Pickles and Pomegranate Seeds: March 12, 2005
Adult FriendFinder bills itself as the biggest swingers community online. This is inaccurate. It's nothing more than a haven for married men and large women who want to get laid. I was introduced to the site in May 2001 by Douchebag Alcoholic (an installment for another day), who bought me a year's membership as a "surprise."
"Surprise!" I wanted to tell him. "Twenty-two year old bisexual women don't need the Internet to get laid." But, as always, I got addicted to the chat rooms. AFF, I found later, is much like the Hotel California: You can check out any time you want, but you can never leave. It's an insidious, vile thing. It stays with you for life.
So when the Evil Psychologist and I broke up in the summer of 2004, and my chronic insomnia became, well, chronic again, I found myself once again in the New England AFF chat room. On that Island of Misfit Toys, no one ever slept. Even when the Yahoo euchre addicts went to sleep, the AFF-ers chatted on. So at three, four, five in the morning, when no more games of interactive cards could be found, I would wander into the AFF chat room.
This is where I encountered Mike, whose user name was WiccaWolf, and whose grammar was atrocious. Though I would chat with him for hours, I refused to actually meet him. He was one of those individuals who, even well into his 30s, wrote in text-speak. I could not bring myself to meet up with someone who replaced "you" with "u" on a regular basis. A woman's got to have standards, after all.
Yet on March 12, 2005, after a few drinks and a crappy night out with the girls, I was bored, suffering from insomnia, and had nothing to do. So when I called Mike on a whim (using the number he'd given more four months prior, but had never called), he invited me to drive out to meet up with him and his two friends, a couple.
“I’m going to keep you on the phone for a while,” I said to Mike. I was in the parking lot of my apartment complex, talking on my cell phone though a hands-free headset, preparing myself for an hour’s drive. The night was chilly, but warmer than usual for a New England winter. It had been a few weeks since the last snowfall, so it seemed that the snowy season was over ahead of schedule. Everyone was excited about the prospect of no more snow. I checked out my reflection in my car window and ensured myself that yes, my teeny-bopper t-shirt really did make my boobs like good.
This strangely comforted me, and made me forget about my curly hair, which had been hastily pulled back and clipped into a messy ponytail. I was wearing a lightweight jacket of pink tweed over the t-shirt, and was perfectly comfortable. Except for the fact that I was about to drive an unfamiliar route at some ungodly hour, off to meet three people I’d never met. Driving at night makes me anxious. So does meeting strangers. “I’m going to keep you on the phone,” I repeated to Mike, “because I’m bad with directions.”
When I got off the highway at the designated spot, I found myself winding along serpentine roads, alternating nervously between the gas and the break. It was nearly 2 a.m., and I still couldn't figure out why I had ventured out. The night was foggy. The clouds seemed to have reached down to embrace my little Honda Civic. Even with my headlights piercing the darkness, I could hardly see a foot in front of me. The occasional oncoming set of headlights startled me, and I immediately slowed down each time a car came in my direction. What was I doing? I tried to look at the directions I’d jotted down, but between the darkness, fog, and hilly terrain, I couldn't make them out.
I drove for what seems like forever. Every minute that passed made me more and more nervous, until I became convinced that I was lost. My knuckles were white from gripping the wheel, and I veered to the right as I saw another oncoming car. My cell phone, resting on the passenger seat, flew out, hit the dashboard, and landed under my seat along with my lighter, cigarettes, and pack of gum. While driving, I reached down to feel for the phone, but only located the lighter. At the next side street, I took a sharp right and pulled over. I got out of the car, located my phone, and get back in, closing the door on the cord to the headset in the process. The battery was dangerously low, but I called Mike anyway. No answer. Crap. I was going to end up in the middle of nowhere, stuck in the fog and unable to contact any humans.
I continued to drive, hoping my directions were accurate. When I finally reach the street where my destination was, I was a frenzied mess. I slowed down, unsure of which driveway to pull into. I made a right turn at the single house that has a porch light on. I called Mike, and again, there was no answer. Fortunately, saw my car’s headlights, and was already standing in the driveway when I got out of the car. He was s tall – at least a foot taller than me – and bald. And tattooed. A tall, slightly-scary looking skinhead. How did I get myself into this? I concluded right then and there in the dark that he was decidedly unattractive.
Mike took me in and led me to the master bedroom suite, where Mike introduced me to Keeks. “Everyone wants to come here," he told me. "So you’re lucky. Everyone wants to fuck my wife." He paused before continuing. "I let Mike fuck my wife.”
“You don’t let me do anything,” I heard Jules yell from behind the wall.
Oh my holy fucking shit. Who are these people?
Jules called to Keeks. From the bathroom, I guessed. “See if she wants a drink.” Keeks looked at me inquisitively.
“Just water,” I responded.
“Water? What are you, a pussy? I thought you were a party girl.”
Both Keeks and Mike disappeared behind the wall for a moment. Then all three of them returned, and Keeks handed me a glass of ice water. I saw take Mike a sip from his own cup, one of those big, red plastic cups you find at frat parties. He cringed visibly. Mike sat down next to me again and lit a cigarette. I noted his chain smoking, and lit one of my own. Without my having noticed Keeks and Jules have disappeared. Mike and I are alone. And then Keeks magically appeared again. "What the fuck are you drinking?" he demanded of Mike.
