Being hotly pursued on a dating website is nothing new, but this guy was persistent. It takes me several weeks to agree to a date. I need to suss out the situation, decide if my suitor is safe, if they have controlling personalities, or riddled with bitterness. Thankfully, most people are transparent enough that a quick review of their emails tells their story. His did not.
After the first date we were a reluctant couple. We were giddy but still guarded, and intense but we couldn't verbalize our feelings. He was recently divorced, had slept around considerably and was still being obsessively texted by two or three girls. I was involved with a couple of other men. He was nine years my junior, and was in the habit of bedding down girls half his age. "Self-proclaimed bondage sluts with daddy issues," he confessed.
He claimed he met them in all different places and ways--some online, one at a mini-mart, two were friends of friends of friends of someone else... too many to be a coincidence. I asked him if not getting that sort of thing in bed with me was going to be a problem, and he responded, "I'm not into tying up and torturing, but they wanted it so I did it." He was offended that I would even dare ask such a question, and he pinched me very hard under the guise of teasing. I told him to knock it off or leave, and that he was only confirming my suspicions. He left and didn't call for several days.
When he did call, he attempted nonchalance, then asked if he could come over. I told him he could as long as we practiced some mutual respect. We then entered into a phase of general calm, enjoying each others' company and keeping the sniping to a minimum. He would reprimand me if I cut him off in conversation, but I didn't ever bother to point out that he only talked about himself. Endlessly. I decided to pick my battles and adjust, and would wait until he was even boring himself before stepping in.
Then came the big blowup. We were supposed to attend a party together but he was called away to help his ex with an emergency she could have handled. Because he was afraid of her and her power to take away his children, he usually jumped when she said jump. He kept telling me he'd be done "any minute" so I kept waiting, until I finally called the hostess and told her I was going to try and make it on my own. "Oh. It's over, already." I'd missed her daughter's birthday celebration entirely. 'Hurry up and wait' at its finest.
When he finally arrived I tried to explain to him why I was upset. He had a bad habit of assuming I knew better than to question his actions, so he sat there. Saying nothing. Until I burst.
"I understand she has you by the balls, but this is happening way too often. She's acting like a child and you're playing into it, and you'll have to figure out some way to explain all this to me because I'm not getting it. I don't read minds, I read people, and I get why you're afraid. The details are what are escaping me. I'm sorry I'm mad. It's a gut reaction to a frustrating situation, and it's not just frustrating for YOU! What does she have on you?"
He felt like he deserved respect no matter what his actions. I felt like that was absurd. It's my belief that respect is earned, day to day, one action at a time. We went to bed angry.
The next morning we fell into an old habit of morning sex, but at one point he pulled my hair and pretty much forced me to do something I didn't want to do. He wasn't staying hard, and maybe that was his solution. When I told him that was never okay with me and asked if we could try again, he yelled, "Don't start something you can't fucking finish!" I realized, to my horror, that he'd said that once before. He'd taken out his inability to perform on the one person who was trying to love and understand him.
While we were apart for the next few weeks... I went on a date with a man I'd met before, with a completely different set of problems. For now, let it suffice that seeing him made me think my "current" situation wasn't so bad. I made a phone call. I needed to know my ex-not-ex understood how frightening his behavior had been and maybe we could AGAIN start respecting each other.
But I didn't respect him. I couldn't and I wasn't even aware of it until it was all I could think about. And the more he spoke about his life, the less I understood this strange, cold man. I realized he didn't love his kids for who the were, but because they were his creations and reflections of his virility. How sad. A manic mother and a cold father. I wanted to kidnap them and take them away from the madness, and I hadn't even met them.
His main source of income I'll keep to myself. Well, it's probably best to keep his other two jobs out of this, too. What I will say is that over 10 years before we met he was part of a drug dealing ring. He was the money guy.
