I’d like to meet the person whose never done anything stupid before. No really, I would. Everyone has done to a certain degree something so stupid that they look back and groan, “Why did I do that?!”
Some are pretty easy such as mooning over a crush and acting like an idiot in front of them. Then there are always fashion choices, someone still needs to travel back to 2011 and slap some sense into why I thought headbands on a mid twenty something woman looked good… I still blame Gossip Girl. The other kind of stupid decisions are the dangerous ones… and boy have I made plenty of those.
For example, the first ever really dangerously stupid thing I’ve ever done came when I was eight or nine years old and just learning how to use the internet. Let me age myself here and preference that this was the mid nineties and I had a modem internet connection with America Online. This basically meant I couldn’t use my home phone and internet at the same time. Cell phones were really more of a commodity than everyday use and for awhile on the same par as say a car phone. My username was something like Kittylover09 because I was well… nine years old-ish and I loved cats. “Oh god,” I can hear you those of you with dirty minds thinking now in second hand embarrassment. Trust me it gets worse. That’s not the dangerous part. That username would just be one of the many embarrassing online account names I have to cringe about for the rest of my life. I’ve had worse I promise.
The dangerous part comes when I started talking to a user called CindyBrady who also said they were the same age. Yes you can see where I’m going with this. After a few weeks, they asked if we would like to become pen pals. I was super excited it and asked my mom, naively she said yes. We exchanged two letters before my mom quickly realized the mistake as they were not written by someone my age at all and contained some pretty bawdy language that still is over my head to this day. My grandpa, whose computer this was all on, reported the account, made me a new account, and told me that I needed to be more careful on who I talked to online. I was really lucky nothing further came from it. This stranger literally had our address and I realize how lucky I was that no one showed up to my house or how worse the situation could have been. This was pre-to catch a predator days after all. Say what you will as far as excuses go such as, things were different back in the day and the fact that I was only nine-ish but it was stupid. And very dangerous.
Unfortunately, I don’t say this to brag, but I have done a fair amount of pretty dumb shit like this since and not all of it was unknowingly. That’s what I want to talk about today. There was an incident that happened in April that was so jarring that no matter how many times I sat down to the computer to write it all out, I couldn’t. I could barely talk about this with people close in my life. It has gotten easier with time and have talked to the person whose involved as well. I don’t know why it is so important for me to share this story now only that the other day I was laying in bed and it was just like, the words finally came to me. Not to be too dramatic but it’s like the words were finally allowing me to talk about my trauma. Because no matter how I try to slice or dice it, that is what it was. Trauma for doing something dangerously stupid.
As I just mentioned, this event happened in April of 2021. I had deleted Tinder off my phone in December of 2020 after matching with a guy I call Fishsticks. Six weeks later from that, I reconnected on Facebook Messenger with a guy I call The General in January. That shelf life also had around a six week period and by mid March I was pretty sick of dating in general. I had dated pretty heavily and intensely from September 2020 till March 2021 and I was ready for a break, or so I thought. Even though The General and I had setup boundaries to just be friends with benefits, I was quickly falling in love with the guy. I had written this poem called I Love which was a poem that summed up all my feelings for him. It was to the point where I could not only not think about him every single day but I drove everyone around me crazy because I couldn’t shut up talking about him. I was that enamored. I can cheesily say I felt like this song.
When The General decided to cool things off with me and take a step back, I thought that this would make for a great opportunity to focus on really pushing myself to go for my goals. A month prior before this had happened in February, I had started the process of getting over one of my biggest fears, driving. Two days before Valentines Day, I had shakily walked into the DMV’s office and passed the written portion of my driver’s test. I wanted to heave my guts onto the asphalt afterwards but the point is, that I had done it. I had passed my test with only two wrong answers. A month later into March I hadn’t made any progress on any my other goals. These goals included saving money for a car and car lessons to name two of them.
When stuff like this happens, when I find myself having a particular goal outlined and that I’m not making any kind of progress on it, I’m often inclined to shelve the project until I can understand mentally what is blocking me. I couldn’t understand why, only that I needed to take a break from it and try something else. This something else included wanting to open up a vlog channel. I am someone who has routinely battled with depression since I was a teenager. I’m also someone whose also been an introvert, preferring my own company to those around me, and the lines between depression and introvertedness has always been a very fine line to walk. Usually the two lines are very blurry and from time to time have been known to overlap. That being said, the last thing I wanted in the world was to fall back into bad old habits of depression and thought a vlog channel would really push me out of my shell. And that sort of worked. Till it didn’t.
