The Arc of a Love Affair

Here’s how it goes. You meet this man, right. He’s fucking beautiful. Like: chiseled jaw, groomed stubble, lats and pecs and biceps and shoulders and cock and TATTOOS. Sleeves.

And you kiss. Open mouth, confident tongue and his hands, twisted in your hair at the back of your head, pulling in and back, just enough to know that he’s naturally in charge. You melt, and finish in his car, sweaty, with his dog tags slapping your chin as he fucks you with all the sexy propriety of a man who plans to own you one day. Cumming, thighs and ankles wrapped hard around him as he thrusts himself up against your cervix, you reflect for seconds that you have never felt so consumed by one person in such a short period of time. (5 hours, to be exact).

That consummation continued for 10 days. In those days the two of you:
spent a day as loved up tourists at niagara falls
ate a lot of fudge
fucked in the bathroom of a dessert house at 2pm in the afternoon
watched The Hobbit
had Denny’s breakfast twice
fucked in an empty ballroom
met significant others (sister and best friend)
watched Silver Linings Playbook
gave an outstanding example of perfect road head
admired
laughed
talked
and

fell
(hard).

12 and a half months later, I have never anticipated seeing someone as much as I did with him. After a year of emotion, excitement, lust and promise I descended into that freezing, concrete city, applied makeup and perfume with shaking hands in the airport bathrooms after a 22 hour flight and then, wiggling into white lacy thong, I strode out to collect my baggage.

I saw him before he saw me. He was much bigger, broader, muscular than I remembered, wearing a green hoody. He’d snuck through the doors, to MY side of the arrivals. This was unexpected, I thought I still had the wait for my baggage to collect myself and so I saw him, and then pretended that I hadn’t. Out of the corner of my eye I watched him spot me as I glided down the escalator, and aware of his movement, I shuffled myself through the crowd in the opposite direction from him, eyes glued to the baggage carousel. I was aware of him coming closer to me and I felt terrified, heart beating and almost for a moment I wished I was somewhere else. And then he gently pinched my ass, and I turned with surprise in my face, and kissed him, long and deep, and pressed my chest against his and the world disappeared.

I never told him this, that I saw him first and my fear of him approaching me. It wasn’t HIM that I was afraid of…it was the fear of leaping off, of anticipating something and someone so deeply and then when it’s about to happen you panic, afraid that the anticipation was all in vain, that the anticipation is sweeter than reality, that the anticipation is actually the best part. And then you leap, and kiss, and the story you’ve been weaving together is now coming to life and this is sad for a moment, you’ve lost something and you can’t go back from that.

We were so very guarded around each other. I feel that we had the same unspoken agenda: protect ourselves, play it cool. In retrospect, I wanted to protect this….idea, image, dream I had of what he’d be like, what we’d be like together. I almost wanted to keep my eyes half closed and hang on to this vision we’d been weaving..I didn’t feel ready for this vision to suddenly have to be held up to reality.

But then, of course, amongst all this uncertainty was the pure wonder of touching each other, really seeing each other, looking into each other’s eyes and kissing, fucking, joining our bodies together. These opposing emotions created a strange blur over that first week. We didn’t talk much, slept in hotels in awkward angles to each other, overly aware of intruding on space that for the last year, had very much been our own personal bubble. Thinking about those first few hotel days, I feel the sadness, emptiness. It wasn’t like how I imagined. We weren’t like how we had been. This felt so tragic to me, but I was supposed to be happy and delighted and I couldn’t understand my emotions, so I numbed them.

He was distant with me, cold at times, almost as if he was trying to show me that I was superfluous, replaceable. That I wasn’t as important as I thought I was.

I think we tried, over the next 5 months. We had beautiful breakthroughs: lazy, wandering rainy mornings in Kensington market, easy conversation over pizza. Gasping, hungry sex, reaching for each other, consuming each other’s bodies and pleasure with greed and sweaty, grasping limbs. Midnight kisses at The Garrison, my hair covered with snow and icy breath. Purposeful grocery shopping, meals made with love, so many blow jobs, so many. And through all these love moments were tears, circular conversations, changes won and then forgotten, pained conversations and hurt glances that made me want to rip my own heart out. Why was it so hard? Why, when we spent the year planning us, did these plans never come to fruition? How could we not work? Were we best apart, in anticipation, dreaming of our perfect partner who could never exist? Why did we feel so wrong for each other?

