Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sloppy Seconds

Two years ago I went out with a man named Hunter. We ate tacos and drank margaritas, moved to a second location for a round of drinks, then moved to a third bar to top off the evening. We discussed everything from baseball to politics and spent a good chunk of time trying to outdo each other with bad Mitch Hedberg impersonations. I considered it an excellent sign that he was interested in spending so much time on a first date; after all, it was a weeknight and we had hit up three bars! Totally living on the edge. If a dude really wanted to escape, wouldn't he chow down on his taco and hightail it out of there? Thinking that perhaps I'd been scaring men away by coming on too strongly on a first date, I decided to play it cool with Hunter and not go in for my usual "I know it's only been one date, but I like you so please call me" kiss. Much to my delight and surprise, Hunter initiated said kiss instead, and what a lovely kiss it was! He also said he'd like to see me again and would give me a call early the next week.

Monday: no call.
Tuesday: no call.
Wednesday: no call.
(It was no longer early in the week, but maybe he was really busy...)
Thursday: no call.
Friday: no call.

I gave up hope and cried, nay, sobbed myself to sleep. It wasn't Hunter I was crying over, really. It was men. I was exhausted from too much disappointment and heartbreak and angry for allowing myself to be lead on and get my hopes up so many damn times. My sister came in and comforted me as usual and I felt a little better... but someone who's been in steady relationships since she was 13 can't really understand the way it feels (Note: Sister, if you're reading this, I by no means wish to make light of your own heartbreaks. I know that you, too, have suffered. I'm just emphasising how alone I felt in this particular type of heartbreak. End note).

As with all such heartaches, I got over it.

A month later, I disembarked from the train and walked right by Hunter. I took several steps before realizing I had passed him, then turned around to see if he had noticed me. He was staring right at me. Feeling awkward, I kept walking, then decided to turn around again. He was looking away, but then looked back at me. We both kept looking at each other, then away, until I had walked far enough that he was no longer in my eyesight. That was the last I saw of Hunter. For a while, anyway.

The next year, I was living in a new apartment with new roommates and the three of us often compared date stories. One of my roommates had just gone out with a new guy that she was really digging and was gushing about the great time they'd had. I asked her his name. It was Hunter. That's how small New York really is, ladies and gentlemen: my random roommate and I ended up dating the same guy. My face visibly registered shock so I told my roommate about my own experience with Hunter. Then I went to my room because I finally had a boyfriend and he was waiting for me on my bed. Boo-yah!

But back to Hunter... my roommate told him about the crazy coincidence and he claimed to not remember ever dating someone with my name. That's either bullshit, or an illustration of what a jackass he really is. Sure, we went on one date, but only one year had gone by since then. Is it really that difficult to remember the first name of someone you spent several hours with, laughing and having a good time? Maybe I just take it for granted that I remember the name of every person I've ever met.

My roommate's relationship with Hunter didn't last very long, either. On their second date, he told her he'd like to be friends. Which they were, for a few weeks. He was coming out of the apartment once as I was going in and though he nodded to me and acknowledged my presence, showed no sign of recognition. Their friendship fizzled shortly after that. I think my roommate realized that, like myself, she had enough friends and no room for gigglefests with men who don't want to date us. At any rate, I was more than happy to offer this girl my sloppy seconds. Sucker.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Eric - The Saga's Final Chapter

It is finally time for the final chapter in the Eric Saga for which you have all waited to patiently.  (If you're new around these parts, I recommend reading posts from May 22 and July 26 first).  So without further ado...

To recap: Eric had left me alone in his apartment (the morning after I realized I was in love with him) while he went to coach a track meet.  In attempting to check my email on his computer, I found cyber sex IMs between Eric and an anonymous internet lover.  I fled the scene and Eric returned to an empty apartment and proceeded to get furious at me for invading his privacy.  He maintained he had done nothing wrong.

A while after the IM incident took place and I abandoned camp, Eric emailed me these liner notes from the Pearl Jam album Vitalogy:

I waited all day, you waited all day, but you left before sunset.  And I just wanted to tell you the moment was beautiful.  Just wanted to dance to bad music, drive bad cars, watch bad TV... should have stayed for the sunset, if not for me.

And I cried.  Even now I tear up when I read those lines and think about it.  Things like that always got me crawling back and he knew it; he knew my weaknesses.  (Note: I thought the above lines courtesy of Eddie Vedder were just for me, but I noticed one day that Eric had posted them on another girl's MySpace Wall.  The same girl he had the inappropriate IM chat with.  Awesome).