Let me explain. Aside from depression, another one of my glorious personality traits is my anxiety, especially when it comes to talking to literally anyone. To say I get nervous is an understatement. I talk as fast as a Gilmore Girl and make less sense when a camera isn’t on me let alone when it is. Every time I would turn the camera on my mind would freeze and and my mouth would shut. It didn’t matter if I tried to write a script or even film stock footage to do a voice over later. I was simply just… stuck. That’s not to say I haven’t come a long way since then. Here’s video footage of me in July working on a Sims neighborhood review video and even though I’m still nervous, I am getting a lot more comfortable in front of a camera. That’s not to say I don’t still struggle, I very much do. It’s just in March when I was trying to Vlog, I was very much not the state of mind I have become in July. You could definitely say that I’ve bloomed this summer.
Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is that I tried to vlog into April, even trying to recruit a friend Spike into my videos. Spike and I had met up to walk the Cooper River Bridge but opted out for Benny’s Pizza at the last minute. A good choice in my opinion but what do I know. But as we sat there next to the fountain at Marion Square playing “One, Two, Three, he’s yours!” with the men that passed by, I couldn’t help but think about how I missed dating. I mean I did and I didn’t. I hadn’t actually had an online dating profile in four months. I had deleted all my dating profiles in December even though I had gone on to date but at the same time not officially date two different guys from December to March. Plus at this point it had only been a couple of weeks since The General told me he needed space.
I wasn’t over The General, I still had deep feelings for him. We had left things off open ended. Time was the issue for him among he was going through multiple personal things I don’t want to talk about on here. I wanted to believe Spike as he continuously said to me over and over again that afternoon that “we would get back together. That he could just feel it.” I remember tilting my head at him and firmly saying, “No we won’t Spike.” Because that was something I knew back then too. That was something I could feel in my own gut too. It would have been nice to let myself get caught up in the ego stroking that friends will do for one another when they want to be supportive or have your back but… that was the first time I really let myself be openly honest out loud. I needed to stop making excuses for someone who simply just didn’t want me. Because when it comes down to it, that’s what it was. Rejection under the lie of excuses. I needed to stop waiting before I turned into the woman from Ha Jin’s book Waiting. I didn’t want to put my life on hold and wait for a man full of excuses. It didn’t stop the way I felt about him and I wanted to test a theory I had about my feelings.
Let’s time travel backwards a bit. In August of 2020 I ended things with my partner of 10 years. A couple weeks later I joined Tinder looking for a hookup, it had been a couple of years since I had been sexually intimate and was just looking for a FWB. One of the first people I matched with was a guy named Ross. Ross was someone I ended up having an immediate reaction to, this intense chemistry with not unlike what I had shared with The General several months later on. Ross and I met up twice, had lots of sex and then ghosted me. Two days after the second time we had met up, I noticed he had changed his relationship status on Facebook into being in a relationship with a woman named Abby. What made matters worse is that he post dated their anniversary to just five days prior to the day we had sex. Yeah. He literally had sex with me five days after knowing he was in a relationship with someone new. Ouch. To say I was devastated is an understatement.
This was a man who had literally told me that he loved me only one week into knowing each other and I had fallen hook line and sinker. I didn’t react well to the news of his new “girlfriend.” I became someone I didn’t know and have vowed to never repeat. I even blogged about it on here which I regret and have taken down. But here’s the thing. Less than a week later I decided to get back onto Tinder and found myself literally over Ross within a couple of days. That’s when I knew it wasn’t real love, that my feelings for him, while valid, were just lust and not love. The correlation I wanted to prove to myself this time in April was, were my feelings for The General real? Or lust? With that being said I redownloaded Tinder to find out.
This time, there would be rules, I told myself. Stricter rules. Heavier enforced boundaries and I’d hire two fat bouncers who were brothers named Clem and Clem (which did not reflect well on the imagination of their mothers) and enforce them to, or at the very least, delete Tinder off my phone and remove me from the dating pool if I failed. A three strikes and your out kind of system.
The good thing that came from all this dating experience is that I was able to narrow down over the months what I wanted. The bad thing was that it wasn’t exactly going to be easy, which oddly enough was a good thing. I didn’t want this to be easy. I didn’t want to fall into past mistakes and needed to go very slow. I knew that I didn’t want only hook ups and while I didn’t want a relationship, I did want a connection with someone and to build off there. Basically, everything I had told The General what I wanted but that I would go slower with my feelings. I needed to be completely 100% honest about my feelings the entire time with every person I met. Honest with myself I mean, just in case for those thinking I would just dump all my feelings onto a person I just met. Like my grandpa once said, I’m not a complete idiot, I still have some missing parts.
