He was sobbing, pleading for me to let him explain. No explanation was going to change the inevitable outcome. I was, however, a tad bit curious. Chalk that up to being a stickler for details or just plain curiosity. Either or.
We were introduced by my good friend, Mary, who is more like a sister to me. It had been quite a few months since the break-up with an ex; and while I wasn’t quite ready for anything serious, I was open to at least meeting new people with the possibility of dating.
Mary was seeing this guy that she talked about constantly. Let’s call him Joe. I hadn’t met Joe in person, but we had spoken over the phone a number of times. It was normal—almost routine—for she and I to be holding conversation while my friend was driving to his place, waiting for him to arrive at hers, or waiting on him to pick her up for an outing of some sort. There were times when they were together, she’d put me on speakerphone and we’d all just talk. I remember a time when she went over to his place to check out the progress he’d made on the home improvement project he was working on. Mary was very much into that kind of thing, so this guy and his project were right up her alley. While there, she was giving me a virtual tour of the place by phone—telling me about all the things he had done since her last visit. She was so excited and he was just as excited to get her feedback. He seemed nice—not overly nice, but nice enough (whatever that is), well-spoken and cared about her from what I could tell. He suggested the three of us make time to hang out together some time soon. It just made sense that I’d eventually meet the guy my friend was spending so much time with.
Joe often talked about his cousin, not anything of any special significance, just mentioned him a few times during our conversations. I remember Mary mentioning him once or twice, just asking Joe what his cousin thought about the renovations, and what opinion he gave about a debate she and Joe had about some random thing that I can’t remember at the moment. Mary eventually asked me if it would be okay if Joe gave the cousin my number. I didn’t think much of it, so I agreed to it.
We started off communicating by phone. He lived over an hour away in another city further south of where I was. We went through the usual survey. What kind of work do you do? Where did you grow up? Do you have kids? Siblings? How’s your relationship with your parents? All the “getting to know you” topics were covered.
With the kind of work he did, his days started pretty early. He called a few times, a few mornings in a row while I was getting ready for work. I rarely answer my phone for anybody that time of morning. He tried to sound casual when he mentioned it, saying something along the lines of how “it would be nice” to hear my voice and how it would help him start his day off on a high note—or some other fluff I wasn’t interested in. All I bothered to respond with was the absolute driest “Oh yeah?” known to man. When I didn’t take the bait, he revisited it by beating around the bush with “mornings must be busy for you”. I became quite irritated. I don’t know if it was because I interpreted his approach as passive aggressive, or if it was because he was trying to not question me. I hate indirect questioning at any stage of interaction, but he was trying to gauge me. I abhor both passive aggression and gauging. Maybe it was because it made him seem a little desperate. I questioned my agitation. I couldn’t quite put my finger on the reason for it. I’ve been told that I can be too analytical, that I have commitment and/or trust issues, and that I can be “too hard” on men. I don’t care. My feelings are mine and I own them, but I decided to let him slide on that one for the moment. I did, however, count that as a red flag. I cooled my engines before letting him in on how I am not a morning person—AT ALL. There are only two people I have an obligation to talk to in the morning and I talk with God as prep. Everybody else can kick rocks until after my morning meditation with the gods of java. I told him to just text me.
The other red flag came when we were on talking on the phone one day. I was half listening to him, somewhat distracted by whatever I was doing in that moment. My best guess was that he stubbed his toe or something because he yelled out in pain. He didn’t think I heard him, so he starts cursing and making a commotion so I’d notice. Attention whoredom (not a word, I know) is also on the list with passive aggression and gauging. I waited a few seconds more before saying anything, which made him ask if I was still on the line. I needed to allow my engines to cool before saying anything. Even after balancing out, I rushed off the phone. He was on my last and I’d had more than enough.
Fast forward, we made it past a few of the red flags. While I made mental notes of them, we were still communicating pretty regularly. He made a few requests for us to go on dates, but I wasn’t quite ready for any one on one time with this guy. There was something I couldn’t quite put my finger on that was nagging at me. I just had no idea what that was exactly, but I held on to the expectation that it would reveal in due time.
My questions were direct. Right in the middle of a free-flowing conversation, this urge to skip past the pleasantries took over and I went full-throttle with it. I asked him everything from whether or not he’s hit a woman, if he was ever attracted to men, whether or not he’s had any sexual exchanges with men—orally, anally, digitally, if he’d ever had any inappropriate interactions with children, if he had experienced abuse in any way by anyone as a child or even as an adult, etc. I don’t remember what we were talking about originally, but I skipped to this line of questioning in an instant. There was no preparation, but he answered everything. He said that he had never hit a woman before, never had any homosexual thoughts or interactions with anyone, had never had any inappropriate relationships with children, had never been abused in any way. Not that I really expected him to freely admit that he was an abuser, murderer, rapist, or pedophile—but I still asked. He told me he had “nothing to hide.”
