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What 27 Really Feels Like

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27, in my rough estimate, is the oldest I have ever been. And of course, I am freaking out about it and think that I am a super old hag from the Winnie Witch series of 1987.

See, when I was in high school, people in their twenties were seen as ancient. Like dinosaurs! I remember telling a classmate who was 18 then, “you’re dating a 21 year old?! God, he’s too old!” And then I became the 21 year old who thought that 21 is young and whoever was 24 was too old. I thought that when I reached 24, I’ll be at a ripe age where everything is peachy perfect and established, and secure. I had these thoughts that my 24 year old self will be fierce, compose, sophisticated, and beautiful down to the T. Alas, that was three years ago. Of course now I cringe when I think about the fact that I considered 24 to be an old age because I’m trapped inside the body of a 27 year old woman who is living an adult life yet far from the fierce, compose, sophisticated, and beautiful down to the T that I thought 24 or 27 will be.

So, how does 27 really feel? Let me break it down to you gently.

It feels like you’re a teenager but better because you don’t get grounded if you come home late. Heck, no one will say a word even if you don’t come home, because what you’re coming home to is an empty apartment. 27 feels like you’re 21 only with more money. There’s also the fact that you’ve figured out how to make $50 last you a week. Most of your savings go to travels or wine and cheese. You know, things that big people do and buy these days. It also feels like 24, but with less drama and more emotional balance. Gone are the days when a broken heart can leave you lying dead on your bathroom floor. Hallelujah, now you don’t have the urge to throw emo shit tantrums and start writing heartache poems in screaming red bold letters.

27 also feels like for once, you’re totally in control, and totally out of control of everything at the same time. It’s all about the decisions you make and the choices you take. It’s your choice to lose yourself over that whole family-size pizza, and your choice to feel miserable the morning after. You know it’s a terrible, terrible idea, and you swear you’re never doing it again, but you know you’re going to repeat the same mistake at one point or another and you’re absolutely fine with that because what the fuck? You’re 27!

27 is the age when you realize that sleep is a luxury. Before, you used to post statuses on facebook about how it’s 3:00am and you’re just coming home with your drunk ass from a wicked-ass party, but now, you’re totally smashing being in bed at 8:30, and you’re not even complaining about it!

One of your biggest investments at this age is books. A trip to the bookstore can mean four novels in one purchase for those early night ins.

27 is also that age when you start realizing that all your friends who are getting married and having babies must be unicorns. I mean, there’s no other explanation about it. Like, seriously, how do they do it? They have got to be from planet lalala or something. It doesn’t help that every other weekend is a wedding or an engagement, or a baby shower. And you are left scratching your head wondering what is an appropriate gift for the occasion.

27 makes you feel old because all of a sudden, you find it inappropriate to listen to Akon or 50 Cent. And you raise an eye brow to anyone of the same age who still listens to Akon and 50 Cent. Yes, 27 can be very judgmental.

27 also makes you feel ridiculous shopping at Forever 21. You don’t want to be caught by anyone you know sneaking in at Forever 21, but you just can’t stop yourself. You have to go and get that lacey dress!

You can also have these emotional outbursts and dwell on your existential crisis one minute, and then find yourself feeling absolutely calm and ready to conquer the world the next. It’s like feeling super old yet feeling extra young. I don’t know about you, but 27 can be really bipolar sometimes. Now, 27 can feel like all of these things, or none of these things. As for me, I feel like 27 is the new 23, and I have another nine months to rock it!

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Chapter 27: Why moving on is like going to rehab

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Why moving on is like going to rehab

According to that Whitney Houston single, broken hearts go to an empty place. I disagree. I think broken hearts go to Broken Hearts Ville for rehab. Whenever my heart gets broken, I go through intensive counseling. Sometimes on my own, like when Amr left me and I caved in. I didn’t want to talk about it. Not to anyone. Not even to Lucy or Alaa because doing so would mean that my judgment was wrong when I told them that this is really it. But there are times when moving on was a lot easier because I confided with my friends. We would discuss it, and digest it until we reach the root of the problem. What was the cause and effect? They would ask, and they would just listen until I’ve poured my heart and lungs out and address the toxins. After a while, they would evaluate my behavior and then give me a recommendation.

