David Schmader

IT WAS THE DAY after the day a racist sexual predator was elected president. White nationalists were rejoicing, attacks on minorities were spiking, and Leonard Cohen was dead. My own state vacillated between numbness, dread, and fury, driven by what I can best describe as itchy blood. I was clearly alive, but everything felt wrong, on all levels: macro, micro, atomic.

Still, worlds turn and deadlines loom, and while mulling topics for a post-Trump column, I recalled an e-mail I’d received earlier this year from someone I’d never met who’d seen my photograph in connection with my weed book. Her forever-memorable opening: “I would love to have some weed only with you and a great kiss by me since I am the queen kisser. You are my type so much. I am Eritrean lived in Seattle for over 26 years. I am fifty years old but I look forty. Never experienced smoking weed please let me do it with you.”

Dazzled by her chutzpah, I replied immediately, and we e-mailed for a while. (Key exchange: “I’m gay and married!” “That’s great!”) And late last week, I drove to pick up the queen kisser at her home, after which we got high and went to Red Robin.

The queen kisser does not live her life as the queen kisser (no tiara, no sash, and her real name is Lana*). She’s gorgeous—the “50 looks 40” claim is so factual, it should be on her driver’s license. And beyond the radiant face is ace style, with her casually elegant khaki top-and-bottom set laced by the soft tangerine color that lights up her fingernails, belt, and toenails.

Most importantly, Lana is the world’s greatest flirt, one that can make you feel simultaneously loved and respected and porn-star hot. From her opening statement (“I meditated and asked the universe to bring me a guy who looks like you”) to her parting volley (inviting me in to take a nap if I needed, insisting, “I won’t try anything!”), she nailed a type of openhearted flirting I didn’t know existed. Even better, she temporarily dissipated my Trump angst with a few short sentences: “African dictators stay in power for decades. Trump gets four years. God bless America! I love this country.”

We parked in a far corner of the Red Robin lot, had a couple puffs of Pineapple Express, and then headed in. Seated at an elevated two-top, we started gabbing. What I learned: Lana is a mother of three accomplished adult children who lives in an apartment and rents out the big house she raised her family in. Ten years ago, she divorced the husband she moved to America and created a family with, after which she put herself through a one-year medical program and now works at a Seattle-area hospital. She’s fluent in three languages and says English is her weakest, and she eloquently explained how she always felt jealous when she saw people reading English-language books, so she got herself up to speed and celebrated/graduated by reading Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains.

Food arrived—teriyaki chicken burger for her, Burnin’ Love veggie burger for me—along with a deepening of the weed’s effects. While attempting the ambitious multitasking of conversing while wrangling condiments, Lana was reduced to giggles while trying to recall the word for “manipulative” (it’s “manipulative”), and we both lost ourselves in a classic deep-dive-into-a-subject-now-what-were-we-talking-about? cul-de-sac. (Topic: human males, which we both love.) We also sat silently, goofy smiles on our faces, eating fries.

When I asked Lana where she gets her confidence—the confidence that drives her to ditch a stagnant marriage for a new career and e-mail strangers she’d like to kiss—she said, abashedly, “Am I confident?” Later she noted her admiration for Oprah and Dr. Phil and Eckhart Tolle, for their inspirational commitment to self-actualization, and I got my clue.

Only after I dropped her off did I realize I’d neglected to ask two major questions, which I sent via e-mail from home: “Do you think you’ll try weed again? How did you earn the title the queen kisser—was it bestowed upon you or is it something you aspired to and achieved?”

Lana’s response: “I would try it again when you come for dinner with your husband. I don’t think I will do it by myself. About the queen kisser, my ex-boyfriend said so. I am great and I know it. Why you ask me, you want to try? LOL.”

* Not her real name.