When I moved to Pittsburgh to pursue my first gay romance, I imagined everything would be perfect. I was among friends who accepted me for what I was and would help me discover myself... they were the first people I'd let myself feel anything for since the thing with Erica. Melissa and her fiancee were not supposed to be part of it.
Melissa was a gamer geek and a practicing pagan. She believed that her spirit was that of a tabby cat with butterfly wings. Her boyfriend, JT, also lived there... a hacker type, affable enough when he was away from his girlfriend, but by his own admission under her control and incapable of going against her. I think she was the first woman who had ever laid him. Before my visit in November of that year, I'm uncertain if any of my Pittsburgh friends ever mentioned them.
Nor was it stated beforehand that my living in the house was to be temporary; my understanding was that I was moving in with Drew, Steve and Paul. I'd had a great time during my visit. There was trepidation at first; I'd had gay cybersex and I was comfortable with it in concept, and I was convinced I felt love for these people, but the real thing, breaking down the wall and moving forth into something forbidden, was very intimidating.
Paul was the first man I ever kissed romantically. He was gentle, perhaps more afraid for me than I was, and once we'd kissed for a few minutes, I couldn't remember why I would have ever thought it wrong. The fact that a girl was with us when we did it also helped... I wish Arwen had stayed in Pittsburgh, but she left before I moved up. The evening was like an intervention. Everything was arranged so that I would be calm enough to do what I really wanted to do, if I could overcome my fear of the unknown. Steve and Drew and I messed around later that weekend, too, and while I loved being with them and couldn't get enough, it wasn't quite the same as the first time. I suppose it never is.
So full of elation and love, I soaked up some money, made plans, and moved up in December. For the first of countless times, I crammed everything I owned into a rental van and drove across the country.
The day I got there, we were informed by Melissa (with JT echoing) that there wasn't enough room in the house for another roommate, but that I would be allowed to stay until I had a job and someplace to live. I took over Drew's room and he moved into a smaller one which was previously deemed unsuitable for habitation. Because everyone fit, my friends figured that Melissa would eventually come around and nobody would have to move anywhere.
However, as days passed, Melissa became increasingly of the opinion that I was the reincarnation of the Son of Sam. Maybe it was my sinister eyebrows. She felt evil energy around me. It was the reason she'd raised the issue of house capacity... when I visited the previous month she'd started to fear me, and this was a pretext to get me away from her. Her boyfriend told me this. So I went and asked her what I was doing that could be bothering her. Melissa said that there wasn't anything in particular I did which made her feel this way about me... she apologized for the foolishness of it and said she would just need a little time to get used to me. I tried to be friendly but cautious, mostly keeping my distance.
About two weeks after I arrived, I came down with the flu, and lay in my room for a couple of days with an incredible fever. The others were busy with their jobs or other comings and goings, and no one really noticed my absence except for Drew, who checked on me a couple of times. Before I moved up there, I thought that Drew was going to be my main love interest, until I actually met him. His online and real-life personae didn't match very well... Steve and Paul turned out to be people I could associate with in the real world. Drew in the real world would grin for several minutes at a time and didn't seem to blink much when he looked at you, his eyes very wide. I found him kind of creepy, and the fact that he was becoming more interested in me made it creepier. I felt bad about it, since he'd given me his room and was friendly and chivalrous, but I just wasn't attracted to him.
After I came out of the fever, I could see that Melissa had not gotten used to me. She didn't try to be friendly... she was visibly agitated whenever I was around, like she wanted to strike me. She would snap at me for no reason, which only annoyed me, since I was helping out around the house so I didn't seem like a total waste, and otherwise trying to stay out of her way. JT said he would talk to her, but we knew what the result of that would be. He was a reasonable person, but subordinate to her.
So one afternoon I suppose she just got sick of looking at my face, and started screaming at Drew and Paul about the fact that I was still around. Did they think she'd forgotten what she said about the house not being big enough? Paul argued on my behalf, telling her that she was being irrational about it, but one thing you never do is tell a crazy person that they're crazy. I can't stand to be around people when they're arguing, even if my future is being debated, so I tried to slip out of the house when it sounded quiet enough downstairs. As luck would have it I ran into Melissa on the stairs, and she demanded to know where the hell I was going. I told her I was going out. I have no good explanation for why she refused to let me leave the house... perhaps she felt that by ordering me around she could control me. She told me I wasn't going anywhere, an assertion I found perfectly insane, and I told her so. "You're fucking crazy," I said simply, and started to shove past her. That's when she put her hands around my throat and started shaking me, screeching at me.
If she was trying to strangle me she wasn't working very hard at it; it wasn't difficult to pry her hands off my neck and get away from her. I muttered something about calling the police on her, and she said that I'd better not... I don't know what she thought she was going to do, maybe say I'd raped her, but I didn't call them. She seemed somewhat cognizant of what she'd done, though, and chilled out for a little while after that.
It was clear to everybody by then that she was unbalanced. My friends didn't want me to have to live alone in a strange city, even if I could have afforded to, so Paul-- the relatively assertive one; Drew and Steve were quite passive --suggested that they would move out with me, leaving the house to Melissa and JT. They weren't very keen on living with her anymore, either. But she wasn't having that. Steve and Drew were on the lease, and Melissa was going to hold them to it even if they moved out, force them to pay two rents. Paul sort of shrugged his shoulders and said there wasn't anything they could do. So that was it. This was the moment I discovered my friends couldn't protect me.
Drew was on pretty good terms with the landlady, did odd jobs for her, and if anyone had explained the situation to her, I'm sure some sort of arrangement could have been made. But now I just wanted out.
I moved back to Florida at the end of the month, since I had nowhere else to go and wasn't going to wait for Melissa to take a knife to me in my sleep. I begged my mother for some money so that I could move back south... I didn't tell her what had precipitated this decision, just that it hadn't worked out. She would not have been sympathetic, she would have used it as evidence that I wasn't capable of making my own decisions. One afternoon I was cramming everything I owned, still unpacked, into another rental van, before disappearing from town. Another all-night drive alone across the country, back to where I'd started a month earlier.
In the week before I decided to leave, there was talk about me moving in with Drew, but I didn't feel comfortable living with him alone, and I had the idea I would never see any of my other friends once separated from them. I visited them again in July of the following year-- Melissa and JT had moved out --but after that I drifted apart from them. We remained friends and were reacquainted later on, but I never had romantic feelings for any of them again.
Recently I learned Melissa keeps a journal online. She married JT and adopted another man as her polyamorous second husband. She's still a pagan, still a gamer, still into science fiction and fantasy, does arts and crafts, has a homepage for her cats. An essentially useless human being as near as I can determine. Recently she wrote to her local UPN station complaining about rescheduled episodes of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer.' She also has fibromyalgia, which she says keeps her in quite a bit of pain. I hope she isn't exaggerating. As a pagan, she offers a service in which she'll cleanse your home of evil spirits, something I find more than a little ironic.