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And by "convert," I do imply that there is a currency there, and that if you plan to put it to use, you have to exchange it for something you can actually use where you currently are. Some people find uses for crushes, and I can appreciate that, but it never worked for me, maybe because I have too vivid an imagination and have lived inside of it for so much of my life, and it is such a dangerous place to get comfortable.

There is a chemistry and a geometry in attraction that we understand. We know about the magic of symmetry, the spell of limb length, the incantations of eye contact. There is a smell and taste and a touch to everything that draws us in. We understand it and accept it and, sometimes, we try to learn from it, what it tells us about ourselves.

One of my first Muses was messy and problematic and we were both in our early 20's (if I dig deeper, I know there are earlier ones, but this one marks, for me, the start of the conversion process). We worked at the same cafe in the French Quarter; he was one of the untrained cooks, and I was one of the untrained baristas, and we were paid entirely in cash and free food. He had the lanky limbs thing, and he also had almost neon green eyes. On the non appealing end of the spectrum, he was sloppy, unkempt, and had a lisp, and I managed to look over these things. He floated through his day with a decided level of indifference, his Vans caked with eggshells and grease, sliding around the kitchen, dancing with me to G Love and the Special Sauce. He was a fairly impressive silkscreen artist, and he had a girlfriend that came with him from Richmond where they were from, I believe.

It took me weeks before I unburdened myself and declared having a crush on him. This is often my first attempt to identify a Muse, by knocking him off the pedestal in my mind. The longer they stay on that pedestal, the more painful it is for me because, you see, I constantly fantasize about that person until they're removed from that post, and the fantasies can get....taxing and time consuming. It probably sounds hot, right? Just having all this free erotic material to draw from...well, it's not. I'm sure it's not for men who actually GET boners, but it's definitely not for me, or at least, with this first one, because I hadn't yet figured out how to pleasure myself to fend off unrequited lust. Plus, we were in very cramped working quarters; the cafe's kitchen was barely galley sized and definitely not up to code, and there were only about 6 tables out front. The closeness of his body and the heat of life made it impossible to concentrate. To make matters worse, the salon around the corner bleached his hair to white for shits and giggles (shops always worked in trade; sometimes we would buy extra hamburger beef from the Hooters on the corner and we would make iced mochas for haircuts at the salon), which made him even more ethereal and angelic.

When I did painstakingly confess how I felt, he blew it off and indicated that this didn't impact our friendship in the least, after which I felt an immense sense of relief. To keep this part short: we did start messing around, at or after he broke up with his girlfriend who, it turned out, was already insanely jealous and paranoid about me (AS WELL SHE SHOULD BE, Jesus, Templeton, do you EVER behave?), afterward, he accused me of giving him the clap and we basically stopped speaking to each other and eventually I quit the cafe. While the final final outcome was quite undesirable, I did learn how to get power back from such an exhausting exchange of value. My only real regret was that, because the pleasurable part after the confession was so short lived, I never got to really enjoy all of the features I had lusted after for all those weeks prior. Even the sex was clunky and dull, since I didn't know what the hell I was doing, and neither of us could afford air conditioning. Fornication generates too much heat in New Orleans when you can't find easy relief. All I really can remember about him now are his eyes, wide and cat like, and this one photo of a silkscreen he did that I still have, a repeated image of the back of an 80's era Chevy, similar to the one I owned at the time.

A decade or so later, I met a guy on one of those typical dating sites, and we began a similar arc, complete with the confession and the relief. The difference was that this guy was not sexually motivated and sincerely considered me a friend; in fact, sex wasn't really even possible. He suffered from PTSD stemming from childhood trauma, so much so that he worked from home and felt uncomfortable anytime he wasn't in his home, outside of MMA training. He wouldn't let most people touch him, but for whatever reason, he felt comfortable with me. Aesthetically, he was a miniature David, deliberately pale and hairless with ribbons of tendons and muscles; at 5'4, all he knew to do with himself was to be as tough and resilient as possible, a hard shell armor. All we ever really did was cuddle. We would spoon and I would smell his neck and he was turn to butter; his heart rate and breathing would slow down, and the reaction he had to me was intoxicating to me. It was power without abuse. We had, and continue to have a bond based on the understanding that I have never wanted anything from him that he could not give, that, unlike others who have hurt him, I really didn't have any ulterior motives other than his company and to appreciate just how beautiful he was, on his skin and in his brain. It sounds corny writing it but, to me, he's almost hard to look at, he's that beautiful, to me. He's like any marble statue you wished you could touch but you know is cold and hard and nothing like the warmth cast off from the spotlights. He's Mannequin come to life, just for me.

There have been a few before and after David, and there will likely always be more, as long as I have most of my senses. One currently in development is an actor/writer, of all things, and this one is even more fun, because it's complete fantasy and I can take it all the way out to sea if I want. I have held long and intimate stares and conversations with an idea of who he is, who he could be as a real person. I've looked out from balconies across a night-lit cityscape with him and waxed with him on his upcoming endeavors. At the end of each night or afternoon coffee, I'm back in my own bed, my own skin, and I can still smell his hair on my hands.

It is unconventional, perhaps, to have what I would describe as platonic friendships whose intimacy looks suspect to some of you in the audience. Perhaps it is, but it really just mirrors what I already knew, that the way humans connect is seldom as categorical and segmented as we wish it were, for the sake of those that love us, those that feel they have special stock in our hearts because we choose to spend the better part of our lives and loves with them.

Sometimes, you have to convert the currency for it to have any value.