Friday, July 31, 2015

The Time I Saved Someone's Life

But it was a girl's life. Does that still count?

I went to Hong Kong for the summer program of my junior year. Hong Kong is the best city in the world but I can't really pinpoint why. It's like the future at 15,000 degrees. It's like living on the sun but really enjoying it because you are at the centre of everything. It's like when Kate Hudson's character in Almost Famous says "It's all happening" and it all really is. You don't feel that FOMO stress, but it's replaced by everything other kind of stress. Mostly heat exhaustion stress. The sun rose and set and the temperature never changed. It poured rain and blew a gale and the temperature did not change. There was an actual typhoon and the temperature never changed. The public payphones had touch screens and this was 15 years ago. Local calls were free, but I didn't know anyone.

The planes took off and then landed, the buses loaded and 24 hours later we were in our dorms in Hong Kong, across from a hospital, overlooking a cemetery. In our rooms there was an air conditioner attached to the wall. You fed it some coins and minutes later the room was colder than a meat locker. I returned to my room damp from a shower and nearly had a seizure. I only did that once. In the communal kitchen there was a spout which only produced boiling hot water. It was supposed to be used for tea, but I didn't get it and ended up burning my mouth. I only did that once, too.

The group broke up into cool kids and uncool kids and a whole faction of actual Chinese kids turned on their futuristic cell phones, hired cabs and loaded their expensive luggage back to their parents homes to live in splendor, never to be seen again outside class or the coolest dance clubs on the top floors of the most luxurious hotels. Oddly, for the second activity they needed white girls. Cool clubs like to have a steady complement of white women in Hong Kong. It's totally racist.

I am an uncool kid, but I like it better that way because I got the best, nicest roommate and the cool kids were always insulting each other. They had bad habits like overeating and overspending and promiscuity. One girl slept with a guy probably because he said he was pre-med (he wasn't) and then would lay in the bed while he phoned his girlfriend back home and listen to their conversation. They were kind of gross. But they weren't all so desperate. I remember one girl got drunk on Pabst Blue Ribbon (which is all they sold at the 7-Eleven) and gave me a really long speech about how I was "the driver of [my] own bus". I listened carefully and when she was satisfied I had fully absorbed her teaching, she rewarded me with a sesame seed ice cream cone. It was the Hong Kong equivalent of a soft serve vanilla cone, but it was the most beautiful light grey colour - although somewhat off-putting as food. 

However, cool girls are always a pain in the ass. They wear too much make up during the day and complain about everything and never shut up. One of the cool girls was named Quinn. I had never heard that name before but it fits my theory that your coolness is in direct proportion to the sexiness of your name. Like a boy named Jesse or a girl named Bianca, they are doomed to peak in high school. But this was university and the social experiment was entering new territory.

Quinn was a bitch to me, an Everybitch if you will; an public example of a private social agreement that it was okay to abuse me. Stand a group of Everybitches together against a wall and they will all look and behave like any old bitch. They are indiscernible, they are interchangeable. My experience with an Everybitch is going to be identical to your experience with one. 

Quinn started attacking me for – of all things – using chopsticks to eat Chinese food in Hong Kong. She was digging deep. So I avoided her. The problem, like most problems with girls, probably stemmed from jealousy. I was thinner than her, I was thinner than most people, I was almost as thin as all the Asian girls we had come with and sweating out my soul everyday just accelerated this process. And thin girls win. They win at everything. They win all the time. They win without trying. I knew it. She knew it. Everyone knew it. (God, I miss being thin!).

So Quinn railed on like the castrating harpy she was growing up to be and I ignored her. And that was that.

Or so I thought.

One of the many attractions in Hong Kong is the aquarium. It's far away, on a separate island, I think, and did I mention the day we went it was very hot? It was glaringly hot, like somehow this little island on the surface of the ocean was closer to the sun or lacked an ozone layer, or both. We ducked into the indoor exhibits, dark enclosures with glass bowls that sank down four stories filled with exotic oversized sea creatures, staring; then we would return to the cursed outside, panting and drenched. It was the kind of heat that radiates off a metal door before you touch it, like a silent fire is burning on the other side.

