With only six degrees of separation between us all, the discovery of a mutual friend or past conquest happens all the time between lovers. But the last thing you expect to share is a family tree.
I arrive at a funky house party along with friends and my date for the evening, Paul. We met a few weeks ago and have already embarked on one official (and sexless) date. It was enjoyable, but it's pretty clear that the only thing developing between us is friendship. Not a problem.
Yet a few potent drops of alcohol at the party make me realize that my gay libido views our situation slightly differently. In its mind (and by intimate association, my own), sex with Paul will erect a pleasurable bridge between "dating" and "just friends."
The time has come to fill that gap. My wineglass, too.
Our search for a bottle of red leads us to a second kitchen at the back of the house, and this one isn't littered with guests, only empty booze bottles and my desire to share a lusty kiss with my date.
With surprisingly little effort we locate a full bottle, and Paul begins to slowly uncork it. I offer to help, a haze of drunken logic convincing me that four hands are better than two when dealing with an instrument as complicated as a corkscrew. Our fumbling fingers set the stage for seduction. Nervous laughter is deliciously silenced with a sizzling kiss.
Intent on making the most of this moment, I carefully fall to my knees and for the next few minutes allow more than just the wine to breathe.
The sound of footsteps in the hallway forces an unwelcome intermission in this intoxicating performance. Paul's cock slips out of my mouth and back into his jeans. I spring to my feet. We complete the original task at hand and I take a strategic, hearty sip from my refreshed glass of wine before joining the other guests. Given the occasion, I prefer my breath to smell of Merlot, not dick. Years pass before developments threaten to taint my memory of that night.
"I've come across some information that made me think of you," an e-mail from Paul begins.
"I'm gathering birth certificates on my mother's side in an attempt to gain a UK ancestry visa. (I'm thinking about going to work in London for a while.)
"My great-grandparents never married, and my great-grandfather wasn't ever on the scene. My great-grandmother didn't take his last name, and he faded into the past once they immigrated to Canada from Glasgow. My great-grandmother never told her daughter (my nana) the cad's last name.
"But it turns out that my aunt remembers it as Edward Nisbet. I've ordered my nana's original birth certificate from the General Register for Scotland, so until I receive it, I won't know the exact spelling.
"But there's a chance you seduced a long-lost distant cousin in a kitchen during a house party. Pervert."
At first shocked and then amused, I immediately e-mail the family historian, my older brother Eric, with a vague inquiry regarding the identity of one Edward Nisbet.
"Why the sudden interest in genealogy?" Eric replies.
It's a reasonable question, but one I'm not immediately ready to answer.
"I may have given a blow job to a distant cousin of ours," my fingers softly, somewhat reluctantly confess to the computer keyboard. I sense my brother shaking his head in disbelief even before I press the send key.
I check my family tree courtesy of my brother's website, but there's no sign of the elusive Edward. All indications point to this being a false alarm.
While a possible scandal has been averted, my sense of relief is dusted with a thin layer of disappointment. The news has me reflecting on my past encounters and the romantic entanglements of those who came before me. I'm reminded that not every sexual encounter involves a truthful exchange of names, let alone a discussion about each person's genealogy. And what of anonymous sex, or sex with someone who is adopted?
Not all relationships are documented from generation to generation. Secrets aren't always revealed. By coincidence or destiny, it's entirely possible that sometime in our lives we could be repeating a past intimacy shared between our ancestors. You may have closer ties to your lover than you know.