The sad truth is that it took far too many fuck-ups for me to learn my lesson.  So after avoiding his calls, but listening to his voicemail begging and pleading for three months, I gave in and called him.  I missed the sick bastard.  There is absolutely zero explanation for this because not only did Eric treat me like shit, but he was arrogant, manipulative and unattractive.  But somehow, despite all that, I found him irresistibly charming.  I saw his constant calls as pathetically sweet: He misses me that much?  Instead of seeing them for what they were: Wow, you are one sick bastard who preys upon women by manipulating them and you get off on it!  I refuse to take full responsibility for the suffering he put me through.  Yes, I was a complete idiot to go back so many times, but he was so damn persistent in his manipulations and knew how to get me to give in.

But yes, I did give in and eventually called Eric back.  We talked on the phone periodically and two months later he came to visit me.  I was working in a Barnes & Noble at the time and he met me there about an hour before closing, sat on the floor of the Children's Department and read Dr. Seuss while I worked.  It was around Halloween, so we went back to my apartment and he read me Poe's "The Black Cat" by candlelight on my fire escape while we imbibed in some delicious wine.  It was romantic (even though I had sworn off further romance between myself and Eric) and I was genuinely happy to be in his company once again.  I couldn't deny that we made a good team (when he wasn't being a sociopath).

I drank too much that night and ended up getting pretty sick, but Eric was a trooper and took care of me.  He rubbed my back and held my hair while I knelt over the toilet.  I woke up in my pajamas, in my bed, my face nestled safely in his armpit, and I was happy.  We went for a long walk in the morning, a perfect Fall day and I was sad to see him drive away that afternoon.  Fall is Eric's favorite time of year and we had some pretty amazing days together during that season: apple picking, throwing football, reading Poe, going for walks to admire the foliage.  Eric once told me that Autumn always made me think of me.  I hope it still does.  And I hope when it does, he realizes he's pathetic and I was far too good for him.

So yeah, things were going pretty well for a while.  We talked on the phone almost every day (and I hate talking on the phone).  Even though we were not romantically involved anymore, we used each other as outlets for sexual frustrations... but since we never saw each other, this consisted only of what could be achieved through the use of telephones.  I refuse to elaborate because I'm ashamed of it, but you can draw your own conclusions.  Eric always maintained he was single, a point I was adamant about because I did not ever want to be the other woman he was getting his kicks with while actually dating someone else.  I had been on the other side of that and it wasn't a fun place to be.  So we played our little games.  Sometimes I enjoyed it and sometimes he guilted and manipulated me into getting his way.  But giving in was easier than dealing with his whiny guilt trips.  Oddly enough I considered him one of my best friends.  I told him everything about my life and went to him when I was upset.  Somehow, when he wasn’t the thing that was making me upset, he always managed to make me feel better.

While things were going well, I kept trying to get him to come up and visit me again.  He seemed eager to do so, we would plan for a weekend, but he'd call Friday evening around the time he was supposed to be leaving and cancel on me.  He always had an excuse.  Once it was because his dad was sick and he had to stick around to look after him, once it was because an uncle unexpectedly came to visit, once it was because the week had just been so busy and he was behind in grading and grades were due on Monday... you get the idea.  I was suspicious, of course, but he always sounded so damn genuine!  God, I am a sucker.

The final straw came in January when we had a weekend visit planned.  By this time I knew to expect a call on Friday night to bail on me.  And sure enough, my phone rang around 6:00:

"Hey... I just don’t think I can make it up tonight."
"I know, I know.  And I'm really sorry, I am, but...
"Okay, what came up this time?"
"I had a doctor's appointment and he found a lump.  I don't have the test results yet, but he thinks it's probably Testicular Cancer."
"What?  Are you serious?
"Yeah, so I probably have Cancer and I just don't really feel like making the trip tonight."
"Oh.  Wow.  Okay.  But it might not be Cancer.  You don't know yet.  So yeah, take it easy this weekend and let me know when you hear something..."

That was the gist of our conversation.  So I hung up, but remained suspicious.  Was it possible Eric really had Cancer?  Sure.  But after the excuses and other various stunts he pulled I the past, it seemed unlikely.  I wasn't convinced enough that he was lying to blatantly call him out on it, but skeptical enough to call him back and question about it further.

I asked him more questions about his doctor's appointment and though he gave satisfying answers, I was still upset that he stood me up yet again.  I argued that if he really might have Cancer, wouldn't he like to be with someone who has always been able to cheer him up (me)?  Apparently not.  Sure, I felt a little bit guilty to be giving him such a hard time, but I was feeling very let down and didn't quite believe the story he was feeding me.  While on the line, I heard a door slam, immediately followed by a girl screaming at him.  Well, this was certainly an interesting turn of events!  What the hell was going on?  Eric asked me if I'd hold on a minute and presumably slipped his phone in his pocket, but I was still connected on the other end.

