Mickey Cross, part 1
While I'm still fuming over the debacle with Seymour the Cyborg, I get an email out of the blue from Lin Chia-ming, my friend from Taipei. We liked each other a lot but decided in a very serious, mature kind of way that a relationship would not be possible because neither of us could make a permanent move; I couldn't get a job in Taipei and he couldn't get a job in the US. Anyway he writes to tell me that he's getting married, to the conductor of the chorus that I invited him to join.
I have decidedly mixed feelings about this news. They're both lovely people and I know I should be happy for them, but I can't help feeling petty and jealous. Not because I want to marry him myself; I really don't. But it just feels so unfair, like everyone is getting married but me. And it's because of me that they met. He might never have crossed paths with her if I hadn't asked him to come to those rehearsals with me. Sunk down in self-pity over the dismal state of my own dating life, I can't bring myself to reply to his email.
Even though I have a lot of friends and a busy life, with work, grad school, and rehearsals for the next opera, I can't help but feel profoundly lonely. When I don't have rehearsal, the evenings stretch out endlessly, dark and quiet. The silence in my empty apartment is oppressive. Especially when I'm home alone on a Friday or Saturday night, which is often, I feel like a loser. I know I could go out by myself, but I don't want to do that either.
I think of the lines from that Robyn Hitchcock song:
I'm so lonely I could melt
And be forgotten instantly
When I start feeling like I'm melting away, I run through my list of friends to call. Lulu is at the top of the list, but she's often out on dates or with friends or family. I mentally go through the list of my other friends from the chorus, but Ariel and Gretchen have partners and real lives. Even Sarah isn't always around, and anyway I'm still trying to spend less time with her. Kara and Nam, on the other hand, are usually at home in the evenings, although the time difference between the West Coast and the Midwest means I can't call them too late.
"I feel so lame being home on a Friday night," I whine to them. "I should be out at a club or something."
"If that's how you feel, definitely don't have kids," Nam advises. "You'll have to stay in every night."
"I don't want to go out just to go out, I want to go out to meet a partner to marry and have kids with," I explain. "How am I supposed to meet someone sitting around at home?"
I can practically hear Kara shrug over the phone. "Desire is the root of all suffering," she intones.
Right. Again, I remind myself not to turn to Buddhists with my relationship woes. I love the two of them but when we talk about relationships, somehow they both make me feel worse. I haven't forgotten Nam's little dig about how many guys I've dated or attempted to date. He's right, the list is getting really long.
As I am casting about for more connections, I make friends with one of my neighbors. My apartment is in an L shaped block of three units in the backyard of a single family house. I'm at the long end of the L. In the middle is an undergrad girl I hardly ever see, but at the other end of the L is guy named Jonathan who is also in grad school. He has blond hair and blue eyes, a wholesome Midwestern kind of dude with polite, soft spoken manners. We go out for drinks from time to time, and as I get to know him more, I start to nurture a tiny, warm attraction to him. Why not, he's smart and kind and cute. But he's also able bodied, so my attraction never grows strong enough for me to make a move.
As if it's bad enough that all my exes are married, my cousin who is eight years younger than I am recently got married. At least my younger brother still shows no signs of marrying his long-time girlfriend. I do my best to put aside my petty jealousy because my cousin is a sweet girl. She married a French guy and they have just moved to Paris. I email her congratulations and she invites me to come visit. I plan a trip to Paris over Christmas, then over to London for New Years to see my grandmother.
I'm excited for my trip but a few days before my flight out, as I'm logged into one of the many devotee egroups I belong to, I start chatting with a guy who's online at the same time. His name is Mickey Cross. At first I confuse him with a different member with a similar name who has CP.
> If you're confusing me with M___, who can't type, spell, or use his brain, then I'm afraid I'll have to punish you... :)
Shit! I apologize profusely. Mickey fills me in with more detail, and I finally match up the name with the correct member and his past posts. He's blind, and close to my age, only three years younger.
