I’m still on Tinder though I don’t still feel the need to be on Tinder. My need for Tinder fades because I think I’ve already met someone, someone I already knew. I’m talking about Mags. She hasn’t yet let me kiss her, she rarely responds to my texts. At work she ignores me and then she doesn’t. I try to control her but I can’t control her. She won’t allow herself to be controlled.
One moment I’ll give up and swear her off, then she’ll talk to me and I’ll pretend I never did. All the while I’m on Tinder, though not out of desperation. It’s the best of distractions when I’m bitter, when I’m ecstatic, when all I can think about is Mags.
I study Tommy’s Tinder profile. I pour through his messages, his opening lines. Whenever I match with someone new, I always ask Tommy what I should say. I no longer ask Brian what he’d say, his ideas of romance aren’t romance, his ideas are something carnal. Brian doesn’t know the meaning of desperation, he’s never really had to try. But Tommy, he’s a genius, a true poet. Here are some of his best opening lines, his greatest hits. In compiling this list I’ve considered frequency of use, frequency of success, originality, and ballsiness.
- your beard is best aha I like your beard. I want a beard like yours but I can’t grow a beard like yours can you show me how to grow a beard like yours… i want to get lost in your beard
I read the conversations these openers turn into and I see the fluid, grammarlessness of his banter, how little he thinks of any of this. How desperately I must learn this! I need to let go. I need to try and be Tommy.
But when I try to be Tommy I freeze. When I try to be me I hate myself. There’s a definitive tone to his messages and it’s awhile before I figure it out—it sounds like he’s drunk without being drunk.
I’ll play that character. I’ll pretend to be drunk.
A late night, a match! I ask Tommy for an opening line. He goes with his tried and true hi with two i‘s. I take it from there. I roll with it. The conversation in its entirety is as follows. I’ve added commentary for your understanding.
~You matched with Angela on 5/1/16~
ANGELA: hey there*
*This clocks in at 53 minutes later.
ME: There hello
Can I ask you a question
ANGELA: Go ahead
ME: What are you doing do you like cardigans do you know what you are doing right now
ANGELA: what in the world
ME: Im wearing a cardigan and feel a little self insecure about it
ANGELA: haha cardigans are cool
Dont be insecure
ME: what are you doing
ANGELA: chillin in my bed
ME: me too* would you want to chill by a pond
*It’s important for me to note here that I’m not chilling in my bed, and I doubt that she is. At the moment I’m at my desk, sweating profusely over my phone wondering why this is so easy, why this is so hard, why I must sound like a drunk for her to respond like this. Because she’s responding fast, she seems interested despite the distance, despite or because of it. I imagine she’s alone, possibly with a friend, but she’s stuck in this Tinder web that she herself has spun. She’s stuck in the center and she’s the spider tugging on all the strands and everyone is stuck. I’m stuck on the very perimeter and I try to tug back. I’m not sure if she feels my vibrations.
ANGELA: not right now
ME: probably a solid idea
Id need more than a cardigan
ANGELA: haha a coat?
ME: a coat.. theres an idea for pond weather
why are you awake
ANGELA: Tinder is just so enticing
ME: isn’t it? Just a disaster you can’t stop watching I love it
Thats a perfect way to describe it*
*At this point I show Brian my phone as if to say: look how well I’m doing, she laughs at my funny! Brian just rolls his eyes and says, “Christ she’s dumb.” I’m not sure who should be more insulted, Angela or myself.
ME: Scale one to 11.. How much of a disaster am I
ANGELA: 12 off the charts
ME: I’m so proud
ANGELA: There ya go
ME: Long as you can’t turn away form this cardigan wreck I’m happy
ANGELA: Oh I can’t
ME: who goes to bed in a cardigan anyway. I’m not even horny*
*I am horny. This is my attempt at a power play.
ANGELA: haha honestly its comfy and damn your still on here?
ME: Are you implying that you are?
ANGELA: Aren’t we all
ME: well shit*
*This is where I crack, this is where I fall apart.
ME: well shit I was perfectly unhorny and at peace and now shit
ANGELA: really that’s all it takes?
ME: I don’t know I mean maybe? I had this image of you not horny and now this image is gone and I won’t be able to sleep this is a true disaster
I don’t get a response for some time. When compared to her usual rapid response, it feels like forever. Instead of sitting there, I have myself a cold shower. When I exit, dripping chill and shivering, I find this waiting for me—
ANGELA: Touch yourself, problem solved
It’s awhile before I respond. I wonder if this is her way of ending the conversation or her way of beginning something else*
*Sexting, I speak of sexting**.
**Sexting is defined by Wikipedia as “sending and receiving sexually explicit messages primarily between mobile phones. The term was first popularized in the early 21st century, and is a portmanteau of sex and texting, where the latter is meant in the wide sense of sending a text possibly with images. In August 2012, the word ‘sexting’ was listed for the first time in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.
Though my drive is gone, as the shower emptied everything from me, I respond with—
ME: I’m touching myself now 😉
I never hear from her again.
I try this same drunken strategy with others but it doesn’t work. There is an inherent problem with this strategy: if I continue to sound drunk come morning I appear to have a problem. It’s a problem.
But Tommy, he does this with such style, with such grace. He takes a pull from a Rainier. He tosses the can aside, gets back on his Tinder. It’s nine in the morning. It’s not until I take out the recycling the following week that I see Tommy does have a problem, that his poetics aren’t pretend. To him this isn’t a strategy. This is just him.
Brian and Tommy still go on Tinder but they go always on together. I get the feeling it’s some game between the two of them, some power play, some sexual fantasy charged with jealousy. They never meet up with their matches. I see them sabotage themselves, lose interest in a conversation just as it gets interesting.
