Journal #8 (in which said man launches his attack, his heart a moldy block of cheese)

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)

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Journal #7 (in which said man contemplates dancing fish and suicide and also, a familiar face)

Often I find myself at Boulevard Park, walking the long boardwalk that stretches out across the water. Beyond the bay the islands stretch out, create their maze of channels and evergreens rising from the horizon, and down from the sky the sun dips and bathes the atmosphere in crimson. I bury my fists into my pockets, brace myself against a breeze that doesn’t come. The air, the ocean, the hearts of all so calm.

Everyone I pass is a couple. Lovers holding hands, arms wrapped around waists, flirtatious pushing and a succulent kiss leaning out over the waters, their dark reflection kissing just the same. A blanket spread out on the beach down from the tracks, a young couple watching the slipping of the sun with darkening mists in their eyes. The fire of the sun a dull glow now as it drops beneath the islands, a sliver of flame and gone. Low red sky separated by brushstroke clouds from a blue above that threatens to be black. Although I’m not alone here, I’m alone here. The way everyone touches one another, they look like touch junkies, everyone touchingtouchingtouching, skin on skin, hips on hips, lips on lips, and inside I scream. How desperately I need to touch something, how I must touch anything at all. I scratch my forearm. This is not enough.

I think of the writings of Joseph Campbell and the fish he often mentions—the fish with the white belly and the dark top that disguises and protects him from predators above and below. When said fish falls in love however, his scales change  their color. He’s vulnerable to attack, his guard is down, but it’s the only way to attract a mate. I feel like this fish. I can relate to this fish, because I’m not invisible here anymore. As these conjoined couples pass me on the boardwalk, I see the way they look at me. My loneliness disgusts them, gives them power.

I want to stop swimming. I wonder what this means. Will I sink to quiet depths or will I float to the surface, pulled by tides for seagulls to rip and devour?

In my mind Joseph Campbell continues his account of the fish—

It’s a very amusing exchange. When the female fish goes by, a dance takes place. There is something about his coloration that makes her give a little move, and then that move triggers his response. If any one of these little moves is missed, the dance ends and that choreography is finished. But if they can go through the whole choreography, then something happens.

And I know we are no different from these fish. Tinder is our dance, our mating ritual, and I don’t know the moves. My coloration changes and I’m vulnerable. The mouse girl, she likely dances with another mouse now, one who knows all the steps, the tap dancing answers and questions on the Tinder screen dance floor. We really could have been something, you and me.

The low red sky is gone, everything falling into a hazy shade of lavender. Silhouettes of seagulls, wings flapping then falling still. A distant glow of a ship. A first star followed by a slow spattering of others as the lavender sky fades to black. I know if Brian were here with me, he’d look me in the eyes and say with confidence that none of this is real. That it’s all a game. And I know he wouldn’t just be talking about Tinder, but all of this—the rising moon, the stars, the lone heron sliding across the night—it’s all an illusion. It’s buddhist shit. In the end we all die, it was only a game, nobody wins or loses and everyone dies. Brian would laugh. I would cry. And that’s how that would go.

I wake to an empty cottage, Brian still staying at Tommy’s home in the days before Tommy’s homelessness. I will return to the Tommy tangent another time, and when I do it’ll no longer be a tangent, but something more—a waking migraine you can’t get rid of. For now the cottage is empty and my mind is not. I avoid my phone. I avoid Tinder because I’m just not ready, I fell in love too fast. Tinder, no, it’s too soon, the heartbreak of it all.

I drive to work. Thick clouds blanket the sky, bathing everything and everyone the color of cobweb. My minivan sways and turns with the curves of the road. Rural country turns to suburbs turns to old town turns to downtown. I keep my eyes off the pedestrians, most of them homeless, transients carrying sacks, empty faces. I turn onto State Street. A girl on the corner, waiting to cross. I don’t let her cross. I keep driving. In my rearview I watch her. Her familiar face. Eyes back on the road, they dart back to the girl, and I do know her. She nibbles a block of cheese and yes, it is cheddar. I’m running late but my minivan shrugs, it strays and I have no say in the matter. On the roundabout I miss my turn, take N Forest instead.

