Don Bauder 9:40 p.m., May 21
A Typo of a Peculiar Type (part 1)
Instead of typing “Ashland” into the search engine box (Ashland as in Oregon), I had mistakenly entered “Assland.” This may have been, at that moment, merely a small clerical error, but it would forever alter the course of my existence.
Because I was excruciatingly drunk at the time – the time being 11:58 a.m. (I simply could not endure until the noon hour) – this typo led me to an email-turned-instant messaging exchange with one Bedonna Freedu. Surprisingly, at least in my inebriated state anyhoo, Bedonna Freedu (BeFree, as she likes to be called) actually did live in Ashland, Oregon. The butt of her website’s name, AsslandOregondotcom, referred to the anatomical and sexual fetish that had, according to her, made her a very nice living. Our meeting had been enabled, I told her, when I’d been looking for hotel information for Ashland, and instead had mistyped, ultimately finding myself at her cyber-disposal. Does anyone say cyber anymore?
“It’s that kind of day,” I typed to her. “Wife left me two months ago, mother died not too long before that, now my beloved Darvin has feline leukemia – and he’s not even a cat.”
“Why pay for a hotel?” she asked me a few clicks of small talk later. “You can just stay here with us.”
I assumed that us meant she and her husband, Trey, whom I saw with and without clothes on her anally inclined website. He was a large guy, and not as in fat, as in ripped, like he’d spent a few years in prison lifting weights in the yard all day. He had several piercings on his face, studs and hoops and spikes adorning him like medieval implements of torture. Tattoos marked his body like an alley wall covered in a tangled mess of graffiti. By all appearances, he struck me as more than capable of easily breaking me in half with his pinky. And judging by the size of his sausage, his pinky was probably as big as a fencepost.
“I mean me,” BeFree clarified a moment later. “Stay here with me. My husband moved out weeks ago. You and I are in the same boat, sailor.”
Gulp. She wanted me. I was such a loser, I probably couldn’t even get it up. What’s wrong with you, man? Get a hold of yourself. And I was thin enough at that point, I probably could. But instead…gulp.
“No, I couldn’t impose like that,” I typed in reply to her, my fingers now shaking nervously. “I was looking for a hotel anyway, there’s no reason you still can’t help with that. Which one’s are good?"
Her response arrived promptly. “The Hotel BeFree. I believe in fate. And I’m only wrong when you ask me to pick football winners. And I love football.”
A gridiron girl, too? How could I resist? I couldn’t.
“You wore me down,” I informed her. “I accept. But don’t you want to run a security check on me or something? I could be wanted for larceny, or molesting a ferret.”
“I don’t need background checks, my watchcat will maul you hideously if you try anything. He’s better than a Rotweiller. And by the way, I hate ferrets. If you did harm one, the little phucker probably had it coming.”
And just like that, I had fallen in love.
“But you should send me a photo,” she wrote, a request that concerned me cold. “You don’t have one on your account profile here. And don’t worry, no matter what you look like, I will not back out. I just need a face.”
Uh-oh. If she needed a face, mine was certainly not the one to present her with.
During my minutes of hesitation, she tried to ease my doubts: “I said don’t worry. You need to believe me. Look what I do for a living. Is that the occupation of a discriminator?”
I wanted to believe her, I really did. “You can say all those nice things, but I’m still worried the minute you see me you won’t just change your mind, you’ll change your locks, too. I look like a plain scoop of melting ice cream. Very blah.”
“Relax, I promise. Just send the photo. Come on, you’ve seen plenty of me, to say the least. As for the ice cream, what flavor are you?”
“Pale peach. With no nuts.”
“Mmm, sounds…messed up. Like you.”
I was enchanted. “You’re right. Look, we could just Skype if you want to see me in living motion, and get it all over with right now.”
“No, thank you, I’m still a proper lady, anal specialist or not, and I just want a photo. When I see you moving and talking, I want flesh, not computer screen.”
