Thirty-One (15 of 31)

With the way the public transporation system ran on Thursday, you would think that Boston had never experienced so much as a spell of winter weather throughout its history. My train into town didn’t arrive in Lowell until 20 minutes after it was supposed to have departed for Boston and my train home was delayed almost as long. The subway was running slow when it was running at all. It was, in short, a very frustrating day.

Which leads me, of course, to this week’s extra-strength Thursday Throwback. The first two of these have been, I think, quite successful, and I’m quite looking forward to unleashing this next one upon the unsuspecting world. So, without further ado, here it is.

Looking for Love in All The Wrong Places

I was the kid with the car, but rarely ever the guy with the girl. If there was fooling around in the backseat of my car, then it certainly didn’t involve me. And if I was surrounded by a gaggle of girls, it was never because my immense amount of sexual charisma. No, in fact, it was probably because I was playing the part of the fag to their fag-hags, something I did without ever actually having been gay. So I suppose that’s an accomplishment, at least.

Though I had been friendly with girls long before I’d formed any lasting relationships with persons of my own gender — my earliest memories involving hanging out with the Asian girl down the street and attending birthday parties where My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake, not G.I. Joe and Transformers, were the gift of choice — I didn’t go on my first date until I was sixteen. And I had so little idea how these things worked that I ended up writing my parents a note, which I then hung on the refrigerator, to ask their permission, and to ask Dad to drive me. And I suppose that sixteen isn’t a bad age to start dating, except that my first date, and my second and my third, were all unqualified disasters.

I mean, it started with my very first girlfriend. Katie fucked or fooled around with every single guy she ever dated except for me. She even made out with KenMills once, in the back seat of my Ford Tempo. It started there and it never stopped. Countless female friends and acquaintances would go for any guy besides me but they would never even consider hooking up with me. That was just unimaginable.

...I look back at pictures and yes I was really fat at times and quite awkward, but I can’t ever put my finger on why it was that I got no action in high school and college. There were certainly guys uglier and fatter than me getting some. Why was I not even a consideration?

[Excerpted from Why Chris Never Got None]

Though I did have some success in the so-called “game” of love, with my brief but memorable relationships with Tracy in high school and with Louann during freshman year of college, most of my romantic entanglements ended with either an internalized frustration or the formation of an impassable rift between me and the object of my affection, usually thanks, in part, to my tendency to send notes instead of confessing my feelings aloud and in person. Really, the central problem boiled down to this: I had no notion of how interpersonal relationships between the sexes were supposed to work beyond puberty. I couldn’t tell the difference between the teasing that friends do and the flirting that goes on between two people who might be more than friends.

One evening Kellie decided to fuck with my head because it was common knowledge around those parts that I was a virgin and had experienced very little in the way of physical affection. I remember that Kellie got into this very suggestive outfit, a piece of lingerie of some sort. Others were either egging her on or telling her to stop. She sat close to me, flirted with me, tried to see if she could get a rise out of me.

Eventually I remember getting up and leaving the house and walking down the street because the situation was so frustrating. I wanted to return the faux affection that she was giving to me. I knew it wasn’t serious but I kinda liked her and she was hot and I just had to remove myself.

[Excerpted from Prom Date - A Friend?]

When a girl who was even moderately attractive was nice to me, it didn’t take long for me to develop a horribly debilitating crush. More often than not, I didn’t do anything about these crushes, being possessed of a measure of self-confidence barely visible to the human eye. If I did anything at all it ended up being the sort of fruitless expression of affection that people go “Awww…” over during sappy movies, the kind of thing that the audience notices but the girl in question does not.

During those weeks in April, in that silly mood, with a developing crush on Tammy, I wrote probably the only poem of mine that I still think is any good. It was called “Or Is It?” and it was about a crush that a guy has on a girl and he professes his love in a poem and she says, “That was nice” not knowing it was about her.

It turns out I read this poem at a coffee house Tammy was at and she basically said, “That was nice.” It was quite a prophetic poem.

