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PART 2: A cougar story

cougar. / (ˈkuːɡə) / noun. another name for puma. US and Canadian slang for women in her 30s or 40s who pursue casual sexual relationships with young men.

NEW ORLEANS


I met Jesse two months earlier, at a festival in Las Vegas. A very short exchange that felt like lust at first sight (Read: https://www.zombiekillerrtw.com/post/when-we-were-young).
When he told me his age, though, the logic part of my brain stepped-up to cancel the project. Jesse was only 21. Back in Montreal, I had refused to date a guy his age, a few weeks earlier, because of the obvious difference of maturity and lifestyle. Also because my previous relationship with a 28 year-old man-child had completely turned me off. But when Jesse asked for my IG, I agreed to give him -believing we wouldn't see each other ever again, anyway. He started to chat with me over the next few days, and it felt good, honestly. I wasn’t ready to date in Montreal but I was still missing the flirts and the romance. So I just let it happen, thinking that it wouldn’t hurt anyone. Jesse and I were clear about it, anyway. He was also not ready to date, as he just broke up from a long-term relationship. But like me, he was yearning for some romance. For some good mornings and good nights. And for some conversations that make you feel like the other person is really interested in your core self. And honestly, the more the days passed, the more our discussions deepened and I completely forgot his age. Once again, I felt like my first assumption (or judgment) had almost cost me a very nice connection. A connection growing so fast, in fact, that I was surprising myself waiting for his daily texts.


So hear me out, I don’t really care about being called delusional, in life. I mean if you stop and think about it, I could have been called that when I said I wanted to leave 6 months alone, around the world. Or when I said I would become a CG Sup and make 6 figures before 25. If I had truly cared what people thought was delusional or not, I would have never believed any of this was possible. But when Jesse asked me if he could come meet me for a few days in New-Orleans, and that my mouth formulated a positive answer before my brain could process it- I did feel like I was delusional. That boy was more than a decade younger than I was, we were living in two different countries and we basically didn’t know anything about each other -else than what we wanted the other to know via text. It made absolutely no sense.


But after we had the discussion that this was just gonna be a closure to what we didn’t do in Las Vegas, I felt more confident that we would just have some fun and that this would be a nice, finite, flirty chapter in both of our lives. Like a nice experience we would both enjoy. Me fucking a genZ. Him fucking a cougar. But, spoiler alert, although we did end up fucking a few times -my experience with this hot zoomer turned out to be more about introspection, rather than just a sex marathon. I was already in New-Orleans since a few days when Jesse landed. We had a date scheduled that night (he had reserved a jazz dinner on a steamboat) and one other, two days later (I had reserved a fancy restaurant, in the Garden district). It would be an understatement to say that I was excited. I mean it had been three months of us chatting every day, and 8 months since I was intimate with someone- so pardon my french when I say ‘boy was I looking forward to jump him. 


I arrived in Nola on the Saturday before Christmas. Checked-in my hostel and met a very handsome Indian guy -my age, who was resting in the bed below mine. He invited me to hangout later that day and although I would have agreed in any other circumstances -I wanted to have some alone time to explore, before Jesse arrived. Weirdly enough too, even if I knew Jesse and I were not a thing, I also wanted to stay loyal and respectful of whatever flirt we had been building up. I changed into more spring-ish clothing (It was 20 celsius outside) and started my exploration of the French Quarter. 