I even had to ask myself why I wanted to do this and I had to be honest. In my heart of hearts, I am a romantic and at the end of the day I do want to be with someone. I just didn’t want to meet “the one” when I was complete because if I did that, I would never meet anyone because I’ll never be done working on myself. I wanted to be like The Missing Piece Meets The Big O. And also like user Huseyin GOCMEZ wrote in the comments of that video
The point of the story is not loving someone but yourself in the first place. When you feel contend with yourself then only thing that you can feel is pure love. Loving someone is not finding a piece that’s missing but giving you as a whole and accepting as a whole. Love is like a sail ship one person holds the sail and other one holds the rudder. And together you set sail to a whole new adventure and the destination is a new form of existence. Neither you nor lover but finding US.Huseyin GOCMEZ on YouTube
I knew this to be true about myself. I knew that it wasn’t about needing to find someone else to be with, but to put myself out there for the option. I didn’t want to close my heart from love. With these new boundaries in place I could work on myself, my career, my goals and my depression but also take the time to look and see what was out there. To put myself out there. And I promised myself that I would step away from dating entirely if I broke any of these rules or found myself slipping into old bad habits again.
Within a few days I had matched with a handful of guys, including one I had went on a single date last year that I’ll just nickname Matthew Broderick. The problem was that I wasn’t actually meeting any of these guys, including Mr Broderick. No one wanted to do more than just talk online. Which is fine, I didn’t want to jump into bed but there is a huge difference than talking to someone online and a person in real life. There is no substitute for it and I wanted to build real connections, not an illusion of one from texts. No one that is, until I started talking to the guy I’ll call The Teacher. The Teacher was a guy in his 40’s from Durham, North Carolina on vacation visiting Charleston till the end of May. Great, I thought. This is just what I need to put myself out there. Plus if it had ever turned into something longer, Durham was a city I was willing to consider moving to. Except the date turned out to be the worst date of my life. For him too, it was a mutual feeling.
I’ll spare the details on what made it so bad except that there wasn’t any physical chemistry and we spent the majority of the night arguing in a heated debate. I never thought I’d see the man again in my life, as he had dubbed me as “the most stubborn woman he’d ever met.” Which for his sake, he wasn’t entirely wrong. I was planning on writing the whole thing off as a funny antidote when I got a message from him later that night saying what a good time he had.
Really? I thought with my eyebrow raised. Surely he can’t be serious.
Yes I am serious and don’t call me Shirley. I had to admit, I was intrigued. Was he really that much of a glutton for punishment or did he have a good time? I decided to test the theory out by asking him out to this punk flea market Charleston the very next day. He picked me up from work and we agreed that we made much better friends than anything romantic. Sure, I thought. What could be wrong about having a friend who I get into random heated arguments from time to time as long as we maintain to respect the other person’s views and opinion? I had invited also invited Spike to go with us who I also really wanted opinion on. I wanted Spike to judge and attest to what kind of character The Teacher was.
Which ended up going great. We met up again two days later after I was done with work. We ended up at his place where we cooked dinner together, or rather he was trying to teach me how to cook steaks. We put on music, hung out and ended up renting the movie Under Cover Brother on Amazon. We never even finished watching the movie because we kept pausing to talk through it and how awesome it was and laughing the entire night. Next thing you know it was one or two in the morning and I was crashing in the guest bedroom. It was so much fun, I remember thinking. It was just like hanging out with a good friend where we other could say anything we wanted no matter how controversial. He was always pushing me outside my comfort box in a good way. He not only got me to stop apologizing so much all the time but told me every time I started to say the words “I’m Sorry” to stop and say “Bitch, deal with it.”
So where’s the dangerous part you might add? What’s the stupid part to all of this? I’ve spent an awful lot of time leading up to this hype that seems to have nothing to do with the topic of this blog so, Sarah what’s your point??
Suffice to say that while we were having a great time, that The Teacher was far from perfect. I have this inability to stop myself from loving broken things, including more than just people. Like I am that person at the grocery store who will buy a bruised apple simply because it isn’t perfect and thereby no one else will want it. There’s a lot to unpack just from that sentence I know and I took the I Love Lucy Episode of “Friend to the Friendless” as a child more seriously than I ever realized. Love people not despite their flaws but because of the flaws.
