One such woman, I'll call her Claire, I met in New Zealand while shooting a Japanese TV commercial a few decades ago. She was hired by the local producer as a production assistant, also known as runners. They help out wherever they can on set or location - doing anything from driving, to getting meals, handing out call sheets, etc.
Although I do remember the first time I was introduced to Claire, in the production office in Wellington, it wasn't until we were on set a few days later that something really pinged and I realised that there was some attraction there. She was a bit like a cat; quietly confident, graceful and sleek, and, I was soon to find out great to curl up with, fun to make purr.
We started out playing some cheeky games with ice cubes, one day on location when the main crew were out on the camera car getting some shots. She was up for any challenge and we shared a sense of humour and play. I love that moment when you both realise that eventually you are going to be together. Maybe you are not 100% sure, but it's 90% from both sides and you each use the last 10% as an ongoing oscillating tease.
That evening, after the crew dinner in a small town pub, halfway down the south island of NZ, we snuck away to a secluded courtyard area and shared some time alone together to see if your chemistry was indeed what we perceived it to be. I remember, at my suggestion, we played a word game. A simple one but quite telling and revealing of each other's headspace, world view and nature. I would say a word and she would respond with the first word that came into her head, to which I would do the same and so on.
It was smooth, funny and dynamic. I was surprised and delighted by her complexity, intelligence and layers. The 10% was reduced to 1%. She suggested we go for a drive. By now it was around 11pm. The call time for the next morning was six. "Let's go!" I said without hesitation and jumped in the passenger seat of her assigned mini van.
After she had been driving for about ten, fifteen minutes, in the abandoned countryside, I asked her if she knew where she was going. "I'll know when we get there." was her response. It seemed a little strange, to be heading out so far into unknown territory (for us both), but I shrugged it off and relinquished control. We drove in silence for a while longer and then we crossed a bridge. I recall looking at here driving and suddenly getting a feeling of dread, a strange and powerful gut feeling. What was it and why? I did not know. I surpressed it, though. I was too into her. I was willing to see the outcome. It was a mild, inexplicable panic. I did not want to succumb to it, although it was noted and filed. By the time we pulled up on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, it had passed. We got out of the car and climbed over a fence and ran across a large open paddock. Our destination, using only the available moonlight to guide us was a giant, multi-layered stack of hay bales. Like a couple of crazy kids, we climbed up to the mid level, and laying out coats down as a blanket, we began to get intimate.
You know you are with a good match when you really just want to keep kissing. Kissing is more than enough. Your body is pumping chemicals like there is no tomorrow, your eyes are closed, all your senses are on high alert, your faces are smashed together, saliva is being exchanged, tongues whirling in playful delight. There is nowhere else in the world you would rather be. You are experiencing one of those moments on planet earth that is as close to perfection as you'll ever get. You are connecting with another person in a way that makes you feel incredibly present and incredibly transported to another dimension at the same time.
Eventually, the animal takes over and nudges even the most romantic, slow burners towards intercourse. We were just beginning, maybe five or ten minutes into it, when we noticed car lights at the gate. After a few moments of confusion - we were out in the middle of nowhere at 1am - I leapt up and pulled my pants on, headed towards the lights. What I saw gave me chills. It was a man holding a rifle. Not just holding it, but pointing it at me as he walked towards me. For a second or two I was frozen.
"What the bloody hell are you doing on my property?"
He was angry but not psychotic. I told him we were just out on a drive and decided to do some star gazing. In the meantime, Claire had put her clothes on and gathered the rest of mine, joining me at my side. She apologised with me and I believe that the old fella worked out exactly what was going on and realising we were no threat in any way, chose to cut us some slack. He did not become friendly, but he did lower his gun as he invited us to piss off.
It was an unexpected experience, a heightened experience. When we got back to my room at the motel our intimacy was continued, perhaps improved by our shared brush with danger. We took our time and knew that our bodies were as meant for each other as our personalities and minds. There was no question that this was something special.
We only had one other opportunity to be together in private and that was on my last night in Christchurch. Claire snuck back to my hotel room quite late, after the wrap dinner. Not being sure when we would see each other again made it bitter sweet.
Of course, we had to see each other again. We conversed transpacific a few times and soon arranged for Claire to come and visit me in Bondi. It was so exciting to see her again and it felt like something real and potentially long term. We were so compatible. As well as being gorgeous in an understated way, she was a very cool person who had a quiet confidence and alluring charm. It felt like I was the only one who had access to this truly amazing being. I was euphoric. After some time in Bondi, I decided to treat her with a trip to Australia's chilled, spiritual rejuvenation, coastal mecca; Byron Bay. It was on our last day there, after a week of laughing and loving, heavenly hanging, that the dream came to a sudden and shocking halt.
It came in the form of a message on my mobile phone. Mobiles were still pretty new then and basic. Texting didn't exist. Calls were often missed or would go straight to mail box. This one came from a private number and went straight to messages. I pushed one to listen. It was a voice I did not recognise. It went something like this:
"This is Ben. I'm Claire's boyfriend. I know you are with her in Byron Bay. I'm at your place in Bondi right now. I'm waiting in the stair well with a knife. I'm not afraid to go to prison. I have been there before. I'm not even afraid to do life. If I can't have Claire, there's no point in living anyway. You've taken her from me and that is unforgivable. I've got lots of nasty friends in Sydney who..."
And on it went. Increasingly desperate, unbalanced, shocking, threatening and psychotic. After another few seconds, I hit the discard button. Shut it down. I was spooked enough. The message was clear.
The place we were staying was booked out. We moved to a hotel on the Gold Coast but did not catch our scheduled flight back to Sydney. We holed up there for a few more days and nights. I arranged for a mate to scope out my place. Claire assured me that he wouldn't be there. That he was a lot of bark and only some bite. Still. Bite's are painful.
Who was this guy? And why had I not known about this?
Turns out he was a recent ex. A dangerous character. She had left him, finally, after an unhappy, tormenting and prolonged break up. But in his mind, it was not over. He had found out about me through their friend's network and somehow got my phone number and address.
Was he really dangerous? Did he really have bikie friends?
Yes and yes. But, she didn't think he would really actually kill me. But he could, maybe. Friends of their friends had taken out hit orders on people before.
A whole new side of her became apparent. She was someone who walked the line. Live dangerously. Under that sweetness was cold blood. She was attracted to my free spirit and comparative innocence. I've had my share of scrapes with trouble, sure, but I've never taken out a hit on someone.
Anyway, she rang a mutual friend of theirs - the leader of a bike gang in NZ. After a few conversations to and fro, including the big dude calling and allegedly placating Ben - I was given the all clear. No assassination today.
From Sydney, she returned home. She promised to get it sorted out before the next time we would meet. I was going to go down there. Spend some time at her place, meet the family...
We continued to talk on the phone. But things were different. I could not comfortable integrate into that world. Her and me... yes. The rest of it... no, thanks. The calls became shorter and less frequent. Time, in it's giant rolling snowball way, whited out everything. As it does, as it does.
Sometimes, I would think back to that very strong feeling I got before it all started. In the van on that first night. I believe I sensed the trouble in her, around her. She showed none of it, but it was there, hidden away. I sensed it. I could not have known - and I wanted to be with her, so I let it dissipate. But it was one of a very few times in my life I have ever felt it like that. It was spot on.