Looping back to State Street, to the crossing, I search for her. The minivan crawls. I turn, I turn, I turn somewhere else—

There. My heart stops or moves so fast it feels still with no dead space between the beats, because I found her. She’s right there, do you see her? Her with the backpack, the block of cheddar, the ratty hair, the gentle little steps.

I’m driving slow, the pavement barely moving beneath me and I feel the rage of the driver at my rear. I pull into a metered parking spot. I have no change, no quarters for the meter. Pat my body down, nothing. The mouse girl, she’s getting away. If I could just explain!

A homeless man on the corner, I beg him for change. For just one quarter, three if you have it. The man only stares, he doesn’t realize I have a date with destiny.

The mouse girl turns a corner onto Railroad Avenue. I dart after her, keep 50 paces back. What should I say, how to explain I was trying only to flatter her with my message, not spit in her face. I’m not still bitter, are you? I really am a good idea.

She stops.

I stop.

She stuffs the block of nibbled cheddar into her backpack and looks around. I stand there unmoving, realize it’s weird that I’m not moving, arms and legs still in mid-stride position. I let loose and walk on, super casual, super cool, awesome sauce suave.

She walks into a Starbucks.

I walk into a Starbucks.

The same Starbucks, what a coincidence!

Behind her in line, I’m smelling her hair and it smells like mice, if mice smell like hamsters and I know they do. This is how these things begin, I tell myself, this is how it starts. These are the roads we go down, people like me. These are the backstreets and alleyways where the good men stray, find ourselves outcasts.

My hand reaches out, finger extended and ready to swipe right on her pale shoulder. The pump of my blood so loud, her skin looking so smooth, and I’m almost—

A jolt of vibration against my thigh stops me. The mouse girl steps forward to the counter. I didn’t realize how much sweat one body could produce. I wipe my hands on my hips. I pull out my phone—Congratulations! You have a new Match!—and I almost collapse. The screen fades back to black. I stand there, my reflection staring back. Someone says something. Someone says something to me.

“Hm?”

“Can I get you something?”

I look up. The mouse girl is gone. A short, terrifying barista with red hair and a green apron glares at me. I look to the menu, think I’m reading Italian and know that yes, I must be losing my mind.

Back in my van I stare at my phone, try to convince myself that if I open the app, I won’t once again fall in love too quick. Because I don’t know the moves. I don’t know this dance. The step, shift, kick, twist, turn, tahh-tahh-tahtahtah, get down and up and JAZZ HANDS! I don’t know it. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t open my phone. I put it in my pocket and drive away.

That’s one version in my mind. In another version, I immediately open my phone, find myself salivating and convinced that with practice, I can dance this dance, move my hips in a way and snap my fingers in a way and bite my lip in a way with a cha cha shuffle and clap that makes the ladies helpless, weak in the knees and defenseless against my attack.

🧀🧀🐭

join man next week for journal #8 (in which said man launches his attack, his heart a moldy block of cheese)

Journal #6 (in which Brian destroys the home life of Tommy Tinder)

I’ve never met the man known as Tommy Tinder’s father, but Brian describes him like this. A thick, red-faced man with a large gothic style tattoo of the cross etched across his jugular and flanked on both sides by the words: MY GOD, MY KING. In other words, the man sounds terrifying.

When Brian and I first moved into our little one-bedroom cottage together, we agreed that this was not a place for intimate, sweaty sleepovers. This was primarily for my benefit. I did not want to listen to Brian scream in ways I fear I’ll never be able to make Brian scream, nor did I want to hear the aggressive press and scrape of his breasts against the kitchen/living room carpet, smell the smoke of rug burn. What this means is that Brian and Tommy have to stay at Tommy’s house when the darkness that is nighttime creeps up from where all sidewalks end.

The first night that Tommy brings Brian home, his mother and father don’t say a word. They stare out from their petrified faces with sliding eyes at this being with the breasts and the unshaved pits and the short hair dyed to a shade of blue that leaks sadness. Brian is polite, says hello, but Mr. and Mrs. Tinder only glare at Tommy, so many questions in their now watering eyes. Brian follows Tommy to his room where he spends the night and the two of them, for the first time, try on each other’s clothes.

