Interlude: Topless Revelations and the Evening in Jail

in·ter·lude   /ˈɪntərˌlud/

noun – a short dramatic piece, especially of a light or farcical character, formerly introduced between the parts or acts of miracle and morality plays or given as part of other entertainments.

“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” – The Captain, Cool Hand Luke

“If God wanted us to be naked, why did He invent sexy lingerie?” – Shannen Doherty

“Surprises are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable.” – Jane Austen

Friends who know me, also know that I’m usually not exactly at my most logical anywhere near the lingerie section of … well… pretty much any store.  Just being next to the bra department in the Bay, or some place similar, is enough to make me a little jumpy with the instinctual need to run like hell.

But, this isn’t because of a matter of prudishness, or religion or just being a guy.  It was because of that day I spent Xmas shopping with my first love, the one I’m currently writing our story about.  You see, the mathematical equation of:

(the bra section of Eaton’s + Her)/(special event) x (Terry assumed to be a pervert) = Terry in Jail

It was near Xmas time and the town was bustling with the usual hosannas to fat men in red suits and the spectacle of 30-50% OFF signs everywhere.  My parents were in Hong Kong as they often were for my dad’s immigration business.  My sister was away with her friends for a sleepover, and I was more or less home alone for the weekend.

I didn’t really mind being alone at the time, as I knew everyone would be back soon enough in time for Xmas, and I had my exams to study for.  And so there I was, a little bored with reading and re-reading my notes from the past semester, concentrating on the works of Ayn Rand and Charles Darwin.  It was around noon, and I was already 4 hours in when I was starting to sneak the adventures of Iron Man as well out of boredom when she called.  She suggested going Xmas shopping, and as I was already a bit stir crazy, gladly accepted the invite and the lovely gracious company.

We had already been dating on and off for years by then, but this admittedly was new.  We had never done Xmas shopping together and I soon realized that I made the wrong choice.  When she meant that she wanted the company and to see me, it was girl-speak for needing a pack mule and a yes man.  Shop after shop, mirror after mirror it went on, as she would try out one thing or another, or ask my opinion if that scarf would be nice, or that top, or those stockings and so on.  And with each place, Terry the kinda boyfriend was slowly being transformed into Terry the carrier of bags and opinion board to bounce ideas off only.  It was NOT a great day for menfolk everywhere.

This was at a time when Quebec stores still shut their doors at 5pm on weekends and the Internet was just a glint in Al Gore’s eye, and I was looking at that magic number to come around to free me from my bondage.  And it was with that deadline approaching, she decided to save the best for last.  We went into the dark zone, the place that will ever be known as Hell on Earth to me in my mind’s eye, the bra department of Eaton.

Ok, I admit being a little uncomfortable around there.  Well, actually a LOT uncomfortable there, as I sat there, many bags and parcels in hand, and bemused women around with smirks at the sight.  The seconds felt like hours, and being left to my thoughts and devices was starting to drive me mad.  And then it happened….

From the dressing room, a girl screamed loudly.  It was one of panic and fear and it echoed through the whole of Eaton and to the city outside.  But more importantly, it was a voice I recognized, hers.  Ever the knight in training, I dropped everything like a shot and ran straight into the change room to find my girl and leap to the rescue.

Did you know the Eaton bra changing room had over 30 booths?  I sure as heck didn’t until then.  And panicked and worried as I was, I didn’t really care.  I was screaming out her name, and went quickly from booth to booth, opening curtain after curtain trying to find her.  Needless to say, there were quite a few MORE screams coming from that room.

For the alpha males who may read this, no, I did not see a lot of breasts and naked women.  I was so focused in my quest for her, I honestly didn’t even notice the fact that most of these women were topless or partially nude.  I was looking for HER, and that’s all that mattered.  And I think it was around booth number 183 or so (it felt like it), that I DID find her.

I burst in screaming her name, asking what was wrong.  There she was, standing on the little seat of the change booth, and very much topless, when she saw me burst in.  And in a split second, fear became anger, pure female fury directed at ME.  I didn’t even see her fist approach my face.

