't hear back from him. I was a bit dissapointed because I figured he had a few curve balls to wing back at me. Perhaps he'd been upset by my criticism or the theoretical interests I disclosed. Ah well, you win some you lose some, I thought. But he returned to my thoughts as February neared, and I had a feeling I'd hear from him when his engagement got closer.

And I did. He sent a brief email to tell me of his visit and give a brief but illuminating explanation of his dissapearance. It turned out he had met a strange woman who proved a bad match. The strange woman was either followed or preceded by some other, equally, convoluted romantic situation involving an unresolved relationship with his ex a mutual friend (I think). The explanation made sense and felt a bit familiar. My own romantic world had been just as unusual as his and for many of the same reasons: both of us had just come out of 3 and 4 year relationships and were in the process of rediscovering ourselves and other people. The timing of his visit couldn't have been any better in terms of exploring our feelings about meeting new people ('new' meaning post-ex). His message: did I still want to meet? My response: Damn straight. Well, not quite. It was damn straight followed by a paragraph of my schedule.

Things were very busy for me that week. Yoga, school and social engagements had me booked to the tits. And then, the talk show! My first, and hopefully not my last, time doing so. But it looked like there was a small window of opportunity for he and I to meet on Wednesday night. One thing I knew for sure: I wasn't going to miss meeting him. There was just this feeling. Something.

In truth: the TV show was pretty much the only thing on my mind days before our meeting. It shot the night before. So although I was excited about seeing him, I was still trying to process the experience of being on the show. Additionally, I would be meeting him after my weekly injection of intellectual adrenaline administered by a professor I'd been gaga over for the past year. A brilliant man with one of the most formidable minds I've ever encountered. And cute! This matters, because said Prof. and his mind-blowing lectures would be pretty hard to top. And I'd missed yoga. Stress and thinking predominated my being. And it would be hard for anybody, no matter how special, to grab my attention so forcefully as television shows and genius minds. Until the collision of our energies. Interstellar metaphors. PMS?

A foreign city is like someone you're attracted to at a party. You might mill about, wondering what the right angle is. If you spend enough time, you might find a way to get close to them, to appreciate them. Those early moments can be the living soul of lonliness and alienation, but if you reach out to someone and they respond well, it can be the glowing heart of personal electricity.

I was having a tough time of Toronto. I was there for a video games talk; I didn't know anyone. I searched the Salon/Nerve personals for Toronto and found "hitachi_girl." As her name suggests, her profile exuded independent womanhood - auto-eroticism. Her slightly standoffish attitude attracted me - we corresponded, sharing some erotica writings and criticism. Actually, after she emailed me some critiques of my erotic writing, I didn't write back until just before I was leaving.

Our correspondence was solid - it wasn't too horny or too difficult, just some chatting. I mentioned where I was headed and she let on some bias against the priviledged school; she called it Marxism. Later she sent me a story about going to Hollywood and meeting some stars - I was curious about the intersection of LA celebrity watching and Karl Marx. For a change, I didn't share my URL, so unlike some of the women I meet, she had no chance to investigate my personal history - only my emailed erotica samples.

Surprisingly she took up communication readily after the lapse. We arranged to meet at my hotel, the Yorkville Howard Johnson, my last night at 8.30pm.

I arrived at the HoJo, as those American's lovingly call Howard Johnson's, a bit before he did and looked over tourist propaganda. Snow howled outside the hotel and the temperature dropped. A chilly night to be giving somebody 'the tour.' I figured we'd go grab a bite to eat and that would be it. Little did we know it would be another 17 and a half hours before we parted company.

Left Cheek Like I said before, I thought Justin was pretty cute in his personal picture so that coloured things somewhat. And I honestly didn't care, I wasn't looking to get lucky. Just a good conversation and some food. But when all 6ft of him walked into the hotel lobby, it wasn't a matter of not caring. He had the kind of face I might enjoy looking at for a long while. His eyes and his smile mostly. So open. The main thing I noticed about him (after his height). He was wearing a sheepskin coat but no scarf. So California. He didn't know better. We go up to his room to drop off his stuff and I pass him a Japanese phrase card I found in the lobby. "For just in case we get into a jam," I said. There was something about his energy and his smile and the way he talked and what he said that immediately put me at ease. He felt familiar. And I don't feel that way towards very many folks. I'm not one to warm up to new people very quickly. Even cute ones. I told him I wouldn't go anywhere with him until he did up his coat. I wasn't going to feel guilty if this guy froze. And I really wanted to walk with him. Show him stuff.

