“Joy” is a fake name. Sometimes I have to use fake names.
Incoming Facebook message (May 27th) from Joy: I haven’t spoken to you since high school. I used to think you were just the coolest.
Sam: I don’t recognize you but you’re pretty cute so I sure wish I did!
Joy: I remember you from some parties… AND MYSPACE.
And so it began. She told me she was a model and an acrobat. Asked for my phone number so she could text me some photos. I happily obliged because I’m an incorrigible flirt. We started texting back and forth pretty frequently. She told me she liked my blog, complimented it as “raw,” “honest,” and “brave.” We talked about potentially meeting in person one day, we talked about having sex, she sent me a lot of really suggestive texts, I responded in kind to a degree but not like I would with a lot of other girls because she had already told me that she wasn’t into the kind of rough sex stuff that I am. After about a week though, I started texting less. I wasn’t going to be seeing this girl in real life anytime soon and I had – you know – a life to live in the meantime. I can’t be wrapped up in all day text message conversations all the time.
After a couple days of not much interaction (about two weeks after we first started talking) I hit her up. “Does it even matter?” she said, “You hate me.” That was my first red flag. I wasn’t texting her as often and her interpretation of that was that I hated her?? The next day, she apologized and started texting me more often. My responses were far less frequent and far less detailed than before but I kept the conversation going.
Toward the end of June, she told me that she might have an opportunity to stay for free in a really nice apartment in Manhattan – for two months – as a house/catsitter. A few days later, she sent me a long message:
I think you should come stay with me and sell your art here. No rent. No parking fees. A warm bed in a plush place. If it goes well, you can stay as long as I stay. Maybe you’ll make really good money. Hustle to get in some galleries. […] You help out so many people… And so many people have helped ME out… I wanna help someone. And you’ve been on my mind the last few days.
“That sounds amazing,” I told her. I had been wanting to get out to New York, to meet with galleries for a long time. But the city is so big and the art scene is so big that the prospect was a little overwhelming. Having a place to stay, a place where I could feel welcome and not like an imposition – that made it a lot easier. This was going to be an outstanding opportunity.
But I was just a little hesitant. I thought it was strange that – despite growing up in the same city – we didn’t seem to have any mutual friends. I asked some of my friends about her and their responses weren’t exactly comforting. She was – as I was told – not an easy person to get along with. (And that’s putting it lightly). Going to New York, to stay with her, would be a little bit of a risk. But when I got the go ahead from the court to leave the state of Illinois, I was too excited to not take her up on the offer. It’s not like I had any other city I needed to be in at the time; my next exhibit was in Seattle and I wouldn’t need to be out there until October.
I started driving to New York but along the way, I got a phone call. It was her and she was crying. “I’m having a panic attack,” she told me. I asked her what was wrong, what was happening. She said that she felt trapped in the apartment but felt like she couldn’t go outside either. She was anxious and uncomfortable and nothing was wrong but everything was wrong. I did my best to talk her down from the ledge. She regained her composure and said she was going to go out to the fruit stand across the street. We hung up. Fuck, I thought. This doesn’t exactly bode well.
The night that I got there, she said she wasn’t sure if she wanted to have sex yet. I said okay but that night in bed, while I was falling asleep, she started to fool around with me and we wound up having sex after all. I was really gentle, really vanilla, really boring. We had talked about what I was into, she had said she wasn’t sure she could handle it, and I had told her that that was fine. That we could do whatever she was comfortable with and maybe slowly try to incorporate some more dominant/submissive stuff and see how she liked it. That’s kind of how it always goes whenever I have sex with someone the first time. Unless they explicitly tell me “yeah – I want you to do this, I want you to do that,” I’m not gonna chance it. So I played it cool and just had regular-people-sex with her. When I was just about done though, I whispered in her ear, “I’m gonna cum on your face.” “Do you want to?” she asked. “Yeah.” She said okay. So I pulled out and I came on her face.
And she immediately started crying.
I gave it some time. I didn’t wanna upset her any more than she already was. I didn’t wanna make her feel bad. But, eventually, I had to tell her, “If you’re not comfortable with something, you’ve gotta tell me.” “Well, it’s just that no one’s ever done that to me before,” she said. “Okay, well, that doesn’t really change anything. I don’t wanna do anything that’s gonna upset you. You had even told me before I got here that I could cum on your face so long as I ‘was sweet afterward and cleaned you up with a warm cloth.’” “I know,” she said, “I’m just… I’m sorry. I don’t know.”
We had already broached the topic of “what if we’re not sexually compatible” before I even got to New York but it quickly became a regular topic of conversation once I was there. “It’s not a big deal,” I’d tell her. “We don’t have to have sex. We can just be friends that don’t have sex.” Her response: “I know but I wanna make you happy. If that’s what you’re into then I wanna do those things.”
