As more matches trickle in over the coming days, the excitement of each match diminishes and the heartbreak with the mouse girl fades. Though my heart feels like a moldy block of cheese with a corner nibbled away, I feel the corner rounding out. It fills in with a fuzzy layer of grey-green mold. I taste it every time I burp.
I look over my matches. One is a girl who drinks a pint of beer on her porch, the glass tipped into her lips and a bio that states she likes Jesus, Cats and Coffee. The next is a thin blonde hugging a tree. Her bio says that really, she just wants to pet my dog (a dog I don’t have, a dog I’ve yet to kidnap). Number three is a librarian in a Seahawks jersey and her bio is long and personal and looking for love, and also her teeth are very British. Then there is four—a sweet looking young woman, a few years younger than me, who wears glasses and a lot of personality. In one of her photos she rides a shopping cart, in another she straddles Mickey Mouse at Disneyland. Her bio is this—
Feed me and tell me I’m pretty?
I choose number four as my mark. We’re going to call her Dorothy, because Dorothy is her name. Since I’ve already experienced my first silent rejection, I don’t overthink it, I immediately send her a message. It reads—
I can’t feed you but I can tell you anything and everything you want to hear.
And for whatever reason I’m proud of this and sleep well that night. The next day I get a response—
That’s too bad, because I’m only in this for the food.
I smile at that, feel the blood rush to my cheeks, and quickly tap dance in my response. This is problematic, I type, because I can’t cook. What is your stance on raw meat?
To which I get no response, for two days. When I do get a response it reads—
I don’t even eat cooked meat………
I don’t smile at this one, because I preferred the silence, because in this noise I hear all of Dorothy’s passive aggressive undertones. Somewhere I missed the memo that she is vegetarian, somewhere hidden in her bio that reads FEED ME AND TELL ME I’M PRETTY?
My fingers hover over the screen, affronted that they’d dare bring up meat as an option for food, cooked or uncooked. Then they make a decision, then they scamper, what they type is this—
Beggars can’t be choosers
I press send. I put away my phone. I never get a reply, nor do I expect one, because sometimes you know things, sometimes you don’t. I didn’t know you were vegetarian.
Brian tells me you can smell desperation on a man, it reeks and you want nothing to do with this. So, don’t be desperate, Brian tells me, but I wish it were that easy. My body aches for contact, for the touch of someone else’s skin, the scent of their sweat and antiperspirant, of shampoo and scalp. How can I not be desperate when I haven’t held a woman in five years? I can no longer imagine what it must feel like. Desperate? You bet I am. What I need is someone as desperate as myself, someone so lonely, so pathetic, so— but it would never work. I’m not attracted to this type. I can smell the desperation all over them. It’s no good, it’s no good at all.
Or it’s self-sabotage.
On said self-sabotage: Is it fear? After so long an era of unintentional celibacy, am I afraid one of these Tinder exchanges may in fact pan out, turn into something involving faces, intimate touching, only to find I’ve forgotten how?
I don’t know.
I also don’t know why many these matches stop responding or don’t respond at all. Us men, we forget how buried we become beneath other messages, how fast this happens. These beings with breasts simply get an astounding number of matches. Their match rate ranges anywhere between 59 and 96 percent and I’ve seen this with Brian, both my sisters, and the cute girl who works at the coffee shop above the bookstore. I’ve seen their Tinders flood with matches and messages and I realize I myself am buried beneath these other assholes. I’m just a needle in a haystack of men, and the men have better bodies and infinitely better bios by simply putting no bios at all and how am I to compete with this? These girls with their endless stream of choice, they have no idea the purity of rapture we feel when we get a match, and the self-destruction that ensues when said match doesn’t respond. They will never know.
It’s all too real, too hard to separate yourself from this rejection. It may not be real, as Brian always says, but these are my photos, this is my bio and these stupid, stupid, godawful stupid opening lines I say are mine. I can’t in good conscience separate myself from my own creations, even if my creations are no longer me.
There is one young woman in particular I want to talk about. This is a woman I’ve seen before, talked to her even, before she shows up on my Tinder. She comes into the bookstore from time to time, lingers at the register when I’m at the register, and she’s sweet, she’s kind, she has kind eyes, and the way she looks at me I just know things. We chat, she buys books, she leaves. That’s our relationship. When she pops up on Tinder, a great sadness enters me. As I scroll through her photos, it murders me, because she is so nice, so sweet, but she doesn’t have what I want or need. I smell the desperation, her burps that smell of mold. I see it behind her Harry Potter glasses, I read it between the lines of her too-long explanation of a bio, and I just know that she has swiped me right. I never know for sure though, because I swipe her left and haven’t seen her since.
