Monday, July 28, 2008

Kiss, or just Tell

"I told my parents you're my girlfriend," he casually announced, mid-conversation, like I shouldn't be surprised.


It was ten years ago. He was a writer/editor for Vice Magazine when it had just gone glossy – back when one of its co-founders still lived behind a curtain at the office, before its headquarters moved to New York, and my friends and I were occasionally recruited for minor publicity stunts as basic as disrupting media interviews and giving the impression that the Vice office was always overrun with girls vying for laps to sit on. I'm sure there's more truth to that now, but back then they lured us in with a pretty-please, free swag and beer.

"Yeah, so we're going to have to share the same bed." He said it as though it was an unavoidable complication, a necessary evil we'd suffer together, all the while avoiding my fuming stink-eye. "Otherwise, they'll catch on," he shrugged. If I'd ever doubted I might be the sort of girl guys could take home to their parents – Nineties-era spiky hair and all – it ended there.

We were on our way from Montreal to Ottawa by bus – my first visit to our nation's mediocre capital – where we'd be staying with his parents. He was smart to bring this up then, with an hour of the ride remaining to justify himself and rally my support. He'd been trying to get into my pants for a while, but it had never quite worked out, and I was still naive enough to think he'd give up trying and just be my friend. Still, he was very funny, sweet, and clever enough to play on my love of the absurd, so I agreed to go along with his act for the weekend, as deceitful as that was. Besides, his family was already expecting me, as his girlfriend, and there'd be light fanfare at the gates. What else could I do?

"You might have to kiss me to make it believable," he said. Add euphemism to cliché and he'd taken the inch I'd given him and was trying to slip me some tongue through it, resulting only in more stink-eye.

Over coffee, bacon, toast and fruit the next morning, I felt a little guilty. It wasn't hard to say nice things about this friend to his parents, but my thoughts were all scrambled from my sudden promotion. Like any new job, it takes a while to get into it. His dad was very sweet and very British and after breakfast, he took us to the garden to show us his flowers, then strategically excused himself, leaving his son alone with me, the stand-in, in the romantic setting.

"I think they're watching from the window," said my friend, nervously glancing back over his shoulder. "Quick. Kiss me." I put my arm around him instead, and we stood there awkwardly, backs to the house. If he didn't mind making his parents think he was dating me, I didn't mind having them think he'd chosen a prude.

His 17-year-old brother was the first to figure us out, but that was weeks later, maybe months, while visiting in Montreal. Eventually, he told his parents that we just didn't work out, or that's what he said he told them. For all I know, he told them I'd gone the way of the gay – he has been known to bend the truth, and he did have an apparent creative flare for it.

We lost touch when he moved to London to become an editor or something for a more respectable magazine, but just recently, as all modern friendships go, we reconnected via Facebook. He looks great, and happy, and hooked-up. His status says he's "In a relationship", and this time, I think I really believe him.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


There's a rogue cheerleader in my neighbourhood and he's chosen me as his cause. I'm not sure whether I deserve unbridled enthusiasm for every public move I make, but I can't say it isn't nice.

He's short, he's pot-bellied, he's undergone years of psychotherapy because, he said, his parents abandoned him with his unstable aunt and her 28 cats, but this grey-haired, middle-aged bookseller's got a certain je-ne-sais-quoi that I really can't knock. Maybe it's that he thinks I'm amazing – a most charming quality in a man.

Natural processes brought us together, feces actually, when the puppy I fostered for a month chose a tiny grassy patch adjacent to his semi-basement locale as THE place to go. I was happy to not have her going in my apartment anymore – outdoor shame and ridicule win over indoor retching – but I was mortified, daily, when the puppy shat in front of the bookseller's only window, and his face would fatefully appear, level with the puppy's unsightly contribution, to meet my apologetic cringe of a smile with an ever-cheerful double thumbs-up.

As early as that, I began to realize I could do no wrong.

Soon, he'd recruited more adoring fans for me – literati and drunks, and drunken literati – and from his stoop, within earshot, they'd halt chess matches to recount tales of my selflessness, undying patience and deep understanding of the human-animal bond, all of which was clearly a farce. But who am I to interrupt a good story?

The dark circles under my eyes and mussed hair, evidence of the learning curve involved in incorporating a 3-month-old puppy into my urban singleton, nighthawk existence only served to accentuate the mysterious beauty of my Eastern European eyes, or so he declared one day after I excused myself for being particularly unkempt. I could deal with that, I thought.

Since the puppy left, he's found other cheer material, namely my [arguable] sense of style, contagious smile, strength of character, independent nature and, his current favourite, my work-out habits and skin-tight attire.

