I'm not gonna lie — Greg was kind of sexy.
I am 25. I am a teacher. And I live in New York City. I try desperately to explain what that means to anyone that will listen, because teaching in an underserved community in any city changes you. On your weeks off, you get better at escaping the PTSD of managing hundreds of loveable basket cases, but you can never truly let go. When spring break comes around, there’s a tiny voice in my head that starts saying, “It’s getting too real up in here,” and that’s when I know I need to get the fuck out of NYC.
Couchsurfing (the website, not the concept) was introduced to me by an ex of mine who had a case of wanderlust that was almost as bad as my own. On the site you’re able to bypass all the expenses that go with hotels and hostels, and you get to sleep in someone’s living room or guest room depending on what your host has available.The website creates the feeling that there is plenty of accountability and opportunities to give feedback about a stay. In large cities, the Couchsurfing network can be a great way to meet and maintain friendships with offbeat, adventurous young folk.
For my trip, I chose to go to Seattle, because as a woman who was thinking of doing something mildly reckless, like stay on a random person’s couch in a somnolent state, I had to choose a city where I knew I could reign in the people around me with the Jedi mind tricks I learned dealing with herds of children in the Bronx. And when Greg messaged me through the Couchsurfing website, I knew he was definitely someone I could physically and mentally overpower if I needed to.
I’m not going to lie — Greg was kind of sexy. He has that New England glow in his profile pictures, as if he is no stranger to trees and calf exercising. He has a nice apartment a few blocks away from the Space Needle. He included information about how he likes to maintain his guests, offering towels, soap, and any of his electronics that someone might need. He had 30 positive references, mostly from women, and no negative references. And what struck me most about his profile was the transparency of all the details, and how he could open up his home and his life so thoroughly on one page.
I was more than pleased. The air in Seattle is a drug. Everything is clean and there are trees saturating the periphery of the cityscape. I was forgetting my students’ sticky hands and their dire needs in no time. I was having a ball until a half hour before I had to meet up with Greg. We’d texted back and forth all day, so I knew what kind of goodies I could buy as a couch-warming gift. He came home earlier in the evening, and it was strange to wait for someone. How often does someone wait outside an unknown person’s house anticipating the moment where someone else is about to get home? I felt like a stalker and a housedog.
When we got into his apartment, it was clear the kid had money. He began talking about his tech job and how Seattleites weren’t exactly fond of his type. He shared some Sno-caps with me that his mom sent across the country in a care package. He took me up to his roof and had me stand on a table to get a glimpse of the spectacular view. He told me I was free to use anything in the apartment whenever I wanted. He said he had to go to the gym and that he’d be going out to a bar afterward. He asked me if I wanted to come, and despite being up for the last 20 hours from flying and prepping, I accepted. While I put away my things and rushed to change in his bathroom, Greg walked around his apartment shirtless, and as I’d decided to leave my teaching persona behind in New York, I didn’t call him out on the absurdity of baring his chest in front of a woman he barely knew.
When we got to the gym, he waited for me to get ready then took me up to the cardio station, which abuts the weight lifting section. I immediately began to jam out to Ke$ha and ellipticize, with my back to him. I knew he was watching because I felt his eyes on my ass. And about 45 minutes later, I walked over to the weights and asked him to teach me how to lift. As he served me up some 15 lb dumbbells, I couldn’t help but notice his high school, gym short erection. I was more amused than flattered, but got through my hyper-personal training session without laughing.
When we went out to the bar, I met other Couchsurfer hosts who had commonplace names and tendencies. Then Greg made his third clunky move by putting his hand on my shoulder. I wouldn’t have minded except the rest of the Couchsurfers gave me this look. It’s the most timeless look a woman gets — the one that says, “You best not, slut.” That look made me question the parameters of Greg’s hospitality. What was going to happen when we left this bar and Greg continued to talk about the ex-girlfriend that he swears he got over?
The first night we fucked, Greg held me and assured me that he’d never done anything like this before with his Couchsurfers and that he didn’t want to be a bad host, but I was just so amazing. He read me a set of poems by a contemporary Iranian poet that had nothing to do with love, and as I dissected the meaning in the piece for him. I could feel his dick through his pants, obviously excited by my insight about the shah’s regime and the uprisings in Tehran.
