Romantic Malaise - An Inquiry on the Nature of Sex and Love

Romantic Malaise - An Inquiry on the Nature of Sex and Love
Gabriela Camerotti

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romantic malaise —

an inquiry on the nature of sex and love

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q u e s t i o n   o f    l o v e

Where does the predisposition towards intimacy after sex, really come from? What is the nature of love? Does it exist at all? Is it just a term created for the sake of identifying a series of sensations resulting from the fusion of chemical elements flowing through the brain's synaptic receptors during one moment of passion? Why are we only attracted to certain types of people? Why are there sexual hangovers, as opposed to having sex, getting it done with a handshake and a smile ... next?

The key to understanding the mystery of man's essence lies in the question of why we exist. Why do we love during our existence? Why do we cease to exist? The question of existence and death, I would defer to the metaphysicians. I challenge you with the question of love.

l o g i c    o f    l o v e

Have you ever really ... I mean really, tried to answer the question: what is love? At some point in your life, did you ever wonder whether love is real, a myth, or just another word? Love is manifested in mythological characters, in famous novels and plays that immortalize love and lovers ... love has been characterized as both tangible and intangible; as a synergistic phenomenon between two entwined souls.

Using the scientific model, others have tried to explore this further with objectivity in mind and rational tools at hand. Crenshaw's "The Alchemy of Love and Lust" investigates the mystery of love and sex through an understanding of the chemical soup base: the basic elements that drive human sexual and emotional behavior. What about the argument of nature vs. nurture? How can chemicals, per se, serve as the fundamental basis for characterizing love?

Evolutionary theorists argue that the motivation for selecting a particular sexual partner stems from the tendency of the human species to evolve through natural selection; attraction towards another stems from the chemical soup base's influence in the quest for the most eligible mating partner for producing a potentially better offspring.

Survival instincts may have further encouraged the need to commune and stay together in order to feed and nurture the young offspring. It made sense though during the days of sticks and stones.

Given today's highly complex economic, social and geo-political structure, the evolutionary and survival principles, as they apply to sex and love, appear to be obsolete. Why? The rapid advancement in science and technology may one day provide man with the ability to manipulate genetic attributes for a better human specie. In certain economic strata, the equal purchasing power of both male and female negates the need for dividing the tasks of nurturing, or protecting and feeding the young. A well-paid professional single mother can simply hire a nanny to nurture her child, purchase food in a convenient store, and provide a secure habitat to nest her offspring and herself. Human society has evolved into a complex socio, economic and cultural interdependent system, changing the basic premises and assumptions necessary to define the triggers of sex and love.

How can I fathom the essence of sex and love? Perhaps it can be understood from a scientific viewpoint, from a systems perspective, or from observing emergent behavior within a system. I have traversed through the cycle of falling in, getting bored, falling out, of love. I had my first kiss, I broke up, I was engaged, I broke up, I indulged in frivolous liaisons, I broke up, I got married, while married I had a few lovers, I broke up, I got bored, I got divorced.

In every love affair I experienced, it seemed that the nature, the feeling, the concept, the chemicals of love were not of the same material or form. Love did not have a face, or a touch; it did not have a shape or consistent form. For each experience, the feeling and intensity were different. I sought to find out exactly what has been discovered to-date on this phenomenon. The stories, conjectures or conclusions did not suffice to provide an unbreakable theory of love.

My search through books and empirical experience led me to conclude that love does not exist. It has no form, consistency or shape. It defies rationality and therefore, the logic of love is nonexistent. Love in itself does not exist because it does not have a consistent universal attribute. How can we tell we are in love? We can't with certitude. It is the utopia of human emotions. Have we dared fool each other all this time, to think that at some point in time we were in love, at some point in time, it is possible to fall in love?

b e w a r e    o f    l o v e

In Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel he explores animal domestication as a factor that relates to the emergence of human societies and their political structures. He states, "Domesticable animals are all alike; every undomesticable animal is undomesticable in its own way." Further he notes that a parallelism exists with Tolstoy's first sentence in his novel, Anna Karenina, "Happy families are alike; every family is unhappy in its own way." In essence, animal domestication and happy marriages succeed, if and only if, all necessary factors exist. Exclusion of one criterion condemns the domestication and nuptial efforts to its eventual demise. This mutually exclusive principle of animal domestication and Anna Karenina reminded me of a high school theology class on marriage where my instructor jotted down a list of over ten "compatibility" criteria required to ensure a successful union: mental, intellectual, spiritual, financial, social (class status), economic, and the list goes on. I cynically rolled my eyes and thought, what an impossible search of a lifetime for a so-called partner in life. Does love really require the logical AND operator in between each criterion to guarantee success? How many months and years of trial and error, debugging the code of love, before the all-inclusive one is found? No wonder marriages fail, love falters and people waste their lives in a relentless search for an ideal that is impossible to attain.

