Friday: Together at Last

Star: This has been a collaborative effort between Artful and myself. A meeting that was two years in the making.  Our little excursion together took place during July 16-19, just in time for the Animethon. Here's a chronicle of our misadventures over course of four days.  But we've got to start at the beginning. Starting Friday afternoon I had my two friends Becker and Cindy with me. After a lot of hectic last minute planning, we were on a bus together and actually on our way to the hotel. I had briefed them on our relationship and I told them how I felt about your visit; basically, they were "oooh"ing and "awww"ing at the cute things I said. The moment of truth came when we actually were in the hotel and at the front desk. I was quite worried that we had come too late, or even too early. I was worried that you were still lost in the city and we had to stick to the schedule I had worked out, and this and that... I was a bundle of nerves. I even put on my best politely nervous voice and asked the desk people if you had checked in yet. There was a bit of waiting as they checked and then told me that they would call you first before letting me know your room number. I got even more worried when you didn't pick up your phone.

Artful: I had just walked six blocks from the bus station to the hotel. I oriented myself by the sun using my boy scout training to determine which way to go. I didn't realize how far north I was so I ended up traveling in a different direction than I expected but fortunately still towards the hotel. When I got there I left a key and a message for you at the front desk, went up to my room, threw everything on the floor and took a shower. I was just stepping out and drying myself off when I heard you knock, and I was nervous you'd just walk through the door while I was still naked, so I told you I wasn't decent and just a moment as I hurriedly dressed myself. I heard some giggling on the other side of the door, and a snippet, "You take that side, I'll take this side." I thought I was going to step out of the door and be grabbed from both sides, so instead I stepped behind the door as I opened it.

Star: In the elevator, I was surprised I didn't die of tension right then and there! But this other lady at the desk asked who I was, and after telling her, she gave me a room key with a note. Sadly, I did not save the note... But anyways, we were on our way up the elevator. Oh God! I was so nervous, I could've pissed my pants! And I made sure that Cindy and Becker knew... which caused them to laugh at me and I told them to screw off. Well, when we got off at your floor, it was the moment of truth, and I wanted to run. I just said, "I hope he won't be offended if I stand him up" while eyeing the hall to the elevator and the emergency exit sign. That was when Cindy and Becker blocked off each side. They had gone this far with me, and they were not going to let it go to waste! Dammit. I knocked. I'm sure you heard me; "Two Knocks and a Shave," who doesn't know it? I was afraid to use the key card cause I was afraid you would either be indecent, or you wouldn't be there.

Artful: I was there, and I heard you giggling, which made me a little nervous, but I had bled all my nervousness and anxiety away on the trip so I had nothing but excitement at the thought of seeing you. I stepped out from behind the door and I saw you on the floor, nervous but smiling, so I thought that you were tense so I gave you a small hug as soon as I could while you were still sitting on the floor and shaking slightly, then I moved to help you up.... I touched your hair the first chance I got, it was smooth and curled and wonderful.

Star: When I saw the door open and no one behind it, I wanted to run! We were so freaked out by that, and I just wanted to turn around and bolt. But they grabbed me and pushed me into the room.  I remember you just coming at me, smiling and wrapping me up in your arms... I think I hugged you and we held each other for a while. I sniffed at our shirt, and I was a little surprised that you smelled as your (green) shirt did. It was wonderful and overwhelming. I do remember screaming and yelling, but I think that was mostly from me.

Artful: I think that was all you. Ah... you jumped into the bathroom first chance you got, little bundle of nerves. I said hi to Cindy and Becker, and thanked them for coming and that it was nice to meet them... I didn't suspect how much they had really helped me by keeping you in line. ^_^ I was smiling and happy and I might have jabbered a few things I don't remember, but it was sweet. ^_^

Star: I was embarrassed to announce that I needed to use your bathroom, but I am a funny and candid person. I hope you got that right off the bat. It was obvious you had taken a shower... I nearly slipped and fell in, and not because the seat was up. You heard my shoes squeaking around and my muttering and yelling.

Artful: Ah, yes, I did... I had just jumped out five minutes before, my wet footprints were probably still on the floor. After you got out, we hugged again. We sat on the bed and had our picture taken, then you had your friends turn their heads for a moment and we had our first kiss.

