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Meeting people is difficult for me. By "people" I mean "boyfriend material." A friend advises, "For adventure, choose the more difficult path." It has a certain fortune cookie logic, so I put it to the test in South Africa at the Out in Africa film festival.
Choosing adventure, I separate from the festival guests and taxi to a local gay bar. That's where I meet Tristan. Our drunken gazes catch each other on the dance floor, and we circle in to talk. He's appalled I'm American.
"I'm a New Yorker!" he says. "I didn't come all the way to Africa to hook up with someone from L.A.!"
"I don't wanna hook up anyway!"
"Fine! 'Cause you're not gonna!"
He leans in. "What's your name again?"
Tristan recently sold his multimillion-dollar business and is traveling the world for a year, an adventure seeker like me. I blurt out, "I want to have a crazy adventure."
"Me too! What have you done so far?"
"Just lame stuff. Went on a safari, petted a lion, got robbed, visited a lesbian shaman, played with rhino poop, and climbed up Lion's Head." The music stops. 4:30 a.m. "Now what?" He grins: "A crazy adventure!"
I spot a sexy young local text-messaging. "Do you know any after parties?"
He glances up. "Come with me."
He leads us to a quiet elderly gentleman resembling Bill Gates. "You ride with Bruce. I'll find more people." Tristan and I shrug our shoulders. Adventure.
As we climb into Bruce's Mercedes, I whisper, "It's amazing the stupid things you'll do because a cute guy tells you to."
Bruce silently chauffeurs us into the cliffs above Cape Town. We arrive at an enormous mansion, each window thoroughly barred. I map possible escape routes as we enter his compound.
The interior is old Hollywood: oil paintings, velvet curtains, red carpets up the stairs, and pointy Siamese cats everywhere. The center of attention is a giant glass table presenting lines of some drug. A dozen guys drink and chat sedately. The only girl, Jilly, complains that everyone's gay. Bruce pours a drink, trudges upstairs, and passes out.
Tristan toasts me, "To adventure."
Enter the Argentinean rugby team. Eight muscular heteros tumble through the door and Jilly leaps to her feet. Herding them is the texter, who plants himself on the couch between Tristan and me, still typing away.
The Argentineans navigate the house cautiously. Jilly disappears into the library with two of them. The whole party takes on an Eyes Wide Shut quality as revelers pair up and retreat into the shadows.
Harry snaps his phone shut and pulls us both in to kiss. It's weird how many tongues can fit into one square inch. Just when it gets intense, his phone buzzes and he vanishes, leaving us kissing each other.
"You're totally kissing a guy from L.A."
"I didn't come to Africa for this." He pulls me closer. "Climb Kilimanjaro with me."
Tempting. But I'd miss the premiere of my movie! I scold myself, The more difficult path! Here's your chance! I could grab Harry's phone and text home, "Gone another week, climbing Kilimanjaro."
I sigh, "I can't." Instead we climb to the roof of the mansion and watch the African sunrise over Table Mountain.
Three days later I'm back in West Hollywood in a routinely awkward social situation: Your friend runs into a friend, leaving the plus-ones to make small talk. "Africa, huh? How's the gay scene?"
"Well, it's fascinating because..." The cute plus-one sighs, scanning the crowd, clearly uninterested in my life story. I cut myself short: "It's just like L.A."
"Thanks!" He pats my shoulder and disappears into the swirling madness of my premiere. I hear his friend reprimand, "That was the director!" He retorts, "So?" I picture myself scaling Kilimanjaro and smile. I have picked the more difficult path. I take a deep breath and step into the adventure.