The Cat House
After the ridiculous Christmas concert, I'm just about ready to quit the International Chorus. I've already decided that this rehearsal will be my last, when one of the older Taiwanese ladies invites me to join a different chorus with her. I go along with her to the next rehearsal, and bring Lin with me too because this chorus is all local people and the conductor doesn't speak English.
This new chorus is like a breath of fresh air. The conductor is a young woman, very nice and welcoming. The other singers are all pretty good too, and the music is more strictly classical. It's not even a problem for me that the rehearsals are all in Chinese, because the more important points are in Italian and the basic concepts of classical music are the same no matter where in the world you go. Although the members are mostly middle-aged, everyone seems a lot more normal and down-to-earth, unlike the mousy, cowed women of the International Chorus. After rehearsal we all go out for drinks. I'm kind of bummed when I discover the upcoming concert will be after I leave, but the lady who invited me tells me to keep that fact a secret. Anyway the main point of joining a community chorus is not the concert, but the weekly rehearsals with friends.
Even though I now have more friends, I still regularly go out for drinks with Phil and the various American expats he knows. It's on one of these nights out that I take home some random white guy named John Chanko. He's around forty, so almost ten years older than I am, but he acts like an overgrown kid. The kid of kid who's class clown with a wicked sense of humor. He also works in my field, although at a different company. It's cool to talk to him about work things, but it's really the constant stream of deadpan jokes and sarcastic comments that catches my interest. He tells me about this website he created where he posts movie reviews under fake identity, where he pretends to be a mouthbreather who really loves Michael Bay explodey action blockbusters. Somehow as we're all drinking and he talks about heaping praise on shitty movies, it seems like the cleverest, funniest thing I've ever heard.
Once again the fact that my apartment is so close to the bars makes it seem easy and natural that we just end up at my place together. I consider making him take an OkCupid personality test but I don't want to risk him telling me how stupid he thinks it is. Anyway as soon as he gets into my apartment, he drops the smart-aleck routine and suddenly turns really nervous. He doesn't want to kiss me because he's afraid his breath smells bad. I don't have an extra toothbrush so I give him some gum which he chews super fast and noisily.
He sits down on the side of the bed and takes off his baseball cap, revealing a bald spot. Ok, that's no big deal, but the rest of him is not that attractive to me either, just a standard mediocre white dude. He leans in to kiss me.
"Um, do you need to spit out the gum?" I ask.
"No, I'm good."
"I swallowed it."
Ugh, now I'm really grossed out. I've changed my mind about having sex with him but I'm not quite sure how to let him down easy. We make out half-heartedly for a while, but luckily for me, he doesn't seem that into it either. When I suggest that maybe this isn't the best idea, he seems happy to go home.
I fall asleep on my own far past midnight, deeply relieved. But in the morning, I have the uncomfortable realization that because we work in the same field, I might run into Chanko again. What am I doing? He's not some random guy I will never see again, who I can pretend doesn't exist. It's going to be so awkward if the next time I see him is at a conference. This is the problem with living like a kid so far into my thirties.
Also I've got to stop bringing home these drunk dudes then changing my mind about having sex with them. I've been incredibly lucky that they turned out to be not so into me either. If I keep this up, it could end really badly.
I've really got to pull myself together.
After months of dicking around (haha), being lazy and cowardly, relying too much on friends who are not good for me, I finally get the courage to do what I intended since I arrived in Taipei. I hit the lesbian bars.
I search online and find a bar called the Cat House that is strictly women-only, located in the gay district in Ximending.
I have to do this by myself. My closest friends here, Phil and Lin, are dudes, so I can't take them. Shamela and Malison are not even the slightest bit bi-curious, and I don't really want them around anyway when I'm trying to hit on girls.
In Raser City, I would never go out to a bar by myself. Even taking the train alone after dark feels risky. But Taipei is so much safer. I'm regularly out alone even at one or two in the morning. Aside from physical danger, though, going to a bar on my own with the intention of meeting people is emotionally terrifying. I'm not great at small talk or mingling with strangers even under the best circumstances. But I figure it's now or never so I pick a Friday night and just go.
