Journal #16 (in which the earth beneath said man vibrates, violently)

I wake to the world vibrating. The earth quivering violently beneath me. In the next room I hear pots fall from the counters, books off the shelves. I hear Brian scream. Jolting up from my mat, I search for something to hide beneath, somewhere to protect myself from this. The room is so bare, really, there is nowhere to cower.

I stumble into the next room, keeping myself steady against the vigorous vibration of the floor. Is this it—the Big One? Or something deeper. The dawn of the living Tinder. I buried you, I swear. In the next room the ground is unmoving, but Brian is manic. Turning over tables and chairs and throwing out books, emptying drawers. He looks to me, his yes yellow and full of dust.

“You. Where? Have you seen my phone?” His hands are trembling. So are his breasts.

“Your phone.”

“My phone. Have you seen it?”

“No.”

I turn around, back to my mat in the corner where the ground still trembles with a low hum, where my pillow seems to be the epicenter of all this. Listening to the crash of everything in the next room, I carefully reach under my pillow. My fingers touch a phone.

My phone, clean. My phone, alive.

My phone, vibrating.

Flashes of the night. Dirt and shovel, gritty hands. A phone put to sleep, six feet under. The wrong man died last night. The wrong King put to his death. Brian, he won’t find his phone, not in there. I say nothing.

I look to my own phone. A survivor. Several notifications from Tinder. I scroll through them. My heart races, my palms grow sweaty. I thought I was done with this. Tinder informs me: you’ve been super liked.

Me. I’ve been super liked. Me, Super Liked!

An hour passes before I realize I’m reading the same line over and over again. Finally, I unlock my phone. Open the Tinder account that I thought was dead. It lives, thrives even.

When you receive a Super Like, it doesn’t place the person who Super Liked you at the top of the deck. You must swipe through other prospective mates first. I swipe. I swipe. I swipe again. Three cards down, I see the card highlighted blue that indicates the Super Like. Swipe. Swipe. Super Like.

My heart stops. My neck, paralyzed.

She’s terrifying.

Her hair is dyed red, her nose and lips and eyebrows all pierced. She’s a couple years older than me. Her name is Robin but her friends call her Bob. She cuts her hair like Brian cuts his hair. In one photo she wears a Batman onesie. In another she stands next to a bearded man with a knife. He wears the same onesie.

Later, when I ask Brian why someone like that would Super Like someone like me, he tells me that I’m their type, that they like the quiet ones. This Robin, she wanted to eat you alive, he says. She wanted to dominate.

But in the moment, I swipe her right because I’m flattered, because I’m curious, because I have nothing better to do.

She messages me immediately—

How goes it, sir?

I look at her profile again. It says she’s 12 miles away.

I return to the message, deliberate on what to send. What I send is this—

Goes well. Sun’s out, I’ve been super liked, I have no complaints. And you? (with super cool, casual undertones)

An immediate response—

Well, I missed most of the Sun due to work, but I’m off now, so I also have no complaints 😉

My god, I’m incapable of communicating this fast. I look once again at her profile. She’s now 3 miles away.

1 mile away.

Less than a mile away.

I put down my phone, look out the window. I bolt to the next room, look out that window too. Looking for red hair in the woods, in the reeds, in the pond. Nothing. Trembling fingers, I take out my phone. Using Tinder to triangulate my location, I fear she’ll find me before I respond. I type fast—

I type something about the weather, how the weather looks next week too, that it looks good.

To which I get no response. I wait there, heart hammering, searching the green outside for that splash of red. I wait. I look at my phone.

1 mile away.

3 miles away.

20 miles.

I never get a response, probably because I was talking about the weather.

In the living room/office/kitchen/entryway, Brian puts books back on the shelves, pots back on the counter. Both of us are trembling.

“Find your phone?” I ask.

Brian shakes his head. “What’s wrong with you?”

I shake my head.

I don’t yet tell him about the Super Like. The Super Like isn’t that important, nor the vanished possibility of my getting laid that night had the weather not been so nice and worth mentioning. What is important is what happens next. Because now I’m swiping again, now I’m getting used to the rejection. I don’t care, I just don’t care. Swipe swipe swipe. Wandering outside, eyes on my phone, swipe swipe, I don’t care.

Then there she is. I’m sitting on the porch now and well damn it, there she is. I stop swiping, I stare at her face on the screen.

“Brian!”

No answer.

“Brian!”

I get up, go inside. Brian is stretched out across the carpet, reading a book. Tommy is somewhere outside, roaming the fields, prowling the grass and talking with the chickens and cats and wild things, because that is what Tommy does. “It’s Mags,” I say to Brian.