“Can I kiss you?” Greg had asked.
And I said, “No, not just yet. It’s not right yet.” Maybe it was all of the lessons about respect and delayed gratification that I’ve learned as a teacher, but when I said it, every part of me that’s a woman and a teacher knew I was right, but I didn’t listen. He respected my wishes and went into his bed, and I spent a full 10 minutes vacillating between ways I could deal with my gratifyingly wet pussy without having to include Greg. And then, I just couldn’t wait anymore. The pull to be 25 and exploit my body’s fertile fuckability won out. As I crept into his room, he asked me if I was alright, and I just started eating his face.
Before we fucked, he told me things he’d never told anyone before — about his Crohn’s disease and his life-threatening episode where his ex-girlfriend broke up with him during finals week and he had to accept an offer to work in Seattle so his intestines exploded into chaos. And I did what I always do when panicked: I listened and soothed him. I told him he was 23 and everything would be alright even if he didn’t like his job and he had a serious illness. We fucked for two nights. On my last night there, Greg wasn’t the “happy to do things with you and will bring you along on whatever I'm doing” that he claimed. He went on a date that he “couldn’t get out of” and I went to a Sun Kil Moon concert. Everybody won.
I came back to his apartment buzzed and ready to turn in since I had to be up at 4 a.m. to catch a flight. Around 2 a.m. I heard Greg’s voice in the corridor, and (inevitably) a girl’s voice too. I figured she was just coming in to grab something and go, but no, Greg took her into his room, activated his Netflix account, and then proceeded to fuck her “doggie style” as I overheard from the next room. At that point, fury was roiling up inside me telling me to pull a spectacle where I should open up the door and chew out both the Microsoft employee and the random woman he was fucking, but the teacher won out.
I left behind the obligatory Couchsurfer’s note I had written earlier on in the evening explaining how grateful I was for his hospitality. I ninja-ed my things together in the dark, and I Ubered a black car. As Greg was about to come inside of his real date, I soundlessly shut the door behind me. In my line of work, the text messages that followed between us would be called a “values-based conversation.” We teach my sixth graders to use claims, evidence, and reasoning to prove their points. I try to practice what I teach.
Sharyn: (Claim) You should be ashamed of yourself.
Greg: I want to go get chicken nuggets, any interest? (off topic but somewhat relevant)
Sharyn: Go check your living room. (Evidence) What you did was reprehensible in every sense. You violated my integrity and made me feel unsafe by bringing home a woman and fucking her where I could hear everything. Any explanation?
Greg: Don’t get it, where are you? I’m really sorry I didn’t want to make you feel unsafe at all…
Sharyn: I’m gone. I thought better of you. I really did. But thank you for inadvertently giving me feedback and teaching me a few lessons.
Greg: Can you explain what exactly you are really upset about? That a girl came home with me I’m guessing, but can you just clarify please. Slow down.
Sharyn: (Evidence) You had sex with her not at a bar, not in your car. You could have had sex with her anywhere else, but you chose to fuck her within earshot. Somewhere you told me I could call home for a few days. (Reasoning) It is clear that this is your home and the rules were quite ambiguous, but what you did was illogically cruel.
Greg: I closed my door and put my hand over her mouth. I didn’t manage it well. I’m sorry. I thought you were sleeping. I’m not a bad guy. I do genuinely care here.
Sharyn: Thank you for your apology. I am safer than I would be in your apartment. (Reasoning) Now… Go. Fuck. Yourself.
As I sat, fuming in the back of my getaway car, I thought about the gray spaces we create with relationships proliferating websites like Couchsurfing — we render context through profiles as a way to develop personas. We can be as many people as we want using a social media handle for each and every part of what we want or need socially. What Greg did wasn’t the worst thing; we both won in a lot of senses. He got to tell someone completely anonymous some of his deepest secrets and I got some positive male attention and a free house for a few days.
In the end, there are no winners in the game of surfing. There are, however, those who can surf out a tide with dignity and grace.
Image via Flickr.