“On the perils of travel”I spend way the hell too much time on the internet. I know this. I am a Computer Guy by trade, the sort where you can hear the capital letters when people say it, and it sounds in unflattering moments like some kind of exotic venereal disease. “Yeah, she gave me a nasty case of Computer Guy. My junk turned green. I just hope it doesn’t fall off.”Spend as much time on the internet as I tend to, you meet people. I admit it, I’ve met my fair share of ladies, both actual ladies and the transcybered, over the internet. Hell, it’s how I met my fiancée. But well before that, I met someone entirely different. For the purposes of this narrative, we shall call her Iris. She was the first internet acquaintance I ever met in person.I am firmly of the belief that there is absolutely nothing that, under the right circumstances, can’t be funny. Sometimes, this makes me kind of a horrible person. Especially considering that the following events took place several years ago when I was just out of my teens, this belief resulted in me cracking a lot of jokes about dead babies and necrophilia–and occasionally both at the same time–amidst the dick jokes and your-mom putdowns that are a staple of nearly everyone’s adolescent humour. I, being the age I was, gleefully mistook my indulgence in off-colour humour and the fact that my age was no longer prefixed with a “1” as a sign of maturity.
She, being two years my junior, did much the same and was appropriately impressed with me. We fell not into love so much as something very lust-like. While it bore only a passing resemblance to genuine affection, being young and stupid, I figured it would be worth pursuing.To this day, I am still not certain exactly why I decided it might be a good idea to visit her. I’d like to think that young me had slightly more complex motivations than the fact that she was pretty and I was quite certain to get to sleep with her if I made the trip from my humble Canadian prairie home to Seattle to see her. Having recently evolved from a nerdy-looking little slip of a boy into some early-beta version of a guy who had any idea of what to do with himself in a social situation, it’s possible that I simply latched on to the first thing with breasts that would give me the time of day.
An actual relationship was highly unlikely due to logistics alone. Not that we had enough in common outside of the games we both played to form the basis of one. But we talked about it anyway and that seemed to make her happy, and eventually I guess I got pulled in by the shining vision of the impossible too.So it was, too few months later, that I found myself boarding an airplane from my tiny Western-Canadian city to Seattle. My first stop was Vancouver, where I would clear US customs. I had an hour and a half to do so–plenty of time, I figured, and reassured myself while I waited for my luggage at the customs carousel. And waited. And waited. When the bags for a different flight started coming in, I grew concerned, and began to look for the domestic baggage carousel. Which, as my luck would have it, was one floor below me, on the opposite side of the terminal. In my panic, I believe I set a land speed record for a half-kilometer sprint, pausing only twice to get terrifyingly lost, before arriving at the domestic luggage carousel. Only to discover a man waiting for me, to inform me that they had found my bag misplaced there, and had it delivered to where I had just come from. I must have run right by it without even noticing.
A second mad dash later had me standing in front of a particularly humourless customs official, who decided that the combination of my breathlessness, my relative youth to be traveling alone, and the fact that I now had only twenty minutes before my flight was to board were fairly suspicious. I was directed to have my bag and person hand-searched. Just what I needed.So there I was, standing in my underpants with the contents of my suitcase spread liberally out on a table in front of me when they announced my flight was boarding. One customs officer, mercifully, was human enough to put in a call to hold the flight up for me. I was eventually allowed to dress and get on my plane, confident the worst was over.I landed in Seattle, fetched my bag—which was actually in the right place this time—and looked around for the lovely lady I’d come here to meet.
Then I looked some more. Then I looked some more than that. Eventually, I found a pay phone and called her.”Oh yeah,” she said, in a voice tinged with dawning comprehension. “I thought you were coming in later. I’ll be right there.”Half an hour later, a Neanderthal from security demanded to know why I was loitering in the arrivals area. He seemed swayed by my story of waiting on my ride, though when he came back twenty minutes later, he was not quite so content with the same explanation. At last, Iris arrived, another girl in tow. Though upset, and further irked that there wasn’t much in the way of an apology on the way to the car, I was mostly just glad to see her. Once my suitcase was crammed into the trunk, I was relegated by myself to the back seat of the car, while the two of them chatted without particular effort towards my inclusion in the conversation. Eventually I fell asleep.I awoke some time later to the delightful tones of screaming youth. I should backtrack at this point, and mention that Iris hails, ancestrally, from the Philippines. You will be unsurprised, dear reader, to then hear that in a house not much larger than two side-by-side basketball courts, there were never less than about fourteen people at any one time. As a man generally accustomed to both quiet and solitude, as well suffering from crippling shyness amongst large numbers of strangers, I was somewhat less than thrilled by this discovery.After dropping my suitcase off in a room I was informed would be mine, I was taken off to a crummy Chinese restaurant, where I sat quietly for about the next four hours, failing to follow gossip about people I’ve never met. I would occasionally give a half-hearted chuckle when someone made a joke about Canada before forgetting I existed again, perhaps once every half hour or so.
The eventual return to Iris’ house was marked with the discovery that while I was gone, someone had rifled through my suitcase. Missing was about $100 in cash and two condoms. I left money in my suitcase, you see, because when I have money on me, I tend to squander it. It seemed wisest not to bring all my money with me, so I’d still have some later in the week. That worked out really well for me, it seems. Inquiries as to just who the fuck had been rifling through my suitcase were met with a mixture of muttering in an unfamiliar language, and noncommittal shrugs. I did later locate one on the missing condoms. Used. In a wet spot on my bed. I slept on the floor that night, and not, as I had been led to believe I would, anywhere near Iris.The next day or two are worthy of mention only in that they happened, much unlike anything between Iris and I. I never did get my money back, though I did probably discover who’d been using my condoms, when I went to my room to discover my bed rather vigourously occupied. At least, I thought wistfully, someone was using my condoms, even if it wasn’t me. I think I deserve an award for not strangling anyone when I was berated for walking into my own goddamn room without knocking.I spent less time with Iris than I had thought I was going to, as she seemed eager to free herself of my presence on the frequent occasions one of the many loosely related people hanging around offered her something better to do than kick around with me. I spoke at no great length to her on this subject as she was busily leaving to go somewhere I wasn’t welcome.