Tinder is different now, I avoid Tinder. I can’t bring myself to get back on because of this too nice woman, a little overweight and something socially off with the way she talks at you. I want to like her, I want to be there for her, make her happy even if I’m not, but then there is the shadow in me, the hungry, starved darkness that smiled when I swiped her left, threw her into a void I dare not dwell on.
I wonder how many feel this way about me. They see me and see someone too sweet, too nice, too unbearably desperate to give a chance. But I’m not this nice, I’m not this sweet, I have this darkness too. I’m quiet, yes, but I’m quiet because I fear I’ll be found out. I’m not a nice person at all. So love me, I beg of you. I can hurt you all the same way. No one hears this though, I’m too much of a whisper. I stay indoors, I read my books, write my stories, drink my tea and sleep. This is my life in the dark. This is my life without you. You’ve never given me the chance to be bad. You’ve never given me the chance to be anything but this.
None of this is real. None of this is real, says imaginary Brian.
What is real? I want to ask imaginary Brian. What matters? In what truth can I find your reality? Alone in this cottage, I know exactly what he’d do. He’d give me a sad look, a slow shrug, then look down into his LCD abyss where other unrealities wait. I’d look down at my own phone and join him in this lonely endeavor, but he’s not here, so I pretend he is here, open my phone anyway and again start swiping, praying to whatever enigma will listen, that someone is listening, that someone guides me, someone to show me that yes, there is a purpose to all this, there is a path and you are on it and it leads to truth, the truth of Tinder, the truth of our lives, the truth of the timeless where the world-turner, the center of things sits still.*
*You, reader, you’ve been to this place and still you seek it. It’s the place where light and night become one, where moments are music, everything is death. You seek it various ways, mostly you seek it in nooky, whoopee, a roll in the hay. Under her flesh, you feel her bones rock and roll and slide over you with the stubble of hair between her legs, scratching you. You feel the fat of her hips, that she’s not fat but she has fat and this is healthy and warm. Her eyes are on yours and you lose yourself to the building feeling, the faster movement, the release that you don’t want to come, you want to savor, the release you’re pulling toward by staying still and grounded in this grassy bed of the greenest grass. She dips down to you, her breasts hanging, grazing your chest and you almost lose it, this moment that has no dilution of other moments. You are here. You are here. You. You. You. Here.
Heavy breath. Her parted lips. Stale sticky breath and sweat and juice and there’s nothing like this because this is where you don’t care, this is where you find death in life, life in death and the two are one and yes, this is the sea with no ripples, the one you can’t see because you are not part of this equation.
You take the condom off. You’re panting. You’re looking at her. You are you. She is her, and now the condom is something else. You throw it in the trash, somewhere else, rubber holding a part of what was once you but now is not and everything is falling away from everything else so fast. No matter how hard you cuddle, no matter how hard you hold her, you can’t stop this rapid expansion of separation. You want to cry despite the numb of oxytocin and whatever else was released in your mind. Now there is that moment you are no longer a part of, there is only this moment you are desperate to escape, to go back, to go forward, anywhere to be in the grass that at the time was so green, will be virescent compared to this grass that wilts beneath you now.
Looking at her, you no longer love her. Her sweaty skin grows cold and clammy and when she turns toward you and pecks your lips with hers you smell the breath of yesterday’s meals and the meals before that and you’re sure it once tasted good and fresh but now it tastes like rotting fish. You see the acne beneath her eyes, the pain in her eyes desperate for the moment you both are losing. It’s too late. It’s already gone. You don’t tell her, because she already knows. You don’t tell her, because she won’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t tell her, because you don’t love her anymore, not yet. You love who she once was, who she is yet to be. Everything falls away from the center you shared, all connections lost. The ripples, the fish, the sharks, the plankton in this sea once so still, so One and together, now appear meaningless and random. Where is the religion in this? What are all these things and why won’t they stop running from each other? Why don’t you stop running from yourself? Go. Get away, you say to her. I don’t want to see you in the reflection of me in your eyes.
join man next week for journal #9 (in which said man commences the tale of the shredded hair in the nighttime)