I never found the answers to these. Some days I retreated into myself, pointed my finger entirely at him and relieved myself of responsibility. And then, embarrassed by my own righteousness, I’d completely flip the coin: he’s an angel and I’m the one who screwed up. The closer I’d get to trying to Figure It Out, the more wispy and elusive the answers and reasons would become, changing according to my mood, to how successful I felt like I was at creating a new life here, to how angry I was. The coin kept flipping until it didn’t matter anymore.

It’s been 2 months since we last had contact. After we broke up, the final time, I ached for him, on more than half the days I hid under my sheets and cried my pain and fear and anxiety into my pillows, living on cherries and almonds and littering my room with tissues. His trace was still there- a stray hair under my pillow, a thumbprint bruise of his on my inner thigh. My body missed him, and I’d wake from tortuous dreams…his cock grinding into my pelvis, long and hard, pushing into me until my body and mind were totally consumed by him.

But, I rode out this sadness and grief with a bravery that took me by surprise! I romanced myself with introspective solo tips: a pool bar, a beach dance party, a hiking trip, a theatre show. I used to do these things and wish he was with me. Now I do them and I feel a rush of pride and self-love: I am not broken, I am not a failure, I am beautiful and legendary. This emotional fallout is inevitable of any breakup, I’ve been through it before and although I know it well, I’m always shocked at how much love can hurt.

I observe the arc of our romance from this solitude. He is who he is. He is not the fantasy. He is his own, complex person and it doesn’t matter that he can’t be to me what I want him to be, I will always love him for exactly who he is, even when it means he can’t be my partner.

In a month I’m going as far west as I can. I’ll paddle my feet in the pacific ocean- my ocean- and view our relationship from there, as if I’m falling off the western edge of the canadian shield he is so rooted into. It’s ironic, I packed up my life to come here to be attached to this shield with him, I craved this security, I craved his solidity. But now I feel more transient than ever, sliding over the world on my imagined octopus legs. I’m water, he’s rock.

Do I regret it? Yes, in moments of rejection, low self esteem, anxiety and fear all I want to do is run back to Auckland. I feel angry at coming here for plans and dreams that shattered so quickly. But then I don’t, really. I did a crazy thing, I met a stranger, fell quickly in love and moved across the world for him. I took such a risk! And if I didn’t take this, then I would have wondered for the rest of my life, what part of me was left in Toronto, living in his heart.

(Respect to Paul Simon: Hearts and Bones “The arc of a love affair. His hands rolling down her hair.”)

A break-up letter, Havana, March 2012.

The view from my casa in La Habana, Cuba, 2012

The view from my casa in La Habana, Cuba, 2012

Hello my love.

I’ll try and describe this room to you. It’s pretty plain, but been remodeled in ‘antique’ style, which seems very popular in both the casa I’ve stayed at. Antique style here equals a huge billowy white satin curtain covering one wall (nothing behind it, just a blank wall), a big window with a red curtain with roses on it and a huge stand-alone wardrobe with a big mirror on the front. The wardrobe has actually been scaring me. I woke up one night totally freaked out because I dreamt that I was lying in bed looking at the mirror and I saw Miss Havisham (the creepy old woman from Great Expectations) in it, staring at me. And last night I was tossing and turning trying to sleep and I couldn’t turn my back on the mirror. I was even afraid to close my eyes in case I opened them and saw someone else in the mirror.

I wanted you here, last night.

I’ve been up and down since we parted. I’m cautiously saying I’ve been up slightly more than down, but I’m not sure if that’s because I’m feeling happier, or if that’s just the glow of a new place and new adventure. I’ve had a really low day today, and I’ve been angst-ing all evening on what to do about that, what to say to you, and- this is what I’m finding the hardest- whether to trust how I’m feeling. My trust in myself is totally shaken.