Well, there I was, now shocked back into reality, when I realized what I had just done.  I look back and forth down the aisle, hearing the screams of other women now as well, and the eyes of at least a dozen really pissed women trying to cover themselves with the booth curtains.  So with that in mind, I did what any self respecting knight of olde who believed in chivalry with all his being, I booked it for the exit at full speed.

Did you know the security office of Eaton Montreal was just right next to the bra department?  I found out pretty quickly, as the minute I stepped out of the room, 2 guards tackled me and took me down.  I have to admit, they were pretty well trained, as they soon had me up on my feet, restrained, and dragged into their security office.  They even had their own little jail of sorts there.

Not long later, the boys in blue arrived, and took me away to the precinct.  While leaving the precinct, I noticed that my gal’s boxes and bags were all gone, hopefully taken by her though that probably wasn’t my concern.  It was more, where the hell was her, and figured that she was so angry that she left without me.

Well, there I was, explaining my story again and again, but not to any willing open ears.  Since I had acted so rashly and quickly, no one had any reference to the timing and assumed that all of the screaming was because of my rummaging through the change room, as opposed to me reacting to a scream and THEN rummaging through the room (not that it made much difference in the dozen or so womens’ minds).

So there I was, innocent looking little me, being seen as some naughty daring pervert in the precinct office.  Thankfully, everyone was pretty busy with the holiday rush of real criminals and what not, so they let me make a few calls as opposed to just one since my folks were away at the time.  And hoo boy, it definitely took quite a few calls.  It wasn’t a particularly pleasant stay though, as after the calls, they tossed me into the drunk tank with a few others, mostly pickpockets and purse snatchers.  That stay… well… was mostly me staying in a corner, hoping to keep my rear virginity intact as I had seen way too many prison movies.

A year before my incarceration. Don't I look all honest and innocent?

A year before my incarceration. Don’t I look all honest and innocent?

Luckily I was still under 18, so the officers weren’t as pissed at me as they would be, more like bemused if anything.  More importantly, I have a fairly honest face, so people tend to take me more at face value and I couldn’t have come up with a story like this in a 1000 years.  Even more fortunate for me, none of the women had made a statement, which I assume was probably because of the need to go home with their shopping and get ready for the Xmas holidays.  Still, it took awhile to find someone to pick me up from the station, with the promise that I would appear for court the following Monday.

As soon as I was out, I tried to see her, over and over, but she refused my calls, my knocking at the door and so on.  Her mom and dad were a bit puzzled as she wouldn’t reveal what happened, and they took it as some sort of lovers’ spat I suppose.  I couldn’t really be too upset on why she wouldn’t see me, but I needed her help to stay out of 20 years of hard jail with murderers and rapists (I had a pretty vivid imagination then).  In the end, it took a mutual friend and flowers to convince her to tell me the story on what happened, and with that, her own apology for thinking me to be some evil perv who tried to sneak a peak at her breasts (yes, hard to believe, but I hadn’t seen her nude ever back then).

The session later in court was probably one of the best that judge ever had.  While Eaton had placed charges on me, she had approached the security manager and the clerk and explained everything that had happened just prior to seeing the judge.  Eaton still had to press charges, after all, running into a change room and bursting into the change room of a dozen or so women was still… well… stupid beyond belief.  But, now knowing the sequence of events, the security manager had asked for leniency from the public prosecutor and as I had a record as being a goody two shoes in general in the community, the judge (who was struggling not to laugh) was pretty lenient as well and sentenced me to a misdemeanor with community service.

Around those years, my friends might remember all those hours I was spending at NDG’s Head and Hands as a tutor and a volunteer?  Well, that was the court mandated community service I had to do to atone for my act of stupidity.  She forgave me for the whole transgression and we returned to our dance of are we/aren’t we a couple, and life proceeded as could be.  Well, as best as it could, with her constantly holding this over my head every time I screwed up that is.

Oh, and you’re probably wondering why she screamed in the first place? She told me the following day, after I spent the time in prison. She saw a mouse.