"I can see those cookies falling off you," he said just yesterday, the third consecutive day he's said that to me. It's my fault for telling him my mom fed me 5 lbs of sweets while visiting her back home. I wasn't speaking literally, but saying it has apparently given him permission enough to check me out, head-to-toe, every time I pass by. "I think you look great," he says religiously, leaning round to assess my behind, "Really, really, really, really great."

While this level of praise is unwarranted and entirely unsolicited, I can't say I haven't encouraged him. I've answered all his questions about my personal life, accepted books as gifts, and will sometimes pause to allow him a few uninterrupted moments to freely adore me and offer advice about never settling for anything but the very best, because that's what incredible women like me deserve.

Nevermind that he's serving me a crock of feces like that which I delivered thrice daily to the grassy patch near his window, or that he's got my name completely wrong, I'm getting the sweet end of this deal. I won't correct him, because I'd really hate to rain on his parade – particularly since that parade is especially for me.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pork and Poker, they did

My hometown on the east coast of Canada is the sort where everyone knows your name, like the small town version of the classic show, Cheers, but not as friendly and with more alcohol.

While I left nearly twelve years ago, my immediate family still lives there, and I'm very interested in whatever happens, because it probably involves someone I know. Thanks to at-home technology and self-publishing – and one woman's hobby that's inadvertently rendered the weekly paper redundant – I can follow everything that goes on via an independent online news source. I especially enjoy wedding announcements for couples sharing the same last name, before the ceremony. You'd think I'd be over that by now.

Yesterday, my sister sent me a quick email, telling me to check the site. I knew there'd be something good, and while it wasn't immediately obvious, I finally found it under the heading, Pork and Poker.

Pork and Poker. Say it out loud. What does that sound like to you?

On that page was a photo of my sister, accepting a cheque for hundreds of dollars. My sister participated in an event that can be summed up with the heading, Pork and Poker, and she got money for it.

The fact that it was a family-friendly contest involving a card game and community supper doesn't detract one bit from my enjoyment of this otherwise extremely perverted news.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Haven't we met? If not, we will.

Yesterday, the universe poked me. Hard.

For the purpose of learning from the experience, and sharing it with you, I'll pretend I believe that the universe is a will-exercising entity. A sexy one with a sense of humour, and a penchant for reminding us that Earth plays but a teeny, yet scandalous, role in the Big Picture.

The day ended with the full moon eyeballing me all the walk home, and with me concluding that the more I travel, and the more I talk to strangers, the more I think there are few true strangers left. I bet I know someone you know. Don't believe anything they say about me.

The day began as any muggy Montreal summer day should, at the city pool with friends, and beer. Cheap, watery, cold, cold beer. We mused that regardless of how few rules there may be in any given situation, we always manage to bend them. If my travels in Mexico have taught me anything, it's that when no one stops you from doing what you like, it's as good as having permission. If my travels in Germany have taught me anything, it's that I definitely don't belong there.

We were already questioning why we hadn't brought more beer, apologizing for nearly hitting a man in the head with a flutterboard, and mocking the sleazy guy who loitered next to the change room, when my friend Leigh's newest ally arrived to meet us. I'd met her before, when we were performers in the same arty burlesque show, but we'd never been in a position to chat. She's a sickeningly talented young painter, and she'd come to photograph Leigh. Allow me a moment to temper my jealousy. Ahem. There.

My mind must've been playing some sort of subconscious matching game all day, fitting things she'd said to dusty, old scrapbook snippets of memory, and when we left the pool together in search of delicious snacks and more beer, I suddenly remembered her from thirteen years ago. And more, her older brother.

More than 1200 km from here, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where we were both visiting at the time, I somehow managed to land an invitation to lunch with him, and his entire family. "You were more of a hippie back then," said the painter. I cringed, but didn't argue. We've all made our mistakes.

I can't remember for how long we kept it up, or why we stopped, but it was with her brother that I learned to flirt by mail, at the tender, confused age of sixteen – a primitive version of what I'm doing now with Mr. England. His letters were beautiful, and it's no surprise to me that he majored in Creative Writing, or that he's now living in Prague with his Czech girlfriend, with whom he nurtured a similar, but more advanced relationship-by-mail. It's nice to know it can work.

