The last 72 hours have been quite the adventure. In no particular order:
- Sleeping has been a positively psychedelic experience, as my musical ear syndrome went into overdrive, making the sounds of an air filter and a small fan combine into a psychoacoustical rock concert, with music that sounded like Gregorian Chant sung by monks from the Middle Ages who’d been boozing it up and wanted to have some fun with their usually monotonous duties.
- I randomly found an audio recording from a tablet device I don’t use anymore, a recording I had absolutely no memory of making, which documented the night I met and reconciled with a stripper I’d dated months earlier.
- Last night saw the return of someone I thought might never enter my life again. A wild child woman from Flushing, ½ my age, I met in November. That is what I’ll talk about here. I sat down intending to write a single piece about all three adventures but it’s getting late and all three would make this way too long. Stay tuned for the first two.
MEMORIES OF FLUSHING
I reconnected with a woman I thought I might never see again. She texted about a week ago, summoning memories of our 3am adventures through Flushing’s Main Street area, where the prostitution scene is incredible. Every 10 feet, it seemed, a woman would jump out at me, asking “Massage?” “Foot rub?” “Blow?” It seemed crazy to me. I was obviously in the company of a beautiful woman who, perhaps not so obviously, did all these things without the $200/hour cash-cash-money-only fee.
Until now I only ever told one person about her, in a fit of pique and dismay after the pandemic forced us to call things off, or as she said, pause.
We both got the Covid but fully recovered, and have tested negative multiple times. I think we probably got it from those tightly packed February/March crowds in Flushing but who the hell knows. I mighta given it to her, she to me, or maybe somehow we gave it to each other. Whatever the case we’re not worried about it now.
SHE JUST STARTED TALKING
We met on a Q66 bus. I was en route to Flushing for no particular reason except to make use of a 7-day unlimited Metrocard I found on the street.
At Northern Boulevard and Woodside Avenue, with only two other passengers on the bus, a slight, long-haired, not-unattractive Asian woman stepped on board. I looked toward her, idly, the door of my consciousness knocked upon by primal instincts announcing she was cute as hell. I went back to poking at my phone and looking busy.
In a crotch-aware moment for me she slid nimbly, dancer-like, into the seat right next to me. Not across the aisle or in front, mind you, but right next to me. The whiff of her unperfumed body ran across my face as strands of her long hair tickled my arm.
If I had time to form one coherent thought or say anything it would have been “Do I know you?”
But before I could react to the weirdness of someone choosing a seat right next to me on a nearly empty bus she just started talking, like this encounter was expected.
“Why do you think no one takes the bus?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I said, “but I’ve known people who say they absolutely would never ride a bus, even if it was free and took them to the front door of their destination.”
“Me too! It’s so strange. I love your shirt, by the way.”
We traded anecdotes about our bus travels and travails, how the bus from Queens Place Mall has WiFi that sucks so bad you can only ask why it’s there. How the Q18 might have some of the most stomach-churning twists and turns in the whole system. How neither of us had ever seen another passenger on the Q67.
Long story short: Two perfect strangers talking like best friends, with a complete lack of pretense or preëmptive guile.
Ten minutes into the conversation I started asking myself, what kind of miracle is this? I called it the Q66 Miracle.
SHE LET IT GO
She was heading home after a job interview at a store in the Tower Square Shopping Mall. I was on the bus for the hell of it, riding out that 7-day unlimited Metrocard I found.
The conversation sprawled seemingly everywhere, from buses to books to bike lanes and booby traps.
She had studied piano pretty seriously in high school and into college, and even knew of Kaikhosru Sorabji, the stubbornly obscure Parsi/British composer whose moniker has been my screen name since 1993.
I told her, in truth, the only people I’ve met who know what a Kaikhosru Sorabji is are fellow pianists.
Not only did she know of Kaikhosru Sorabji, but she had heard of one of my web sites, The Payphone Project, and had used payphones herself within the last few years. She said this right as we passed the Taco Bell on Northern Boulevard at 60th Street, where I pointed out to her the long-abandoned payphone outside that place.
She also had a bit of a taphophiliac streak in her.
I was not going to say anything about this, and wouldn’t describe my instinct as “suspicion”, but as I kept looking at her, the way she spoke, her facial tics, it felt and looked like our conversation came from a script, except I wasn’t the one reading from it.
She sensed my puzzled curiosity, stopped talking, then let it go: “I know you. You’re Mark Thomas.” I said “Oh, brother!” and laughed, putting my arm around her shoulders in a sideways hug. She covered her face in her hands, laughing, crying, saying she had never, ever done something like this, just moseyed on over to a stranger on the bus and started talking. She said it might have been the post job interview anxiety, or who knows what, but when she let it go that she had recognized me she felt something “explode”.
It turned out her knowledge of the composer Sorabji led her to my website 10 years earlier, when she was in high school. From this I gleaned she must have been ½ my age. I was right. She was 26 on that November day we met, turned 27 in January.
From the moment she stepped onto, and for however long it took that Q66 to roll from Woodside Avenue to Flushing, I’d say it was about an hour before we were in bed at her small, ramshackle apartment just off Main Street, fucking the snot out of each other like someone paid us good money to do it. We’d stop to breathe for a few minutes before going at it again, all told, for three hours, before we simply had to stop.