“Jennifer, you’re still distracted, Jennifer you’re still not with us!” And when Lucy and Alaa says that, it means I’m still suffering from the-ex-boyfriend-at-the-time-titis. My friends can easily tell when a certain person can still trigger a certain emotion or behavior, and they would recommend that a different moving-on program be applied.

I would then be subjected to choose from different therapy options. There is the You Know Better Now Therapy which develops cognition. It helps a broken heart recognize and cope with situations in which my broken heart is most likely to relapse. There is the You Have To Talk To Your Dad Therapy, which is designed to support the healing of a broken heart by improving communication with the family. There is Motivational Interviewing too, which is a fancier word for pep talk. And then there are Motivational Incentives Crap, which tells the broken heart that it will find a good one if it stays away from the bad ones.

There is no one size fits all treatment. Different treatments work for different causes of my broken heart. When I was moving on from Nicco, I used the You Know Better Now Therapy. When it was with Karam, I started talking to my dad about it because he used to have an affair too, and as bizarre as it sounds, it actually got us more closer. We could talk openly about it and that was really something. (Dad, I hope you’re not reading this!) With Xavier, I just needed pep talk and accept that he wasn’t a good match for me. Different men, different approaches, but all therapies required two things: committment and time. A broken heart must commit enough time to heal in order to effectively cure the scars. Medical treatment should never include xanax or adderall. It can have caffeine and the occasional meltdowns, but certainly not crystal meth or silver cleaner.

Healing my broken heart would mean I have to subject myself to a detox program too. This is that crucial process where traces of delusion and everything related to x is removed. Ex boyfriend, ex lover, sex! The detox process varies from heart to heart. It involves how long the relationship was, the intensity of that guy, and how dependent I was to that person. According to the Hearts National Library of Being Dumped and Moving On, most withdrawal symptoms can occur within 6 hours after last contact.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

Extreme depression that the only place I want to be in is my bed

Issues with concentration that I called in sick for a few days because the only place I want to be in is my bed

Decreased appetite that I can’t even go to the kitchen because the only place I want to be in is my bed.

Severe fatigue which is bizarre because I didn’t do anything except stay on my bed

Agitation which is why I asked a reliable mate to run over an ex’s foot with a car

Runny nose from too much crying

Inability to sleep from too much thinking

Nausea because what the fuck?

Diarrhea because what the fuck!

Rapid heart rate because it feels like the end of the world.

Troubled breathing because it really feels like the end of the world.

Headaches after reading and re-reading all sms-es with I love yous and whatnot and only seeing lies

Hallucinations that your ex will come knocking on your door professing his love and whatnot

Heart attack!

Once my heart is detoxed from the ex, it will move on to the rehabilitation portion of the recovery process. This is where my broken heart learns and realizes the core reasons behind the end of the relationships. I’d start addressing and recognizing certain issues and effectively move on without the excess baggage or without going back to a downward spiral. This is the part of the program where I would finally stop blaming myself and making excuses for my ex. This is when I could start acknowledging that I’m more than good enough and that I fought a good fight.

At this point my broken heart is able to identify triggers and red flags. It has a reference point for next time it decides to flirt again or go out on a first date with a new guy.

Group therapy is highly suggested during rehab. Girls night outs are the most popular choices. These group sessions allow my healing heart to recover with other hearts who had been in the same situation. It’s just comforting to know that I’m not alone in my struggles.

After my broken heart completed its rehabilitation program, a lifelong recovery follows. Some breakups were easier than others. After Nicco and Xavier, I felt enlightened and light and free after a short while. Other times, it was difficult and took a lot longer.

After I started moving on, I’d join the Sushi Sunday Group, or the Thursday Salseras, or that Friday movie night club. They were always there as my support group. They’re always making sure that I avoid relapse, and that I’m not out of Broken Hearts Ville just looking for another rebound.

I hope I don’t ever have to go back to Broken Hearts Ville again, but I’m happy to start a support group. Maybe I’d call it the FUCK Him Monday Group. (For U Can Kick Him, you silly!)