I asked if he liked Vietnamese food and I could tell by his expression that I was hitting some familiar notes. Our tastes buds and hanging out habits seemed well in sync. I took the prettier route to Spadina through the university and the Annex. I showed him the classrooms of University College, the information commons in the ugly library, Sivananda Yoga and a bit of my old hood. More beautiful though was the scenery of our conversation. As we walked, each of us unfolded details of our lives and worlds as though they were tucked into the landscape around us. We were jazz musicians riffing on winter air, energy, and the exchange of ideas. I liked him. I felt safe in his presence. And the sparkle of his eyes and the beauty of his smile radiated things about his spirit I would soon discover in other forms.

I liked it that he asked me about my relationship with my parents. I like people that aren't afraid to go there with themselves or others. I told him all the complex and unusual circumstances of my birth and parents estrangement. I told him about the various alienations between them and I. About connection and disconnection. About my dad mostly. And he offered responses that were coming from a place where similar problems had been processed. A very compassionate place. He told me his parents narrative of substance and emotional abuse and of a tragic outcome. And, like so many children, Justin was the weapon of choice in their unloving. Talking about it all, walking past the landmarks of my own childhood, connected me to his story in ways I might not have had I heard or read it in another form. And we hadn't even gotten to the restaurant.

She was a tall skinny bright eyed frosted but dark haired gal, with a wide ready smile. After visiting my darkened room for a pitstop, we strode off into the chilly Toronto night. I hadn't yet walked much of the city - she was a foot-borne Toronto traveller. She was hungry (I had just had Polish food - I was not), we decided to go to Pho Hung, in Chinatown. On the way, she gave me a tour of the University of Toronto campus. It was another Oxford-Cambridge style gothic stone classical campus. I noticed that it smelled like semen, near the sports field. I asked her if she agreed; while she didn't notice the semen smell, she didn't seem too off-put by the question - that's a nice sign. She explained her own winding path through Canadian higher education - English Lit and Philosophy - two of the first proper nouns out of her mouth were Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. She was intimately involved with some academic emotional drama involving publishing and positions and professors and foreign poets and graduate students - I saw a writer trying to establish herself in semi-academic circles, and I was glad I had the web to publish my irrelevant spew without regard for High Literary Journals.

On our way through the grounds I noticed the smell again, and this time she was quite astonished to agree with me - parts of the campus that evening did have a distinct semen smell to them.

We walked New Englandy sidestreets on our way to Chinatown; she talked about her feminist mom, her rock star dad, and their difficult relationship. It was compelling content; I talked some about my family and the circumstances of my birth too. She yeilded more readily to my questions and wasn't ready yet to ask me so much.

Once there, we talked of relationships, sex and gaming. But not in that order. I think the conversation began with my telling him that he was a 'sexual colonialist' because he talked about how much he taught a Vietnamese girl about life and the universe and everything. I knew there was more to it than that and I was really only joking when I said it but I wasn't going to let him say something I wouldn't have commented on with another friend. I think he liked it even though he did take me on a bit about it. Despite the story, he was clearly a lover of fierce-spirited, independent, dynamic women. The women he'd had relationships with sounded like a testament to that. And men who trade the performance of masculinity for a sarong and a uni-dread in their freshman year are truly special. I tried to picture this but couldn't. He and I might not have come from the same planet, but we were definitely from the same universe. Far away from this one. He must have had powers for he convinced me to substitute my usual diet coke in favour of a Vietnamese lemonade.

I kept up with questions, and at the Vietnamese place, she ordered some food and I took a moment to share my introduction to Vietnamese food at the hands of a young pleasant prudish Swarthmore student Vi. She asked me a question or two about the relationship - I explained that Vi had introduced me to Vietnamese food and her brand of Catholic morality, and I had introduced her to raunchy theatre and drug users. M explained that I was part of a colonial relationship - where I "open up her sexuality" and she "introduces me to foreign culture." This got my dander up - after an hour or so of listening to her talk, I open my mouth, tell a story, and now I'm a goddamn colonialist. She adapted well, accepting that I probably had some unique relationship with Vi, and she explained how the Post-Structuralists had set out to adapt the Colonialist critique to account for human emotional realities. Mark Taylor I was comforted but still a little spited. It was a strange sensation to have Swarthmorean post-structuralist relationship critiques shared with me like I hadn't spent four years of my life learning how to justify my confidence. I guess I didn't strike her as literate because I hadn't worn my Mark Taylor on my sleeve, or because I had been celebrating a sort of cultural sullying of a shy religious gal.

