They say that we find ourselves most vulnerable to the proverbial "creeper" during a time of tragedy or prolonged sadness in our own lives. Perhaps this is what provoked my encounters with a string of creepers. During this particular time I found myself in the paddling against the currents of my own personal crisis as I recovered from a year in the kind of relationship where the term "unhealthy" would severely understate the ferocity of the offender's wickedness. One might think that emerging from these circumstances would inspire me to do better for myself - or at the very least, stay single for a nice, long while.
Not me. Not back then.
Encounter? Oh, no. I went back for seconds. And thirds.
Coney and I first made contact through the online dating site OkCupid. One look at the photographs that he knowingly selected to represent his best self should have provided enough warning. He donned a handlebar mustache in one picture and a complete cowboy costume in the other. You should have seen the hat.
I can't remember our first date in vivid detail. I know that it included a walk around the university campus near my parent's house. I distinctly remember one moment, though: Coney had sprawled out sideways on a large, marble stair ledge. He propped his head up with one arm and twisted a flower in his free hand. He looked like the everyman version of a shopping mall glamour shot from 1986.
"So," I asked, fishing for material, "What's up with that crazy cowboy hat?"
"Oh, that?" he chuckled, "That's my Dance Dance Revolution costume."
I nearly choked on my spit.
"Come again?" I asked.
"Oh, you should have seen that. It was one of my better ones."
"You dress up like a cowboy to play DDR on a regular basis?"
"Oh, that was just for a special occasion. There's an entire DDR community out there. We're serious. I can show you some videos, if you want."
He gave me the link to his own personal YouTube channel that housed several of his most prized routines.
"The country western routine is the best, though," he said, "because I almost won first prize."
I felt my stomach churn as I watched the footage of Coney whipping a lasso in the air with one hand and tipping his hat with the other. His routine included lots of toe and heel tapping. His boots had spurs. He line danced on the DDR machine.
|This. On a DDR machine. (Note: This is not actually Coney.)|
"Oh, a husband and wife team. They met at one of the competitions and decided to combine their talents," he sighed.
Was he kidding me? Not only do costumed DDR dance competitions for non-Japanese people exist, but there are people so transfixed by another person's DDR-ing that they say to themselves, I want to spend the rest of my life with that person; the person who is wearing the long, plastic green wig and dancing to the Swedish remix of Butterfly.
"Couples DDR? Oh, God yes," he replied, "You should have seen them. Their routine had paper fans."
I was transfixed - but not in the 'I think that is so sexy and we're going to hook up tonight' kind of way. I felt transfixed in the, 'That person doesn't have a jaw' kind of way.
I just couldn't look away.
It took an hour and a half of enlightening me to the world of underground dance-machine contests, but he soon retired that topic in favor of the other present party.
"So," he said, looking squarely at me, "You said online that you just broke it off with someone?
I took the bait like a fool. I touched on my recent relationship woes like a novice, which he then used as a jumping off point into his own personal woes. If the constant stories about how his ex-girlfriend ripped his heart out didn't scare me away, then his weird proportions and handlebar mustache did. I knew within five seconds of talking to him that it would never work. Yet, two hours later, I slammed my car door shut and silently cursed,
"Why the hell did we just kiss?"
I had no desire to see him again, yet I allowed the proverbial 'goodnight kiss' to happen. Nothing fancy; just a prolonged peck on the lips, but a kiss nonetheless; and a kiss meant trouble.
The next day, he sent me an instant message.
CONEY1: I bought you something for your birthday!
JasMcJasFace: My birthday is a month off.
CONEY1: So? I think you'll love it.
One short date and he was already thinking about the day of my birth?
He sent me several messages throughout the rest of the week, each requesting that do something fun that evening. I told him that I was busy. I said I had other plans. I kept trying to spare his feelings in a way that only makes sense when you're that young and jaded. I was running out of ways to evade him when, all of a sudden, I reunited with my old flame. It had been a few weeks since Coney and I traversed the campus together.
