Tom and I have been chatting for three months. Tom is married and should know better. Don’t be like Tom. And don’t be like me.
It wasn’t my intention to chat to a married man after the disasters of a couple of years ago. Lies, affairs, secrets, bruises – of a physical and mental nature. The latter I find myself still wrestling with. Trust. Affairs erode trust, not just in the people participating but in the people they try to have relationships with in the future.
Enter Tom. He sent me an unsolicited message on RHP, which as I’ve written previously was nothing out of the ordinary. It’s so long ago, I couldn’t even look up the message to read it, but I imagine it was well-written, with passable spelling and grammar. It’s almost the only way to get a response from me these days. It had been just over two weeks since the dumping via text and I’d had my first and second dates with Jake on the weekend just gone. I was deep in my new purple patch, enjoying the attention and admiration of a gag. That’s the collective noun for a group of dickheads.
I was getting my hair done when Tom starts messaging me on kik. At first I couldn’t work out what to make of him. His messaging was fast, coming in multiples before I had a chance to respond to the previous. It was like trying to have a conversation with an intelligent, hyperactive child with multiple personalities. And in fact, he joked that he had the minds of several people swirling inside him and by the end of the conversation I wasn’t entirely sure it was a joke.
He was boarding a plane at the local airport, off to regional somewhere for work. He kept it vague and high level but managed to pin down my profession within a few messages, which made me squirm with unease. Was he another stalker? And if so, which personality was the obsessed one?
But he was quick. The banter took me off guard for its speed and wit and I had to exercise all my skills in creativity to keep up. It was a welcome and wary surprise. Surprises that sound too good to be true usually are.
The conversation halted when he had to switch his phone off on the flight and it was a few more days of back and forth before the truth bomb dropped. To his credit, he told me before I could ask.
“So, I need to be honest about something,” it started. “I’m married. We don’t sleep in the same bed and our marriage is over and we both know it, but I want to be honest.”
“I knew, I fucking knew it,” I said to J, my bestie who happened to be staying at my place that night.
“That guy, the multiple personalities one, is married. I fucking knew it. Why are they always fucking married and why do they think that’s cool?”
We nodded and sighed and talked shit about men in general and Tom in particular before I decided to reply.
“I don’t date married men. Been there, done that. I can’t date men who have smaller balls than me.”
“Well, if you had some, you’d have left your wife if you’re so unhappy. I’m guessing the reason you haven’t is because there’s some kids involved. But the kids know bro, they know. So, do yourself a favour and walk away if you’re unhappy.”
My avid readers will know this is a subject I’m a little passionate about so for the sake of moving the plot along, I’ve summarised my rant somewhat, but the gist was brutal.
And yep, there were kids involved and it was complicated and all the things I’ve heard every married person say when making excuses to have affairs. So, I said goodbye to Tom and that was that.
Except Tom didn’t go away. Tom is a persistent fucker who knew just how to flatter me and put me in my place at the same time. With doses of intelligence, a dominating nature and a seemingly genuine interest in me, it became harder and harder to ignore him.
We continued to chat while I regularly reminded him that we were never going to meet let alone sleep together until Tom started offering up this information himself whenever the subject even came close to it. Our conversations drifted into safer territories – work, projects, hobbies, beer, food, furniture even. Tom had become my platonic, married friend who occasionally would talk about being horny before I would almost certainly get the shits with him and tell him to stop messaging me.
Tom was exceptional at pointing out things about me that I hated, things I knew were serious character flaws that I needed to work on. He did this matter of factly, laying them out like an adult asking a child to complete a puzzle, and then sit back with a non-judgmental expression that invited me to do my worst. And via kik, I would rant and rave and accuse him of judging me, of thinking he knew me and I would tell him to stop talking to me.
Tom initiated our conversations and would give me a week, sometimes two, to calm my tits before he’d try again. But here’s the thing about Tom: he was almost always right. It was infuriating and oh so frustrating that this man I had resolved not to like, was growing on me, had even become a person I turned to for advice.
Now, for all I knew, Tom was an 87-year-old woman in India, dabbling at catfishing between sari shopping and eating naan. Terrible stereotyping, I know, but my point is I had no idea who Tom was. Sure, he’d sent me pics of his face and even a video once of him talking to camera telling me he was that 87-year-old Indian woman I suspected him of being. Why was this guy so fucking likeable and why did I indulge in this, whatever this was?
Sigh. If someone besides Tom has the fucking answer, please step forward.