On realizing that the quixotic quest was discordant to my pragmatic character, I decided a year ago that sex, love and relationships were detrimental to my goal of achieving a rich and full existential life. There are a lot of mysteries to be unraveled — history, philosophy, physical sciences, political sciences, archaeology, sociology, mathematics, art, literature ... — oh, so much knowledge I wish to gain! It is not worth paying the price of knowledge deprivation for a lifetime of boredom and routine, or many a single night of orgasmic pleasure. Suffice it to say that the young should experience the joy and frustrations, the magic and disenchantment, the sublime and divine qualities produced during moments of passion with a mate. However, some of us reach a point in the mating game, when you just wake up one day, gaze at yourself in the mirror, and ask, "What is the point of it all?" Whether it is a boring marriage or a string of one night stands, the mystery of the beloved gradually deteriorates into the humdrum of stagnant relationships, betrayal, deceit, and the ultimate realization that underneath the mask of novelty, you have just unraveled another human body with all its frailty, weaknesses and hang-ups. The qualities in the beloved that have sent tingles up your spine become the same qualities that give you goose bumps — out of sheer disgust. The nihilism of love looms into your relationship's core and destroys the hope of finding everlasting solace in the beloved's arms.

l o v e    i s    b l i n d

Around the final years of my marriage, I had intense and passionate affairs with a geeky Roman scientist, and a young British programmer — definitely not of the Ashton Kutscher genre. Perhaps due to the lack of intellectual growth and stimulation in my marriage, it was a period in my life where discussions of Minksy's mind-hive theory or, analyzing the structures of the Baroque architecture as it applies to the history of ancient Rome and the church, had an aphrodisiac effect on me. In both love affairs, I was a sexual goddess devouring the poor geek gods in a fantasy world they have not dared to imagine. It must have been during the affair with the Roman doctor that I almost believed I had finally encountered my soul mate.

Our minds had merged into a rhythmic tango where mental and sexual intercourse were indistinguishable. I still remember the first kiss ... our first kiss. We were strolling through the Tevere one evening, in silence and awe, absorbing the beauty of the Castel Sant'Angelo. Il Dottore gently whispered the story of Tosca, of the great love of two lovers that preferred death to a lifetime of being apart. Amidst the mystery of the eternal city, he gently grabbed my hand and with the other circled my waist and softly kissed me. I submitted without hesitation, I felt various forms of electromagnetic particles dancing inside me. The waves of electricity elicited sexual desires, I felt moist, vulnerable and ready to take him.

I am not sure what caused these illusions of love to fade like a passing cloud. Was it the wrong timing, the distance apart? Was the intellectual attraction not sufficient to sustain a potential relationship that could have flourished? I met him a few years after that evening in September. We were sitting in a cafe by a modern art museum near the Valle Giulia area. I still remember just feeling repulsed by the sight of him. I wanted to run back to the historic center and enjoy the splendor of the city in solitude, in fact, that was just what I did.

At that time, I was perplexed as to how and why my feelings for Il Dottore had changed. However, in hindsight I am stupefied by the fact that I fell for him at the onset. The stirring sensations I once felt mutated into concrete realizations that 1) he was physically very unattractive, or should I rather say, he has a face that only a mother could love; 2) his knowledge of Roman architecture was obvious, he lived in Rome for all his life; I bet even vendors of Porta Portese appreciate a Caravaggio; and 3) he took advantage of my vulnerability: alone in Europe during the September 11 incident, I would have fucked and fallen in love with Godzilla. What was I thinking of? Oh, love must indeed be blind!

s a b b a t i c a l    f r o m    l o v e

Where does the incessant penchant towards coupling come from, the desire for a one-is-to-one form of relationship as opposed to a one-is-to-many?