A book about the guys who poofed (chapter 20, rough draft)

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NICCOLO

Do you know why I always wake up every other morning at 8am even though I don’t have to start work until 3 in the afternoon? It’s because I like having the gym to myself. I monopolize it in the mornings. There might be a lot of uncertainties in my life, but if there is one thing I could definitely be sure about, it is that there would be no one in the gym except me at that specific time. No one would look at me, no one would pester me, and I won’t have any competition to the only cross fitness trainer that they have. So, imagine how appalled I was when I saw you there. With my trainer. At 8 in the freaking morning! Well, I could have said something but you were good looking.

You barely spoke english, and you don’t know any arabic word except for habibi. Usually, I would think that you’re stupid for coming to Egypt to build sites when you couldn’t speak anything else other than italian. Talking to you was so painful I kept fantasizing I would get struck by a lightning just so your little attempts at hitting on me could end already and I could go back to my training. But you were handsome and I let you get away with it. You had the most delicious, fudge brownie eyes and the longest eye lashes that curl up when you laughed. Your hair was long and had soft wavy twirls. You had this cute, tall nose that would crunch up when you’re thinking deeply of an english word. That happens every ten seconds by the way.

You puzzled me, Nicco. I don’t know how you managed to flirt with me in one hour without even speaking. I mean, you spoke, but it’s all gibberish. I might as well be talking to a toddler. I guess action does speak louder than words, ‘eh?

“I. Cairo day one only. Habibi. Tomorrow. Work go one year.” You said and I just stared at you like you were someone or something from Mars. A very good looking creature from Mars.

“Italy yesterday bye bye. Today hello Cairo. Work one year.” You said trying again.

“Oh. OK.” I said, hoping that I understood your message right.

I thought you were adorable trying so hard to make sense out of probably 50 english words that you know. I gave you A+ for the effort. And my number too. We spent the next few days talking on the phone. I wasn’t really sure you can consider  what?, huh?, hmmm?, OK?, and repeat again an actual conversation, but that’s how we talked. Actually, we laughed more than we spoke. I think we laughed a lot because it was a lot easier to do. Two weeks later, I found myself already speaking in your language. And by your language, I didn’t mean italian!

“You dinner eat, habibi?” You asked.

“No dinner eat.” I answered.

“I you girlfriend me, habibi.” You said.

I didn’t say anything.

“Habibi, you sleep?”

“No,” I answered.

“I want you girlfriend me, habibi. You understand?”

“I no understand.” I lied.

“You girlfriend me, habibi. I boyfriend you. OK?”

“OK,” and that’s how we got official.

I have a boyfriend! I have a fucking italian boyfriend! I told my friends about you and they all scratched their heads.

 

* * *

“Why would you want to have a boyfriend like that?” They all sang in chorus. I think they were just jealous.

“Because he wants to be with me? And because he’s not Egyptian which means I can have a normal relationship?” I told them sourly because they weren’t being supportive.

“It’s not normal. You guys can’t even talk to each other.” They teased.

But they were wrong, Nicco. They were wrong. We’re normal and we were having a normal relationship. We would go to the gym together. We would have brunches together. We went out during weekends. We watched Dumb and Dumber dubbed in Italian and subtitled in english on your laptop. And we cuddled and kissed and tickled each other and laughed like any normal couples did. It was a normal thing to do–to laugh when you are being tickled! My friends were just being hyper judgmental.

 

* * *

 

On the way to a salsa party one evening, my best friend, Ashraf, asked me why I was doing this. 

“Why am I doing what?” I asked him and shot him a deadly look.

This. You and Nicco. Are you that desperate? You know it’s not going to work out.” Ashraf said sounding really convinced of his own theory.

“You said it’s going to work. I’m just following your advice.” I told him.

“What advice?!” He asked as he pushed the pedal brakes so hard it almost sent me flying out of the dashboard.

Look, Ashraf is my best friend. He knows everything, like everything. Like, basically, everything written in this book. And everything that is not written in this book. He’s my shrink. At least that’s how I refer to him. And he is also the most pragmatic, realistic person I ever know. He calculates the success rate of any relationship based on statistics, and he is usually 92% accurate (based on a pretty patronizing percentage that he gave to himself.) On his last calculation, he said that my success rate to a happy relationship is 64% higher if I date foreign men than egyptian men. Same background, same field of experience, same concept of relationship, you know, the works! And I just followed his advice. Nicco is cute, he’s Italian, he’s an expat like me, and he’s here in Cairo and he likes me! Check! Check! Check! Nicco fits the category!

