This is the final installment of a series called Craigslist Confessional for Quartz. Writer Helena Bala started meeting people via Craigslist in 2014 and has been documenting their stories ever since. Each story is written as it was told to her. Bala says that by listening to their stories, she hopes to bear witness to her subjects’ lives, providing them with an outlet, a judgment-free ear, and a sense of catharsis. By sharing them, she hopes to facilitate acceptance and understanding of issues that are seldom publicly discussed, at the risk of fear, stigma, and ostracism. To share your story with Helena, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more here. Names and locations have been changed to protect her subjects’ anonymity. The series will continue at The Outline.
Warning: This article contains graphic imagery and language.
The bed sloshed up and down, our bodies creating a wave-like movement that made me slightly nauseous. What was bothering me at that moment—curiously—was not the situation or the nausea, but that the bed wasn’t filled up with water all the way. As my left temple violently grinded against the decking of the bed, I mentally concluded that it must be about a third empty.
I met him at a bar. He always hung around like bad news and none of my friends knew him, but he was tall and handsome and extremely blonde. He was a “Robert Redford in his heyday type,” as my friend Gina had so aptly put it. He came up to me that night and bought me drinks… and made me feel beautiful. So when he suggested that we go back to his place, I didn’t think twice about it.
As soon as we’d gotten into his room, though, his demeanor changed. He became rougher and more dismissive of me, like he knew that I was his now and there was no need to court or play coy or pretend. I felt sad, or maybe apprehensive, but then he offered to put on some music and I thought that maybe it was all in my head.
He moved across the room with precision, grabbing the subwoofer and placing it at the foot of the bed. Then, he took two of the speakers and put them on either side of the headboard. He hesitated for a second, perhaps considering his choice of music, but then seemed to think better of it and just pressed play. Something trippy started seeping out of the speakers, and he adjusted the volume to 26—close to max, but not loud enough that the neighbors would complain.
As I watched him set up his stereo, I had a feeling of foreboding at the pit of my stomach. We were completely alone and I knew that no matter what I tried at this point, he would still have his way. His organized—almost rhythmic—routine fed into my fears, and I sat at the edge of the bed, transfixed and unable to move.
When he was done, he pushed me away from him and I toppled over, stiff and almost lifeless. He switched off the music and made his way to the bathroom wordlessly, turning on the shower. I lay on my side and looked at the alarm clock that was partially hidden behind one of the speakers. It was 2:57AM.
I pushed myself off the waterbed, holding on to the corner of one of the bedside tables for balance. My whole body hurt. As I made my way down the stairs of his apartment, I started convulsing uncontrollably and threw up the entire contents of my dinner. And you know what I did? I went back to his apartment, fetched some paper towels, and I cleaned it up. Because I was ashamed. I didn’t want him to wake up the next morning as he went out for breakfast, his life unruined, his day filled with promise, and find evidence that I’d ever been there, that I’d ever disturbed him.
The fresh air did me good. I walked slowly through the deserted streets to my own apartment. I thought about it a million times: the way he treated me at the bar, and then the way he treated me at the apartment. He had been two entirely different people, and I hadn’t seen it. How could I have allowed this to happen? At that moment, I passed a drunk and rowdy group of men leaving the bar and I felt instinctively afraid for my safety. But then I thought…what for? The worst had already happened.