Ryan St. Germain

Monthly Archive: April 2016

The First

I was barely 18 when I lived in Kalamazoo and I’d moved there with no plan and little money. I figured I’d find a job of some sort, but it was a broke town full of college students fighting for the predictable jobs and the part-time gig I had painting and sanding decks wasn’t enough. I had three roommates, all of whom I’d gone to high school with. The only one of us who was steadily employed mopped up come at the adult movie theater across the street from our house.  We were close to being kicked out for being constantly late on the rent and we ate a lot of cheap foods made from recipes we’d all taken from our large families on tight budgets.

One night while I waited for my roommate to finish work I spotted an ad on the dirty cork board nailed to the pink walls near the rack of impossible large dildos.  It said ‘Adult Male Performers Wanted’ and I tore one of the perforated phone numbers from the sheet and stuffed it in my pocket before my roommate could catch me and give me grief about it.

I waited a few days before calling, not certain what the ad meant I’d be doing and I was both a little embarrassed and little turned on about what it could be. Dialing the number from a payphone made my heart thump loudly and when the voice on the other end of the line told me I’d reached a hair salon, I almost hung up, thinking it a mistake.

“I’m calling about the ad for performers?” I managed to say quietly, still unsure I’d dialed correctly.

The woman on the other end of the phone asked how old I was and I added year to my age for no good reason, because you only need to be 18 to strip in certain bars, even if you aren’t old enough to drink in them. She asked me if I was ok dancing for both men and women and I said yes without thinking it through and then wondered later if I really would be.

She invited me to come to her salon the next day, which was outside of the city proper and I hopped in my car not sure what to expect. I used a map and took dirt roads to the address she’d given and when I pulled up in front of the little free-standing building I had second thoughts. I sat in my car listening to the radio before screwing up the courage to head inside.

The woman cutting hair was in her late forties and she told me she’d be right with me. She finished the client whose hair she was cutting and she told me to take a seat in her chair. She cut my hair while we talked, asking me questions about how comfortable I would be dancing in front of different crowds, careful not to put too much emphasis on the fact that I’d be dancing in front of men more often than women. I worried that she’d ask me to pay for the haircut and I wouldn’t have enough money in my pocket to even cover it and eat that day.  Thinking back on it now I realize she knew exactly what she was doing; she had my number in a way that I didn’t see then. She was sizing me up from the moment that she answered the phone.

When I was done she took me out behind the building and had me pose for a few Polaroids against the brick building. She got me to lift my shirt up a little, showing off the trim body I had back then and that was the photo that she put on all the posters. She was subtle about all of it and managed to get exactly what she wanted. I could tell she was proud of herself and I had my own sense of pride about being able to satisfy whatever it was that she was looking for.

I was young but when it came to sex I’d had some experiences ahead of my years and in my head, I was already grown up. I’d lost my virginity to someone 10 years older, had a threesome with a married couple and I knew full and well that I was kinky. I wasn’t afraid of what I might not like; I was afraid of what I might be missing out on and that eagerness was exactly what Sharon was counting on would be lucrative.

Sharon added me to the lineup of the next gig she’d booked and told me that she was going to call me ‘Virgo’ after my star sign: I chimed in that I liked ‘Phantasm’ better because it sounded dark and somehow untouchable to me. I picked out Nine Inch Nails for my first song and when they called ‘Virgo’ to stage, I shot her a look. Her expression told me that she was putting me in my place just a little and I sort of liked it, if I’m being honest. The next time around I was Phantasm though, so I like to think we understood each other alright.


By the Light

Sometimes people ask me why I kept trying with Emily. Orion said to me not that long ago that I often linger when I should let go; I can’t disagree and it’s hard to explain why. It’s hard to explain why Emily was so important to me, which is maybe in and of itself the reason; because there isn’t any one specific quality that is responsible for my having loved her that I could point a finger at and say ‘That. That is why I stayed’.

I can tell you this though; there is one moment that comes to mind when things are bad. Every time I’m angry or sad, or upset there is a memory that comes to mind and makes me feel like I should keep trying. It’s also the moment that comes to mind when I’ve been happiest with her. Maybe it’ll seem silly to you but this is it:

 She is coming down the escalator the day we finally met in person. I see her nervously clutching the rail as I wait at the bottom and I know it’s her before I see her face. Her eyes meet mine and she smiles and her smile is filled with all the time that’s passed from the moment that we started talking until this one. I meet her at the bottom and we hug and she’s shaking, or maybe that’s me.  We hold each other so tightly and nothing else in the entire world matters.

That moment is about more than just finally meeting, it’s what we overcome to arrive at it. There were so many more obstacle in front of us than there are now and none of it held us back, none of it stopped us, nothing was impossible no matter how improbable ; we found a way to be together. We lived in different countries, had separate lives thousands of miles apart, she was married and we overcame everything that stood between us which is exactly what it felt like when I held her in my arms that day.

Maybe it’s foolish; it certainly feels that way sometimes, but certainly not more than giving up because of a fight over bills or what to have for dinner feels. It isn’t need that kept me with her and It isn’t the easy comfort that keeps people together long after the spark has faded because it’s never really been easy. It’s knowing that we’ve been through worse and we’ve come so far and despite the list of sound reasons we could have given up in the past we didn’t and we found a way to make it work. Maybe we expected it to be easier when we found ourselves living together and in many ways it was, but in many other ways it was just the beginning and all the normal challenges were still ahead of us. You have a high expectation for how easy things will be comparatively when you overcome obstacles and sometimes the expectation doesn’t match the reality.

I know that a disagreement over what to eat or what movie to watch or who’s paying more of the bills are always about more than that. So was that moment though, the one I mention above. It’s that moment that comes to mind when I was happy with her. It’s that moment that comes to mind when I’m sad.

People will tell you that these sorts of memories usually fade or pass. They’ll tell you that you’ll replace them with new ones that you make with someone who is better for you and maybe they are right. I’ve never had a moment and what it stood for make an impression on me as great as that one did though and I’ll admit it’s been hard to put behind me.  I have a feeling that any time I think of her, it’ll be there, somewhere, in my head, in my heart, reminding me of why I stayed so long. It’ll make me wonder if I gave up too soon, it’ll make me wonder if she did.

That’s it. That moment, what it stood for, everything that it took to arrive at it and all the challenges that we overcame to be together; that is what I’m giving up, in giving up on her. That’s the hello that’s kept me going, even after most reasonable people would have told me that I should say goodbye.

That’s all that I have to say about Emily and this is where that story ends.


Put Light around her in your hearts.”

-Margaret Atwood