After Brian leaves for work the following morning, Tommy’s mother pulls Tommy aside and sits him down on the couch (a beige couch carefully positioned beneath a portrait of our Lord and Savior: white Jesus). She breathes in deep to slow her heart and explains to Tommy that girls like that—what’s her name, Brian?—girls like Brian want one thing and one thing only. They want sex.

Tommy says nothing. Mrs. Tinder goes on. “What do they want from this sex? They want, no, they need your soul. This Brian character,” says the mother, “this Brian needs your soul.”

What Tommy Tinder says to this is: “Okay.”

What Tommy Tinder does is sleeps with Brian, gives Brian his soul.

There’s an extra pep in Tommy’s step, as if his soul had been weighing him down. There’s a light in his eyes that adds contrast to the dried black blood color of his hair and when he shaves his raggy shag of a beard later in this post, it reveals a pallor so pale, so bright, you’d think he was burning. Brian stays at Tommy’s house—the Tinder Family household—and I go days without seeing him.

During this same stretch I’m having my own Tinder adventures—or lack of them—which I’ll explain in some detail in later journals. For now all you need to know is that I wait up at night and watch for Brian’s car, but Brian never comes home. We don’t talk late into the early dawn the way we would before we moved into this cottage together. I can’t talk to him about my loneliness and Brian can’t tell me about his, because he’s not lonely anymore. One of us is losing the other, though I’m not yet sure who’s losing whom.

I don’t yet know about Tommy Tinder’s home life, nor do I know about his father’s biblical masterpieces. I don’t know about any of it. It’s not until later, when the wrath of Father Tinder hits the fan and Brian returns to the cottage, that I hear about it all. I do my best to piece it together for you now.

On the nights when Tommy Tinder’s father emerges from his garage workshop, splattered in bright paints the color of crimson and hellfire, he emerges to see Brian’s black boots sitting in the entryway, one boot tipped to its side, its mud scraped across an otherwise clean rug. Tommy’s father rights the tipped boot, scoots it in line with the other shoes against the wall, and he retreats to his bedroom where the mother of Tommy Tinder sleeps. But the father cannot sleep. He reemerges from his room and takes Brian’s boots, picks them up with a rag, and places them outside. Only then can the father go to sleep.

Friday afternoon. Father Tinder is in the garage and he’s distracted. He’s on the very cusp of completing his masterpiece for the week, but he can’t complete it. Something is on his mind. Something is in his house and this something reeks.

At the time of the father’s distraction, Brian is in the living room fiddling with his phone, probably on Tinder. He’s always on Tinder. Often Brian and Tommy will be on Tinder together, because fuck it. Tommy however, is in the bathroom and he’s shaving the beard we discussed earlier, the one that is to be shaved as I type this paragraph, as you read it. Brian worries that Tommy won’t look good without a beard, because Brian likes beards. Tommy worries about his growing feelings for Brian, wonders if shaving his beard will ever be enough. Father Tinder, in the dark of his studio, worries that this creature with the breasts and blue hair and unkempt pits will never leave.

The door into the garage creaks open and closed and then it opens for good, Father Tinder stepping out. He’s covered in paint. He fiddles with his brand new ham radio, turns the dials, tunes into illegal broadcasts and police frequencies. He’s convinced—or attempting to convince—that this is the cause for his distraction.

“This is what ISIS uses to spy on the Kurds,” he says to no one at all. Brian doesn’t say anything, keeps swiping. The father walks to the open bathroom door, where Tommy is in the process of carving himself a handlebar mustache. “Did you hear that, Tom? This is what ISIS uses to spy on the Kurds.”

Tommy doesn’t respond, the mowing of facial hair too loud. Father grunts, turns the dials. He mumbles to no one over the static, over the grinding clippers. He mumbles from one topic to another. He never looks at Brian. Brian doesn’t look at him.

“I decided I know what I want to happen,” says the father to no one. “I decided I want Sanders to win. I want everyone to see his socialist shit won’t fly.”

Without missing a swipe, Brian says that’s why he wants Trump to win. So the world can burn, he says, and then anarchy. Brian is an anarchist.