He also lives really far away. I have a policy not to initiate long distance relationships online. There are so many disabled guys in Raser City--why not try to find someone local? But coincidentally, he lives in a suburb of Hub City, which is where my uncle and aunt live, the parents of the cousin in Paris I'm about to go visit. It's not unlikely that I'll have some reason to go there in the future. Blind guys are a lot harder to find than SCI guys. Why not, I figure.
The first night, I stay up until 3 AM messaging with Mickey, even though I should be packing for my trip. Like K, he's blind from birth, no light perception. I don't tell him, but that's my number one dev trigger. Even thinking about it makes me tingle all over, right down to the soles of my feet. He just uses a cane to get around, no guide dog. Even better.
He sends me a photo, and I tell him how cute he is.
>Thanks for the compliments, he writes. It's always reassuring, since well, I've never exactly looked at myself in a mirror. :)
>So you're not creeped out by the dev thing? I ask. It's a relief that we met on a dev site so he knows this about me up front, but as I have learned from Rollerboy, just because a guy is on a dev site doesn't mean he's necessarily ok with it.
>No, the devotee thing doesn't creep me out at all, he assures me.
The next night, I come online and there he is again. I tell him about my time living in Seoul and Taipei, my stalled out career and interminable grad degree. He reveals that he's basically unemployed and living with his parents. I try not to judge, remembering how hard it was for K to find a job he wanted to do, and a place that would hire him. Mickey is thinking about something in IT, maybe going back to school, but nothing definite. When I tell him about my amateur opera career, he admits that he's not into music at all. Scratch that stereotype, anyway.
He asks me more about being a devotee, and I give him my standard answer.
>I can't explain why, I think I was just born this way. I think blindness is *so* sexy.
>Haha it is?? Well, where do I find more people like you??? Know any?
It strikes me as bad form for him to ask to meet other devs when I'm trying to flirt with him, but I just let that go and concentrate on what for me is the main topic at hand.
>Oh my god yes!! SO hot!
>Haha, why? Because I have to feel around?
>Yes, I write coyly, although what I'm really thinking is OH GOD YES. That's it exactly. I think of his sensitive fingers moving carefully, interpreting the world around him, and I get that stabbing feeling right in my gut, followed by a tingling rush over my entire body.
>Seems like amps and wheelies get all the luuuuuuv, he continues, as I'm sitting there blissed out on my dev high.
>Well those other girls can have them, blindness is *way* sexier.
Once again I stay up way too late, and put off packing, only to fall in bed exhausted and wake up too early. The night before my flight, I'm back online again, and sure enough, there he is. We chat some more about dev stuff, then somehow the conversation turns to wannabes.
>The dev thing is one thing, but I don't understand the wannabe/pretender phenomenon, he writes. I mean, sure I'm independent and get along ok, but any disability is no fucking picnic! Google BIID and tell me you completely understand the need to hack off a limb or two. *LOL*
I know what BIID is. I don't really understand it but I have sympathy for people who have it, because from what I've read, it seems like more of a mental disorder than a hobby. And after all, trans people might also have surgery to remove healthy body parts. I try pushing back very gently on this idea but Mickey is not having it.
I don't like how hostile the conversation is getting, so I circle back around to a safer, more fun topic, and compliment him again on his photo. He's got kind of a long thin face, with brown curly hair, and his eyes have that blue scarred over look that just slays me.
>Do you have any other photos? You're super cute :) I write.
>I don't have that many obviously but I'll see what I can come up with. What do you look like? Short or long hair? curly or straight? any other physical features you want to add to my developing mental representation are welcome. :)
>Let's see, brown eyes and hair, I get told often I look a lot younger than 32.
While I'm still typing, he cuts in,
>Color doesn't mean shit to me. *LOL* sorry. I know, people just automatically throw those details in. :)
I'm so embarrassed I actually draw my hands back from the keyboard. I of all people should know better.
>Sorry! I'm just not sure exactly what to add to a non-visual description. What do you want to know? And anyway, when you think of someone you know, what features do you think of?