I got the bus to Playa del Este today, it’s a beach about 18k from La Habana. It was pretty average, I swam a bit and read, and tried to write you. This nice guy started chatting to me- Canadian from Toronto- wasn’t trying to hit on me, just another solo traveller and wanted to hang out with someone for the day. And I rebuffed him at every chance I got! He was persistent, but friendly: asked if I wanted to get some lunch, explore the town, share a cab back to Habana, even invited me out with some of his friends tonight to a salsa club. And this is what solo travel is all about right, to leap at chances that arise, and meet new people, and challenge myself socially. And here’s my chance! And I didn’t take it. It’s Friday night, and I’m in bed writing you at 10:30pm. I haven’t been out drinking or dancing in Cuba at all yet! I couldn’t be bothered socializing with this guy. I caught myself thinking on the bus on the way back into town, if I wanted to chat with someone on the beach and explore Habana with someone, that someone is you, my partner of two years, it’s not some random guy from Toronto who I barely know.

And then I got back to Parque Centro and all I could see were couples everywhere. One sticks in my head: they were tourists, and the guy had his arm draped around the woman’s shoulder. He was pointing up at something and she was looking, and they were both smiling. And then they laughed and she snuggled into him tighter and kissed his cheek and he kissed her head. I saw that and thought, we look just like that when we’re together, and I felt so incredibly lonely then, and so stupid and confused and conflicted.

Those feelings have stayed with me all evening. I’ve been trying to write you all week, but I don’t know what to say. I need to make a decision and I just have to trust and hope hope hope that it’s the right one. My options are: A) Come to you sooner rather than later. Reconcile. We feel more like a couple, less like ‘just close friends’ (by this I mean, regular, passionate sex:)). I feel happy and content in the choice that I’ve made. Plan more travel with you. B) Come to you sooner rather than later. Spend lovely time with you, but probably more like close friends, rather than as a full on couple. You go to Costa Rica, I go somewhere close by, probably not back to Canada. We plan to meet up again sooner rather than later, but in what capacity? C) We see each other before we leave Cuba, but we know that will be the last time for a long time. I return to Vancouver, you go to Costa Rica.

I’m trying to approach this decision-making logically, which may be a bad and incredibly frustrating idea, because logically, surely, I’d want option A right? Here’s some of the things that are making this decision difficult for me.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to love you like you want me to/like you deserve/like you love me. 

I recall in one of our conversations, you said that the main thing you wanted in life was me, and that I am the top thing that makes you happy. I don’t know if I can ever say that to you, if I can ever say that to anyone. I can’t put that much trust, that much power and hope, on one person. I don’t know if I’ll ever change my mind on this, I feel it so strongly. It also frightens me, that I have that much responsibility pressing on me. I feel like if I don’t ‘give’ you myself, then I am taking away from you what will make you the happiest. That’s so conflicting, because I do want to make you happy, I do.

But this makes me feel trapped and angry! No one owns me, and no one can make claims like that on me. Similarly, I don’t believe I can make claims like that on someone else. The first person I look to in life to give me what I want is…me. And it will always be me. I’m not saying you’re wrong in feeling this way, it’s how you feel, and this is how I feel. It has crossed my mind that perhaps you would be loved better by someone who felt similar to you in this sense. I’m genuinely afraid that if I pick option A, whose to say that this won’t happen again? I left you in Varadero because I wanted something more than I wanted our relationship. I can’t guarantee this will be the one and only time.

BDSM.

It’s bizarre that I’m thinking about this, now, when I’m feeling the least horny I’ve ever been. This is tough to write to you, because I know this is something that cuts very deep with you, and something that is particularly sensitive. My recent experience with BDSM in Vancouver was eye-opening, mostly in how I reacted. The most eye-opening thing is how quickly and consciously I went against what you specifically asked me not to do. The thought of possible S and M creates an drug-like reaction in me. I wonder if it’s close to an addiction? I do things that are completely against my better judgement, I think of no-one but myself. My reaction defies all sense and logic. The second thing that surprised me is that once was never enough. If you can imagine some kind of animal tasting a certain type of meat for the first time, and then going on a feeding frenzy to get more of that meat, that is how I felt.