Wait. Let’s take a look at how computers interact with each other. In order for machines to talk to each other they need a common protocol or language, just as we have distinct languages used by people from different countries. Every machine needs a unique form of identification in order to send data to, or receive it from others. How do you know if your data is sent to the correct destination? Each machine is permanently assigned a unique ID called the IP (Internet Protocol) address. IP address to machine assignment is like a marriage between two lovers. The marriage certificate resides in a DNS server (Domain Name System sort of like the Marriage department in your City Hall that stores all marriage certificates, the one-is-to-one assignment). The proliferation of machines within organization, compounded by the internet revolution, meant that the world could potentially run out of permanent IP addresses for future machines intended for this global network community. To address this dilemma, the idea of pooling IP addresses into a pot emerged. As machines come online they will ask for an address, get a lease for a predefined period of time, and possibly renew it later on. This protocol is called, DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol).

So how does this work? In an oversimplified way, when you turn on your machine for the first time, it has no identification, meaning IP address. There is a program that immediately looks for the "container" with the pool of IP addresses and asks for a temporary IP address; the "container" returns a leased IP address along with the expiry date past which, the machine contacts the "container" again for a renewal. Why can't we establish a similar mechanism where dating, love and sex are concerned? With concise protocols, you and I can agree to have amorous and passionate sex for a given period of time, upon expiration, we have the option of renewing the lease; during the lease period, we have the option to terminate the association, at will. Sounds so perfect, in theory, I would say. Unfortunately, there are other factors that derail this complex machine of the human brain and heart. So much for that fantasy.

Single life, free from the highs and lows of being in a relationship, is an exhilarating experience. On lazy, misty afternoons, I hang out at the Cafe Greco in North Beach with a cup of café latte while reading a book on the life of Che Guevarra. Other days, I carelessly stroll through the Civic Center farmer's market to watch the vendors sell their fresh produce and search for the best priced eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes and flowers. The sense of freedom and aimless afternoons to one's self is priceless, however, there are evenings when a sudden surge of nostalgia overwhelms me; I succumb to the void and loneliness, bury my head against the pillow and wallow into the depths of restful sleep. The next day, the rays of morning sun permeate the skylights and I gently rub my eyes, stretch and wonder: is it a workday or do I have to go to the gym?

 

 

One evening after a taxing day at work and a powerful hour of boxer's training I treated myself to a rewarding meal. I heated some exotic oriental dish left over from the night before and waited for the rice to cook. While my voracious appetite was building up, I reached inside the cupboard for an unopened bottle of shrimp paste, a mandatory requirement for my meal. The shrimp paste is salted and fermented for several weeks in a certain type of fish sauce, similar to an ancient Roman condiment called garum. The oxtail stew entrée in the pot is served with shrimp paste on the side, without the condiment the meal is considered flawed. When I tried to open the bottle, it was stuck! You know how some bottled food products are packaged so firmly that it would take brute force to open? That night, with a desperately famished body while the smell of freshly cooked rice heightened my craving for nourishment, I was in a major dilemma: I was unable to open the damn shrimp paste bottle. I tried for over half an hour, with forceful energy, with tenderness, with all the might of my petite body. Yet, nothing! I was on the verge of tears. I stepped out of my patio and stared at the partial view of the San Francisco skylight adjacent the twin cupolas of an abandoned Catholic Church, wondering whether it was indeed necessary to be married. There are times when a man is needed given the physical limitations of the female. Is a relationship between a man and woman actually a practical concept due to the potentially synergistic attributes of both genders? Is solitary life a feasible path for me? As my theoretical musings led me through the path of stream of consciousness, I suddenly thought of Richard Feynman. How I got to think of him, I am not sure, but somehow, I was entertained to recall his safecracking exploits while at Los Alamos, as narrated in his book, Surely, you're joking Mr. Feynman. All of a sudden, I wondered whether running hot water over the cap bottle would somehow help in loosening its grip. Voila! The shrimp paste was now ready for my perfect dish. Thank you, Mr. Feynman. Who needs a man when there is science?

I have a full set of friends to cater to the various aspects of my personality: conventional and stable married couples, boxing buddies, the geek community, fashion aficionados, and a handful of intellectual-minded friends whom I spend evenings with watching mind-intoxicating documentaries and thereafter, engaging in challenging discourses until the wee-hours of the morning. Most of them reflect a piece of my complex self; all of them are competently passionate towards the common interests we share. My own routine, my own chaos, is a world safely sheltered from the disruptive and unproductive nature of relationships. Devoid of men, without the so-called romantic love, I can maintain the autonomy where I take full responsibility and answer to no one. This is the way my life should be.

