The SMITH Diaries Project

In the Beginning, There Was Sober Sex

Thursday, August 10th, 2006

By Ben Kaplan

The girl’s name was Heidi. I was at the Acme bar on New York City?s Great Jones Street checking out my friend’s punk band with a buddy who was visiting from L.A. We were supposed to be going to Europe with money I’d earned from a story about my erectile dysfunction for New York magazine. But this was October 15, 2001, and they weren’t running anything that wasn’t about the Twin Towers attack, especially stuff about a 28-year-old’s dick that didn’t work. I remember standing on my rooftop on Mulberry Street, inhaling the smoke, and feeling pissed off at the writers who were hogging my clips. I had to get out of Manhattan. Montreal seemed like as close to Europe as we could get.

So the singer’s girlfriend told me to call Heidi, and we drank and lost our voices to the show. About halfway through, at the bar over a cigarette, back when this was something in New York you could do, she asked me for the phone number back.

“Don’t call Heidi,” she said. “Call Julie; she’d be perfect for you.”

I had been OK all my life with girls. I usually had something going with someone, but I’d never actually had a relationship. I was never brought home to mom. Ask me my best sexual encounter and I could tell you my five worst. The truth was I’d never even been with a girl without first having five orsix drinks.

It was my first trip to Canada and we hit Montreal hard. My buddy brought x and that first night I used a press contact and scored us free tickets to the Basement Jaxx show. It was that kind of weekend. The girl my friend met was missing some teeth. We went to sleep that night with the sun up but I felt good that next day and I called her, plus scored some coke from Tiny, the Best Western doorman who weighed 200+ pounds.

Julie was no longer living at the number her friend gave me?it turns out the punk singer’s girlfriend lived across the street from her in Toronto and the two had jazz dance together in the sixth grade. But the girl who answered the phone told me where Julie was. My friend and I went to the casino, called Julie, and she and her friend met us, and Tiny, and we all had flaming Dr Pepper shots.

She told me she’d be in a green jacket but her friend arrived in a green jacket so she had an escape plan. Her eyes were alive and she was mischievous. I had more in common with her than with my best friend; it was an energy thing. We went upstairs to the bedroom, not to make out but to sing along with Travis and jump on the bed. We went to a party her lesbian friend was having, then danced to the Beastie Boys at a second-floor club. My friends went back to the Best Western. I went back with Julie and thought I’d be on the couch. I made it into the bedroom. But we didn’t do much more than sleep.

We spent the next day together. She wore a helmet and I borrowed her neighbor’s bike. We climbed a mountain, ate a picnic, and I left my wallet at her house. Then I drunkenly tried to spell “Tsatsaronis,” her last name, to the French-speaking Canadian 411. My buddy and I drove around Montreal that night hoping to find her on the street. Finally she called the hotel. On the morning we would leave, I had the first sober sex experience of my life.

My buddy and I drove back to New York in a rainstorm. I was thinking about what I’d say to Julie when I got home and called her; when I hit my place the phone met me with her ring. My friend went back to L.A., and the next month I went back to Montreal. We fell in love.

After she finished school, she moved in with me in Manhattan. There wasn’t really a plan?it’s just that things were better for both of us than they’d been. She started waiting tables. My story finally came out (and the erectile dysfunction, alas, if I ever really had it, went away). One day we went back to Canada for Greek Easter. Apparently she was Greek-Orthodox and the holiday was quite a big deal. They barbecued goats in her backyard and crossed themselves before eating. We went to midnight masses. I was overdressed.

On her way back to the States on an Amtrak, homeland security discovered she was working illegally in New York. They went through her diary like they were looking for bomb recipes and found out she was serving brunch to gay guys for $28 shifts in Chelsea. They put Julie on a bus for Niagara Falls.

I quit my job at New York magazine, and soon Julie and I picked up and moved to a small village where Julie’s cousin ran an English school on a tobacco farm in rural Greece. For a year, we lived across the street from a church. And when it was time to come home, after traveling, bonding with each other and the kids, America was still off-limits: so we moved to Toronto?right on in with her mom and dad.

I was a 30-year-old American Jewish guy living with my girlfriend’s folks in Toronto. I was making big changes. But the biggest change was still to come.

Up Next: After living in sin for twelve months, the ex-Hebrew school hooligan finally proposes but discovers that, in order to move forward, he'll have to leave something behind.

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