She wanted flesh. Gulp. But it was true, I had seen more of her already than most married people ever see of each other. On her website’s intro page, she was semi-clothed as a tease, tempting you to pay for more. And a lot of people had, myself included. I’d ponied up five bucks for a seven day membership just to, um, get a better look at her. Thirty-nine years old, her face was lovely and youthful, very cute and sort of mom nextdoorish, with emerald green eyes that truly were like gemstones. Her hair was the color of freshly mined copper, shoulder length and just wavy enough to be said to have, fittingly for her profession, a kink. She was of average build, a tad on the heavy side, with renaissance hips and a showcase derrière, and naturally hanging breasts of beautiful shape and form. Her skin was generally fair but ever so faintly bronze, as if she’d skipped her last few tanning parlor appointments. And on her lower back, just above her bum, was her only tattoo, a huge Eye of Horus (okay, I’m not that smart, I had to Google it), the ancient Egyptian symbol of protection. It spanned almost the entire width of her. When her partners were behind her, the eye gazed up at them like a guard, or a spy, or who knows what they thought looking down at it as they went to town. I’d seen BeFree with men, with women, with both at the same time in various arrangements; I’d seen her with dildos, wine bottles, fruits and vegetables of similar shape and various sizes, I’d even seen her using an anal toy that had a giant horse-tail on its end. The equestrian butt plug was for members who liked “pony play,” she said, adding that it was a fairly lucrative fetish for her. But her bread and butter, mostly butter, was her solo anal act. It seemed she could fit everything but the kitchen sink up there. And perhaps she would someday. We all must have dreams.
“Human sexuality is such a curious circus,” she wrote on her website. “And I consider myself a most curious ringmistress.”
If she’d looked ugly or strung out or rotted in any way, it would’ve been a different story, I understood that, but it didn’t change the fact: I liked this woman, found her more than attractive, and I wasn’t even a butt fanatic. I’m weird, I like noses and ears and well painted toenails.
“Here’s that photo,” I filed back to her, throwing her a curveball, though she had no idea. “If my physical appearance elicits feelings of revulsion or evil, if any instinct in you needs to tell me to forget the entire offer, please do. I promise, however, that I am reasonably well housebroken.”
I could almost feel her looking at my photo through the modem. Then she wrote, “You’re cute. I like the chubby chin, I kind of have a thing for them.”
Very interesting, I thought, but no longer necessary. The curveball I alluded to was that I’d sent a photo of myself fifty-plus pounds heavier than I currently was, which I told her in my next message. “Having your wife and mother leave you will do that to a giant manboy. I should send you a newer pic, but I don’t have any. I could take one with the webcam.”
She replied quickly: “Do not send a new and skinnier photo of yourself! Please.
“I want to be surprised. I want my breath taken away.”
“It’ll probably be my breath you’re more worried about. I chew tobacco and snack on salmon jerky all day.”
“I like ostrich,” she responded, topping my bullshit with her own. “And two things you should know: first, I’m shutting down my site and retiring my bum commercially. Second, I have to take a road trip, and I desperately need a companion. So I may try to convince you.”
“That’s fine,” I responded, unexpectedly assuaged to hear she was closing up her porn shop. “Convince me.” I imagined us cruising old Route 66 together in a convertible, making out under a desert night sky bejeweled with more stars than we’d ever seen.
“By the way, why did you need to come to Ashland?” she asked.
For a moment, I thought I had a reason, but there was no truth to it. “I didn’t need to be anywhere. I just needed to be somewhere else. I started in the A’s and there it was. I guess I need a road trip, too. Two? And now here we are.”
“Here we are.”
I paused, staring at the glow of the screen. A similar glow was probably emanating from me. She was also pausing. Whether she was glowing along with me, I can only wonder.
Finally, I typed back to her. “So, I guess I’ll see you Saturday.”
“You’d better. I have you penciled in as a guest for my internet finale.”
Yikes. I was worried she wanted me to perform on camera. “What kind of guest?”