Brian barely looks up from his book. It’s probably something by David Foster Wallace.

“It’s Mags,” I say again.

I show Brian my phone and he sees that yes, it is Mags. Mags with her dog in the snow and her blond hair of almost the same color. She looks different because she’s not wearing glasses. She always wears glasses at work. She also usually wears sweatpants, the tight formfitting kind with words across the butt. I never read them because I’m afraid. I never read them because there are cameras. I never read them because she is only 18. But at night, under my sheets I imagine what those words must say and what it would mean if the words weren’t there—by that I mean if the sweatpants weren’t there.

Mags doesn’t like it when I call her Mags but I still call her Mags. I don’t remember what her full name is. Something longer. Do you remember the coworker who caressed my back, way back in Journal #3, the one who smelled of lilacs and collapsed my knees?

That touch.

I’m gaping at my phone, at my Tinder, at Mags and her eyes without glasses, staring back up at me.

“What are you going to do?” Brian asks. “You’re going to swipe her right, right?”

“Should I? I was going to swipe her left, because, I mean, sexual harassment.”

“But, I mean, you’re going to swipe her right, right? It’s Mags. I mean… the Mags.”

And he makes an excellent point. It is the Mags.

Brian takes my phone from me, and he scrolls though her photos, reads her bio and laughs. “Aw she really worked hard on this one, you can tell. You need to swipe her right.” He hands the phone back to me, and I’m surprised he didn’t swipe right for me. I thought he was going to swipe right for me, that’s why I let him take it from me so easily.

“I shouldn’t,” I say.

“You should.”

“Sexual harassment,” I say.

“You’re not at work.”

“She might be.”

“It would be sexual harassment not to swipe her right. It’s Mags.”

It’s Mags. I walk back to the porch, sit down and lay my phone in my lap. I see Tommy out there, searching the fields, the trees, sniffing the dirt for God knows what. If Brian can find that on Tinder, I can find someone too.

I close my eyes, I swipe right.

Nothing happens. It’s not a match.

My heart feels weird.

The next day at work, Mags is working too. I watch her, I try to read her movements, her eyes, if her eyes are looking at me when I’m not looking at her, but it’s hard to tell because I’m not looking at her when I’m not looking at her. Also, most of the time I’m looking at her. Her hair is just short of shoulder length, white as starlight and yet it has streaks of something brighter. Behind her glasses her eyes are a pale blue. Have those eyes come across me on Tinder? Has she even been on Tinder recently?

Still, I think of that touch of hers. Sometimes when I see her coming I grab a book, any book, only to shelve it, only to turn away from her in the hopes her finger will once again graze that valley, make me weak to that lilac breeze.

She wouldn’t swipe me left, would she?

She’s awful at her job, worse even than me. She makes me feel like a good worker, top tier. She comes to me sometimes and complains there is nothing to do. I look at the books that need to be shelved, the shelves that need to be straightened, the stairs that need to be swept and I look her in the eyes and believe myself when I say—

“You’re right, there’s nothing to do.”

She scoots a stool into the YA section and opens a book and reads, her little chin propped up on her little fist. I then do the things that were the nothings left to be done. Shelve the books, straighten the shelves, sweep the stairs. All the while I’m watching her, wondering if she’s seen me on her phone with my shirt off, one claw out, in front of a fireplace on three of my fours.

My stomach roils with these thoughts, gives me diarrhea. Soupy poopy as Mags would call it.

It takes a few days for the match to come—

CONGRATULATIONS YOU HAVE A NEW MATCH!

—and yes, it is Mags. I see it in the morning, though it happened sometime in the night, somewhere between 3:19 and 3:20 am. I turn off my phone. I don’t message her.

That day I watch her more closely than usual. Her eyes are red, her sockets are swollen, she’s worse at her job than usual. I see her shelve a fiction book in the mystery section. In the mystery section! Later, I hear someone crying in the bathroom. Mags is nowhere to be seen. When Mags reappears and the bathroom is empty, I say nothing. The bathroom is wet with rain. I mop up the puddles.

I follow her at a distance. I wait for her to say something, anything, about our match on Tinder. She never says anything. She keeps sniffing. Her sinuses sound awful. It’s unattractive.

It’s after closing and the lights are off and I’m counting the cash in the registers when I sense her approach. That lonely lilac breeze. Then it’s still. Warm, stagnant air. I feel a hand slide down my lower back, a light body press up against me, a heavy head resting on my shoulder. Tears that smell of salt. Blond hair that smells of trees.

😥

join man next week for journal #17 (in which a beast is awakened)

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