“Persuade me that dating won’t remind me how much I appreciate being alone.”
A letter to Larry David
After three marriages, four divorces and a funeral, the last thing I wanted was another husband. My sons thought otherwise and it irritated them that I refused to date and was quite content getting into bed each night with my miniature Yorkie with whom I emigrated from South Africa eleven years ago.
“Who do you think you are that you refuse to go on a dating site?” my boys asked repetitively. “How are you going to meet anyone? Osho will die soon (my dog) and we don’t want to be around when that happens. Find someone!” they instructed.
Since I don’t really care what anyone’s opinion is of me except my sons, I reluctantly gave in and signed up on Match.com. I refused though to fill out a lengthy description of myself except the bare minimum words required by the website and a few photographs. Anyway, I thought that borrowing your line said it all.
So, the emails poured in. It didn’t matter that I selected men between the ages of forty- nine to fifty- nine and educated (didn’t think I needed to clarify English should be their first language but after reading the reams of drivel it appeared I did). I received countless requests from men aged twenty-four to eighty, where most didn’t know that I was a capital letter or that a period ended a sentence. And then I received The One; who not only knew punctuation but also wrote in poetry. He also looked rather attractive even though the picture was a bit fuzzy but his description read that he had blue eyes and blonde hair. The rest of his profile fit my search criteria perfectly. Tall, exercised regularly, educated, not religious and had a sense of humor. The description of his business was also impressive. It was a resort in the South Pacific where guests swam with hump back whales. I was elated to find such a catch on cyberspace.
For a week we wrote each other countless emails and each of his I re-read enthralled that I had found a man who wrote so well. He didn’t write corny Limericks but real Yeats kind of poetry. He explained that he was in Dallas visiting family and he called on the Saturday morning and asked if I would fly there and meet him. He had his family’s annual picnic the next day and wanted me to attend. Flattered by the invitation but hesitant, I asked where I would spend the night, making it clear it would not be with him. He said he would arrange for me to stay at a hotel.
The year before, I flew to Bangkwang prison in Thailand to see a guy from school who was given a life sentence. If I could fly to Bangkok for the day, why not Dallas? This was just the kind of adventure that appealed to me. He offered to send a ticket. I agreed and hastily packed to make the 2pm flight from LAX.
He arranged to pick me up from the airport and go directly to dinner. Wanting to impress him, I dressed in black leather pants, a black t-shirt, and peep toe suede boots. I tamed my curls with a curling iron and off I went to meet Mr. Right in Dallas.
I walked briskly off the plane with my overnight bag and stopped quickly to check my make up. As I walked through the doors to the baggage area, a man rose from a chair – with a service dog! I gulped. Don’t be so superficial, I scolded myself. What is wrong with you? So he has a service dog. Don’t be so bloody critical. I forced a smile and put my hand out to shake his but the eyes that met mine were glazed and blood-shot and peered out of yellowish tinged skin with popped veins on his bulbous nose and sunken cheeks. His hair may have been blonde once when there was enough to determine the color. All that remained were oily strands of stringy tufts. He was dressed in baggy khaki trousers and a matching shirt that draped over a formless body that hadn’t seen exercise since the day he crawled. The insipid hand that shook mine was limp, wet and weak. Serves you right, my normal side screamed as I smiled with strained politeness. He didn’t have a single redeeming feature.
As he limped towards me a look of disbelief must have crossed my face because he immediately explained that he didn’t have a foot. “Oh,” I said more out of shock than sympathy. As he walked next to me, the noise of his prosthesis drowned out any conversation. I never knew they made a squelching, squeaking racket but then I had never met anyone without a foot. Who knew I should have been more specific in my search criteria?
On the drive to the restaurant, I looked out at Dallas with pretended interest to save myself from looking at him. But I couldn’t help myself and stole glances. Each observation made him more repulsive.
He parked the car in a busy shopping area and I dreaded having to walk beside him with the grating sound of his prosthesis. It sounded like bones crunching. Seated opposite him forced me to look at him. It was impossible not to dissect each of his walking dead features. The running commentary of how dumb I was to have agreed to this trip ran on a continual loop in my head.
He pontificated all through dinner. He barely took a breath as he spoke about himself, or subjects that were of no interest and stories that had no point. I felt I had undergone a personality bypass in that I had no desire to say a thing. At one point he asked if I was shy that I didn’t talk.
