You know when you’re on a rollercoaster and it’s twisting, rising and falling and you’re filled with excitement, but also feel like you might throw up your lunch? You’re close to the end of the ride, but there’s just one more loop hiding on the other side of the drop that you’re catapulting towards before safely arriving at the unloading station. The bar rises to let you out and you hop onto the platform, so happy for it all to be over. Maybe you’ll ride again, but it’s always nice to be on solid ground after such an adventure.
That’s how my summer of dating had been. There was the dude who brought a gun on a date, the Spanish teacher who mastered the science of administering cold, clinical sex (I don’t recommend it), the ex-con who found Jesus and the recovering alcoholic writer who relapsed shortly after our first, and only, date.
I admit that writing about my life often has me seeking out individuals that push the envelope. Sometimes the best stories happen when I’ve put myself in a situation that is just ever so slightly uncomfortable. I look around observing, watching and waiting for what could unfold and the storyteller in me is never far from the present moment. She’s marking details such as expressions, feelings, comments and happenings, in case one of them leads to a path of writing gold. It’s like I have a homing beacon silently emanating from the top of my head, and crazy and interesting stories just seem to find their way towards me.
As lackluster as the past few months of dating had been, and as much as I wanted to meet Mr. Right, my inner storyteller was singing for joy. Still, I was tired of dating.
And then I met the lumbersexual.
A lumbersexual, for the uninitiated, is a modern day version of the Brawny man. Typically in his 20s or 30s, the lumbersexual likes plaid button downs and trim jeans. He’s probably wearing a Shinola watch (no one understands how he could afford it) and spends his mornings doing Crossfit and his evenings drinking craft beer. His occupation is a bit of a mystery, but he could probably be seen talking about building a tiny home, taxidermying squirrels for his nouveau goth Etsy store or simply riding his fixie around town. Chances are good he likes artisanal charcuterie and Bon Iver. He has some kind of come to Jesus devotion for hair care. Full beard in tow, he spends a large amount of money purchasing salves, gels, shampoos and potions to maintain its lustrous appearance.
You get the idea. And I’d never met a lumbersexual before, so naturally, I wanted to add one to my collection of dating curiosities. Because this ride was not quite over.
If all the seemingly normal guys had strange proclivities, maybe the strange guys were perfectly normal?
His name was Mark. He had a beard so long it rivaled my own hair. His black hair, shaved on the sides and pulled into a man bun rounded out the look. He had a strong, well-built frame and a kind smile. Looks aside, Mark claimed to be a musician running his own music studio. I love meeting successful artists, but wasn’t feeling the dating vibe, so I told him I’d be happy to hang out, but just as friends. He agreed. He loved to cook and we set up a time to meet at my house and make dinner.
“My house” is a bit of a misnomer. It’s actually my aunt’s home that I am renting from her, fully furnished. Imagine, if you will, walking into a home draped in creams and golds, chenille, granite and dark wood and lots of oriental rugs. There are enough candelabras to rival the Phantom of the Opera’s lair. And angels. She has a special kind of devotion to angels, and they can be found in abundance, on hooks, walls, candles, fabrics, paintings and ceramics. It’s part neoclassical museum, angel sanctuary and Pottery Barn, all rolled in one. I generally warn people before they come over, because if you know anything about me, you know this is not at all my style.
Admittedly, it is unusual to invite a stranger to your home, and most people look aghast when I share this. But my philosophy is such: if a guy wants to harm you, he will try, and you’re fooling yourself to think you can create a safety checklist to totally avoid it. We spoke on the phone and I confirmed my feeling that Mark was a relatively harmless guy, and I was willing to take the risk. We set up time to meet the following Saturday for our cooking extravaganza.
He arrived a few nights later, brown grocery bag in hand. He was making the main meal, pasta carbonara, and had his supplies at the ready. He walked in the foyer and began to take off his shoes, while I was trying to corral my barking dog, Violet, steps away. He had barely gotten one shoe off when a scream escaped his mouth.
It rang through the house. Violet redoubled her efforts, initially unsure of this new visitor and now definitely disapproving.
He had no answer. And just as he opened his mouth, presumably to explain what the fuck was going on, another cry came out. This time louder. His back arched, his head fell backwards. He was buckling under the pain of something extreme – I just didn’t know what. I saw no obvious cause for a grown man to howl in agony.
Was there a nail on the floor?
Did he step on a tack or a pine needle?
Was he having a seizure?
“WHAT IS IT!”
“I just stabbed myself!”
Hold up. What?
“You stabbed yourself? How? You just walked in the door!”
“My bag. There’s a chef’s knife in it. It’s my favorite knife to cook with and I just sharpened it before coming over here.”
“Didn’t you have it sheathed?”
As Mark was taking off his shoe, the paper bag still in hand, swung at his side and the knife cleanly tore through it and stabbed him in the leg — repeatedly.
I was dumbfounded. And also in shock. I helped Mark hop to the kitchen table where we could examine the extent of his stabbings. Blood dripped on the wood floor and I grabbed the paper towels on the counter to fashion an extremely ineffective tourniquet. The complete absurdity of the moment began to overtake me. And I began to laugh. And I don’t just mean chuckle, I mean lose my breathe I was laughing so hard.
It’s not like I was looking for a story to write about, but I could not believe my luck!
“I can’t believe this is happening. This is going to make such a great story.”
Yep, I’m an ass. I clasped my hand around my mouth as quickly as those words came out.