All that was established before we even ordered our delicious nachos. While still marvelling at the coincidence, my friend pointed out the restaurant window and interrupted to say, "Hey, don't you know that guy?" Pretending to read Timothy Findley, on a balcony across the street, was a favourite friend I hadn't seen since he abandoned ship for Scandinavia last year. I ran out the door, up the stairs to his new apartment, and welcomed him home. He'd returned just a day earlier, and was still wobbly on his Swede legs, so we invited him to join us for beer in the park next to Leonard Cohen's house. This is Montreal, after all.

Not an hour into bending public consumption laws, a random punk busker asked my friend for a light, in exchange for a song on his fiddle, and also joined us. "In a culture like Sweden's, there ARE no winners!" My friend was complaining to me about his basketball league's reluctance to keep score, when Leigh yelled at the punk, "Oh, YOU'RE the fiddle player!" That was the third and final coincidence of the day. The fiddler had met Leigh's musician boyfriend at a gig in Toronto a month earlier, where they'd talked about collaborating.

These were much happier coincidences than the one that has my ex-boyfriend living across the street from me, or the one that made my Argentine boyfriend sleep with the very same Swedish girl I knew from Mexico long ago, or the one that had me realizing that, of all possible Mikes, I'd just made out with one my friend had a crush on, or even the coincidence that had my sister's ex-husband waking up at a close friend's little sister's place right at the moment we decided to call her. Whoever said "honesty is the best policy" must've known that the world is far too teeny to allow you to get away with anything anyway.

Of everything I could possibly conclude from this day of coincidences, I've decided to conclude the following: It's the universe that's absurd, not me, and there are stranger ways to meet someone than on Facebook. So, I'm done making excuses for how I've met Mr. England, and more into celebrating that I have.

2 beers in the grass, originally uploaded by lepublicnme.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Naked in the back yard

My mouth was still agape when my friend's neighbour came out into their communal courtyard to see what all the laughter and chatter was about, and caught me kneeling on the ground with my camera, taking pictures of the terrible thing she'd done.

Our eyes met, and I wasn't sure what to say. Both mortified and fascinated, I had a flashback to my junior high school library, where I had the unfortunate timing to walk in on one of the special needs kids playing with himself among the stacks. Scandalized, I did what any 13-year-old girl would do, I told all my friends, just like what's happening now.

Confronted by the guilty neighbour, I knew the polite thing to do would be to look away from the living atrocity before us, but there I was, taking pictures of it instead.

She immediately began apologizing. "I had to do it," she said. "I had to do it." She went on to say something about matted hair and hot weather, but I didn't catch all her excuses, because I found the nudity entirely distracting.

I suspect in an attempt to salvage a vestige of pride, the cat began grooming himself in front of us. The scene was both sweet and pathetic, and so we did the only thing we could, we took more pictures.

Click the photos for the larger view. It's seriously worth doing, for the booties alone.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

You might as well hear it from me – I met a boy on the internet. I just said that out loud, didn't I?

If you look to the top of this page, and re-read the introductory blurb in that little partitioned box, you might notice it's worded a little awkwardly. It's not my fault, it's just that there's no other way to say it in the 500 allowed characters without rewriting the paragraph. And I've got no time for that, because I'm far too busy actually doing the thing that sounds awkward. No longer is "soliciting dates with foreigners" listed as an alternate activity to writing, but rather "soliciting dates with a foreigner" – a subtle, but significant change. Did you catch that? Against all odds, I've gone singular.

As a beloved friend of mine likes to announce with an open-mouthed grin, to anyone willing to listen, "Kate's met a boy on the internet!" She does it because she loves the confused scowl the statement elicits and the red in my cheeks, and she loves hearing me justify the truth of it. I have met a man via the internet, but not on purpose, and not like THAT. And I really like him, and that wasn't on purpose either, but, yes, maybe like THAT. Liking him is actually a very inconvenient state of affairs, for which I blame him entirely.

If the bubble bursts as I've been warned it might/promised it will, then I suppose I could re-list myself on Montreal's dating market before the end of the summer, and I wouldn't have to go all the way to England to meet him, which would save me a lot of hassle. That doesn't look like it's going to happen, though, because he keeps getting better and better and seeming more and more real, and I can't quite remember meeting anyone in recent history who could make me feel what he does. I'm packing my bags and heading for Heathrow. If we hit it off, I'm really screwed.

That said, I'm not crossing five time zones and one of the world's largest bodies of water just to check him out. This trip has been planned for a year or more, with the purpose of visiting another beloved friend in London, someone who's known me for ages, and is deeply invested in my best interests, and her own. She moved there years ago, and I've been promising to visit just as long, but the allure of tropical beaches and the Latin American unknown kept trumping my good intentions. This friend of mine is clever, and romantic, and just a little tired of always being the one to cross the ocean for a visit, so I wouldn't be surprised to learn that she orchestrated this entire fiasco to make sure I'd cross the pond, for real this time. Alternate explanations for what's happening include, naiveté, coincidence and kismet.

