I don’t eat pork

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G texted the other guy telling him she was excited for dinner – he was cooking, and he was waiting.

For some reason, before heading to his place, she had agreed to meet with someone else – someone persistent and at the same time mysterious. F was slightly older, and it was perhaps his pursuit alone that piqued her curiosity. She could never see, though, that he was truly interested in her, but believed he was interested in the conquest. Not necessarily a sexual conquest, but instead, the breaking down of the barrier that had kept her in a polite outer orbit. She ended up at F’s apartment, a penthouse overlooking the vast city, where he instructed a cook to prepare something for them. He said something about hoping she was not a vegetarian, but said it forcefully, as though he expected her to disavow any idea of being a vegetarian, even if she were lying. Throughout the evening, on all counts, she was reserved, quiet, and to this non-question about her carnivorous habits, she only nodded, quietly saying, “No, I just don’t eat pork.” He laughed too loudly for the circumstances, exclaiming his relief.

Somehow this sitting down together did not reveal much information about him; the only reason she’d let herself be led there in the first place was to satisfy this curiosity. He was as mysterious as ever, with only context in place to reveal or assume certain things: he had money, he had a cook on staff, he was intense and focused at the same time as seeming to be entirely indifferent to her company, to his surroundings. He never asked questions but freely answered them.

She had no reason to do so, and did not have an interest in doing so, beyond curiosity, but she ended up having sex with F after a whole evening sitting at a long table on benches across from one another, talking (or listening and nodding) but never learning anything. He led her around the apartment, showing her all the rooms, explaining how he had come to decorate them the way they were. He seemed as disinterested in this as he did in all other information. This bemused disinterest continued right into his invitation (which, again, was no invitation but an expectation) to bed. It was, it seemed to her, a kind of conquest, but not even one about which he would feel any excitement for having achieved it. No, it was just something fine but forgettable to do. At one point during this cautionless and oddly awkward interlude, he stopped, looked at her and said through clenched teeth, frustration and a hint of threat creeping into his voice, “I was hoping I would not be able to hear you breathing.” Alarmed, she thought she should get up and leave. Nevertheless, he resumed, and she assented, with nothing more being said about the sound of her breathing, and eventually it was morning.

And in the light of day F seemed like a different person. He still did not ask (many) questions, but now he was open and personal, revealing that he had five children. (The only questions he asked were pokes and prods into her desire to have children.) He lay on his back, propped on a pillow, arms behind his head, smiling and warmly inviting all the questions she felt too nervous to ask the previous evening.

She thought, while lying next to F, propped up on one elbow, looking at him, still feeling nothing but curiosity, that she never made it to the other guy’s dinner. In fact, she never talked to him again.

The next thing we knew about her was that she moved into F’s apartment six months after this strange dinner, although she moved into her own room. It was a veiled fact that she didn’t fully grasp until in residence, but he had a girlfriend already. She was in the periphery all along and was the mother of two of his children. She had her own apartment in the same building. G was expected to become a part of this ‘extended’ family. Again, it was posed like a question to which ‘no’ could not be the answer.

As time went on, G realized that F was like a composite of every man she had ever known or been with. Those who would not cut off former girlfriends or those who insisted on open or polyamorous relationships. F was dispassionate but interested in the pursuit. What took time to realize was that F was deeply insecure, despite seeming like the most secure person on the surface. He made a lot of all-or-nothing pronouncements but did not believe fully in any of them. His insecurity led him to be a minor tyrant at times, which grew worse with age. You just don’t know or see what you’re getting into in the beginning, especially when you are young and think you know everything.

She wanted to escape after several years. And after years of F’s household management, it was like an escape. The freedoms had eroded so slowly that she did not realize fully how much her life resembled a prison. She got word to her estranged brother that she needed help. Her brother came from across the country and brought her a car – by this stage in her experience living with F, she did not have unlimited freedom. She had a career and a seemingly lavish lifestyle but could not socialize as she liked, and certainly could not “get away”. Her brother parked the car in a lot near F’s apartment and stashed the key in her office building. When she finally saw a brief window of time to escape, it had been snowing for a full day, and there was no way – not enough time – she could get out and shovel all the snow away from the car without being noticed or missed. She frantically phoned her brother, begging him to help her with the snow. He was already gone.

G collapsed in the parking lot in the snow, leaning against the front of the car, not knowing if she could get away. She waited, worrying that F or someone acting on his behalf would turn up at any moment and drag her away. Closing her eyes, flakes of snow falling on her tired eyelids, she remembered a moment in Mexico, long before she knew F, when she was inadvertently served pork at a roadside taco truck after saying she’d eat anything but pork. Suddenly she realized that so long ago, that first night, F had laughed so long, loud and inappropriately because, after shyly telling him she didn’t eat pork, he served it to her anyway, calling it something else. And that, if only she had realized, should have been the first sign…

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