“Jennifer, your success rate at happiness in dating foreign men is 64% higher if and only if he speaks english!” He said really slowly hoping that doing so would make the numbers sink in to me.

“OK. So what is my success rate with Nicco now?” I asked, and Ashraf does his mental math for what seemed like forever.

He looked at me straight in the eye and said with a voice full of conviction, “3.1416%.”

“That’s unfair! You just gave me the equivalent of pi!

“Seriously, why are you doing this? You know it’s not going to work out.”

“I don’t know that, Ash Ash. If it works out then khalas! I’m happy, and if it doesn’t work out, khalas! It’s an experience. Dating a guy who I barely understood? It sounds like a love-conquers-all kind of story. Very romantic. It could be a material for my next novel, who knows?”

“You’re hopeless.”

 

* * *

 

It was a long weekend which meant you and I were finally going to have sex. God, I waited for this moment. We sucked at communicating. My idea of a perfect day is sushi followed by quality watermelon flavored shisha. Your idea of a perfect day? Watching football Italia. I read Yann Martel and John Green. You subscribed to For Men magazine. I love Al Pacino movies. You love Will Smith movies dubbed in italian. I love dancing salsa, you have two left feet. I grew up watching The Simpsons, then South Park, then Futurama. You think the most brilliant show on TV is Sponge Bob dubbed in italian. My idea of a simple dinner is a kofta wrap or felafel sandwich at the least. Your idea of simple dinner? Chipsy. Or microwavable popcorn. Fine, so we liked different things. So, we’re two completely different people, but opposites attract, hence the idiom, right? We balance each other. Yeah! That’s what we do! We might suck at everything else, but man, we will have great sex! Hardcore, tiring, over-extended hot, sizzling sex!

But it was the most silent sex I ever had in my life. No headboards were broken. There was no screaming, no moaning. Nothing. Our hardcore, tiring, over-extended hot, sizzling sex lasted two minutes, Nicco. Two. Fucking. Minutes.

Total radio silence.

 

* * *

 

As much as I hate to admit this, Ash Ash was right. Nicco and I had 3.1416% chance. Maybe even less. Our relationship ended not because we sucked at everything together. Obviously, it was a big part of the equation, but all of those factors can be worked on if we tried. With a little practice, he could get better at speaking english. If I started taking a language course, I could learn italian in a few months. The sex? It’s something that we can improve through time, or do I just sound like someone who is highly optimistic? What is difficult to work on, however, is trust and honesty. A few days after we had sex, Nicco sent me an sms that was meant to be for someone else.

“Marwa habibi. U girfren me. I boyfren u. OK? mwah mwah <3”

And that was it. It was a weird break up period. Usually, after a relationship ended, I would have to stock my freezer with at least three gallons of ice cream to last my mourning period of at least five days. I wouldn’t be getting out of bed for days and I would just be crying, either on my bed or on the bathroom floor. Well, sometimes the kitchen floor works too. I usually obsess on my exes too, like I follow them virtually more than an FBI agent could. But with Nicco, in particular, there was no need to cry or mourn, or move on. It was as if nothing happened, and I wasn’t being in denial about it.

Maybe deep down I did know that it wasn’t going to work out. Maybe it was because all I really cared about is being part of a normal relationship. It didn’t matter who I was going to be with. As long as it was normal, as long as I felt wanted, and that the feelings were reciprocated, it was fine. Truth is, I was in love with the idea of falling in love more than the actual person involved. I love love more than I loved Nicco. But at least now I know that the next time I would fall in love, it would be for the right reason. It would be because I fell head over heels for that person and not just the idea of that person. With everything that had gone wrong with Nicco, I was right about two things: 1.) he is an experience, and certainly 2.) a good material to write about. But the best thing about that break up? I got my gym time back!