 

s u b t l e    s e d u c t i o n

That morning I jumped into my closet to check if I had a decent suit to wear for the day. Working as a geek in high tech, I had no use for suits and business clothes. When I moved out of my house into a new loft, I threw away my collection of Italian suits, and settled for boyish tapered shirts, albeit of the brand Sisley, Mango, and Miss Sixty. Normally, I sport a hip, yet casual and modest look; I make every effort not to wear anything that may reveal the sensual curves of my body. My boyish edge evolved through the years of working in the male-dominated culture of high-tech, especially since my job function relates to the engineering side of the business.

I thought, “Oh, what to wear? A business look?” Luckily I found a very hip Mango suit-jacket tucked away in the corner of my closet. I had a couple of business meetings and a presentation in front of over fifty geeks in some software development company down in Silicon Valley. Although I do not usually wear makeup, I was obliged to slightly paint my face, at least, to boost my confidence, even if I had prepared my materials the night before.

I checked my blackberry (wireless email device) to see if there were any pressing emails from the previous evening. While scrolling through the mail headers I took the last sip of espresso. There was not much of importance. I returned the blackberry to the bag alongside my laptop. I packed my gadgets and work stuff to avoid leaving things at home. It seems that through the years, technological innovation has increased the burden of carrying work-related items. I had most of the latest gadgets perfectly packed in my durable Prada laptop case for men. I totally refuse to be seen carrying the default Targus laptop case that you see hanging over every geek's droopy shoulder. Although a nerd at heart, I am a fashion hound: I fancy being the first kid on the block with the latest tech gadget and designer clothes. On my way out the door, I took a final glance at the mirror and smiled approvingly; my Prada case in one hand and my Gucci purse on my shoulder, I raced out to work.

It was just another geek fest. I walked in with a smile painted on my face. I usually feel like an actor on stage when I attend these geek functions. Though I enjoy working in high tech, I prefer to be inside a lab or a cold data center bundled in a cozy leather jacket, where human communication takes place via email or IM (Instant Messenger). I tend to avoid unnecessary discussions so as to achieve maximum productivity during the workday. It is rather tedious to engage in pointless face-to-face ramblings, especially if the other person is unwittingly insensitive to nonverbal cues such as gestures or facial expressions; and believe me, there are quite a few squeaky geeks who are clueless, or should I say, socially inept. On certain occasions where I must socialize and mingle at work, I playact to survive the discomfort. So there I was, waltzing my way into the podium like a debutante on a ballroom floor.

Though everything was blurry and vague to me, I could not help but notice at the corner of my eye, a tall figure in faded jeans. Somehow I felt his piercing stare towards me. I think I remembered smiling back at him, as I did at everyone in the room. I tried to dismiss his presence while waiting at the back of the room for my turn "on stage". I was in frenzy, absorbing the final details of my speech. During the presentation I did manage to regain my concentration, although my eyes were constantly drawn towards his direction. My attention toggled between his image and my PowerPoint slides. This person followed me after the session into the breakout area. He introduced himself in a non-traditional pickup line sort of way. "Hi, I would like to see your presentation at length some other time. Your storage product sounds pretty cool; interesting that software is implemented in ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) chips." — Was it really my product? My hardware or my hardware? I remembered noticing him; he had an international look, an interesting accent and a curious demeanor. I don't remember what I felt after I left the building, but I know that he left a slight impression. I even made a mental note: he was attractive and sexy.

My colleague and I attended the cocktail reception that evening. For a while, he was nowhere in sight. I was surprised that I even noticed he was nowhere in sight. Why did it occur to me? Did I look for him? While sipping my drink and chatting with other people, he resurfaced out of the blue and I think I felt relieved to know that he was there. He eased his way into a conversation.

We talked for quite a while, and I remember enjoying the conversation. Just as the interaction morphed into a rhythmic game, my colleague pulled me over to meet another group of nerds, only to leave a few minutes later. I felt tempted and vulnerable. For the first time, I felt out of control and a little nervous. I hastily concluded my current conversation, looked at him and in a sheepish way, waved goodbye. I wanted to rush out the door to avoid being alone with him. I had a sensation of being scared but I did not understand what I was afraid of. I thought of him on my drive back home. His interesting accent came from years of living abroad as an expat. He lived far away, in some exotic country where the people bask in the rhythm and breeze of its neighboring ocean.