——————————
The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt. 1

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt. 2

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt. 3

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt. 4

The Days Before Tomorrow, Epilogue and Answers

The Days Before Tomorrow, Afterword

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The Days Before Tomorrow … Pt 2

“The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!” – Scottish Poet, Robert Burns

“You always hurt the one you love
The one you shouldn’t hurt at all
You always take the sweetest rose
And crush it till the petals fall” – Songwriter Alan Roberts, Sung by Peggy Lee

So there was the impasse.  She didn’t want to leave.  She didn’t want to leave ME.

As we walked together after that moment, she couldn’t imagine life without my irregular notes in her door, or the awkward silences as we both danced around our feelings all of those wasted years.  I couldn’t imagine the nights not spent talking on the phone as the lightning roared and the heavens thundered.  Just the way she would grin silently as classical played on into the air, or the scent of her hair.  So many things I realized I would miss.

The following day, I secretly skipped class and went to talk to her mom.  She had long known about our almost secret relationship, and was always encouraging me to take it to the next step.  In her eyes, her daughter had a boy who truly cared for her, was kind, considerate and sincere, but more importantly, one who cared enough for her girl to give up his world.  And I did, so the plans proceeded.

I made myself less available day after day, and the notes became shorter and shorter.  Comments on life and love, spirit and music on the page evolved into simple gossip and banter about my “brothers”, inane school events and complaints about the Quebec government.  I tried to portray a callous, unfeeling Terry who was unworthy of anyone.  I ceased to walk over to meet her in the mornings, and would “forget” about our rare special evenings in exchange for nights of popcorn and movies alone or with my best friends.  The campaign, I knew would be long and hard, and I was going insane in thought.  My spies in her midst, her mother and father would continue to argue and rant on their end to ensure her departure and feed me information.  It wasn’t very successful, as she saw through the whole ploy with laser like accuracy.  Worse, she tracked me down at my favorite McDonald’s (well, yes, I wasn’t much of a foodie admittedly back then), sat down, told me to quit it, and kissed me on the cheek.

Time was running short, and I really didn’t know what else I could do.  The problem with having written hundreds of pages of my feelings and thoughts to her, is that she knew me fundamentally deeper than any person alive.  Deadlines on events that deal with life situations weren’t really something I was particularly good at, especially when considering  it was with one who loved me so well.  So I went back to her parents and we talked one more time. In the end, we all agreed, there was only one action left to do… and it’s one that has always scarred and shamed me in so many ways.

The day we broke up was not a particularly exceptional day, but it’s one I will always recall.  For those who know me, I have cherished in my heart the code of Chivalry and the pursuit of knightly honor to be my most highest belief.  In fact, that dedication was always greater than what I once believed as an evangelized youth, my comic books, movies and geekdom highlights.   As the days counted down to the final cut off to accepting the scholarship came close, all I could think was acts of desperation.  My sweet girl  had it in her mind that she wasn’t leaving and was just going to wait and work a bit until a time would come when we both could leave and excel.  But in the meantime, the days had become a monotonous routine, where we would meet, then argue about the lack of time left, then kiss, then allow her to enrapture me with the joy of her presence and then argue again, and then have her remind me that I’ll be forced to quit it pretty soon so I might as well stop there and then, and the day would progress as it would.  This time, I added a few more factors… the presence of her parents and a deliberate dedication to be ugly, to be angry and to be evil in the basest manner possible.

I won’t go through the full details, but the ambush was successful in raising the tension.  Voices were loud and angry as we were pleading and begging, and then (and with prior secret approval) accusations about me would be made and so much more.  But in the end, as it all came to a head, I did the one thing I didn’t want to do but realized was the only thing I could do to turn her passion away… I raised my hand, and in front of her family, shoved her hard onto the floor and started the first move to a follow up action.  Her mother knew I might had to do that.  Her father didn’t… and with that shove, the air in the room stood still.

I was thrown out by her dad, and justly so.  He didn’t punch me, but I honestly hoped he would.  Since growing out of elementary, I had never raised a hand in anger against a woman ever, and I couldn’t believe I actually did.  She looked out at me from her living room window, stunned, and angry.  She was always strong willed, but with that one act, I shattered every image and belief she had in me.  And as dearly as I wanted to run back in to hold her, to apologize and beg forgiveness, the anger of her father had put an end to that.