To which Father Tinder grunts, walks to the open bathroom door and says, “Did you hear me, Tom? I want that Sanders to win. I want everyone to see—“

GGGRRRRRZZZZZZZZSHHZZZZZZZ. Beard hair flying everywhere. The static of the ham radio. Also, the silence of Brian just standing there.

Tommy emerges from the bathroom, shows off his handlebar mustache and Brian applauds. The father does not look. Tommy disappears back into the bathroom, works on his next look.

Father Tinder then says something, again to really no one at all, about how he’s never once seen inequality. Never once has he seen any evidence of racism. “And I’ve lived in Atlanta,” he says. “I would know.” It’s unclear to everyone involved how this topic comes up and why, if he’s trying to prematurely defend himself against Brian’s liberal agenda or just has a lot on his mind, or he’s just, you know—racist. Anyway, he goes on to say that white people are the most repressed race in the nation and that Black Lives Matter’s only objective is to repress white people further. Black Lives Matter must be brought to an end, he says.

To this, Brian must put away his phone. To this Brian says that, actually, no, it’s just a fair enough request from black people for black people to not be shot by white cops every other day of the week.

The father rolls his eyes, rolls the dial of his radio. He grumbles something about “media.”

Tommy emerges again from the bathroom, with a Fu Manchu mustache this time, and Brian applauds less enthusiastically. Tommy returns to the bathroom.

Several minutes pass before Father Tinder speaks up again. To no one at all, though certainly not to himself, he says that more white people are killed by police than black people.

Brian is about to walk away, go outside for a smoke, when Father Tinder says that the blacks are taking over the country and that us white people need to watch out.

To which Brian rattles off a rapid succession of examples how this is not true at all—one of many examples being that only one of the nine Supreme Court Justices is black.

The reason I only mention the Supreme Court Justice example is because this is the example that Tommy’s father responds to. He looks to Brian for the first time, right into him with a look so disgusted and condescending. What he says is this—

“Nine justices? No hun, there are 15. Nine of which are black.”

This is when Brian leaves, because there are some things you just can’t argue.

This is also when Tommy emerges from the bathroom, with a Charlie Chaplin mustache, and his father gives him a wink.

The coming weeks find Tommy strolling around the house wearing jean cutoffs and one of Brian’s old sport bras, humming the tune to “Lola” by the Kinks—

Girls will be boys and boys will be girls. It’s a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world, except for Lola. Lo lo lo lo Lola.

Late at night when Brian comes over, Father Tinder lies awake unable to sleep because of the hushed conversations that seep through the thin walls, Tommy talking to Brian about what he really thinks of men, what he dreams about men, how he actually feels about his father. And then there are the screams, the slapping of wet skin. Father cannot sleep. Mother pretends to sleep. Both are a mess. Both coming to a slow realization that this is not a phase.

In various corners of the house, the mother and father whisper to each other, though really it’s just the father whispering to the mother. The mother passes along these whispers to Tommy, all messages jumping around what’s actually wrong. One night, for example, she sits him down and asks if Brian is on food stamps.

“I don’t know,” he says. “He might be, because I mean, he qualifies for it.”

Mother sighs and says, “Well, your father doesn’t respect anyone who takes a handout and doesn’t want anyone like that under his roof.”

Tommy tells Brian about this and together, the two of them laugh about it. The next time Brian comes over, the mother walks in on the two of them trying on each other’s clothes and says to Tommy (who at this moment is wearing violet lipstick) that “your father does not want her here anymore.” By her, she means Brian. “She’s not allowed here anymore. She needs to leave.”

And Brian leaves, still wearing the dark clothes and ripped jean jacket of Tommy Tinder.

Two nights later, as a joke, Tommy places Brian’s black boots in the entryway, strewn across the carpet the way Brian would always leave them. Tommy thinks this would be funny, and it is. It’s so funny, in fact, that Tommy no longer lives there. Because father told mother to kick Tommy out. The Tommy that Brian met on Tinder is now homeless*, and he’s still wearing Brian’s clothes.