For example, I have a friend who is extremely flaky and I love him anyway, I’ve learned to manage my expectations around his behavior. It’s not so much that I tolerate my friends flakiness, I just know what to expect now. I expect him to disappear for weeks at a time, sometimes months, and when we do talk we have really good heart to hearts as if no time has passed at all. I manage and set my own boundaries on what I get out of our friendship as much as he does. This is also how I got into my last relationship of ten years, except for one major thing I had learned. You can’t fix broken people, especially when I can barely keep myself together. Put your own oxygen mask before assisting others around you and all of that. Again there is a lot to unpack there and this is all stuff I had worked on the last several months.
That being said, one of the flaws The Teacher had confided in me was that he was bi-polar. He said it and, I asked a lot of questions but, like I had told him at the time even after he kept trying to explain his disorder, I don’t really know what that means. In my life so far, I had only knowingly known one person online before who also said she was bipolar and a coworker I worked with several years ago. I told my former online friend many times, I didn’t understand what being bipolar means. And I didn’t… I just couldn’t understand… not until I saw it first hand for myself…
This is where we get into the dangerously stupid part.
After I went home the next morning, I ended up going back to The Teacher’s air b&b he was renting later that same night to finish watching the movie Under Cover Brother. In hindsight it’s easy to see that we were spending too much time together too quickly. We were spending a bunch of time together in a short amount of time because we both knew his stay in Charleston was limited to just a couple more weeks. There had already been a couple of almost tense moments the night before where we could tell the other was getting more than just annoyed in our debated arguments. Which is definitely not a good sign of someone you’ve only met four times and known for barely a week. The problem was that we were both having such a good time that neither wanted the fun to end. But like the phrase does go, all good things must come to an end. And it was the same for us.
From here on in, this is where it gets very triggering for me to talk about.
He had been cooking pasta on the stove when everything happened at once very quickly. I had been standing on the other side of him trying to help put away a few dishes from the dishwasher into the cupboard when I heard a loud “pop!”ing sound. I felt the weight of the floor vibrate beneath me and a whoosh of air as I turned my head to see The Teacher bouncing backwards.
“Ow, ow, ow!” he yelled in pain.
“Oh my god, what happened?!” I asked very frightened, all my senses trying to understand what was going on. I looked down and saw a splash of grease had hit his arm, it explained the popping sound. “Are you okay?!”
“What do you mean am I okay?! What the hell does it look like Sarah?! Of course I’m not okay!”
I was frantic. I started a rush of apologies. I tried explaining that I only asked if he was okay because I hadn’t seen what had happened and asking if he was okay was my natural first instinct to do. “What do you mean you didn’t see what happened, you were standing right there!” he said disbelieving. The more I tried to explain the more upset and angrier he got. I could feel tears building behind my eyes up over being yelled at and berated at. I knew what I had or hadn’t seen but at that moment I wanted to make sure he was okay.
“Put it under cold water,” I suggested pointing to the sink and he proceeded to do so. We didn’t talk for a couple of minutes and we both just watched the water turn the circle on his arm turn color. After a little bit I asked, “does it feel any better?”
“A little bit,” he replied begrudgingly. I could see the anger behind his eyes and I didn’t know what I could say to make things better. So I kept apologizing. We argued some more on the semantics of my location and visibility to have been able to see what had happened but at the end of the day, I simply hadn’t. I kept trying to tell this to him over and over again and again I could see this making him angrier by the minute. He was convinced I was lying, why I don’t know, and was convincing himself of this as a fact the longer we went on talking about it.
I don’t remember how we moved past it in that moment other than I had stopped talking. There had been a definite damper on the night but I wanted to try and move past this, to have a good time together that night. We ate dinner a little more quietly that time night than any of the other two previous nights we had before. We talked less during Under Cover Brother but we were able to still able to be in a good mood with each other. That was until a few hours later I noticed his arm. The burn had turned a really dark shade of purple and my first reaction was alarm.
“Oh my god, your arm!” I said pointing. “It’s gotten so much worse.”
“Yeah, it has and it still really hurts and has all night. Thanks for only noticing now and not checking up on me at all,” he snarkily replied.