She called. I didn’t answer. I wrote no notes. I never walked with her again. Camelot had fallen, and to free her, I shattered both our hearts.  And in those months to come, we had no more contact no matter how much we both wanted it.

Here is where fate decided to give me a good s***kicking for my audacity to strike a woman.  In those months, I got word from her mom about how depressed she was, and how all our efforts might go to naught if she dropped out instead.  I had done my job too well.  But to tell her that I attacked her to force her to go to school and it was orchestrated??  I foresaw a pretty angry woman getting off a plane, and then throttling her family, and then me.  So what to do, what to do … when inspiration hit.  Maybe if I had a friend show her around, cheer her up, maybe she’ll improve and I even knew who to befriend her.  He was an old friend of mine from childhood, who moved to that city long ago but we still kept in touch.  Friendly, outgoing, emphatic and simply a nice guy, I asked him to see if he could look her up and gave him the full story on the event that drove her off so he had some reference.  That wasn’t a great idea in hindsight.

Months more went by, and as the days passed, while I missed the regular notes and her presence, I still did my best to go on.  The first summer was the hardest or so I thought.  When lightning struck, I looked up and closed my eyes trying to imagine her near me, letting the sound of thunder rumble through my body.  I still wrote, but this time it was notes to no one.  And as the notes piled, the amount slowed down to a smaller flow, and then a trickle, and then none.

It was in August that I got a call.  My buddy who I had asked to keep an eye on her was in town.  Considering that I really owed him one, I wanted to hear everything, but more importantly, offer some payback for a favour I never could really ever repay… or so I thought.  So feeling nostalgic, guilty and 100s of other feelings, I met him at le Biftheque for a good ol’ fashion steak dinner.

I always loved that restaurant.  The old classic wood and barn look that hasn’t changed in decades.  The dim lighting and the chuckwagon red and white table clothes.  The fresh bread baking all the time, filling the rooms with the scent of utter joy and pleasure.  And most importantly, the booths, where I walked over to meet him… and HER.  My sins had come to roost.

Awkward really doesn’t even begin to explain the next few hours.  I was stunned, guilty, lovelorn, angry, sad, and probably everything else you could expect.  Honestly, if I had the chance to put my fist through the wall, I probably would have gladly.

As the evening progressed, I barely heard anything they were telling me to bring me up to speed.  Eating was probably the last thing on my mind, but I focused as best I could to ignore the banter… until the last few words.  While he was keeping her company to cheer her up, they fell in love.  And with me as a lesson for the follies of not making a final decision, they decided to get married as soon as possible and flew back to Montreal to ask for my permission.

You know, they say the road to hell is paved in good intentions?  It definately is.  In my “good-ness”, I was the architect of this Titanic, but now looking desperately for that chunk of ice on the horizon to put me out of my misery.  And on they talked, and explained, and then came the special request, an iceberg worthy of this ocean of hell.

“Terry, we want you to be the BEST MAN.”

End of Part Two.

—————

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt. 1

The Days Before Tomorrow, Interlude

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt. 3

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 4 – Those Left Behind

The Days Before Tomorrow, Epilogue and Answers

The Days Before Tomorrow, Afterword

The Days Before Tomorrow … Pt 1

“Well life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
When you think everything’s okay and everything’s going right
And life has a funny way of helping you out when
You think everything’s gone wrong and everything blows up
In your face” – Alanis Morrisette, “Ironic”

”They say when you meet the love of your life, time stops, and that’s true. What they don’t tell you is that when it starts again, it moves extra fast to catch up.” – Ed Bloom, Big Fish

“The magic of our first love is our ignorance that it would never end.” – Unknown

This will definately become a multi-part blog, as it’s a pretty long story.  It’s one that’s probably worthy of a soap opera, and it literally spawns over decades.