Star: That was a nice kiss. Very sweet and a little unsure and awkward, but still, very sweet. Then came the gifts, remember? Or was that after I showed you the picture of The Gateway's "naked man"? ^_^

Artful: It was a very nice kiss. ^_^ After, after, you impetuous little imp. You had it clutched in your hand the whole time, showing me the oddly creased ass. Then I said, "Gifts, gifts" and I handed you the little pink plush bear and the wooden frog noisemaker. You gasped when you saw the ring box and gasped again when you saw it. I told you it was your birthstone and you said you loved it. Then I gave you the chain to hold the ring, you tried to attach it yourself then had me do it, showing me your lovely bare neck. You went to give me a kiss on the cheek but I caught it on my lips. You scolded me but I smiled and said I had to and Becker agreed 'because I was a guy.'

Star: Heh... no, no. I loved the frog and bear. I was just flattered that your family gave me those gifts. And when you brought out the ring box, I remember just covering my mouth from gasping and then just going "You jerk, you jerk..." because you spent a load of money on jewelry. For me! And you knew I didn't really like jewelry... But you put the ring on, and it fit a little too big. You said you thought it would be too big, so you brought out the chain so I could wear it incognito. I was fretting and saying "Didn't I tell you to save up? You know I don't need jewelry or presents..." and Becker and Cindy were reprimanding me, telling me that I would come off an ingrate for refusing such nice gifts. So I relented and let you put it on me... Then came the kiss. I wanted to be cute and kiss your cheek, but you had to swoop in for the lips! We had plenty of time during the trip to kiss on the lips, dear... But yes, you are a guy. A very simple, typical guy. ^_^

Artful: Heh... well, then I told you not to expect things like that too often to try to mollify you. :P Mmmm.... I had you by the shoulders for a few moments, just happy to have a hold on you, to have you in my arms, but then I remembered that we needed to get the car and that we should move on. I hunted for the fan I wanted to give you for a moment but I couldn't find it so I moved out after you. I walked ahead for a while, forgetting, until I remembered to drop back and take your hand or your arm.

Star: Why are you glossing over the part about naked man? Heh... just kidding. I do remember us getting a hustle. Especially at my insistence about "the schedule" and "keeping the schedule".

Artful: I had no idea what the schedule entailed so I was happy to follow your lead and let you keep to your structure to help alleviate your anxiety. :P Mmm... when I was renting the car, they asked me who I knew and I said "I know these people" with a broad sweep to all of you; and I managed to keep an absolutely straight face as I delivered a big bold-faced lie to the clerk. ^_^ Ah, and I was proud of managing not to run over a curb or through a red light, nervous as I was in a new city.

Star: Me too. Getting the car was another nerve-wracking experience... But it was alleviated when I mentioned Cindy's brother to the clerk. I am all about saving money, dammit! I am cheap and I will take a deal. I was almost worried about the phone number part though... The clerk almost sounded skeptical about your home number, but when you mentioned the hotel and she was like "That helps," I calmed down... Now when I saw the car, I was kicking myself for not making that mix CD for our driving experience. I had some mood music in mind, but I was pessimistic about us getting a car on the lot that had a CD player.

Artful: They actually all had CD players. I asked about it and was a little disappointed but you told me about all the songs that were gonna be on it. I did drive all the way to the university but had quite a bit of trouble parallel parking in the shade of the... umm... some type of tree devoid of pretty flowers. I did see some scenic civic buildings and the river, even though our navigator Cindy nearly had us cross the LRT bridge. ^_^

Star: Yeah... getting to the university was a risky venture. You did not know the city, while I did. I thought it would be easy to take the high level bridge, but when you mentioned your fear of heights, I was wondering how we would find our way around. Fortunately, there was that bridge that connected with Groat Road. You know, the one that led up the hill to the traffic circle? Well, the bus I usually take to and from the university goes that way. We split the parking payment, which was kinda cute to do... But now, we were on my (and Cindy's) turf. The U of A campus! It's better than Toudai!