The Cat House is a tiny, boxy little space on the second floor of a nondescript building, surrounded by similar tiny bars, mostly with minimal signage outside. Feeling extremely self-conscious, I sit down at the bar and order a gin and tonic.
There are about thirty young Taiwanese women sitting at the bar or at tables around the room, so it's full but not crowded. A few are butch but most are femme. I sit toying with my drink, wondering how I can talk to any of them.
A slender girl with long highlighted hair dressed all in black sits down next to me with sinuous grace. She has a long oval face and flawless skin. She bats her huge, heavily made up eyes at me and says in a thick accent, "Hi, I'm Strawberry."
I smile back at her without blinking an eye. I've gotten used to the weird English names people like to use here. I have met women named Yoyo, Happy, Easy and Apple. And it's not just the women. The attitude is why not choose something you like that sounds unique? Just go ahead and tell people your name is Lunchbox or Airport.
"You lesbian?" Strawberry asks.
I recall my conversation before I left with Stephanie, who gave me permission, and say "Yes."
"Just while you are in Taiwan, right?" Strawberry says, looking me up and down.
Damn, this girl has my number. I try to bluff it out by denying it but I've never been good a hiding my emotions. My face is an open book.
"Hmmmm." Strawberry's smile tightens into a disbelieving little pout. But she doesn't walk away. We keep talking and flirting and by the end of the evening I have her phone number.
I don't call her though, because no one makes phone calls here. Everything is just by text. But my attempts to flirt more by text or set up a date don't really go anywhere. Although Strawberry's spoken English is passable enough, her texts are a jumble of random misspelled words. She doesn't respond when I oh so casually ask if she wants to get dinner or something, but replies with a vague indication that she will be at the Cat House again the next weekend.
I go back and there she is, looking as sexy as ever in a black turtleneck sweater and black velvet pants. She introduces me to some of her friends, and we dance a for a while but that's all. A few days later it's the same again, except this time she takes me with her to another bar down the road, not strictly a lesbian bar like the Cat House, but lesbo-friendly. This is an even smaller place, called Cosmo, that's just big enough for a bar that seats about 8 people. When we go in there are two guys and the bartender, a butch-looking fortyish woman. Strawberry sits down and immediately starts chattering away to the bartender in Chinese. I sit down next to her, uncomfortably aware of the bartender looking me over. She asks where I'm from in English, but after a few minutes of small talk, they all go back to Chinese.
Even though I'm now a bit discouraged, the next day I try again to ask Strawberry out via text message.
Hi, thanks for taking me to Cosmo. I had a nice time with you. Do you want to get dinner this week?
Strawberry sends me the following reply:
I think I like ♥★ Being abel to be relax is the true fammous store one ✌❀❀❀
I show this cryptic text to Malison, hoping someone else might have some insight.
"So is she agreeing to meet me for a date or what?"
"Or what," Malison replies tartly.
"But she says she think she likes me, right?"
Malison looks exasperated. "You can't tell anything from this text. It's like, not even language. She might as well be communicating by smoke signals. You're not getting anywhere with this chick. Just let it go."
But I'm so taken with the gorgeous, unattainable Strawberry that I have to try one more time. I send her another text asking more directly if she wants to go on a date, but this time she doesn't reply at all.
Luckily, just at this moment, Lulu comes to visit from Raser City, rescuing me temporarily from all this nonsense. I'm so excited to show around someone from home, and she's never been to Asia before. Even jet-lagged and exhausted, she's looking all around and taking it all in.
On the train ride from the airport to my apartment, I fill her in on Strawberry and show her the texts. Lulu snorts with laughter.
"Sheesh, if her English is this bad, how can you even have a relationship?"