“Well if you ask a question, I’ll respond.” I said but the message eluded him and he continued his endless, tedious, and skull numbing soliloquy.
The only way I coped was to zone him out and watch his lips move over his slash of a mouth. Every sentence he punctuated with his arms outstretched in wide circular movements while still holding onto his knife and fork. Any time a waiter passed I held my breath that he didn’t poke out their eyes. I couldn’t take another minute and didn’t care how obvious I was each time I looked at my watch. As he took his last mouth full I told him I was tired and needed to go to wherever he had booked me a room. We walked back to the car and the squelching was no less shocking.
He had arranged for me to stay in a guest suite at his mother’s retirement village. He couldn’t find it and got lost a number of times. When he eventually did, I grabbed the door handle, jumped out of the car with my overnight bag and didn’t wait for him as he limped and squeaked behind me.
He checked me in, picked up the key and insisted on walking me to my room. He said we were to have breakfast with his mother at eleven the following morning and the family picnic was right after.
“OK,” I said, knowing I had no intention of going to either. When we arrived at the door, I snatched the key out of his hand, inserted it in the lock and opened it. I jumped inside, said goodbye and slammed it shut. I locked and double locked the door not caring how loud my message was heard. One thing I had learned from my last life of chronic codependency was that I would never again place a man’s feelings above my own discomfort. I’m sure I was that deranged that I would never have considered leaving and hurt his feelings. I was so cured from that affliction.
I immediately checked what time the first flight was back to LA. It was at 7am. I had a shower, tried to get some sleep which was impossible and called reception to find out which cab company to use. I also had no idea where I was and asked for the address.
I arranged for a cab to pick me up at 5am. When the cab driver called to say he was outside, I grabbed my bag and ran down the corridor but had no idea which direction the elevator was. The hallways seemed to go on forever and I became more and more agitated. There was no end to the torture I had inflicted on myself. I had visions of the man catching me escape or worse, the cab driver would leave me stranded. I tried to call his cell phone but there was no signal. Hysterical, tearful and filled with self loathing that I got myself into this mess I ran not knowing where I was going. The place was so huge it felt like a maze with no exits. I wanted to scream. I kept hitting the redial to the cab driver and eventually it went through. I told him I was lost and couldn’t get out of the building and begged him to wait. He agreed. Relieved at the available help I ran from one wrong door to another, dripping with sweat. Finally I found the exit and ran out towards my savior.
I couldn’t stop thanking him for waiting and told him to take me to the airport. Surprised that I had a shred of decency left, I reached for my cell phone and sent a text, “I’ve gone back to LA.” I immediately blocked his email address and phone number. I sank back against the seat, congratulating myself that I escaped from having to endure another minute of misery.
The sun hadn’t risen yet and the free way was empty but noticed that the driver drove at a snail’s pace. Irritated that he deliberately drove slowly to increase his fare, I was still relieved that with each mile, it was a mile further away from the date from hell. As we approached the airport, I told him to drop me off at American Airlines. He asked in broken East European English what terminal it was.
“I have no idea what terminal it is. Why don’t you know?” He knew to drive slowly. He should bloody well know the terminal. He didn’t. I called AA and was told terminal 2. I relayed the message and pointed out the exit but he missed it and then realized that he barely understood English. I did what most dumb people do when trying to force a foreigner to understand. I spoke louder and slower and the louder I spoke the more he grunted incoherently. We drove around and around the airport but he missed the turnoff each time and any control I had disappeared. I screamed, I swore and sounded like a dock whore as I threatened to call his cab company. He continued to grunt unintelligently and I called them hysterical that I would miss my flight and threatened that I wouldn’t pay his fare.
“He’s an independent contractor so we have no authority over him,” was her quiet response to my hysterical ramblings. I clicked off the phone and continued to scream “American Airlines terminal two” interspersed with fucks. He veered off the road and entered a parking structure that only made me more hysterical as he drove higher and higher up the spiral driveway.
“What the fuck are you doing? Get out of here immediately. What the fuck are you doing in this parking structure?” I repeated like a mantra punctuating each fuck with more aggression. Was there no end to this nightmare? I didn’t stop screaming until he found the way out and as he reached the freeway, he stopped the car in the middle of the road. He got out and waved his hands to stop the traffic. Cars screeched on either side as a shuttle bus came to a stop beside us.
The cab driver shouted, “Where are the planes, the planes?” in his heavy East European accent.