It’s a tale never written in full, but it’s time that its told, even in summary.  It’s about a pretty special girl who I will never forget, and in many ways never forgive as well. It’s about love and loss. It’s about passion and fate, pride and stupidity.  It’s about obsession.  It’s about hatred. It’s about the law. It’s about the moral right against the legal right, and how it’s so hard to tell where the line between the two is sometimes. And in the end, it’s simply about a girl, who loved a boy, who loved her back, and how they both lost one another.

But to tell the tale, I have to tell you a bit about how it all started.  Just to let you know, because some people are still around in this whole mess, including 2 innocent kids who I still love so all names have been concealed save mine.

When I first saw her at the community pool, I think I could honestly say that I was just breathless.  It wasn’t one of those teen flashes of “babeocity”, where hormones ran rampant and hearts flew. I was just stunned.  There she was, in her simple 1-piece swimsuit, her smile and that look… that look that turned me into a deaf mute.  Again with the buts though, this was a time when I was young, insecure and painfully shy.  I aspired to be the knight of olde even then, but all I could pretend to be was the new squire to be ordered and ridiculed.

I wasn’t one of the cool crowd back then.  I was the geek, the kid who was nervous and self conscious and jittery.  I was the one who everyone liked, but not necessarily would invite to a night out for a drink and would be far more at home in a basement playing Dungeons and Dragons than watching a football game.  So while I was struck by her, I was equally intimidated by her as well.  It was like a “5” was striving to win a “10”.

So the first few weeks went, with course after course learning how to rescue dive, to perform CPR, use a spinal board and so on.  There I was, longing to know her and being too shy but it took the secret “summer friend” event at the YMCA to change things.

In the day, I was working for the YMCA as a day camp counsellor and then would bike to swim classes.  To promote friendship among the staff, a secret summer friend project was launched, whereas a summer friend would get to do something special for another one secretly based on names picked out a hat.  Simply put, I kinda sucked as a secret summer friend.  With my busy schedule, I kept forgetting to do something special for my “friend.”  But my secret friend rocked!  One day, I went to check my personal mailbox, only to find a bag full of fresh baked cookies!  Pretty jazzed by the gift, I brought it to swim class and lost pretty much all inhibitions and offered them to HER.  The cookies rocked, but what happened right after rocked ME.  She kissed me on the cheek,

From thereon, we were great friends.  We were always sitting together during classes, talking, joking and chatting, working out times to go out together and so on.  It was a glorious summer, and as the weeks passed, my feelings grew ever more.

But as all good things, classes came to an end and I dreaded the time to miss her presence.  With that, I knew I had to take one great chance.  Fortes fortuna juvat.  Fortune Favours the Bold.

It was the day of the final swimming exam where we had to “rescue” each other, take each other out, and perform mouth to mouth.  Everyone walked in ready for the challenge. I walked in not caring at all for that one, as I had a greater challenge in my hands…. a bouquet of roses.  Before class started, I faced her, and quietly gave her the bouquet, and secretly reveled in my glorious action.  I didn’t give her a chance to answer.  I didn’t give her even a word explaining it all.  I just showed her that I really, really cared for her.

The exam went on, and we all performed as expected.  Swimming a few miles in the pool in the different styles.  Diving in one way or another.  Dealing with panicked swimmers.  But then came the mouth to mouth, and it was her turn to rescue me.

Well, here I was, “unconscious” and partially “drowned”, doing my best to pretend to be a swimmer in distress.  I was partnered up with her, and I just really hoped that I didn’t have really bad breath to make her exam unpleasant.  Nope. It was so far completely from unpleasant that she honestly did take my breath away.

It was a typical procedure of course.  Tilt the head.  Check for breathing.  Clear the airway.  Pinch the nose. Take a deep breath.  Cover his mouth with yours.  Begin to secretly give him a french kiss in the middle of a mouth to mouth exam knowing he won’t endanger your mark and hope he doesn’t freak out.

Yes people, that was my first french kiss.  She knew I reveled in flustering her with the roses, so she french kissed me in a very unusual way, and in the one place where she knew I would never run.  Each “kiss” had to be quick and short, but as her tongue touched mine each time, the moments lasted damn near forever.