I shake my head. "No, her spoken English is ok. Her writing is not great but I think she's making it worse on purpose so she can put me off without saying no directly."
"Women are bitches, man," Lulu sighs. "That's why I don't want to date them."
"Is that the only reason?" I tease her.
"Well, that and I really need dick," she declares loudly. Then she looks around the crowded train nervously. "People don't understand what I said, right?"
"I dunno. It seems like everyone here knows all the English swear words even if they can't really speak the language. I think they hear us and it sounds like 'blah blah blah fuck blah blah blah shit.'"
Lulu makes a mental note to be more careful about what she shouts in public.
We get back to my apartment and settle her in. Luckily the pile driving for the pachinko parlor next door has finished so the noise level has gone down. Lulu is up for just about anything--trying new foods, exploring town, camping out in my small apartment, she's fine with all of it. But living with her in close quarters starts to wear on my nerves after a few days. I've never lived with a partner, and I'm kind of worried at how quickly Lulu's normal habits start getting on my nerves. Am I fated to be alone forever because I can't get along?
On the third morning, when Lulu takes too long in the shower, I decide to switch gears by pretending we are married and acting out fake exasperated partner role-play.
"Wifey!" I sing out. "It's my tu-urn!" And somehow, like magic, it works. Expressing my annoyance in a jokey way diffuses the whole situation. Lulu gets into it too, and soon we are referring to each other as wifey and pretending to be married. Minus the sex, of course.
Because my apartment is so small, we share my bed. Every night, we cuddle up together, but it never goes further. She makes it clear that she's not into me in that way. It's ok, I guess I'm not either, but I can't help thinking about Gretchen falling in love with her best friend. Wouldn't it be so much easier if we were married for real? But maybe the reason the game works is because it's a game.
Whatever the reason, we have a great time together. I take her out for soup dumplings at Ding Tai Fung with Phil, Shamela and Malison, go to the night markets, to the National Palace Museum, Taipei 101 building, Taroko Gorge, Sun Moon Lake, all the usual tourist sites. It's so awesome to have her here, to see someone from home, to share all the fun and cool things here with her. Wherever we go, she gets treated like a movie star, with her long blonde hair and blue eyes. Random strangers come up to talk to us, and with her sunny disposition, she's only too happy to oblige. I have to admit I'm a little jealous. I don't get the star treatment; to the contrary, most people here tell me I don't look American because I have brown hair and an olive complexion.
I take Lulu to chorus rehearsals too. She discovers, as I did, that even if you don't understand the language, it's easy to follow along because the technique is universal. She sings out in her big opera voice and everyone is very impressed. She's been taking her singing more seriously lately, trying for solo parts.
Over the course of her stay, she fills me in on all the details of her dating life. She's finally broken up with the asshole who couldn't deal after her brother died. Now she's back on J-Date, with a few guys who seem promising, but nothing long term yet.
"I just want to meet a guy who isn't hung up on his mother," she complains.
"Yeah, maybe look somewhere other then J-Date, then," I tease her.
"No shit!" she laughs, but then turns serious. "But I really do want to marry a Jewish guy."
"Whatever." I roll my eyes.
"The first dates are the worst," she sighs. "You know the most common thing to ask when you're getting to know someone is if you have any brothers or sisters, and I never know what to say. I can't say no, it just feels so wrong. But if I say yes, I had a brother but he died last year, suddenly it's just way too serious, you know?"
I feel for her, but I have no advice on how to handle this.
On her last night, we're spooning in bed together in a futile attempt to go to sleep early before getting up at the crack of dawn to catch her plane. Lulu asks, "So how come you and Phil haven't gotten together yet?"
I snort. "Come on, I told you! He's with Shamela."
"Whatever. I've seen the way he looks at you. He clearly likes you, more than he likes her."
"What the fuck!" I'm floored by this information. I thought I was projecting, that he wasn't that into me. It's messing me up to hear it's not just in my head. "I don't know. Whenever it's just the two of us, he's awesome and fun, but when there are more people around, he's more standoffish. And when we're out with just his guy friends, he's a total jerk and won't even talk to me."
