On the eve of Valentine’s Day, Ex Fabula’s resourceful crew re-created the “After Dark” Secret Fabula experience in the Zoom room. Like every Secret Fabula, there were group activities, stories, Ultrashorts and a special feature.

The first ice-breaking activity was show & tell in breakout rooms. Alea gave us categories: It’s Too Big, In Bed and After Dark. I braced myself – I wasn’t feeling much sizzle. But Ex Fabula spaces are brave spaces!

My breakout buddies shared a Costco-sized twin pack of pickles, a monster late-harvest Butternut squash, adorable stuffed animals and a jigsaw puzzle. I felt safe then, showing my weighted eye-pillow – treasured bedmate of sinus sufferers everywhere.

Then, storytellers Matthew Lewis and Michaela Lacy amped it up a bit. Both had tales of trying to process a break-up during long, soul-killing service industry shifts. Matthew was waiting tables. After hours on his feet… after explaining the ingredients of Buttermilk Ranch for the third time, he decided he needed and deserved some no-illusions, no-commitment sex. I’m not sure he really deserved what followed!

He found a geeky, but passable date on Tinder. He followed all the pre-date safety measures and went ahead, to discover that his date didn’t look like his side profile, and was flanked by an imposing cutout of a Star Wars storm trooper. Matthew likes his Star Wars too, but not to the tune of an apartment filled wall to wall with memorabilia. After the worst sex he’d ever had, Matthew fled…as in grabbed his pants and put them on after he got out the door.

Michaela told us what it’s like when it’s your 20th birthday and you’re living away from home; when you stay with your godmother (who threw out your giant dildo after she found your younger god-sisters fooling with it)…When everyone but your Mom and best friend forget to say happy birthday…when you’re working at the grocery store and trying to get through a break-up…

She was determined to get some that night, By Any Means Necessary. She decided one of her co-workers would do, and without much ceremony told him her plan. He was game, and she got ready. Legs shaved, sugar scrub, and thankfully, high. Due to circumstances, they had to couple on her godmother’s porch…Her chosen one was so inept and passive that she asked him if he was a virgin. A question that got him crying. Then arguing and that was it…

Soterriah Jones is learning about sex. She’s had sex-ed at school and discusses everything she learns with her Mom. She enjoys a website Special Bridge where young people with the same disability can connect. She knows her Mom and family want to keep her safe, so they talk about consent; and what types of behaviors are acceptable in relationships.

A family funeral brought John Kaufman to Manitowoc, where longtime buddy Kevin lives. They had a history of in-jokes and innuendo. Kevin invited John to stay over with him and his wife. Thanks to COVID, that meant John would be pitching a tent in Kevin’s backyard. Before  leaving the funeral home, John helped himself to a flower arrangement in a giant vase. For fun, he stopped at Kevin’s chiropractic office, handed the flowers to his office receptionist and asked her to bring it to his friend with the message I’ll see you in the tent tonight. The receptionist obliged him.

After outdoor beer drinking with Kevin and his wife that evening, John retired to his backyard tent. The loaded promise I’ll see you in the tent took an interesting turn later, when an in-lawn sprinkler sprang into action exactly where John was camped.

Then it was time for “Tea with Queens”! Two professional drag queens with Milwaukee pedigrees – Joanna and Ms. B Haven – joined frozen us from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and Phoenix, Arizona to share personal and professional tales and trade secrets.

Bayview native Joanna’s been on the professional circuit for a quarter-century! She’s worked all over the country (and now, in Mexico). She shared stories about New York City bedbugs, scabies, and brilliant queens she’s learned from. She reflected on changes in the genre.

In the early 1990’s, “hyperreal” was the standard with “passing” as a girl the ideal. Now, there’s a greater range of expression, with a larger-than-life look popular. There’s a greater range of opportunity now too. Though RuPaul doesn’t currently accept female queens, there are plenty of them on the circuit, changing this living art.

Joanna also talked about how she took an unpaid gig on Fire Island once (it did include three nights paid at a nice hotel). No pay, but it led to one opportunity, then another, then another, cascading into a long career. Her advice: if you’re not doing anything else, take the gig!

Ms. B Haven shared her Milwaukee roots performing with the Miltown Kings, UWM and Alverno Drag Balls and Pridefest. B Haven’s style accentuate what you’ve got (in her case, big boobs) and engage the crowd has been clipped by social distancing requirements. Another reason to take COVID precautions seriously and get this behind us!

Her Pridefest memories included a story about what happens when a shift of the fickle lakefront wind during her act upended a tray of shot glasses filled with glitter. Glitter! A provocative subject, that got Joanna chiming in glitter betrays us…it’s like a drag hangover…it’s like scabies: you got it from someone else.

Fun, beautiful, exhilarating…itchy, irritating and regret-inducing… like love; or like scabies and hangovers. Seems like glitter is the perfect metaphor for the many facets of Love we explored at the Valentines “After Dark”!