 

A book about the guys who poofed (Chapter 18, rough draft)

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AMR

I started seeing you in November. It had only been two months since Hussein broke up with me. But everything was peachy and fantastic. It was a new relationship and I was excited all over again. I felt jumpy and giddy inside and wanted to do cartwheels on the outside because my heart was too small to contain all of this love. Being in love? I’ve been there, done that! I could recognize that feeling from a mile away. But, with you, it felt as though I was falling in love for the very first time.

SCRATCH THAT!

I’m not really sure how to start with you. You were Hussein’s twin brother. We met while I was still dating Hussein, and we used to hang out in big groups. You went with us and a couple of our friends to Marina for a short holiday. I was in love with your brother and had no inkling that six months after your brother introduced you to me, we would be screwing each other. I always saw you as just the brother of the guy I was in love with, until you became the guy that I love who just happened to be the twin brother of the guy that I used to love. I know, this is so sick and I wish I could just call it fiction for your sake and mine.

Long story short, Hussein broke up with me and I obsessed on him like I obsess with How I Met Your Mother. I would call you to find out where Hussein is, what he’s doing, who he’s with, and whether or not he’s still seeing that bitch. We went out a few times after the break up, and of course, like any twisted, poorly directed, low-budgeted film, we fell in love and had a lot of sex. Fast forward to three months later, you were gone. Like you never existed. Like we never had sex. That left me lying on my bathroom floor for days. You were the guy that everyone warned me about, Amr. You were bad news! You were high sometimes, you were drunk sometimes, but you were both high and drunk most of the time, in the morning, in the afternoon, and more so at night. You were damaged and I thought I could fix you. I thought you just needed someone to love you, and that if I love you, you would change and become better.

Although what we had didn’t last for too long, it still hurt nonetheless. You took my pride and self-respect with you when you left. And I was broken more than I was before you found me. We exhausted each other. We fought more and slept less. We argued about small things, big things, and everything else in between. Why didn’t you pick up the phone? You don’t miss me enough! Who are you with? Why are you at salsa? You don’t love me! You don’t have time for me! You always go to salsa! No, you’re the one who don’t have time for me. You have always go out with your friends! What time are you coming home? You didn’t call back! Are you hiding something from me? You’re lying! Are you going behind my back? All our silly and stupid fights? They’re called silly and stupid for a reason. We weren’t ready for each other, we weren’t right for each other, and yet I wanted you back. I was a fool in love. Or maybe I was just a fool. Period. 

Writing about you and your brother today and looking back on what used to be make me feel strange, foolish, and old. I mean, I’m here sitting in my room trying to feel the pain that you and your twin caused me so that I could have a dramatic finish to a dramatic chapter. It’s a hard thing to do two years later. The brooding, lonely days had long been over. I can hear your names, and smell the exact same fragrant on another guy and it will no longer shoot a big whammy. All the crippling sensations are gone. I can think of your faces, imagine you kissing and holding hands with whoever took my place and the rush of jealousy combined with bitterness doesn’t come. I can look back at every single detail, and remember even the littlest moments and there is no more tightening in my chest. Everything–the songs, objects, and places that I have associated with you–that I kept myself distance from–is finally mine again. I have everything back!

The scars don’t make me wince anymore. Your ghost and Hussein’s shadow stopped haunting me a long time ago. All the photographs had been deleted, letters had been burnt. There is no more proof that both of you existed. That I loved you both, one after the other. That there used to be a we, and that I saw it happening with my very own two eyes. Right after you left, I remember wanting to fully understand what went wrong between us. I never found out actually, but it’s not a big deal anymore. It’s not even anything. Wounds heal, people move on, things are forgotten. I don’t love you anymore. I don’t love Hussein anymore. And I certainly don’t want any of you back. I don’t miss anything from what we had. But I do miss certain feelings, sometimes. 

