Single In The Suburbs, Installment 16
In this installment, look out: Our writer gets one heckuva shock about that great new guy she’s seeing.
To read the entire series of articles from the beginning, click here.
ur writer just finished a long, giddy first date with a mathematician named Leo. Then, her ex-husband stops by the next day and — when he learns she’s been out with Leo — tells her to beware. But why?
Sunday, 6:50 p.m.
“My head is reeling. It’s bad enough that my ex-husband Craig knows Leo. But it’s all the worse that Craig thinks I shouldn’t be dating Leo at all! Why? Seeing Craig isn’t about the drop the matter,I feel a sudden rush of indignation…” “Excuse me, Craig, but who I date is really none of your business. You realize that, don’t you?”
Now my ex-husband is twitching in that distinctly Craig-ish way; it’s how he always
gets when he’s agitated and frustrated. He paces and rubs his forehead with his fingers. He’s
blinking rapidly now and seems to be searching the sky for guidance.
|“Maybe I actually found a good guy. Isn’t that possible?”|
“OK. Yes. You’re right. It’s none of my business. But I’m your friend, Sara. I wouldn’t feel right letting you go on a date with this guy unless you knew the truth about him.”
“Letting me go on a date? What? I need your permission?”
I will admit at this point that I am desperate to hear what Craig has to say. At the same time, I don’t want to give him the satisfaction of knowing that he might have even the smallest impact on my personal life.
“Leo is a sex offender.”
“What?” I immediately want to throw up. “He’s a pedophile?”
Suddenly my daughter emerges from the house. She looks at my face, then Craig’s. “What’s wrong? What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” we both say in unison. Craig tells her to wait in the house. She gets this look on her face that I read as: I thought I was supposed to get a reprieve from this kind of nonsense now that you guys aren’t married anymore.
“Pedophile?” Craig continues, voice lowered. “Um, no, not exactly. He was…” He frowns. “Jeez, Sara, I hate to be telling you this. I can see that you’re all dressed up for your date. You look very pretty, by the way.”
“Please. Just tell me.”
“Last year two students charged Leo with sexual harassment.”
Oh God. This is not good. But I’m not rushing to judgment. “Graduate or undergrad?” It makes a difference, I think. It could be the difference between an 18-year-old babe in the woods and a 26-year-old young woman who probably knows what she’s getting herself into.
“Undergrad.” Craig is staring at me, shaking his head. “I’m sorry, Sara.”
“And you know this how?”
“He told me. In martial-arts class. He said he was afraid of losing his job. But he worked out some kind of a plea bargain with his chair. He agreed to go into heavy-duty therapy.”
“Are you sure it’s the same Leo?” I ask, weakly, already knowing the answer.
Sunday, 7:45 p.m.
Leo and I are sitting on a quilt under a gingko tree in the park, surrounded by a couple of hundred Shakespeare (or maybe just picnic) enthusiasts. I pick at the sesame chicken. No appetite since Craig dropped the bombshell.
My friend Sherry knew this would happen. She predicted it. Well, not this exactly. She just
knew that Leo was too good to be true. Sherry is an eternal pessimist. Whenever I tell her good news, her first reaction is always the same: What’s the catch? I’d emailed her about Leo, waxing poetic on all his sterling qualities. Soon after I sent it I received her customary rejoinder.
|I thought it was every woman’s right to rearrange furniture.|
“Why does there always have to be a catch?” I wrote back. “Maybe I actually found a good one. Isn’t that possible?”
I guess not. Assuming my ex husband is right. But what if he’s wrong? What if he made up this whole story, or at the very least exaggerated it, simply because he can’t bear to see me happy? But is that even true? Why wouldn’t Craig want me to be happy? He has a girlfriend. He hasn’t expressed any interest in getting back together with me, despite my romantic delusions. He is my friend.
On the other hand, Craig was always controlling. That was one of the problems in our relationship. He wasn’t really happy unless he got to pick the movie, the restaurant, the vacation spot. He needed to be in charge of bill paying and refrigerator shopping. I couldn’t even rearrange the living-room furniture without consulting him first (and I thought it was every woman’s right to rearrange furniture at will without her husband’s prior consent).
Sunday, 8 p.m.
“You have the cutest little toes.”
Leo is opposite me, stretched along the length of the picnic blanket, propped on one elbow and staring at me adoringly. He is tan and handsome, his muscular legs against my hip. Neither of us is paying much attention to the play. Leo is watching me and undoubtedly thinking all sorts of lovey-dovey thoughts. I am thinking about Craig’s revelation.
“Thanks. You… have nice feet too.”
Leo beams at me. “Thanks.” He reaches out and wraps a hand around my ankle. “Hey.”
“I really like you.”
I want to tell him I really like him too, but right now I’m honestly too freaked out by the news of his sexual misconduct that I can’t think about anything but the idea that this wonderful guy is a lecherous professor who violated professional ethics in the worst possible way.
Sunday, 9:10 p.m.
The play is over, and I am now consumed by the idea that my new beau is a sexual offender. I look at him and imagine him leering at his students, stalking them in the corridors, bartering higher grades in exchange for sexual favors. I am repulsed. And yet… he seems like such a nice guy. Funny, open, introspective and cute as hell.
“Want to go for a cup of coffee?” he asks, trailing a finger down my arm.
“Hey. Are you OK? You’ve been quiet.”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m fine. Just tired I guess.”
“We could go back to my place and take a nap.” He gives me a wicked little smile which I might have found cute under other circumstances.
“No,” I say. “Let’s go for coffee.” I’ve decided that I’m just going to ask him directly. He asks if I want to ride with him to Starbucks but I say I’ll meet him there.
Sunday, 9:30 p.m.
Leo sets my latte down on the table. “There you go, sweet woman.”
“Thanks,” I say. My heart is beating so hard it hurts. I take a deep breath. This is it. Say it, Sara.
“There’s something I need to ask you…”
Sara Susannah Katz is a writer in the Midwest.
Read Single In The Suburbs, Part 17