Let me say right off the bat that I am a believer in a sexually adventurous spirit. Freaky is good. Freaky is fun. Freak flags ought to be flown. If anything, the world could use more freaky. But like all nice things, freaky is best enjoyed in moderation—a lesson I learned in spectacular fashion one summer evening.
It’s a short ride from my office to the gallery where my friend is hosting an event. I arrive late and underdressed in a t-shirt and jeans, my usual uniform. The place is crowded with people sipping plastic cups of cheap wine. I say hello to my friend, who launches into a round of introductions. That’s when I meet Nina.
She is strikingly beautiful: gorgeous dark skin, a dancer’s figure, and a smile fit for stock photography. We make small talk on the gallery’s art, the guests, the white zin. As the crowd thins, my friend approaches to invite us to a nearby bar for a drink or four. Nina and I exchange a look that says enough.
Moments later, we are packed into a dingy karaoke joint. When we go to order drinks, she leans playfully over the bar, butt in the air, and asks for a $28 cocktail called the Rabbit Hole. Minutes later, a large goblet arrives filled with a bright orange liquid and two curly straws. It has a saccharine, caustic odor, the way I imagine treason might smell.
An hour later, things are getting fuzzy. Someone—could’ve been me—has written “Infinity Gauntlet” on my right hand. I am wearing a headband now, origin unknown. Nina puts her hand on my thigh. The Rabbit Hole has been replaced by its neon blue cousin. I think to myself that the evening is shaping up to go really well, or very badly.
Suddenly, we are making out in the middle of the bar, directly in front of the karaoke stage. It is a grotesque spectacle. We are like two pythons, jaws unhinged, trying to swallow each other. People give us a wide berth. Someone about to sing Queen administers a shout-out. I feel my dignity turn to ash. I suggested that it is time for us to take this elsewhere. Nina grabs my hand and leads me outside. I’m about to propose a private residence when she interrupts: She has parked nearby. We can be alone in her car. Excellent, I think. Keeping it classy.
I follow her down the street, recalling a smattering of backseat fumbles that unfolded during my late teens. A voice in my head reminds me that I am now 27. Nina interrupts again: “This is me,” she says, pointing. I stop short.
“You drive a Mini Cooper?”
“I do," she says. "Don't you love how small they are?"
"Usually, yeah." She's already getting in.
Inside, it's a joke. It would be easier to get it on in a canoe. Our passion is constantly checked by our confines. Limbs bonk control surfaces, turning on the hazards, the wipers, the radio. Ira Glass begins to narrate us and is quickly silenced. The sunroof opens, letting a foot out. I consider how ridiculous it must look if someone were watching from outside.
And someone is.
Yep. Dude is standing right there. He gives me a nod and a wave. I involuntarily wave back, then stop. Not the time to start a dialogue. I alert Nina: “Uh, we’ve acquired a spectator.”
She looks up. “Let’s let him watch.”
“Totally, let’s—wait, what?”
“I like an audience.” She is already back into it.
I am taken aback, uncomfortable. “Just go with it,” she says, too sharply.
I watch a cab pull up to the bar. Seizing the escape, I help her out of her Power Wheels and hail the taxi desperately. “Great stuff!” our spectator shouts after us.
Ten minutes later, we burst into my apartment. She pushes me onto the bed. Activities resume, aggressively. Lots of nails, lots of teeth, some pain. It’s fun, except when it isn’t.
I steady myself: I got this. I can hang. I am a flying ace in a furious storm. The squall will test my wings, but I have a firm hold on the yoke and a steely nerve. It’s rough-and-tumble, but I got this.
Nina breathily divulges that she’s on her period. Some guys care. I don’t. I tell her this to gain freak cred. She moans approvingly. I think to myself, “See? I can fly with the best of em. Just gotta keep the nose into the wind. I got this.”
“Mmm. Pull my tampon out with your teeth.”
Nope, I do not have this. Mayday.
“Come on, it’ll be so hot.”
Engines aflame. Controls unresponsive.
“And slap me.”
Oh God. Fire in the cockpit.
“Come on, you pussy. Slap me.”
"I said, slap me."
“What's wrong with you?!”
I sit up. Taking a breath to prepare for the awkward, I begin: “Nina, this is a bit much for me.”
Suddenly, she’s quiet. “What do you mean?”
I start in, but nothing comes. My brain races through its archives of polite excuses for life scenarios—accident on the 101, Time Warner cable installation, the spam filter—but the returns are useless. This situation is new territory for me. We are off the map, deep in the unknown. Here be dragons.
And so I tell her the truth, as kindly as I can put it. She’s stung, then she’s angry. It doesn’t end well. She rakes me over the coals with colorful insults and slang terms I’ll have to Google later. My apology is punctuated by the sound of her slamming my door.
The twisted, burning wreckage of my plane is strewn across the snowy mountainside. I stagger out, clutching cracked ribs, and ease down beside a smoldering tire. I sit in silence, taking in the carnage, replaying the final moments. I laugh in disbelief. I’m ok, I think to myself. I’ll live. I got this.