For those who don't know, volume dealers rarely touch the drugs, the money and the gun at the same time. Never the money and drugs, as that's a dead giveaway to law enforcement. Part of the busines is collections--yes, coercion, threats and physical harm fall under that umbrella. Should the muscle be unable or unwilling, someone needs to step up, and on at least one occasion he stepped up, beat the hell out of someone, was arrested but never convicted. There were other arrests without convictions for various other deeds.
So now we have bondage, abuse, illegal activity, dangerous hobbies (included in one of his other jobs), a punishment mentality toward me and others, and all manner of other frightening behaviors. Naturally he was abused as a child, and he came out of that with the attitude that if he could survive the pain, so could everyone else. It didn't bother him one tiny bit to watch someone else suffer. My reaction to childhood trauma was to feel too much, and that's where we clashed the loudest.
We began to drift apart. His ex-wife's behavior was growing increasingly bipolar and manipulative, so it was difficult for him to find time away from his kids. At that point, we'd been together for almost 10 months. I asked about meeting them and he said, "Yes. That would be nice." I asked for details on how we could make that easy on them and the ex. He didn't offer much. After that he didn't call much, either. He'd been calling every day up to that point. When I asked him about that, he claimed to not remember the daily calls. I found that odd, but then again, he forgot lots of things. Stress, perhaps.
A month into this relatively distant period, he called to let me know his ex had given over complete control of the children. She'd been a neglectful, inconsistent, addicted mother as it was, but I'd never known anyone who would do such a thing. He couldn't believe his luck, that she would just back down and let him move forward with them, hire sitters to get more of a social life, see me more often, have more fun time with his kids, etc. Things seemed like they might be improving.
One of the last times we spoke, he called with some disturbing news. To him it was merely odd, but it cemented everything I'd ever wondered about. He underwent frequent background checks for his job, and there had never been a problem. It was almost as if his arrest record was sealed. It was almost as if he had had help with the sealing of it, and what came next made me think that maybe his ex had let some sort of cat out of the bag. She'd met him when he was involved with drugs, because she was a client living in the same crack house his boss controlled. She knew everything.
He had innocently applied to volunteer for a cause I won't disclose, and part of acceptance was a background check. Up popped several things. It was, I suspect, the beginning of his undoing. His primary job wasn't doing well, and his other more nefarious activities weren't reliable. The stress he must have been under, well, I can't imagine. And now this. Did his ex cause this out of bipolar vengeance? Did someone protecting him decide to suddenly stop?
It dawned on me that maybe I should be a little more concerned about my safety. Not that I thought he'd try anything with me again, perhaps misguidedly. His frustration with not being dominant over someone was obvious. His ex may have had him by the balls at that point, but she had been the sub in their marriage.
No, my concern grew as I started to realize that some of his business dealings could get him killed. He sold a certain product to a certain group of people who, well, let's just say they are capable of making the biggest bad-ass cry like a baby. After he would meet with them, he'd visit me because I was close by their favorite restaurant. Months later I thought, "Oh, shit. I hope he took an indirect route, because I never want people like that to know where I live."
This charming crew of career criminals are also rumored to be in the sex trade. Specifically, they are allegedly involved in the peddling of sex slaves, bondage films and torture pornography. If what I was thinking was accurate, it was through them that he kept meeting bondage sluts. He had stories for how he met each one, but that didn't mean they were true.
I'll never know how things ended up for him. A few days went by, then he called and asked if he could come over on his lunch break. We sat in silence. My head was resting on his shoulder, swimming in conjecture, dying to ask what was really going on and drowning in sadness. He left me with a kiss on the forehead, then felt like it was coming from a desperately frightened man.
I called about a week later and got voicemail, and left a message offering friendship if he ever needed it. It was a difficult holiday after that, because what got me through the bulk of the relationship was my vision of the future for us and his kids. They were still very young and needed a mom, and I wanted to be one; and it was, as it turns out, most likely my last chance to be one.