The next stop was the Rivoli. A trendy but increasingly recherché bar on Queen West. I thought it would be a good a spot as any for us to have a drink. We had done the cheap, exotic thing, now it was time to be sophisticated and sleazy together. He ordered a 'dirty' Bombay Sapphire martini with two olives. I asked to try a sip. It was salty. It tasted like Gore Vidal turned into a drink. He asked if I knew what 'dirty' was. I told him I didn't. "They put a bit of olive juice in," he said, beaming. This was obviously newly acquired knowledge but he told me so just as quickly. Another endearing quality. Lack of pretension. Mid way into our conversation about the jiz-violence of Bukaki and the beauty of lesbian sex, I decided to have a Gin and Tonic. I was getting excited by the way his mind could travel through various worlds at once and his energy, eyes and expressions were moistening my panties. It was everything about him, basically. So I fell into the safety of theory to disengage from desire and the vulnerable part of me that feels and writes. I didn't know this guy. I had to protect the feeling part with the thinking part. It's kind of like when a woman puts her arms in front of chest even though she's with somebody she likes. She's not trying to keep that person out but herself in. That's basically what I was trying to with theory. That's when we, or I, noticed 'Anthony.'

We left the restaurant on good terms, talking about her academic interests. She proclaimed herself outside of the academy, meaning she intended to write for a broader audience, or she wasn't a part of that elite crew, but most all of her conversation revolved around theory makers and their cultural studies. I suggested that she could take up gaming if she wanted to carve her own world of theory. I found she was one of the few people I could ask who had already developed a cojant theory on bukkake and lesbian erotica. It was fun talking brainy sex with someone.

As we walked, she continued to unpack her theories and recent experience, and I noticed the world around us, pointing out a car with a profusion of miniature Pandas on the dashboard, and a few advertising posters that had been antagonistically altered. She remarked that usually she's the person who notices the world around her. Somehow we started talking about rap music and the politically inclined artists versus the artists celebrating financial success. I was able to quote pretty extensively from rap lyrics as she talked through her theories; she said, "They seem intent on proving a new level of material wealth" and I said, "candy-coated helicopter with a leather cover" and she started to say something else and then she seemed shocked she turned to me and said, "Yes! That's it exactly!"

We ended up at a bar in a neighborhood where she grew up. When she grew up there it was rough and tumble. Only brave artists lived there. Now, it seems fully colonized - polite white people ate Asian-influenced food in at small dark artfully lit tables. We sat down, I ordered a Tanqueray Martini, she had a gin and tonic. I remarked on the amount of academic content she was sharing, she explained that she'd just come from a great film theory class where they had been discussing "In the Realm of the Senses" a controversial Japanese film where a pimp and a whore escape to a country inn and try to fuck to death. As academic content goes, this is pretty steamy, and I was curious, full of questions about the film. She was a good teacher, unfolding the story without giving it all away.

In the Realm of the Senses

I think we were talking about Foucault when we heard this guy giggle. Any smart person would have. I turned to see a guy who was the spitting image of Jean-Michel Basquat making eyes at mostly me but also Justin, sort of. I turn to the guy thinking he might be some cultural theorist or something amused at our shameless references to ask what he found amusing about our conversation. Was it the Foucault? Was it the theory? "What is theory?" he asked. Such a serious and simultaneously banal question. I figured he was some bitchy grad student trying to fuck with our white guilt or something. I didn't get it. So Justin asks what he thinks theory is. "Old wood. Worms," he replies. Justin remembers this better than I do. Most of his responses have a poetic form so I ask if that's what he does. He keeps playing and I don't like it. Then I decide he's just a hustler. I had kind of been thinking this before. It was the handshake, and then hug, that really did it. He practically crushed my hand with his grip. It was so creepy. So aggressive. I got up to go to the bathroom and he asked for a hug. Fuck. I don't know why I did but I did. I thought he was hugging me goodbye but he just sat back down and continued talking to Justin. I had hoped he'd be gone when I returned but he hadn't. I started putting my coat on and said I was going to get change. When I turned around I saw Anthony being escorted out of the Rivoli by two big men. The security guys said he'd been coming up to couples there and getting into it with them and focussing on the women a little too much. He also caused a bit scene up in the pool room above. Justin and I looked at each other in disbelief and wonder. The evening had taken on a feeling of adventure and danger like something out of a movie. There was no way we were going to let it all end here. We looked at each other. "Shall we grab a cab somewhere? Tea or something?"

