Content warning: sexual coercion
“You look like trouble.”
That’s his opening message, one that I’m surprised to receive and one that also seems patently false. My Tinder profile is tame, with its emphasis on my love of books and obsession with Taylor Swift. Especially compared to his, which consists of a collection of shirtless photos that tastefully highlight his eight-pack abs and chest tattoo.
If one of us looks like trouble, I think, it’s definitely not me.
When he invites me to come over, I surprise myself by saying yes. He seems like a one-night stand type of guy — the type I usually run far away from — but it’s December, and I’m cold and lonely and stuck in a city I just moved to. It’s just one night, I think. What’s the worst that could happen?
When he opens the door to his building, I realize that I was completely wrong. We haven’t even kissed yet — the only thing that’s made contact is our eyes, and his hand on my back as he guides me up the stairs to his apartment — but I’m already enthralled, knowing that one night won’t be enough, that I need to make this man mine.
He’s even more attractive than his photos, a feat that I didn’t think was possible. We sit on his bed, passing a bottle of Fireball and a joint back and forth while we tease each other. The tension is palpable, and yet, I feel a distinct lack of nerves.
I flirtatiously tell him a secret and ask him to keep it between us. “Promise?” I ask and stick out my pinky finger. I watch as he slowly hooks his finger through mine, using it to draw me in and closing the space between us until our lips meet.
That first kiss is electric, as is the sex that follows; it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. I’m completely immersed in the moment, enchanted by how he manages to be both gentle and rough at the same time.
When I wake up the next morning, every moment from the previous night replays in my head. Looking at the marks he left all over my body, I wonder when I can get his hands on me again.
We see each other the next week, and the next, until I’ve eventually claimed his Saturday nights along with a side on his bed. Despite our mutual proclamations that we don’t want a relationship, I find myself growing dependent on him, wanting — needing — to wake up next to him on Sunday mornings, to have him bring me hot chocolate in bed after we’re done fucking, to curl up in his sweats while he rolls us a blunt.
As our relationship intensifies, so do the hangovers that roll around on Monday morning. There’s a physical drop — a result of our weekend indulgence in weed and whiskey — but also an emotional one, a mix of shame and self-loathing that follows me throughout the week.
Little things have started to pop up when we’re together: a misogynistic comment here, some negging there. I start to hide things when I talk to my friends and my therapist about him. I don’t outright lie, but I carefully curate the stories I share.
I say that him and I have struggled with communication but omit how he has started to get pushy during sex, the way he keeps pressuring me to do things even after I’ve said no and how I always say yes to whatever he wants in the end.
I begin to slowly admit to myself that the only path our relationship is going down is a destructive one, but I don’t stop seeing him — I can’t. I need to feel that electrified spark between us, the high I can only get when our bodies are intertwined. I’d rather lose myself than lose him.
But then our relationship hits rock bottom the night he forgoes a condom without saying anything to me, crossing a boundary that was explicit. When I finally notice, I don’t say anything; as betrayed as I feel, I’m still entranced by him, by the way our bodies fit together.
I still wake up in his arms, although I know it will be our last morning together. I’m incapable of ending things face-to-face; I know he’ll pull me back into bed and apologize and promise to make it up to me, and I’ll be unable to say no when he begs me to stay. Instead, I send him a breakup text after I leave and then cut him off completely.
I go through a type of withdrawal, and spend my days dreaming up justifiable reasons to see him again, wanting just one more hit of that crystalline chemistry that sparked between us. But I restrain myself from reaching out; I know that there is no such thing as “just one more time” when it comes to him, and if I fall back into his bed, it’ll be nearly impossible to extricate myself again.
Time passes and other lovers come and go, but the memory of him remains, along with the fantasy that he’ll reach out and invite me back into his life. And even though I now know exactly how much trouble he is, it won’t surprise me at all if I say yes.