Having spent a couple of miserable years in my early 20s living in Portland, I never thought I’d visit the Pacific Northwest again, much less consider moving there. I really, really didn’t like Portland, and while this was less inherently that city’s fault than my own failure to make friends there despite spending most of my time drunk (which had always worked for me in the past, friend-wise), my time there left me with a bad impression of the entire region. Also, the weather sucks. But two months ago, as I was comfortably going about my life in North Carolina, working a boring but steady job, casually dating a couple of people I liked well enough to sleep with but not enough to tell my parents about, and spending most of my nights smoking pot and watching Planet Earth, I received a one-line email that changed everything. I think this is fan mail, it said. You are hilarious. That is all. This wasn’t totally out of the ordinary—it’s not like I can’t hear you over the sound of fans screaming outside my window, but I get this sort of message a couple of times a month. Because I have hard time accepting praise, I usually respond with a thank you and then forget about it. But this message was from someone I recognized from her work in media. I responded with my thanks and, realizing that this was potentially creepy but not giving a shit because I wanted to see her pictures and she lived in Seattle so what was the harm, I friended her on Facebook.
Like most office workers I know, I spend a lot of time fucking around on the Internet and Media Babe’s Facebook became a great distraction while I waited for the clock to hit five every day. Her status updates were clever and amusing and not overly personal or dramatic. She was beautiful, clearly, and with friends who loved her. Her life looked interesting. There she was with Anderson Cooper, and there with Alan Alda, and there with John Waters. There she was skydiving. There she was smoking a cigarette and reading Shel Silverstein. Her dog was cute. Her cat was cute. She was cute. I tried to decipher her sexuality based on likes. There was nothing overtly gay about her Facebook—she wasn’t a fan of HRC or the Seattle Dyke March or Le Tigre—but she sent me fan mail. The only people who send me fan mail are lesbians and men who wish they were lesbians. She must be gay. I decided to reach out to her and to do so as publicly and creepily as possible. Spent my hangover trying to decipher my new Internet crush’s sexuality based on Facebook likes, I status updated one Monday, hoping she would see it and know I was talking about her. She did see it, she did know it was about her, and we started exchanging messages.
We moved from Facebook to G-chat and then to texting. A week after that, we were talking on the phone. A week after that, we were Skyping. Our conversations were easy, as though we were actual friends and not two people who Internet-stalked each other into massive crushes. After a month of G-chatting all day and talking on the phone all night, I had to see her, so I put a $600 plane ticket on my credit card, told my boss my grandmother died, crossed my fingers that Media Babe wouldn’t turn out to be Media Middle-Aged Man, and flew 3000 miles to sleep with a stranger from the Internet.
A note: I am not crazy. Yes, it may sound crazy to fly across the country to sleep with a stranger from the Internet, but I’ve had zero delusions since that time my roommate’s Burning Man boyfriend decided it would be fun to dose the house OJ with LSD. I am also not the sort of socially awkward, anime and/or cat-loving nerd you might imagine would fall for someone from the Internet, and neither is Media Babe, who is both well-adjusted and hot. But it happened. This was different than every one of my previous relationships, which all started with sex first and asking questions later. That wasn’t even an option here. We got to know small bits of each other. We both arrange our books by color and have the same sleep disorder and would think we were fated to meet each other if we believed in that kind of thing, which we don’t.
We talked about my family (weird) and her family (weirder) and about how nice is less important than funny. And she was funny. Really funny. I sent her a t-shirt and a cd and bag full of sand from a trip to the beach; she sent giant silver balloons that said CONGRATULATIONS! to my office, which kind of made me want to kill her but mostly made me want to marry her. Every time my phone rang, I wanted it to be Media Babe, and if it wasn’t her, I told whoever it was all about her. Sometimes it was just a minute, sometimes an hour, sometimes an entire night between texts. I was always expectant in those the moments between contact, which were nothing less than signs, really, that she was thinking about me, right now, this second, both of missing someone we’d never even met. I thought about her constantly, obsessively, in a way that would have disturbed me had she not been feeling the same, but I was in her head as much as she was in mine. So, yes, maybe I was crazy, but at least we were both crazy.