Artful: Ah... at some point I made that joke... I did the reaching gag towards one of the buildings, since I wanted to go there so badly... mmm... I was impressed by how vertical the campus was, all the long stairways and high courtyards and balconies and high rooms. At this point my hand found yours and I don't think we separated very much after that. Ah... you were trying to lead me but I had so much more inertia I was sometimes left tripping over myself trying to follow your lead or not have you run into me. ^_^

Star: We got off to a rocky start... I was just rambling off about the gist of our tour... About how to find our way to the SUB (Student's Union Building), then get to the ETLC (Engineering Learning and Teaching Centre), the make around way around to HUB (Housing Unit Building) and then to CAB (Central Academic Building). Did I mention us university students love our acronyms? And we just ended up just going screw it and cutting through the Butterdome and underground gym/health centre to get to SUB... I did ramble off some funny exam stories about hordes of students waiting and writing our exams in the giant gym and Butterdome.

Artful: I was just happy enough to see the halls you walked in, I smiled and listened to all your little stories about running and late night-study and tried to inject little amusing comments whenever I could. The first place you took me was the Tim Horton's for a lovely Ice Cap, trying to get me addicted before I left. ^_^

Star: I was just giving you a taste of student life, here on campus! We found our way through SUB and to ETLC, where we saw them starting construction on some building. Remember the first formula we saw, dear? The sum of all force is equal to zero!

Artful: You had a good laugh about that... I think it went a bit over my head. ^_^

Star: I thought someone smart as you knew basic physics formulas... Anyways, inside the ETLC (through the doors and up the steps!) there was a Tim Horton's and we all waited and waited for our Ice Caps... But the wait was worth it! Two mediums. I asked for chocolate milk in mine, nada. Oh well. And it was on me. My treat, dear. ^_^

Artful: You know, I think I paid for them both. You were a little disappointed because you wanted us to share one, so I took a sip from your straw and proclaimed it an indirect kiss, and that got a giggle from you. You explained all your dorky techniques for insuring proper syrup distribution and I just smiled and remembered and copied when I could. ^_^

Star: No, I believe I paid. You paid for our dinner at the mall, but we'll get to that later. Yes, I told you, there had to be an equilibrium of flavour distribution! If you just drank it, you'd end up with nothing but the flavourless ice at the top. You have to keep stirring it, or blowing bubbles in it, or whatnot... Then we sat down and relaxed while I pointed out the funny little geeky details (like circuit patterns frosted on the windows of the electrical engineering library). We also read The Gateway purity test issue and I explained a few of the jokes while rambling off topic about how I spent many a night studying/living in ETLC.

Artful: Oh, yes, you were clutching that paper. I had a few good giggles from that. "Ever hit a pedestrian? Repeatedly? With an aluminum bat? With your dink?" You quoted it any time we head a Nickleback song the whole weekend. I was getting a little nervous at the time, I thought I was maybe being too quiet, letting you talk and work up too much anxiety.

Star: I didn't mind talking and talking... I wanted to let you in on the jokes that I knew before you could pipe in. I didn't want you to watch me laugh at some random thing and wonder if you really should laugh with me or not. At least we got lots of points whenever we heard Nickelback. "Nickelback sucks? One point. No, Nickelback does not suck? Minus one point!"

Artful: You only completely lost me at the physics building. ^_^ Then, you took me through that walkway and showed me that ridiculous map, and had such a funny pose ready for it.

Star: Right... I checked the clock and we had to hustle! Took you through BioSci and Physics (nothing much cept a big hole and a long hallway). But I did tell you the legend of BioSci...

Artful: You know, I think I've forgotten it. Heh. ^_^ Mmm... at some point we stopped for a moment for our chaperones to use the bathroom and we had a nice time sitting next to each other, looking at the displays of old lab equipment, your hand in mine.

Star : Hey, you're skipping out on the good parts, dear. From BioSci and Physics, we went to HUB and to Humanities. Then we got to see the (limply) phallic shaped map of the building. Some say that the design was one big joke the engineers played on the artsies...

Artful : I remember that HUB building most strongly... the open balconies over an mall creating an environment of street theatre reminiscent of a European ghetto. ^_^

Star : And let's not forget the numerous empty beer cans and bottles of booze displayed prominently on the windows. But there was that snazzy Dave Matthews Band poster and some of the funny (and sexual) voting posters.