[Excerpted from Concerning Estelle]

In the fall of 1996, upon my return to Bradford College for my sophomore year, I was finally given what I considered to be a true gift, something that would make finding the right girl all the more easy: the Internet. Oh, the countless hours spent in the Internet lab cruising chat rooms and dating sites, being fooled by people across the room who had seen my handle over my shoulder and decided to fuck around with me, watching in wonder as friends of mine began their own budding online “relationships”, and wondering why in the hell it wasn’t any easier for me on the web, as opposed to IRL (in real life, for those of you who either didn’t know or have wiped all online acronyms from your memory).

There were three major phases of my pursuit of love online, and each of them was painful in a different way. The first of these phases involved my relationship with a girl from North Carolina, Jennifer, who I not only chatted with at the ever popular L’Hotel Chat, but who I also spent a great deal of time on the phone with, these extended phone conversations resulting in the maxing out of my phone bill and my subsequent inability to call anyone long distance for the remainder of the year.

My relationship with Jennifer, which I saw as potentially leading to the kind of romance that you can only bear witness to while eating overpriced popcorn and sipping watered-down Pepsicola products (she had sent me a big stuffed teddy bear for my birthday, after all), progressed to the point where I gathered up the funds to travel down south to meet her in person. Other regular visitors to the Bradford Internet lab had already found success in similar endeavors, so I figured I might to.

Oh, how wrong I was.

When I got to the airport, Jennifer was waiting with a black friend of hers whose name I can’t remember. There were no hugs or signs of affection. There was a simple hello and then we got into her car and listened to No Doubt, which I’d never heard before, all the way back to Greensboro. Her friend was singing and moving about in his seat behind us, sort of dancing while sitting down. She and I talked a little, but mostly we listened to music.

When we got to UNCG I met a slew of friends and we ate dinner at a common area with a food court. I had a sandwich from Chick-A-Fila, or however it is you spell that.

We hung out with her friends most of the night and it wasn’t until very late that we went back to her room. This is when I expected the magic to happen. Despite the overwhelming lack of attention she’d paid me all night, I thought maybe she would make up for it now that we were alone. All of her teasing about how I was going to sleep on the floor… I thought it was just teasing. She’d really given me the impression that we, the two of us, were something.

I did sleep on the floor though and I slept poorly. When she got up to go register for spring classes the next morning I was asked to stay in the room because her roommates (they all shared a common room and a bathroom) didn’t really know I was there and I might frighten them. I watched MTV as my bladder grew heavy. For the first time, I saw the video for No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak” and the lyrics seemed prophetic to me. This whole visit wasn’t going as I’d planned.

Eventually I chanced a visit to the bathroom and eventually she came back, all in a fit of anger because class scheduling wasn’t going her way. She wanted to go see her parents back in Asheville. She might have invited me along. What I remember is that during this stressful time for her, which was probably the worst time in the world to bring it up, I brought up the subject of what was going on between us.

The long and the short of it, from her side at least, was that I had misinterpreted everything. We were friends and that was it. I was crushed. I had invested so much emotion and money and time into this and here she was, telling me I meant nothing to her.

We decided it would be best if she dropped me off at my Aunt & Uncle’s house in Fuquay-Varina. I called my Auntie Lil. She knew she was my lifeline if anything went wrong. That’s probably why my parents had stopped complaining about me going. They knew I had someone to turn to if it got fucked up.

Jennifer dropped me off and Lillian’s office and finally, I got a hug. She took off before I went in. She didn’t want to meet Lillian. Lillian didn’t want to meet her. I was like another son to Auntie Lil and she was very angry at this girl who had done this to me.

[Excerpted from Jennifer Pt. 3 - The NC Debacle]

Dejected, I entered the second phase of my pursuit of love on the Internet. Having figured that Jennifer and I might have at least fooled around, and having spent all of my money to go and visit a girl who had no interest in me whatsoever, I was frustrated on a number of levels. Extraordinarily depressed, I began to wonder if my standards were too high, if all I needed was someone, anyone, to get me off, if maybe romance was overrated and I should just start looking for sex and sex alone.