However, what I don’t miss is being that 24 year old woman who loved two brothers like a 16 year old girl. Damn, thinking of how I used to be when I was with Hussein up to the time that you and I were canoodling on my couch? It makes me really cringe. It makes me nauseous. How I acted, how I thought that that was love, how I was convinced that I know how to love, I’m mortified! I was overly dramatic, swallowed in emptiness and pain, desperate in my grave attempts of winning you guys back. I was insane! I wanted you to know how much you ruined me, I wanted my feelings to be validated, I wanted you to feel regret and despair, but I no longer want any of that, I don’t feel like that anymore–somehow, a light bulb had been switched and that girl is just unrecognizable to me right now. Was I really that person? Yes. And now, all I want is to be swallowed up by an open crack. But you and your brother were something that had to happen so I could learn what love is and what it is not, so I could differentiate between love and sexual desire. So that I would know what is healthy and what is lethal. So I would learn what I will and will not accept. So that I would know what it is that I want out of a relationship, and so that I can be with someone whose definition of relationship is the same as mine. It all seems too clear and obvious now, but I didn’t know any of these in the beginning, and neither did you.

A book about the guys who poofed (chapter 12, rough draft)

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TURKISH GUY

After my fall out with Clayton, I shared my bed with a fair amount of guys. Now, this is not about all the one night stands I’ve had since then. This is not about them. This is about you.

Who the hell are you? Seriously. I mean, I literally don’t know. I can remember the exact date and time I sent you running half naked out of my room. It was the morning just before my birthday. And I’m sure you were out before 9 o’clock. I could even remember that I invited you to come to Lava Gold where my friends and I would be celebrating my 23rd. So, we slept together and I couldn’t remember your name. Do you have any idea how frustrating that is for me? Usually, I would remember some pretty amusing details. The tone of voice–low, smoky, rough, dead sexy. The color of the eye–chalk grey, green with touches of brown, blue with a goldish ring in the center, deep black. I’d remember who started undressing who. Whether it was boxers or briefs or commando. The belt and whether or not it matched with the jeans. The number of attempts before my bra was unhooked. Thickness of chest hair, thickness of hair down there, facial hair and hair everywhere else. No, I don’t have any fascination with hair whatsoever, and that’s really gross! I just happen to have a good, graphic memory. I could close my eyes and be reminded of the scent–musky, old spice, aftershave, sandalwood, fruity, or fresh. The position. And the sex of course. I would remember if it was mind-blowing, or sloppy, or slapstick, or so-so. I would always have a Pandora’s box of snippets in my head that would remind me of the night before. I’m so good and awesome at remembering. And I would remember it all. But not with you. Not even your fucking name.

I’ve been juggling my mind for the last hour and nothing. Not even a letter. Is it Mehmet? Or Erkan? Or Gorkem with that funny-looking ‘o’? I’m desperate. I even googled the top 100 names for turkish men just so I could revive a distant recollection. I thought that reading 100 names would bring you a lot closer to me, but all I got was that fleeting feeling from the night before.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I would take full responsibility of my actions, Turkish Guy. But I would still blame my friends all the same. They told me that I should get laid before my birthday, as if having sex with you before my birthday would later serve me a greater purpose in life. Only now did I realize that my friends were really drunk last night. They must have been listening to Jeremih’s hit single in repeat. And they took the song to heart. Birthday sex, right? Don’t take this personally, Turkish Guy. It didn’t necessarily have to be with you, but you just happened to be there, at the same club, and at the same happy hour.

There was more to it than just my friends ribbing me to catch your attention. I was also in the middle of my three-month backpacking trip around South East Asia feeling this inherent pressure to be young and wild and free. I mean, traveling is the ultimate set up for personal growth, life experience, adventure, and casual sex, right?

It was a technicality. It was given, and easy, and there would be no hang-ups the morning after. We both knew what it was from the very beginning. You and I both knew that there’d be nothing good about it except, fingers crossed, sex. That was all there was. It’s great that we signed this invisible contract to stop bullshitting each other and save ourselves from falling into an allusion that maybe, just maybe, we could start to hang out and see each other regularly like normal people who met in an orthodox way do. We had no expectations, no obligations whatever. We didn’t have to agree not to see each other tomorrow. We knew that that’s exactly what’s going to happen. You would be out of the door. And you wouldn’t be coming back. Not even if you left your wallet. There would be no spooning, no cuddling, no holding hands or any act of false intimacy that would equate to weirdness. We didn’t have to pretend that we were interested in each other’s personal lives. We just wanted to get in each other’s pants and that’s what it was. Simple. Clear cut. No strings attached.

