(Author's Note: upon learning of my trip to the Bay Area, fellow blogger Janelle Renée of Just Thoughts suggested we meet. Having never before met a person I knew only from blogdom, I was a little apprehensive. But I agreed, and we spent Sunday afternoon together. This is my version of what happened. Janelle tells her version here.)
Scene 1: They meet cute.
I rushed out of the shower, vigorously shaking my suitcase- pressed clothes into something comfortable and natural, and dressed quickly. Janelle was prompt and prepared, waiting just outside the apartment complex at 11:15. I make eye contact and feel immediately relaxed. Immersed in gray and green was an assurance that she's not a 43-year-old man, after all.
Scene 2: They make small talk.
"It's good to meet you, Neel."
"You already said that."
Scene 3: They dine.
Janelle swears by Rick and Ann's in Berkeley for breakfast. Being told of the hour-plus wait, I just swore. "Why, you son of a..." I exclaimed. I could tell that Janelle and I had already connected on a mental level, because she instinctively held me back as I tried to punch the host. She's a special woman, I thought.
Scene 4: They drive.
She drives, actually. Janelle whips her Porsche Boxster up the mountain roads, gritting her teeth and loudly mocking the bicyclists through the open windows, as I cling to the door handle for dear life. "I come here to think," she tells me, and I wonder if I can think at all. She laughs maniacally and purses her lips with cryptic intent, perhaps choosing her words carefully. "What you have to understand is that this city can chew you up and spit you out if you're not completely in control. And I'm always in control. Your life already is in my hands, but do you trust me?"
"What?!" I yell over the wind.
"Do you trust me?"
Afraid of the alternative, I muster a loud "Yes" as she screeches to a halt, backs down a steep hill and lands on a hidden lookout.
Scene 5: They share.
We step out of the car and stand on the wooden precipice. Janelle confesses that her blog conveniently leaves out her dangerous side. I'm past brevity at this point and am utterly speechless. I stare ahead at the view from Grizzly Peak, open-mouthed for multiple reasons. She grabs my chin and turns my head to her. "You cannot tell anyone about this." About what, I wonder, but soon realize that her statement was a preamble rather than a recap. She whispers into my ear. I faint.
Scene 6: They recover.
The next half hour is kind of a blur. Janelle rushes me to refreshment in the form of an iced chocolate at Bittersweet, an Oakland cafe. As I nurse my beverage, she asks me if I have any questions. I remain silent and focus on a playful baby at the next table. I can't help but think that I was just as innocent a few hours ago, before we met. Before the drive. Before I knew the truth.
Scene 7: They part.
We return to the apartment where my friends live. Next time Janelle promises the full top-down experience from her convertible, so I can feel the cool onslaught of the wind more directly. I nod, hoping that the added air will help me breathe and limit the revelations in our conversation. Then I start to wonder if there can be a next time. If I can survive feeling that alive again.