"His mother didn't raise him right," Lulu declares. "Forget him, he's not worth your time."
"Yeah! Forget him. Anyway I'm only into women right now. Or disabled guys, if I can ever manage to meet one. Phil fails on both counts."
"Oh right, I forgot about your 'thing'," she says, which is how she refers to my devotee desires. I find it funny that she can forget about something that feels so central to me, but I guess it's good that to her it's no big deal. "Listen, that's fine but you've got to stop listening to Andrea Bocelli," she adds.
"Come on, you know he's terrible. You just like him because he's blind."
"So what?" I huff. "What's wrong with his singing, anyway?"
She sighs dramatically. "Please, I don't even have to tell you."
I actually don't know what she's talking about. His voice sounds fine to me. I would never have pegged Lulu as such an opera snob.
I'm sad to see my wifey leave, but I'll be seeing her again in just over two months. I've already arranged with the director of the Raser City Lyric Opera to be in the chorus of the next show, which will be Madame Butterfly. I offered to fly back just to audition but the director kindly made an exception for me just this once. I'll only miss a few weeks of music rehearsal. I'm enjoying my time here in Taipei but I'm really looking forward to singing with my friends again.
As soon as Lulu departs, I go back to the Cat House. Strawberry's there, of course, but I don't go out of my way to talk to her. She's made it clear that she's not interested, so the hell with her. There are lots of other women here, and now that I've been a few times, I don't feel as nervous talking to them.
I sit down at the bar and start chatting with three or four women, although most of them disappear after about a minute, and I'm left talking to just one, who I quickly realize is actually a trans man. He has a round face with a bit of stubble, black hair in a standard guy cut, gelled up in spikes, and a quick, easy smile. He introduces himself as Elroy, a relatively normal guy name, at least here.
"Do you come here often?" he asks. His English is surprisingly good.
"A few times..." I decide to come clean rather than bluff my way through like with Strawberry. "I'm actually bi so I'm not sure how welcome I'd be here."
"I know, most of them don't want me to be here either."
I had noticed the women around us giving him the side-eye. No wonder they all disappeared so fast and left us alone together. I can sympathize with his situation. The Cat House is supposed to be strictly for women, so if he's a man he shouldn't be here. But there are so few queer spaces--where else could he go to pick up women? Would he be welcome in the straight bars?
We chat a bit, getting to know each other. I can tell he likes me--he's not subtle in the way he leans forward and looks me right in the eye. Maybe it's the testosterone making him so horny, or maybe it's because the other women here won't give him the time of day.
When it's time to go, I let him have my number, even though I'm not sure how I feel about him. What can I say, it's nice to be desired that intensely.
The next day, he asks me out by text. A clear, legible text--what a concept. I'm out having drinks with Phil, Shamela and Malison when the text arrives, so I tell them all about Elroy.
"What do you think?" I ask. "Should I go out with him?"
"Wow!" Phil is intrigued. "Yeah! And you have to promise to tell us all about it!"
I give him a disgusted look. "I'm not running a freak show."
"Yeah, don't treat him like some oddity. Be respectful," Shamela adds primly.
"I'm trying to be respectful," I insist. "It's just a little frustrating that I went to a lesbian bar to meet women and end up meeting a man. But he seems cool. Maybe I should give him a chance." I turn to Malison, who is texting with some guy on her phone and not really paying attention. "What do you think?"
"Whatever," she shrugs. "Do you want to go out with him?"
"I don't know. I don't want to hurt his feeling by turning him down without giving him a chance, but I also don't want to hurt his feelings by leading him on if I'm not really into him."
"Give him a chance!" Phil exclaims eagerly. "Come on, when are you going to have this kind opportunity again? If you don't get to know him better, you'll regret it for the rest of your life!"
This seems like hyperbole, but I decide to at least go on one date with Elroy.
