My experiment with bisexuality.

One thing about living in California – whether you were born and raised there or just passing through – at some point, you’ll find yourself doing something you never imagined. That’s part of the reason I moved there.

In 1992, I was living at Ocean beach in San Diego, attending community college, and working at the Olive Tree market. Life was good. I knew I was at the beginning of the rest of my life, and I said yes to every new opportunity – provided it wouldn’t cause me physical harm. I probably should have re-evaluated that philosophy from time to time but that is what our early 20’s are for, right? Right.

My living situation was a bit tumultuous, as it had recently been discovered that I was dating the ex-boyfriend of my roommate, while living with my then boyfriend. Complicated, yes. Unheard of? No. Fortunately, one of our neighbors was moving to another part of OB and I signed up as a live-in nanny for her little kids. Our home was cozy – the kids shared a double bed and I slept in the single bunk above them. Their Mom was the definition of an earth mama. Beautiful, curvaceous, wise, with a huge heart and a sharp edged wit to her. And really soft skin. I know this because one night, when the kids were away and we had too many margaritas, we laid in her bed, laughing and making out. I don’t remember how we went from laughing at the bar to laughing in bed, but I do remember thinking how soft her skin was. I remember thinking that I could lay with my cheek against her thigh forever, if she’d let me. It was pure comfort, and I felt safe. At some point, I made my way to my bed and woke with worry about what had happened. Not only could it ruin my living situation but we’d become real friends, and I didn’t have many in California yet. But I needn’t have worried. She gave me a hug that morning, we laughed about rolling around together, I asked some questions about her sexual preferences, and then everything went back to normal. We just decided, and it was so. I feel so blessed to have had that experience with someone who had many other important things to worry about besides hurt feelings and awkward mornings. I thought all sexual experiences would go that way from then on.

I was wrong, of course.

At some point shortly after my night of soft and gentle thigh revelation, I was invited to a party down the street. This couple was friends with my ex-boyfriend, and we were all still hanging out, drinking and smoking pot, because that’s what was happening then and I was still saying Yes to everything. As the party was winding down, it was just me, another guy, and the couple saying our goodbyes. (Note: the retelling of this story is done so through a drunken, stoned haze, so while its true, the anecdotes may be better or worse than reality.) I remember the boyfriend saying that we should have another round and just chill out together. And then the word orgy came up. Probably as a joke, at first. An uncomfortable moment, putting it out there, waiting to see our responses. And then its a blur. A blur of bodies, nervous laughter, and not a bit of worry that we weren’t being careful. Naiveté at its finest.

Sadly, the 4th wheel couldn’t keep it up, so it was just me and the couple. I do remember thinking that the girlfriend would certainly take issue with the boyfriend having sex with me. That would be a normal response, in my mind. I thought this as he was fucking me, naturally. But then something interesting happened. The girlfriend came over and started kissing me. She pulled me away gently and the two of us spent the rest of the night (or what I can remember) rolling around. I remember thinking that what had transpired before, with the guys, felt violent and forced – not rape-y, more calculated. But she was soft and supple, like the experience I’d had with the thigh. Different, though, as she was tall and thin with perfect C cup breasts. I felt the same inside, a warm sense of safety and comfort. The two of us spent a few more days and nights together over the next month. Sometimes the boyfriend watched but occasionally, we would just go to the beach and braid each other’s hair. Eventually, they decided to move, which was perfect timing for me, as I was about to embark on a weekend road trip to Colorado. That vacation turned into a month long cross country trip with a woman I barely knew when I left, and who spent a good amount of time between my legs by the time we hit Kentucky. But that’s a story for another post.

My first visit to Paris.

I’d dreamt of going to Paris for as long as I could remember. My grandparents were Canadian and while their French was nothing like the language I would come to know and love, I was smitten with the idea of it. I watched An American in Paris, Funny Face and Casablanca with my father and promptly became a francophile. I took French language courses in college and enjoyed as many buttery flaky baked goods as I could find. When I was 30, I met some San Francisco women married to Frenchmen, and francophiles, like me. We eventually started a French study-group of sorts which turned into Wednesday nights drinking wine, eating cheese, and talking about the children and men in our lives. Rachel, Meredith, Nancy and Hajdeja became staples of our girl’s night out for the next 10+ years.