Foucault Somehow we tripped into Foucault and his misogyny (she knows people who know people, academics who were ass-fucked by Foucault). She noticed a young black man with short dreads and colorful goretex clothes, sitting nearby, catching her eye.

"Are you listening in?"

He nodded once (not implying yes, more implying "Hey")

"You know Foucault?" She was giving him an in to our conversation, generous of her, and a little strange for me since I'd been keeping up and paying attention and now she wasn't inviting me to respond, but instead inviting Joe Catch-My-Eye Stranger. Optimistically, I thought maybe it would provide a break from the thorough theory.

He sidled on over, across from her and next to me. It was clear from his body language and eye contact that he was very intent on connecting with her and I was barely furniture.

"We were just discussing Foucault and his misogyny."

"Huh?"

"You know theory?"

"Sure, theory's like a story." I thought, oh this guy's great - a supreme reductionist. And she was playing along adeptly - more comfortable dialoging with him than me, the listener/interviewer. Har Har, what fun.

She nodded, quizzically, prompting him on.

He continued, building his own world of theory, "Theory's like a story. Story is like a book. Book is like mystery or suspense." And whoosh, that was it. All of our wild scaffolding undergirding homosexual punishment theorists and Japanese art films reduced to airplane novels. It seemed a wonderful counter-balance to an evening of highmindedness, at the same time, his third raid to our conversation was a dangerous electrical current - threatening to accelerate or derail our very methodical get-to-know-you and maybe-get-to-play-with-you train.

She seemed intrigued, even if it was becoming clear that this young man was not a graduate student. "So you are a writer?"

He was definitely warmed up now, we'd dropped all the highbrow talk and handed him the conch - "I play with words. Like this - how do you spell bamboo?"

There was a moment of tentative silence. Not wanting to defy his poetic spirit, but entirely inspired to take up the game, we each ventured a start on "B A M B..."

"Spell it h-o-t, w-o-r-m, s-o-f-t"

I just burst a rib laughing - "Yes, well hot worm soft, that certainly spells something." M a little shocked herself made a little obscene gesture with her fingers.

"Hi, I'm Anthony." He reached out for a shake. She took his hand and introduced herself. He clasped her hand strong and firm, enveloping her. Then he pulled her towards him - "Can I have a hug?"

This was a clear sign of what was to come - Anthony had no interest in introducing himself to me, and she was quickly wrapped up in him, perhaps in spite of herself, probably due mostly to openminded boundary-less-ness.

After they parted the hug and sat down, M seeming a little overwhelmed, the cute young over-eyeshadowed waitress comes over and looked straight at me with a nearly-frantic expression, "Are you alright?" I replied, "Sure" while I entertained the possibility that M was to go talk theory with Anthony and I was supposed to share with this girl some good conversation. I guess she felt bad that Anthony was imposing himself in my little date, I didn't mind - M's a free agent, and John Updike awaited me at the Howard Johnson's.

I was mostly bemused watching this motor-mouthed Marxist meet a living poem. She asked him - "Are you published? What do you do with these words?" And he would only say things like, "What do I do with them? I shower. I go to bed. I wake up."

By now M had sized things up and she was acting to extracate herself - she rustled for her coat, confirmed with me that it was time to go, which I shrugged and agreed to, and she left for the restroom. Anthony finally turned himself to me. "Ever feel like you exploded early and missed something?" he asked me. I said, "Sure, all the time. I wish I could last longer during sex." That didn't seem to be the answer he was expecting, "You don't keep up?" "Well I hven't been having much sex lately." We discuss the notion of partners who are "too young" or "too old." He says "There's no such thing as too young." I reply by sharing a story when a girl under ten was rubbing herself lewdly on my leg and pulling down my pants; I really thought she was too young. He shook his head, "No that's too old."

