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My First Date

From Chris Wayan's journal, 1991/10/20. Not a dream.

I was an anorexic dancer. It's a cliche, I know. But I've almost got the food thing down now. No, that's not a bulemic pun, okay?

But the sex thing--well, I've been unwillingly celibate for years, after escaping a batterer. Terrified I'd get trapped again... but at last I did begin trying to ask women out. For years I failed--too scared and guilty to speak up plainly. After two years I learned to talk. And the women I asked said no. Then one said yes, but she canceled. The next said yes and stood me up. The next asked ME out and stood me up! The next got pneumonia and ended up in the hospital (no lie, either. I visited).

I never went on one date. Not once. Don't date me! The Curse of Chris.

So when I asked Page out, I aimed for something small--a picnic lunch in Golden Gate Park. You can understand why, no matter how hard I tried to think positively, I expected no. Page said yes.

I wondered what would abort the date this time. But I like Page. Anything's possible.

As I started across town toward the park, the sunlight looked dim, sulfurous. Like jaundice. "Am I gonna faint?" I thought for a second. But I'm a native Californian; I know what that color means. Somewhere, thousands of acres are burning. Wildfire.

At Kite Hill I first saw the smoke plume, shooting directly across the Bay, against all the normal winds--a charcoal serpent writhing like a roadkill rattler, straight over the heart of the City. It was dead ahead. So was Page. I drove on, toward my first date.

Climbing Clayton St, I could see Berkeley and Oakland twelve miles away. Red spikes of flame glared and flapped, feeding the black plume. Half the East Bay was burning. I drove on. No catastrophe was going to stop my first date.

The sky turned dark as I passed Mount Olympus and dropped into the Haight-Ashbury. Red sun, undersea hush. All the birds were silent, scared. A weird damp heat, like a greenhouse.

Page was there. My first date.

We walked over to picnic in Golden Gate Park near her house, as we'd planned. The Rhododendron Dell. We sat on a grass slope in a clearing, ringed by old trees. I wondered if they were dry, flammable. We had had a quiet, awkward talk, chaste, with Page putting all the food carefully between us.

And I wondered why I felt so flat, on my first date. I did it. I broke the curse.

As men and women from the eastern hills, burned alive, flung aloft and catapulted across the water by the firestorm's breath, fluttered down, as moth-sized, wobbling ashes, on our food. I brushed their bodies off my sandwich. I ate it.

I'm still having trouble with the dating thing, but I've almost got the food thing down.

LISTS AND LINKS: anorexia - dating - natural disasters - fire - cannibalism - Only in San Francisco - essays and rants - a much later page on Page - tales of the waking world

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