I told him warned that I would be doing my own research, utilizing every resource that was available to me. I said, “Ok. Just so you know, I do background checks with every resource available to me. So, if it’s a matter of public record, I’ll find it. Nobody’s exempt.” He swore he had nothing to hide. “We’ll see”, is what I said, never really expecting to find out all that I did. At the same time, I understood the possibility of me discovering some sketchy shit. There’s always a possibility. I mean, I don’t know this guy.
My internet at home was down, and my phone’s data plan was crap at the time. So, I had to wait until I got to work to research him. I already knew his full name and date of birth, or so I thought. I usually only engage with men that I’ve known for a while, friends of friends, associates, or people that run in the same circles as I– for the most part. On the rare occasion that I date outside of that playing field, I’m on higher than usual alert.
Sure enough, when I got to work, I went to the internet and started researching. I found nothing. I knew his name, date of birth, and the city where he claimed he lived. There was nothing there, not even a traffic ticket. That was odd considering that he’d lived in Maryland his entire life and didn’t even have so much as a traffic ticket? Plus, he was on probation (or was it parole?), so definitely he’s been to court before and for certain there had been a court date. There’s no way there was nothing on file for this guy. I checked again, date of birth and all, and still came up empty. I remembered him sending me an email once, so I logged in to my email account to see if maybe there was some information I could use. The last name that was attached to the email wasn’t the same as the one he had given me.
I went back to the Maryland Judiciary Case Search site and pulled up his information, this time with the correct last name. Everything else matched up: his date of birth, first and middle name. There was a long list of charges, one of them being 3rd degree sexual assault of a minor. Some of the other charges associated with the initial charge described him as a violent sex offender, which, to me is rather redundant, but that’s another conversation. I checked the Maryland Sex Offender Registry too, and sure enough, his picture was there big as day.
I called him. As soon as he answered, I told him to lose my number. I just blurted it all out: that he was a sex offender, that he was listed as ‘ABSCONDER’, which meant his address wasn’t listed because he failed to provide that information to the agency. “What?!”, he tried to act surprised. I was not for the bullshit. “You’ve got to be fuck–ing kidding me! You know damn well that’s you. It’s you, AND your lying ass had to register yourself.” Then, he starts sobbing or maybe fake sobbing. I really couldn’t tell, nor did I care about his tears. My anger grew. I was shaking. “Oh, now, you wanna cry?!” I wanted to reach through the phone and crush his esophagus. Then, he tries to reason with me. “Ok, let me tell you what happened.” I really didn’t care about the details. Although, I knew people that had been charged with sex offenses before—that really didn’t deserve to be charged as such. Another story for another time, maybe, but I’ve never considered dating any of them. This guy was telling me a story that sounded like a bad, knockoff version Lifetime movie. I let him tell his story, imagining him on the other line crying crocodile tears. I mean, I am a writer, so, I figured if nothing else, I’d eventually write about it. And here we are.
He said that he was a former drug dealer and was involved with a woman, who at the time—wanted a more serious relationship than he was willing to offer. He said that when the relationship began to sour, he started distancing himself from her and that she wasn’t happy about it. He went on to say that she knew a lot about what he had been doing, since they had once been very close and that she started asking—then demanding money from him when she realized he wasn’t interested in making her his girlfriend. He said she tried physically assaulting him during a heated argument they once had and also threatened with reporting him to the police for selling drugs. He claimed that he was still giving her money every once in a while whenever she was in trouble financially, thinking that it would serve as insurance for her silence after they split. He said that he met and started dating this young woman, who he believed to be 19 at the time. This man was nearly 40 years old when I was introduced to him. The charges for sexual assault were maybe 5 years prior. He claimed that the new girl turned out to be the daughter of the ex—who lied about her age. So, according to this guy, the girl was actually 17, not 19 (likely another lie) and that she and her mother devised this plan for the daughter to cry rape when–according to him, he never had any sexual interaction with her—at least not yet. His charges included rape in the first through fourth degree (if my memory serves me correctly). I know it was a lot of charges—and from the legal jargon that I sifted through, it boiled down to him being convicted of rape. I couldn’t say his version of events wasn’t true. I just didn’t believe it. I also reminded him about him lying about his last name. There was a story for that as well, but I was tapped out—and I told him never to contact me again.
I told the friend that introduced us about everything that I learned and the outcome. She spoke to the guy that she was dating because she was furious that he would introduce me to a known rapist. She relayed that he had no idea about any rape charges. He stated that he was fully aware about his other charges and convictions, but never even considered checking his information on the judiciary site, but also he never had a reason to. She told me her guy apologized profusely, wanted to apologize to me directly, and that he would have never suggested introducing us if he had known. I wasn’t interested in talking to him or anybody else. This man owed me nothing—I didn’t know him, he didn’t know me—and I was ok with living the rest of my life without his apologies or explanations. I was just glad I knew and listened to my gut instinct.
Moral of the story: Trust yourself. Pay attention to the red flags. Take your time and do your research.