And the ‘meat’ wasn’t exactly quality. It excited my mind more than my body. For example, I was never shaking with horniness. I was never as wet as I am with you. I never came as hard, and as often, (and as truthfully) as I do with you. So then why did I crave it? It flicked something in my brain, something that was impossible, and still is impossible to ignore. It got closer to the core of my S and M cravings than anything else I’ve experienced, and that is something that is mean and scary. Something that is without love, something that is about pain, something that is about being used for a sadist’s pleasure. Something about being forced to submit, even though my better sense is screaming at me not too. Something dangerous and risky. Can you see why I can’t explore deeper with you? You can’t be any of those things to me, even if we’re acting.

And we’ve already discussed this, and you said something in our last discussion that made my heart leap with hope. You said that perhaps I could fulfill this separate to our relationship, with your knowledge, consent and perhaps participation. This is my best case scenario. But I’m afraid that I’m unable to do it successfully. As I’ve already demonstrated by trashing the terms of our open relationship, the promise and hint of BDSM makes me crazy and stupid. It fucks with me, more so with my head than my body. I don’t know if I’d be able to have an occasional Dom on the side, without going into a feeding frenzy, without lying to you, without hurting you in some way.

THIS is what it comes down to: I don’t know myself in this situation, and if I decide to go deeper, I don’t know how I’ll react. If I want to experiment further with BDSM, it could be unfair and hurtful to do it within our relationship. And the big question is IF: is BDSM ‘just’ a sexual preference, or is it a larger part of who I am? Which do I want it to be? Do I want to find out?

I’m no longer a stable person

Ok, that sounds very dramatic! I don’t mean that I’m ‘unhinged’. In Auckland, I was stable. I knew what my goals were, they were achievable and I didn’t question them. I knew what made me happy and what made me sad. I knew what I valued and where my strengths lay. I had a mid to long term plan that filled me with hope and excitement.

Now, I don’t know anything. The goals I have are guesses at best- I’m unsure if they’re good goals or not. I have many ideas for plans, but I don’t know how to pick one- and whether they are good plans or not. I still have some idea of what I value, but I’ve been thinking about new values too- and I’m unsure whether they’re good values or not. My strengths are still there, but mostly I sense my weaknesses, and feel inadequate. And I can brainstorm thousands of things that bring me happiness- but they are things that brought the old, stable ‘me’ happiness. With little sense of, and trust in my goals, plans, values and strengths, how do I know what I’m looking for?

I need this year. I need to develop a deeper sense of who I am through experimentation and trial and error. Can I do this while in a relationship? No. I can’t live experimentally while I have the grounding consistency of a long-term relationship, one that brings all my past actions, behavior and assumptions to the present. I have to live selfishly, and just for me. I have to travel solo. Is this goal worth it, is this goal worth forsaking my happy relationship?

Yes.

I’m so sorry, my love, my best friend, my bear. I choose option C.

The model in the tower: image and consent in San Francisco

Exhibitionism.

This word hissed into my life with a chance, and I leapt at it. It represented something I hadn’t realised I’d been craving until I got to explore it. Then, I donned the title of ‘Exhibitionist’ like a scarlet cape, wrapping it around my shoulders, whipping it over my head, flirtatiously smiling as I passed it across my face.

I was good at it, and I was hunted for it. Rue99 was the “mack daddy of fet photography” (as one of his fans dubbed him) and he wanted me to be his muse for the weekend. No matter that I had only had two photo shoots in my life. No matter than I was as fresh as a (mt cook) daisy.

He picked me up from the youth hostel in San Francisco, and whisked me off to his spare condo in a gritty upmarket neighbourhood where I was to stay for the three days we had together. My middle-aged, Asian prince charming, armed with a camera and a nervous smile. He had the worst people skills of anyone I’ve ever met, but the intelligence, bluntness and intensity of a fast friend. We clicked quickly, and my appreciation for him grew after his embarrassed apology for a “very nice” comment when I stripped. He didn’t like to personally appraise his models. He didn’t want me to feel uncomfortable in any way. And, exhibitionist that I was becoming, I didn’t.