The next day I returned to the geek fest to attend a training session. The thought of possibly bumping into him motivated me to wake up bright and early. For most of the day, he was nowhere in sight. I refused to consciously admit the disappointment. At some point, I planned to leave early in time to make it to boxing class. Yet, each time the door opened my heart fluttered, I had hoped it was the tall bohemian looking guy in jeans. As the time drew closer towards the end of the afternoon, I psyched, or should I say, forced myself to look forward to a great workout. It was one of those situations where you want something to happen, yet you do not have control over the other dependencies needed to realize your desire. In order to eliminate the dissonance caused by having an unmet need, you try, oh so hard, to bring yourself to focus on something else, with the hopes that you'd forget about your longing.

In 1957, Leon Festinger (A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, Harper & Row), developed the theory of cognitive dissonance as it relates to how humans perceive relationships of cognition, cognition defined as forms of knowledge, perceptions of reality. It posits that individuals strive for consistency in perception and cognition. Simply stated, dissonance causes psychological discomfort that the afflicted attempts to alleviate more pleasant experiences. Since I had no control over my environment (and wanted to shield myself from the disappointment of not seeing him), I was driven by the need to maintain a consistent psychological state so as to transform my desire with the perceived benefits of a great workout, as opposed to surrendering myself to that mindless debauchery.

Although I seemed to be fully absorbing the last hours of the technical session, my mind began its function of managing the state of perceived dissonance. I envisioned my commute back to the city and an hour of boxing to neutralize the fact that I permitted myself to think of this man. My boxing classes are one of the highlights of my week. The greatest challenge during my mental journey to boxing is to find that "rock star" parking in front of the gym. Parking is a great challenge in the city, especially in the neighborhood of Russian Hill.

Visualizing, I stubbornly seek that perfect spot, where I deploy my flawless parallel parking ability — parallel parking being a skill San Francisco drivers manage to acquire out of survival instinct. Upon perfectly positioning the car into my parking space, I forcefully raise my right hand to pull the hand brakes. I walk towards the rear luggage compartment and victoriously grab my Diesel gym bag and dash into the hallway of the Moorish-inspired Alhambra gym. Though it was one of the last great neighborhood movie palaces a few years ago, the Alhambra Theatre was converted into a crunch gym. The building exterior maintains the original movie theatre facade, "Now Playing: Crunch". The interior structure remains intact. Instead of the lines of seats populating the orchestra, balcony and loge, a main studio with hardwood floors replaced the orchestra, while the balcony and loge are now filled with rows of nautilus and treadmill equipment. The big screen continues to play movies on a daily basis. One can work up a sweat, listen to the hip music playing in the background while staring at a movie on the big screen. The walls are brightly painted with primary colors. Exotic wood etchings appear on the ceilings and the walls.

At the gym, I am transported to an alternate world. During the first few minutes of warm-up, I usually project the frustrations of the day into my routine to achieve a quick momentum. I close my eyes and concentrate on breathing as I complete each two-minute round of free-style boxing on the bag. When working with a partner, each boxer takes turns on the bag, while the other plays coach. In between jabs and combinations — jab-cross-hook, cross-uppercut-cross-hook — we coach each other to ensure that a perfect form is maintained.

While my mind was in flight at the gym, suddenly, the door opened abruptly, and there he was! The research on cognitive dissonance walked out of the door, and he continued right into the room.

I was awakened from my flight of fantasy back to the geek fest in Silicon Valley. Everything around me froze, the background became blurred. Visions of the boxing gym vanished quickly into limbo. Reality has presented itself to me and consequently impaired my sense of rationality. My eyes were lenses that focused immediately on his image as he walked by me towards the opposite corner of the room. He smiled. A few minutes after, he walked back and settled on the floor, right beside me. He tapped me gently on the shoulder and asked some irrelevant question. Deep inside, I was certain that he was flirting with me. I replied with something lame. All in all, I was oblivious to the ongoing lecture on distributed file systems and cluster technology. The technical terms resonating throughout the room failed to penetrate the comatose gray matter contained inside my numb head. The covert electricity emanating from the medium of our bodies was the only form of stimulus my senses responded to. The syncopated pounding of my heart was deafening. I started to float in the air. I was not conscious of myself. I was unaware that I was falling into a trap, into the vicious circle of the mating game.

