After emailing with Pete a few times, we decided to meet at a local wine bar. I was excited. I hadn’t ever used an online dating service before, it was new to me – and it was the early 2000s – so it was new to everyone. Once I got there I noticed the restaurant was actually closed, Pete showed up a few minutes later, and our eyes met for the first time. I thought he was gorgeous. Black hair, clear blue eyes – with a vague resemblance to Anthony Kiedis from the Chili Peppers.
Since we weren’t able to sit in the wine bar, we walked to the restaurant next door. A supper club that, as luck would have it, I used to work at with my father several years earlier. We talked about everything. Closing the restaurant down. He was a software programmer, with the forgotten dream of being a dancer (he’d minored in dance at college). He relayed funny stories about being an exotic dancer to pay his way through college. I laughed as I imagined an audience of hens trying to shove dollar bills in his G-string. He was charming, and ambiguous (of course) and very, very sexual.
I watched with longing as he drew upon his cigarette, his long fingers high in the air, and marveled that he seemed to be in touch with his feminine side.
He spoke of performance classes, that he was taking them at a local company, and of course, I thought we were fated –since he was taking them at the same place that I was.
Our relationship launched quickly – it was intense and passionate. He helped me with so much. Let me move in when I found myself without a place to stay. Helped me buy a new truck when my car broke down. Helped me with a lot of things.
I introduced him to my daughter about a month after we started dating. A sweet, yet terrifying experience for us both when she’d pulled Pete aside, and asked him if she could call him daddy.
I was dumbfounded, and reacted swiftly.
No, Em – Pete and I are just dating – you have a daddy. She was crushed, and I could tell – that even though it was the right thing to do – Pete was crushed too.
I tried to be good. I tried not to fall in love. But I couldn’t help myself. He showered me with attention, dinners and happy hours, dancing, and vacations…
It seemed too good to be true, but I felt that I’d deserved to be treated well for once – after so many relationships ending in heartache. During our first sexual encounter, he even asked…well, he asked permission “to enter.” It was strange, but endearing, in a way.
We discussed our relationship status regularly, and thought it very adult of us to do so. “So, are we boyfriend / girlfriend?” “Shall we get tested and rid ourselves of these heinous condoms?” “What kind of relationship do you want – open, monogamous, polygamous?” I asked him about his sexuality, his ambiguity – and he explained that he’d had a close relationship with a man once, not sexual, but “almost.” The man, Alex, had died from cancer about ten years earlier. He ended with a very well thought conclusion that, after that, he knew he was straight. H’ed only wanted a monogamous relationship.
I nodded, understanding completely, yet finding the whole conversation oddly familiar.
Several months later, when we were out drinking together, I shared my own story – childhood abuse, and what it did to my family, my psyche, my sexuality. “Thank you for telling me,” were his exact words.
I appreciated that he had his own interests, but thought it was strange when he’d promised to call, or show – and didn’t. It became a game between us, and it drove me crazy. He seemed very curt at times, explaining, in detail, how he liked the dishes stacked in the washer, or how he liked his clothing folded (the retail way). I was happy to do as he asked. I enjoyed making him happy.
He would meet with a “Man’s group” every Saturday morning, something he would not, could not ever miss, he informed me. I agreed, wondering where this particular stance was coming from.
One particular day, after waiting for what seemed like hours before he came home from a boys outing, I decided to snoop on his computer.
I went pretty deep into his search history, started opening files, and made sure to cover my tracks when I closed them. Lots of porn. Like a lot of porn. Which didn’t surprise me, given what I knew about the previous guys I’d dated. But one site popped up as curious for me, it was bookmarked. An escort service.
One of my best girlfriends had dated a lawyer that used an escort service. He was rather open about it, describing how he would need an escort to a business function or some such reason. Like Pretty Woman – the entertainment industry had created this glamorized version of what it was like to be a streetwalker. Something that never quite sat right with me, especially because it seemed that everywhere I went (as a younger woman, especially) I was continuously being propositioned. The summer before I met Pete, I even got into a fight with one black dude, because he followed me down the block yelling at me to get off his lawn. I thanked God that a tall, burly gent just happened by the scene that evening, as I was trying to find my car.
But this…this online escort service was different. It was men….for men.
I closed the computer window, and walked downstairs to Pete, who had come home a few minutes earlier. He’d asked what I was doing, and I told him straight out – snooping on your computer. I asked him about the escort service website point blank. He looked surprised, then angry. He explained that he had lots of friends in his line of work, and some of them were gay. He said that one of his friends had made a listing in that site for another one of their friends, as a joke. Everything was fake. He even brought me upstairs to show me who it was, his friend, Justin.
He proceeded to rake me over the coals for being suspicious, and I let it drop after that, feeling absolutely ashamed. Several weeks later, we ran into Justin, and his boyfriend Dan – who worked at a local Cadillac dealership. They exchanged numbers, and Pete bought a brand new car that next month. It was a whole lot nicer than the Dodge Neon that he’d been driving us around in.
I was blissfully happy that year, my life was laying out nicely, and I was so grateful to have a place to bring my son in from California for a visit.
To show my gratitude, I decided to throw Pete a surprise birthday party. We’d almost been dating a year, and I had met most of his friends, and wanted to meet the rest. A bunch of us got together and planned the perfect surprise, except for the fact that he had figured it out. I was in my element as hostess, and truly enjoyed cooking and serving drinks, and introducing people to each other. The party went off without a hitch.
It was that night that I realized Pete was in love with someone else. His best friend Will.
Will arrived with his new wife, direct from the Phillipines. I was just on my way back from introducing her to some other friends when I saw Will and Pete chatting together. The look in Pete’s eyes was unmistakable; adoring and full of love.
It was the moment I knew then that he would never look at me like that.
My heart break soon turned to curiosity, which soon turned to obsession.
I would perform endless searches, both online and in real life. Both at home and at work, and didn’t think about the consequences of finding his dick pics with the computer at my work. A government institution. A public school.
I didn’t think.
I also didn’t think it would ever be a problem….my problem.