We meet for a dinner of tiny crabs at the Shilin Night Market, seated around the giant flattop grill. The cook shovels the cooked crabs and other side dishes in front of us in little piles, using two huge metal spatulas. The crabs are delicious but it's hard to get the meat out. I pick daintily at mine with a chopstick, trying not to look at the trio of chic young ladies at the other end of the grill biting directly into theirs, then spitting masticated shell bits into increasingly large piles on the counter.
As I fiddle with my dinner, Elroy tells me about himself with generosity and confidence. He transitioned several years ago. His parents didn't like the idea at first, but they've gotten used to it. In the office where he works, only his boss knows, and has promised to keep it confidential. He takes hormones and had top surgery, but doesn't want bottom surgery, since it wouldn't give him working equipment anyway.
Even though he's not very tall, only an inch or two more than me, and has a roundish face, he seems to have no trouble passing. I think it's because there are a lot more androgynous looking people here than in the US. I'm impressed that he's so open with all these details about himself in such a public place, but we are speaking in English in low tones, and the night market around us is really noisy, so the chances of anyone eavesdropping seem low.
After I give up on getting any more meat out of the tiny crabs, we get a drink then he asks if we can go back to my place. I think of what Phil said about just going for it, and say yes.
My apartment is so small, there really isn't anywhere else to sit but the bed. We kiss and fumble around awkwardly, pulling each other's clothes off. It's when we're both naked that I start to wonder if this was a mistake. I'm trying to be open-minded, but I feel a profound disconnect seeing his masculine face and chest up top contrasted with a pussy with a long tuft of untrimmed hair below.
Once we're both naked, I pause, not sure where to take this. "Um...what would you like to do?" I feel like the least I can do is ask.
"It's ok, we don't have to do anything," he says.
We kiss and embrace for a while longer, then fall asleep together.
Elroy wakes at the crack of dawn, much earlier than I usually do, and asks to use my shower. I tell him to go ahead, too lazy to get up myself. As I lie in bed listening to the water run, I reflect on what just happened. I have to admit, as much as I want to be kind to him, I'm just not attracted. Trans is just not my thing. Besides, I really want to be with a woman right now.
I realize that I agreed to go on this date in part because Phil was egging me on, and the only reason he did that was so he could hear about it after. He wants to live vicariously through me by hearing about all my crazy adventures, but he won't date me because having those experiences makes me too weird or slutty or dirty. Fuck that shit, man. What an asshole. I can't believe I'm still playing this stupid game with him.
After his shower, Elroy gets dressed and ready to leave. He smiles hopefully, and I feel like shit. But I don't have the courage to break his heart right then, so when he asks for another date, I lie and say ok maybe sometime. With that, he leaves.
The next weekend I'm back at the Cat House again and luckily Elroy is not there. Instead, I finally meet the girl I've been waiting for this whole time. Her name is Chimi, and she's adorable. Long black hair and a girly-girly look that I find irresistible. She's tiny, barely five feet tall in shoes. I'm only five four but I feel like a gangly giant next to her. Her English is not great but it doesn't matter as we're making out on the dance floor. She gives me her number and email: littlefishes@..... OMG even her email address is cute.
We make a date for the very next night to meet at the Cat House again, but I'm worried I might run into Elroy so we move on to Cosmo, the tiny bar Strawberry took me to. Chimi knows it, after all there are only so many gay hangouts here.
As we walk to Cosmo, I tell Chimi about my date with Elroy, how I feel guilty for not being attracted to him. She knows him, of course, because he's a regular at the Cat House.
"It's ok," she assures me. "I think he understands."
I'm so grateful to her for saying this. I lope along beside her, feeling huge and ungraceful. She's wearing a faux suede skirt with cutwork lace at the hem and a lacy little top. I hold her hand as we walk along together, and it's so fucking sexy and fun, just holding hands in public with a pretty girl.
