This week, a woman who meets a man who wants to pretend they’re married: straight, single, Crown Heights, 33.
7:30 a.m. My last alarm goes off and I get out of bed; I like waking up early, even on weekends, and having a whole day to do whatever I want. I make coffee and aimlessly scroll through open tabs on my laptop.
11:00 a.m. I’ve finished one book, and now I’m reading Charlotte Brontë’s Villette. I admire Lucy Snowe, the protagonist. She’s the kind of character who tells a man, “No mockery in this world ever sounds to me so hollow as that of being told to cultivate happiness. What does such advice mean? Happiness is not a potato, to be planted in mould and tilled with manure.”
5:00 p.m. I’m feeling restless, so I do what I always do when I don’t want to go outside, don’t have money to shop, and want to smother my anxiety: I create an online dating profile. This one is on OkCupid.
7:00 p.m. A white man in his mid-40s messages me. He does not make reference to anything in my profile, which is usually a deal-breaker. He says he works in advertising and writes plays on the side. He’s slender with gray, thinning hair and dresses like a “creative.” There are pictures of him in front of a colorful mural, strumming a guitar, eating at a trendy restaurant, standing in front of an installation at Dia:Beacon.
All of these photos, while uninspired, suggest conventionality — stability — a quality which greatly appeals to me. I’ve had a tumultuous year: I left a toxic job at which I’d been drinking too much; broke up with my boyfriend of three years; embarked on a disastrous friends-with-benefits situation with an ex-co-worker; matriculated at — and abruptly withdrew from — a second graduate program; and started at a new job that pays considerably less than my old, bad job.
10:00 p.m. I message the man back and ask him about moonlighting as a playwright.
7:30 a.m. My friend E and I go to an exercise class together. The workout, a combination of cardio and power yoga, is tiring enough to convince me that it’s working. My favorite part, though, is the screaming: The instructor encourages everyone to scream, or vocalize however one wants, to clear out anxiety, exhaustion, fear, whatever is holding you back. I scream a lot during a set of burpees.
8:45 a.m. I return to the office with renewed optimism about my career, my life. Did I mention I do graphic design?
9:00 a.m. The man writes back and tells me that he’s working on a one-act play in which a date goes awry in increasingly absurd ways. He remarks that he enjoys reading and sex: a line I’d written in my profile under “seeking.” This reference strikes me as lazy, but it doesn’t stop me from giving him my phone number.
10:30 a.m. We decide to meet up for drinks after work the next day.
1:00 p.m. During lunch I daydream about the man. Since I was a teenager, I’d had a (problematic, probably perverse) crush on Jeremy Irons. The man I’m talking to looks nothing like Jeremy Irons, but I can’t help thinking of him as a screen upon which I can project my long-standing older-man fantasy.
10:30 p.m. I’m in bed trying to fall asleep. The man texts to ask how my day was. I tell him: productive, healthy, well spent. He tells me he thinks I have a nice body, which is odd because none of my photos feature my whole body. I wonder if anyone in the history of mankind has ever executed a smooth transition from banal observations about one’s day to explicit descriptions of what one wants to do to you and where. “That’s very flattering, thank you.” I’m bad at sexting.
He plows forward and insists that I’m making him very hard. “REALLY??” I ask. I ask him how his imagination about me could be so vivid though we’d never met. I don’t remember his answer because he sends me a photo of a hand grabbing an erect penis. It is anatomically elegant: clean, very pink, veiny, girthy, larger than average, and circumcised. Not knowing what to say, I observe that he is well endowed. He writes back: nine inches. Ignoring all the red flags flapping vigorously in my direction, I immediately decide that I will fuck this man. It will be an historic moment. I have never been fucked by a nine-inch dick.
7:30 a.m. Getting ready for work. I carefully consider my outfit because I won’t have time to change before my date. My rule of thumb for first dates is to be as comfortable as possible to affect nonchalance even if I’m feeling nervous. I put on an oversized sweater and black pants, an Eileen Fisher–inspired look that exudes serenity. I hope.
11:30 a.m. The man texts me at work to let me know he’s thinking of me and can’t wait for drinks. Thoughtful, I think. I remind myself that most men are very attentive in the days and hours before they get to fuck you. Still, dates are fun.
5:30 p.m. I’m at the bar early because I’m nervous and I want to get a head start. I order a tequila soda, an efficient drink: potent, low-calorie, sippable.
6:00 p.m. The man walks in but I don’t notice him right away — he is much thinner than I’d expected. He orders an Old-Fashioned. He leans over me in the way men do to convey “interest.” He maintains eye contact, somewhat disconcertingly, as if he is observing the behavior of a lab animal. I monologue because he doesn’t ask me any questions. His body language seems studied and a touch mannered. For all I know, this man might butcher me and store my body in a refrigerator. I decide then that this will be a one-night thing. Because I still want to see about that dick.
7:30 p.m. There is no dancing around the question of me going home with him.