Someone mentioned a butterfly exhibit and when I tried to look in the distance my vision wavered and blurred, just for a moment, then returned to normal. I felt fine, great even!, but the reptilian part of my brain knew that this was too much and that I did not have long to live. It was going to take me 30 minutes to walk out of the park to an air-conditioned cab anyway, so I better start now. I said my good-byes to my group, making them promise to take pictures at the butterfly exhibit and started my slow trek up and down the outdoor escalators that hilly Hong Kong has everywhere and uses to move people. I had never seen an escalator outside and it was still a novelty. They even play relaxing music like an old-timey elevator.

Because the Chinese are an efficient people, I had to exit via the gift shop. It was open air but still air-conditioned – a unique subtropical paradox that I have always appreciated. It's so wasteful and luxurious to allow bought air to escape like elegance trumps cost. Hell, yes, let this always be so! I roamed around the aisles enjoying the cool air and eyeing the taxi stand, waiting for one to pull up before I rushed out so I could maximize my comfort. I consider myself efficient too.

At which point, I stumbled upon Quinn.

Well, I stumbled upon a crumpled person, collapsed in the corner of an aisle, breathing heavily. Her skin was waxy yellow and her eyes were not focusing in any one place, but rolling around in her head like a horse caught in a barn fire. When faced with a mean girl, my first instinct is to run away but she managed to focus on me and mumbled something about could I bring her a plastic bag? I moved to the cashier, got a plastic bag and Quinn heaved a metric tonne of vomit directly into it the moment I handed it to her. I couldn't figure out what her problem was, or why the employees of the gift shop had not tried to help her before, because she had obviously been there for a while. Could they tell she was a bitch without even talking to her? Where they that efficient?

She was embarrassed, obviously, but that shot of adrenaline did not make her feel any better. I thought she was having an asthma attack but no… I thought briefly she was drunk or high but no… She looked at me with pleading eyes.
Can you get me a cab?
This was a normal request but she seemed hesitant. She needed to be sure the cab was at the taxi stand before she would get up.
Yes, I said looking over, it's there.
Are you sure?
Yes, yes, more than one, I said in exasperation.
She got up and walked unsteadily out of the gift shop, then suddenly stopping and rocking forward and back at the very edge of the cool air, like she would die if the sun touched her.
Make sure he will take me back to the dorm, she said.
Yes, I said. I'm going there too. I had never seen a cab refuse a customer and I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to refuse us both.
She suddenly looked at me with new eyes. The dominoes were falling to place in her addled mind: I had been going somewhere myself, I hadn't just showed up to help her. 

Holy shit, was she selfish. Maybe her family still employed her nanny?

She got in the cab and spoke Chinese to the man in a clipped, Everybitch tone; or maybe that's the way its supposed to sound. Placing her hand on her forehead and her other hand on her stomach she moaned slightly.
What's wrong with you? I asked.
Heat, she muttered. It's the heat.

She was very weak by the time we got to the door and whether she needed help or was interested in being seen as a victim, she leaned dramatically on me and I took the elevator up to her room. She flopped on her bed with the Chinese housemother hot on our heels screaming at Quinn to explain what was wrong. (Maybe she wasn't screaming but that is just how it sounded. One morning I had looked out the window expecting two women to be killing each other but the sound I had heard was just two cleaning ladies greeting each other warmly.) Quinn spoke a few words and the woman returned shortly with some broken crackers in her hand and bottles of water. Quinn took the water but refused the crackers. I sat on her roommates bed and picked up a magazine.

Quinn was asleep in less than a minute and room went quiet. The housemother roomed the hall making sad, worried noises and periodically returned to try and interest Quinn in the broken crackers but Quinn was unconscious and she eventually went away. I sat in that room for an hour or more, reading the magazine. Suddenly Quinn rolled over, probably attracted by the sound of flipping pages and her eyes flew open.
What are you doing here? You can go! You don’t have to stay!

Well, thanks princess.

The force of her words tired her out and she collapsed back down and closed her eyes. The mystery was solved, she would rather die than be gracious. Classic Everybitch.
Really, she said quietly, the gravity of the situation sinking in, You can go
I smiled at her relentless bossiness, kept reading and she was asleep again just as quickly. Thirty minutes later the housemother returned with a fresh box of (unbroken) crackers and some more water.