>How they feel, sound, smell, taste... Obviously not what they look like. And no, contrary to popular myth, I do not go around feeling faces. *LOL* that would be boring. Anyway... a face is a face is a face. Unless of course she has a beard or something... *shudder*
I'm feeling more and more uncomfortable at the direction this is going. I get what he means that blind people don't go around touching the faces of everyone they meet. That's just some Hollywood, ableist bullshit. On the other hand, the other blind guys I have dated have done it, while we were kissing and making out. The moment when K touched my face for the first time was one of the most profoundly intimate and deeply erotic moments of my entire life. The face is so sensitive--how can he not get that? On the other other hand, I feel kind of like I did with Seymour the Cyborg, frustrated with how he doesn't match up to my dev fantasies, then guilty for holding him to an unfair standard.
But anyway it turns out Mickey has a wholly different agenda in mind when asking about my appearance. While I'm dithering around trying to reconcile my dev desires, he writes,
> Uh, I have a preference for more full-figured women, let's say...
God damn! What is it with blind guys and BBWs? So far of the guys I have encountered, it's been a solid 100% of them. Maybe he should be talking to The Mantis, not me.
>Hm, I'm definitely not plus-sized, but I'm not skinny either. I'm curvy and soft, a classic hour-glass figure.
>I like lots of sand in the bottom of my hourglass though... or to say it a bit cruder, lots o' junk in da trunk. *LOL*
Ugh, this is definitely not me. I try to nudge things gently back on track.
>You're supposed to be flirting with ME, silly!
But once the topic has been opened, he is not going to give it up so easily.
>Hmmm, are there Asian BBWs I wonder? I'm not sure why his imagination has strayed in that direction, probably either because I mentioned living in Taipei, or because Raser City has a big Asian American population. He continues, Maybe those who have eaten too much American food? Some sweet short very round girl with a girlish voice... awwww. *swoon* Maybe you can pretend? :)
>What do you mean, pretend? I AM sweet, short and round, just not Asian. Again, you're supposed to be flirting with me! Yeesh! :) I don't know exactly what you're trying to accomplish here.
>Hahaha, ok ok I'll stop. :) I promise, I won't chase your friends. :)
This nonsense makes me realize that it's time to log off and go to sleep already. He tries to keep me online longer.
> Aww, you're gonna get me all interested, and then go away on your trip! :)
>Damn, I'm such a tease! But fear not, I will have internet access while I am away. I promise, I'll send you little notes from Paris and London at odd hours :) And I'll only be gone for a little over a week. By the time the dust settles from Christmas and New Years, I'll be back.
>Haha ok:) after all, you're going to the city of luuuuuuv. *laugh* So, do the French really have bad b.o.? I saw a survey once of European hygiene habits, and the bottom of the list for bathing and changing one's underclothes was France. *LOL*
What is it with this guy?
>Ok, I really have to go now. Talk to you later!
> Ah ok... well, have a good trip! *hug*
It's past midnight by the time I finally log off, toss some clothes in a suitcase, and drop off to sleep. The next morning I'm on my way to the airport. Ordinarily I hate to fly; the combination of low-level but persistent anxiety and debilitating motion sickness makes these long flights torture. But this time I settle back in my chair, pop two Dramamine, and spend the hours from Raser City to New York then on to Paris in a blissful, drug-induced dev haze. I have to feel around. Oh my god, yes. That mental image gives me a dev high that lasts through both flights.
Paris is amazing. I spent a year in France as an undergraduate, and it's so great to be back. My French sucks, but contrary to stereotype, I find everyone very friendly and willing to speak English, as long as I begin with "Bonjour" rather than "Hello." My cousin is subletting a place in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, a gorgeous second floor apartment that dates from the Belle Époque, all blond wood floors and ornate crown molding. There's even a steam-punk kind of vintage elevator that is the only access to the apartment.
The jet lag is brutal but I power through it to run around sightseeing and shopping. My main objective is not perfume or fashion but CDs of the 1970s folk rock group Malicorne. K introduced them to me and I still love their music, but it's impossible to find in the US. I return from Virgin Records with a pile of CDs. My cousin's husband looks at me like I'm crazy.