8:00 p.m. His apartment is a modest one-bedroom up five flights of stairs. His living room contains three guitars and four amps — no furniture. He also has an old, grumpy black cat. I’m definitely getting murdered, I think. His bedroom is clean, the sheets are clean; he has very few books. We waste no time. To my relief and delight, his dick is, in fact, large. He fucks like someone who has lived his whole life knowing that, no matter what, his dick will never fail to impress. We have sex several times.
11:00 p.m. I stay over because I am exhausted; I don’t remember if he invited me to or if I just fell asleep.
7:00 a.m. We have sex again in the morning. We’re very sexually compatible, he tells me. I don’t disagree. “Last night I thought I should just propose to you already; I could fuck like this for the rest of my life,” he says with a laugh. It’s an odd comment, but I chalk it up to him being vulnerable. I take a shower and get dressed. When we are standing at the door, he tells me he wants to see me again. I tell him that we can make plans for the weekend.
11:00 a.m. I text my friends about my evening. One comes up with a sobriquet: Sausage Man. The name sticks.
4:00 p.m. I receive an annoying work email. I spend over 30 minutes anxiously crafting a response.
9:00 p.m. Sausage Man texts me. Again, he asks about my day and quickly steers the conversation toward sexting. However, I’m tired and I fall asleep with phone in hand.
3:00 a.m. I wake up and feel bad for leaving the man hanging.
11:00 a.m. Sausage Man and I go on a “date”: a walk to the bookstore for coffee and book-browsing. We order two coffees and I get my card out, performatively, to see if he insists on paying. He does not.
1:00 p.m. Back at his place, as we’re having sex, Sausage Man gets vocal. He insists that I, too, should get as loud as I want. He reaches for a box under the bed, pulls out a coil of nylon rope, and proceeds to tie me up. He chokes me and slaps me and grabs my hair. (He asked me if it was okay first, or rather, he told me he was going to do these things and I said okay.)
I close my eyes and don’t talk because that requires too much thinking. The Sausage Man loves talking, though. He hollers that he “loves his wife’s pussy.” I think I’m mishearing him but then he commands me: “Say you love your husband’s dick! Say you want your husband to fuck you harder! I’m going to fuck you until you’re pregnant!!”
1:55 p.m. He comes, then rolls off, unties me, and pulls me onto his chest to rest. I ask him about the husband-and-wife thing. He tells me that being single in his 40s has made him fantasize about marriage. He asks if it’s okay, if it’s weird. It’s fine, I tell him. It’s a benign kink, and I’ve been asked to role-play in less conventional (in every sense of the word) roles.
3:00 p.m. Addressing his marriage fantasy encourages him, and he playfully suggests that we go around acting like a married couple. Ha-ha, okay, I say, going with the joke. We walk to the grocery store to get food. I think we are getting ingredients to cook, but he picks up several frozen pizzas, some beer, and a premade salad. “Let’s go home and cook, honey,” he tells me as we walk out of the store. “Is my wife hungry?”
4:15 p.m. Sausage Man starts “cooking”: He preheats the oven, throws the pizza in, and divides the salad into two bowls. My “husband” doesn’t know how to cook, it seems.
6:15 p.m. We start having sex, and my phone begins buzzing loudly — I’d received several text messages — so I glance at it and put it on silent, on the floor. Sausage Man seems disconcerted by this and fucks me harder than usual. “Who is calling my wife, huh? Is my wife cheating on me?” he yells as he rails me.
12:00 p.m. I’m house-sitting in Manhattan for my friend, W. Sausage Man texts me and invites me over. I’m not far from him, so I tell him that perhaps I’ll stop by later.
7:00 p.m. Dinnertime for W’s cats. It’s raining hard outside but I feel cozy: I turn off my music to listen to the rain and cook. I read Villette while eating.
9:15 p.m. I get a text from Sausage Man. In it, he tells me I need to “stop fucking around with my exes.” I ask him why he thinks I’m still involved with my exes, and he cites the fact that my phone was blowing up while we were having sex. To make matters worse, he continues, I’m staying at an ex’s place right now, pretending to be house-sitting. (My friend, W, a woman, has a unisex name.) “W’s a woman! I’m not staying at an ex’s house!” He issues an ultimatum: Either I stop talking to them or I lose him. His whiplash temper is scaring me. I want to lose him.
In a rare display of assertiveness, I tell him that his controlling nature and his lack of trust are not okay; we shouldn’t see each other anymore. He carries on: “I can’t believe you’re letting this die. I live in MANHATTAN, not like your scrubby exes.” “I will call you a car, come over NOW.” “Let’s talk about this.” I don’t respond to his texts.
11:00 a.m. I sleep in.
2:00 p.m. I am glad this short-lived relationship came to an end, but I will miss the sex and, most of all, the elation of feeling desired.
7:00 p.m. J suggests karaoke to exorcise the bad feelings. We reserve a room and sing-scream until my voice is hoarse. I love my friends. When we leave, I feel lighter.
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