I danced naked in his condo, rolled in playful masturbation on his hardwood floors in the sun, snuggled my tummy into his white fur rug, lounged on silk while exploring my g-spot. He clicked away, snapshots. When he went home I ate almonds, played Drake obsessively, read Marquis de Sade (masturbated some more), practiced distracted yoga and preened myself. I was his model in a tower.

We met for a purpose, and on our second night together I was released from the tower. (I don’t entirely know why I’m writing it as if he was holding me captive. He really wasn’t, I could have left anytime I wanted to. In actual fact, I really enjoyed being in one place, having only one very large open plan room to process and live in for a couple of days. At that point I’d been on the road for over a month. My world needed to shrink for a while). We’d agreed that I was going to model for him at Masqerotica, a kinky ‘lifestyle’ expo in San Fran. “Lifestyle” is the key word, and in retrospect, I don’t know why I picked up on this earlier.

Let me back track for a second to how we met. He emailed me, with this:

I’m looking for a model for a photo shoot performance event for Masquerotica which will show the shots on a 20′ screen while posing for/with attendees. Last year’s was a huge amount of fun.

1. Twenty something years old (must be at least 21)

2. Reliable, energetic, fun, and being an exhibitionist doesn’t hurt

3. Nice figure/face

4. Two or three 30 minute modeling sessions from 9 pm to 1 am

5. No experience necessary

He had me at exhibitionist.

I asked him what I would be wearing?

You’ll be mostly naked. I can cut some duct tape for nips. Do you have a skimpy black/flesh thong for the bottom? Also, a sexy top is nice for an option.

Without baulking, I wrote back:

Everything sounds great! I have a light pink thong with a cute black ribbon- it’s basically flesh coloured. I also have a red one which I love! Duct tape is fine, but I’m happy with uncovered nipples, if that’s allowed. I’m comfortable with pretty much anything. I’m happy with touching, nudity, being manipulated into different positions.

It was a done deal.

San Francisco’s Premier Annual Lifestyle event. I stalked in: lacy gstring, silver tape over my nipples, red lipstick, black eyeliner, red fascinator, stilettos and a smile. Excitedly I helped him set up, met his helpers and the other models. As I’m finding more and more often at fetish events, these meetings are full of warmth and good cheer. Kinky people love other kinky people. However, there was a difference between the kinky performers and the “kinky” voyeurs. For the latter we’re talking fluffy handcuffs, 50 Shades of Grey and some light spanks before orgasm.

I’ll be brief, this doesn’t warrant more than one more paragraph.

Masqerotica, San Francisco October 2012. Photo credit: Rue99

Masqerotica, San Francisco October 2012. Photo credit: Rue99

Positives: took hundreds of photos, was seen by thousands of people. Compliments were rained on me. I was the centre of everyone’s attention- each time a photo was taken it was projected onto a huge screen. This attracted a three-person deep crowd just watching the photos happen. I got to try lots of different postures and expressions for modelling. I was the exhibition.

Negatives: I was the exhibition. I no longer had any say, any control over who had my image. Cellphones were on me, taking photos of R taking photos. People I didn’t know had photos of me, posing suggestively with strangers, in a gstring and duct tape pasties. Compliments were rained on me. I felt consumed. I felt powerless. I felt a little bit icky.

By the end of the night I was thankful to return to the tower. The next day, on the way to his studio, I discussed this ick with R. Our discussion boiled down to consent. I am consenting for R to take my image, and I have an element of control about how it is used. However, Mr “Likes it Rough” and his girlfriend at Masqerotica do not ask my consent when they whip out their iphone, they do not ask my consent when they capture me posing for someone else’s photo, and they do not ask my consent before they publish this photo on Facebook. This is troubling for me. We have a good discussion about consent and image theft.

This doesn’t trouble me enough to stop shooting with R. However, I can now draw a line in the sand to where my exhibitionism will take me. I am only an exhibit with consent. If my consent isn’t explicit, then I am simply consumable. This doesn’t do it for me. This doesn’t make it to my fetish list.

