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How Pepper and Paprika (Should’ve) Met, First Edition

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So. Pepper and Paprika, the blog that we’ve  been planning to create and not really quite ever getting around to, has finally been birthed from the glorious forehead of the gods, and it’s time for introductions.

I’m Pepper Lee Hales. I’m not nice, but I am fun. I’ve known Paprika for years, and find her witty, pretty and  delightfully bitchy, otherwise known as the trifecta of friend qualities.

Paprika and I will be doing a feature on how we (should’ve) met approximately whenever we feel like it. We will also write about serious and silly things, and run this place like the Dicatrixes we not so secretly are.

Without further ado, the inaugural post:

It was the early ought’s, and I was in (redacted) during that halcyon time in my life when cheap beer with olives in it and black cotton thongs seemed so authentic, yet so glamorous. There was a shitty club called FauxRoux’s (patrons obnoxiously insisted on pronouncing it Fox Rocks, I kid you not) that had Thursday night Clamato and Bud Light specials and free Nacho’s from 7-9. This was during my brief stint as a junior journalist, proofing notices and classifieds.

I was enjoying the nectar of the immortals that is bar nachos when I met the guy we will call P. Now, my general Thursday night ritual was to affect a world-weary slouch in my boatneck white tank top and visible bra straps and quietly observe the lifers and other flora and fauna (middle-aged partiers in matching turquoise suede fringe jackets, AFLAC salespeople with pink drinks and peeling sticky tags, other young poseurs in their corduroy bootcut jeans and drunks in dirty nylon windbreakers) from the corner of the bar. FauxRoux’s would host an open mic on Fridays and pack the rafters with fresh-faced college kids scoring indie cred, but on Thursday’s it was all 70’s power hits and smoke seasoned with other peoples lung crud.

Then P. sauntered in. I say sauntered because that kind of guy never does anything else. Sauntering non-chalantly may as well be his raison d’etra for life. P looked like a refugee from 1995, with long, fluffy, sensitive dude hair, a scraggly chin strap and the kind of vaguely expressive hands that are always on the verge of playing the bongos naked.

I cannot claim that I didn’t know better, even during the olives-in-the-beer epoch of my life. And yet. When he sauntered over and started telling me my aura was incredibly warm and topaz colored, it seemed like an adventure, a lark–after all, how bad could a date with this scruffy, slightly smarmy hip-u-gee be?

He still had a beeper, which should’ve been my first clue that shit was about to get weird. He took me to a tiny, dirty, poorly lit Thai-German fusion restaurant run by a bored white guy and a waitress with the deepest fake tan ever to grace the Midwest.

We shared some bratwurst stuffed spring rolls with a bizarre peanut flavored sauerkraut sauce and he kept grabbing my hand, staring into my eyes with profound though unfocused intent, and running his fingers around my palm in circles whilst saying things like “Your fifth Chakra is emerald, and you are destined to become a Bodhisattva of infinite mercy…” in a strange lisping whisper.

“You know, we’ve been running  a weekly add for a yogi…” I rejoined, balling up my hand and making a silent vow of temperance and chastity that would tragically die at the hands of the devil called Vodka.

Now, you may say to yourself, sure, he sounds a little kooky but not that bad surely?

Just wait.

His pervasive cologne, a mix I imagined as copious Drakkar Noir with grace notes of Patchouli and some kind of musk the source of which I chose not to think about, was soul numbing, and I felt like a deer caught between headlights and uncontrollable giggling. We left the restaurant and went from bar to bar, and I lost personal space with every jello shot, until I found myself staggering up the outside stairs to his cold water flat, conveniently located above a print shop and video rental place.

He mumbled something about destiny and stuck his tongue in my ear as soon as we stumbled through the door. The essence of unwashed dishes and sweaty laundry co-mingled with soy candles in ocean breeze and evergreen fresh as we tripped the drunk fandango (speaking of which, remember the adds with the paper bag people? So funny.) across his rattan rug and  past shiny vinyl bean bags and finally, into the den (there’s really no other word to do it justice)  of P.

