Swipe right. Swipe right.
Tinder. Bumble. Be unable to remember which, but this younger, generically handsome boy whose face reminds you of a Playmobil figure has driven from the suburbs tonight to meet you.
Stand about awkwardly untill you are seated at a table in the loudest section of the bar. Order wine. Order apps. Try to engage him in conversation. Lean across the table in order to hear over the sound system blaring an Adele song about love, love in the dark.
Cup your palm to your ear to indicate you are having trouble.
Watch as his attention flashes up from your breasts to your eyes before he half yells the word “Pizza.”
Recognize his cologne as you lean in closer, 1 Million by Paco Rabanne, the scent of the moment for the young, professional and sexually hopeful.
Repeat the word pizza as a question back to him.
Nod as he says, I just really really love pizza, because that is the required response. Then randomly think how you are like a pebble and that this boy is like a pebble, that you are like two random pebbles thrown together by the fist of the internet.
Say you like pizza too. Say yes to thin crust. Yes to deep dish. Yes to cheese, especially cheese. Nod enthusiastically at his suggestion of the Hawaiian, though truth be told, you cannot imagine the combination of pineapple and Spam. And also because you are dating-weary, fail to notice the good things about him—that he is not constantly checking his phone, not checking out other women, that he is clean-shaven, attentive, and not outwardly crazy.
Swipe left. Swipe right.
Find yourself unable to listen to his all-about-me speech, the required get-to-know-you section of every first internet date. Weight at birth, post college year at Teach for America, current job as systems analyst for blah blah corporation blah blah blah, current obsessions—unicycles and organic brew pubs. Blame your inattentiveness on the fact that you know how all this usually goes. He will like you but you will feel a diffuse revulsion at the touch of his lips. He will like you, but confess he and his girlfriend are looking for a third. You will like him and he will not call. You will like him and then realize he is a fuk boi, which means what it means. You will not like him but he will propose by text and then lapse into vulgarity when you ghost him in response.
When he turns the conversation toward you, find yourself lying. Tell him you were born at nine thousand feet on a mountain in Tasmania. Tell him that your intermittent vertigo ended your career as a flight attendant. Tell him you are the proud owner of four tarantulas. Stutter when he tells you that he, too, has a tarantula. Wonder what he means when he asks if you raise your own crickets. Elaborate further by saying you inherited the tarantulas from your old boyfriend. That your old boyfriend is a Sumo wrestler. Yes, from Japan. No, they don’t call it a diaper. Tell him you now work as an egg sorter for Locally Laid. Yes, it is local. Realize that your saying these things is a direct reflection of your futile worldview.
Do not under any circumstance admit the following : that you were raised on Beauty and the Beast, that you have kissed many a rough exterior searching for the glimpse of a prince, that your timetable for love is a red rose, slowly losing petals under glass.
Fail to notice that he is staring at you in wonder with a tiny smile, as if you are a beautiful but slightly crazy sea creature he has discovered in a hidden pool.
Swipe right . . .
Back in your apartment, turn on the white noise machine because your roommate is having loud sex. Switch on the little white lights that you have strung across your bedroom ceiling. Pretend you are lying in a bed that happens to be in a Greek taverna, the twinkling lights replacing stars. Turn the white noise to the sound of electronic waves. Feel the pounding of your roommate’s headboard against your shared wall and a deep-throated male laughter. Think how you used to have a boyfriend who was not a Sumo wrestler. Wonder how OKCupid and then Tinder and then Bumble have failed you. And as it will surely come to nothing, how you never want to communicate with the Playmobil boy again.
Startle from a muzzy sleep at the sound of bells ringing. Recognize the new chime you have programmed into your phone, ascending bells, how it is a cheerful sound, a hopeful sound, three notes rising upward into air.
Sink deeper into the mothering down of your pillow and pull the covers up over your ears, letting the waves from the sound machine lull you out to sea. At the second sound of bells, reach toward your cluttered nightstand, pushing aside books and cough drop wrappers until you find your phone. Worry it will be him. Worry it won’t be him. Worry it will be just another dick pic. Do not expect the text you read.
< I have the feeling that neither of us own tarantulas >
< Or feeder crickets >
< But I enjoyed meeting you >
Feel charmed but also cautious as you read and reread his words. Admit that you found him the littlest bit attractive. See from the dots that he is still typing.
But do not respond, yet.
Listen to the waves. See the twinkling lights as stars. And keep the phone on your chest over your heart till the insistent peal of possibility chimes once more.
Victoria McCurdy is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Her short story, “Duplex,” was the recipient of Minnesota Monthly‘s Tamarack Award. She can be found on Twitter at @iamvmccurdy.