David meets the woman who will destroy him.
It was our first date. I had escaped Vermont for a few days, feeling a little down after the thing with Veronica imploded, the neglect from the Cali girl, lonely in my big house, while also finally admitting that I’d never feel like myself in this town, that I never wanted to come back, and that with some exceptions, the only available women here were either 22 or had four kids. So I decided to hitch a ride to New York after setting up a couple of dates.
“I don’t know why you’re so down,” said Paul, who was one week away from an alcoholic meltdown that would get the whole town talking. We were riding our bikes on a dirt road next to a river. I was leaving the next day. “Last week you complained you were lonely, and that your surgery had failed and that you were going to die, and now you’ve fucked a girl on your stairs, and it turns out your stomach is fine. You’re on top of the world!”
Amelia was a long shot. Her eyes, big; her hair, ringleted; her face, elfin, almost like a Vulcan’s. Her glamor photos on Match.com probably generated hundreds of pleading messages from losers. Her profile read a bit angry; she didn’t like online dating or the men who came with it. I got lucky, though. She wrote me back. She liked the Vermont thing. She wanted to meet someone who might go live in the country with her and maybe raise animals. Oh, that sounds great, I wrote. Then I proposed fancy cocktails.
She wrote back: Skip the cocktails.
This was serious. This was a job interview. I chose a demure café that offered artisanal coffee, sustainable and fair-traded. I waited outside, because the place was so small and crowded that our encounter would immediately be recognized as the online date it was. Few things still embarrass me, but that does.
I paced, a bit nervous, hot, out of sorts. The one the night before hadn’t gone well. The ones from the Jewish dating site are usually bad news. You can smell their anxiety; you can see the Klonopin failing. They walk in like stoppered bottles of hope that no one can open. They leave without graciousness. This one had thrown everything at me before we met: IM chats, a call, a host of emails, but our date fell flat, and by the time we parted ways she flinched when I reached to shake her hand.
Amelia used the café meet as a ruse. If she found me repulsive, she only needed to suffer through a quick cup of coffee and then escape. About ten minutes into my pacing, she appeared: hair, lipstick, and gold sunglasses in my face. “Let’s just go get a drink,” she said.
“What happened to ‘Skip the cocktails’?”
“Bad meeting with the therapist.”
If I had unwound this story to friends, they would have said run. But I always think I’m getting tested: my resolve, my resilience. Also, I’ve begun to accept that I only attract nutty, troubled women. The exception was Clarissa. She was a glorious timeout, a milestone in normality. I had felt like the crazy one. Still, you get to the point when you just want the thing — not the person, but the situation. I’d given up on finding the person. People are made up mostly of the lies they want you to see, anyway. Also, I’m afraid that women hate us; they just stop hiding it when they get older, or they simply hate us more. Amelia spent a good while at the wine bar we had found dissing the men she had dated so far in her quest for a “life partner.” She called them jealous, controlling, and forward. “This one guy tried to kiss me after five minutes.”
We had a good time. When a storm comes, you let it run its course. She was a drinker, a talker. Scornful. Superior. “I’m not looking for sex,” she said. “It’s easy enough for me to get fucked. Look at me. Men like me. I want to start a family.” I was skeptical. She interrogated me about my intentions, while delivering a history of hair-raising sexual antics. She worked in fashion. She liked cooking. She craved kimchi and beef hearts.
After four glasses of wine, we took a cab uptown. We sat outside an Italian tapas place she knew. After she ordered for us (I wasn’t asked), she went inside to chat with the manager. I could see them through the glass. The manager looked out and sent me a thumbs up. We ate head-on shrimp, prosciutto, grilled squid with fava beans. I was on the toilet all next day. By ten o’clock, we were winding it down. We had spent six hours together. “I like you,” she said. While we walked, she whipped out a one-hitter and began to fill it.
“You’re kidding me,” I said. “On the street?”
Amelia laughed. “Don’t worry. We won’t get arrested. We’re white!”
We met for dinner the next night. I was leaving in a couple of days, so we decided to accelerate things to see if anything was there. She got lost and texted me a nasty message as though it were my fault. And when she finally showed up, she was drunk. “Boozy lunch,” she explained. She ordered a bottle of wine. Then lamb tagine, polenta crostini, baked cheese, and eggplant. I was confused. What happened to the serious farm girl?
“You’re in the running,” she said. “Here’s your chance to shine.” Her arrogance astonished me, impressed me. She was like the Steve Jobs of dating. I could see the calculations, a dozen a minute, as she compared and contrasted me with the rest. One minute I was up, and the next — after I said something she didn’t like, or offered a piece of personal history that didn’t dovetail with her expectations — I was down. I understood now why she had so much trouble with men who gave her ultimatums and wrote her angry emails. She had emasculated and rendered them insecure by her knife-flash switching between hot and cold. She had put us all in a horse race. I went along with it, though. What choice did I have? In the last year, I had dated an emotional fraud, a gold-digger, and a clump of angry, not-nice women. Paul called them the weird sisters.
Against my better judgement, I invited Amelia over. Against her better judgement, she agreed. We sat in the kitchen with a bottle of wine and chatted, carefully avoiding getting into trouble, but still enjoying its inevitability. At one point, much later, she said, “Look, just show me your cock.”
Ah, what the hell, I thought, as I unzipped. I’m getting old. Why not go down in flames? Why not just accept I’ll make bad decisions? The opportunity to make them will fade soon enough. A week later, she came to Vermont and spent a weekend harassing me while we fucked nonstop and cooked. By the time she left, I thought I might as well than not marry a woman who would eventually destroy me.