He sighed, "She's not interested, is she." I shrugged, "I'm not so sure what she wants, but yeah, I think you overwhelmed her." He rose to move on. I started writing in my journal. She returns. I look up to see Anthony outside the bar and several large white dudes in hockey jerseys are having angry words with him. The men return inside, and Anthony moves on elsewhere. They explain that Anthony has been frequenting the bar, insinuating himself into pool games by cheering and pushing the balls around when people aren't looking. And he seems to like to sit near couples til he's noticed and then he makes a strong play for the woman. Anthony the lonley trickster. This approach to mating and greeting is so out of place in this polite Toronto bar; maybe it would be more appropriate in some of the livlier clubs I've been to in Oakland. That's a theory - that he learned to be agressive in his persuit of ladies in another social context. But it's socially antagonistic to this crowd; why does he come here and fight this system?

M seemed pretty perturbed by him - he got in her face and took advantage of her conversational kindness. I was inclined to see him sadly, an outsider trying with poor planning to join a party that doesn't want him. M seemed to think that was charitable - she called him a "hustler" repeatedly. A hustler? He wasn't selling anything! He was just trying to get with you, and to edge me out. Some kind of strange power play. A living sexual/political poem, perhaps. I asked her, if she's a Marxist, isn't she supposed to see his struggle? She called him a wanna-be Basquiat. Either way, the encounter seemed to stick a sharp pin in the thick rhetoric balloon.

We left the bar, and we were both a little spooked - perhaps afraid that Anthony would be upset and might approach us again, we hopped a cab for a few short blocks. We only discussed some of the issues raging in our mind as the cab driver was also black, layering the issues and our discussion even further. There wasn't much resolution to be had - it just seemed to be a bad scene that we each saw a little differently. I saw something to appreciate in him, she didn't seem to dig my defense of Anthony. Of course I was never the two white thighs tied to tracks in front of a very fast black locomotive - that might have changed my perception.

Strangely, it was a bonding experience; we both sharing a pounding in our chests, and an intense experience. It stripped away some of the pretense that had seemed to bog us down is theoretical discussion - after this our conversation was more back and forth, more personal stories and relationship questions, and less Foucault and Colonialism.

Right Cheek I thought we'd go to Futures on Bloor since it's the only place open at that time of night but they were, remarkably, closing. But it was already 1:30. I asked if anything else was open late and the guy suggested Insomnia internet café. I thought, how perfect. We found a cozy couch in the back and I sat facing the TV. I watched dogs wrangling steer with cutaways to rugged cowboys while Justin told me about writing for WIRED and Rolling Stone and about how he documented his entire life on a famous homepage. I don't know how I could be more interested in those dogs and cowboys than Justin's remarkable life but I know I have a problem around televisions. I think it's because I was getting really attracted to him and knew that I'd reveal that the more I looked at him directly. I knew my desire for him would start showing. Then what would we do? We changed positions and he told me more. I sat, speechless as he told me about his extraordinary life and how he had found his way into pretty much everything and everybody he was fascinated by. He made himself sound like some sort of crazy preacher the way he took his ideas and his passion all over the place as a youngster keen on showing the world the beauty of the internet and homepages. Some guy even made a documentary about him. I was impressed and amazed with how he had achieved so much, so passionately, so young. But I was more inspired by his energy than his resume.

We couldn't stop talking even as they were putting the chairs up and getting people's bills. And when we went outside I felt sad thinking he might want to part company. This is why I get all bent out of shape. I was always the geeky girl. Always the one who never knew how to communicate what I wanted. Still. Especially with somebody I'm really attracted to. Although it had been more than I could have hoped, in terms of an evening out with a stranger. We gave each other this look. It was obvious he wasn't ready to call it a night either. And nothing overtly sexual had been expressed to suggest that things might go in that direction, so I looked at him and said I wished he could come over but my roommate would probably be pissed hearing us coming in so late. He said we could go back to his hotel and drink tap water out of Dixie cups. I held up the package of Sanka decaffeinated instant coffee I had stolen from the lobby. I was game. I wasn't the type to go to a strange guy's hotel room, but this evening and this guy were the exception. And I wasn't thinking we were going back there to screw either. I just wanted more time with him. More time to look and listen to him. Or maybe to let myself open up a bit more. I wanted so much to let him see that.

The Marxist and the Dancing Dogs

We ended up at Insomnia, a late night cyber-bar. Seated in the back, on a couch together (I encouraged her to sit near me, bridging us into our first physical proximity). We continued our talk, and now I was interjecting more. We were riffing on professional writing, pitching stories, Rolling Stone and Wired; she wanted to be a writer, and now she seemed slightly impressed that I had done some of that kind of work, for some recognizable brand names. It felt a little cheap, to be matching her stories of academia insiders with some of my own horn-tooting, but it did seem to remind her that I might be interesting. At one point after I had interrupted her tales of a visiting Iranian poet, she said "You worked at Wired? Remind me to ask you about that later." The idea of later was amusing to me at the time - I wasn't sure when my turn at the lectern was due.

