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Travelling with Christine

She must have taken a fair few of me.
Only got the one picture.

“You mean you never even saw her naked??”

“…no…”

“She was your girlfriend and you never saw her naked? What did you guys do?”

“I don’t know. Kissed? Held hands?”

“That’s adorable.”


Christine was the first girl to actively pursue me sexually in my life. She was also a thirty one year old woman and I, at the time, was seventeen.

This discrepancy in age didn’t bother her because she strongly felt that people should be able to determine their own rules for their own body, even at my age. The discrepancy in age didn’t bother me, because I was a seventeen year old male and holy shit a girl with boobs and a butt.

It was definitely made easier by the fact that she looked about ten years younger than she actually was – everybody mistook her for a 21, 22 year old. She acted like someone might in their undergraduate years – very whimsical, playful, but very intellectual. She would go from making goofy hyper-realistic cat noises to delving into talking about very high concept complex films that my poor 17 year old brain couldn’t even begin to wrap its head around.

She was a very complex, interesting lady that I just did not yet have the tools to begin unlocking. I spent a lot of time in our conversations incredibly confused.


“Quick, over this way.”

Christine loved urban exploration. I thought it was just fancy words for sneaking in and seeing some place where you probably shouldn’t be, which is a pretty apt description of the practice.

“We can get upstairs.”

She would try doors along the hallway to see what was unlocked. We were in some university dorm buildings that had security patrolling. I didn’t understand much Hungarian, but I did understand the signs that said keep out and the security guard at the front we managed to slip by.

“Here, give me a hug.”

I did it slowly, confused. She pulled me in very sharply and buried her face into my shoulder. I finally heard the footsteps she was addressing. They approached from my direction.

I had my eyes closed. I had never had any girl show me this sort of romantic affection before. Out of my mostly-shut eye I saw the security guard look at us, then awkwardly look away and pass us and keep going.

Well. Black Widow was right. (…this film didn’t exist then. XD But you know.)

He had rounded the corner and kept going. She didn’t let go, and neither did I. Hands slipped further around each other and we stayed there for a good while.


It’s funny, she had just broken up with a different guy also named Adam. Or rather, he had done the breaking up with her. She was still rather crushed over it.

I’d just had a breakup too – my first ever, with a high school sweetheart I’d been dating for two years. Dating is what we called it although there wasn’t actually a lot of intimacy involved – there was a really deep friendship, but there wasn’t as much of a spark there.

Her breakup was definitely worse, she had been with him for a long time, I think to the tune of years not months. I didn’t know what that sort of loss felt like yet, but my breakup still felt pretty awful – it was the first, so I’m sure it would have been that bad either way. My girlfriend broke up with me so that her and our mutual could have hot sexy highschool makeouts, which was something my poor brain had a hard time handling.

Not *processing*, I totally understood where it came from, it was a hard time handling on the jealousy side of things. It was my first of several bouts with that beast, and it took me a lot of work to throw off those feelings. I don’t get them so much anymore – every once in a while they rear their head, but it feels like a much more healthy amount of it these days. Jealousy really used to rule a lot of my life.


“Can you hold me in while I take a picture?”

We were on an old wooden roller coaster. This wasn’t actually as blatantly forward of a request to put my hands around her that it sounds like, as this was a broke-ass old wooden coaster that didn’t include cutting-edge features like restraints for your seat.

I held her in. She left her camera in her lap – one of her two – and moved my hands down lower on her torso, and planted them firmly on her hips. She nonchalantly retrieved the camera and started photographing the woodwork on the beams as we flew past them, which she found very pretty.

She spent a lot of time taking pictures, switching between her big SLR and her small digital camera. She was a capital A artist and photography was one of her big passions. She wrote, too – I think writing had something to do with her work, but I honestly can’t remember a lot of those details about her.

She got some perfect shots and during a lull, she put her camera down and rested her hand on my leg as she reached over and smooched me on the cheek.

“Thank you.”


I had been working on my strut.