*Though not entirely homeless, because Tommy from Tinder now lives in a tent on our lawn beyond the pond and now I see Brian all the time, and also Tommy Tinder. It’s wonderful, it really is. I seem them all the time.

😐

join man next week for journal #7 (in which said man contemplates suicide and dancing fish and also, a familiar face)

Journal #5 (in which said man discusses Brian and Brian’s new plaything—Tommy Tinder)

I’m going to press pause on my own Tinder adventure because nothing much is happening. Also, Brian’s Tinder adventure is infinitely more interesting. I’ll continue with the mouse girl another time, or I won’t, because spoiler alert—the mouse girl never responds. We can talk about this and its suicidal implications in another post, when I’m fully recovered, when I’ve had my sleep.

This week I’m going to focus on Brian because Brian met someone and just the other night this someone tried to tell Brian that he loves Brian. This someone’s name is Tommy. According to Brian’s phone, his full name is Tommy Tinder. Tommy Tinder met Brian just over two weeks ago, on Tinder. Two weeks later he’s already doing things like “trying” to tell Brian he loves Brian.

“What do you mean he tried to tell you?” I ask Brian.

“How do you mean?”

“Did he try and fail? Did he stutter? Did he not say anything at all and the try was merely a figment of your imagination, an open mouth, a sigh with no sound?”

Brian takes some time to answer, doesn’t really answer at all.

“So?”

“He told me loved me,” Brian says, and it’s clear that Brian holds back smile, or a grimace—it’s never easy to tell. And what else is clear is the fact that what Brian meant by “try” was that Tommy Tinder wanted Brian to say it back and Brian didn’t. In this respect, Tommy Tinder tried and failed.

And I’m getting ahead of myself, because tragic love stories don’t often begin with the first utterance of love. In this case it starts two weeks prior when Tommy Tinder super liked! Brian. For the ignorant and uninitiated, a super like! is like a like only it’s super effective because you get only one super like! every 12 hours. Tinder notifies you when you receive a super like! and when you come across this person in your digital deck of humans, there is no secret, this person liked you, this person really really liked you, and this gives you pause. It gave Brian pause because this was not the type of person Brian would normally like. This Tommy Tinder was holding a chicken in a farm field and was definitely not Brian’s usual hipster-alcoholic-anarchist type, at least not at first glance. What happens is that Brian is flattered by this super like! and decides to give Tommy Tinder a chance.

I won’t bore you with the formalities of their opening remarks, but it doesn’t take long for their conversation to grow interesting (though I will say that Tommy Tinder did message Brian first with a mere three letters—hii—and I’ve made a note of his use of a hii with two i’s and plan to, one day, use it myself). At night, when Brian is asleep, I lurk in the dim glow of his phone (for research) and scroll through the conversation. I turn up some dirt, some manure if you will. I’ll begin with Tommy Tinder’s slow understanding of Brian’s genitals.

Its reminded me of something else i wanted to know about you and to ask aha. When i look at your name i wonder if you go by bri? And also if you like being called dude and bro because i would expect you would

—It’s important for me to note that this message doesn’t even make sense in context, but please, bear with myself and Tommy Tinder because Tommy Tinder is confused—

Also so i was wondering too are you more correctly gay? Because of how you make me gay? i am trying to phrase it right so i get the right answer aha

To which Brian responds that he only goes by Brian, as Bri is too close to Brianna, but dude and bro are acceptable if you must. Brian says that yes, maybe you are probably gay, if you want to be with me. However, Brian says that he himself is pansexual, that he’s attracted to all forms and genders and genitals, so the word “gay” is far too limiting in his enlightened worldview.

Alright and so also what in your opinion would you call me? Like just to be honest i grew up straight but crossed dressed throughout middle school till like a year and a half ago with lots of breaks and random decisions to ‘move on.’ Made out with a dude and that made my dick twitch then also got a blowjob too for sure. Then like pornography wise its like usually straight or female trans like with dicks just to be clear. Like male gay porn tends to be raunchy for me but i like dicks and cum too lol. I just want your opinion haha. As far as anyone in general that is knows I’m straight. Also, if you liked just boys you’d be gay right. I like being correct on it but its also really humorous in a confusing way

To which Brian responds with a reiteration of what he’s already said, then follows with some information far too personal to be placed in this blog. I’m not a monster.