And if I was going to go that low, if I was going to ignore everything about myself in the pursuit of sexual gratification, maybe any orifice would do, even a male one…

...I was desperate. I was sick and tired of waiting for things to happen naturally, to happen in their due time.

There were two men and a transvestite named Lori whose e-mail propositions I entertained. Lori seemed like more of a possibility to me because, even if it was a guy, at least it would look like a girl. Lori wasn’t working out though, (he was getting weirder and weirder and not responding to some of my e-mails), and I figured if I’d gone this far I might as well go all the way. I eventually set up a phonecall with one of the men in the week before Thanksgiving.

It wasn’t far into the phonecall when I realized it wasn’t for me. He was talking to me and to a degree, he sounded turned on, but for me… for me it wasn’t working. I wasn’t interested when I was presented with the reality of it. Any orifice wouldn’t do. I wanted a woman.

I felt confused and ashamed and ashamed that I was ashamed. I eventually wrote to him to tell him I couldn’t go through with anything. I was too weak to even say it aloud. I let my fingers provide the reason.

[Excerpted from Any Orifice Will Do?]

At my low point, I stumbled into what some men would have considered to be the most successful phase of my quest for gratification online. But success, in this story, is all relative.

Sometime after the Jennifer debacle and after my questioning of the basic tenets of my sexuality, I began to converse online with a redheaded black chick by the name of Nydia. She went to Berklee College of Music in Boston and she seemed to be the perfect combination of things I was looking for: she was interested in me and, more importantly, she was interested in sex. Though our first meeting resulted in a near-miss, our second attempt at hooking up resulted in, well, a hook-up.

The snow was coming down like nobody’s business. It looked as though the Winter Ball might be canceled, but I didn’t care. Nydia and I, after almost meeting a week or so before, were planning to give it another try. I had no one to go to the ball with anyway and this girl was promising me things, both in what she said and the way she said it…

Nydia wasn’t gorgeous like some girls I’d fallen for but she was beautiful in her own way. She was short and curvaceous and her dyed red hair only looked out of place for a second or two hanging down across her dark face.

We hugged or something and she took me up to her room to meet her roommate. We all talked for a while and then we went down to see her roommate play in a talent show. Before her roommate went on though, Nydia took me back upstairs. Agreeing to go had just been her clever way of convincing her roommate she should play that night, so that Nydia could get the room to herself.

Back in her room, she sat me down on her bed and then straddled me. She kissed me, the first girl to touch my lips since Louann, and it was wonderful. I was too nervous to do anything more so she took my hands and guided them up under her long, flowery blue skirt. She wasn’t wearing any underwear. She had told me she didn’t, but actually feeling the lack of panties was something I wasn’t prepared for.

For the next little while, until her roommate came back from the show, my hands ventured places they had never been and her hands and mouth ventured on my body where no other hands or mouth had ever been. It was so amazing, so intense, so wrong in a way. We had just met, even though we’d been talking online for weeks.

It was the polar opposite of my experience with Jennifer. This girl seemed to want me even more than she had indicated in e-mail and it was a wonderful feeling to be wanted, to be desire physically. I couldn’t and I didn’t refuse her anything.

When her roommate came back we stuck around for a while. I was particularly interested in the musical composition program her roommate had on her computer. She played us some really good shit. After a little while it came time for us to go out.

Nydia wrapped herself up in a coat but she didn’t bother to put any underwear on and we went out into the freezing cold of the city. When we eventually sat on a stone bench somewhere outside Copley Square I couldn’t help but wonder how she was able to sit with her thin skirt and nothing to protect her besides that.

When we got back to the room and everyone was asleep the adventuring went further. It didn’t feel real and really it wasn’t, but that didn’t matter to me. It was sexual gratification and if she was willing to give it to me freely I wasn’t going to complain.