“The planes?” the shuttle driver asked in an effeminate voice made more obvious against the thick guttural accent of the cab driver.
“He doesn’t speak English and doesn’t know where American Airlines is,” I shouted over the cars whizzing by.
“Terminal 2,” he said.
“I keep telling him that but he won’t listen.”
All three of us started shouting at once but over the screeching cars nothing was audible.
“Terminal 2.” I repeated over and over to the cab driver who finally got back in the car. I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote in big letters, TERMINAL 2. He drove off, I pointed at the turnoff shouting “terminal 2” but he drove straight by.
“Just drop me off anywhere at the airport. I don’t care what terminal. Just drop me off,” I screamed.
As he drove by a terminal building, I shouted for him to stop and grabbed the door. I opened it, flew out, opened the trunk, grabbed my overnight bag and started walking away. He jumped out and came after me asking for his money.
“Fuck you and your money. You don’t deserve a penny after what you put me through,” I said over my shoulder as I began to run.
He ran after me, I ran faster waving my arms to stop a bus driving towards me. It was the same driver who had stopped on the freeway.
“Please help me.” I begged. “He’s after me because I refuse to pay him after what he did to me.”
“Get in quickly,” he said. “I’ve never been asked in my whole life where the planes are,” he said in his sing-song wonderfully gay tone. We both burst out laughing as I hauled my carry on up the steps and the door closed as the cab driver reached the window. I sat down between two other men who stared open-mouthed at the scene unfolding before them.
The cab driver stood in front of the bus with his arms outstretched, and refused to allow us to move.
“I’ll call 911,” I shouted to the driver as we remained hostage. He continued his tirade that I owed him money and I shouted back that I didn’t as I dialed the number.
“911 what is your emergency?”
“I’m at the airport and just had an altercation with a cab driver. He barely speaks English, got lost a number of times after taking me into a parking structure as he had no idea where the American terminal was. I eventually got out, ran away from him and managed to wave a shuttle bus down but now he’s standing in front of us and won’t allow the driver to move,” I got out in one breath.
“What terminal are you at? I’ll send police to help you.” Her calm voice only made my breathless run on sound even more disjointed.
“What terminal are we at?” I shouted to the driver.
“Terminal 1,” he shouted back and the two men in the bus still hadn’t changed their frozen positions.
I relayed the message to the operator.
“He’s getting back in his cab,” the driver shouted out. I repeated this to the operator.
As we drove off the driver shouted that he was following us.
“He’s following us,” I screamed at the operator.
“What terminal is the driver going to?” she asked. “We will have police meet you there.”
I repeated this to the driver and again relayed the message to the operator.
“Stay on the phone with me until you reach the terminal and the police are with you,” she said.
I was so in love with America at that moment at how efficient and caring they were compared to what would have happened in South Africa. The last time I was there newspaper headlines warned people not to listen if stopped by police as they were lead by gun point to ATM machines.
“Is he following you?” she asked.
“Is he following us?” I shouted to the driver as I looked out the back window but it was difficult to see amongst the car headlights.
“We don’t know. There are too many cars”
“OK, stay with me until you get to the terminal. Police are already waiting for you.”
I held onto the phone and the driver asked what had happened. The more details I revealed the higher his voice pitched and we both began to giggle. He announced that we had arrived at AA and once again I relayed the message to the operator.
Two large police men walked towards us as the doors opened and I thanked the driver profusely.
I kept looking over my shoulder to see if we were followed but couldn’t see him. As I reached the policemen, I repeated what happened barely taking a breath. They walked me into the terminal building and waited until I had my boarding pass. They never left my side until I passed through security.
All I could think about on the way home was getting into a hot bath and washing away the stench of my trip. Debbie does Dallas kept popping into my head for no apparent reason. Never do Dallas was my automatic response.
After I hugged Osho and soaked in a hot bath I climbed into bed with him. The tension from my escape and the airport fiasco exhausted me. But then I started to laugh. The part that I had blocked out was what he had told me over dinner. He had genital warts and was euphoric to have found a website for singles with STD’s
“I’m a selfish bastard and refuse to wear condoms,” he explained.
Oh, how endearing. If one foot wasn’t bad enough did he think genital warts would make him more attractive? And what did they do on the website? Swop diseases? I didn’t dare imagine what else must have lurked between his genital warts. That’s probably why he looked like death.
I removed my profile from Match.