Their conversation moves from Tinder to text and they meet up. One text in particular from after their first date stands out—

I wondered if you had a dick before I met you in person seriously. if you had one when it comes down to it I wouldn’t let you fuck me but id still suck your dick and fuck you lol… because I don’t want to hurt lol idk don’t have the mindset lately

Now I would love to put more of this conversation in, but it’s a doozy, it’s a long one, and I’m not that great of an investigative journalist. I apologize if none of that made sense up there. I’m not sure it made much sense to me.

Some things you should know about Tommy Tinder and the town he grew up in—

Tommy Tinder has lived all his life in Lynberg, WA, a small conservative town of about 12,000 people. Lynberg is situated about 15 miles north of us and nudges right up against the Canadian border. Being a conservative community, Lynberg is religious to the extreme and has more churches per capita than any town should know what to do with (fun fact: they once held this world record), but Lynbergians do know what to do with them. They go to them every Sunday, often to more than one. On Sundays they’re all church hoppers. I’m not joking. Also, I’m not explaining Lynberg very well, I’m not doing Lynberg much justice. They’re famous for their dairy, raspberry, strawberry and blueberry farms, at least in Lynberg. Here they’re famous for the smell that wafts down to fight with the salty scent of the bay—it’s cow shit.

Last fall when I started working at the bookstore, they were just then opening a second location up in Lynberg. This is how I met Brian as Brian was hired at the same time as myself, though he was hired for the Lynberg location. Brian suspects his hiring was for political reasons. The political reason being the existence of a transgender man working in a small right-wing community where their dedicated Lynbergians come out in droves to place pro-life* pamphlets, complete with photos of aborted fetuses, into our children books and then complain to their pastors, who then complain to our bookstore, that Christianity should not be lumped in the same section as these “mythologies.” Jesus should not be touching Buddha. Long story short, Jesus no longer touches Buddha. This is Lynberg. This is where Tommy Tinder lives.

*A customer once asked Brian if he was pro-abortion. Brian responded that he doesn’t think anyone is “pro-abortion.” However, after witnessing the sheer number of teenage pregnancies in Lynberg, he has since changed his tune. Brian is pro-abortion.

Tommy Tinder still lives with his parents in a small suburban house just off Front Street, the street that cuts right through Lynberg’s quaint, Dutch-style downtown. Tommy Tinder’s father is a working class man and although I do not know what he does for a living (again, I’m terrible at this), I know that every night after a long day at work he retreats to the garage he’s converted into his own cavernous studio. There he works tirelessly on his masterpiece. He disappears there every night and does not emerge from this creative darkness till the early hours of the morning when he joins his wife (known to me as Mrs. Tinder) and sleeps with her, un-touching, in an even darker darkness. He repeats this every night, tirelessly, except for Saturday when he rises with the glory of God’s morning light and makes his coffee with an extra kick in his step, some gospel hallelujah humming off his lips, and he prepares for his mission. From the garage he takes a large burlap sack—four feet by four feet—that holds his completed masterpiece and in his faded red pickup he descends the 15 miles south to the hellfires of our downtown here in Bellingham. On the corner of Holly and Railroad he meets with his comrades, and there he debuts his masterpiece, a massive painted plywood sign that reads—

REPENT TO JESUS OR BURN

Intricate flames, painted with the full spectrum of hellfire, licks up from the bottom of the sign and claws at the blackened, charred letters that read BURN. It truly is a masterpiece, and he displays this masterpiece all day in the street under the sun and chants new testament gospel at the passerby who do their very best not to make eye contact.

One of his favorite memorized passages is as follows—

“AND HE OPENED THE BOTTOMLESS PIT, AND SMOKE AROSE OUT OF THE PIT LIKE THE SMOKE OF A GREAT FURNACE. SO THE SUN AND THE AIR WERE DARKENED BECAUSE OF THE SMOKE OF THE PIT. THEN OUT OF THE SMOKE LOCUSTS CAME UPON THE EARTH. AND TO THEM WAS GIVEN POWER, AS THE SCORPIONS OF EARTH HAVE POWER. […] IN THOSE DAYS MEN WILL SEEK DEATH AND WILL NOT FIND IT; THEY WILL DESIRE TO DIE, AND DEATH WILL FLEE FROM THEM.”