At the end of the evening we had a brief group discussion, you know, one of those bunch of geeks huddled in a corner type of deliberation. It is funny to observe how geeks overcompensate for their social inadequacy by each one trying to outsmart the other with a better algorithm, a better way to do performance tuning, or how to integrate one complicated product over a certain operating system platform. I guess it is not surprising, most geeks are men — which is great for a female in high tech, during conventions, we never have to wait in line to go to the bathroom — boasting over who is more technical than the other is not far off from the basic male tendency to brag about their penis size. Despite these inevitable bouts of aggrandizement, I usually extract valuable technical tips at these events. Consequently, I was struggling once more to bring myself to focus on the topic while trying to parry his glances. It was flattering to receive the generous attention he had given me up to that point. At one moment, I caught him blatantly staring at me. For a few seconds I stared back straight into his eyes, and he retaliated with a smile. I pretended it did not happen and followed the discussion, looking at each person in the group, while checking back to determine if he was looking at me. His eyes were insistent. Finally, someone suggested having dinner in a nearby restaurant. I knew myself: I was developing an attraction for this guy; I should get out of there immediately. I respectfully declined dinner and half-heartedly dragged myself, slowly, out of the room.

It gave him enough time to catch up. He stopped me on my way down the escalator, "So, uhm, dinner?"

My multiple selves were now in a battle. The cricket and the child were caught in a struggle, to desire or not to desire.

While trying to subdue my conscience, the cricket convinced the child to reply, “No, thanks, but I already have plans for the evening.” The child agreed and gave his word to the cricket.

I replied, "The city?"

He replied with a bright smile, “Yes, sure!”

And that was it; I victimized myself! I was the predator and I was the victim. I was equally responsible for the subtle seduction, and I asked myself, why? At that moment in time, why was I attracted to him?

t h e    t r a p

We decided on sushi in my neighborhood restaurant. In retrospect, I wonder if we unconsciously chose my neighborhood restaurant, as it conveniently set the stage and mood of the evening. We drove through the traffic-stricken lanes of Highway 101. For a while I lost his trail, and I admit it crossed my mind to lose his car and thus avoid the potential outcome of our adventure, of my misadventure. The voice of reason was faint at a time when I needed its conviction as I found myself maneuvering through the bumper-to-bumper traffic in frantic search for his car.

On our walk to Sushi Groove at Folsom Street, we engaged in casual conversation. Gradually, I was drawn into the evening without trepidation. His soft-spoken manner eased all my qualms and anxiety. He was tall and lean with a well-defined body. He wore tight-fitting jeans that perfectly outlined his firm butt. His faded tan complemented his naturally flowing rock star like wavy hair. I have never been one to admire a sexy and hot guy, but I was just amazed to see that intelligence and geekiness could coexist in a beautiful body.

I have preferred men with intelligence to those hot looking babes. Physical attributes were an option. There was a point where I arrived at a generalization that hot looking men were not mentally gifted. Thus, in the past I had always associated “geek” with mediocre or pathetic looking men. Though, it is possible that my memory fails me now in remembering his looks while I write to describe this man whom I have spent an entire evening with, this man who managed to cause a few days worth of disequilibria in my self-contained and stable world.

So, what transpired from sushi to the next morning leading me to take a quick side-turn back to giggly-path? There were too many events and subtle details crammed into a few hours in that single evening. I don't even remember the small talk we had during dinner, we simply had fun. My defenses were down. I was in my ’hood surrounded by the familiar faces of the waiters, bus boys and staff of the restaurant.

After dinner, we made our way into that new hip neighborhood bar, Loft 11. We walked into an empty place — considering that it was early evening. We immediately checked out the VIP room and the upper dining area. Like two kids prancing about exploring a stranger's house, we discovered its every detail. Later on, we moved to a secluded and cozy corner by the Zen-like fountain. We talked a lot, laughed a lot, touched a little, and suddenly a flurry of make out moves simply transpired. We explored each other physically, subtly, gently, and in a strange way, very sweetly. It was extrasensory and I did not give a damn about anything else in the world.