After I finally got a job that paid a decent salary, I decided to take a solo trip to Paris for my 32nd birthday. I booked a little hotel by Montmartre and the night I arrived, I made my way to the hill for my first view of the city and Sacre-Coeur. Which is where I met Guillaume Denis…

“Avez-vous un autre caske?” I asked.

“Pardon?”

“Avez-vous un autre caske? Shit, am I saying that right?”

“Oui, yes, you are saying it right.”

Thankfully, he spoke English.

“But I’m confused as to why you’re asking me if I have another helmet.”

And had a sexy French accent.

“Well, I was actually wondering if you’d take me for a ride. Show me the sights.”

Did I say that out loud? Had I left all discretion at the hotel? He smiled. He was dark and handsome. Mischievous, I could tell.

“You don’t look like a tourist. Actually, I thought you fit right in here.”

“Wow, you couldn’t have given me a nicer compliment.”

Wow?  I had the guts to approach a total stranger but I couldn’t seem to find better vocabulary to express myself.

“Yes, and your French is perfect.”

I thought he was sublime. Actually, I wasn’t thinking that. The beauty was, I wasn’t thinking at all, I was just doing. I was looking at this man, feeling free, in Paris, asking for what I wanted, and receiving it.

“What are you writing?” I asked.

“Oh, this? Well, it’s a musical.”

Shit. Merde. He’s gay. Of COURSE he’s gay, how could I not see that? Handsome, well dressed, albeit with the starving artist look about him.

“Oh. A musical. How nice.”

“Do I detect a note of sarcasm? It’s hard to tell with my limited English.”

“OK, you speak perfect English and understand it as well. Sorry, it wasn’t sarcasm, maybe disappointment, that’s all. Anyhow, what’s the musical about?”

“Disappointment? You had expectations already? My god, we just met! Ay, American women!”

“What?! What is that supposed to mean, American woman? How many American women approach you and ask, in French no less, if you have another helmet so that you can take her for a ride on your motorcycle?!”

He smiled again. Funny teeth, but not awful funny.

“The musical is unfinished and I can’t talk about it until it is, but suffice to say it’s about the love of one woman and conflict between brothers and…”

“Sounds like True West. Oh, sorry. That’s a play by…”

“Sam Shepard, yes, I know. I’m writing a musical, it’s a pretty good guess that I’d know a bit about plays, yes?”

“Yes. Of course.”

I looked away for a moment, reminding myself that I was in Paris, twinkling lights of the city below me. Finally, I’d made it to this place of dreams and love and passion and romance and history. The place I’d dreamed of coming to for years. And I knew when I got out of the train station that I would be hooked forever.

“What’s your name?”

“Guillaume. Et toi?”

“Christine. Je m’appelle Christine.”

Guillaume and I chatted for another few minutes until I could feel the jetlag setting in. He offered to take me for a ride the following evening but the whole thing suddenly felt impulsive, so I thanked him for the conversation and went back to the hotel.

The following morning, there was an envelope under my door. Inside was a handwritten note (that I still have) from Guillaume.

“If you still want to make a stroll in moto, it will be with pleasure. You can find me at the place we met yesterday evening. I’m certainly already there. – Guillaume.

If I do not see you this evening, I shall return tomorrow morning around noon.”

Oh Guillaume.

We met that evening and he did indeed give me a tour of Paris by motorcycle. It was magic. He even showed me the secret vineyards near Montmartre. The following night we went to see a bizarre avant-garde play. And the night after that we saw what I remember to be an incredible performance of Romeo et Juliette at the Opera house. It wasn’t a ballet per se, it was a completely new adaptation, very modern. We had drinks after at a small bar inside the Trocadero. I felt like I was living inside one of my daydreams.

And then of course, we said our goodbyes. I think we both knew instinctively that spending time together was romantic but not intimate. Guillaume was in the middle of something with someone, and I was, too. He married a beautiful woman a few years ago and has a little girl now, according to Facebook. Coincidentally, one of our conversations that first night was around advertising and marketing – an industry that we both found ourselves working in years later. Its strange to think of the people who come into our lives briefly – all of the what-ifs and the might-have-beens. In this case, though, it was perfect timing. I saw him again briefly a year later when I returned to Paris with Jackson and Richard in tow. For some reason, the language barrier was more difficult the second time around. Maybe it was because we hadn’t been practicing. Or maybe it was because the first time had an air of possibility surrounding it, as opposed to the second time when I brought my real life along with me. Regardless, I’m forever grateful to Guillaume for helping me to see Paris for all that it is.