His prismatic, ultramarine eyes caught my interest instantly, and his familiar, handsome face -- that of a bandleader of a now-defunct TV variety show -- made me swipe right. I was new to Tinder, the popular dating app, and was hopeful that it would give my five days of business meetings in Manhattan a happy ending. A potential fling, I thought, might alleviate the stress of a particularly taxing trip.
Coincidentally, Music Man's husband, Zachary, had been my supervisor at an internship 20 years earlier. At that time, I was a closeted, gay 19 year-old who was enamored by the gloss and glamour of the entertainment industry. I'd admired Rick from the same distance that the rest of TV-watching America did, and daily contact with his spouse created the illusion of a connection to a highly recognizable media personality. Unfortunately, Zachary was a sour-faced malcontent who was wildly disliked by his co-workers; in return, he disliked them back -- especially me. To my knowledge, I had never done anything to provoke his ire; I was simply a teenager looking to please my supervisors and possibly secure a paying gig after my college graduation. Nevertheless, he would call me names and snap at me constantly, creating an unnecessarily negative and hostile environment.
At 39, when I saw Rick's online profile attached to the word "single," a few things went through my head: 1) His relationship with Zachary had obviously not survived the years. 2) He was unattached and open to meeting dates. 3) He was just as adorable as he was two decades earlier. Louder than those sentiments, though, was one that I am not proud of to this day: How fantastic would it be to bang Zachary's ex? It was a twisted revenge-sex fantasy that consumed me that entire day, even after we exchanged pleasant messages and set a date.
"Hey, handsome," he wrote, "how would you feel about getting together for dinner tonight? I live just outside of the city, but I'm in town for the evening."
"I would like that very much," I answered, "Shall we meet at Joe Allen Restaurant at 8PM?" I frequented the notable theater hangout whenever I was in the City, and I liked the idea of being in comfortable surroundings.
Seated nearby during our meal was a "who's who" and "who was" roster of the stage community, including Sandy Duncan and Lorna Luft, but my intentionally flirty conversation with Rick faded everyone and everything into the background. He told me about his long-term relationship with Zachary and how he had been unfaithful when their marriage lost its perk. When we finally finished dessert at 11:30PM and got up to leave, he grabbed my arm.
"I'm not ready to let you go yet," Rick said. "Can we walk for awhile? I could talk to you to for hours." He held my hand as we began to stroll across town to our respective east side accommodations. When we stopped in front of his hotel, he kissed me passionately, pausing for a moment to look into my eyes. He then pressed his lips against mine again, creating the kind of scene that elicited some "Get a room!" comments from passersby.
"Do you want to come upstairs?" he asked. "I'm in Manhattan for only tonight, and I think we should make the most of it."
His ex-husband's face popped into my head as Rick and I rode the elevator, groping each other until we reached the 18th floor. Here I was, making out with a fantasy crush from days gone by, and all I could think about was how good it might feel to tread on what was once Zachary's. By the time we were naked and lying across Rick's plush, king-size bed, there was no going back.
"I'm so happy just to connect with another human being in this way; it has been so long," Rick said, making me feel good all over with his words and his tongue. I wasn't as vocal, but I was behaving in a more sexually aggressive way than usual. In fact, I'd had my way with him -- twice -- within one hour.
"Will you stay the night? It would be nice to sleep with my arms around you." Rick's puppy dog eyes were convincing. He was out like a light, and I stared at the ceiling for six hours until the sun came up.
Zachary had been so awful to me at an impressionable age, and I thought I could take the power back from a situation that I didn't even realize still haunted me. That is, until I spotted Rick on Tinder and misguidedly tried to reclaim my strength with a revenge fuck. For hours that night, I thought about what had happened: I'd used my body and someone else's to attempt to feel better about some years-old slights that Zachary probably wouldn't even remember. I gave myself to another man in such a personal way and, in turn, stole intimacy from him to get back at someone who was no longer relevant in my life. I felt ashamed.
I got up and dressed myself the moment I saw light peek through the window shades; I couldn't wait to leave the room. As I walked to the door, Rick's eyes opened.
"Thanks for a good time," he said. "Maybe I'll see you around sometime." Those words would have crushed me in other circumstances. This time, however, they eased my guilt and discomfort. Obviously, Rick wanted someone for the night -- not someone to date. He got off, which was seemingly all he wanted from me, and I got off, which wasn't really what I wanted from Zachary.