That was that, the gauntlet was thrown, and we would become close in our own clumsy way.  Over the years to come, she and I would walk together in the morning every day before she would get onto her bus to school.  We were both from different school districts, so I never saw her in the weekdays much.  But we would write to each other day after day, note after note found awaiting the other.  On weekends, she would be with her friends, and I with mine, but still grew close through our words and our rare moments together. And… always, whenever possible, we would sit close, stare into the heavens and watch the lightning and the thunder play their dance in the night skies. 

By the end of that first year, I knew I was in love with her.  And I believed she loved me too.

Fast forward a few years, and as ever, we just couldn’t seem to keep a regular schedule together. We both had other boyfriends, girlfriends, dates and flings, but we always found ourselves together a few months later.  Each time was chaste, honourable and proper.  We loved each other, but weren’t quite sure HOW to love one another.  We both kept ourselves pretty busy and just kept passing one another by like 2 ships in the night.  We were young and stupid, and kept finding barriers to keep each other apart, yet would write to each other like crazy and still find ways to let our words touch the other.

We were now university students, but she was always in many ways far more focused than me.  She had won a full scholarship far away, and I was so proud and happy for her.  But, and again always the but, there was a problem.  She didn’t want to leave.

Was it because she was afraid of leaving Montreal?  Afraid of being alone in a new school?  We spoke, discussed, talked, argued and communicated in every way that was possible over days with the matter going no further ahead.  Her family was concerned, and I was worried beyond belief.  Such opportunities rarely came, and I didn’t want her to miss out on this chance of a lifetime.  And being a typical male, I saw it all in a black and white matter, when she showed me her one overwhelming argument in one burst of communication I never considered…. a kiss.

It was a long, deep kiss, full of longings, hopes and dreams.  It told me everything about her, her heart and what she wanted without saying a word.  I was the reason why she wouldn’t leave. No more… no less.

And with that, I started my plans to do probably the singly most noblest thing I’ve ever done, and probably the stupidest one as well.  I started to conspire with her parents to break her heart and shatter this almost a full relationship for good.  My logic, break her heart and drive her away to school where she can focus and become a great lawyer.  The problem? Logic never really works well in matters of the heart.   And from that moment, a mutual journey began.  It was one that would run over 20 years and tie our lives and several others together in ways that I could have never ever foreseen.

End of Part 1.

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt. 2

The Days Before Tomorrow, Interlude

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt. 3

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 4 – Those Left Behind

The Days Before Tomorrow, Epilogue and Answers

The Days Before Tomorrow, Afterword

Dancing in the Dark… Taiwan Style

Back in the 80s, I was honored by an invite to be a part of the Taiwanese Chinese Youth Corps cultural tour.  Every year, hundreds of up and coming Chinese kids around the world were invited to the island nation to see a little bit of Chinese culture, connect with fellow other kids our own age, and learn a few skills along the way.

Now, I was probably at the height of my “I am Canadian” phase at the time, that is, I tried to see myself as beyond being of Chinese cultural heritage (in general, I’m actually a mutt… but that’s a tale for another day).  Hell, if you asked me if I was Chinese, I probably would have said Quebecois first and foremost.  Yeah, I was definitely what we Chinese call a “banana”, yellow on the outside, white on the inside.  A little concerned, my folks suggested I give my heritage a bit of a break, and try to keep an open mind.

Well, admittedly the trip did change a lot of my impressions and thoughts on being Chinese, but there was an unexpected effect.  While I became more China-centric, I also let my guard down and became a full fledged party guy for a brief sliver of time.  It was pretty inevitable. get 1000 17, 18 and 19 yr old boys and girls and put them on the same campus with no parental supervision?  What do you think happens?

Now, I can tell you about the pub crawls, the late night dinners, sleeping in karaoke clubs, and more… but one particular night will always shine in my mind.

Kiss La Bocca. more affectionately known as just KISS, was probably the very first night club I ever went to.  There, with some beer and my new friends. I was introduced to the electrifying music of New Order, the smooth sensation of a Rum and Coke, the quiet delights of a snuggle in the shadows and the hot action of the dance floor.  It was there where my friends and I would sneak out every other night to relax after a hard day of Chinese language studies and road trips across Taiwan.  And it was there when lil’ evangelical me (back then, I was such a religious kook) had his first… well… I don’t know what to call it moment.