At Cosmo, Chimi tells me more about herself. She's only twenty-four, living on her own, working as a secretary, still somewhat closeted. Her family has been pressuring her to get married so she's been hinting to her mother that she will not be marrying a man, but so far it's hasn't been going well. Her parents really want grandchildren.
"You could still have children with a female partner," I point out.
Chimi shrugs. "It's not very common here. Not like United States."
She asks about me, and I tell her a very heavily edited version, mostly concentrating on my job here. I don't mention that until this point I have pretty exclusively dated men, or anything about being a devotee. And I don't tell her that I am moving back to the United States in just over a month, at the end of May.
I feel horribly guilty about withholding this information, but god I like her a lot, and I don't want to ruin things with her. Why couldn't I have met Chimi months ago, when I first arrived here? Why did I waste so much time with asshole men? I'm filled with regret and frustration.
After Cosmo, I take Chimi back to my place but she doesn't want to have sex right away, so we just make out and roll around in the bed together. I even give her some pajamas to wear so she won't feel uncomfortable. She looks so cute in my baggy old shirt.
I run my hand over her thick, glossy hair, then lean forward and kiss her. She's so tiny in my arms, her mouth and face so soft and smooth. Whenever I kiss a girl, there's always this little thrill of naughtiness, knowing that I'm going against what society expects.
The next morning we go out to a chic little café for a breakfast of coffee and French bread. I don't even care that the conversation is a bit awkward and halting because of the language barrier. I'm living out my most girly, girl-loving fantasy. Over the next few weeks, we go on several more dates--back to the Cat House and Cosmo, to lunch or dinner, and with a few more sleepovers but still no sex yet because she's not ready.
It's starting to feel like this is the start of a real relationship. I'm also starting to get why men complain so much about women, because Chimi won't ever fucking tell me how she feels or what she wants. Sometimes she's smiling and cheerful, sometimes sullen and sulky but I have no idea why. When I ask her what's wrong, she just looks at her feet and says, "Nothing." I think back on what Lulu said about how women are bitches. Maybe Lulu's right--men are easier.
As for Elroy, I let him know by text that I'm seeing someone else. A bit cowardly perhaps but under the circumstances I think it's the kindest option. I don't hear from him again.
On a rare night when I'm not out with Chimi in Ximending, I meet Phil, Shamela and Malison again for drinks in Shida.
"So how did it go with that, um, guy?" Phil leers at me the minute we sit down.
"You mean Elroy?" I reply coolly. There's no way I'm giving him the gory details he craves. "Yeah, it turns out I'm just really not into guys right now." I tell them all about Chimi.
"She sounds nice," Shamela says.
Phil gives a sarcastic laugh. "What, so you decided instead of complaining about the white guys all chasing Chinese girls, you would just join them?"
I put my chin up. "Yeah, why not?"
"So have you told her you're leaving in a few weeks?" Malison asks.
I put my head down on the table and groan. "No! God, I'm such a bitch! What is wrong with me! I always complain about what assholes guys are but when I'm dating a woman, I'm just as big an asshole as any guy."
Shamela strokes my arm sympathetically but does not contradict me. "Just tell her."
But because I'm enjoying myself with Chimi so much and because I'm such a fucking coward, I let a few more weeks go by. Now it's the end of the month, and my departure is only three weeks away. One night at my apartment, Chimi shyly suggests doing more than just kissing. Instead of excited, I feel like the biggest asshole. I can't live with the guilt anymore, so I just blurt out, "I'm moving back to the United States at the end of next month."
Chimi looks stricken, all the blood draining from her face. "When did you know?" she whispers.
Again I default to lying. "I just found out my contract won't be renewed. And I have to get back to finish my degree." This last part is true, anyway.
"I'll go with you!" she cries. This is what I have been longing to hear from the guys I have dated, but suddenly, coming from her, I can't accept. The thought of having to take care of her in the US is overwhelming. Her English is not good enough. What kind of job could she get? This isn't like taking a short-term trip. I can't ask her to move permanently for me. I realize in a flash that I'm just not in love with her, and I don't want to spend the rest of my life with her. When I think of moving back to Raser City, the person I think of is William. I don't know how things are between us, but I suddenly realize I'm still in love with him.