It was absolutely beautiful. Each building was so colorful and the spanish architecture (they had rebuilt the french quarter after some fires) was breathtaking. There was live music at every corner and a festive atmosphere in every little shop I passed. I ate some pulled-pork sandwich at Cornet, an old cajun-creole restaurant on Bourbon street and that delicious food gave me the energy I needed to continue my exploration. I spent the day walking all the streets of the quarter, taking pictures and filling my head with music and joy. I also ended up taking a ride in the Hop and Off bus, which introduced me to a few other neighborhoods I wanted to explore the next days. I had dinner in the House of Blues, stayed a few hours to watch the show and a few more just walking around Bourbon Street -who turned like old Vegas, at night. By eleven, I was in my hostel bed, the early 5am flight forcing me to rest. I fell asleep quickly but kept being woken up by a bunch of drunk people coming in and out of the dorm. The next morning I woke up early to take the streetcar to midtown. Lots of people had warned me about not going out of the French Quarter, because it was “dangerous” and that Nola was the “murder capital'’, but you know me by now: I didn’t listen. And to be fair, I am very happy I haven’t. From all the places I ended up walking in, the french quarter turned out to be my least favorite. Not by fault of being visually appealing, but just because it was so touristic it almost felt like a joke. I walked around midtown for a bit, feeling absolutely safe, even though the streets were empty. By 9, I had my ass sat in a Church that was converted into a restaurant (I would end up going to more churches in Nola than i’ve been in all my life). Vessel had incredible food and a stunning setup, where I just chilled for a few hours before taking the streetcar back to the French Quarter. From there, I took the Hop and Off bus again, and this time, stopped at the Lower Garden District -on Magazine street. This was a more hipster/trendy neighbourhood, with lots of small coffee shops and cute stores. I walked around, did a bit of shopping and ended up relaxing in a coffee place where I had my first taste of a Nola delicasse: the beignet. After a while, I decided to walk over to one of the cemeteries and then down the garden district, to see all the houses I will one day be able to afford (the line is always fine between disillusionment and goals). By the end of the afternoon, I had to finally give up my exploration as the rain was picking up in violence. I took the streetcar back to the hotel and decided to take a short nap before dinner. I was greeted by Ash (my Indian roommate) who asked if I was down to go out tonight. I told him that I was fried right now, so I had to rest, but I was down to meet up after my dinner reservation. After all, it was Christmas Eve -I didn’t feel like celebrating this alone. I got up to my bed, ready for a well-deserved nap, when more drunk people decided to come in and out the room. Nope. I am not doing this again. I opened my phone and decided that 300$ to arrive in my hotel two nights before was a meager price to pay to buy peace and tranquility. I also wanted to rest before Jesse arrived, as I was expecting not to sleep much while he was here -if you know what I mean. I packed my things, said bye to Ash (after we exchanged IGs to keep contact for later that night) and walked in the direction of my hotel. I checked in, had (finally) a restful nap and was ready to go for my dinner, a few hours later. It was still pouring rain outside and the small umbrella I had bought in a CVS earlier, died in my hand from the first wind gust. Fortunately, the restaurant was only a 7 min walk away, and I was covered by the balconies of all the old buildings on the way. I was sat at the bar, when I finally arrived. During the course of the evening, I befriended the three barmans on duty, one of them being somewhat flirtier than the other. His name was Kevin and he was a very hot millennial with an italian/portugal background and a heavy hand for pouring alcohol in my drinks. Kevin made me laugh all through the night and once again, I thought that I would be way more flirty if an even hotter boy wasn’t taking a flight to come see me, two days later. I acted nice and funny, but tried my best to also stay just friendly. In the end, Kevin still asked for my contact, in case I wanted to hangout during my last days in the city. I accepted, thinking to myself that maybe Jesse would turn out to be not what I was imagining him to be. Nothing to lose in getting a plan B. I was getting very tipsy and although I wanted to go hangout with Ash, I realized that he was about 30 min away now and I would probably be too drunk for my safety by the time I reached him. I decided to just run back to the hotel and take my night to rest. The next day, I walked in a ghost town (turns out no one is out and about on Christmas morning) to a restaurant where I had brunch, which turned out hard for me to eat. I ate so much in the first days that I had constant nausea, but the food was so good I just kept pushing through. I stopped at CVS to get some gravols -that made the trick, and walked back in a hurry to the hotel because I was chased by a hobo that kept screaming “ginger girl, look at me”. That was the first and last time I got somewhat scared in Nola. Most of the shops were closed, so that day I ended up walking around, doing a photoshoot with a local photographer I found online and taking a horse tour of the French Quarter. At night, I had my first Gumbo in Tujague’s restaurant (a fucking delicious soup I would have several time after) and walked back to my hotel for my last solo night before Jesse’s arrival.      

I woke up and changed about 4 times to be the cutest for him. I felt like a schoolgirl going on the first date with her longtime crush and it entertained me a lot. I did my hair, put some makeup on and I was finally ready and confident to look like a snack a 21 y-old guy would gladly smack.