What…?! I was stunned into silence, shock and hurt reappeared on my face. I started apologizing again, this time for not noticing. An idea popped into my head that I hadn’t thought of before, “how about try putting an ice cube on it?” I suggested. He seemed to agree that it was a good idea and went to get some ice. I followed him into the kitchen and sat on the other side of the island counter as I watched him spread the ice cube over the burn. I don’t remember anything that was said after that, only that the situation was able to be defused again and started talking on other subjects.
I couldn’t understand what was happening and was overwhelmed by all the mood shifts. The extreme highs and then the extreme lows. I didn’t understand that what I was seeing was the disability of someone’s illness. I had only seen pain and hurt and my first instinct was to comfort and try to make it better. I took him to his bedroom and we laid down together till he fell asleep. “You’re a good friend,” he told me sleepily. I waited until I heard him started lightly snoring and then went into my own room to go to bed. But I couldn’t sleep. At first I thought it was just because I was in a bed that wasn’t my own. I always struggle to sleep when it’s not my bed but I knew it was more than just that. I remember thinking how we needed a few days apart, that we were spending too much time together too quickly. The arguing debates were bordering on no longer fun but were teetering on full on fights. I could already feel it from how we fought tonight over the burn.
You can’t be there for him 24/7 Sarah, I told myself. He has other issues I’m not discussing on my blog because I already feel like I’m teetering on crossing lines as it is but I told myself that I can’t be a crutch for him. He needs to learn how to deal with those issues himself. I already laid down the ground work to one of those issues and that he needed to work on the rest otherwise he would just fall back into bad habits again. And I didn’t want that for him.
With that in mind I heard the clink of silverware and the sounds of movement coming from the kitchen. My door was cracked open and I could see The Teacher eating a bowl of ice cream. What the hell, I thought to myself, it sounded like a good idea and I went to join him. I sat across from him on the kitchen island and we talked. I said how I couldn’t sleep but I honestly don’t remember much of what was said. Not until I noticed the burn on his arm had turned into a giant blister.
“Oh my god your arm!” I said yet again that night. It was looking really ugly and puss-y. There wasn’t ooze around it per say but there was a definite shine to it. Apart of me was worried if I had given him bad advice by putting the ice on it as it hadn’t looked like that a couple hours prior when I had noticed how dark it had gotten. I started internally freaking out if he needed to go to the hospital and what to do for him. It was just a burn but what if it got infected or really was a worse burn than I had originally thought? What did second or third degree burns mean and at what point do you need to be administered to a hospital?! All these thoughts were running through my head as I tried to stay visually calm.
What had started out a happy calm conversation had retriggered the anger in him as his temper flared up. He started berating me again, criticizing how good of a friend was I to only think of putting an ice cube on his arm hours later and not in the moment when the burn actually happened?! He started calling me a liar again when I kept saying I hadn’t seen what happened or thought of in the moment to even suggest ice for his arm. Thirty minutes prior in his bedroom he had said I was the most thoughtful and caring person he had ever met to now… I might as well been dung beneath his feet. It was just too much. I couldn’t take it. I was starting to get scared as his voice started screaming. I could see the veins literally popping out of his neck and the rage building in his eyes.
Something I’ve never talked publicly was my history with abuse. Growing up my mother constantly put me down, never feeling like I was good enough. I could literally write 10k words just on that alone but this isn’t the time. Suffice to say the worst thing she ever said to me was “I was a knocked up whore who she didn’t care who lived or died.” She adamantly denies ever saying this but like they say, “The ax may forget but the tree always remembers.” I’ll always remember that and more. Then for 11 years my ex partner, while suffering with PTSD, would scream bloody murder and throw tantrums at random times. I never knew what would set him off or trigger him and because of that I was always walking on eggshells. For example, earlier this year I had accidentally dropped a box of bread sticks onto the ground after we had ordered pizza. The way he screamed at me you would have thought I did it on purpose then river danced on top of them afterwards. My point is, is that I had a lot of history my entire life of people saying cruel things to me which turned me into a people pleaser in order to avoid confrontation. I had learned how to sacrifice my own personal happiness in order to keep the peace. It’s what made me constantly apologetic. And while I have come miles in progress from even just a few months ago in April, I still have a long way to go with this.
This of course is just to put everything into context. A recent technique I had learned in January with my ex was called gray rocking. I’ll include a link to an article that will explain more in depth but, to summarize the objective is to make the target lose interest in you. To do this is like turning off a switch. My experience is like how they described in The Vampire Diaries about turning off your humanity. Essentially you don’t react, you don’t show any emotion what so ever, which is exactly what I did that night with The Teacher.