As I left I said “Your insatiability is contagious.” She laughed, and stroked her hair.
I’ve had some one-nighters and short-term flings but none of them started anything like this, and most did not last long. Our encounters continued, both of us knowing full well and communicating clearly what this was about. Nothing between us ever got complicated. We were not headed for the altar. We were just being animals. She was seeing other men and I was seeing other women, a scenario new to my life but perfectly normal for her.
Her apartment was a dump but what the hell did I care? It was a semi-basement studio in a two-story house with a window through which, if one knew exactly where to stand outside, could be seen everything going on in her bed. It seemed a little weird but you would have to know exactly where to stand to enjoy the spectacle, and you’d look like a creep to anyone outside who saw you doing it.
Her place was a mix of spartan, messy, and just plain weird. The first time I was there she had left a large air conditioner splat in the middle of the floor, a set of rusty steak knives laid out in the bathtub, and empty liquor bottles strewn about. Another time a floor-to-ceiling stack of what must have been over 100 copies of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone stood in a corner. Her bathroom cabinets were completely empty.
She had few articles of clothing in her closet, a small chest of drawers, no television, and a small laptop. She had Internet but said that while in the past she used to read my websites, and a handful of others, these days she seldom used it for anything but email. She claimed to have absolutely zero social media or online presence.
I was not surprised about the zero social media thing, but I did what we do in these Internet days and tried to find her online. I found nothing of her on social media, as she said, but I couldn’t find even a trace of her existence online. I consider myself a skilled Internet sleuth but found absolutely nothing on her in any of my usual reliable sources, nor at any of those skeezy peoplefinder sites that scrape up and spit out personal information on anyone and everyone they can find.
TOUCHING YOUR FACE
From that day in mid-November I’d take the Q66 to and from her place once or twice a week, doing what we do and for a few visits exploring handcuffs, asphyxia, ropes, hoods and other stuff she’d never done and with which I had mostly limited experience. We didn’t need toys, and always tossed them aside, but it was interesting life experience.
She eventually revealed why the Q66 Miracle brought us together. It wasn’t just that she recognized me. It was that she had an unabashed fetish for white men of a certain type: Glasses-wearing, a little nerdy, artsy, and unassuming in presence, meaning non-flirty or creeper-like. She already knew most of that about me. She also liked the shirt I wore that day, a Polo brand lavender blue long-sleeve with white lines.
I didn’t see this but she told me later that when she boarded the bus that day she pointed a finger at me and made a Khoikhoi-like clicking noise with her mouth, knowing at first sight who that was and that I was The Type.
When the pandemic came along we joked about it at first. I mean, we took it seriously from the get-go but tried to maintain a sense of humor about it, randomly shouting “WUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU-HAN!!!!!!!!!” to fill lulls in conversation.
But reality encroached. We spent our last afternoon together touching each other’s and our own faces, defying CDC advice against face-touching. I laughed, she giggled, we repeatedly whispered I’m touching your face touching my face stop touching my face. It became our song.
After hitting the pause button on our encounters we talked on the phone a few times, telling each other, with total lack of conviction, that sudden celibacy wasn’t such a big deal after all.
We tried phone sex. She claimed to be all in but honestly, she was awful at it.
In our last conversation she said she might have contracted Covid-19. I said the same. This was early April when, through mid to late May, I simply could not catch my breath, felt sore in places I had no reason to be, my chest tightened, whole hours of the day seemed to vanish into what I later learned was a Covid symptom: Confusion… She talked about shortness of breath, a fever, and sleeping 10-12 hours a night, having been a light sleeper her whole life. At the time I didn’t know fever was a symptom.
We paused. The calls stopped.
Someone else, a woman in Europe, entered my life, filling my quarantine with magnificent conversation, correspondence, and phone sex so intense it left both of us shaking. I told this woman things I’ve never revealed to anybody, and as an Internet oversharer (this story, for example) that’s saying something. I’ll write about her another time.
But for every reveal, every pit-deep secret I summoned from the holes in my soul, I never told the woman in Europe about the Flushing hottie. I wanted our long-distance thing to be serious, and whole, without her knowing that the Q66 woman and I had agreed to reconnect “when all this is over.” I didn’t want the woman in Europe to feel like a stand-in, though in the end I think that is exactly what both of us ended up being for each other.
OUR GIMLET GLASS
My lasting memory of the Q66 hellion wild child had been the face-touching.
Until last night.
After a week of text and phone call back-and-forth she came here, for the first time. All our adventures before took place in Flushing.
I wore the lavender blue shirt from the Q66 the day we met, hoping she would notice. She did.
I’d been not drinking of late, and alcohol had not been too much a part of our encounters. But she suggested we sit on the couch and share a gimlet, which we did. Something about the night made it seem necessary. It had been 7 months but that little chasm of time seemed so much more vast given the changed world and both of us having wholly lost track of what day, month, year it was.
We were both nervous, which had never been the case before, but it was OK.
She did not drink much of those gimlets, but didn’t have to. At less than 100 pounds a little bit of vodka goes a long way. She touched my face.
It was enough to make it all seem easy again. It was an amazing night. When she got home safely I got utterly blotto, which has not been my thing lately but it felt right, though it felt wrong today.
She left her panties on our gimlet glass.