Fun fact: Black women are ranked the least desirable demographic in online dating. It’s amazing what you overlook when you want someone to find you attractive. In a world where Black isn’t always beautiful you do what you must to work through the feeling of being unlovable.
I open the door to a thin weasel-like man who resembles a side-character from Seinfeld. Standing on tippy toes, he reaches up to hug me, “You look like your photos.” He smells of day-old Axe body spray and coconut oil. His receding hairline is accentuated by long flowing and curly hair. Skeletal fingers jab the sides of my rib cage, “Coochie coochie coo.”
Is he tickling me? I giggle as if the act is funny. This isn’t about love. This is about getting over. This is about me. I gesture towards the couch. “Would you like to watch a movie?” Michael nods and jumps hard on the sofa. He grabs the TV remote and turns on Netflix.
“Let’s watch my favorite show,” he says, landing on Dark Tourist. I sit beside him and open up my robe.
“So…are you from this city?”
“Yeah,” he said. “Born and raised. You?”
“No. My mom is though. How about a job. What do you do for work?”
“I’m a mortician’s assistant.”
“Oh. That’s cool. So you’re in mortuary school?”
“No. I just love being around dead bodies.”
The TV host is touring Fukushima, the core site of a nuclear reaction. People on the bus take selfies. “Didn’t a lot of people die here?” I ask, trying to make sense of what I’m watching.“Yeah. They even go to Chernobyl in this one. Sick right?”
Sick. The red flags on this guy continue to accumulate. Mortician. Necrophilia. Dark tourism. I remind myself again. This is about me. I want to have sex. I want a win. Maybe there is a way to redeem this. Maybe he’ll have a big dick. I remove my robe, letting it hang around my shoulders.
He leans in to kiss me. His thin dry, chapped lips, slice against mine. His hands make their way towards the sides of my waist. He whispers in my ear, “Coochie coochie coo.” I push his hands towards my breast to grope me. He flicks the tip of my nipple. Grinning, he echoes, “coochie coochie coo.”
I try to direct his hands in the ways I want to be touched. He grabs mine and locks them behind my head. He looks into my eyes as if he wants to devour my face. “I want to tie you up. If you wait here I have five pairs of handcuffs in my car.”
Five? What is the fifth pair for? Now, I’m uncomfortable. Something about his insistence, his gaze is unsettling. I want to be desired, not consumed.
“Um…” I pull my hand from his grasp. “Maybe next time? I figured we could just have some traditional fun. Get to know each other before we do anything experimental.”
His face sobers. “Oh, ok.” He pulled my underwear aside and tried again, scratching the sides of my labia. “Coochie, coochie, coo.” This isn’t about him, this is about me. I want to be wanted. I want to be in control. I lean up staring at Michael between my legs.
“That isn’t turning me on. Can we switch it up?”
He sighs and leans back, “Yeah, I guess. Women usually love that move.”
Perhaps he had found the magical oasis of females who desired to have their vaginas tickled. I gesture to the bedroom. “Maybe we just need more space.” This isn’t about him. This is about me. This is my chance to reclaim my body. I grab his hand and lead him to the bed. This is a chance to declare if not to others but myself that I am sexy. I am someone to be desired. I climb on top of him and lean in to kiss him. This isn’t about him. I close my eyes. I feel two hard fists slam into my thighs.
Blow by blow he pounds my flesh into tenderized dark meat. The look in his eye returns. Spit foams at the side of his lips.
“Tell me you’re a filthy slut.”
He banged his fist into my thigh.
“You want this cock,” he whined. “Don’t you?” He grabs my hand and shoves it down his pants. “You like that don’t you, you naughty bitch.”
“No.” My thighs and back ache. His penis, his small limp penis, is the final straw. This man is useless. I pull away. “I think you should leave.”
“But, I’m not finished.”
“And neither did I.”
He lunges towards me. I back away and he falls onto the floor, his legs still tangled by the pants hanging around his ankles. I grab his shoes and throw them at him. “Leave. Now. Or we’re going to have problems.” He shuffles his pants back up around his waist. He slides each shoe over his foot in silence. He leaves, I lock the door, and cry.
On Instagram I come across a story of a Black woman who went missing after going on a first date with a white man. They find her corpse days later on the riverbank. It had been months since I thought about that night with Michael. If I had let that man stay would I be here to tell the story?
Everyone has an online dating horror story. We laugh at their outrageousness. When I tell the story to others, the story’s frame becomes a funny anecdote, a quirky mishap over superficial banter and beers. Nothing about that narrative is scary. Nothing about that story is dangerous. My foremothers taught me that if you don’t name those shortcomings as trauma, then they never happened. Not really. It’s easier for me to call what happened a dating bumble. It’s easier to deny my survivor’s guilt.
Caitlyn Hunter was the inaugural Emerging Black Artist in Residence at Chatham University (2021-2022). She is a doctoral candidate at Duquesne University where she researches African American literature and Black Food studies. Her debut book, Power in the Tongue was published in 2022 through Tolsun Books. She currently teaches and resides in Southern Maryland.