Regardless of her intentions, or lack thereof, she made the fateful introduction sometime around January, through a social networking site – this fact is a source of great embarrassment for me. I barely knew what he looked like when the exchange began, and didn't think much about it at the time. Initial silly, sporadic messages about little-to-nothing gradually evolved into daily hilarious emails, which eventually became well-composed, highly entertaining essays of epic length for which I held my breath. Soon, I looked at every photo of him I could find, twice, and that's about when I acknowledged I'd already taken something too far, or I'd become one of THOSE people, but I couldn't quite put my finger on what that something was, or when I might pass the point of no return. I was too distracted by the butterflies inhabiting the space my vital organs used to occupy.

Of course, as I hear these things go, I became obsessed with the idea of talking to him, but was terrified to call, lest a real conversation change something. He'd given me his number weeks earlier, when I was still the kid in grade three who wouldn't talk to the boy she liked. Thinking about it made me feel as though I was preparing to jump from a bridge. Once I managed to grow balls enough to actually dial his number, he missed the call. Admittedly, my relief grew with every unanswered ring. Leaving a message might be easier, I thought, until I started actually leaving it. Keep it short, I reminded myself, you just want to touch base. A drive-by message of sorts. Hanging up, my heart was pounding and I asked myself, out loud and very sincerely, "What the EFF are you doing?" And right then, the phone rang. Ga-gunk was the sound my heart made.

"Hello?" There was a pause on the other end, as there sometimes is with international connections. It was him, I was sure of it. My ga-gunking heart ricocheted off my flipping stomach, sending my head spinning, and the whole process transformed me into a giggly, dumbstruck teenaged girl. Not unlike a concussion would. At least I wasn't in grade three anymore, I was in junior high.

"Hello, Miss Savage?"

"Yes..." I answered tentatively. Something wasn't right. I wasn't expecting a thick Asian accent.

"Hi, this is the Hudson Bay Company and we have a new offer for you." It was the fastest I've ever managed to get off the phone with a telemarketer. Thinking he'd called, realizing he hadn't, left me with whiplash.

Seconds later, I threw myself backwards onto my bed, bicycle-kicking my girlishness into the air, yelling, "This is too intense! This is too intense!", and the phone rang again. That time, it really was England calling. Our first conversation was wonderfully, appropriately and thrillingly sweet and awkward, and I was both hooked, and pleased with myself for keeping it together after all those bicycle kicks. That time, after hanging up, I said this out loud: "Oh, great. You really have met a boy on the internet." He'd left me thoroughly, undeniably, inescapably intrigued, and yet completely embarrassed about how we'd met.

What's happening is the exact inverse of a one-night stand. We're all talk, no sex. Not even close. In fact, I'm not even comfortable mentioning it here, because I know he's reading this. We've already established that we're intellectually compatible, uncannily like-minded, and we each think the other is great, but the idea of intimacy in any sort of physical sense seems as real as telekinesis. Maybe it's possible, but I'm not entirely convinced, so I don't spend time thinking about it. Still, I'm not about to rule it out. As it stands, we'll be friends without a doubt, and anything more will just have to manifest as naturally as this unlikely situation began. Thinking about anything beyond that first "hello" might send my heart ricocheting again, leading to another concussion, and I hear the human brain can only handle so many of those.

Sure, it seems too good/lame/strange to be true, but all the best (and worst) things start out feeling that way. I like him as much as is possible to like someone I haven't yet met, and it would be a shame to end the story there.

Dear readers, you may now heckle.

Blue with airplanes, originally uploaded by fluffysam.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Update? Sunday-ish.

I tried. I did. But I couldn't. I'm on vacation and spread too thin. The promised update (already half-written) is coming on Sunday the 13th. Yes. Of this month. The odd affair it will mention is ongoing. And wonderful. And he's on vacation in Turkey, so I'll even get away with saying what I want about him/it for an extra week.

I love you all for waiting so patiently for my next post. I do.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The elusive update

It's coming, it really is. Apparently it takes updates slightly longer to reach you when I write them from my hometown, where I'm currently visiting family and friends I haven't seen for months (read: fattening up on barbecued everything and probably drinking too much). But the update's coming. And soon. I've already started it. It's going to be about a man I met on the internet and how I am likely losing touch with reality, but so totally enjoying it. And then you can make fun of me. And then I will make fun of me, too. And he'll probably read it.