The Demons In Us All

Normally, guys like Travis aren’t my typical pick. I go for the grungy guitar players with long carefree hair, a little chin fuzz, and a unique sense of style. Tattoos are a bonus. My kinda guy can look sexy even in a baggy hooded sweatshirt, but underneath all that fabric he’ll have a killer body created by vigorous stage performances. I prefer him to be taller than myself, since I’m so short to begin with. I wanted to try something new – to think outside the bun like Taco Bell.

It all began on the Internet, in a land many know as Myspace. A friend request from him launched our short-lived relationship. Decked out in fresh button-up shirts, knit sweaters, and tailored pants, I swore I had seen him before in a J. Crew catalogue. Clean-shaven, and hair without a trace of grease. Short, dark and tidy. Clean-cut in every aspect except a lonely tattoo on one of his shoulders. A crab, the zodiac sign for Cancer. I had certainly strayed far from my usual choices. However, he did display a few features I found appealing. His handsome baby face, soft brown puppy eyes, and sweet dimples were just too charming. He began sending me comments at first. Mostly compliments – always saying the perfect thing to brighten up my day. He asked me several times if I would like to meet him somewhere and hang out. What the hell.

We met for the first time in front of the Macaroni Grill. As I arrived in my sleek black Saab, my stomach felt like slimy eels were having a pool party inside. I saw him waiting by the entrance, waving to a man driving away – probably his father. He greeted me with a little hug while smiling from ear to ear. He looked just like his pictures, but one thing in particular surprised me – his height. I’d never been on any dates with guys shorter than myself, and I’m only five foot two. It was kind of cute, but somewhat awkward. When I asked him why he needed to be dropped off, he gave some vague reason about his car having a bunch of problems lately. I didn’t think much of it.

We ended up having a great time, lots of laughing and storytelling, good food and promises of seeing each other again. It became a blur after this, because he called me to go on dates all the time. I would come home in the wee morning hours, trying to be as quiet as possible so as not to wake my parents. I never used to stay out that late, but Travis always begged me to stay later and later. On top of that, I felt like I didn’t have any alone time. I was on great terms with him, but crappy terms with my parents. Irritable from getting less sleep and worried about my safety while driving home, they despised my nocturnal habits. “You should be thrilled,” I told them. “I’m not dating a wild, greasy garage-band dude right now.” But underneath it all, I was beginning to grow tired of this.

On a bright and cheerful Sunday, wrapped up in a cocoon of blankets, I felt extremely content in my warm cave. The scream of the telephone interrupted my bliss. I chose to ignore it. My mom chose to give in. An unpleasant surprise was waiting on the phone – a certain young man had a proposal for me.

“Lauren – we’re gonna have a lot of fun today. It’s CMSU’s homecoming football game and I’m going with my parents. We’ll come pick you up at noon.”

“I hate football, remember? I’m gonna sleep in,” I mumbled, stifling a yawn.

“Lauren, no. You have to come  Pleeeease? Pleeeease? Just come for me. I’ll show you around my school, we don’t have to watch the game the entire time. It’ll be fun, I promise. I can show you the radio station where I was broadcasting. Pwease? My mom and dad really really want you to come.” Whine whine whine. Travis the toddler wouldn’t give up until I said yes.

With a big sigh, I gave in. “Okay, I’ll go. See you at noon.” I could visualize him twirling and jumping for joy at this time. My parents glared at me when I told them I’d be gone all day. Again.

This date didn’t compare to the earlier dates we had gone on, which were delightful. For example, one time he packed a picnic basket full of all my favorite things and we ate on the lawn at the Nelson Atkins Art Museum. Other dates included strolling around Crown Center, eating with his family at a fancy Japanese Steakhouse, rollerblading, and playing pool. Our future date did not sound the least bit enjoyable. If you want to bore me, take me to a football game. I had anticipated a dull afternoon – worse than listening to hours of Celine Dion on a road trip through all of Western Kansas. My expectations quickly shattered as it turned out to be the most entertaining football game I had ever attended.

Upon entering the campus, we agreed to meet up with his parents later. He’d had two beers on the way, and promptly chugged another one as soon as his parents left. I’m not big on drinking, so watching him rapidly drain the beers made me slightly uneasy. On the way to the football field we passed a large gymnasium, the door of which was slightly ajar.

“Hey Lauren, watch this!” He ran towards the door. I followed him and then peered through the

opening. It appeared to be a celebrational ceremony. There was a large crowd seated at tables, and a speaker at a podium. All was silent. I watched in horror as he trotted over to the buffet tables, which were void of people. He began piling a plate full of food. He glanced over at me suddenly, beckoning with his hand. Then he whispered loudly, “Lauren, come get some of this kick-ass gourmet food!” The speaker at the podium and most of the audience looked over at Travis, now stuffing his face with goodies. I could see the frowns forming on their faces. I beckoned for him to get the hell out. He trotted right back outside, his mouth full of food. “Mmm thish ish gweat. You shud haff come in wiff me.” Now he was licking his lips. Disgusting.

