Since my nine month relationship with Michael (I apologize to those who never knew about this) fell apart, I’ve been surfing Chemistry.com and expressing interest in various members whose profiles the site brings to my attention. I’m not sure that I really expect something to come of it, but I figure that I’ll never know unless I give it a shot. And I’ve had one or two people express interest in return, so it’s not like I’m coming up completely empty.
One such person, a thirty year old man in Niagara Falls named Marty, expressed interest in return on Tuesday, March 2. So the two of us each spent a bit of time that day running through the process that particular dating site requires to members to go through before having direct email communications. So I sent Marty my relationship essentials, received his in return, compared them, submitted my list of short answer questions I’d like him to answer, and answered the list he sent me in return. I then went around the rest of my day and took care of personal business.
That evening, I finished my tax returns, submitted them, and ran over to Chemistry.com. I discovered that Marty had not only answered my questions, but had sent two emails to me. I read through his answers and read the emails. I was formulating my answers to the first one in my head while I opened the second one. He included his phone number and indicated he was normally up late. I glanced at the clock, noted that it was only 8:30pm (several hours before his stated bedtime), and grabbed the phone. What the heck.
Marty proved to be a delightful, charming, and funny guy, and we seemed to hit it off real well. In fact, he asked me multiple times when I’d be in Niagara Falls the next time. After the third time, I simply pointed out that I don’t really have any other reason to come to Niagara Falls, but I could make a trip any time. He suggested we meet halfway instead, and I suggested we meet in Buffalo. Buffalo is actually closer to him by half an hour, but I’d prefer to drive the extra distance just to ensure there’s something to do! So we set up an afternoon date for that Saturday. We also set up plans to talk on the phone again Thursday night.
We ended up talking that Wednesday night as well, since my plans to go to game night didn’t work out so well and I decided it’d be more fun to go home and talk to the funny and charming guy from Niagara Falls. So that week, we had three wonderful phone conversations, and we were both looking forward to our date that Saturday.
That’s when things started falling apart. In hindsight, I can also say that it’s probably the point when I should have bailed out of the whole situation. (We’ll get to the lessons learned portion in a bit.) Saturday arrives and I drive to Buffalo. I find Allen Street and Q Bar and I go in to have a drink while I wait for Marty to arrive. He doesn’t.
I spent the next half hour or so waiting and making the occasional phone call or sending the occasional text message (all spaced at least ten minutes apart) to try and find out what happened. Being the kind of person who likes to give people the benefit of the doubt, I expressed concern that something came up and repeatedly asked if he’s okay.
After going to eat at the Falafel Bar (fantastic food, by the way), I headed back to my car. I tried calling Marty one last time, and he answered. He sounded tired, confused and out of it. He explained that he had gotten a nasty stomach bug (possibly food poisoning) and didn’t fall asleep until the wee hours of the morning. As a result, he slept through our date. I said okay and we agreed to talk in a bit. I drove home.
He contacted me both on Facebook (he may consider it an act of mercy on my part that I don’t publish a link to his profile) and via phone, apologizing profusely. Again, being the kind of person who gives people the benefit of the doubt (though that may be changing soon), I let it slide and agreed to his suggestion that we try again. After all, he’d been quite anxious days before. (And besides, I have this bizarre history of first dates that fall through, only to meet on a second attempt.) He suggested he might here to Rochester the following weekend, since I had driven to Buffalo this past attempt. I indicated that would be fine, though I wouldn’t mind driving again. He told me I was such an awesome person and wondered aloud where I had been all his life.
Sunday evening he calls me and we talk for five or ten minutes. He told me about the day he spent with his neighbor, Wendy, who is going through some terrible stuff in her life. Then he got a beep from Wendy and he asked if he can call me right back. As someone who understands what it’s like when a friend is in crisis, I told him okay and let him go. He never called me back that day.
That set the pattern for the next week. He’d eventually call me in the evening. After about five or ten minutes, he would tell me he needed to go for one reason or another and promise to call me back either “right away” or “in five or ten minutes.” The second call would never come. He also quit responding to texts during the day (something he had been quite good about and even initiated the previous week). I became concerned and asked him about it. On numerous occasions, I asked him if I needed to back off because I was bothering him. Each time, he assured me I was okay. I also made numerous inquiries about making plans to try meeting again, which he ignored.
On Friday, I decided to lay it on the line. I left him a voice message informing him that I thought he was a great guy, but that I couldn’t keep putting myself out there if he wasn’t going to be responsive. I told him that it seemed like his life was too chaotic to really pursue anything. So I told him that I was still interested, but that the ball was in his court and I was going to go away until such time as he decided to lob it back in my direction. I figured this would give him the perfect out. If I never heard from him again, that would be that.
He didn’t take the out. The next day, he called me, once again all apologetic. He assured me that he was usually better and more responsible than this. (I must say at this point that the preponderance of the evidence I am aware of is in direct contradiction to this claim.) He promised to do a better job, and even did a better (if imperfect) job of keeping that promise that night. He also told me more about the situation with his neighbor Wendy, and I expressed both understanding and a clear message that while I understand and sympathize with her situation, he needed to set boundaries with her and still manage to keep his commitments to me. (I pointed out that this was not only about what’s fair to me, but what’s ultimately healthy for both him and Wendy as well.) He agreed with all of this and went on talking via phone through Monday night.
Our last phone call ended much the same way as previous phone calls. Wendy tried calling him, and he promised to call me right back. He got a bit defense (but also sounded rather guilty) when I responded to his promise to call me right back with a skeptical sounding “okay.” He never called back that night. I sent him a couple texts later that night and even left a voice message expressing my hopes that everything was okay.