Artful : And the Pistons fan, whoo! Mmmm... even in the off season there was still an energy and thrum throughout the hall.

Star : Yeah. HUB is always full of activity and sounds; it's not as subdued as Lister Hall is. Well, from HUB, we went on our to CAB. Through the civil engineering building and into CAB. Then through CAB we went to Chemistry East, and we were finally able to sit down and look at the old chemistry equipment and read the rest of The Gateway purity test.

Artful : Mmm... yes, you had me chuckling with that... I think I joked that the stuff on display was from the last time they bought new equipment for you.

Star : Heh... But that's the last I'll see of any chemistry equipment since I'm changing majors. Damn, no more free ethanol or the chance to learn how to make my own cocaine... for extra credit. Minus one point!

Artful : Mmm... yes... we were all over, breezeways, tunnels, stairs, we did quite a circuit all over. Mmm... one time, just a bit before we left, we got a bit ahead of our chaperones so I decided to see how light you really were, so I picked you up. ^_^

Star : Yes... we had exited through the basement cafeteria of CAB and on our way out to the car again... You picked me up by surprise and just whirled me around and around! I went limp like a rag doll, if that helped any.

Artful : You were laughing the whole time. ^_^ And then we did it again so we could get a picture. Mmm... You were light as anything, love buoyed me up and it was like twirling a feather.

Star : Yes... I was. I was squealing and laughing and felt like I was flying... Ah...

Artful : Mmm... it felt so good I insisted on lifting you over a ledge as we were walking back to the car. ^_^

Star : Heh... Well, we had our fun at the campus, and all that was left was the mall. We were making good time, and I was praying that we would avoid the homebound traffic since it was around 4:30. It was my turn to drive, and off we went... God, I was uptight about driving, huh? Even more so with Cindy and Becker as the navigators... Oh god!

Artful : Heh... they nearly sent you into opposing traffic a few times but I think you handled it pretty well. You only overshot by a block.

Star : I want to forget that horrid driving experience, but I cannot... I hang my head in shame and horror.

Artful : You did perfectly fine. ^_^ Mmm... we got there ok and you had better luck parking than I did.

Star : That's true... We were able to get to the far side of the mall so we could work our way on over to the other. You still have the map of WestEd I gave you, yes? We started in Phase 4, where the HMV, Chapters, and Silver City movie theatre was.

Artful : Mmm... I think we did a couple laps so I'm a bit fuzzy on where we came and went, just that it was close to the book store and the store selling drug paraphernalia. :P

Star : HMV was the giant music store and we checked out the DVD section on the second floor. It was nice looking at the box sets of shows we could probably collect together, someday. I promise, when we're married, I'll get you every season box set of Relic Hunter.

Artful : Mmm... thanks, dear. We'll watch together. ^_^ We saw Family Guy and Godfather box set and many many indications of capitalism in full flow.

Star : After HMV (and after Becker found whatever CD she was looking for), we went up to Silver City to see the dragon! Wasn't it cool to see a mall with its very own dragon?

Artful : Yes, we got there just in time, too. The spooky music was playing and the room was dark so I got close to you. ^_^ Mmmm... the dragon spouted off and I felt the wash of heat and got a couple cool pictures.

Star : It was funny standing there, with all the other tourists, looking up and gawking at the dragon as its head lolled about, its jaws snapped open and shut, and we all anticipated which jaw snap would have fire spewing out after. But you did get the shot that you wanted.

Artful : Mmm... yep. The enormous tease made me waste a series of shots. :P Mmm... just like a lot of things, we dashed there, waited a couple minutes and dashed off. ^_^

Star : Well, we made our way from Phase 4 to Phase 3, right past the Santa Maria and the whale to the ice rink. We'll get back to those two landmarks since we spent more time at those places on the way back. Anyways, we went forward to the money changing station, and we passed the ice rink which was drained and being repaired. It was one of the areas that was damaged during the horrible rainstorm that happened prior to your arrival.