Jesse had landed a few minutes earlier and we had made plans for me to meet him in front of his airbnb, an hour or so later. I was now at the corner of his street, nervous but excited to finally see him again. When I turned the corner, I saw him go out of a door. His blue eyes were shining and I thought to myself that he was so fucking hot. His smile was huge and it made me comfortable instantly. “Hey stranger”, I said. He laughed and we hugged, one of those long hugs that says “I miss you”, even though in our case that didn’t make much sense. He smelled good too, and his hug was firm enough to let me imagine everything that was gonna follow. We started walking, talking and laughing and the weirdness of that odd blind-date situation vanished very quickly. I don’t remember when exactly, but we had our first kiss and both tried to resist the urge to just go back to the hotel and fuck, as it was still very early. So far, everything was going well and I was happy Jesse was impulsive enough to buy a ticket and come see me. I was foreseeing lots of fun in the next few days, a mixte of romance, sex and great conversations.


At some point during the afternoon, Jesse stopped to buy some weed (that ended up being absolute garbage) on Bourbon street and the day was spent walking, skating and just exploring the French Quarter. At night, we walked to steamboat sanchez for our first official date. Unfortunately by then, I realized that Jesse was a bit… inconsistent. As much as sometimes he was so interesting -and interested, other times it was like talking to a plant. The silence was a bit uncomfortable and I tried my best to make conversation by asking some random stuff about him. Most of the time, he would answer without asking me anything back. A one-way conversation. “You are very pretty”. Well, thank you honey but I am also pretty bored. I do not care for just being called pretty, I want to have a connection and feel like the person in front of me is bringing something to the table. I didn’t said that out loud -yet, but I felt at that moment that this would probably not go further. At some point, I was trying to answer my own questions -after he had answered, just to see if he was going to listen and be somewhat interested. I was telling a story when he just cut me to ask if I wanted to go outside. Sigh. Sure, let’s go. Once out, Jesse started to vape his weed pen and internally I was like you know what, let’s just enjoy this night anyway. I mean the view was pretty nice and even though he had turned out not to be what I was expecting personality wise, Jesse was still kind and an eye-candy. Weirdly enough he started to talk more again and the rest of the evening turned out to be quite fun. We went back to my hotel, fucked and felt asleep each one on our side of the bed.       


The next morning, I had to switch hotels to go to a very fancy one, that was in a former Church. Jesse and I went for brunch and then he came with me for the check-in. Then, we decided to go to the skatepark -I had promised I would help him by filming him for a bit, so he could put some videos on his socials. We spent about 3 hours at the skatepark, which was actually very fun, but at the end of it Jesse was buying weed from some random skaters and I felt a throwback to when I was 15 and in a relationship with a stoner that only wanted to get high all the time. We stayed while he smoked his blunt and took an uber back to town, after. I once again felt like he was less interesting (and interested), and got a bit annoyed by it. We were near my hotel and he was trying to land a skate trick for about 30 min, when I just got fed-up. “I’m going to give you my tripod and just leave”. I didn’t want him to not do what he wanted to do -he only had a few days in Nola. But I also didn’t want to spend all my time filming a guy that was in the end barely talking to me and didn’t seem interested in more than the fact that I was pretty. I went back to my hotel, gave him the tripod and told him to just poke me when he was done. I walked around the neighborhood (Marigny), stopped to eat a PoBoy in a local restaurant and decided to walk to Crescent Park -in the Bywater neighborhood. Jesse hit me up, saying he was done, and I told him I was going to the park. He waited for me there, as he had reached it faster by skate.


He skated a bit more while I walked next to him, almost no discussion flowing between us. Yeah, that’s not gonna be worth it. We were almost out of the park when a hobo came from behind a fence, a smoke between the lips. “Hey man, is that weed?”, said Jesse. I couldn’t fucking believe it. I said a “Wtf, no, do not buy weed from a hobo” outloud, which surprised Jesse -and I think, also made him feel really judged. And the fact is, I was judging him at that moment. Who the fuck is desperate enough to ask a hobo if what he smokes is weed. Also who the fuck take a flight to another city to come meet a girl and end up passing his time smoking weed or searching to buy it, instead of focusing on learning to know the person you literally came for. I was annoyed at Jesse’s behavior and I really felt like his age was showing at that moment. Jesse apologized for it and I calmed down trying to remind myself that I actually put myself in that situation. I agreed to meet a 21 y-old guy I didn’t know, with an instagram name saying ‘bluntAfterDabAfterBlunt’. The signs were there, lady. We walked to the French Quarter, ate a bite and ended up going out pub crawling for the rest of the night. I took a few hits from his weed pen, thinking to myself that maybe if I put myself in his mindset, I’d had more fun for the night. And I did. We spent the evening drinking, smoking, talking and walking around the French Quarter and ended up on Frenchmen street, where we just watched a bunch of live jazz. He came back to my hotel, where we talked a bit more -actually about some topics like religion (because we were sleeping in a Church) and core values. I felt he was so interesting again, so we had sex, before falling asleep. The next morning, I kicked Jesse out because I needed some alone time to think. The evening had been super nice, but I still felt like the inconsistency and his need to smoke weed constantly was annoying me. I wrote to Rali about it, and she asked me if I thought maybe I was chatting with a group of his friends, instead of him, on instagram. I laughed cause my vibe with Jesse was so different in live that I actually thought she could be onto something. Most of his friends were girls, too -so it kinda made sense.