Our shoots culminated with rope and challenge: a wrist suspension in his studio, my legs tied to cinder blocks and stretched wide, my entire body weight hanging from my tiny wrists in a taught X. I didn’t just survive this suspension, I modeled it. I looked right at the camera lens with a “come fuck me” expression and R was jumping in delight and ejaculating praise. My wrists hurt for days afterwards, but that was a small price to pay for the rush. This rush is addictive…adrenaline from pain, overcoming physical challenge, pleasing a well-known photographer, making myself proud.

I kicked ass. Turns out, this woman from little old New Zealand is a fetish model, and a trooper at that!

(I love this, and keep it close to my chest, my secret to help me through my computer tapping, flourescent lights glaring, airconditioned office days).

Fall, in the Pacific Northwest.

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Puget Sound from Discovery Park. Seattle, October 2012.

The USA.Talking, talking, talking. SO much talking. Self-importantmen, harassing, trying to pick up, always trying to pick up, looking for sex. Women, walking, ignoring, harassment, stares. A feeling of being consumed.

Seattle passed in a blur of dancing and dubstep. Syncopated bass in my hostel dorm room, carefully applying eye liner, hair in bunches, tapping parts of my body to the dissonant beat. It’s lunchtime and I’m getting ready to go to a boat party, where I will dance for 3 hours while cruising around Lake Washington.

I meet people- the woofing New Yorker, the new Dad with a constant smile and funky moves, the smoking photographer, the Oregon Burner with holes in her fishnets and purple sparkly eyelashes. Splashes of conversation, Facebook contacts exchanged. I see two of them again.

I spend my last day hiking, out on a windy bluff, heated just enough by late summer sun, jutting bluntly out into the Lake, with views of Mt Rainier on the hazy horizon. Eating peanut butter and Ryvitas I lie in blissful solitude on the shore of the lake, kick my shoes off and read a book about Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside for over an hour. I hike almost the whole park, and feel bizarrely close to tears in the military cemetery. All these bodies. All for…what? An ongoing mess in the Middle East? Defending a country with high levels of unemployment and low levels of personal responsibility? I realize I’m being unreasonably cynical and leave the cemetery, silently kicking autumn leaves, taking with me lingering sadness and regret. I arrive back at the hostel and realize I haven’t spoken a word to anyone for the entire day. Wonderful.

I dodge offers of socializing and travel plans from the hostel’s resident alcoholic- Jesse, age 25, unemployed, never shuts up, reeks of hard liquor and resignation. I catch a ride to Portland with a wonderfully open and lovely female driver, a musician and a comedian. The car is filled with laughter and snacks, and when we arrive in Portland we go straight to see the comedian perform. It’s a sparse venue, filled with Portland hipsters: plaid, skinny jean, long hair, nose piercings, inky dark tattoos. And that’s the men. The show is more hit than miss, but the beer is cheap and I revel with my new found friends. We enjoy the novelty of only having known each other for a few hours, and that’s enough to give a special sparkle  to the evening. We bar hop: a hip hop club filled with hipsters and gangsters. It’s incredibly eclectic, incredibly beautiful and incredibly trendy. I shimmy to the bathroom to tuck my white tshirt into my short, navy, 60s style skirt, push my hair up into a higher quiff and apply a bold coat of red lipstick. I may not be in heels and a sparkly dress, but I know I can dance.

Delighting in my body. Circling, gyrating, undulating my hips. Watching my body move with wonder and pleasure. Making love to myself, flirting, drawing myself in. Fuck, I am sexy! Closing my eyes, feeling my chest conduct a beautiful roll, opposite circle to my hips. It feels so good I draw out the movement, playing with the rhythm, almost off beat and then double time, opening my eyes, smiling slyly at my play. This- THIS- feels so good. I amaze at my body’s ability to move so right, in such good time. I trust in it, and it moves, directed from a place within, rather than from my head. Different club, different music…dubstep! The syncopated, distressed, warped bass brings with it a rush of adrenaline, a high that makes me laugh out loud, grin broadly at myself as I ride the air with my hands, fingers twisting delicately with the electronic treble, feet planted widely and broadly on the ground, knees spread and hips grinding with the beat. I pick up and drop off at exactly the right points, feeling where the DJ is going, matching my muscular rhythms with the electronically produced beat, that blasts out and is absorbed by the seething crowd. My new friends head home one by one. The last one, the comedian, tries to kiss me and I shrug out of his embrace with a small smile and determined lack of eye contact. Then I’m free again, to dance completely alone in a crowd! Bliss! I’m aware of the stares of men, but there are always stares of men and in my alone state I view them from underneath half closed eyelashes, delighting that none of them will enter into this space, no-one will know how blissful it is to be in my gyrating, undulating, shimmering bubble. I am self-love.

