In Providence: The Republican that got away

If you had asked her four years ago if she’d still be hooking up with a Republican, she would have told you there was no chance of that happening.

“There was this confidence I had that once I got my life together, there were things I would change, and that was going to be one of them.”

She’d always had a habit of being attracted to people she wasn’t supposed to be attracted to. Guys whose stupidity turned her on. Women with anger issues who liked to throw glass objects out of third floor windows.

And Republicans.

“There was only one.”

One Republican.

“We matched on an online dating site, and I guess I hadn’t read his profile close enough, because when we sat down — we went to Garden Grille — when we sat down and started talking, he told me he didn’t usually go to places like that, and I didn’t know what he was talking about, but then he said he was more of a steakhouse guy.”

That turned into this conversation about eating habits, which turned into a conversation about voting habits.

“He was a fucking Republican.”

She was immediately repulsed and turned on.

“We started to fight so loudly that people in the restaurant were looking at us, and after 10 minutes of that, I asked for the check, and we went back to his place.”

A few weeks later, the election happened, and she decided she could never see him again. Not only was she sure he was a horrible person who had helped elect a monster to the Oval Office, but she wanted to become a better person as well. She wanted to get a better job, eat healthy, become politically active, and figure out how to pay an electric bill.

“I was back at his house on Christmas Eve and we argued about immigration for an hour before I climbed on top of him.”

Years go by and they continue to be on-again, off-again. She begins to, slowly, assemble something resembling a life in which she could find some pride. She did manage to get a decent job, which led to a better apartment, a roommate whose only flaw was playing Philip Roth audiobooks way too loud, and even a cat that liked her every other day.

“But I couldn’t get the dating thing down. I would keep having these one night stands, and the only long-lasting relationship I had was with this guy who had these unforgivable political stances on everything.”

Their sex was angry. Visceral. She recalls spitting in his mouth at one point — something she’d never wanted to do with any other guy. She’d leave scratch marks down his back. He’d call her names. She’d tell him to choke her and then afterward would tell him that he should never choke another woman unless they made it very clear that they wanted it, fearful that she was only turning this guy into even more of an asshole.

“I think he felt like he was scoring points by having sex with me and I felt the same way about him. It’s like we were using each other, but neither of us knew for what.”

When the pandemic started, the sex became more constant than it ever was, and even more tumultuous. She’d started working remotely and her hours were cut, which left even more time for her to hang out at his place and not alone at her apartment. Her roommate had decided to move in with his girlfriend, and she wondered if that girl was a fan of Portnoy’s Complaint. It wasn’t anything she had much time to think about. She was too busy feeling like … a girlfriend?

“It’s just hard to spend that much time with someone, even if you hate them, and not feel like you’re in a relationship.”

They started ordering take-out a few nights a week and eating it together. He would put on Fox News and she would threaten to take a baseball bat to his television. She would watch porn with him instead, and the two of them would find places outdoors to carry on just for the thrill of it. Those places included a parking garage rooftop, his office and an empty Crossfit gym.

“Because of course he does Crossfit.”

At the end of last month, she’d decided that enough was enough. While the pandemic allowed her to believe that there was no point in trying to foster some kind of healthy love life, the realization that this new normal might be a permanent normal meant that she had to start finding a better way to live within it.

“It had been years. I was so — there was a lot of shame attached to it. Because I think the attraction was all about making me feel something. It was hard for me to feel a lot about anybody who was like me, but if I met someone like him, I could feel, you know, all this anger, and that was something I could work, and that’s why I always let myself get into these really bad, um, positions with people.”

Midway through the last week of July, she texted to tell him that this needed to stop and that she wouldn’t be coming over anymore. He never responded, which is sort of what you have to believe he would do if you really think about it.

“Unless I hurt his feelings, but I doubt it. I never saw any sign of him having feelings, so…”

She’s got a date next week with a woman who works at a non-profit that helps the illiterate. When I ask her if the thought of dating someone nice is exciting for her, she admits that she’s having a hard time getting enthused about it, but she’s keeping an open mind and entertaining the possibility that something about this person will infuriate her.

“Here’s hoping, right?”