CONEY1: What?? I thought you said you were over them
JasMcJasFace: No, I'm pretty sure I said the exact opposite.
I didn't see or hear from Coney for three months.
The reunion with the old flame didn't last too terribly long. When I inevitably found myself at a bar at 11:55 pm on a Friday because my friend decided to chase some tail of her own, I succumbed to the stupid patch in my brain and did something selfish and desperate. I took out my phone and began to text.
Message: Hey. What are you up to?
What followed was a skeptical yet flirtatious exchange that ended when I woke up the next morning at his apartment. I had a bruise. We dated for two months. He played a lot of Smash Brothers and spent Tuesday nights at the student center playing Risk. He proudly showed me more of his DDR triumphs. He even showed me his Livejournal.
I ended the whole operation for two reasons: I had begun to feel guilty about Coney's feelings for me considering that my own interest had feigned the second it started, but also because he was due to return to Japan where he had a girl waiting for him already. He failed to see why this disenchanted me even more.
"I don't understand why that doesn't mean we can't enjoy out time together now, while we are still here," he cried.
"You have a girlfriend overseas!"
"She's not my girlfriend!"
"You guys are going to shack up as soon as you get back there - I mean, I'd say that's a girlfriend!"
I tried to play it off as though I were extremely distressed, but in reality I was extremely annoyed. I gathered all of my things that had accumulated in his apartment and started staying with my parents again. In the meantime, Coney began to flood my phone with text messages.
"Come back," he begged.
"Let's just hang out, for old times sake," he begged.
"I hate you!" he said.
"I didn't mean it," he'd say.
"You are ripping my heart out!"
That last one was his favorite.
I fielded all outbursts and attempts at reconciliation with short and simple replies. Finally, though, he sent me something for forced me to meet up with him again in person:
"I have your camera."
"What? I have been looking all over for it!"
"Yeah, it was under my bed."
"Can you mail it to me?"
"I'd rather give it to you in person."
"Because I just... I need to see you."
"If I agree to meet with you, you promise not to guilt trip me?"
"Why do you have to be like that?"
"... Did you really find my camera under the bed or did you keep it to use as bait so that you could see me in person again?"
I met him at a Waffle House. I had hoped for a quick handover in the parking lot, but from my car I could see that he had already taken a booth and ordered a cup of coffee.
"How nice of you to drop by," he muttered, sliding the camera across the table.
I reached for the camera and he put his hand over mine. I shivered and pulled away.
"Why are you doing this? We had something special."
"We dated casually for a few months. You were always going back to Japan."
"That doesn't matter."
"Dude, yes it does."
"I came here hoping that we could have a nice conversation and that we could sort this out!" He said, his temper escalating.
"No, you came here saying that you had my camera to give to me, which I now have, so -"
"I think you should go," he said, dramatically casting his glance off to the side, making his Spiderman 3 haircut billow from the breeze.
I did go. By the time I was home, I had five emails waiting for me - they would alternate between adrenaline fueled rants and sad apologies. I received text messages of the same nature.
My nerves skated on that thin line between cool and "I am about to destroy you."
Finally, I sat down and plunked out:
This is your last warning. STOP.
Within minutes, I received a phone call from him. I picked it up, hearing static and silence on the other end.
"What?" I asked.
"I hate you for what you did to me," he spit quietly.
I hung up on him.
I never heard from Coney again - well, at least directly. Every now and then, I'd check in on his Livejournal. Every single entry for months after that phone call contained the words, "the girl from hell" or "the wicked demoness who ripped [his] heart out and stomped on it."
At first, I felt horrified at how he painted me to be such a villainous wench. Then I thought about it some more. This was all part of a plot to try and get me to retaliate - therefore initiating contact again. I stopped reading long ago, but I still think of him occasionally. The only part of him that I can even remember in vivid detail is that first picture that I ever saw of him - the one where he wore the fringed cowboy pants and ten gallon hat as he line danced his way to the top.