I proceeded to listen to twenty minutes of fighting between Eric and girl (whose name I think was Maria so that is what I will call her).  What I learned from the angry shouting match was that Maria was not only Eric's girlfriend, she lived with him.  I do not know exactly what they were fighting over, but she was extremely pissed off and called Eric "controlling" and "manipulative."  Even though I couldn't tell what the fight was about, I found I agreed with everything Maria was saying about Eric's nature and took her side.  Before my connection was lost I heard Eric yelling that he wanted her gone and she better not take her set of keys.

I waited a while and called Eric back and asked, "what was that all about?"  His reply: "What was what all about?"  I hadn't realized until this point that he had completely forgotten he'd never hung up the phone after talking to me.  I informed him that I had listened to no less than twenty minutes of the verbal warfare.  Of course, he once again berated me for invading his privacy, but couldn't put up much of an argument since he was the one that forgot I was still on the line.  He nonetheless tried to make it all my fault.  After that futile attempt, he moved onto other excuses: "We aren't even dating!  She's just crazy."  And my personal favorite: "I don't know how she even got in!"  I told him she probably came in the front door with her set of keys, at which point he became flustered and I informed him I was hanging up.

Suddenly, it all made sense.  The reason he always cancelled on me at the last minute was because he couldn't very well tell a live-in girlfriend he was going to New York to visit a friend with "benefits" for the weekend.  The reason he always called me at 3:00 in the afternoon and left voicemails that said "Hey, what are you up to?  Thought I could catch you now."  (Of course you won't get me at 3:00 in the afternoon!  He knew damn well I worked a 10-6 and couldn't take calls during that time).  But he couldn't very well call me while he was at home in the evenings with Maria, could he?  What an asshole.  I was beyond livid.  I don't know if there are adequate words to describe the anger and betrayal I felt.

I gave myself the weekend to cool off, all the while ignoring his repeated efforts at communication with me.  I knew I had to put an end to it, but dreaded that final call.  Sweet lord I hate confrontation.  Monday night, rehearsed dialogue in mind, I called Eric and said those four words no one ever wants to hear: "we need to talk."  He was attentive and did not try to interrupt me as I told him that I had been on both ends of his betrayals.  I knew how Maria would feel if she knew about me and I couldn't stand that he had put me in that position without my knowledge.  He had been incredibly dishonest, and furthermore, I had put up with his deception, manipulation and emotional abuse for far too long.  In closing, I said, "If you really do have Testicular Cancer, I wish you the best, but please do not ever contact me again.  This is where it ends."  He put up no argument.  In fact, in a rare show of complacency, he said, "You're right.  I'm so sorry."  And that was that, but unfortunately even that was not the last I'd hear from him.

He texted me five minutes later to say that his life was in shambles and he was a confused idiot because of it.  He told me I deserved someone a million times better than him and wanted nothing but the best for me and thanked me for staying in his life as long as I did.

I did not respond.

However, a week later I received a desperate voicemail from Eric, begging me to call him because he really needed to talk to me.  Fearful that the Cancer prognosis was in fact true, I called him back immediately.  The Eric on the other end of the line was calm and collected: "Hey, thanks for calling me back so quickly!  How are you?" -- "I'm fine!  But how are you?" -- "Great!  It was a really good day.  I just wanted to hear your voice."

Furious that I'd allowed him to pull one more over on me, I told him I had to go and hung up.  I am quite happy to say that was nearly two years ago and I have not talked to Eric since.

That's not to say he hasn't tried.  A month later I had to have his phone number blocked because I was tired of ignoring his constant calls and texts.  I preferred to not even know when he was attempting to get in touch with me.

When the calls failed, he resorted to email.  I received an email from him about once a month for eight months until I realized that I could also block emails.  I've now been completely Eric-free for a year, though (not to flatter myself), I assume he still tries from time to time.  That dude does not stop!  It's like the line in Austin Powers when, after many futile attempts to kill one of Dr. Evil's cronies, Austin screams, "Why won't you die???"

Still, I have a sick feeling that I haven't heard the last from Eric.  I feel as though some day he will find a way.  I know he has friends who live in this city and it's entirely possible I could just run into him on the street.  I often imagine that confrontation and though it would make me sick to my stomach, I've rehearsed the hell out of it.  Sometimes I even check New Jersey headlines to see if he's dead or in prison.  Neither would surprise me too much.