This summer Jerame and I took a day trip to Mt. Vernon. We took the metro to Virginia, rented two bikes, and rode to George Washington's estate to do some sightseeing. Neither of us had ridden a bike since we were teenagers. It was a great adventure and I enjoyed every second of it.
I've already written about our dubious first couple of dates and our differences in style and preferences. This time though, Jerame was having just as much fun as I was. As we rode through the Virginia woods together I looked at him and marveled that we'd made it this far. In October we'll have been together for 13 years.
The fact that we ever went on a first date is practically miraculous. I spent months trying to shake Jerame and his advances; I actively discouraged him, in fact. I wanted nothing to do with him.
The Personal Ad
I lived with my ex, Matt, at the time. We hadn't been together for a couple of years and Matt had moved in with me and the roommate to save money when he returned to town after living elsewhere.
Matt had recently discovered the AOL gay local chats that were the new wave of hooking up at the time. He dove in with gusto, shall we say, but was soon complaining about his dating prospects.
"I'm going on all these dates, but... nothing. No boyfriend," he moaned one night.
By this point, I was tired of hearing about it. Matt has a tendency to be a little willfully blind about personal issues and I was fed up. He had a personal ad up on Love@AOL and apparently that was enough to cover the chat rooms too.
"If you have three 'dates' in one night or you don't get to see a movie because you end up having sex in the parking lot before you get out of the car and then he just drives you home, you're not having dates. You're having hookups," I told Matt. "AOL is about sex. Not love."
Matt insisted that he wasn't hooking up with several random strangers to have sex because he liked it, but instead patiently explained that it was the new way to find a man to marry. Viva la internet! His problem, he insinuated, was that he wasn't meeting any quality men. It was a personal ad, dammit! That said "relationship."
"Anyone can get laid off AOL, Matt." I told him. "Watch. I'll make a personal ad there and we'll just see how many responses I get. Most of them don't even read it; they just cruise the photos."
I sat down at the computer, logged on, and created the dumbest personal ad I could think of. I made up all sorts of silly responses to put in the various questions about yourself and what you're looking for. None of it was even true except for my height, weight, etc. As I finished and it was time to give it a subject line, I looked at Matt and said, "I might as well advertise for what I always get."
I headlined the personal ad with, "Looking for Someone Slightly Freaky." Jerame was the first person to answer.
The Personal Connections
Shortly after Jerame answered the ad, I wrote him back a short note explaining what I'd done and why and flatly told him I had no interest in meeting him. Jerame wrote back and suggested that we at least be friends since he was new to town and lonely. He told me about going to a seedy bar that night and getting sloshed. He was drunk while he wrote his e-mail to me.
I was a personal mess and the last thing I needed in my life was a man to screw it up further. Seeing that my e-mail back to Jerame had only encouraged more contact, I never wrote anyone else who responded (although dozens did). I'd proved my point to Matt - that was enough for me. I didn't even bother responding to Jerame's second e-mail.
Jerame, however, had other plans and when I didn't respond back right away he sent me another note reminding me it had been a week since I'd replied. He was drunk when he wrote it too - and the next e-mail too. Same bar. Same bartender. Same highlights. I come from a family of alcoholics and rarely drink myself. There was no way I was getting involved with a drunk on top of everything else.
For some reason, I kept replying politely to his e-mails. I tried to discourage him by telling him how busy I was, what a mess my life was, and how I was already stuck living with one man I couldn't seem to shake. I sent very clear messages, but Jerame was persistent.
Jerame sent me a photo of himself. At the time those little computer cams took distorted fish eye pictures and it made him look incredibly fat and unattractive. His hair was died blonde in the photo. He assured me it was an old picture, he wasn't blonde, and didn't weigh a million tons. He wasn't a drunk either, he said. He'd just drowned his sorrows in free booze and a bartender's attentions for a week or so.