My chemical elements were definitely in active state intensified by the brewing mix of our natural biological substances and a few glasses of wine. The inevitable had to happen and I invited him back over to my place for a cup of coffee. How lame can that be? I should have just said, “Sex?” No, I had to say, “Coffee?” Why have we developed social protocols that tend to disguise motive, albeit intention is implied and clearly understood?

The events that transpired after our hang-out in the bar seem hazy to me now. Was it because I was intoxicated when we left or simply because many things happened in a short span of time? Being with him was effortless. I am afraid to say that I felt like I had known him all my life. (Arrgh! Sofia, I cannot believe you said that, get a hold of thyself!) We walked out of the bar and chatted with the club bouncers, the people on the streets, carousing aimlessly until we reached my place. While inside the living room, my heart pumped faster when he walked towards my bookshelf. He immediately recognized one of my favorite authors — Ayn Rand. He passed my basic litmus test!

Every time I try to paint a clear picture of that evening, I fail to organize the events in a sequential order. The episodes reappear as flashbacks arranged at random. We had wine and talked for quite a while, comfortably lounging by the corner sofa, on common interests such as authors and books, foreign films, experiences and such. The topics we discussed ranged from popular science, literature, mutual multi-cultural experiences, Euro pop, and so forth. Interestingly enough, an in-depth discussion of the high-tech industry — having worked for Silicon Valley-based companies for over ten years, we are veterans — did not take place, probably since we had a similar degree of depth and breadth in other areas of human existence. It was a given that we are geeks, perhaps there was an unconscious desire to further discover the vast terrain of each other’s being.

 

Occasionally, we gently caressed each other; profusely kissed each other. When I was in junior high school — at a Catholic all-girls convent boarding school — at the zenith of puberty, my schoolmates and I literally spent hours and days exhaustively discussing the various aspects and angles of sex. It may be inferred that the confinement of same-sex teenagers within a homogenized environment, may result in greater sexual curiosity due to sexual repression — as imposed by the Catholic Church. I recall one recess period where we discussed the perfect way to kiss a boy: how to kiss sensually, how to entice passion, how to make a boy beg for more. We also determined that when a boy kissed with his eyes closed, it was an indication of his emotional entanglement, or predisposition thereof. During a very long passionate kiss, I took a quick peek to check whether his eyes were closed: they were! The iron gate of cynicism that protected my delicate heart gradually unlocked in waves of emotions. With sweetness and tenderness I found my hands caressing his hair, circling his ears, outlining the contour of his nose, his mouth; then I kissed him softly all over his face. He reciprocated by touching me gently, on my face, then he paused for a while to run his slim fingers over my shoulders onto my arms, outlining my well-defined muscles in an up and down rocking motion. He told me that my skin was very soft. It sounded like a line, but I did want to spoil the moment, so I brushed the doubts off my mind. I asked him why he flirted with me at the geek fest. What did you see in me? What was it about me that drove you to follow me? His eyes beamed as he replied, "Your lips."

Throughout the night, we explored each other metaphysically and physically. We had coffee, played boxing in the kitchen (yeah, sparring, he had prior martial arts training), explored each other all over the place: in the bathroom, in the hallway, against the wall, against the odds of finite time; we threw ourselves all over every nook and cranny of my virgin loft. After a few rounds of foreplay, he slowly rubbed his hardness behind me, I turned around to gently kiss him, and together we voyaged into unknown realms of desire. As we achieved the peak of our crescendo, at that very instant, we were one.

s e x u a l    h a n g o v e r

Have you ever experienced crawling into consciousness from the safety of peaceful slumber, and for a few seconds, find yourself at a state of nullness? For a while your mind lurks in a void and then gradually, it finds words to ask who you are and where are you? With gripping anticipation, the mind observes a struggle between lucidity and nothingness. I carefully opened my eyes the next morning and found myself in that very strange state. Upon realizing what happened the night before, I wanted to crawl and hide under my comforter forever. I wanted to go back into my mother's womb and vanish into oblivion. I felt confused, ashamed and uncomfortable when I realized that another person slept with me that night. I did not know what to do, so I lay motionless and pretended to sleep while the rest of my senses were trying to figure out if he had left yet or not. I was unable to process anything; all I wanted was to be alone. The angel of sleep must have taken pity on me; she rescued me, carried me with her wings then gently tucked me back into unconsciousness. I woke up an hour later and blankly stared at my surroundings. I was beginning to process the previous night's events but the ringing of the phone disrupted me.

