The Experiment

I wouldn’t call the brief relationship an experiment. It wasn’t, at least not at first. The guy was good looking, my age (always a rarity), and he’d graduated from my high school so at least I knew he was smart and came from a decent family. Like all special connections we met on Tinder. After getting roped into one too many heinous Tinder dates, I no longer messaged on the app, but rather used it to boost my self esteem.

I’ve found that if enough attractive people validate your looks, sometimes it doesn’t take a drawer full of pills to get out of bed in the morning. So when John and I match and I realize I know him, I break my rule by messaging him immediately and ask him if he graduated from Hampton. He confirms my suspicions, and we plan to go out Friday evening.

I knew I remembered this kid! He was a grade below me and ALWAYS had a giant backpack and looked like he was going to have an anxiety attack at any moment. If memory serves (and it always does, shocking given the substance abuse), he was a fan of high white socks, dark new balance shoes, and big plastic watches. I probably remembered him because he always looked how I felt inside – terrified. This kid was just really bad at hiding it.

I can also remember a mutual friend calling him ‘that socially awkward kid’ . John claims not to remember me, which is fine because why would he? He was too busy lugging that giant backpack around. I’ve always had a thing for nerds so I decide to actually follow through with the date, even though I’m on house arrest and know I will definitely have to explain the situation.

That Friday, John picks me up in his new 4Runner and we go to Panera – good to keep his expectations low. I end up being honest with him about everything, not because I believe in 100% transparency, gross, but because I’m high on Kratom and don’t like him enough yet to care. He seems weirdly ok with me being on house arrest, and when he drops me off that night I’m excited. “Maybe he is just really understanding” I think to myself.

I end up telling Favorite Therapist about my date (because honesty does always have relevance in therapy and writing), and she basically says ‘what the fuck’.

“I’m lonely” I tell her. She doesn’t push the issue though because she knows how to work me. Game recognize game girl.

John and I go on a few more dates and start to talk semi-regularly. I find out that he recently broke up with his first and only serious boyfriend because the guy got addicted to SHOOTING METH. Right!? Obviously I have no moral objection to his ex shooting meth, even though it doesn’t have the same panache as say shooting heroin, but now I’m almost disturbed.

Why would this seemingly normal guy, who just had his heart broken by a meth-head want to date me? He was even joking about moving in together already and getting a dog.

At first I assume this is probably just my fault. Often I’ll be vague with people when discussing my substance abuse issues – the less details the better. Who knows? Maybe I’d just used the words DUI and Sober when we went to Panera that night, I had drank a lot of Kratom. So I send him some of my writing, and I purposefully choose some of the most fucked up stories , ones that definitely mention shooting heroin and indiscriminate casual sex. Usually, it’s not my intention to shock people with my writing, but this time I was really going for it. Maybe I was being nice and wanted to let him know what he was getting into. More realistically, I was now just curious.

John reads the posts I sent him, and compliments my writing. I was fully expecting him to cease communication, and I wouldn’t have blamed him. He should have! He does send me a text around this time that asks me if I still struggle with substance abuse. I respond with “not usually, but sometimes”. The fact that this kid was not running fast and far got the best of my curiosity, and now I had to figure out what was wrong with him. I was obsessed.

One of my first theories was that he was working out some high school trauma by dating me. I mean his own friend called him ‘that socially awkward kid’. There’s no question that the jocks picked on the poor little guy. To test said theory I wear a Hampton Lacrosse hoodie on one of our dates to see if he acts any different. He does not, even when I bring the hoodie up, and my hypothesis is proved wrong.

Maybe he was sexually abused as a child and now makes really shitty choices? This theory goes out the window when I spend an afternoon getting full back story from the kid.

Maybe he does remember me and I picked on him? I was kind of a dick in high school and was usually on drugs so who knows, I may have. John thwarts this reasoning when I determine that he’s not lying about knowing me already.

Maybe he is so bitter about his ex that he is going to make me fall in love with him and then crush my icy heart? This seems to be the most reasonable explanation, but I continue to question him and myself.

Favorite Therapist casually asks me if I’m still seeing John one week, and I tell her yes.

“But you said you weren’t that into him….”

“Did I…?”

The exchange haunts me all weekend, and I end up sending Favorite Therapist an email because I know myself, and someone has to stop me when I start talking about signing a lease with this guy.


At my next session, Favorite Therapist tells me that she shared my email with Favorite Nurse, and they laughed when they read it. I lean back in my chair and sigh “do you think I’m being too picky here?”

“No absolutely not, he sounds really immature”

And there it is, the answer to my question, he’s just immature.

Here I was forming all of these elaborate theories for why this seemingly normal guy wanted to date me, when there was a simple reason right in front of me. He hadn’t grown up yet.

I’ve never aspired to be normal, which is good considering I’ll never meet the criteria, and I certainly don’t want to date normal.

I had to leave the country for political reasons soon after this realization, so I never actually had to tell him he wouldn’t be seeing me anymore. (I know Favorite Therapist, I’ll never learn the art of confrontation but sometimes fictional God gives you an out so that it can be avoided).

Even though I’m still known for leaving without an explanation, at least I know that I’m finally growing up.

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