At the time, I had a stalker who'd found me online. When I'd block him on instant messenger, he'd create a new account and pop through to try and get me to chat. He e-mailed me naked pictures of himself. He peeked in my windows. It was frightening and annoying. He's leave gifts or send cards and e-mails. He started dating my roommate even so he'd have access to the house - and, therefore, me.
When he popped in over instant messenger one day to say, "I hear you've been talking to Jerame. He's delicious. We're old friends and fuckbuddies," I just stopped replying or talking to Jerame at all. If he was friends with the weirdo, he was definitely out of bounds. I was done. Jerame was cut off completely.
Jerame and I had several friends in common even though we'd never met. Jerame's best friend had talked to me before online and at this point the roommate was dating the stalker. His friend shot me an e-mail to tell me Jerame wasn't a dangerous oddball loser, but I took it with a grain of salt. I didn't know the guy that well and Jerame was his best friend; who wouldn't help out their best friend?
One afternoon the roommate came home and told me he'd had dinner with the stalker and Jerame. Jerame seemed nice, he told me. I should give him a chance. I brushed him off. A few hours later I got an instant message from Jerame to tell me about the dinner. He said he'd gone just so my roommate could meet him and see he wasn't a psycho. He said he didn't really want to hang out with the stalker, they were friends from when he was much younger and he'd cut off the friendship when the guy had started stalking him too.
He asked for my phone number so he could explain everything easier. Begrudgingly, I gave it to him. (I found out later that the stalker had already given him a link to my website, my phone number and address, and a couple of naked hookup photos he'd gotten from me by pretending to be someone else. Jerame knew what I looked like naked before I'd even given him my number.)
Once Jerame and I started talking on the phone, I loosened up a little. I tested him as much as possible over a telephone wire. I asked about his background, his friends (especially his relationship to the stalker), his job, everything I could think of that might pose a problem. He asked me to meet in person several times but I always found an excuse to delay. I still wasn't convinced it was a good idea. He sounded nice and normal, but I wasn't taking any chances.
The Personal Meeting
After weeks of phone calls and instant messages, I caved. I agreed to meet him, but it had to be in public. To make it even more difficult, I told him that I'd only have time to meet him before I started work - and my job started at 7am. If he wanted to meet me, I'd see him in the parking lot of my store at 6:30. He overslept and didn't show up.
Later that morning I got an apologetic phone call. He'd overslept thanks to working late the night before and had to rush right to work after he'd woken up. Would I please let him try again the next morning? Thinking he wouldn't show up then either, I agreed to try it again the next day.
Matt worked for me as a cashier, but my office was behind the cash register and I could see out thanks to a one-way mirror. Matt and I set up a code so he could warn me if Jerame showed up this time. If Jerame seemed crazy or ugly or psychotic, Matt would stomp once loudly on the raised ledge behind the register and tell Jerame I'd been called away. If Jerame was cute and seemed normal, Matt would stomp twice instead and then open my office door to tell me I had a visitor so I could check Jerame out for a bit before stepping out to face my admirer.
When Jerame entered the store, Matt knew who he was from his photos. Even though there was a line of people waiting, he started jumping up and down on the hollow ledge - making a ton of noise. He kept it up until Jerame was the only person left in the store as I watched though the one-way mirror. "You're Jerame, right?" Matt asked him.
When Jerame nodded in the affirmative, Matt flew to my office door. He flung the door open and shouted, "Get your ass out here, motherfucker! He's hot!" And he was.
I walked into the parking lot with Jerame and we spent a half hour leaning against his car and chatting before it was time for him to go to work. Very casually and carefully, he asked me on a date before he got in his car to leave. I accepted. After all, he was hot.
Our first date was October 6. My birthday is October 8. The stalker gave me a gift that year; he bought me bilerico.com. I wanted to refuse the gift, but Jerame talked me into accepting it.
Thirteen years later, as I watched Jerame peddle his bike ahead of me on the Virginia trail, I wondered how in the world we ended up together. Apparently his persistence paid off, but I don't mind. He's still hot and his dedication has never wavered.