This is how you get women to notice you, the rich successful sleazebag on the internet told me. Learn how to act with confidence, and it comes down to your walk, your posture, everything.

This made sense to me, so I worked on my posture. Stand up as straight and large as I could. Shoulders fully apart. Don’t hunch. Puff that chest out.

I styled my walk after Vincent McMahon. He owned the WWF which, of course I watched, I was a (mostly) straight teenage boy. His walk was full of exaggerated cockiness, like what you see in someone rich and successful, but inflated to the extreme for television. He flung his arms out in front of him and had a bit of a shake to his head with every step. He generally just walked around like he owned the place.

I adapted my own version of that and consciously told myself to walk around like that. I learned to strut around like the entire world belonged to me. I was a pretty entitled teenager, so it felt very good.


“…why’s that funny?”

About a week into our trip. Someone at the table had told a joke. Everyone was laughing. Christine was legitimately confused.

I carefully explained the joke – being used to her by now, I completely understood that her brain very much didn’t work the same as anyone else’s here. She would also laugh at things that left the rest of our company totally silent. She often lamented that she didn’t find the same things funny as most people.

…I spent a lot of my time thinking Christine was a really weird person. I don’t think I’ll ever really properly know how weird she was.

She was probably pretty weird though.


 

“Do you actually know how old I am?”

It was the last night together. We had found an old abandoned house. There were probably hobos squatting in it, but we were too scared to go in – we were lying intertwined with each other by the side of it. We didn’t want any of our travel companions to know we were doing this – this was an attempt at discretion.

The running joke between us had been that I just had no idea how old she actually was. I’ve always been very good at spacing out on details – someone had told me her age and I’d forgotten.

I think she let me keep forgetting to keep me from being shocked or freaking out at the answer. But, I’d asked my parents the night before, who did know.

“Yeah, you’re thirty one.”

Although I had only just discovered this last night, I did act like I’d known all along.

“You knew? That’s really mean.”

I didn’t understand why.

“It was mean of you not to tell me!”

“Yeah…”

I had asked seriously and she had indeed withheld the information. I think she had felt tricked – something I didn’t realize for its irony until much later. But she didn’t know me well enough to know that my own forgetfulness and ignorance is what caused that, not lying and pretending I don’t know something.

I was never any good at that.


We went travelling with our concert band, which was mostly made up of 50+ and/or retirees, so I wasn’t used to seeing anyone my age. When I went to the band practice leading up to the trip, I noticed a cute younger girl, way closer to my age, practicing with us that wasn’t usually there. I wasn’t the sort to go talk to her, way too shy, but I had perfected the strut. I’ll walk around all confident. Maybe she’ll notice.

This was Christine, and she noticed.

As stupid as I must have looked to most people, she would later tell me that’s why she came up and talked to me once we were in Europe. We were closer in age, and she found my confidence attractive and intimidating. She was… very honest and blunt about things.

She was also very honest and blunt that her breakup had made her needy. She acknowledged how similar she found me to her ex, and that our now nightly evening walks in Vienna, Budapest, and Prague reminded her of what being with him was like.

In almost every conceivable way I was not ready for these interactions with her.


“Let’s go back upstairs.”

We were still outside the rickety old house. We had just spent 45 minutes kissing very passionately, hands grabbing desperately. I had kissed my first girlfriend before, but this was my first real intimate makeout session with anyone. Spending a lot of time growing up as a quite sexually repressed, nerdy, *highly* unpopular kid meant this sort of attention put me in sort of a state of shock. It wasn’t negative – I just didn’t know what to do with the situation.

She led me by the hand back into the hotel. Most people on the trip were paired up into double rooms to save money, but she had paid for her own single room – nobody saw us on the way in. We spent time exchanging email addresses and talking a bit about how the flight home tomorrow would be – and then she kissed me again.

In the brief moments she pulled back, she managed “Either shut the door… or get out.”

I got out.