[Excerpted from Nydia]

Finally, a relationship that was going places… At least that’s what my confused eighteen year old mind was thinking. What came next… well, I should have expected it. Given everything that had happened before, I should have… And, you know, I give off this aura of pessimism, but deep inside I am an optimist. I am an optimist who keeps hoping for the best and keeps getting hurt. Never was this more true than with Nydia.

She came to Bradford on a stormy Friday evening, January 31, 1997. Russel and Rachael cleared out to let Nydia and me have the room to ourselves, and then we lay on my bed watching Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the version with Winona and Keanu, the only even mildly erotic film I had in my collection.

She put it in [the tape], undressed and then redressed in her lingerie, complete with the panties she’d brought. I think it was a thong.

For the next two hours she teased me and taunted me, just as she’d planned. She would start things and then abruptly stop. I think it was her way of trying to lengthen my duration when it finally came to getting down to business. Even at the time I was pretty sure it wouldn’t work.

At some point, probably when the movie was over, I got on the phone to Rachael’s room. I realized that if tonight was to be the night that we finally went all the way I didn’t have the necessary equipment. They had been bugging me all week, since they’d known she was coming, to take a condom or two out of the stash that were available publicly in the Tupelos. I’d been too shy to do it though. I didn’t want anyone to see me.

For some reason I didn’t let Nydia know what I was doing because when Russel came back to the room for five minutes he was very subtle and slipped the two condoms into his top dresser drawer. It’s the location we’d decided on while we were on the phone.

In fact, come to think of it, I think it was Russel that called me wanting to see if he should come back and help me out with the situation.

Anyway, it was nearing midnight before the subject of getting rid of my much disdained virginity came up and it wasn’t until after midnight that anything really serious took place.

The reminisce entry for the next day is something that I’ll let speak for itself.

It was after midnight when she finally asked me if I was ready… The house was quiet and we were alone. I’d been looking forward to this moment the whole of my post-pubescent life and it was finally here.

It was finally here and it was wrong. It was all fucking wrong.

I walked across the room and grabbed one of the two condoms from Russel’s top dresser drawer and returned to my bed. Nydia undressed, as did I. There was not much work in getting me ready, so to speak, and she put the condom on. Quickly, she got on top of me and just as quickly, barely a minute or two later, it was over.

She got off of me and laid down beside me and I think she mentioned doing it again later. We had another condom after all. Would I be up for another go? I guess we’d see.

It was the strangest feeling in the world and I won’t attempt to put it into words. I felt, at once, like I had taken a step that I had needed to take for a very long time… but I also felt as though I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I didn’t love her. She gave me pleasure but… but what good was that except in small doses?

I guess she saw things the same way I did, because on Monday the third she wrote to me or called me (I can’t remember which) and broke it off. She was going to go back to her ex-boyfriend in Georgia. It was over.

Imagine my frustration, my sadness. Had I been that bad? Didn’t she realize it was my first time? What was wrong with me? Why had she bothered to fuck me if she was going to break it off two days later? Why hadn’t she refused the offer of that most precious part of me if she had known it wasn’t meant to be? She was the experienced one. Why the fuck did she do that to me?

I was angry but there was nothing I could do about it. It was time to move on. The girl I’d had a crush on since the fall was single now. Maybe I stood a chance with her. And maybe, if I ever got to the point where sex was a possibility with her, maybe I would figure out what it was all about.

I really did have hope that it would work out with the next girl, but I fucked that up too. That year would be the darkest year of my life, as I struggled to find myself again, as I came to grips with losing my virginity, and then my band, and then, seemingly, everything else. I entered what I then called a big blue funk, and I was convinced I would never come out of the other side of it in one piece. But come out of it I did, and 1998… well, that year, and every year thereafter, would be quite different. Because there was a girl waiting in the wings who would finally help me “figure out what it was all about.”