The next morning (that would be yesterday, for those trying to keep track), I got a text from Marty apologizing about not getting back to me and promising we’d talk later in the day. I texted him back and told him I was looking forward to it. I also suggested I could come up to meet him after work (I had made the same offer Monday). That’s the last text I got from Marty.
I worked all day Tuesday and got out of work at 4:30. I grabbed my stuff, went to my car, and started it. I then called Marty and got his voicemail. As I was leaving a message, I got a call waiting beep and checked the caller ID to see a Minnesota number. I shrugged, finished my message and hung up, only to immediately get another call from the Minnesota number. I answered and the conversation went something like this:
Gravely voice: Is this Jarred?
GV: This is _____. You know Marty?
GV: I’m calling to tell you that he wants you to stop calling him.
J: Why isn’t Marty telling me this himself?
GV: Look, Marty’s going through a lot of stuff right now. And I’m calling you on his behalf to tell you that you need to stop calling him.
J: I understand what you’re saying, but you still haven’t answered my question as to why Marty isn’t telling me this himself.
GV: Look, the fact that you would even ask that question means that you’re calling Marty’s motivations and his character into question. You need to leave him alone.
J: I see. Well, you’ve given me something to think about. Have a good day.
Call me crazy, but I’m not the kind of person who takes the word of a perfect stranger (presumably) calling from several states away about the desires of someone else. This is especially true since Marty had already told me about at least two other guys who allegedly turned into creepy stalker types on him. For all I knew, this guy was just a trouble maker. So I called Marty and left a voicemail:
Hey Marty. This is Jarred. The weirdest thing just happened to me. I got a call from someone from Saint Paul, Minnesota telling me that you don’t want to talk to me anymore. I’d appreciate it if you’d call me and tell me what’s up with that. Bye.
While I was leaving that message, I got a beep. It was Marty’s number, but I didn’t get to it in time. However, within seconds after hanging up from my message, I get another call from Marty’s number. Imagine my surprise when I answer, only to be greeted by Gravelly Voice (again, a paraphrase):
GV: Jarred, I just got done telling you not to call Marty again, and you turn right around and call him anyway.
J: Well, yeah hon. You see, when I get messages through someone using a Saint Paul, Minnesota number, I tend to verify them with the alleged source.
GV: Well, you’ll note this call isn’t from Saint Paul Minnesota.
J: Yeah, I saw.
GV: Look, I tried to be nice last time…
GV: You don’t know who you’re dealing with. I used to live and Brooklyn and I’m not the kind of person you want to play games with…
J: Excuse me? You think I’m the one playing games right now?
GV: Well, if you call him again after this conversation…
At that point, I begin to shout “shut up” to try to break through his obvious attempts to intimidate me and speak my peace. When it quickly becomes apparent that he’s only interested in acting like a bully and a goon, I just hang up on the asshole.
So there you have it. In two weeks, this guy went from telling me I was a great guy and practically begging to meet me ASAP to not wanting to talk to me at all. After passing up multiple opportunities to call the whole thing quits that I explicitly offered to him, he calls on some Gravelly Voice to tell me to fuck off and threaten me if I don’t do exactly that.
Well, no worries there. If someone doesn’t have the basic human dignity to deliver the “I don’t think this is going to work out” to me in person, then they are too much of a coward and an asshole for me to deal with. Quite frankly, I haven’t even processed through the hurt of being told to go away because I’m still dealing with the rage and disbelief of the callous, thoughtless, and honor-less way in which that message was delivered. In my mind, Marty is nothing more than a tease, a game-player, and a Grade A Jackass. So yes, a message was received loud and clear. I just doubt it was the message he intended to send. But the end result is the same, so I guess it’s all good.
I think what gets me is that due to this game-playing and this duplicity, I find myself wondering how much of what he ever told me was true. Were the guys who allegedly turned creepy stalkers really bad guys? Or were they just decent guys who, like me, got played and then tossed away. Or maybe they acted less than honorably simply because they finally reacted badly to the psychotic mind-fuck that is the experience of interacting with Marty. Granted, that wouldn’t excuse inappropriate or creepy behavior, but it certainly would make me at least a little more sympathetic towards them.
In the end, I find myself wondering if Marty is just some weak-willed guy who can’t deal with his own issues without involving others or whether he’s a truly nasty game player that likes to fuck with other people’s heads. I suppose I’ll never know. In the end, I suppose it doesn’t matter, either. Either way, it’s best to take this out he’s now offered me and be thankful for it.
But as the title of this post says, I think I’ve learned a few lessons. I think I give people the benefit of the doubt way too much and for way too long. That needs to change. I think new people in my life should only get one “mistake.” After they make that mistake and make their apologies, they shouldn’t get a “third chance” until they prove themselves. If they fuck up again, I think they need to be shown the door. No excuses. No apologies. Once is a mistake. Twice is a pattern. The third time is a lifestyle, and I don’t even care to know about it.
I also think that if they start sounding like a liar or that they live in an alternate reality (and in hindsight, I admit I should have seen the signs of that with Marty), I’m going to assume it’s because they are a liar and/or live in an alternative reality. And that means walking away fast, because I need people who live in plain old normal reality.
Hopefully, it’s a lesson well learned that will turn into a lesson well applied. Actually, I take that back. I hope I never have another reason to apply that lesson. But if I do, I pray I’m ready.