Centuries before me, white men had raided the Spanish continent, stealing gold and leaving sexually transmitted diseases. Was there a historical irony then to my time in South America, some sort of inverse experience as I burnt through my savings and jumped between patchy Wi-Fi hotspots in search of my elusive Tinderella? Probably not. But here I was, with my time in Chile winding down, sitting in the courtyard of a dark bar somewhere in the historic heart of Santiago. My date was running late, as she was coming straight from the airport where she worked, which left me enjoying the quiet ambience and wondering, “will tonight be a night I’ll never forget?”
Her name was Catalina* and she was a Chilean native. She’d moved from a much smaller town in the North of Chile to live in the big smoke – Santiago, and now in her late twenties it felt like she’d lived there her whole life. Her hair was dark brown, tied back loosely, with dark eyes to match. She was short, full of energy and had a command of English, her third language after Spanish and Portuguese, that was probably better than mine.
We’d been forced to schedule a late-night date, due to her crowded roster at work, and it reflected the quick connection and chemistry we’d forged as it felt like no time at all had passed before our Pisco Sours had been devoured and the bar was closing. This left us in a situation we’ve all been in. That mad dash from bar to bar to squeeze in ‘one last drink’ as they close like dominos.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but nothing says ‘romance’ quite like the blinding lights of a venue smacking you in the face while the staff put all the chairs up on the tables. So, we hit the streets heading for the one venue that doesn’t enforce a lock-out; Catalina’s apartment.
We’d managed to cover a lot on our date as we zoomed from bar to bar, so it came as a surprise on the walk to her apartment when she told me casually, “I hope you’re ready to meet Domingo”. Now I’m all for embracing new experiences whlilst overseas but if she had a boyfriend at home who wanted to turn this dating duo into a ménage a trois then I’d need more than a few blocks to mentally prepare. Then again, I’d ended up, albeit unknowingly, on a date with a beautiful trans woman earlier that week, so clearly Chile was happy pitching me curveballs.
My surprise, however, was misguided as Catalina told me that Domingo, while still the love of her life, was not her bloke, but her cat.
She was a self-confessed 'crazy cat lady', with a sleek black breed of some sort (are there a lot of cat breeds? I really don’t know) that she’d been given years ago and who had quickly become her greatest love. Domingo, she told me, was Spanish for Sunday and giving that name to her feline friend cracked her up no end.
With the sun long gone and the sky above bristling with stars we found our way to her apartment, a few blocks off the main drag in a highly unsavoury part of town. Santiago was like that it seems. My hostel was only a ten-minute walk away, but to get there you had to pass through all sorts of sketchy streets and dodge all sorts of dangerous characters. It was like trying to get to the end of a video game level in that way. Only if I lost a life I didn’t reset at the start of the level, I was just dead.
But those thoughts were far from my mind as we made it to her place and I met Catalina’s great love, who was eagerly waiting for us at the door. Domingo slunk around my leg, no doubt judging me, while Catalina prepared him some food and cooed over what a good boy he was. For a moment, I felt jealousy truth be told. It was a surreal feeling that washed over me before I pushed it away just as quickly. After all, why would I be jealous of this cat? He certainly wasn’t jealous of me. Domingo couldn’t care less that I was in his apartment as he tucked into the Chilean equivalent of Whiskas Chicken and bits.
And so, the scene was set. As the early hours of the day ticked away (sadly it wasn’t a Sunday, although that would have made for a great sense of storytelling irony) Catalina and I enacted out that ancient Tinder ritual - drinking until someone initiates physical contact. Domingo was fast asleep in the corner and if he was headed for bed, then I was too and that’s exactly where we found ourselves.
You might be thinking at this juncture; “this is all a little self-indulgent Alex, your quest for Tinderella usually throws up a curveball, are you really just going to describe having sex in coded language?” and to that I say, yes. Well, sort of. You see, while the bilateral relationship between Australia and Chile was being improved immeasurably (there’s some of that coded language you were after) there was another factor at play. While Catalina was engaging in some Spanish dirty talk - and I really can’t recommend this highly enough. Get your partner some Spanish lessons for Christmas, there’s something irresistible about unintelligible Spanish as it tumbles past your ear within a framework of heavy breathing; the door to her bedroom had been left ajar. And through that open door slunk a certain little someone. Domingo.
I’ll never know if what happened next is a regular occurrence or a one off. I’ll never get in the mind of Domingo to see if he was still hungry, just curious, or maybe even awash with jealousy himself. But while Catalina was pre-occupied working on oral skills that didn’t involve Spanish (a little more coded language to keep you all going) Domingo, that little shit, jumped onto the bed and sunk his teeth straight into my big toe.
My breath caught in my throat as my brain tried to deal with two vastly contrasting sensations. And neither Catalina or Domingo were coasting, both mouths going full throttle. In Domingo’s case that meant releasing my toe, giving me a moment’s respite from the pain, then sinking his teeth into it over and over. I could feel his claws lodge in my shin as he tried to get better leverage, twisting my poor toe from side to side while Catalina worked on a similar technique in her zone. It sounds crazy in hindsight, but I really didn’t want to interrupt Catalina, especially with the finish line so close. But Domingo would not stop and I could feel blood dripping from my foot onto the sheets, my mouth twisted into the most awkward of grimaces, the fluctuation between soaring pleasure and searing pain almost indistinguishable. The Divinyls once sang that there’s a fine line between pleasure and pain and they were close, but not exactly right. Because the difference between pleasure and pain isn’t a fine line. But a feline. Domingo.
I don’t know if I should be proud of my willingness to tough it out or whether an early tap out would have been better, but I managed to stifle my groans of pain, release my groans of pleasure and when Catalina rolled beside me I was finally able to bring my foot inside the covers, leaving Domingo with nothing left to nosh. “Wow, you were really into that” she murmured in the dark. If only she knew.
I went to head to my hostel after that, as Catalina had plans early the next day, but after stepping onto the dark and empty streets of pre-dawn Santiago and sensing nothing but my impending death I quickly turned around and buzzed back into her apartment. To her credit, she let me share her bed with Domingo until the sun rose once more and I made my home on foot.
So, there was no lasting Tinderella to be found on this night. Yet Santiago had left an indelible imprint on me. Catalina was warm and welcoming, beautiful and bubbly. She’d always remain linked to my memories of Santiago and for that I’m extremely thankful. And I’d like to think that if my sexual preferences continue to evolve and I end up heavily entrenched in the BDSM scene that one day, years down the line, someone will ask me, “Who first introduced you to the dynamics of pleasure and pain during sex?” and I’ll be able to answer in a single word, with the ultimate in-joke, “Domingo."
* Not her real name
Alexander Porter is a 27 year old with a degree from Sydney University. When Alex isn't writing he is watching his beloved St George Dragons let him down, drinking flavoured milk and planning new travel adventures. You can follow him on Instagram @alexander_le_great and you can check out his own blog, Inked and Abroad, here.