Ping Pong Basket Case

I was looking at online dating profiles and he had a cute face. I was bored and lonely dating someone who lived a plane ride away. I could tell it was ending.

I didn’t even read most of his profile because he was so young I really didn’t want to know much about him. I wrote a note to the picture. It said, “You may not be the love of my life but you live in my town and you are adorable.” And he wrote back and we made a date.

Our first date we met at a local bar and he was late. He bent his head to me. He smiled a lot. He needed a makeover in the clothing department – khaki pants (which were not on any level created by women) that could make even the nicest body look meaningless and formless, a button down shirt – with a tease of chest hair coming out of it.

He was more than a decade younger than me. He managed apartment buildings which seemed like a decent job and was vague about what he did before that.

I babbled and asked questions. His cuteness took me by surprise. I kind of ran out of the bar, not really sure what I was doing. Then I wrote him and told him that I wanted to see him again. He said great.

The second time we met at a restaurant in a different part of town. It was glass and silver and white with lousy service and good food. They got one of our dishes wrong making it the spicy instead of the garlicky version. I told the waiter he owed us two glasses of wine and he gave them to us. We probably had three glasses each.

I could not tell you what we talked about. We just kept grinning at each other. At some point towards the end I reached under the table and touched his hand. He touched mine – we looked at each other.

“Do you want to go to my house and play ping pong. I mean just ping pong don’t misunderstand.”

He agreed and said he understood it was too soon.

We played two games and I beat him at both. We kept stopping to make out in between points. At some point I pulled him down under the ping pong table. I don’t think he had had sex in a very long time. I had to stop him after the third condom. I don’t keep that many in the house and I didn’t know if I’d be able to move the next day.

He needed training. His kissing was open mouthed and a little sloppy. He didn’t know where to put his hands.

He said “I want you to be my girlfriend.”

While we were having sex he said, “I love you.” When I flinched he apologized and said he just got carried away.

On our third date, he came over all dark and brooding and made the face. I know that face – I saw it on my father after a long, hot commute. I saw it on my brother when he was so down he couldn’t even talk. It was a pity me face, an angry, dark, removed face. A little boy’s face. A nothing you can do can make it better face.

You could tell by the way he moved that he was deeply depressed. He shuffled. He looked almost ungainly, and his head hung so low he might as well have put it on his chest.

He put his hands to his face in a gesture of ultimate pain and said “You don’t know the life I’ve had.”

His misery was all about keys. He had locked his in his apartment or the car or something like that and he needed a locksmith. It must have been the apartment because he was dealing with a building guy. I caught a few moments of that conversation.
Him – voice tight, throat choked, “I just want you to drive out to my apartment, meet me there and let me in – that’s all I’m asking.”

The other guy must have said something like “No, not tonight.” My guy kept holding his head in his hands and getting angrier and angrier.

I got him out of my house by suggesting we go get pizza. He was so depressed, it came through his skin, his clothes. His depression filled the car. He told me about his life with an abusive father, a mother who wasn’t there, and a sister who was on drugs, and a period in some sort of institution. We were at a light when I heard the part about him being locked up for awhile because they were afraid he might be a danger to himself.

I turned the car around without a word and drove him back to my house. I told him he had to leave and go home and take care of what was wrong.

He knew where I lived. I thought of animals that can smell fear and attack. I just needed to get away from him as quickly as possible. Then I would figure out what to do.

He called me the next day and said he cried all night because he thought he had ruined it. Would I give him another chance?
I tried to be as calm as possible and said, “I’m glad we met but I don’t think this is going to work. Let’s just think of it as bad timing.” He started crying again. I got off the phone and called a friend, spoke to her husband. He was a military guy. I asked him what I should do and he said if you ever hear from him again, call me and I’ll take care of it.

I took my profile down and didn’t go back online for a long time. He never called me again.

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