Jesse and I had one last date planned in the evening, so I decided to meet again before and just be blunt about what I was feeling. We met again, walked a bit around town and then ended up chilling in his apartment cause we were a bit cold and tired. I don’t quite remember what Jesse said for me to bring up the topic, but we finally started discussing the inconsistency and how I generally felt we weren’t connecting like I thought we would be. I think that caught him off guard, but he did acknowledge and apologized for it. The next hour, Jesse opened up on his background and his family and friends. His personality and pothead persona suddenly started to make way more sense to me. We were both talking without any filters and I was finally feeling like this was the same guy I was chatting with since the last two months. The conversation was so real and interesting that we almost missed dinner -we arrived 30 min late. We continued talking during dinner, about so many interesting topics that I remember thinking if the two previous days had been like this -I would have kidnapped that guy in a heartbeat. I noticed that Jesse hadn’t used his weed pen since the afternoon too, which I felt was probably helping him to be more present. He was funny, witty, had depth and the conversation just kept flowing effortlessly. I truly had an amazing date and I was a bit sad that this was coming to an end. We took an uber back to my hotel, talked for a few more hours and had sex again, one last time.


The night before, we had talked about the fact that this was not something we could continue to entertain because it was delusional -but when Jesse woke me up around 3AM, to kiss me goodbye, I had a pinch in my heart. I had to remind myself of all the times I said goodbyes, during my round the world, and shift my mindset to the fact it had just been one more nice experience to be grateful for. Jesse left to take his flight and I fell back asleep for a few hours, before being woken up by my alarm. I was going on a tour of a plantation owned by a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate the public about the history and legacies of slavery in the Southern United States. The van picked me up and we started a one hour long drive to the plantation. Our driver shared some historical facts with us, along the way, and then put a movie that I barely watched because I was chatting with Jesse on the side. Jesse was already talking about coming to see me in Montreal, and was love bombing me with phrases like “i am falling for you”. Although I was feeling attracted to him more than before, since the last night, I still wanted to make things clear that this was delusional. The night before, Jesse had told me about going on a date with a colleague, a few weeks back, and it was a good story to bring back, to make my point. Even though on the moment when he told me that story, I felt a bit annoyed, it is normal for a person to always prioritize dating someone close to them. Someone they can see and touch, and get intimate with. If something, Jesse had been less delusional than me at that time -because he didn’t stay loyal to a relationship that didn't exist. He did the right thing. And I would have probably done the same, if I had an opportunity in Montreal. The conversation ended up with some thanks for the good times and with a promise that none of us would ghost the other. We could stay friends and just use that connection to help us get perspective from another generation and lifestyle. We were going to unwind the flirts and romance slowly over the next few days, until this became platonic and friendly only. The van arrived at the plantation and we were let free with a self-guide audio thingy. I passed the next hour and a half walking through the history of slavery and bawling my eyes out at how cruel humans can be. I ended up buying a bunch of books from the store at the entrance and vowed to myself to start consuming more black culture. The van picked us back and I was dropped near-ish my hotel, an hour or so later. I stopped for cajun tacos (yes you read right and yes it was good) and then walked to the hotel to pack my stuff and switch back to the French Quarter, for my last night. I walked around town all afternoon, but as it was way colder than any prior days, I ended up trying to stay inside as much as possible. My first stop was the Pharmacy museum, where I learned lots of funny facts about how medicine was first a really dodgy trial and error system. Then, I walked to a witchy store where a local guy read my future in tea leaves (apparently if I go overseas I will get even more rich -and there’s a relationship coming for me in the next three months…). I then had dinner and more beignets (guys I am in love with those fluffy square clouds) and finished my evening with a ghost tour in the French Quarter. There, I learned some super spooky stories and a very nice one about why Nola was supposedly full of vampires. I had thought this was coming from the fact that ‘Interview with a Vampire’ was set in part here, but turns out that the tale of vampires came back from way before and was known in Nola as ‘The tales of the Casket girls’.


