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.”
“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)