A quiet bedroom is incredibly relaxing, especially when it is uncomfortably warm and I stayed a while longer reading some strange Chinese tabloid about tiny doll-like actresses I wasn't familiar with. But then I finally got up and returned to my room, just as the group from the aquarium was returning. They were soaked in perspiration and miserable. I asked if they had any pictures of the butterfly exhibit but they shook their heads, somewhat sheepishly.

We had to leave early, it was too hot.

Oh, I said.

In the days and weeks that followed, I never really saw Quinn that much. She was deflated, smaller. When I did, she would suddenly start shouting to the group at large, THIS GIRL SAVED MY LIFE. SHE STAYED WITH ME WHEN SHE DIDN'T HAVE TO. Even her positive comments sounded bitchy, like I was a little fool. What was unspoken but glaringly evident in her tone was the fact that she would never have done that for me.


I am writing this story, not to brag about my superhuman kindness but to provide evidence to the Universe that rather than being 1Up on saving lives, I am merely even and the reason is this:

When I was old enough to swim on my own but too young to understand most things, I walked onto a crowded pool deck during a very busy fun swim on a hot day and noticed a small boy lying on the bottom of the pool. His eyes were closed and he had tiny bubbles around his nose. He was surrounded on all sides by bouncing hyperactive children, however, no one but me was looking at him. I walked by him, uncomprehending, and slowly entered the pool in the shallow end with all the other kids I was with. No sooner had I done this than the whistles began to blow and the pool was cleared. I remember being locked back up in the change room with all the other confused kids and I know that it took years and years for me to put the pieces together. In fact, someone had to explain it to me very slowly when I was in my mid-20s and it has taken another 10 years for me to process it.

I remember how he was lying there, like a trick, how he was right next to the wall, how he was in the shallow end. I remember he was new and that his parents had trusted the system, the lifeguards, to look after him, and how misguided that was in retrospect and how that must have destroyed them. My imagination re-created a situation where he must have swallowed water and become overwhelmed. He must have flailed around, mimicking the little psychos bouncing around him and been duly ignored. He must have been scared. I wonder did it hurt.

A little boy died that day and whether it was denial or sheer stupidity, I looked right at it and did not say a thing. I didn't even know what I was looking at and I was absolutely not responsible but it still feels awful.

Quinn was a bitch - the Quinns of the World will always be Everybitches - but the alternative to helping her will always be unacceptable.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Baby's First Gang Bang

After he left in a huff, I was relieved. The pool outside was heated but too crowded and the night air was too crisp. I was already sensitive and decided to get into the hot tub. Across from me a raven-haired amazon in a tiny spangled bikini was enjoying the company of several men. She was a scientific marvel, a genetically perfect female surgically modified to bend time and space around her. He teeth were blindingly white, her body deeply tanned, her thick hair inky black, her eyes intensified with blue contacts, her limbs long with soft skin and enormous breasts that perfectly matched the curve of her hips.

I was surprised when she spoke to me. She said: 
Do we have the same toe nail polish?, without moving her body and staring straight into my eyes. 
Hot pink I replied. Let me see yours… I stupidly tried to peer into the bubbling water. She was already distracted and made to stand up, one of her companions was performing his "dance of passion" with a beach towel. When he finished I declared myself sufficiently passionate. She turned to me again "You look like a girl I went to high school with… again distracted… I knew this was a line, a sly excuse to talk to me, but why? "Where did you go to high school? I ventured, just to show I was an active listener. She glanced at me and frowned "Lake Simcoe..?" For a split second it sounded like the truth. "That is beautiful country I murmured.
"Do you want to hang out for a bit?" she said very fast. It came out douwantohangoutforabit 
Sure! I said. I had no idea what she meant. She got out of the hot tub slowly drying herself with a fresh towel that a man had just gotten for himself. She literally just took it from him. I sat paralyzed. What was I doing?
"She needs a towel too" she pouted at the naked man and he jumped to get me a towel too. I thanked him and she led me upstairs.
Where are we going? I asked.
I just want to hang out for a bit she repeated impatiently.
She tried to find a private room but none were available. We sat on a bench in an empty corner and she asked if it was okay to snuggle. She entwined her legs through mine and linked arms. Her body was unbelievably warm, like a furnace, and soft.
Have you always been this beautiful I asked.
This question both pleased her ego and took her by surprise, she actually gave it some thought.
"Perhaps…" she said slowly. "I have always loved really small boobs", she gushed.
I stared down at my natural chest and marveled at the boldness of this backhanded compliment. 