And from the raging forest fires that burn in the North, smoke drifts across the sky, threatens to blacken the sun. He raises his sign higher, breathes in the ash.

At night when the man I call Father Tinder comes home, he comes home to a full-cooked meal prepared painstakingly by his wife, by Mother Tinder. He sits at the head of the table, a proud and accomplished look etched across his hell-burned face, pale skin peeling away, and they pray, all three of them together. In the silence of scraping cutlery they eat, until Father Tinder breaks it. He speaks of his day and the heathens and the homosexuals and the one young shit who broke his sign—smashed it right across the street—after Father Tinder called this passerby a hellhound of the ninth circle. The mother takes the father’s hand in hers, says nothing.

“It’s a cruel world out there, son,” says the father, “but we do what we can.” He looks to Tommy, his mouth full of food, and Tommy nods. When the eating is done, father excuses Tommy from the table, and Tommy retreats. Little does father know that in the dark confines of Tommy’s room, Tommy is texting one of these transgender-hellhound-heathens and confessing how he made out with a dude once, and that in fact, his dick definitely twitched.

The father is the last to leave the table, the mother having long since gone to bed, and he sits there in his quiet world and contemplates the day’s sufferings. After a day of rest on the seventh, on Monday he starts afresh on a new masterpiece, one that sprays higher fire and brimstone and flame.

This is the home life of Tommy Tinder. This is the life that Brian destroys.

😈

join man next week for journal #6 (in which said man discusses Brian and Brian’s destruction of Tommy Tinder’s home life)

Journal #4 (in which said man gets a match, sends a message)

On first glance I feel some mistake has been made, that I never swiped her right at all, that Tinder is throwing me a pity match, a match that is not really a match at all. I don’t remember her.

However, on second and third looks, I realize it’s no mistake. Of course she is a match, because she is very much my type—an MPDG (see journal #2) in disguise. She’s so MPDG she doesn’t even know she’s MPDG. She’s small and mousy, she looks like a mouse. Her nose is sharp and her eyes are too big for her face and her ears stick out from ratty brown hair. Despite her hair’s ratlike quality, it still gives her this mouselike appearance that I fall for right then and there, hunched low over my phone as the clock approaches midnight.

I ignore Brian’s pleas to let him see. I scroll through her photos—most of them selfies in various indoor locations within what appears to be the same house. Bedroom, kitchen, bathroom selfies, all with an identical background color scheme [which validates her bio’s claim that she loves the great indoors (she’s funny too! I love her)], and in all of them she has this same slack-jawed look of loss that says “I’m lost, I’m a lost mouse. Help.” And I want to help her, I really do. Only one photo is not a selfie and it’s her with a guy and another girl with another guy. All four of them stand before a Christmas Tree. All four wear ugly Christmas sweaters. The first guy, an attractive and fit looking frat boy bruh, has his arm around the mouse girl and my stomach doesn’t like this, it’s frantically catching the broken pieces of my heart.

“Let me see what she looks like,” Brian says for the zillionth time (I imagine the mouse girl uses cute words like ‘zillionth’ and I feel the need to catch up). Finally I hand my phone over. Brian barely looks at the phone before handing it back. “Oh,” he says, “yeah she’s cute.” His eyes are already back on his phone, his fingers scampering from thread to thread, weaving together dates while keeping all dates separate, every one date special in their own right. Each of his suitors, I know, must feel like Brian’s one and only.

“What should I say?” I ask Brian.

“What should you say?”

“Right, what should I say.”

“Well,” he says, “you don’t want to say what I would say, so why you’re asking me is beyond me.” Still, he never looks up from his phone. “Also, I never make the first move.” Brian says this as if it’s beneath him. And it is beneath him, because Brian has breasts.

