Chapter 9: The Cheater

Buckle up, boys and girls. You’re in for a wild story. 

Perhaps the second most influential longish-term relationship I’ve had with anyone, besides Christian, was with Al, who was once known as Taco Boy, but is now known among my friends as The Cheater. That spoils the end of the story, I know, but trust me, this is a good one. So get settled in, grab a drink, and get ready for storytime. 

When I moved back to Boston for grad school, I was excited to have a fresh start. I’d been No Contact with Christian since March and was starting to feel more like myself again, and I was looking forward to getting myself back out in the dating world. In late September, I had plans to meet my best friend from college, Vivianne, for dinner at Assembly Row in Somerville and in usual fashion, I got there first. I was standing outside a restaurant waiting for her, when an attractive guy who looked around my age started walking up. I smiled at him, and he asked me if I was waiting for someone and I said yes, I was meeting a friend for dinner. He asked if I had time for a drink while I waited, and just as I was about to say yes, Vivianne walked up. He smiled at me and said to enjoy dinner. But thankfully, Vivianne is a killer wing-woman and knows me well, so when I said I was feeling bold she encouraged me to go inside the bar and give him my number. So I did. I found him at the bar, told him that while I was busy that night, I was free and up for a rain check that following weekend, so to call me. He said his name was Al, we exchanged numbers, and he said he’d text me so we could go out soon. Things were already looking up for me. 

We texted that night and the following day, and made plans to go out that following Friday. I was extremely excited because without being prompted, he suggested going bowling – which if you remember from The Creepy Catfish, is my FAVORITE first date activity. 

He had to delay the start time of our date a couple of times due to a contractor being at his house longer than anticipated (so he said), but when we did meet up – back at Assembly Row – I was struck when I remembered how attractive he is, thinking I couldn’t believe I was going out with him. 

We had an amazing date. We started with a couple of drinks at the bar, where I thought it was adorable that he knew enough about astrology to call me his “perfect match” since I’m a Sagittarius and he’s an Aquarius. He was 32, I was 26. Born and raised in Massachusetts. The bartender kept commenting on how cute we were together, too. He told me he’d broken up with his girlfriend that May, we talked about his job (an engineer), my school, our families, etc. Then, we bowled. I beat him pretty spectacularly. As we bowled, we warmed up to each other so when we realized we were both starving, and he offered to either take me to a pizza place nearby or make me tacos at his place. I chose the tacos (hence the original nickname of Taco Boy). But, he said he didn’t have guacamole at home, so first we stopped at Trader Joe’s where he bought me some good guac and a bottle of my favorite wine. Then, we went to his place. The whole way there he was telling me where we were going and making sure I felt comfortable, since I kept saying, “I never do this” and he was trying to ease any fears I may have had that he was a serial killer about to lock me up in his basement.

He kissed me for the first time in his kitchen in the middle of making me tacos. It was sweet, and considering I was coming up on a year-long dry spell, very exciting. After eating, we retired to his room for a little bit. We watched some TV, got to know each other better, and then I decided I didn’t want to spend the night because an eight hour first date was long enough, so he drove me home.

I was very excited when he texted me first thing the next day — I had a really good feeling about this one. He sometimes disappeared mid-text conversation, but I knew he had a demanding job and a lot of side work, so it never really bothered me too much (okay, it did, but I managed). When he went to a wedding a couple of weekends later, he texted me the whole time he was there saying he missed me. He drunk-texted me late that night asking if I’d be awake if he drove back right then. He did the same thing a few weeks later at another wedding, texting me the whole time that he wished I was there, he needed to see me, all those classic lines that made me feel oh-so-special.

The thing about Al was that every time we saw each other, which was mostly semi-last minute and at my place, he would always say, “We don’t have to have sex this time if you don’t want to, I just want to spend time with you,” which I now realize was highly manipulative, but considering those were the words I’d wanted to hear from Christian all those months before, they hit me right where I felt it and would always make me want to sleep with him even more. I’m apparently quite susceptible to reverse psychology. 

But the other thing was, Al was very paranoid. He blamed it on his parents being very old-fashioned because of their culture, and a friend of his getting “trapped” by a girl who lied about being on the pill, but almost anytime we were intimate, he would get so nervous. I finally went back on the pill just to make him slightly less neurotic about it. But that still wasn’t enough. Anytime he was even kind of worried, he’d ask me to take Plan B. I really didn’t want him to think I was trying to “trap him,” especially because he frequently not-so-humble bragged about how much he made from work and his many investments, so I always did. But he never paid, even when I asked him to go halfsies with me once. This is important later. 

Other than that, though, things were pretty good. He took me out to dinner at Union Oyster House for my birthday, and then left shortly after we ate the cheesecake my parents had sent me. I met his roommates a couple of times. One time we met on Newbury Street after our respective massages for lunch with a side of PDA. We had lots of good food together, started a lot of movies and shows we never finished (usually because I fell asleep) and just generally had a good time together. 

Photo by Rakim Davis on

Then he finally confirmed my friend request on Facebook. As anyone knows, once you get confirmed, you have to stalk a little, right? So I looked through some photos and things, and noticed a girl had tagged him in a photo from the first wedding he’d been to after we met. It was now her profile picture. I went to her page and saw that we’d gone to the same university so we had some mutual friends, but she was a few years older than me. This was when I started to get nervous that something was up. After asking my mom and my friends what to do, they finally convinced me to just ask him about her. So I did.

The next time I saw him, I said, “Hey, I’m sure it’s nothing, but I’ve told you about my past and about Christian, so you know this isn’t something I want to deal with again. I saw a photo of you on some girl named Sylvia’s page that made me nervous, is there anything I should know about your relationship with her?” Without skipping a beat, he said, no, of course not. They were friends, had been for a long time, and though they’d dated a long time ago, it was never anything serious. I believed him because I wanted to believe him, I wanted to believe I hadn’t picked a bad one yet again, so I let it go.

Around this time, I had told him I wanted something more serious. I had opened up to him about what I’d been through with Christian and he was very understanding, saying we had even more in common because of it, and that was a big deal for me that he didn’t freak out or make me feel crazy. So when January rolled around and he had conveniently deleted his Facebook and still wouldn’t put a label on whatever we had going, and I realized I didn’t miss him as much as I expected to when I was home for the holidays, I decided to talk to him. We went out for drinks back at the same spot of our first date and then got food, and I cried while I told him that I really liked him but needed to back off because I couldn’t do this to myself and allow myself to just be treated like a girlfriend when it was convenient for him, but not actually have the whole relationship, and I was tired of waiting for him to decide how he felt about me because I’d end up resenting him. So I gave him permission to do his thing (lol) while I did mine, we could be friends, but I needed to not hate him for making me feel like I was waiting for him to make up his mind so I was deciding we needed to back off a bit. I’ll never forget that he actually had the gall to say to me, “Wow, I wonder if anyone will ever want to date me” which made me feel awful since that’s my own deep dark fear, but ultimately, it went well. He was nice, he was understanding, he thanked me for being honest, and we seemed to be okay.