Artful : I heard about it from some people on my way in, along with the dolphin who was also absent... many of the live acts were shut down, which is just as well since I can't skate. ^_^ Mmmm... you girls stayed back as I went in to change my money behind a guy from Ireland and a few people from Arabic nations. They shaved four cents off the exchange rate. Bastards. :P

Star : *giggles* Yeah, and I was getting hungry... I wanted to take you down to my favourite fast food kiosk: Tokyo Express. I kept on promising you that we'd eat their teriyaki chicken bowl. Fortunately, some Tic-Tacs held us over long enough to check out Galaxyland. There was a petting zoo right outside of the Galaxyland entrance, and Becker, Cindy, and I were going on about how we were still used to calling it Fantasyland. They hung back at the petting zoo while we went into the amusement park.

Artful : Mmm... I was a little disappointed we didn't go on any of the rides but they were fun to watch, and we had a little romantic conversation about how we loved swing machines and how it felt like flying. ^_^

Star : The Swing of Century has always been my favourite ride, and I was happy to see that you listened to me point out the beautiful paintings on the ride and how they always captured my imagination.

Artful : Ah... I remember now, all the lovely Victorian portraits and landscapes... but none so beautiful as you. :P

Star : You are a flatterer, if anything. While it was a shame we didn't go on any of the rides, it was nice to walk around amidst the loud noises of arcades, moving parts, and screams of fun. And I got a chance to reminisce about the fun times I had in the amusement park. Then I got a little morbid and talked about the roller coaster accidents.

Artful : Spooky. I told you about the whiplash I suffered at a drop tower I rode once. ^_^ Mmm... we did a completely circle around the whole place.

Star : And then we went out, and tried to find Becker and Cindy... then they jumped up behind us! Ah, well, it was time for us to eat. Off to Tokyo Express! And once again, we got ahead of our chaperones as I recounted stories of high school.

Artful : I ordered two bowls with extra chicken but I didn't realize how big they were going to be so we made one an impromptu gift to our chaperones, who caught up with us after a few minutes.

Star : We found our way to Gourmet World, a food court with a Tokyo Express and I told you what to order while I got us a seat. Yeah, you didn't know how big the serving size would be, and it was nice to give them a freebie. And it was nicer of you to pay for it. You smacked your head and said you weren't thinking when I reminded you that I said "order one bowl." Argh, at the end of the meal, I was groaning that this was my Hungry Man meal, and I would never attempt such a thing (even with another person) for a long long while.

Artful : Heh... I had a little moment then where I insisted on feeding you a little piece. You laughed and protested but you relented and took it. I had a pretty good meal of it too, dipping deep and helping you shred up the bigger pieces with both our forks. Mmm... we ran out of napkins so I had to run around the food court until I found someone who would actually give them away. We talked to Cindy a bit and she told us a couple stories about her boyfriend, and we mentioned the typo you made 'earest' and how I sent you a picture of my ear.

Star : She said that it was her boyfriend's insistence that you play a prank on me, to which you replied you did and told her the ear picture story. But I got you back for that... I most definitely did.

Artful : Ah... and I reminded her of how we had met a couple hours ago. :P Mmm... you went off to the bathroom for a couple minutes and I had a bit of a chance to talk to them... they agreed we would probably be unable to walk more than a hundred feet without you seeing a friend or someplace you had a lot of memories. ^_^

Star : So that's what you were going on about while I was gone!

Artful : Mmm... I think it was then I asked Becker if she had a boyfriend. She said no, that her parents were too worried about her hanging out with anyone, even schoolmates. I commented I was surprised the wasn't forcibly rebelling but she said she was too busy with work and school.

Star : I was more than happy to see you guys getting along... Well, after our meal (I felt so stuffed, I thought I was waddling a little) it was off to Phase 1 and to one of the locations of the store where I work at.

Artful : Ah, yes... it was fun to browse, and I was utterly amused that some of the wardrobe could fit you. You explained to me the significance of the dates when the store was founded and 2010, and I got to see the insidious madness that was your world. :P

Star : Yup! Please Mum... the name itself radiates evil! ^_^

Artful : Oh, yes, thankfully the store was devoid of the little hellions while we were there... ah, I suppose that was pretty bad for them, but good for us! ^_^

Star : Yup! And then, we spent the rest of our time in Phase 1 trying to find a plush toy for Cindy to send to her boyfriend. Sadly, stuffed owl toys are very rare.

Artful : Owls are not exactly the most cuddly of creatures. :P Mmm... we did stop at that science store and got the little bendable cat.