One of the oldest buildings still standing in the French Quarter is the Old Ursuline Convent. In 1728, the nuns of the convent made a formal request to the King of France, asking him to send more girls down to New-Orleans. At that time, the women to men ratio was too low (something around 1 woman for every 10 men). The nuns would be in charge to educate and prepare those young women for the sole purpose of becoming good wives. The King of France agreed and shipped (literally on ship) 86 single girls to Nola. At that time, the voyage between France and New-Orleans was several weeks -to months, depending if the water and winds were favorable. During the voyage, all the women had to stay in the hull of the ship, because the king was afraid that if they mixed with the sailors, they wouldn’t arrive in Nola as virgins. So, when the ship finally came ashore, the women were all in pretty awful shape. From the lack of sun and the poor food rations, most of them were extremely pale, with very long fingernails and their gums were bleeding out. The nuns figured out that they wouldn't let anyone see the women like that, because they thought that if someone did, they would be called unfit for marriage. So, they waited til the night and came with black robes to bring the girls to the convent, without anyone seeing. At that time, luggages were actually caskets and wooden crates that oddly looked like coffins. The tales say that someone coming out of a bar would have witnessed the event and just shared it to everyone that was willing to listen. And so just like that, vampires coming to New Orleans at night became part of the folklore. The tour ended up in front of another building, where we learned that Jack Sparrow was actually inspired by a pirate hanging out there. It was overall a very fun activity, but I was now completely frozen and to be real, also very tired of my eventful 10 days in Nola. I walked back Bourbon street up to my hotel and crashed down for the night. I took a flight the next morning, trying to review in my head everything I had learned during my stay in the Big Easy. 


Jesse wrote back to me, when I landed, and we discussed year resolutions and the fact he wanted to smoke less weed. I was positively surprised -and proud of him, but that changed the next day when he finally said he actually already reduced his consumption and didn’t feel like smoking daily was a problem. At first, I just rolled my eyes and the whole situation reminded me that this was just desillusion. I wasn’t into Jesse, and he wasn’t into me. We were just into the romantic idea around how we met and the nice date we had during our last night. I thought to myself (and ended up telling him) that even if he was from Montreal, we would be toxic to each other -because clearly I was never gonna understand his choices and he would forever feel judged. This reminded me that I needed to find someone that fit my lifestyle -and he needed the same, too.


We had a huge conversation where I sensed he felt the need to defend why he was smoking everyday, and I just couldn’t understand but I felt bad that he felt so unseen.


I introspected for the rest of the night, feeling like I was probably to him what a few Vegans had been to me in the past. Trying to lecture me every time I was ordering a steak, looking at my every action like if I was a poor dumb-dumb that didn’t know any better. But did I know eating animals was unethical and not ecologic? Of course, I did. I still wanted to continue eating it ‘cause it was damn tasty, though. No need to get a pain in the ass to remind me that my choice wasn't the smartest one to make. Another thing that made me think, is that Jesse kept telling me he was able to function even when smoking weed daily and that lots of people became successful even if they were potheads. And he was right. I mean, I can name lots of people that ended up being celebrities and that are still baked every day. Do they end up with PHDs or Nobel Prizes? I doubt it. But my definition of success is not the only one there is. Your truth becomes what you consume daily. For Jesse, it’s a lot of rap, conversations with fellow stoners and lots of things from the ghetto or skate culture. For me, it’s science stuff, mostly sober friends and trash self-help books about how to become successful.


There is no right answer. 


Jesse and I continued to talk daily, in the end. The flirting is still there (I mean he is interesting and hot), but mainly we started sharing more of the content we were consuming, so we could get a bit out of our comfort zone. The fact we were able to talk so openly about both our flaws and judgements made it so much easier to open up to the other’s experience too. And I think that is what makes me the most happy about my encounter with him.


Jesse opened my eyes on something I started to noticed while I was traveling the world: that I have a tendency to feel like my experience is the one everyone should aim for -just because I am happy and successful now. But the truth is: everyone’s experience is as valid as mine and I need to stop always bringing this back to me. There are countless ways to become successful, to become happy, to become the best version of yourself. And one of my 2024 resolutions, thanks to Jesse, is to support you all in any steps you take, towards any version of success you want, on any paths you choose. <3

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