He wasn’t a king, but he was a young man, (in his early 20’s), who had aspirations of being a cult leader. His intense energy around this endeavor was reminiscent of characters bound for greatness or great tragedy; all have the presence of a person with a destiny. In fact, I believe down to my toes that one day he will lead a cult; he definitely displayed the charisma, strength of character and intelligence to do it.
I met him through my young, stupid, big-breasted sexual dynamo Craigslist ad. He would tell me later that he thought it was one of two things: a joke or a post by a bitter woman who in a rage would hack to pieces whoever met her in a darkened hotel room. I told him it was the latter.
His initial email and all his emails after closed with a quote he had written which struck me as so awesome that I posted it on a social networking page and it is what initially enticed me into starting a conversation with him. Though I cannot write it here as it would divulge his identity, it conveyed an irony and humor that was emotionally and intellectually dimensional. After we exchanged a few interesting emails, he invited me to call him if I had the inclination. This triggered my “trouble” radar, as this is a classic move of a man who only wants to be chased, (or in his case, “followed”), but he seemed smart, so I called. We talked briefly, and during the conversation, he referred to a woman painting a picture of his wild boar, (more on this later), as “his artist”, not “an artist” or “the artist”, but “his”. I noted it mentally, thought it quirky, but moved on. We spoke more on the phone before our date, a couple times for 4 or 5 hours. At one point we were to send each other pictures of ourselves. I sent him my stock “thoughtful pose” picture which my wasband had taken of me under the
bridge, and then I Googled the quote he closed all of his emails with. Google
directed me to his Myspace page. He had several posts written on it, one which
described in emotional and visceral detail his night terrors and tendency to
cut himself. The writing was very good; the topic disturbing and enthralling. I
called him and left him a message telling him that he did not have to send a
picture because I had Googled him. He called back almost immediately, asked how
I did it, and seemed quite bothered that this was possible, which isn’t really
that unusual; I am not sure I would want complete strangers Googling me and
finding out intimate details of my life without my permission. That was one of
the nights we ended up talking for roughly five hours.
He had been to
Iraq where he
found and dismantled bombs in the field for the army. He had seen many of his
friends die, and told me that he was made to clean what was left of their
bodies out of their helmets and Kevlar for other soldiers to use. He kept wild
boars for pets, and described the feeling of killing one. He had chosen wild
boars because they are hearty, dangerous, and good eating. He used to be a
vegetarian because he fully believed that a person should only eat what they
are able to kill. I really enjoyed our talks, even though they usually kept me
up to the wee hours of the morning, where I had maybe two or three hours to
sleep before reporting to work. But I ask you, what would you rather do, have
an interesting conversation with a person you have never known the likes of
before, or sleep? I mean, you can do
that when you’re dead. Then he told me
about his ultimate goal of being a cult leader.
He collected people he could control. During one of our later conversations, he told me that he didn’t like “his girls” to wear make-up. This of course he kind of glazed right over and then began talking about something else. I stopped him. After I asked him to explain, he told me that he had five virgins, (yes, seriously), who were “his”, and that he kept them around because he felt like it was wrong to have sex with them, so they were safe around him. This way, he told me, he could cuddle with them and not have them feel like he wanted something out of it. I guess he didn’t consider cuddling “something”. Every Saturday afternoon he got together with roughly twenty or thirty people to play role playing games. When he told me this, I mistakenly assumed he meant Dungeons and Dragons and laughed unmercifully. Then I asked him if he was a warrior or a wizard and whether or not he wore cool outfits as he played. Rather indignantly, he told me it was there that many of the people he could control hung out; that all he had to do was snap his fingers and one would appear by his side. I usually have a tendency to not believe this type of stuff, but there was nothing about him that indicated that this was false. Intense? Yes. Scary? Sure. Dishonest? Maybe, but why lie about this?
He also told me that he really loved and admired his mother, who happened to be three years my senior, (yes, I needed a bag to breathe into after he revealed this fact), and a feminist. I found this last part a bit strange as she had evidently married men who were abusive to herself and her son. In many ways he was really quite frightening, but there was this other thing; his armored but intense vulnerability that came through his carefully controlled conversations that made me want to weep for him. He told me he wanted to be a great man and was always working towards that end. It seemed more like he was trying to be something other than what he had always been: vulnerable.
The night before our date, he called and asked how he was going to park downtown. Our original plan was to meet in downtown
and play chess at the public tables. I tried to get him to admit that he was
afraid to drive downtown, but he would not yield. I eventually relented and we
decided he would pick me up around my place of employment and drive down
together in his car.