I feel for you, fellas, I really do.

In a picture-based dating system, we are all designed to fail. You want a sweet girl but you also want a pretty one, believing that sexual attraction is built in the moment and not – as science confirms – built over time in emotionally-stable attachments. So you pick the girl you want to have sex with, slog through "dates" where you never ask the right questions and then finally get her undressed only to discover that in addition to wild sex, she just scratched your car in a jealous rage and then called the cops claiming domestic assault. Even though you were arrested - but not convicted! - it will cost you that promotion at work, if not your whole job. And she maxed out your cards, so in addition to the legal fees, you are now in debt. You poor thing! You are the same guy who pleads "please be sane!" on his dating profile in the arrogant belief that "sanity" is the opposite of "sociopathy".

Or maybe you are already married. And you are looking for "more sex" outside of your "passionless marriage", ironically, a situation you "don't want to change". Again, I feel for you. I am devastated that the woman you married no longer wants to bang you. I am truly interested in why you think that is the case. If you want to tell me, I will listen without judgment, mostly because I am terrified that if I don’t, the same thing will eventually happen to me.

If I have any advice, it is this: Read the profile, meet the person once, remove physical attraction from the equation and give yourself permission to ask all the right questions. And don't choose the young gal with the really hot picture. She's too fast for you.

While I remain flattered when you add me as a Favorite, please know that it will never prompt me to send you a message. You are going to have express interest the old-fashioned way: by complimenting my tits and shouting at me to "SMILE" from across the street.

It took over a month of planning. She wanted it, then she didn't want it, then she was sure she wanted it. Through it all he was patient and kind, funny and accommodating. She was paralyzed with fright right up until the moment she met them. Downstairs; a descent into hell, or an old time movie theatre. It was dark. The hot summer sun was blinding and the darkness was seedy.  It was a world of caustic extremes.

It was difficult to pin down where they were from. They spoke one language but claimed to be from somewhere else and held passports in different scripts. They were clever and quick, unbelievably heavy drinkers. They had expensive bridge work on bad teeth and when they smiled the eyes went dark and a chill rolled through your heart and you knew what it was like to be eaten by a shark. They were sociopaths but, man, they were fun!

As soon as they were alone, one of them began talking about how his friend would consider her a whore for what she was doing, but that she shouldn't worry, because she would never meet him. It takes some serious balls to call a girl a whore before you fuck her. This was the type of guys they were.

The corporate world is a new invention. So new, in fact, that we haven’t worked out all the kinks. Let me back up a step and frame this for you. Never before in 100,000 years of the human history have males and females of different family groups worked in confined spaces for all of their waking hours. It’s completely unnatural for all involved. Being subjected to fluorescent light is also completely unnatural. It’s a science experiment that has gotten out of hand. I never forget this as I am working and it helps me understand the behavior of my fellow lab rats.

The worst part of the corporate world is the dreaded “work function”. This is will be an event (usually in December) where the year’s numbers are calculated and prizes are awarded. Drinks will be served and people will do the unmentionable: they will talk about a subject outside of work. Now, if you are meeting a stranger, you keep the conversation fairly clean and benign. If you are talking to friend, you let loose. If you are talking to a work colleague during the day, you are wise to keep you comments referential to work. But being in a social gathering with people you work with is a very strange heterotopia that has its own set of etiquette and protocols that are rarely discussed and often overstepped.

Take for example, last night’s event. As I was congratulating the largest producer I looked over to see an elegantly dressed woman stuffing a scarf down her top to make her breasts appear larger. Certainly she had every man’s attention in the room. This was probably the goal. Not to be outdone, the woman who had breast implants was prompted to tell her truth in exquisite detail. 
Were they worth it? a man asked, meaning money. 
You tell me, she shot back with a flirtatious smile, meaning sex. 

My grandmother was the first person to speak to me about money. She gave me a small allowance and encouraged me to save. I remember the moment clearly even now. We were standing at the bus stop and she handed me a single dollar coin. She said, "If you save a small amount from every dollar you get," her voice trailed off and she shook her head in wonder, …" you will be very rich, indeed."

Banks are modern cathedrals, cast in glass and steel. When I was a child I enjoyed the marble counters of our local bank branch, I wanted to be the one to fill out deposit slips and clip coupons. I wanted to be a teller but my mother encouraged me to aim a little higher. She noted that all the tellers were women and all the managers were men. I couldn't fault her logic.