Portland continues much in this fashion. The Wednesday night comedy and dancing combo turns into Thursday hookahs, Friday dubstep with acrobats added, Saturday MDMA fueled naked hot-tub and better than average sex with a hotter than average man (“So…you like it rough, do you?”), Sunday backstage passes to The XX and better than average foreplay with a more considerate than average man, Monday a dinner date with the smoking photographer from Seattle…followed by a collapse into bed with fever, chills, and a awful head cold. Wipe out. Portland kicks my ass.

After dosing myself up with rash-enducing amounts of Emergen-C, I grit my teeth and embark with cautious excitement on the next leg of my journey- the road to San Francisco. I hit road-trip gold, finding Adam on Craigslist, a dieting trimmer who is driving Jezebell, a green VW van. He’s keen to make it a two day trip, sticking to the coast road, delighting in a lack of agenda. I’m not the only one attracted by this proposition and at the train station in Portland I meet Steve, the traveling, guitar playing Texan with a love for alcoholic Australians and Paul, an organic farmer from the East Coast. Again, as I’m discovering happens on the road, we connect instantly and intensely, and our two days blur in total delight at finding each other. We camp on a desolate, wind swept Oregon beach. Light a bonfire, play and sing nonsensical music, drink cheap local beer, laughingly kick up the sand to see the sparkling phosphorescence under our feet. Adam pops the top of the van and we fall asleep in Jezebel, sharing two sleeping bags and a blanket between us. No one propositions me. I’m thankful for that, for the first time in a month I can relax around men, not feeling their eyes silently watching and devouring me.

We enter California, and the majestic redwood forest. We turn off the destination focused main highway and drive parallel, though a story book road called The Avenue of the Gods. In a spark of traveler frivolity we throw open the side door to Jezebell. Paul and I lie on the floor of the van, our heads out the door, whooping with total delight as we watch the towering trees pass over us. The enthusiasm grows and Adam suggests we lie on the roof. He drives the twisting, empty road and I brace myself on the roof of this van, grinning widely, laughing and shouting with pure pleasure. I feel giddy with freedom and recklessness, passing slowly beneath these giants, the california-blue sky barely peaking through their ancient foliage. We swap, and I find myself in the drivers’ seat, steering, braking and clutching while Steve beside me changes gears. The idiocy of me driving on the right for the first time is equal with Adam and Paul on the roof, and like two negatives, both cancel each other out and we’re so, so positive. So glad.

We charge down the motorway and hit the Golden Gate bridge late evening. It’s perfect. Paul tries to hold his breath, Steve is playing and singing, Adam leaning over the wheel like a trucker, baseball cap on backwards and I’m reclined in shotgun, painted toenails bobbing with excitement on the dash. I couldn’t arrive in San Fran in more style, with better company. The night passes in a blur, a fitting end an epic road trip, in the true sense of the word. Parked in the gritty Tenderloin district, Hazzard, a friend of Adam’s takes us from a grimy Korean bar with the giggling waitresses matching the drinkers shot for shot, to a transvestite strip club: a happening place on a Wednesday night in the Tenderloin. The boys are hesitant, and then with growing admiration, attraction, boners (and confusion) approach the stage. I smile a redlipsticked smile at everyone and enjoy the show and the blurring of gender and sex in equal parts.

I wake up early Thursday morning, in Jezebell, on the side of a Tenderloin street. My hangover, combined with the growing effects of my ‘too-much-fun-flu’, motivate me to do what’s best for my body and in an organized half hour I find a train to my Uncle’s in Northern California, where my own room in a hay bale house awaits.