All of this goes through my mind in an instant--an image of William, with Chimi clinging to me in the background, and I just want to be rid of her. It's not even a rational thought, more like an emotion. She can't come with me.
"I don't think that's a good idea..." I say gently, and she bursts into tears.
"Why didn't you tell me! You're so selfish!" I sit there and take it, feeling like a heel. I deserve it.
I hug her and stroke her hair until she calms down, then suggest what has been my strategy for pretty much all my relationships ever. "Why don't we just enjoy the time we have now?"
She acquiesces at first, and we kiss for a few minutes while sitting on my bed. I can taste her salty tears. But then she pulls away again.
"No! I can't! I thought you were serious person. This is not what I want!" She grabs her purse and leaves, and that's the end of it. I feel like the lowest of the low.
My last few weeks in Taipei go by in a blur. I'm still going to rehearsals with Lin, but I have to break it to the conductor that I will not be singing in the concert. I use the same lie as with Chimi, that I just found out my contract will not be renewed. The conductor just smiles and thanks me for joining them.
I slowly start selling off all the household items I have accumulated here. I'm going to miss this little rabbit hutch apartment in the middle of the red light district. The construction finally ends and the pachinko parlor opens a week before I leave.
I've been emailing my friends in Raser City with updates on my return, getting ready to pick up my life where I left off. I'll be staying with Sarah until I can find a new apartment. I'd rather stay with Lulu, but Sarah lives much closer to the university, and she's starting to get weirdly possessive of my attention again. Ugh, I really am going back to exactly the same shit I left behind.
In the midst of all these preparations, I get an unexpected email from The Mantis. We've kept in touch sporadically but I haven't heard anything substantial from him until this.
Dear Cruel Mistress,
I hope you've been enjoying your time in Taipei. It sounds like you've been tearing it up. The guys (and girls) there won't know what hit them.
Anyway I wanted to let you know that I'm getting divorced. Please don't feel guilty. It wasn't anything you did. The truth is I was unhappy in my marriage for a really long time but I never had the courage to do anything about it until I met you. After you left, I just realized I couldn't go on like this any longer. My wife moved out a few months ago.
Since then I've been going to a ton of Sub Rosa Society events and fetish clubs. It's been awesome. I met a woman named Titania and we've been dating for a while now. She's not a devotee or a domme, more of a switch, but she's so great. I told her all about the Mistress, and she really wants to meet you. Let me know when you get back to Raser City and maybe we can meet up sometime.
It's such a shock, I hardly know what to think. I hadn't been planning on ever seeing him again. Now he wants to be friends? Ok, I guess? So his wife never found out. That's good, I guess? He seems happy anyway. And before I can even entertain the idea of dating him for real, now there is another person, this Titania. I file all this away for later, when I can decide how I feel about it and whether I want to see them. Right now it all feels so unreal.
Phil, Shamela and Malison throw a goodbye party for me, one last drunken bash. Lin is there, unexpectedly chatting up Malison. John Chanko and Skanthony are also there, although I hardly even care about them enough feel awkward around them anymore. It's all behind me. Conspicuously absent are Strawberry, Elroy and Chimi. I've burned all those bridges.
Once my apartment is mostly empty, one of the last items left to dispose of is that copy of Camus' The Stranger left behind by the Hornivore. I've put off taking it back to the library as long as I can. I finally look up the location, and realize it's way the hell out at the edge of town. Even once I get off the train, it's like a thirty minute walk to the library. What the hell! I didn't think the dude even lived in this neighborhood. I hope the library appreciates all the effort I'm going to. I drop the book in the returns box with a feeling of civic duty. Now I'm finally rid of the last trace of all my drunken hookups. It's time to go back to Raser City.