My trip to Seattle wasn’t just to see if we liked each other; it was to see if we liked each other enough to rearrange our lives to be together. Media Babe loves her job and her city, whereas my job gives me sleeping sickness and I started thinking about leaving the South last summer when my air conditioner broke the first weekend it hit 105 degrees. It was a first date with a girl, but it was also a first date with a city. I got there on a Friday afternoon in early November and Media Babe had to work until evening, so I spent my first few hours with a friend from Durham who relocated there last winter. My friend Jax lives in a big house painted a least a dozen colors with her girlfriend and some gay roommates in the Central District. The landlord lives in the basement and the tenants think she may be a witch, or, at least very least, that her late husband’s soul resides in her terrier’s body (apparently the resemblance is uncanny). Jax and I did the exact same thing we used to do together in Durham—sit on her porch, talk shit, and think of get-rich plans. It was good to catch up with my friend, but I was nervous. What if Media Babe didn’t look like her pictures? What if she wasn’t into me? What if she wore UGGs? I needed a drink. We arranged to meet at a bar after Media Babe got off of work, and Jax and I went ahead. We drank $1.75 PBRs (point for Seattle) and I jumped every time the door opened. After an hour of trying to pay attention to Jax while I worried about my hair and if I’d worn the right shoes, there she was, this person who I’d dropped $600 on and killed my grandmother for, standing in front of me. And how was it? It was weird.
Thankfully, it was only weird for a minute. Media Babe got a Jim Beam neat, a couple of Jax’s friends joined us, and we got down to funning. The girl was as funny in 3D as she was on the phone and just her hand brushing against my knee made me understand what my one boyfriend meant by “blue balls.” We hadn’t even kissed by the time we left the bar and got a car back to her house in Capitol Hill, but right after I met her dog and her cat, looked at her books for a second, and said something about liking her art, we were doin’ it. Here’s all I’ll say about the sex because I am both a gentleman and a prude: there are lots of different ways queer women have sex and we’ve all been in situations where the way you like to have sex isn’t the way your date likes to have sex. We like the same sex. A lot.
Although I couldn’t think of a better way to experience Seattle than from a bed in Capitol Hill, Media Babe wanted me to meet some of her friends, so we peeled ourselves out of bed and walked to the most non-sporty sports bar I’ve ever been (point for Seattle). When it comes to cities, I give zero fucks about the art scene or landscape or how awesome the public library is: I judge places based on the people who call it home. Philadelphia, for instance, is one of my favorite cities: half the people there carry Mace and the other half probably should and the only cultural thing I’ve ever done in Philly is go to a Polish karaoke bar where you can still smoke inside, but I love it because everyone I know there is both fun and slutty. I don’t know how slutty Media Babe’s friends are, but they were definitely fun and they seemed to love her. When Media Babe and I first started talking about seeing each other, I got three of my friends to write letters of recommendation to assure her that I’m not a nutbag and that I didn’t Photoshop my face on a teenaged gymnast's body. Now that I was there, I could get references for her in person. The conversation went like this:
Me: Is she crazy?
Friend: No. She is the best. Plus, look at her.
I looked at her. We were still only hours into our four-day first date so it was a little soon to tell if she was crazy, but the girl was gorgeous and exactly my type. My friends would tell you that my type is straight girls, but it’s more accurate to say that my type is girls who look straight but are gay as a locker room circle jerk. That was her. Straight on the streets but gay in the sheets. Actually, she wasn’t quite straight in the streets. Neither of us are usually the most PDA-indulgent, but we spent a lot of time publicly displaying our boners for each other despite valiant efforts at self-restraint. Brunch was us gazing at each other from across the table, her hand on my knee, my foot against her leg. Happy hour at a gay bar was us grossing out all the men who think vaginas are meant for surrogate baby delivery and nothing else. It was hard to be dignified when the clock was ticking. We only had four days, after all.
We did some things on our four-day first date, though nothing Seattle is famous for. No Space Needle or Pike Place Market or shooting heroin in the gutter. We went to the University District for a minute and ate some food and saw a park or two. We watched My So-Called Life and talked to her dog and slept like koala bears. Mostly, we laughed. Media Babe’s friend was right: she is the best. She is beautiful and hilarious and interested in the world. We talked about our imaginary future together, and it’s a future I want. I don’t know about Seattle—the weather really is terrible and let’s be real, I didn’t see much of the city—but I do know about the girl. We found each other in the weirdest, most embarrassing way possible, but even if “meeting-on-the-Internet” isn’t as romantic as “reaching-for-the-same-copy-of-Rilke,” as I sat on the plane home after nearly 96 hours of being as close to each other as prison inmates, I missed her already. I missed her perfect neck and her fantastic ass and her eyes that are sometimes green and always bright. But mostly I missed her hand on my knee, her skin against mine, the physical evidence that this is real. Two months and 3000 miles after that first email, I found my person. So I’ll see you again, Seattle. Maybe not forever, but at least for a second date.
Find Katie online at katieherzog.org