Tinder is too easy to set up. You download the app to your phone and then it prompts you to sign in with your Facebook account and I do (because for some reason I still have a Facebook). All of a sudden you are live and anyone has the ability to swipe you left or right or throw their phone against the wall when they see the kind of shit that Tinder is throwing their way. My hands drip sweat and my heart slams against my ribs. I thought my reemergence into the dating world would feel different. It’s not that I thought there would be bells, but I thought there would be bells—something to announce that here I am, I’m finally a man and I’m on Tinder. No such announcement comes. No chariots, no trumpets. I have to move fast. I throw together a bio and upload the photos from the photoshoot in fear that my soulmate will find me, swipe me left and forget me before I can upload my authentic self.
My first photo is me looking down and away under a tree by a lake and branched shadows stripe my beard. It’s super deep and poetic and I like it a lot. The second photo is me smiling at work, to show that I have a smile and also a job. I’m holding books and chocolate because I like books and chocolate. I think most people do. Photo #3 is me with a cat I found, to show I care about animals. This was a catch and release cat. I caught the cat, then released the cat with only Tinder to remember our brief time together. The fourth photo is me with some chickens. I’m crouched down low, hand extended with feed and I grin up at the camera, natural. I don’t own chickens but my neighbors do and I broke into their yard to be with them. Because having a photo with chickens makes me look more like the man I want to be and less like the man I am. The next photo is several years old, when I still had friends. It’s us at a football game. It’s the only football game I’ve ever been to but it makes me look like I go to football games all the time, like I’m generally a fun person to be around. And then the very last photo, for those who make it that far, is a photo of me on all fours in front of a fireplace, one claw out and a face that says something between meow and roar, that I’m sexy but don’t take Tinder too seriously. Taking the claw into consideration, I’m only on three-fourths of all four fours.
My bio is temporary. In it I copy and paste the lyrics to “I’d Rather Die Young” by The Hilltoppers. It goes like this—
I’d rather die young than grow old without you
So don’t ever leave me whatever you do
Though others may tempt you and tell you they care
You’ll find only sorrow in a secret affair
I’d rather die young than grow old all alone
Please tell me you love me, let me call you my own
To see someone’s picture where my picture hung
Believe me my darling, I’d rather die young
And repeat. The song goes on like that. Listen to it if you must. Or don’t, I’ll probably be changing it soon anyway.
With my most authentic self out there, people swiping me any which way, I begin. I starve for my first match. The amount of matches that Brian gets in a single day is staggering, so I know it’ll only be a matter of time before I get my own. I swipe, I swipe. With every swipe I grow weary, a heaviness descends beneath my chest. I don’t get any matches, but also I don’t swipe right often. I’m not playing the numbers, I’m playing for the One. Over the next several hours I don’t look up from my phone and when Brian tells me I need a break I scream at him and burrow back into the LCD light. I don’t tell him I haven’t gotten a match. In these same several hours Brian has gotten 17. He’s not counting but I am.
“You need to calm down,” he says to me. “None of this is real.”
“Right,” I say, but I forgot about that six and a half hours ago.
And I feel a little better, remembering that this is not real, that this is all research for a fake blog I’m to write. Still though, it’s difficult to separate yourself from this authentic you you’ve placed for the world to judge left and right. No matter how hard you try, it’s impossible to ignore that in the past several hours, there has been no proof that anyone has noticed you, that you even exist.
Darkness crawls up from the eastern horizon and not even the stars give their light, smeared by rolling clouds that smell of tears. Frogs scream from the pond, from the grass, from the drums in my ears and a train moans slow beyond the trees and you can feel the weight of its rattle against the tracks even here. The only light comes from our phones and the only movement from our fingers, swiping left, swiping right, but mostly left.
It’s 11:00 pm when I run out of Likes. I won’t have any more Likes for another 12 hours. Tinder sends me a special offer for Tinder Plus—which for the low price of $9.99 a month I can have unlimited Likes—and I wonder how pathetic Tinder thinks I am, how pathetic Tinder thinks I feel. Maniacally I laugh and go to bed because there’s nothing else to do. I don’t wake up till 12 hours later, when there is something to do.
The morning winds sweep in from the bay and scatter the white smudges of sky that give way to blue. Birds race above the long, wet gravel drive and a Blue Heron perches itself beside the pond, extending its wings outward to catch the Sun. I don’t go outside. I stare at my phone and start swiping. I don’t notice the sky or the blue or the birds because I only notice the swipes, the bikini-clad porn star beauties winning out over the homely girls who I’m sure have personality. Then there’s the racial preferences. My soul is punctured, leaks out all remaining warmth and feeling. All that lingers is a vague sense of the pain in my thumb and the numb in my heart and it’s only three days later when Brian tells me about the sky and the blue and the birds. I haven’t eaten, I haven’t showered, two days in a row I’ve called Heidi at work to tell her I’m not coming in. Because I’m sick, I tell her, and you could argue this isn’t a lie.
I beg Brian to take my phone away from me, but when he asks if I’m serious I say fuck you, just one match fucking please. It’s approaching midnight on the fourth night when I run out of Likes once again and put down my phone. My LCD lit eyes are slow to adjust to the night and I rub the back of my neck. My shoulders are tense and my stomach roils and I wonder if it was something I ate, but I haven’t eaten anything. My hands tremble. I want to bury my death beneath the carpet. You get so alone sometimes, I want to scream, but I’m long past that, I’m long past any—
My phone nudges the desk—a short vibration so loud that even Brian looks up from his low spot on the floor. My finger reaches for the phone, presses its only button. A faded glow tells me the notification is from Tinder. What Tinder tells me is I have a new match. Eyes open wide, I stand up slow—all joints creaking—and I raise both arms to the ceiling. I breathe in, exhale out. Whispers of nighttime. I close my eyes. A new match, my first match. And just like that, the world opens up like an intimate touch on the back from a passing coworker—a touch that lingers a beat too long, the middle finger pressing down through cotton, grazing the low valley between shoulder blades and then flicks away and gone. I mention and compare to this touch because a touch just like this happens the following day at work. It happens when I’m on my knees shelving a book, but I don’t shelve the book because of this touch that feels too much like the touch of a mother—no, no my mother would never touch me like that, no, not like that—and I’m left there with the scent of this coworker’s floral shower breeze, a bleak meadow, a lone lilac tree, and my knees are so weak I’d collapse if I wasn’t already sprawled across the floor.
join man next week for Journal #4 (in which said man gets a match, sends a message)