“Travis, you realize you just interrupted a large, formal ceremony, right?”

He grinned.

“Let’s get out of here.” I dragged him to the gates as he licked the plate clean.

Suddenly he grabbed me. “Lauren, guess what. We don’t even have to pay to get into the game – everyone knows me here,” he said with an air of importance. “See, watch – ” He took my arm, pulling me faster towards the ticket area, where officials were collecting tickets and allowing people to enter. He put on his most charming smile and attempted to worm his way through the gate. He delivered a head nod. “Where do you think you’re going?” the ticket lady demanded. “I need to see some tickets.”

“Yeah that’s not necessary, I used to go to school here. They know me. I’m kind of a big deal. Just ask Mike Miller from the Media Department, he’ll tell ya-” the lady interrupted him.

“Excuse me sir, I’m not allowed to do that. You’ll have to pay to get in, I’m sorry.” He glared at her and hauled me away from the ticket gates. Suddenly I could see an invisible lightbulb burning over his head, forming a terrible idea. He forced me towards a huge line of football players who were paired up, ready to march onto the football field. He squeezed us in behind a couple players as they headed out.

“What are you doing?” I cried, trying to break free.

“Shhhh this is fine, it’ll be fine. I know all these big guys, I was the cameraman for all the games. They know me. Right bro?” He smacked the football player in front of us on the back. Like a giant ogre, he turned around and stared at us, clearly irritated. While we had passed through the gates, some sharp-eyed officials realized we were intruders, sandwiched between the monstrous players. I heard yells of, “Hey, what are you two doing? You’re not authorized to be on the field, you two…” Too late. We were on the field, his hand grasping mine in an iron grip. We meandered our way through the crowd of players, Travis randomly smacking them on the back and yelling their numbers out. We were getting plenty of weird, confused glances. An irate coach ran towards us at full speed and took Travis by the arm. “I don’t know what you think you’re doing, son, but you cannot be on this field. I don’t want to see you out here again, understand?” Before he could explain his alumni cameraman bullshit I raced away toward the sidelines. He had no choice but to follow me. From that moment on I insisted that he show me his campus. This was the perfect distraction until the end of the game. He still managed to mooch a couple beers off some unsuspecting college students around campus, though.

We were back in the parking lot now, waiting for his parents by the car. He put his hands on my cheeks and pulled me close. The sour, skunky beer breath was almost too much to take. “Tell me you love me, babydoll,” he slurred, giving me a big sloppy kiss. I almost vomited as I jerked backward, wiping my mouth off.

“Babydoll?!” I shrieked. I hadn’t heard that one before. Babydoll made me think of a toy, something to be played with and dragged around. Ick. “First of all, don’t ever call me babydoll. In fact, anything cutesy-wutesy like babydoll or princess are terrible things to call me. Okay, bunnycakes? And second, I’ve only known you for a couple weeks. I’m in no position to use the L-word, nor do I feel that way about you yet.”

His eyes squinted, and his hands increased their pressure on my face. “Tell. Me. You. LOVE me,  BABYDOLL…” with each word he shook my face. Since I’m such a nice girl, I didn’t use this time to kick the shrimp’s ass. His parents were coming any minute. Instead, I tore his hands off my face and told him it was time to leave, he’d had too much to drink. Looking back on it now, all of our dates had one thing in common – he always had to have some alcohol while we were together. And he insisted on paying for everything with a credit card that, as it turned out, belonged to his parents.

The last time we talked I made it crystal clear that he would never get to speak to or see me again. He promised to get into a rehab program for his alcohol problems. Apparently he didn’t have a car because he had received a DUI not long ago.

“We’re gonna work this out, Lauren. We can still be together, I’m on my way to recovery,” he pleaded. Alcoholic or not, Travis would still be needy, arrogant, immature, and most of all – a shrimp.

The process of blocking him on all my online accounts worked wonderfully well until years later when he contacted a friend of mine named Kanor. It is such an unusual name that Travis somehow remembered it and found him on Myspace. His last words were, “Tell her that her holiday’s about to get a lot colder – she’s the one who threw something good away.” I shiver remembering that he knew where I worked. Fortunately at that time I worked as a line cook in a restaurant, so the kitchen was equipped with sharp knives, slicing machines, several ovens, and a stick blender that would have fit perfectly up his rump. Nothing ever came of that threat, if you could even call it that.

Now fast-forward another several years later and I decided out of the blue to google his name and see if I could find what he was up to. What I found made me blink back tears – his obituary. Surely it was another Travis, but I searched in more detail and found his picture and bio. I was not able to find the cause of death though I can’t help but think it was alcohol-related. I have mixed feelings about it all, for though we had some good times, that very last evening ended in what I would call borderline rape. He, while under the influence of alcohol, did not act like a gentleman and did not listen when I said “no.” I had to use physical force to get out of the situation. I’d rather not go into detail but this whole thing still disturbs me and I needed to write it out of my system. I am sorry I ever went out with him and also sorry he had to leave this world at such a young age. Alcohol can bring out the demons in all of us.

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