"You know French people never listen to such music, right?"
I don't care. I'm loving it all so much.
On Christmas Eve, my cousin goes to her in-laws, and I decide to check out midnight mass at Notre Dame. That's kind of a mistake, since I end up stuck in a massive crowd at the side of the nave and have to stand for the entire thing, over three hours, with no way to escape or sit down. Well anyway it is an experience.
The next day my cousin returns in the late afternoon, and I ask her if I can borrow her laptop to check my email. I go through my school email, check a few websites, then finally open the other email I use for dev stuff. There's a message from Mickey, sent just after I left. I open it up to find a dick pic. I hastily close the image and hit reply.
>Gah! Dude! I'm at my cousin's house, and she was sitting right by me as I opened that picture, all innocent...luckily she didn't see it...jeez, give a girl some warning!
He writes back a jokey reply about dirty pictures and reading erotica online. I respond with more flirtation.
>I would selflessly assist you in the enjoyment of porn, although I think a full *demonstration* might be more effective in conveying the experience than a mere description. I am always ready to help the handicapped, or as my friend Nam says, to help myself to the handicapped.
This email exchange continues while I'm still at my cousin's place. In between the shameless flirting, though, he works in more complaints about people with BIID, suggesting they should maybe just fall on a pair of scissors or something. He also heaps scorn on blind people who never learn Braille and can't spell for shit. I'm with him on that one at least.
But our correspondence ends once I hop on the Eurostar over to London, since my grandmother does not have a computer.
My grandmother lives in northern London, in Golder's Green with all our fellow Jews. She's had the same flat unchanged since I was a baby. We used to come often when I was a kid. I love going to visit her there, but seeing the flat as an adult is a little jarring. While my parents have moved several times since I was a kid, this place alone is unchanged. It feels like stepping back in time to my childhood self.
Unfortunately my grandmother also treats me like a child, complaining mightily about me going out even in the daytime, and setting a strict 7 pm curfew. I must eat dinner at home with her, no going out to the theater or opera or anything. It's killing me because The Marriage of Figaro is playing at Covent Garden and I want to go so badly but she lays down the law. I have to remind myself that I'm here to visit my grandmother, not to be a tourist.
The London half of my trip is a big disappointment. The weather is miserable, and everyone is so rude in the shops and restaurants. On my third day here, my father flies in from the US, his yearly trip to visit his mother. I was hoping we could go to the opera together, but he gets food poisoning from his in-flight meal and spends his time padding about the flat in his pajamas, looking pale and miserable. My grandmother dials her continuous anxiety up to eleven, and I worry too, although I know it's nothing serious and he'll be fine in a few days. I don't get to go to the opera.
Then there's the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. Horrific images fill the news, casting a pall over the season. My grandmother does nothing but watch TV and crochet all day long, so the TV is constantly on. She's an expert on every British soap and talk show, although many of her regular programs are preempted for grim news updates. When the programs resume, I can't help but notice that standards in the UK seem, I don't know, somehow racier than in the US. Or maybe it's just because I'm sitting next to my grandmother, in the matching green velvet lounge chair that used to be occupied by my grandfather, before he died fifteen years ago.
A commercial for lotion comes on, featuring erotic close-ups of a naked woman's hips and side boob, the nipples just barely concealed.
"What is this!" my grandmother grouses. "When I was young, nobody would ever reveal their bodies in this way! Now it's everywhere!"
I don't say anything. The talk program resumes, and the two fiftyish, heavily made up female presenters chat about how the latest beauty trend this year is anal bleaching. I glance over at Grandma, but she's got her nose in her TV guide magazine, reading up on the latest episodes of Coronation Street.
On New Year's Eve, Dad is still not feeling great, so we stay in and watch the countdown on TV together. Unlike the US, where no foreign tragedy would interrupt the excuse for public drunkenness, here the entire celebration is given over to mourning the earthquake and tsunami victims. It's a somber, depressing start to the new year. I have a feeling 2005 is not going to be a great year.