Unfortunately, there was a large TV nearby and there was some kind of rodeo show on where dogs were chasing cows around. Now that I was chatting some, she couldn't help but watch these animals prancing about. It was a gnawing affront, but she touched my leg twice or thrice and I was pleased to feel some slight physical intimacy.

She was a bright gal, it was clear. But she seemed to have some kind of a chip on her shoulder - something to prove to me, or maybe she was just lonely. That's what I tend to think when someone works overtime to explain themselves without ever wondering who I am or what I'm up to. I was lonely too, I figure, that's why I was sitting on a couch at 3am working on establishing a better communication stream instead of sleeping or reading. I saw enough tantalizing beauty in her - good taste, witty asides, meaningful stories, and every once in a while she'd turn her head the right way and I could see some real beauty. Some heart-stirring stuff.

So on we talked until the bar closed, growing slowly closer together and more used to normal conversation. As we loosened into give and take, the current between us increased. We left into the street, now light snow falling and coating the ground. Where should we go? I couldn't go to her place, because her landlady's not down for late night visitors. I invited her back to the Howard Johnson's. For conversation, since we were getting better at talking to each other. There wasn't really much of a prelude to a kiss, or anything else intimated besides more talking and the type of conversation we were having kept me from feeling at all tired. It was a strange kind of wired. It was a definite trek towards intimacy, but largely unaknowledged.

We walked and talked; as we passed the Four Seasons Hotel on Avenue Street, M mentioned that often rock starts stay at that hotel, and people mob the hotel hoping to catch them. Outside at 3.30am we discovered about six girls in their teens or thirties hanging out waiting for AJ(?) the last remaining Backstreet Boy in Toronto. The others had gone home, AJ had gone bowling. So they waited, and we continued back to the hotel, bonded further by increasing signs of madness surrounding us, accentuated by the increasingly lovely weather - a thickening snowstorm.

We sat on the ugly couch looking at the faux looking brick wall and the huge ugly bed and trying to figure out if the bricks were real. But I think we were thinking mostly of each other. And looking at that bed. The sweetness of sexual tension was upon us. Smiles and intense silences. What next? We got on to the topic of relationships again. He told me about the women in his life and about his feelings about relationships. I told him about mine. I felt as though I could have gone over and touched him. I think I might have touched his knee. Or maybe it was back in the bar. He told me later he remembers the first touch. His knee. I think we got on the bed cause I was about those bricks. Or maybe I was just trying to move the conversation somewhere more comfortable. We lay on the bed and continued to talk. We got closer and closer until we were in each other's arms. I don't need to say how it all began. But a lot of talking went down before anything happened. I turned my back at first, just to focus on the sound of his voice. I begin to enjoy this and his hands moving over my body. The cadence of his Midwestern accent reminded me of my oldest friends, also from Chicago. He felt familiar in so many ways. I can't even begin.

The most beautiful thing about intimacy with Justin was just how close it felt. How just looking at each other was full of intensity and bliss. His body stretched out before me, lean and strong and beautiful. I followed the geography of moles on his arms with my tongue. I took in the smell of him, the taste of him, and the feel of him and let myself into him through his pores, and hair, and eyes. We would touch and look at each other and smile. Then kiss with animal jaws. We caressed with gentle hands, and seared each other open with the precision of surgeons, wanting to try each other on for size. And when we were inside each other physically, it was not with the emptiness of lonely strangers but the connection of whole, present. I went to the window and looked out at the city. Naked. Relaxed. Unwound. Not a soul on the street or a car on the road. No single window without a blind. I watch the snow swirl around it all like a kind of music. He joined me at the window and held me, gazing out at the empty night. It was a perfect moment, that. An erotic image I will savour for all my memory. It was light when we chose to rest.

Hello, HoJo

We ended up on my couch. She asked for some water; all I had was tap water. I was very passive, in my way, continuing conversation and not at all moving anything from the cheap couch to the old bed. We were delving deeper into ourselves, her life in Toronto, some relationship business, giving each other advice. She asked if she could jump on the bed, and I said go ahead, so we both stood and bounced around some. The krusty headboard caught her eye - inflected with some pasty stuff she wondered if there was semen on my Howard Johnson's. I explained how I thought that was far-fetched; I demonstrated where a man might have to stand or lay in order to make his semen reach that far.