“Don’t worry,” she reassured me, “You can eat candy in the green room the whole time, you don’t have to do anything. But if you want to …”
Those three dots made me tingle and tangle at the very same time. I do love candy. Of all kinds.
“And bring Darvin,” she added.
“Darvin has the feline leukemia, whatever he actually is.”
I had forgotten my own glib pet fib.
“Oh, right. Sorry to say, Darvin just died. He was a catfish, by the way. Ate some bad breakfast flakes and, with the underlying kitty cancer, his immune system couldn’t survive it. So I’ll have to travel alone.”
“Ultimately, we all do in this life,” she replied, continuing with emphasis by caps. “We ALL do.”
I felt that fluttering in my chest, the one I’ve come to despise (since it’s been about as accurate as a blind target shooter), the heartstruck palpitation that now says “Be restless my diseased heart.”
* * *
The drive on I-5 from Sacramento to Ashland took several hours in my old Nissan Sentra, the little car laboring on the upside of the piney mountain passes, sometimes with an impatient and amphetamized big-rig driver on my bumper flashing his lights, threatening to swallow my miniscule car. As I drove, anxious and uncertain of what awaited me, I hardly noticed the scenery, except for how low Shasta Lake was. The banks were exposed red dirt, thirty feet of it at least, marking the previous high water mark. The entire lake looked like a gargantuan swimming pool in the process of being drained, a sad and surreal sight, much like my own evaporating self. Forget half full or half empty, and which one I considered myself, bone dry was more like the truth. What a drama king, I thought, shut up already, you whining piece of shit. Ah, self hatred, it lingers longer than skunk. When Mount Shasta came into view a few miles ahead, it had less snow on it than I had ever seen. Damn mountain was all but naked, high rocky portions visible as they hadn’t been for decades, maybe longer. Everything was losing weight along with me. Even nature was depressed. Now, once again, I was too. What the hell was I doing driving to Oregon to meet an amateur online porn star who specialized in rectal gymnastics? Could this possibly screw up my divorce settlement? I was getting manic. But the girl was retiring from the up-yer-bum biz, I told myself. She was getting out, going straight, or something. Sure, like you can retire from the internet once you’ve put all that stuff out there. It will live forever. But maybe she doesn’t care.
I began to have the urge to turn around and go home. A few minutes later, I took an offramp when I saw a mini-mart approaching off the highway, where I purchased two tiny airline bottles of Jack Daniels and some bar snacks. Returning to the Sentra, I drank quickly, munching a bag of goldfish crackers and a hunk of string cheese to put something in my stomach with the booze. I sat in the car for more than an hour calming myself, rolling down the window for some fresh air. But the pure mountain oxygen was thick with the stench of fireplace smoke, enough to burn your eyes and sinuses. I looked up and down the small valley running along this stretch of freeway. There seemed to be a hundred plumes of chimney smoke rising from the heavily forested canopy of deep green. It had never smelled this strong any of the several other times I’d traveled through; and I’d certainly seen smoke from fireplaces before, but never so much. Must be the economy, I thought. No one could afford to turn on the heat anymore, so the chimney sweeps rejoiced. If anyone could afford them, that is. Rolling the window back up, no closer to a firm decision, I thought about calling her, just to hear her voice, to get some encouragement, but I’d never heard her voice, except for some dirty talk in a few moaning video clips on her site, and she didn’t want me to call, she’d said so in an email the day after we’d “met.” For the same reason she hadn’t wanted to Skype. She wanted to hear me and see me in person at the same time. Poor girl. I pitied her in a way. Who were we kidding? This was not a story that was going to work out, things like that didn’t happen, I had to get real. This was just as likely to end up a freakshow. Was I really ready for that? I pulled the car out of the parking lot and headed back toward I-5. Pausing at a stop sign, I pondered the other sign in front of me: North right, South left. I thought for long enough that another car pulled behind me and honked. Instinctively, I went with Walt Whitman, the only poem I remember from high school American Lit: I took the direction less traveled. North. To Assland, er, Ashland.
(To be continued...)