My mind crawls through its options, gems of openers that include—HI! and Hi and hii and hey and sup girl or whats up or some message that has to do with her being a mouse, a lost mouse that I found and plan to keep in my pocket, but even I understand how creepy that is, even in a place as creepy as Tinder. Maybe I can tell her how much I love the great indoors too! That I almost never leave my house and that if anything, I’m afraid to leave my house, that when I do leave my house I have to open and close the door nine consecutive times as a safety precaution (nine is the key number here, nine is everything), but I decide against that. I doubt myself, wonder why such a cute mouse like her would swipe right on a guy like me.

And then I know what I must say.

“Hey Brian,” I say. “Brian. I have an idea. Brian. Brian, I have an idea.”

“Mm.”

“What if I say to her: so just to be clear, you DID swipe me right on purpose, right?” I say this in a very playful, very flirtatious way.

“Yeah, cute. Say that.”

“You’re just saying that.”

“I am just saying that. But also, you should say that.”

“So just to be clear, you did swipe me right on purpose, right?”

“Right, yeah just like that.”

With a new sense of purpose and meaning in their lives, my fingers tap their lettered dance. Across the screen their message plays out—

So just to be clear, you did swipe me right on purpose, right?

And I hit send and could not be more proud of my fingers, they did their job and they did their job well.

As I brush my teeth, the mint paste stings because my gums forgot what brushing tastes like, what brushing feels like. I spit blood into the sink, rinse with water. The next spit is a lighter pink. I lay down on my mat in the corner and pull a comforter over me and my phone. It’s hard to describe the happiness, the pure rapture after a match, other than to say it feels just like this—pulling a warm blanket over an aching body after a long day at work. It really has been a long day—four long days—and I wish I could just go to sleep but I can’t, I can’t because my mind is too aware of my phone and its standoffish silence, its failure to vibrate. How does she not message me back? How, how, how, my mind screams at itself. At first I felt I could not have sent a better message, a message so flattering it reads like—

You mean YOU would swipe right on someone like me??? 😉

But now I wonder if maybe she misread it, maybe instead of coming off like that, it came off like—

SO JUST TO BE CLEAR, YOU SWIPED ME RIGHT ON PURPOSE… RIGHT 😑

A tone that reeks of very little confidence, with an emoji so bitter at Tinder that said emoji can’t be pleased with any match and must spit in the face of every match said emoji gets. I reopen the app and reread the message (okay, alright, I definitely sent it) and it reads like—

So just to be clear, you did swipe me right on purpose, right?

And I close my phone, shut my eyes and know that deep down, in the deepest places where some soul can still be found, I know I’ve made a terrible mistake—a mistake that not just involves Tinder but all of humanity. Somewhere, sometime, I made the mistake of pretending I was someone and became so good at pretending that I forgot that I am no one at all. Now this nobody-esque nature is creeping back, at least the awareness of it, and I wonder if I can ever get it back completely, the utter tepid peace of knowing that you are nobody and that nothing you do really matters at all. I am nobody, I whisper to the dark. I am nobody, I whisper to myself. I am nobody. I am nobody. I am nobody at all. No thing at all, nothing—

I wake in the morning with nothing still on my lips and dried tears in my ducts and I sit at my desk with Brian burrowed underneath it in his sleeping bag, three quilts layered three times over. I sit there, stare out the window at the rosy morning light that I don’t recognize as light at all, but pinkish blood swirling slow in the great sink of the sky.

“She never responded,” I say to nobody at all.

“She never responded,” I say to Brian.

“Mm,” Brian mms. I hear him roll in his tangle of bag and quilt, his nose a mere inches from my feet.

“The mouse girl,” I moan, “she never responded.”

Brian flops to his back, pulls his arms from the sweaty depths of his sleeping bag and although I can’t see him, I know he stares up at the bottom of my desk, wishing away me and the morning but knowing that every morning is just another morning—an end to an even better dream that no morning could ever top, no morning could ever compare.

“Not everyone is on Tinder all this time,” he says. “Most people aren’t. Maybe she hasn’t seen the message yet.”

“Right,” I say. “Right.”

“Also, none of this is real.”

“Right,” I say again, though I forgot about that four days ago.

😔

join man next week for journal #5 (in which said man discusses Brian and Brian’s new plaything—Tommy Tinder)