By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
I have a friend who did the cyberdatingthing and connected with a guy on the East Coast who was her evident soul mate. Internet intimacy would seem particularly suited for the soul mate thing, wouldn't it? It's all text—words, ideas and feelings. It's like Abelard and Heloise if they'd skipped the fornication, pregnancy and castration and gone straight to the letter-writing.
What could be better? There's none of the transitory material stuff about whether you're an endomorph or ectomorph, male or female, brown or beige, hirsute or smooth. Hell, you can't even rate the penmanship. It's essence speaking to essence—the real you, right?
After months of this heartfelt correspondence, my friend got on a jet and met this guy. It was horrid. He was slovenly, physically repugnant to her. He didn't smell right. He chewed funny. He lacked savoir faire.
She could not get out of there fast enough.
Soul chums or no, it is damn hard getting around the subliminal pull of those pheromone molecules and the lips, eyes, eyelashes, eyebrows, brows, hairline—up over the head—nape of neck, shoulders, large of back, small of back, butt, inner thighs on downward and back up the whole other side. What your skin tastes like may have more to do with who falls in love with you than your shared love of Don DeLillo novels or concern for penguin rights.
I have another friend, for example, who arrived home one day to find an envelope in his mail with no stamp or address on it. It was from the girls in the apartment downstairs. In neat calligraphy, the note read, "You are invited to a ball-slapping party. 8 p.m. Please be prompt. BYOB."
He'd helped them move in and had been trying to figure out if they were a couple because both were cute to him, particularly the dark-haired one, Liddy. Several nights he lay on his bedroom floor, ear pressed to the wood, listening for sounds of lovemaking. One time only, he'd heard murmurs and lowings of pleasure so exalted and faint he wasn't sure if they were only in his mind.
Comfortably around 8 p.m., he knocked on their door, a bottle of Chianti classico in a woven-leather wine sack he thought made for a great presentation. If they took it to be a gift along with the wine, well, he'd let it go, but he'd rather have kept it.
The other roommate, Arwyn, answered the door. "Drink this," she said, handing him his first Everclear margarita of the night. She took his sack o' wine and laid it on the washer/dryer off the entranceway with scarcely a glance. She gave his left arm an affectionate stroke and led him into the living room, announcing, "Ladies, this is Kedrick (not his real name)."
There were seven women in all. Liddy sat talking to a redhead on the edge of the couch. Three others were dancing to Finley Quaye in the middle of the room and pulled Arwyn and him into their orbit. Someone ratcheted the volume, and everyone joined the dancing. No one offered a word to my friend until Liddy was dancing face-to-face with him, and said, "Hello, Kedrick (not your real name), what say we grind a little." She slid a hand down the back of his trousers and pulled him close. Then the other women pressed in, hands all over him. Within a minute, he was bereft of clothing, handcuffed and spread. Some of the women got wooden spoons and spatulas, others flexed their hands. As Arwyn cinched a blindfold on him, she said, "See if you can guess who is who, just by the feel."
Ninety-three minutes later and much wiser, he was handed his clothes. Arwyn told him, "Now you're taking us nightclubbing," asked if he had a credit card on him and called for a limo.
Dancing in the steamy Detroit bar, Everclear sweating from his pores and each step a purple agony, he found himself again face-to-face with Liddy.
"Could you guess when it was me?" she asked.
"Every time. Your spoon handled them as gently as poached eggs."
"Uh-huh, before I bounced them like flapjacks. You wanna go get breakfast?"
Three months later, they were married. They had two children, joined a church and became productive members of society.
The moral of this story, aside from that you should always wash utensils, is that love takes its own curious path. The entire story, I must admit, is not true (except for the part about Kedrick not being his real name). The gist is also true, that you really never do know how love will find you and what absurd attraction leads you to it.
This is a subject Dan Savage has mused upon in his trenchant Savage Love column, appearing weekly in the haunches of this paper: suppose you're an amputee, lonely and wanting to meet someone but sensitive about how others will react to your truncated state. Should you check out the chatrooms and clubs dedicated to people who are turned on by amputees, or would you just meet sickos there who are only interested in the part of you that serves their fetish?