He arrived on time, and we headed downtown. It was a bit strange meeting him; he was small, extremely solid, and walked with the purpose of a man who is very aware of himself and his profound effect on those around him. His head was shaved with only the tiniest bit of hair growing on it, with a somewhat thicker white stripe growing down the center. He wore a goatee which was grown out a bit, and his gaunt features (he later told me he was down to seven percent body fat), were handsome, but ominous. I will never be able to tell you why, but he had sounded taller on the phone. Yes. Taller. He had told me his height, I had seen it on his Myspace page, but he just seemed…..little.
We talked a bit on the car ride downtown. He was quiet, and he did not drive even one mile an hour over the speed limit. I didn’t mention it, as I assumed he was freaked out about driving in an urban area. The whole time we had been talking on the phone, I was very aware of our age difference, mostly because he kept bringing it up in the context of fitness and calling me a “cougar”, (I was casually seeing a 23 year old at the time). He was very into fitness; he worked out hard in his gym’s sauna for roughly forty minutes every day or so, and told me that all the old men sitting around in towels would just stare.
As we neared the city, I found myself more and more self-conscious and less and less comfortable. His movements seemed very carefully planned; he spoke carefully and to the point. I became so nervous that I started to give him shit about anything I could think of just to loosen him up. This was when he informed me that he did not joke. Sadly, this did not really stop me. I asked him how his virgins were, if he was excited to play Dungeons and Dragons later, anything to make him ease up a bit on the intensity. If I hadn’t been so freaked out I might have tried tickling him. In retrospect, I am very glad I didn’t.
We parked in a garage and walked around a bit. He walked around the city like someone awed by the size of it, which I found incredibly funny, as we were walking around downtown
. We walked down by the waterfront, and he was
surprised that it was so built up. We walked by the new condos on the
waterfront and he asked me how they were divided. We walked by old buildings
with fire escapes barely attached to them and I had to tell him he was not
going to lift me up to see if we could pull one down. We went to one of my
favorite galleries and discussed the art, and went down to Portland Chinatown
where he expressed his extreme disappointment that there weren’t hundreds of
Asians walking around. At several points during our walk, he would just wander
off or simply stop walking. I never waited or looked for him. I saw it as a
game. At one point, we ran into some people I knew, but before I could introduce
him, I realized he was 30 feet away, walking towards Saturday Market. As I
entered the market behind him, he was stopped at a bumper sticker stand. He
pointed to the symbol for Islam and asked the people behind the counter if they
knew what it meant because he had "seen
it everywhere and didn't recognize it." I found it hard to believe, as
he had been to Iraq,
so I said it was on the Turkish flag. He could only reply condescendingly that Turkey was a
country, not a religion.
We went to Subway to eat, where I expressed my extreme disappointment by explaining to him that the amount of money you pay for food is directly related to the amount of nutrition the food contains. After I told him this, he looked me dead in the eye, pointed to his sandwich and said with authority, “All this is fresh.” Yet another mutant of mediocrity. I asked him if he thought that the young gentlemen behind the counter had been cutting vegetables all morning to prepare for lunch time or if everything on his sandwich had come out of a bag. He actually admitted that I was right. Evidently, it was his only meal of the day. He only ate once a day, and he was putting a 12” Subway vegetarian sub in his body. The humanity. Earlier, as we watched our yummy food being made at the counter, he explained to the placid young man making our sandwiches that I was “his little tour guide”. The phrase sent a torrent of chills down my spine.
At the Saturday Market he purchased a small plastic case of honeycomb, and asked the man in the booth how long the honey would last. As we walked away he talked about how great it would be to get gallons of honey and store it away for sustenance. I had to confirm my suspicions and ask “On the compound?” to which he answered, “of course.” As we walked around the market, he spoke to the pretty young girls behind some of the counters and asked them if they wanted to try some of his honey. While I saw it as a ploy to get me to react in some way, I also thought it was hilarious, especially afterward when he commented on “how friendly everyone at the market had been.”
After we had walked through the entire market, he implied that I was done with him, so I assumed he meant that he was done with me. There had been many points during our five hour walking date where he had tried to get me to create sexual tension. For instance, he wanted me to lick the honeycomb off of his switch blade, he wanted me to “show him” how bad of a kisser a certain young gentleman had been recently, and wanted to lift me up to grab one end of an ancient fire escape which was barely attached to a decrepit building, though I was wearing a mini-skirt. But all this felt forced and inauthentic. In fact, as we shook hands and said good-bye in his car, I had the surreal feeling that I had just been steered through a test to see whether or not I would follow him. I realized that I had failed; I had not followed him once. He told me that he was glad I had called him, (reminding me that I had made the first move), and as I was getting out of the car, he told me he had not hiked around Mt. Hood yet, and that maybe I could call him sometime and take him on a hike up there. His words “my little tour guide” started repeating in my head, so I just smiled and said “sure."
As I watched him drive away, I felt a sharp pain in my stomach as I realized we were too alike for anything to ever really work between us.