I met Victor on a hot summer night in late July—not long after the disastrous work picnic saga with my older man, Marco, where his boss’ wife told me I wasn’t welcome at work events because she thought I’d steal her husband. Victor and I had chatted online for a few weeks before we decided to meet in person.
He was taller than I’d imagined, much more fit and handsome, but not particularly my type. He was up to his neck in student loans, nearing his PhD and, even though he was uniquely intelligent, he lacked some obvious common sense in certain areas—in a very “boyish” way that was cute, but annoying. I determined from our conversation the first night that he had a lot of growing up to do still, and I guess fortunately, this was enough to keep me from pursuing him sexually out of boredom and loneliness. There was something about the way he was still boyish that was a major turnoff; it’s this instinct that has guided my entire dating life. If a man fits the bill, but, like Victor, is not quite mature in certain ways, he gets friend-zoned, no questions asked.
Victor and I spent the evening geeking out, playing duets, and joking around. I wouldn’t see Victor again for about eight months, although we kept in touch through e-mail and chat. That evening was nice and relaxing, but after Victor left, I had a sudden pit of guilt in my stomach. Did I just cross a line with my older lover? I didn’t tell Marco that Victor was coming, or anything about our chats, and I didn’t ask permission. So, if you’re doing something you can’t tell your lover about, then you shouldn’t be doing it, right? I chose to not ever divulge this meeting to Marco, even though I technically did nothing wrong.
Things had been going well with Marco. We had a lot of fun going for motorcycle rides in the nice weather. He arranged for me to take all-expense-paid trips with him to Seattle, Portland, Richmond, and Fairfax while he worked to help combat the loneliness I felt while he was away so often. So long as I didn’t broach the subject of his other woman, Karen, or marriage, things were great. But I loved Marco and still envisioned a life with him. Traveling with him was one of the most amazing parts of our time together, as I had never traveled much, being a small-town girl.
On our trip to Seattle, we took an Argosy waterfront harbor tour cruise. It was amazingly romantic. I hinted that it would be a uniquely perfect place to propose, being romantic and on the water and all. Well, apparently that was the wrong thing to say. Marco drew a deep breath, and with a stern face, he looked me square in the eye and said, “You will never be the woman I need. You will never be the mature, independent businesswoman I prefer. You are nothing without me, and I am not willing to tie you to me like an anchor. Yes, you work very hard and do well in school, but if you want to marry me, you have to change a lot more about you to fit into the mold of my ideal woman. You are my little project, and we are having fun. So, unless you are willing to make these changes, do not bring it up again.”
Luckily for me, the cruise wasn’t packed and I don’t think anyone overheard me getting ripped apart by the man I loved. This time, I handled it differently though. Hearing Marco say these words to me in person, face-to-face, was very different than hearing his cold and empty words over the phone. After quickly looking around to see exactly how close people were seated to us, I smiled slightly at him and thanked him for his honesty before excusing myself from the table. When I rose to my feet, he placed his hand on mine. “Viv, please don’t.” I smiled through the pain I felt deep in my chest, and caressed his cheek before turning and walking over to the piano that was on board.
The pianist had just finished his set and welcomed me to sit at the keys, so I did. As people moved to the upper decks, I started to play a song I’d learned by ear years ago. This would be the only time Marco would ever see me play, and he was in awe of the melodies coming from the girl that would never be good enough for him, his pet project, sitting at the baby grand.