Blood dripped down his leg, nearly hitting the cream fabric of the kitchen chair, and I ran to look for a first aid kit.
“Don’t move! And don’t touch anything! We can’t ruin the house!”
I ran up the white carpeted stairs into the bedroom, franticly looking for bandaids and rubbing alcohol. I tore through the bathroom cabinets but couldn’t find any bandaids. Rubbing alcohol in hand, I returned to the kitchen only to see the paper towel turning a deep ruby red and drops of blood dotting the kitchen floor.
A bandaid ain’t going to fix this.
“I think we’re going to need to go to the hospital,” he said.
Mark cleaned up his leg with the rubbing alcohol, and I applied fresh paper towel and masking tape to his leg.
We jumped in my car.
“Where are you insured?” I asked.
“I can go to any ER. I’m on Medicaid.”
Say what? I thought this guy was a successful musician?
“How is that possible? Don’t you have to be below the poverty line?”
Jesus fucking Christ. I really know how to pick them. I could feel a smile forming on my face, a giggle not far behind. The story was just writing itself.
Fortunately, I only live a couple miles from the nearest hospital, so I tried to contain myself until I could get him out of the car. I rolled up to the entrance of the ER and he hobbled out, his shoe still at my home. I went to park the car, and broke out into a fit of tears and laughter. I couldn’t believe my luck – or lack thereof. Tears spilled down my cheeks and I spent the next 10 minutes trying to get myself under control, before I walked into the ER and found him in a nearby triage station.
The nurse began leading Mark towards a bed, and I hung back, wondering whether I should follow. There is no manual for what to do when the guy you just met lands in the hospital 10 minute after meeting him. Mark beckoned me forward, and we were led behind a curtain to an area with a bed, chair and a bunch of medical carts pushed against the wall. While waiting for the doctor to give him a tetanus shot, Mark asked them to use a different insertion point for the needle. I couldn’t imagine why, I just hoped he wasn’t a heroin junkie.
“I am on hormone replacement therapy.”
WHAT? Is this guy trans? I’m so confused.
“I take testosterone shots. It helps with my biking performance and physique.”
And what do you even say to that? This 25 year old guy seemed to be milking Medicaid for all it’s worth, and was getting cheaper and better care than me. He’s not even a competitive biker!
I was appalled and curious all at the same time. I definitely didn’t see a friendship between us, but my morbid curiosity kept popping in. Who is this guy? Why is he on Medicaid?
In the words of Jerry Seinfeld, “What is the deal with that?”
90 minutes later, Mark was stitched up and we headed back to the car.
“Man I’m really hungry. Let’s go cook dinner.”
Are you fucking kidding me? I mean, sure, why not. If the first 5 minutes of our meetup were this surreal, I could only imagine what the next two hours would be like.
And so we did. At home, Mark cleaned off his bloodied chef’s knife in order to make pasta carbonara. Which I just want to point out, is a recipe in which having a chef’s knife is completely unnecessary. It’s pasta, cream, eggs and bacon.
When we sat down to eat, the food was good, but the conversation strange. He began to dump the sorry circumstances of his life on me. He told me about his broken childhood, getting beaten by his father, starting to watch porn as a pre-teen, having a sexual encounter at 7.
He told me he had no friends. I couldn’t hide my lack of surprise. I’m not sure laying all your shit on the table within hours of meeting someone new is a great way to make friends, but that appeared to be Mark’s approach. I sensed this was his way of trying to connect. It wasn’t working.
He was keen to share that he’d learned to get really good at sex. That stuck with me because it has always made me uneasy when people describe themselves as being “good at sex”. As if there is a way to master the mechanics, and somehow be “good,” devoid of emotion and feeling. I wonder what kind of sex they’re having; sex that seems good but doesn’t seem heartfelt.
I sat quietly and listened. I was trying to calm my frazzled nerves with half a bottle of wine, and it was definitely helping. Mark also brought weed over and it was exactly what I needed. A few hits off the joint and the stress began to melt away. My mind was forming soft edges around his statements.
His life seemed to represent what I imagined many millennials experience. He’d been oversexualized from a young age, a product of porn and pop culture. He was obsessed with his body image, hence the testosterone shots, and whatever he seemed to think attaining a certain look would give him. But I’ve got news for him. There isn’t anything on the other side of that door that isn’t already staring him in the face.
Many of his stories kept coming back to people he’d had sex with.
“Like the first time I gave a woman a g-spot orgasm was nuts. Like an anaconda chewing and swallowing my hand.”
I’m not sure if Mark thought he was turning me on, or what the point of sharing that anecdote was, but I could feel an iron curtain shuttering around my vagina.
How do I get this guy out of my house?
“Can you repeat that? I want to make sure I quote you correctly.”
You see, by that point I was actually taking notes. And that line was too good. Mark happily repeated it, seemingly thrilled to make it into one of my stories.
We finished dinner and his stories turned darker, to a time when a woman accused him of rape in his car.
“Like, how am I going to get my dick inside you if I can’t even open a pizza box in a car?”
I’m not really sure how to answer that, but I began to feel the paranoia from the weed bubbling to the surface. I wanted this to end now. I feigned exhaustion and boxed up some leftovers for him to take home.
“That was like two hours of verbal diarrhea I laid on you.”
“Yeah, it was.”
I didn’t really care about hurting his feelings, the weed and wine were doing their job.
“I had a really great time, Lauren.”
“Cool. Take care of yourself.”
I locked the front door behind him.
I wanted off the rollercoaster.