This was awful, terrible news. I told her that I was already happy and that – even if I weren’t – she couldn’t make me happy. And what’s more: if she wasn’t into [whichever kind of sex act] then I wasn’t gonna wanna do that with her. I’m into violent shit and I’m not gonna do that kind of stuff with a girl who isn’t enjoying it just because she wants me to enjoy it. That might technically be consensual but it still sounds like abuse to me and it definitely doesn’t sound fun.
We tried to fuck a few more times over the course of the next week, sometimes with better results than others but it didn’t feel natural or right or good. And there was other stuff going on too. By my third night in town, she had told me that she loved me – and that she was in love with me. “You don’t know me well enough to be in love with me,” I told her. “You’re in love with some idea of me that you got from my art and my writing. You hardly know me as an actual person.”
But even that wasn’t the worst of it. The worst was her mood swings. One minute she’d be perfectly fine, the next she’d be having an anxiety attack about a delivery coming to the apartment or a scheduled meeting with a photographer. I’d do my best to soothe her nerves, calm her down, and everything would be okay. I could handle those mood swings. The ones I couldn’t handle were the temper tantrums. In an instant, she’d FLIP THE FUCK OUT over some insignificant little thing that – more often than not – had nothing to do with me. One morning she woke me up, SCREAMING at me. Holy shit, I thought – what is happening?
“DON’T USE FUCKING GLASSES AS ASHTRAYS!” she screamed. “THIS GLASS IS FUCKING FULL OF CIGARETTES!”
The glass she was holding, she had picked up from the counter by the window where she smoked cigarettes (I had smoked all of mine out on the fire escape the night before). I walked over. “These are all Pall Mall Blues with the exception of one Camel Menthol that you bummed from me last night. I don’t smoke non-menthol cigarettes; these are all your cigarettes. I didn’t use that glass as an ashtray; you did. Why are you screaming at me?”
After episodes like that one, she’d eventually calm down, apologize, become sweet and affectionate once more. But it was too much. It was more than I could handle. And it was every day. Several times a day. I told her that I could continue to stay there if we could just be friends. No more kissing, no more touching, definitely no more fucking or physical intimacy – and I’d be sleeping on the couch instead of in bed with her. She said she wasn’t sure if she could do that. That she was in love with me and that it would be too hard. I assured her that not only did she not know me well enough to be in love with me but that people don’t treat the people that they love the way that she was treating me. This was seriously fucked and it was seriously not okay. I left but she invited me to come back later that night and I did, to sleep on the couch. She woke me up in the morning, yelling at me again. I told her that it was totally over. That we could still be friends but that it wasn’t a good idea for me to stay in the apartment at all. I told her that she could call me anytime – if she was freaking out, having a panic attack, if she needed a friend. But that that was all that I could be to her: a friend.
A few days after I left, there was one night when I needed a shower and I was in her neighborhood. I didn’t wanna go all the way out to Brooklyn just to shower and then have to come back out to Manhattan. I offered her five bucks for the use of the shower. She asked me to just pick up some toilet paper on my way over. Deal. I stopped at the store, went to the apartment, and took a shower. Before I left, she offered me some leftover pizza. We hung out and talked as it heated up. Everything was okay, we got along fine. After I finished eating, I gave her a hug and said goodbye. She texted me later and said that if I wanted, I could come back that night and stay on the couch. I told her it was nice to see her but that we’d better not push our luck.
About a week later, she called me and invited me over. I took a shower and – again – she offered to let me stay over. This time I took her up on the invitation but told her I’d need to move my van (to somewhere it could be legally parked overnight). After I moved it, I went back upstairs and told her, “I’m gonna go downstairs to the deli and get something to eat. Would you like anything?” This was not acceptable. She got really mad at me. Told me that if I was going to stay, then I needed to just stay. She yelled at me for leaving to go move my van and for not having gone to the deli (which is literally underneath the apartment) before I came back upstairs. She called me “gross and manipulative.” She told me that I’m a bad person.
So… that’s about enough of that. I left and I blocked her number. The convenience of a place to shower or sleep isn’t worth the way that this girl treated me. I was in one shitty relationship before and this time I wasn’t even dating the girl. I barely fucking know her. I understand now why none of my friends from Sarasota had nice things to say about her. I understand now why (as she herself told me) she’s never had a “boyfriend.” I feel for her because she’s clearly lost and in a lot of pain but I’m not gonna be her fucking pincushion.
Is New York more difficult without having the apartment as a base of operations? Yeah – absolutely. But if I really need a place to sleep (an air-conditioned place to sleep) I’ve always got my friends in Brooklyn and Queens, I’ve always got Tinder, and I’ve always got the option to just sleep in the van. It’s been about two weeks now since I stayed with Joy (and a few days since that last time I went over) and I’ve been doing just fine. I’ve started hitting up some of the galleries around the city; I’ve set up my table out on the street a few times and made a little bit of money; and I’ve gotten to see a lot of friends I hadn’t seen in a long time (and gotten to make some new ones). Now, when I need to do work on the computer during the day (like writing this blog post), I just stop in at some coffee shop and buy a fucking lemonade and take a seat. It’s not so bad. Some of these places even have bathrooms.