Her family, she informed me coldly, always came first, even when that meant abandoning the dude who’d just shelled out most of his savings to buy a plane ticket to see her. She forestalled any reply by leaving, and refused to speak on the subject further. I didn’t push it. I would like to tell you, dear reader, that I was simply too much the gentleman to argue a point that seemed to mean something to her; or that I was too much the forward-thinker to get into an argument with the only person familiar to me that I would be near for the next five days. Neither is the case. Rather, my courtesy came straight from my gonads, which in typical male fashion convinced me that there might still be some remote possibility of getting laid, so I’d best not fuck it up.Eventually, Iris decided she’d like to go to an arcade somewhere, so she could play Dance Dance Revolution. However, she was unable to drive, which explained in large part the presence of numerous friends whenever we left the house for any reason. I, being licensed to drive, was an obvious solution to this problem. So, keys to an aunt’s car in hand, she woke me up that morning with a kick to the shins, pitched a slice of toast at me, and informed me I was driving her to an arcade. Knowing, at this point, that anything negative I said about my awakening would never cease to be an issue–and keeping in mind the mandate from my gonads–I mumbled something unintelligible about waking slowly, gathered my things and what I could find of my wits, and off we went.I converted, upon our arrival, the remainder of my money into quarters. A paltry eighty of them lining a pocket, I strode purposefully towards the DDR machines, thinking to get a game or two in with Iris.
Keep in mind the fact that I was, at the time, about as coordinated as you could expect a gangly fifty kilo boy to be when he’d recently grown into a body designed to be about fifteen kilos heavier. So you can imagine how well I didn’t do, especially with no prior experience at the game. Iris didn’t much want to play DDR with me after that. This was alright, as I had no desire to play any more of it myself, so I amused myself with lightgun games ’til I ran out of money. I knew better, at this point, than to expect her to join me.Sated by horrifying (albeit, sadly, digital) violence and having run out of money long before she did, I stood about and watched Iris for a while, lacking anything better to do. I took a manner of satisfaction in seeing some random dude beating her thoroughly about a half dozen times in a row. Eventually, she got bored, and we spent a while chatting with the dude she’d been playing with. He seemed an unremarkable sort, differentiable from the archetypal pop culture drone only by his skill at Dance Dance Revolution and the fact that he drove an admittedly very nice car. Still, at least he was friendly, and got Iris into a more talkative mood than I’d seen her in that week. I played along as best I could with her blathering about this or that pop culture icon, unsurprised when she didn’t extend me the same courtesy when I attempted to steer the conversation towards a subject I knew (or cared) about.Then, a few hours later, the random dude from the arcade arrived at her house. He and Iris promptly vanished. I was somewhat confused; more so a few hours later when next I saw her, him still in tow. I endured an unpleasantly large number of loud noises, coming from the general direction of her room that night.I confronted her the next morning, about just what the fuck had happened to result in several months of awkward adolescent romance culminating in her fucking some random jackass during the very goddamn week I’d come to see her. She answered only that she’d speak to me later, as she had plans to return to the arcade with whatever the hell his name was. She made a point of not asking me if I cared to join them.I would like to tell you, dear reader, that at that juncture I came back with a scathing reply, or at least an expletive-filled yelling fit. It would have been a somewhat less embarrassing (or, at least, more fraught with machismo) reaction than what I did, which was to turn without a further word, lock myself in my room, and weep quietly.I didn’t see much of her for the rest of the week. In fact, no one did, though that didn’t stop a family member or two from accusing me in varyingly broken English of being the one to monopolize her time, to which I reacted with all the grace of a stillborn cow.
My screamed speculation on the parentage of the third to do this was interrupted–midway through a suggestion that the mildly porcine tilt to his nose suggested a heritage, in the words of Bill Watterson, unusually rich in species diversity–by another goddamn pigfucking little shit, asking me if it was really necessary to be quite so profane. The moment of silence after I shot back with a query of whether it was really necessary to bring a man to a different country at considerable cost in order to ignore him and fuck some other asshole lasted long enough for me to exit stage left. I was only mildly surprised not to have been berated by Iris for this infraction against her “beloved” family when she no doubt later heard of it; I got the impression it’d only take one gentleman for her fickle priorities to switch, though I had wished it would’ve been me.She bid me goodbye when the time came for me to leave, but declined to accompany me and her mother to the airport; she and the dude from the arcade had plans for later. The drive was one of the more awkward half hours I can remember, spent largely in silence. I was not much surprised to be searched again at Canadian customs on the way back through Vancouver. It was just the way my luck wanted to work that week. A cautionary tale, I suppose mine is, of the perils involved both in long-distance romances, as well as the inescapable dumbness of pinning your hopes on someone you really don’t know very well at all. Maybe if I’d spent some more time actually talking to her, and less playing the game that was the only thing we had in common. Maybe if I’d read a little more into her sometimes-vapid responses to things I’d said. There are a great deal of maybes, and it’s entirely possible that events would not have culminated the way they did if I’d known then what I do now. But it was a learning experience. I knew better what wasn’t going to work the next time around, and the next time after that, and eventually I got it right.There is an epilogue, however, that I didn’t discover until some months later. While it doesn’t really make up for the contents of the week in question, at least I can look back on it with a vindictive giggle, proving once and for all that there really isn’t anything that isn’t in some way hilarious.Turns out the dude had herpes.