I shut down. At first, I remember looking into his eyes when I was still at the point of while upset, trying to as rationally as I could explain myself for what felt like the hundredth time that night. I remember getting more and more frightened till the point it didn’t feel like I was talking to The Teacher anymore. It felt like Mr. Jekyll and Dr. Hyde and I was staring right into Hyde’s wide raging eyes. This isn’t you, I thought to myself, this is your illness. I knew it wasn’t his fault but I also wanted to run away and get myself into safety. I felt so stupid and I was afraid of the dangerous situation I had just put myself in. I felt so dangerously stupid. He was screaming bloody murder at me, spit flying out of his mouth and I wondered if anyone could hear us. If I stayed still, would someone call the cops? I didn’t react. I didn’t say anything. I wouldn’t even meet his eyes. I tilted my head down as he screamed and waited for it to stop.
“I want to go home,” I quietly said once he was done and waiting for a reaction from me.
“I want to go home,” I said again… a little firmer. “I think we need some space from each other.”
“Sure you, you can go home. If what you want is to end our friendship right here and now!” He went on to say more but I don’t remember exactly only that there would be more consequences if I did. I didn’t respond. I kept my head down and didn’t respond.
“Well do whatever you want then. I’m going to take a shower and go to bed.” And with that he haughtily walked around me and slammed the door to his bedroom. I stayed seated where I was till I heard him blast Lana Del Ray on his stereo and the water from the shower turn on.
I went back to my own room and sat against the wall. I took a pillow to my body and tried to make myself as small as I could, pulling my knees to my chest. I wanted to cry. No, I wanted to scream. But my fight or flight senses were still too strong. I needed to get out of there but safely. The echo of possible consequences to follow scared me more than if I just ran out of the building. I needed to be smart about this. I needed to not be so stupid anymore.
After what felt like an eternity but what was probably only a handful of minutes, I went back out into the living room. The shower was still going. I found the legal pad we were using to write down a list of possible movies to watch in the future together to write down a long apology. I wrote how sorry I was for everything. I took the blame and that it was all my fault, especially his burn. It didn’t matter if I believed what I wrote or not, I needed him to not hurt me afterwards for leaving. Most importantly, I needed him to believe my note. Then I went back to my room, gathered all my overnight things into my bag and sat on the bed as I tried to find an Uber. No drivers available. Fuck. By this point it was nearly 3 in the morning and I wasn’t surprised. I kept the app on in hopes for a miracle but I new I needed to get out of there. So I thought about who I could make that 3am phone call to and started dialing.
The first number I tried was my neighbor who is a fire fighter but I didn’t know if he was at home or awake. He didn’t answer. I wanted to try dialing his number again but the guilt inside of me for being a burden wouldn’t let me. Next I swallowed my embarrassment and tried calling The General. That was a no go too. I had only called him on FaceTime and not his actual cell phone because I didn’t know if he would even want me to ask him in time like this. Spike didn’t have a car and I didn’t feel comfortable about calling any of my coworkers. I felt like I was stuck in between a rock and a hard place because apart of me felt like I wasn’t in enough danger to say, call the cops. I wasn’t being threatened with say a gun or have been physically touched, it felt like an emergency that wasn’t enough of an emergency. There are a lot of people who would probably argue that this wasn’t an emergency at all and that I did this to myself.
It had been at least twenty minutes at this point and while the shower was still going strong, I worried my opportunity to slip out unnoticed were getting slimmer. So I put my phone in my pocket and walked out the door, closing the door as quietly as I could. I practically sprinted down the stairs, looking over my shoulder every couple of minutes to make sure he wasn’t looking outside the window or chasing after me. Then I was on the street and on the main road. I didn’t live far but it was at least four miles-ish give or take. And also 3 in the morning.
As I was walking down the road I remembered one more phone number I could call, Spike’s friend whom I’ll call the Ex Cop. The Ex Cop was a recent acquaintance I had met only a couple months prior and we had only hung out with Spike twice at this point. He seemed like a nice guy, a former ex cop aka hence the nickname, retired from Michigan in his seventies. Spike had told me how once he had called the Ex Cop in the middle of the night to help get him out of a jam. It was presumptuous to think he would do the same for me but I was desperate. I didn’t know how far down the road I could get before The Teacher would find me and come looking for me afterwards. I don’t know if that’s what he would have done but in my mind I had no idea how he would react. I didn’t know how much of a heads start I had or if he would chase me at all only that I needed to flee. The Ex Cop picked up the phone a few rings in.
