I Would Do Anything For Love, Except Return To North Carolina

I took a trip to the Tar Heel state about four years ago to meet a lady with whom I’d been chatting via Facebook. I know, I know, and I promise, it did not end well. Come to think of it, it did not begin so well, either. We’d been chatting pretty intensely for about a month and speaking on the phone daily for hours. I fell into that faux feeling of hyperconnectivity that social networking is so good at facilitating: when you feel so close to someone you’ve never actually met that you fail to recognize that you are courting an avatar. On the list of things that are dead to me, there’s internet dating and North Carolina.

The morning of my flight, I got a call from the young lady. She rambled on about not being in a good place and having some issues with a woman that she’s seeing/not seeing/she’s unsure. It was news to me, and a big red flag, or at least it should have been. However, my airport ride was en route and time was short. “Look, I don’t have any expectations,” I said. “I’m just coming to hang out.” But let’s be real with the no expectations claim. It is and will always be a lie. The great untruth. There are always expectations. They don’t have to be anything untoward. I had booked a rental car and a too-late-to-be-refunded hotel room. I did not expect payment for these things – sexual or otherwise. But I did expect to meet a decent human being. So I took my gullible ass out to Durham. On the list of things that are dead to me, there’s the no expectation declaration and North Carolina.
My excitement turned to growing trepidation. I arrived safely, collected my bags, and walked outside to the Avis car rental station that promptly told me I needed a credit card to rent the car. That I had already booked. With my debit card. I abhor credit cards, which is why I don’t have one. There was nothing to do but curse Avis and walk down the road to different rental places hoping that one would rent a car to me and my debit card. Kudos to good people at Dollar Rental for renting to me as long as they could place an astronomically absurd amount on the account on a “hold.” But I had a car and was soon heading to my hotel. On the list of things that are dead to me, there’s Avis car rental and North Carolina.

Duke Tower Condominiums will never be dead to me. It was a nice condo rental well-situated in the city. The young lady arrived with cute token gifts — a couple of buttons that are presently buried in the deep recesses of a junk drawer. We grabbed dinner at a pub and fell back into that deep kind of conversation that had so enthralled me. It seemed that the avatar was being readjusted. Perhaps she had just been nervous to meet in person. But it’s all right now, I thought. Cue the montaged mashup of every song with “just me and you” in the lyrics, and you’ll probably have a nice list of songs that are also dead to me. We went to a local gay bar where events quickly descended through each circle of hell. I decided to leave my phone in her car. I probably could just stop here. I assure you, on the list of things that are dead to me, leaving my phone in a stranger’s car nearly tops North Carolina.

She begins texting. Frequently. Then she tells me that this woman that she’s been seeing/not seeing is coming to the bar. “You know,” I sighed. “You didn’t have to do that.” She started with excuses about it being a small town and this being the only gay bar. For the first time, I realized what lying eyes were. So I explained that I was not going to be some third wheel while they sorted out their shit. The woman, but more accurately, woman-child arrived – a baby (emphasis on baby) stud who looked all of twelve. Twelve years our junior, she was a hair over the legal drinking age. So we all sat at a table: baby stud, nonchalantly; the young lady nervously; and me simmering. I should have asked to get my phone and cabbed it back to the hotel right then and there. But my pride refused me to allow myself to be used and my mind was still grappling trying to understand it all. I bought myself and baby stud a couple of beers. On the list of things that are dead to me, there’s my ego and North Carolina.

I danced with a couple of white girls, drank some more and in general pretended to be by myself. Things were not going so well for the young lady. Baby stud and I seemed to be following the same program. She paid the young lady as little attention as I did. This – I’m sure more from baby stud’s abandonment than my own – incited the greatest lesbian meltdown ever. She cried and stumbled and threw herself on the bench outside. I asked baby stud to talk to her, cause I was ret ta go. Baby stud tried, then I tried, to no avail. She seemed set on making a scene. I grabbed her keys and retrieved the car. She was still in full blown devastation when I went to collect her. “Enough.” I said. “You need to pull yourself together and get in the car.” I GPS’d us back to my hotel and told her that she was too drunk to drive, so I offered the couch. She adamantly refused and said that she’d walk home. At 3 a.m. I’m no monster, but I am stupid. In the end, I agreed to walk with her. On the list of things that are dead to me, there’s chivalrous stupidity and North Carolina.

‘Just down the road’ is a shitty southern translation that actually means “several miles.” We walked, mostly in silence save her sniffles and faintly muffled salty tears of dissatisfaction. Halfway there, she stopped and in what probably mirrored whatever miniscule conscience she possessed when she called that morning before my flight, she said, “This isn’t right.” No shit. “You shouldn’t be walking me. It’s late. You’re not from here. You have to walk back by yourself.” I told her, “Let’s just keep going,” and silently processed the realization that I wasn’t being offered a couch. Another mile and we parted ways. Every wrong decision that I made during the trip haunted my jog back to the hotel. It was dark. I barely knew where I was going and the only person who knew where I was, gave zero fucks about my well-being. On the list of things that are dead to me, there’s the audacity to arm wrestle with the Universe and North Carolina.

Perhaps Michael Jackson had the best response to the why question: tell them that it’s human nature. I don’t know what her motives for that weekend were. I can’t even fathom the level of deceit required to lure someone halfway across the country to be humiliated. Was I catfished? It seems that the TV show has a bigger payoff than what I experienced. There was no man named Bubba in overalls pretending to be a lesbian interest. No woman tired of her loveless marriage creating an online persona with online mutual friends to lull me into false security. No person entrapping me into a love triangle, recruiting me for a terrorist cult, or secretly making a drug mule of me. There was just a liar, lying lies.

On the list of things that are dead to me…


M Shelly Conner is Chicago-based writer, humorist, and scholar. Her writing as appeared in The Feminist Wire, xoJane, Black Girl Dangerous, Skin to Skin Magazine, and The Frisky. She is currently exploring publishing options for her debut novel everyman (excerpt in Obsidian Journal, Spring 2016). She is Executive Director of Quare Square Collective, Inc. – a 501(c)(3) nonprofit for queer artists of color. Follow her blog about travel, culture and food through queer womanist of color lens at dappervista.tumblr.com.