Star : But before the bendy cat at Cosmic City, we sat around and let Becker and Cindy look around while we sat together by the fountain in Phase 1 and talked and held hands. Then we got up and went Cosmic City to get gifts for your nephews. ^_^

Artful : Mmm... yes, I think it's the first chance we got to sit by ourselves for a while... you took my picture in front of Caesar. I tried to match his pose but you were giggling too much to hold the camera. :P

Star : You're getting off track again, dear. After Cosmic City, it was Bourbon Street. I told you about the time I saw stormtroopers walking all along it, and you reveled with me in my geekiness. We stopped at the Baskin Robbins to let Becker have ice cream, but I didn't have any (like I promised) because I was still so full!

Artful : Ah, I knew that was in the there somewhere. You showed me the pizza parlor where you met Globie. I said it was nice you trusted me enough that our chaperones were a couple of small girls instead of several large men. :P

Star : Yup! I trust you not to take advantage of me. ^_^ Anyways, it was off to the whale. We took our pictures together in the whale, and I told you about when I was young, I was deathly afraid of the whale.

Artful : That you would fall into the little crack and slip into the water, so I held your hand as we went over the lip to keep you safe. ^_^ I was standing behind you, leaning forward over you, and I held your arms to keep you still. ^_^

Artful: And after that we passed by the Santa Maria again and we took a few pictures with the ship as a backdrop.

Star : That's right. The Santa Maria pictures were such fun. How many other malls have their own replica Spanish galleons inside? None that I know of! Then we went to Chapters and got lost among the bookshelves and looked at the manga and other sections.

Artful : You had quite an look in your eye when you saw bottles of raspberry sauce. Ah, you mentioned how you would hang out in the book store when your family went out shopping and read magazines and nothing else. And after that we backtracked because we had gone past the photo booth we wanted to get stills from.

Star : Ah... the photo booth. Now we're on track. We both paid our half of the change for the booth, and then we got in and posed. You surprised me on the last photo when you grabbed me for a kiss.

Artful : You didn't seem surprised... third shot I went for a kiss on the cheek, and when we got that you were eager to turn and kiss me, though I think I surprised you a bit after that. ^_^ When we got the pictures I quoted rap by saying 'shake it like a Polaroid picture' and you all corrected me. I was so pleased with your nerdy attention to inane facts. :P

Star : You cannot shake it because doing so actually damages the film! Polaroid has released a statement about such picture shaking...

Artful : You know just how to talk to me, babe. :P I was well aware but I wanted to see if you would catch it.

Star : And I sure did! After that, it was another hellish drive to your hotel... I never thought I'd clutched the steering wheel so hard in my life... Fortunately, you were navigator.

Artful : It went pretty well except that you teared up once or twice and had a bit of trouble but you went through it champion and did very well.

Star : Yeah... I had no idea what the hell was up with my eye while I was driving. It suddenly started stinging and tearing up for no good reason, but I'm glad you guys made sure I didn't crash into anything.

Artful : My elite boy scout survival training. It's surprising what you can get into in the woods. :P Probably just anxiety finding an outlet. Not good while driving, but you had a steady hand and a light foot, and got us all back safe.

Star : Yup. We wound our way back to your hotel room and it was nice of Becker and Cindy to give us some private time together.

Artful : Yes, I asked them politely and got a bit of a smile out of them for it. Mmm.... you fit very nicely in the crook of my shoulder. I had you bring out the ring again and told you it was also a promise ring that you and me would be together. Mmm... we discussed when we'd meet tomorrow and I gave you such a kiss it left you gasping. :p

Star : Ah... you wish. I finally had a chance to sit on your lap too. I sat on your lap and we kissed and talked and looked at the ring together. I was giddy to steal a few kisses from you, and even more so since our chaperones were only just outside the door. When you escorted me out, I was surprised we didn't find them eavesdropping on us!

Artful : I imagine they were just happy not to have you running the halls shrieking. ^_^ Yes, it was a very nice goodbye, and I slept very peacefully that night. ^_^

Star : I was so excited, I could barely sleep that night. I had received only 3.5 hours, and that was going to come back and bite me in the ass during Animethon...

On to Saturday...