It was dim and bizarrely humid. This, I would find was due to an LED fountain in the corner with the Gamelan and brass Buddha. It was one of those plastic affairs that cycles through blue, red and green and develops a calcium scum no matter how clean you keep it.  He lit a candle with a match and a flourish and hastily kicked yesterdays boxers under his rumpled single bed. The glow of a computer with one of those under the sea screen savers bathed his sensitive ponytail in an incredibly unflattering light. A head shop wall hanging fluttered limp and defeated over the window, blue and gold in all its tye dyed celtic knot glory.

The shelves were littered with cast polymer dragons, fake crystals and blown glass mushrooms, and he had tacked a poster of Che Guevara to the ceiling above his bed.

I sat down and drunkenly kicked one clog (shut up, it was only just barely not the nineties) off and into the bamboo bonsai by the door.  He fumbled with a joint, sat down cross-legged, peeled off my sock, and began rubbing my foot against his scraggly chinstrap while making quiet honking noises.

I giggled, probably from a contact high, and fell back onto his hemp sheets, determined to stare down Che, while P tried to seductively run his hand up my unshaved leg.

“Please, oh god please, take off your clothes,” he mumbled with an urgency that hardly seemed warranted. “I just…ohmygod you’re like a Godess…like, like Vesta! I just want to see all of your bountiful gifts…” I giggled at the unfortunate and surely mistaken allusion to the virginal goddess, and with a half kick to his face, stood on the bed and shimmy bounced out of my low-cut Levi’s and french cuff button down (for that touch of class). At which point one of the springs in his obscenely thin mattress snapped.

“Just, just like, sit. I just want to worrrrrship you.” He said, now in a breathy rolling near falsetto.

He had somehow managed to get his ponytail stuck in his ekoostik  hookah t-shirt, and flailed there aimlessly for a full thirty seconds before finally extricating himself and revealing a torso the shape and color of a new potato. I wobbled on the edge of the bed, poking at the sunken spring with my foot and whipping my hair (I had the Jennifer, don’t judge) around for reasons which are now lost to me.

“Eeeeeeecstaaaaaasyyyyyyy” He chanted nasally, fumbling around through his desk drawer and then waving a bottle of what I assume was vegan organic fair trade hemp massage oil aloft in victory.

What followed was one of the worst “massage” experiences I have ever been blessed to have.  I laid on my stomach, and he dumped oil on my tailbone, heels and the backs of my knees. Those, by the way are the only spots which he “massaged.” It reeked like rotting carnations and felt like maple syrup and turpentine. He breathed heavily on me and kept repeating “Kuuuuuundaliiiiiiini you are my goddeeeeeessss” over and over.

I’ll spare my esteemed audience the worst details, but suffice it say it involved a strawberry dental dam which never the less resulted in a wicked yeast infection, some kind of weird nubby condom and the windsock effect. He also squeaked. No, you read that right. Full on hamster squeaking. Also–for the record, Che judges. Oh yes, he judges.

He insisted on awkward cuddling and snoring gently into my hair, and he somehow hid my underwear in the night.

The next morning, I woke up to the smoking wick of a moonlit meadows candle, a wicked hangover and the taste of kool-aid and Roquefort in my mouth.

“Um…hey. Morning” He mumbled, delicately untangling his hair from my remaining earing.

“Yeeeah, I uh, um…There’s a thing…I’ve got to get to…so…”

I kicked around for my clothes and decided that speed being the better part of valor I would go commando for the length of a cab ride home. As I trot-ran out of his hideous flat I caught a moldy whisker encrusted bathroom and terrifying kitchen out of the corner of my eye.

If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably wondering what the hell this has to do with Paprika. Carry on. The rewards are rich.

I was wont to click through the Craigslists rants on slow workdays, back in the days when prostitution was gloriously unfettered, and we  as a nation still hadn’t spent our budget surplus. And in that fertile soil I came upon a glorious shining light, in the form of this post:

“Who the hell ‘massages’ the back of your knees!?! f (redacted).”

It was Paprika. She too had found herself in the mystical fantasy forest of P’s bedroom and succumbed to his dusky eyed charms.

I laughed until the warm glow of admiration and camaraderie replaced my bafflement and hangover, and sent Paprika an e-mail. The rest is the history of our glorious revolution.

Now, just so everyone is clear, that is fiction. That was how I SHOULD’VE met Paprika. Her side of the same story is pending. Enjoy!


About Pepper

Pepper Lee Hales is a twenty something, married, vicious feminist liberal. She likes dogs, cats, spiders, epistemics and cake.

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