We were then laying side by side on the bed as much snow fell outside. There was a great opening - she said, "Now I have to ask you some questions." And it seemed she choose one or two questions from a list of questions she asks people she doesn't know, or something, not much based on anything I'd already said. Something along the lines of "Name the first..." or "Have you ever done the following..." It was pretty surreal - like she was hitting the reset button on the information I had given her so far, in order to extract some sense of who I was within very specific guidelines. But things were now flowing back and forth, words and stories.

Thick snow, the moving soft white curtain makes any indoor space feel like a retreat. She climbed under the blankets, I joined her. It was nice to ease into our bodies like that, after nine hours of roaming and talking, we had become accustomed enough to each other to trust the feeling of touching things besides our hands. Our legs brushed, our faces grew closer. On impulse, she turned her back to me and I clasped her close against me. She was skinny and warm and I could feel much energy inside of her, crackling almost as our legs intertwingled.

We began to talk less and push against each other more. It was that great feeling I love of a kind of low-level wrestling; dialog and discussion with limbs, silence, skin (mostly cheeks) and spreading warmpth. This felt comfortable, natural to me after all that time encircling each other with academic talk. I was having a great time, and I was happy to move over her body slowly. I appreciated that she turned herself to give me control, to trust me to touch her right. I touched her slowly, and I felt confident. I had one flash - what if I screw up, and this woman who just met me tonight thinks I'm a great clod? And then I just realized I had a precious opportunity to worship a beautiful being and I moved on deliberately, happily with my hands.

Her belly was barely pudgy, and smooth. I could feel her ribs. She arched against me. We were both having fun. Active minds and imaginations now uncorked - I wondered how long she had been thinking physical about me? Eventually I came to touch her between her legs and she seemed quite excited to be there. As was I! But it was the kind of sustained foreplay, without rush or destination that reminded me of what restorative sex can be - all confidence and pleasure.

I was able to last longer than I have recently. She left me mostly in control, mentioning that she is more likely to be assertive with men she knows better. It was an exciting thing to think of at the time, and afterwards. We soon fell to sleep, though the excitement of sex had disturbed my guts some and I was forced to retire to the bathrrom. We curled up together for just an hour or so. I woke up to postpone my breakfast appointment until next time I'm in Toronto, and we slept two or three more hours until near noon, and checkout time.

I loved the feel of her body near mine, and there was affection flowing between us. We stood at the window watching the snow fall from the sixth storey onto Avenue Street, me holding her belly and rubbing her some, and feeling the urge to grind into her. I felt cautious about packing and ensuring my return trip to Oakland, and my newly-freelance life.

Later on that day at breakfast, he would joke that he "fucked the theory right out of me." He was right. And did I ever need it. When we parted, he said, "the beginning," rather than, goodbye. He will remember this in different ways. But vividly.

And here is what his personal said. I didn't really remember any of this but it is amazing much it resembled the very things he was looking for to begin with:

A chance to exchange stories and feel infused with the thread of passion that runs through all joy and sorrow.

Someone I can talk to for long hours and dive deep with.

Feeling fun!

I want to meet someone and get to know them well. I picture a good 'date' - meeting someone for something casual and a conversation starts that just won't stop, no matter where we are or what's going on, we just keep on communicating.

It was a 'good' date. We just kept on communicating and it never really stopped. Whoever gets to share Justin's love will be a special person indeed.

We checked out and I wheeled my luggage through the slush to a breakfast place. It was a fine restaurant, and now our conversation, packed with material from a night's worth of familiarizing and some immediate intimacy, we were able to talk back and forth and have some good fun at it. It was refreshing after some of the moments the night before when I had been waiting for a chance to say something - here we were keeping up with each other, and laughing and having a good time of it.

She escorted me to the subway, and we sharing a long kiss and hug in the tunnels under Toronto. It was the end of the longest date in memory, something I think I'd been hoping for - an ecstactically comforting crescendo of intimacy.

I transferred stations to head towards my Airport shuttle, and there was a blind man from Africa playing a finger piano (mbira) hooked up to a speaker. Simple punchy joy melody. I gave him much of the rest of my Canadian currency and clasped his hand in thanks.

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