“We’ve gotten really bad at this non-monogamy thing,” says Tommy one afternoon.
Brian only laughs, but it’s a forced laugh, I’m not sure what it means. There’s some unknown knowing in his eyes. I fear that he actually loves Tommy, but I know he doesn’t. He couldn’t.
You might remember Chase from 19 posts ago, the first guy that Brian meets up with from Tinder—well before the era of Tommy. Well, Chase has been texting Brian a lot lately, and though it’s clear that Brian is reluctant to meet up with Chase, Brian eventually agrees. He lets Tommy stay in the tent on our lawn while he goes off to spend the night with Chase. I see Tommy in my mind’s eye, staring up at the ceiling of the tent and I know exactly how that feels. That crushing loneliness one feels without Brian.
But Brian comes home less than two hours later, definitely unfucked, and rejoins Tommy in the tent, tells Tommy he couldn’t do it. I don’t know how that must feel, what that relief must feel like.
The story with Chase isn’t over. Chase invites both Brian and Tommy over for a threesome. Brian and Tommy go over and the three of them have some.
Now the story with Chase is over.
But nothing else is. Nothing is ever over. I’m still waiting on Mags for something though I don’t know exactly what it is I’m waiting for. Then I know. Mags agrees to come over. She comes over at night and the wind is howling. The trees are pretending to be the sea. Outside of Brian’s tent on the night of their threesome, I’m holding Mags in my arms and I’m holding her tight and still she won’t let me kiss her. I kiss her forehead and she says nothing.
“It’s cold,” I say.
Now we’re lying on the silky floor of Brian’s tent where Tommy lives and sleeps. It smells like sweat and fish, it smells like sex dungeon. Both of us pretend not to notice. The wind rips over the pastures to the west and hits the tent at such a force, the tent fabric ripples like spacetime. It’s freezing. We burrow deep into each other. I ask Mags if I can kiss her now—on the lips I mean—and she stays silent for a long time. She doesn’t move.
I push myself away from her just enough to ask her what’s wrong. She shakes her head, tries to pull me back in so I can’t look at her. I don’t let her control me. I won’t let her pull me back in.
Finally, she rolls her eyes into mine. She finally looks at me.
“When I said I’d come over, did you think you were going to sleep with me?”
“I— you haven’t let me kiss you. Sleeping with you hadn’t even crossed my mind.”
She blinks twice.
“I don’t want anything resembling anything even remotely resembling any semblance of a relationship,” she says.
“We don’t need to label.”
“Casual,” she says.
“Friends,” she says.
“I don’t want to lose you as a friend.”
“Right,” I say. And I roll away from her, stare at the ceiling of the tent as the wind tears over it. A thought is bothering me but I don’t know what it is. I try to put words to the thought.
“Define casual,” I say.
She sighs. “Like, I don’t know. We don’t text.”
“And I don’t know, I can disappear for weeks at a time without you getting mad.”
“I don’t want expectations.”
“I don’t expect anything.”
“I’m not ready for another relationship.”
We’re silent for a long time. The wind dies a little but a slow rain patters the outside of the tent, slides down it’s fabric. Everything still smells of sex.
“I’m cold,” she says.
“Are you upset?”
In the rain we walk back toward the main house. She takes my hand in hers and she squeezes. All of a sudden she is smiling and this makes me smile. There’s a skip now in her step and in the long grass I try to keep up. We don’t enter the cottage, we enter the main house where the landlords live but are currently on vacation and whose cats I’m supposed to be housesitting. Entering the house, the cats meow and claw at us, starved looks in their eyes. They hiss at each other. The litter box is full and the food bowls empty. We go straight for the couch. The cats follow us. It only takes a remote to light the fireplace.
She still doesn’t let me kiss her, not on the lips anyway, but she doesn’t protest my hand moving up her shirt. She even lifts her shirt, takes it off, unclips her bra without saying a thing. I kiss her breast. I kiss her other breast. I kiss the places in between. I kiss her stomach. She has a tattoo of the little dipper peeking up from her panties. On first glance it looks like a spattering of moles. I kiss that too.
The wind roars outside and the rain smacks against the windows. The fire inside warms everything. The cats circle the couch, eyeing us both with ravenous eyes.
We breathe on each other. We rub on each other. Still she won’t let me kiss her lips. She flips me over and straddles me. Jeans scraping on jeans. Her hands on my shoulders holding me down. Her hips gliding. Secretly, discreetly, I release into my pants. The feeling starts deep, the sensation congeals to a sharp point, then a flood comes creating a swamp in the places below. I’m glad I wore two pairs of underwear today. She keeps going, she doesn’t know.
The cats know. They hop on the couch as I try and catch my breath.
“Are you okay?” she asks.
“Yes,” I breathe. And I lean up to try and kiss her. To make the feeling mean something. She doesn’t let me kiss her. I feel empty, destroyed. She leaves at five in the morning.
On my mat back in the cottage, alone, morning light seeps in through the cracks. Outside, leftover rain drips from the gutters. I text Brian one word—
All I can think about is her breasts, making sand castles with her breasts, cupping them and letting go, letting them fall away into the sea of her skin.
Her eyes looking up at me, me looking at her, and she asks me—
“What is it?”
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
“I like looking at you.”
“Oh,” she says. “It’s not normal.”
“Looking at you?”
“Not like that.”
So I look at her breasts.
I put my hands on her breasts.
I make sand castles, knowing full well the impermanence of sand castles.
join man next week for journal #20 (in which a raccoon nighttime…)