Before he became the shit-throwing monkey referenced in Eyebrows and Assholes, Keith (name changed to protect the guilty) 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 an October Friday in 2015, I scheduled a Tinder date with handsome, tall, curly-mopped runner named Michael who was visiting Pittsburgh for a wedding. He was going to meet me at a bar after the rehearsal dinner, but he ended up getting too drunk to drive, so I went to bed early, disappointed.
Michael is a passing-but-essential figure because if he’d only had a little bit less to drink, I’d have been sleeping late (and probably not alone) the next morning instead of back on Tinder looking for someone else to salvage my weekend. It was then I made the fateful decision to swipe right on a guy named Keith.
I no longer remember what his profile said, but it was interesting enough and he was cute enough that I swiped and we “matched.”
He messaged me right away and quickly accumulated three interest-killing strikes:
First, he had four kids and he wasn’t legally divorced from their mom yet. Yikes! 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, this 36-year-old man told me that he lived with a 22-year-old female roommate.
Is there a bigger, redder flag for a man in his mid-thirties to wave? Why on Earth does a father of four have a roommate at all, but more importantly, why is she barely legal? My creeper light was flashing fast and furious.
I told him the arrangement struck me as odd, but he was quick with a story that painted him in a heroic light: her house burned down recently, she had nowhere else to go, he was helping a friend. I’m sure that he imagined me receiving that story awed at his kindness, but I was more, “Aww, Hell no.” Strike two.
Strike three came when, immune to my fairly overt hostility during the entirety of our conversation, 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? What the fuck?!?
A little “about me” might be helpful to lend some context to why I decided to go despite my reservations.
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, being single means meeting and venturing into unknown situations with strangers on the regular. Because I have the tiniest little impulse control disorder, I was often reckless in both how I met these strangers and the situations I got into with them. Ten fucking years of willingly making myself vulnerable to stranger danger, plus what I will generously call a “storyteller’s curiosity” that makes me explore questionable situations “just to see what will happen” and, voila, I ended up with terrible habits and not appropriately risk averse.
TL;DR: I’m a jackass.
Before I left my apartment, I texted my best friend the pictures from Keith’s 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 mentioned when he’d earlier asked what I liked to eat and drink. I had only meant to give him options, but he bought them all to make sure I was happy, which was incredibly endearing. Pizza arrived shortly after I did, so we stayed in the kitchen, eating 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 must have stood in the kitchen for three more hours, absolutely consumed in our conversation and growing increasingly more smitten, when I realized that the window to capture this perfect moment was starting to close so 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 said that he had wanted to kiss me all night, but didn’t know if I wanted to be kissed, so he hadn’t, but he was terribly 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 real. Had I really made the elusive genuine connection. I hand’t connected to anyone like this in ten years. Could I trust it? It had to happen someday, 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 chair in the living room. This fishy story was threatening to deflate my romance high, so my eyes made a 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? Nope. Nothing. 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 told him I couldn’t. He was determined to–needed to–see me, so he gave me $20 to ensure I could come back. And I did.
And soon my whole life changed.
Part II: Missing the Early Off-Ramp
Part III: No One Has Ever Been This In Love