A lot of my friends… no, not friends. A lot of other of the “cool” guys at my school already bragged about sex, and the girls they’d been with. I felt like 17 was very old to not have had that experience yet. But when the time came when I could have, absolutely, and with someone with many years of experience on me, could have done so, I just walked away.

I’m still proud of myself for leaving her hotel room – that’s just who I was. I suppose I just wasn’t interested in that idea yet. I’m proud not because I resisted some temptation and walked out – the temptation didn’t exist. I’m proud because it didn’t even occur to me to stay in that room and do those things – I had no compulsion to. I had a compulsion for intimacy, and the connection we’d created over such a short 12 day trip, but that’s something else entirely.

She never shamed, or applied too much pressure (this second one is hard to determine through the rose coloured glasses I use to look at my younger years). I never felt those things, which says a lot because I was an impressionable young man – she must have been very gentle about things.


“Pickpocketed we weren’t, today I wash my pants.”

The subject line of her email referenced two themes from our trip – both my fear of losing all my money while out on the streets of a foreign city (inhereted directly from my father), and my disbelief that she spent months without washing the same pair of pants (presumably because she didn’t live with a mother who just frequently did that for her).

I tried so hard to find this email. It was in an old hotmail account which seems to have been long lost. I remember one of the last thing she said to me was in that email, and it read

“I really enjoyed you.”

I would spend years picking apart these interactions. It wasn’t until much later in my life that I’d come to terms with things like interacting with others, and behaviour in relationships, and my sexuality and all sorts of things.

What she taught me was an important lesson in knowing who you are – she sure did, and she thought I did too. I just felt like I was good at acting like it, but over time I got better.


During my time with Christine I had actually told her about this girl I had a crush on, Sarah. She told me to go for it.

I did. I ended dated Sarah for about four and a half years before we split up. It was another wonderful relationship that’s taught me so much about myself and helped me mature really fully into who I am now – Christine is hugely responsible for that.

Years later, I moved to Vancouver. I was still a bit low over breaking up with such a long-time girlfriend, so I found myself poking around on a dating website. Christine used it as well – and she sent me a message.

“My goodness, look at you.”

She lives in Vancouver as well. She, even now, eight years later, listed her age as thirty-four. She was thirty-nine. I wondered what other numbers she had tried to get away with over that time.

We talked a bit. She offered to go for coffee. I legitimately tried to add her on facebook to take her up on that offer, but couldn’t find her. I felt too weird about it and then just let it hang and didn’t reply.


“DUUuuuuUUU. Say it like that. The tone matters.”

It was our long flight home after the trip. I was learning Mandarin. She was showing me that the slant of the accents above the phonetically written words denoted the tone with which you had to pronounce that vowel.

I had quickly switched tickets with one of our friends on the plane so we could have seats together. She was delighted to get to spend a few more hours with me.

Moments before this Mandarin lesson we had just woken up from falling asleep watching Ocean’s Twelve. (I thought I had just been tired. I never fall asleep in movies. I watched this one again a month later and promptly slept through it again.) Her head had been resting on my shoulder.

These shows of affection were all really new to me at the time.

 


 

I’m very glad I never saw her again after that – I’m a strong believer in the philosophy that people have a time in your life, and you have one in theirs, that comes and goes. I don’t think you should struggle to maintain such a connection that is in the process of going. It was what it was, and hopefully, it was great while it was there.

I’ve got a good deal more stories about past relationships of sorts, but they’re all just me as a work in progress. Everything up to this current experience has just been practice. I had all that practice, and then I met the most wonderful woman I’ve ever been with, in the sense that she’s one who’s incredibly good for me, and I her. I’ve never been with someone like this before – I know that this is how it ought to be, but frankly, and as I’m sure you know, it’s a pretty hard thing to come by. And all these stumbles I’ve had along the way have given me the experience to allow me to absolutely crush it this time when it has mattered more than ever.

That’s more valuable than I can ever say, and I owe those fine folks a lot. I really do hope they’ve learned a lot about themselves from me too.

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