Something strange was happening. The room was becoming filled with silent men, standing perfectly still and staring straight at us. 
First one, then three, then a dozen. 
They stared relentlessly and one sat down and began to discreetly masturbate while watching us talk. I stared back. Their desire for her was magnified 1000x and terrifying.
This must be what it’s like to be a celebrity, I commented. 
As a solid unspeaking mass, they moved still closer.
Is it really bothering you she asked. Wait here and I will see if a private room is available.
I was now alone. The silence and the large eyes were deafening.
"There is really nothing to see here, you guys" I stammered. Some of them wanted to believe me.
She bounced back into the room stark naked. it wasn't any different then when she had been wearing the bikini.
We have a private room! She whooped, grabbing me by the hand and dragging me away, the men in my wake. We entered a curtained area and she drew them closed behind us. She dimmed the light and began to wipe down the soft surfaces with a hand towel.
Why did you bring me here? I asked.
With liquid grace, she curled up in a ball and gently bit one of her fingernails looking at me with big eyes, a practiced pose that no doubt drove her men wild but left me unmoved. 
"I want to please you… I will be really careful with my fingernails" by way of explanation splaying her tanned fingers to show hot-pink press-on nails, awkwardly applied. It took me a minute to grasp her meaning. 
"Ok" I said. But I've never done this before…
oooohhhhhh she purred and performed the cat maneuver again. It was beginning to look silly.

All of that must have been the foreplay, because it wasn't any different than if a guy did it.

Buffy did not mind having sex with her brother. Well, not her brother, really. He was technically just her half-brother, she rationalized, as if that made it any better. No, she didn’t mind doing it, what she really minded was that everyone knew.
She thought back and could not remember how many times they had to move, how many different homes she had gotten just right only to have to pack all of her belongings (and a considerable amount of junk, if she was honest) and move again. She and her brother-husband leaned toward the “hoarding” side of accumulation if she was being totally honest. Whole rooms with microwaves on rickety chairs and large screen TVs pinned to walls with no furniture. She was lucky no one had called the fire department. 
But that’s because she had a secret weapon; to look at her modest little home, you would think she was living the American Dream. The outside was neat a as pin, if a little chintzy. Her fences was perfectly straight with just the right amount of plastic lawn furniture. Bright little annuals poked their heads out in spring. There was a barbeque cover (Go Leafs Go!) in winter twinkled under fairy lights. Requisite Halloween and Easter decorations on the in-between. You could mark your calendar by her door wreath, so regular was she; but it all belied a rather sickening interior. Inside there was silence and mess.
She couldn’t help it, things just accumulated after Labour Day.

There was always so much stuff in the back seat of her car, always so much to carry back and forth and it all made her feel so busy and important. It was almost worthwhile. She never really gave any thought to her appearance these days. She would have her hair cut in a straight line, wash and leave the house with it wet. She had no where to go so she wore sweat pants all the time. This made her invisible to the opposite sex, almost. She was tall and thin to begin with, quite a figure if she did say so herself, but it had only attracted the most vile of men, and her mother had been so jealous, so angry all the time with any attention that Buffy received. So she had retreated behind a wall of shapeless jersey and a curtain of mousy not-quite-any-colour hair, remaining silent, not rocking the boat. But Buffy secretly wanted to be in charge. She was also finding new projects for herself. She wanted to plant flowers and cut down tress. She didn’t like trees, they way they loomed in the sky. How, in winter, they lost all their leaves, what a nuisance! She would prefer to cut down all the trees ...

Growing up, the family next door espoused to be evangelical Christians. Well, one of them was; the mother. She was so passionate about her religion that she talked about it to everyone she could. It was odd because she was the least virtuous woman I ever met. She helped people to satisfy her own vanity and never missed an opportunity to take revenge. She changed allegiances as quickly as a politician and preached hellfire and brimstone at every turn. She was so narrow-minded that she was constantly enraged. I think when people lock themselves into isolating views, they block the flow of universal energy that is supposed to move through them. Given her castrating nature, it must have been difficult to fuck her. So no one was surprised when the husband had a brief flirtation with a woman at work. He said to his wife, 
It doesn’t matter where you get your appetite, as long as you eat at home”. 