“…. hello..?” he asked groggily in a half awake voice.
“Hey…” I started to say. I felt myself choke up and had to pause to swallow. “It’s me Sarah,” I was able to barely get out. “I am so sorry to wake you up and call you like this in the middle of the night but…” All of this was barely audible and I was trying not to hiccup in tears between each word. “I need your help… I’m kind of stuck. I met up with this guy from Tinder and it went very wrong… I put myself into a very dangerous situation… could you come pick me up?”
“Where are you?” he said firmly, cop mode fully activated.
“I don’t know,” I began. “I’m on Folly Road.”
“Where..?” he asked again. I was starting to break down worse and become less coherent. The battle to get myself to safety and being what I felt like a burden to someone else was duking it out and being a burden was winning.
“It’s okay” I said. “Never mind, don’t worry I’ll be fine,” I promised. Being a burden won and I needed to get off the phone so I could keep walking and look for an Uber.
“No Sarah, where are you?!” he said more urgently.
“I don’t know,” I repeated again. “I’m somewhere on Folly on Folly Rd, there aren’t any street signs I can see. But it’s okay, I swear. I am so sorry for waking you up.” My guilt was literally eating away at me. How could you call him to ask a favor like this from him. You don’t even know him, Spike knows him and Spike asked him for a favor once, not you. “I promise I’m okay,” and then I hung up. Panic reset in and my footsteps moved a little quicker. I didn’t know how long it would take me to get home. It wasn’t exactly an unsafe area of town to walk in but is anywhere at three in the morning ever really a safe place to walk?
Thirty seconds later I could see the headlights of a car coming. I put my hand to shield my eyes from the bright lights and I noticed that it was pulling closer to the curb to me. It wasn’t the Ex Cop. I had literally just gotten off the phone with him and no amount of speeding could have gotten him there that quickly. It also wasn’t The Teacher as it was coming from direction I was walking towards. It was a man who looked to be in his late teens to early twenties. He rolled his window down at me and asked.
“Are you okay mam? Do you need a ride anywhere?”
What were the odds, I asked myself. I wasn’t about to jump into a car with yet another stranger until I noticed the Lyft sticker on his car window. He saw me noticing.
“I was just on my way to pick up a ride but, are you okay??”
I didn’t know what to do. The fact that he had a Lyft sticker did put me at ease. I shook my head no. “No, I’m not okay,” I began. I was still barely coherent and able to talk. “I had a bad Tinder date and I’m trying to go home.”
“Oh,” he said. “It’s okay, come on in. I’ll cancel my ride for you and give you a ride home,” he turned his phone to me to show me the status of his job. It was legit.
“Are you sure…?” I asked. “I don’t have any cash or anyway to pay you the ride.”
“Absolutely,” he replied. And with that I made my second very dangerously stupid mistake that night by getting into the car with a stranger.
I buckled myself in and said thank you again. “You have no idea the night I’ve had.” I explained.
“Yeah?” he began but hadn’t started driving. “What happened?”
I didn’t know how to go into specifics. I wasn’t exactly telling the truth. It wasn’t a date but we had met on Tinder and again, it wasn’t exactly like he had tried to rape me or physically harm me and yet… I was terrified for my life. So what I said was, “he was making dinner and we got into a fight.”
“Oh,” he replied and then paused for a moment. “Here,” here said and without any warning reached over my body to lower the seat to the passenger chair. I froze and panicked at the same time, ready to whip my seat belt off and bolt out of the car.
“What are you doing?!”
His arm withdrew. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I was just trying to lower your seat for you.”
“Oh,” I replied. He seemed to take this as a sign of consent and reached over again, this time successfully lowering the back of the car reclining just an inch or so. I didn’t move, waiting for it to be over, wishing he would have let me recline my own chair. Could he not read the room or did he not care? Did I have enough time to leave? No because then the car was moving and he was making a U-Turn back into the city.
At first we didn’t say much then he started telling me about himself. I had told him that I appreciated him being out so late like this, how I had been trying to find an Uber or Lyft but couldn’t because I wasn’t able to find a ride before. He said he worked at Boeing and when he got done with his shift at 2am, would drive around for a couple hours to earn some extra cash, mostly picking up people from bars. That put me at ease and made me feel like I had been over reacting, being too sensitive to the arm thing. He was only trying to be nice. Then he asked me if I knew of anyone who needed a massage.