"Vodka, soda and lime juice. It's not bad."
“Can I try?” I asked. Mike nodded his assent, and I took a sip of the lukewarm liquor and lime. Tastes like crap. “Nope, not bad at all,” I agreed.
From downstairs, came the sound of Jules swearing. “Come help me with the groceries,” she demanded. Mike and I were left alone.
“I’m tired,” I said, shifting into small talk. “The drive was absolutely awful. Fog. I swear, I’m never coming out here again.” I seemed to have broken the ice, and Mike and I began talking. As the minutes ticked by, the idle chatter became more and more comfortable, and we started really – really – talking. I began the way I normally do when I’m with strangers. My standard defense mechanism is to act gruff and hard, the way I’ve come across to him before in our sporadic online chat sessions.
“Everyone has a facade,” Mike explained to me. “It’s interesting to watch. The way people are. I like to break it down early on and see what’s really under the surface.”
“I don’t have a facade,” I quickly retorted.
“Right,” he said skeptically. “Because you’re really cold and uncaring?”
I started daydreaming and before I realized where the conversation had gone, Mike was talking about fantasies. I thought about my own life, my own fantasies, my own disappointments. “Fantasies,” I told him, “are better left unrealized.”
“I don’t know about that,” he said. “I mean, right now I’m fantasizing about pizza. That would be a great fantasy realized.” We continued to talk. He put me at ease. In less than an hour, he’d already seen through me, seen that I’m not the rough and tough girl I pretended to me. I liked that about him. The conversation was light and fun and flowing nicely. The more we talk, the more attractive Mike became.
But it was late – past 3 in the morning, and we became weary from speech. Neither of us really notices that Keeks and Jules have been putting away groceries for the better part of an hour. The space between us on the futon had lessened, and Mike’s hand was on my thigh. He looked at me, and I looked back, mindful not to look directly into his eyes. I’m not sure how, but our lips met in a sweet, friendly kiss, and I hardly tasted the tangy vodka on his breath.
Suddenly, Keeks and Jules come back to the room, Jules carrying a tray of odd foods. Pepperoni, cheese, olives, salami, grapes. Mike reached for the encased meat. Me? I found myself snacking on pickles and pomegranate seeds.
I don't remember how the conversation continued, but I do remember Keeks and Jules getting up, disappearing behind a half-wall, to their bed. Mike kissed me again. I like the way he kisses, I decided. Not too foreceful or pushy. And before long, articles of clothing starting falling to the side of the futon we were lying on. I wasn't sexual aroused, but this was not new to me. At that point, it was rare that my sexual encounters ever resulted from my own primal desired. It was always about the men and their gratification. Most often, I simply consented, and more often that not, I would up merely a masturbatory accoutrement for my partner.
But something about Mike felt more comfortable than anything I'd experienced in a long while. I realized that it hadn't been sex I'd wanted, but human contact. Even if it’s illusory, the softer more sensual touching made me feel wanted and cared for. No one had cared for me in a long while, and even if it wasn't real, even if it lasted only for a morning, it felt good. I knew that in a day or two Mike will become another asshole I slept with who never called or saw me ever again – who used me for his own ego and gratification. I knew this, but at the moment, I didn't care.
Except the sex never came. Instead, the snow started falling right outside the window. Mike noticed first. "Wow," he said. "Those snowflakes are as big as Cadillacs." Ah, a man of wisdom.
We watched the sky change from black to blue, knowing it would be mere monents before the sun was on the horizon. We wrapped his arms around me. Watching snowflakes in the blue-black sky, Mike and I fell asleep.
Even now, I have no idea whether I slept for moments or for hours. I just remember wanting to wake up and leave before anyone else had risen. I crept down the stairs, and as I was about to let myself out of the front door, I heard Mike's voice. He was calling me from the kitchen. I turned to see him sitting with a heated-up frozen pizza. "This," he said, "is a wonderful fantasy realized."
I told him I had to go. He said he'd call me. I let him tell me this, knowing full well that I'd never hear from him again, and happy that for once, the guy who wouldn't call wouldn't end up being some asshole I slept with once upon a time.
Epilogue: As it turns out, Mike and I had an intersting relationship for the next nine months. If you've ever read any of my blog entries over the years, you'll likely recognize him as "Best Friend Mike." He even did my pinup-esque photo shoot in June 2008. At the end of those nine months, it became clear that while I wanted more, Mike was not ready. The pseudo-breakup I had with him (after all, one cannot have a real breakup with a pseudo-boyfriend) hurt me more than any other breakup ever has, before or since.
To Mike, I am thankful. Prior to meeting him, I was shy and awkward and suffered from severe social anxiety. Mike is the one who brought me, kicking and screaming, out of my comfort zone. He made me fun, not just to the people who knew me well, but to random strangers. He got me talking to strangers. We were partners in crime and our adventures are legendary.
Sadly, it's been about a year since I've seen him. Mike has been unlucky in transport. He always has some crazy story about his broken cars. Seriously. I could dedicate pages of text to his automobile woes. The last I heard from him was May 9, 2009 -- exactly a month ago. My wedding day. He called while we were getting our pictures taken, wanting to know if it was okay if he arrived late. I said of course.
He never arrived.