It was clear pretty quick that they didn't know what they were doing. They bragged that they had done this many times before – they had a picture to prove it - but they were inhibited in small but important ways by the presence of the other. They didn't touch her or speak to her. They called it sex but mostly they just wanted their dicks sucked. There is so much desperation surrounding an unsucked dick, it provokes the maximum amount of pity and compassion. After a period of time she had to ask them to have sex with her. They complied silently, like being asked to solve a skill-testing question.

It wasn't that it was bad, it was just so beige. The logistics were confusing, different than what she had anticipated. Neither one stayed in a position long enough for her to feel anything. It was a blur. One had a thick accent and his instructions were almost comical. He shouted "Stand up!" when he merely meant "kneel". He indicated a switch with furtive hand gestures and small whistles. He was trying to be polite while clearly not giving a shit. It was like something out of Kafka. But he cared about his friend and that was endearing. The other was eager to please and fully engaged. She wished she was alone with him. There was a thick current of the unspoken, in a place where thinking should have been obliterated. It was a drag. She was disappointed.

You see, he whispered hoarsely, good things happen when you’re good. I gasped with pleasure. He was stretching and opening a place that had not been touched in a long time. He saw what he had done and it was good, he felt how wet I was and he was pleased. And I was pleased. It was a self-organizing feedback loop.

He was in a rush. He ordered a drink, made a couple of toasts (It's all about respect, he declared with a knowing look) made a couple of faces when anyone else spoke and then cut off their conversation with an order. He marched them down the hall and when it was over he raced out of there, practically dragging them behind him. He was talking about possible routes home before the door had shut.

Are you finish? He asked in broken English. 
Yes, she said.
He wasn't a fool, he knew better
Finish, finish, he asked again, looking at her with meaning
Yes, she said
He eyed her carefully, an unbeliever.
Do your legs hurt? He asked, unsure. His ego hoping she was honest.
But it begs the question, if he knew what to look for, why did he not make sure it happened?

The next day they tried to hack into my Twitter account.
It's all about respect

The married man keeps emailing me. I keep putting him off with lies that I have a boyfriend, that I don't want to be disloyal. None of this works. I have him book a hotel room only to cancel at the last minute to infuriate him. It only makes him try harder. I ask for money. He refuses but still keeps trying. 
I tell him I am pregnant.
I never hear from him again.

When I see him, I literally run away.
This only makes him angry.
He brings me to a sad post-third-divorce apartment. 
He ties me to the king-sized bed and fills all my wet holes.
I have my first full body orgasm, screaming.
I am 35 years old.

Tyrone is agitated, laughing, talking, moving, in his expensive exquisitely tailored suits, his ever increasing collection of matching Hermes ties and brightly patterned socks. Today it is a paper-white shirt with a fushcia rose tie and retina-burning socks, a gift to himself for his birthday yesterday, just visible below the hem of his knife-creased pants and above his black leather shoes, shined to a rich Chinese lacquer. Most of his conversations begin with “Did you see gold today?” Tyrone has the hairless, flawless body of a Ken doll and tailors his suits within an inch of their capacity. He often works past quitting time, technically this is frowned upon by management, and uses upwards of four expensive coffees to serve his mania. In addition to his double work load, he is trading in his own account and following his ever enlarging universe of risky penny stocks in the corner of his computer, eliciting shouts and sighs as his fortunes rise and fall. He uses the frat house sex approach to investing: in, out, in, out, in, out. When his energy finally wanes, say around 7pm, he will hit the local bar and spend his money on whisky and ..., well, you get the idea. He has been known to vomit in his own wastebasket in the morning.

On the weekends Tyrone dons a pair of faded overalls and works on his large garden, growing vegetables of admirable size. This was so out of character that his co-workers initially did not believe him and demanded pictures. He explained away their astonishment by advising that he was a Gemini and as such he had two distinct lives, but only one personality, fortunately. At the tender age of 25, Tyrone owns his own house in a respectable neighbourhood. When I ask him if women at the bar treat him differently when they learn about his house, he blushes behind his rimless glasses to his perfect collar and stammers … yes.


Out of all them, he was the only one to contact her the following day. It was so sweet and uncommon – so full of basic human decency that her heart burst. She took her own photo if it, a record. If they had met under different circumstances, she surely would have responded.