“What?” I asked confused. I hadn’t been paying that close attention anymore.
“Oh, I like to practice giving massages and I was wondering if you knew of anyone who enjoyed them.”
What?! I asked myself again except this time not out loud. Alarm bells started ringing again. “No… sorry… I don’t,” I said back. What the hell was he talking about? Was he really trying to ask if I wanted a massage?! “But you know, I’ll keep it in mind if I run into anyone.” Like Cher from Clueless would say, “Ugh as if!” I was almost home Sarah. Literally under two miles now and ETA time less than five minutes away.
“That’s okay,” he said back. He turned down the road when we were two minutes away and then asked me. “So where do you work? What do you do?”
If he had asked me this question a few minutes ago, before the massage, I probably would have been honest. I didn’t know why but without even thinking I lied. I pulled from my ass an old job I had worked for a couple years prior and had enough experience to talk about if he had any follow up questions. Good girl, I could hear myself thinking.
“Oh yeah? Which one? Which location?” I had told him I worked at this grocery store I had worked for years ago. His question didn’t sound challenging, it didn’t sound as if he didn’t believe me, but wanted to know so he could come see me again. The alarm bells in my head were full on sirens now and my home street was pulling up closer and closer. I thought about having him drop me off a block away to someone else’s house I had known but I didn’t know the Lyft driver would try walking me to my door or watch me go in. So instead as we turned onto my street, I had him drop me off in front of my fire fighter neighbor’s house. In advance if my neighbor ever did read this, I am really sorry for doing that to you and I hope you understand. I never told him that. That was stupidly putting my neighbor in danger and I’ve always felt guilty over it.
“Thank you again,” I said to the Lyft driver as I unbuckled my seat belt. “I really wish I had some cash or a way to pay you for your trouble. You have no idea how grateful I am.”
“It’s okay, you’re welcome,” he said. “You’re very beautiful…”
“Um… thank you?” I awkwardly said. I wanted out of that car. I looked to see my neighbors car in the driveway. Although the Lyft driver’s lights weren’t facing my neighbors house, I didn’t want him to come out half awake and confused.
“Could I get your number?”
“Oh…” I said. “Um… look I’m really grateful but I’m just not in the right headspace to date again right now for awhile. Especially after what I just went through tonight.”
“Oh yeah, totally, sure, I get that.”
“Thanks,” I replied. “And thank you again so much for the ride.” I got out of the car and started walking away slowly so he wouldn’t see me slowly angling towards my own yard.
“Um…” he said nervously out of the window. “Do you think I could get a kiss? You know, just like on the cheek or something before I go?”
I blinked and couldn’t help but think, really dude?! Read the room!
“I’m so sorry but no… like I just said, I went through something really traumatic tonight and I’m just not there mentally. But thank you again so much for doing this for me. Again I really am grateful but you know… I’m sorry but… no.”
“Okay,” he said. “I understand.” I stood and watched till he turned around and pulled away from my street before walking inside my own home.
Suffice to say that was a very dangerous and very stupid situation I had put myself in. Twice.
To say I was scared from it was an understatement. I never met up with The Teacher after that. I would barely reply to his text messages even though he did apologize more than once, I just couldn’t bring myself to see him. While I knew it was his illness I had seen that night and not him, finally understanding what bipolar looked like, I was too scared to risk it. The Teacher promised me he went to his therapist and up’d his medication dosage and yet I was too scared in case I saw Dr. Hyde again. I was afraid of the monster I had seen.
I had wanted to talk about my experience and trauma from the beginning but just… couldn’t. I don’t know why I can now and not then or any other time since it’s happened over the months. I have tried to go in depth with a few different friends and loved ones since but it always felt like I down played my experience. The danger felt less real the further I was away from it and more like it was my fault, like I over reacted. I dunno, to this day sometimes I think that maybe I did. I have reached out and talked to The Teacher about this since, we had a very good conversation in July and I do feel safe enough to want to meet him again and be friends again, albeit with boundaries on it and restrictions of course.
I ask myself all the time why I do things like this, put myself in dangerously stupid situations. Sometimes I really do feel like a thirty something year old version of Cher from Clueless, getting herself into stupidly dangerous situations. All I can do is try to learn from my experiences. I’ve met people since but haven’t really done much of any dating except to try and work on myself.
Anyway, that’s it for today’s blog post. It was a heavy one that’s for sure. Thank you so much to those who have gotten this far and as always, with all my love,