Before he became a nightmare, Keith (name changed) was the love of my life. We’ve been broken up for four months, but I only recently learned how our story ends, so now I can tell it from the beginning.
It’ll take me a few posts and a few Kleenexes, but for catharsis and posterity, here we fucking go…
On a Friday in October of 2015, I scheduled a Tinder date with a tall handsome, curly-mopped runner named Michael who was visiting Pittsburgh for a wedding.
We were to meet at a bar later that night for drinks and a hookup, but he ended up getting too drunk at the rehearsal dinner and couldn’t drive.
With late notice and nothing else on my dance card, I scrapped my hot dress and went to bed early.
The next morning–feeling equal parts perky and determined– I hopped back on Tinder to see what Saturday might bring.
It brought me Keith (thanks, Saturday!).
I no longer remember what his profile said, but it was interesting enough and he was cute enough that I swiped right and we “matched.”
He messaged me immediately and took just slightly longer than that to accumulate three interest-killing strikes:
First, he had four kids and he wasn’t legally divorced from their mom yet.
I didn’t want anything to do with a gaggle of young kids and even less to do with mid-divorce drama, so ALL THE STRIKES, but we’ll call it strike one.
Next, he lived with a 22-year-old female roommate. Why on Earth does a father of four have a roommate at all, but more importantly, why is she barely legal?
Is there a bigger, redder flag for a man in his mid-thirties to wave?
When I told him that the arrangement struck me as odd, he was quick with a story of heroism: her house had recently burned down and she had nowhere else to go. He was just helping a friend.
I’m sure that he pictured me receiving that story awed at his kindness, but I was more, “Aww, Hell no.”
Strike three came when, immune to the overt hostility in my messages, he eagerly suggested that I come to his apartment that very afternoon to “hang out.” He wanted a friend, he said, someone to talk to, and he’d order pizza and we’d just chill.
That’s what all the serial killers say, I know, but he insisted that his “pizza and chill” intentions were legit. I told him that even if they were, only a fool accepts such an invitation from an Internet stranger and I was not a fool.
Strike three with a possible side of murder.
So, having thoroughly struck out and being shady as fuck, I decided to end the conversation.
LOL, no. I totally told him I’d come over to his place in an hour.
Wait, what the fuck?!?
A little “about me” might be helpful to lend some context to this stellar decision-making.
Another time I’ll tell the long version, but here’s the short: I was single between the ages of 25-35 and, unless one has taken a vow of celibacy (which I had not–what’s the opposite vow? That’s the one I took), being single means meeting and venturing into unknown situations with strangers on the regular.
Ten-fucking-years of willingly making myself vulnerable to stranger danger, plus what I will generously call a “storyteller’s curiosity” for questionable experiences and, voila, I ended up not appropriately risk averse.
TL;DR: I’m a jackass.
Before I met Keith, I sent my best friend the pictures from his Tinder profile as well as his address and phone number so she could avenge me if I was murdered. Then I drove to his apartment for what I was certain was a hookup masquerading as a pizza date.
I texted him when I parked my car and held my breath for whatever I had just gotten myself into.
As I crossed the street toward his front door, he stepped out onto the porch to meet me and everything changed.
He’d later say he fell in love with me as soon as he saw my face, but that’s not a real thing that happens, so I will just say that we smiled knowingly at the sight of each other and, when he spoke to say hello, his voice was soft and kind.
I felt better about the whole thing.
And I felt…something.
He welcomed me inside and we went to his kitchen where I found that he’d bought every single snack and every single cocktail mixer that I’d suggested when he’d earlier asked what I liked to eat and drink.
I’d only meant to give him options, but he bought them all to make sure I was happy, which was incredibly endearing.
Pizza–as promised– arrived shortly after I did, so we stayed in the kitchen, stuffing our faces and drinking cherry rum and Cokes.
We talked about our lives and got to know each other in the usual fashion.
Gone was the shady guy from online messages and in his place was the sweetest soul who’s company I was really, really enjoying. And it wasn’t just the rum.
We stood in the kitchen for three more hours, absolutely consumed by conversation and growing increasingly more smitten.
When I realized that the window to capture the perfect moment was starting to close, I leaned over and kissed him.
He literally swooned, then smiled and made the mooniest eyes at me.
I felt like the hero of my own love story.
He had wanted to kiss me all night, he said, but didn’t know if I wanted to be kissed, so he hadn’t, but he was charmed by my boldness.
We switched from rum to coffee and from the kitchen to the couch, where we melted into each other like familiar lovers while my pragmatic side quietly tried to calculate the likelihood that this fantasy day was for real.
Had I really made the elusive genuine connection. I hadn’t connected to anyone like this in ten years.
Could I trust it? It had to happen someday, so why not now? I wanted to trust it. It was so perfect.
Reality set in again, briefly, when we moved to the bedroom and I suddenly remembered his young “roommate,” who was out of town.
Fuck. I had to investigate.
I asked where the second bedroom–her bedroom–was since I hadn’t seen any evidence of one.
He told me it was in the basement, but that she usually slept in the recliner in the living room. That fishy story was threatening to deflate my romance high, so my eyes made a quick laser grid across the bedroom looking for any sign that he was bullshitting me. Any of her things on top of the dresser? A bra in the laundry basket? Anything subtle he forgot to hide before inviting me over?
Maybe he was telling the truth. Was I just looking for problems because I was used to being treated like shit? I still felt uncomfortable about the arrangement and not sure I was getting the full story, but I was already smitten (and naked), so I paused my suspicions and enjoyed the moment.
We stayed in bed for hours, kissing, talking, getting more entwined, meltier.
Next time I checked the clock, I’d been there for 10 hours. I would have stayed forever, but I finally had to leave to get home to my dog.
Keith asked to see me again the next day, but I didn’t have enough gas in my car to get to him, so I said I’d see him in a few days.
That was too long to wait, he said, so he gave me $20 to ensure I could come back on Sunday. And I did.
And soon my whole life changed.