To understand this event, you have to understand that KISS’ layout is basically a dual level nightclub.  On the ground floor is one huge dance floor, with random lights flashing off everywhere.  At one end of the floor, there’s a large stage surrounded by huge speakers.  On the sides, there were bars, tables and chairs and so on.  The upper second floor is more of a huge veranda, surrounding 3 of the 4 sides of the room giving the crowd above a great view of the floor below.  Now that you have an idea of the room, let’s get back to the tale.

So there I was, with my friends and basically going wild on the floor below, when the music switched from techno to a romantic slow song. All of us left the dance floor, but Patricia (wow I miss her) came up to me and asked if I’d like to slow dance, and astonishingly I said yes and we embraced.  The lights shut down, and all that could be seen were couples holding close, fumbling in the dark.

It was… nice.  Her body close against mine, warmth against warmth, heads against each other.  I savored the moment between 2 good friends, and admittedly just the simple pleasure of a cute gal pressed against me.  And then… our eyes adjusted to the darkness.

It was a shock… and then some.     As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I started to see the other couples dancing cheek to cheek.  They were all close and intimate.  They were all in each others’ arms.  They were all men.

My eyes widened.  I closed them again and when they opened again… yep… it was all men.  I whispered to Pat, “Take a look around. Are we in a gay club?”  I couldn’t see her face and see her reaction, but a few seconds later she replied, “I think we are.”

Well, the tender, sweet moment between Pat and I was pretty much lost right there and then.  We started to look around us more in depth, and looked up together at the walkways above.  And again, we were shocked yet once again.  There they were, over a hundred Taiwanese pairs of eyes, all male, all watching Pat and me intensely like a Foodie on a diet staring at a 21 day aged well done Prime Rib.  We held each other tighter and continued to dance, and I asked her, “Are they watching us or just me?”  She replied, “We’re in the middle of a gay club, so I’m pretty sure just you.  I guess your ass has a lot more sex appeal than I thought.”

Remember, I was a bit evangelical and definately a little homophobic then., and if you know me, you know that my friends tend to have a sense of dry wit and humor.  Needless to say, Patricia hit the PERFECT words to freak me out and enjoyed it all the while.  So I did what any young mildly evangelical homophobic kid would do when slow dancing with a hot girl but surrounded by hundreds of gay couples and being watched from above by other men… I took the slow dance lead and lead us off the dance floor all the while Patricia was both mildly amused by my reaction and a little surprised by the whole revelation around us.  In fact, I slow danced us off the floor, didn’t even notice having left it and continued to go on right back to the safety and sanctity of my friends and our tables.

Now this is one of those cultural things that I never could have known about, just like in my previous blog about barber poles (check out The Boy, The Barber Shop and the Talented Hooker to see what I mean).  When I explained the whole event to a Tour coordinator, he spent a few minutes laughing before he could control himself long enough to breathe.  My friends and I went out on a Wednesday night, which to you or me probably wouldn’t have made much difference at all, but makes all the difference to a local Taiwan guy.  You see, Wednesdays seems to be the unofficial night for Taiwanese guys to go to night clubs, to take what they’ve learned from American videos and the past weekend, and to test out their new moves so they could impress their girlfriends on the weekend.  And being an obviously Western crew, we walked in on the one night where each and every one of them would watch and examine us to learn fresh moves from the US of A.  Being the only visitor guy who dared go on the dance floor for a slow dance, they were analyzing every little thing I was doing to see if they could improve their own skills, and thankfully not to check out my Chinese-Canadian ass.  (Thank heavens, I never thought my ass was particularly sexy.)

It was a fun night.  It was an awkward night. It was magic, and comfort, and sexy, and freaky.  And it was a night that was a step on my path to understanding on when to embrace the experience and run with it.  Thanks Patricia and all the crew of the Chien T’an 1989 Taiwan Cultural Youth Tour for memories I’ll never forget.