What I learned is that there is an openness that usually happens when someone travels to foreign countries. It’s like a switch had been turned on. The shy becomes the social butterfly, and the lamb is transformed to the lion. I had become more fearless and daring in trying new things during this time. I was in a place where I could be anything and anyone I wanted to be. I could have told you that I’m Vietnamese and you would have believed it. I could have told you that my name is Patrice, and you would have bought it. I could have said that I’m a molecular biologist and you wouldn’t dare question it. I was a clean slate. I was a blank canvass. I was whoever I willed you to think I was. I was a new person and everything else around me was new–the people, the food, the culture, the friends that I met at the hostels, the men! It felt like I was this living, breathing testament of that stupid idiom “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” Flirting with that brawny Malaysian guy? What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas! Kissing that random drunk Irish guy in Phuket? What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas! Fuck-buddying that yummy surfer dude in Bali? What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas! I was invincible! I was indestructible! No one would know what craziness I got up my sleeves. Unless I post it on facebook. Which, of course, I didn’t.

You were so in Vegas that you wouldn’t have happened in East Lansing, or in Manila, or in Cairo where I am living right now. You were a result, just like the rest of the other results, of my being obsessed with wanderlust. The only disadvantage playing this whole what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas thing was that you managed to sneak into my luggage on my flight back to Manila. The slightest wind could pull the trigger. I could be walking on a shopping center and smell the same cologne, and all of a sudden what happens in Vegas stays in this shopping center. I could be having sushi for dinner and see a guy with the same haircut, and all of a sudden what happens in Vegas stays in this Japanese restaurant.

So, here’s what really went down between us: you were attractive, toned and fit. I liked the shape of your nose and the grayness that you had in your eyes. I was fuck drunk with my friends at a table, and you were fuck drunk by yourself at the bar in that pretentious, meat market club in Khao San Road. Despite my alcohol level at the time, I still noticed that you were staring at me, like intently. It was the kind that made me feel like you were sizing me up and stripping me naked in your filthy, little mind. Look, let me just put it out there. A creepy looking guy stares at me relentlessly and it would be, at best, awkward, and at worst, insulting. But a hot male piece of ass… well! I decided that the best approach was to glare back. Guys don’t capitalize the staring business, after all. So I looked at you for who knows how long until you finally came over and said hi. That ended our mini game of tug of war and we both knew I was the victor! We didn’t need to speak much after that, we just let the alcohol do the rest. Your hand immediately went cruising up and down my spine and man! That felt really good.

But I did think that you have some serious issues because during the taxi ride back to my hotel room, I invited you to come to my birthday party and you said you didn’t have the money. I wasn’t sure if you were asking me to give you money, or you were telling me that you don’t have the money to buy me a present. To this day, I’d like to think it was just too much alcohol plus your perfect grasp and command of the English language. Right there and then, I wanted to take you back to that club where I met you because we were talking about your financial status. One night stands can’t have a money issue! They can have a penis and an open mind and a body but not this. Damn it, who’d be paying for the taxi?

My alarm woke me up at 8:30 and I remembered that I had an organized trip to see the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew at 9. But I realized that my self-worth and value had gone missing. I must have dropped it at that hookup joint when we were wet-kissing. I looked at your naked, sleeping body next to mine, which looked really edible last night, but now just looked like a grotesque chunk of rotten goat cheese. I thought I was gonna get sick. I felt nauseous just seeing you sprawled on my bed like that. I nudged you with my elbow and told you that the police were coming. That got you out of the door in, like, two seconds.

I spent the rest of that day (the day exactly before my birthday) feeling an all time low. I was demoralized by my own doing. I was shattered into little, sharp splinters and was left scattered all over the place. I was filled with this feeling of emptiness. In the end, I guess it really didn’t matter whether or not I remembered your name. Because it wouldn’t make a difference. No, it wouldn’t. You would still be that random dude that I slept with. You would still be that random guy at that sleazy club that seemed like a good idea at that time, but now seemed like an ultimate mistake. If anything, you were a number–an addition to a list of guys who poofed. However, sleeping with you, Turkish Guy, and being reminded later that I couldn’t remember your name made me realize that I shouldn’t be sleeping with people without context and substance. And that ultimately, I should just stop sleeping with anyone who will make feel terrible and awful and disconnected and left alone afterwards.