It feels serendipitous when Tony introduces me to Dean.

“He’s got a job and a car,” Tony whispers in my ear as he makes introductions.

I just turned twenty-five and I’m in a panic. Everyone else my age is getting married, people are talking behind my back. They already think I’m odd and snobby because I won’t go work in a factory.

Dean’s good looking in that beefy sort of way, dirty blonde brush cut, big blue eyes. He tells me how he had a football scholarship, about the blown out knee that killed the deal and the dream. We find that we know nearly all the same people. He’s not terribly bright, but he’s polite and attentive. He’ll do. I let him move in a few weeks later.

The sex is good, he can keep up with me. We spill our fantasies and skirt around the edges of secrets. Dean confesses he’s always wanted to see what it felt like to be fucked in the ass. I tell him I’d be happy to oblige. He says he thinks he might be bisexual. I’m cool with that.

We go to a shady sex toy store the next town over, but when we get there I get shy and refuse to go in. I wait alone in the car, shrinking down in the car seat, hoping no one spots me.  Dean comes out, hands me a paper sack. He bought a dildo for himself and a bondage magazine for me. I glance at the cover. Twelve dollars! A small fortune, but I’ll hang onto it for years, the only proof to me that someone else out there likes this stuff, not just me. 

When we get home, our courage comes from cheap wine coolers. Dean lays on his stomach, I lay on top of him and slide the greased dildo in and out of his ass. He bucks around, trying to jerk himself off. He comes and we roll over, excited by the thrill of something so forbidden.

The lies start here.

It’s innocent enough. Dean’s father works on my car, asks me how Dean is doing in his college algebra class. I’m confused. Dean isn’t in college.

“Oh,” his father replies. “It’s starting again.” He gives me a warning look, but doesn’t explain.

Soon, I realize that Dean lies about everything. If you ask him what color the sky is, he’ll say green. He makes up inconsequential things, like what he ate for lunch. He tells me he how blew one of his football buddies in a pickup truck, later he denies it. I don’t know what to believe.

But, I’m twenty-five years old and this seems like the best deal I’m ever going to get, so when he proposes with a microscopic diamond still in the box from JC Penney, I say yes. I ignore the lies and concentrate on what shade of burgundy to use for the wedding napkins. This is what people are supposed to do, right?

Dean loses his factory job, his car gets repossessed. He spends his days and nights playing video games. The couch becomes permanently dented. I come downstairs in the middle of the night for water and stop on the stairs. I hear soft moaning and the thick wet sounds of someone jerking off. Dean is watching porn. Not just plain porn, but naked Asian men in sailor suits fucking each other on a boat. I creep back up the stairs before Dean notices me. I realize he’s not bisexual at all.

Hardly anyone shows up for our wedding. Later, the friends that did show up tell me they placed bets on how long we would last. Tony, our best man, will win twenty bucks on his prediction of six months.

The lies get more intricate and bizarre. He calls me at work to tell me a long, convoluted story about someone breaking into our apartment and leaving used condoms everywhere. There is no evidence of them when I get home. Dean says he cleaned them all up. I look in the garbage, but there’s nothing there. I find one in his car, still in the package, he says they must have broken into his car too.

I let it go. I don’t know what else to do.

One weekend, Dean’s parents take us on a trip to a tiny tourist town on the lake. We find a cheap imitation leather bullwhip at a gift shop. Why they would sell that, we have no idea, but we buy it, blushing and giggling, careful to keep it hidden from his parents.

When we get home, Dean ties one of my wrists to the closet door knob, the other to a handle on the dresser. If I wanted to give a good yank, I could rip the drawer out, send socks and panties flying, but I don’t. I like being tied up, and the people willing to tie me up have been very few and far between. Dean takes the bullwhip out of the bag and stands behind me.

Instead of whipping me, like I expect him to, he abruptly shoves the handle in my pussy. The cheap fake leather seems to suck out all the moisture. It’s itchy, not sexy. I tell him to stop, but he won’t. In that moment everything flips, like I’ve been seeing everything from the wrong side of the mirror. It’s all absurd. I don’t love him, I don’t even like him. I didn’t need any of this.

Everything jerks into hard focus. I ruminate for days, then tell Dean to pack his shit. He hits me. I’ve been hit before, by someone else, and it turns my heart to ice. Now we’re really done. Sobbing, he grabs a steak knife and threatens suicide. “Go do it in the fucking bathtub so you don’t ruin the carpet,” I answer.

He bursts out the front door, runs down the street and screams “My wife doesn’t love me anymore!” He stands on the yellow line, rips his shirt to shreds, keeps screaming. I shrink back from the window as the neighbors collect on the sidewalk and stare. I call his mother to come get him. She pleads with me to reconsider, but I’m finished.

I’m twenty-six and divorced. There has to be more than this. There just has to be.

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