I never pick up my landline since it is usually some intrusive telemarketer. The answering machine picked up ... and a voice...

"Hi Sofia, this is ... we had dinner last night? I drove back to your ... "

I did not hear the rest of his message; the phrase "dinner last night?" kept ringing over and over in my mind. Hello? Dinner last night? I thought I had an intoxicating, thrilling, frightening, sublime evening. Dinner last night? What about sex and all the other stuff that happened? It struck me that I caught myself reacting like the stereotypical female: uncomfortable with the abstract and the unknown. I walked over to the machine to listen to the rest of the message:

"i realized that i had your credit card from last night, you had uhm, given it to the bartender for our tab, i paid the tab and picked up your card..."

Ah, yes I remembered leaving my credit card at the bar and he must have taken it from the bartender. He called me several times after that. I did not answer the phone. I don't know what I was thinking, but I just wanted to forget the whole thing ever happened. Prior to leaving for work, I checked email and noticed a note from him:

-----Original Message-----

From: p@softwareco.com

Sent: Friday, February 6, 2006 7:26 AM

To: sofia@storageco.com

Subject: Sofia: last night

Hi. I hope you got to work OK. I've left you a couple of voice mails and stopped by your apt. I have your visa card from last night. As it turns out, I will be leaving tomorrow early so we should figure out how I can get it back to you.

Give me a call or send me email. I'll keep trying to reach you.

I had fun last night. You are indeed a very interesting person.

 

p.

--------------------------

Suddenly it struck me: he was going back to his far away home. I don't know what I felt. In one way, I was relieved to remember that he was just passing through. It made it easier for me to label the previous night as merely a "one night stand". Somehow, it felt better overall. On the other hand, I would never know, at least for that single evening, if he had felt the same intensity as I did. I think I was sad, for sure I was perplexed, but I think I was sad.

I returned his call and we planned to meet before work to pickup my card. I was excited to see him again, even if it was to say goodbye. I wanted to find out how I would feel when I saw him. Spurious thoughts were streaming through my head as I slalomed through the freeway, determined to reach my destination. I was very confused, what happened last night, why did I repel the morning after, and why do I feel a sense of loss, right now?

I cut through the inner streets of SOMA (South of Market) and then Potrero Hill, heading off to the 280 Mariposa freeway entrance connecting to 101 South. The journey towards South is arduous and dreary. The 101 freeway is flat with occasional billboard ads to break the monotonous and plain landscape. While the 280 freeway is scenic, 101 in comparison is dull, industrial and barren with sporadic rough, bumpy sections. I was keen to toggle my vision between the rear and side mirrors, sometimes turning my head to check for the blind spots. I carefully stayed clear of cops lurking in known hidden spots; I stepped on the gas and weaved through the lanes like in a video game.

I finally made it to my destination. I parked on the last available spot in the lot. I was about to walk over to our agreed upon rendezvous point, but was distracted by the need to do a final check on my lipstick; "was it still intact?" I looked into my rear view mirror to check my makeup, and then I saw his figure walking towards my car. I took a gasp of air, and deep inside I grappled to find the words to describe the strange melancholic feeling that overtook me. Despite other thoughts that I tried to distract myself with, I was unable to eradicate a very foreign sensation that had managed to overpower my sense of reason. I was a victim of some form of romantic malaise.

How can I describe that final moment? I had painstakingly made attempts to verbalize the emotions that had drowned my rational and cynical demeanor. I tried to find the words, but a knot in my throat hindered my ability to speak; a knot in my mind hindered my ability to articulate in human terms the feelings that have beleaguered my psyche. Did you ever experience the feeling of being trapped in a very small solitary cell, with no windows, with no light, as punishment by your oppressor, with the aim of teaching you a lesson to desist from committing the crime you have been accused of? Breathless, hopeless, covered with mud and dirt from days of solitary confinement, you want out, but you have no control. That is exactly what I felt. I was guilty of the crime of indulgence, letting go of my rational anchor and succumbing to the seduction of illusions. I plead guilty, to the crime of passion, for allowing myself the freedom to admire and explore a kindred soul.

When we briefly exchanged goodbyes, I took my credit card and wished him a safe flight. I wanted to throw myself into his arms and squeeze his body against mine. I don't know if he felt the same way. I guess I will never know.