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Ok. This is stupid. (Part One)


by Jamie Sughroue Brown


One

His message was brief wanting to offer a quick snippet of advice - if I whitened even just my front two teeth, I could maybe be more attractive. 

I smirk at the computer, catching my reflection in the glass. I lean in, squint. Shit, is he right? Hm. No . . . I think that's just a kernal of corn caught between my canine and incisor, hanging around since lunch. 

Delete. With a gentle swoosh, the message evaporates into the vortex trash bin of the internet. 

I move on.

Hello. I just wanted you to know that you have a great profile and a really great smile. Message me back if you're interested. 

Have a great night

Heath.

Well, aside from a thesaurus-free home environment (I presume) and/or the desire to learn new adjectives, he appears relatively normal. I click on his picture, a harmless mug of him toothily grinning directly at the person holding the camera. Or phone. 

I wonder at that - do people take cameras with them anywhere now? Or is it purely a smartphone picture-taking world now? I used to regularly notice the rectangular bulge of a digital camera tucked into a back jeans pocket at parties -but apparently as my iPhone became a permanent companion in my daily life, I wasn't alone. Sorry, Nikon. 

I scroll through this Heath fella's additional pictures because, of course, superficial me being me, that's the first thing I check after quickly noting his height (over 6'? Okay, mental hash mark in his favor). I'm skewing sensitive about my own 5'11” frame lately as I seem to be surrounded by the svelte, tiny, urban hipsters of my own gender in this city I've recently adopted. 

Relatively innocuous, and each revolve around a similar theme - his own face directed at the camera. A comely, lightly stubbled face - so, extra credit for that. 

His writing is succinct, generic, but again, harmless. I sternly remind myself that I need to quit being such an asshole about a man's writing style - or lack thereof. Maybe he has other skills and interests. I mean, I wouldn't know because he didn't really address them anywhere in his profile . . . 

Okay. Focus. I also note that he's a little older than I'm comfortable with, but I decide to shoot him a quick message back. I typically will respond to everyone, unless they're blatantly creepy. Good karma. 

Hello there, Heath. 

Thank you and thank you. :) 

I'm not really into this whole "Internet dating" thing (as so many of us on here seem to be saying), but I'm new to the city and it seemed one of the easiest ways to meet folks. So, I think I've exerted wayyy too much energy compiling a profile that I think best expresses my personality. Thus the occasional sarcasm and silly pictures. 

Hope you're having a good weekend! 

Lucy

I sidle over to the fridge, reach for a Dos Equis out of the cardboard beer receptacle and snatch a lime wedge out of the neighboring drawer. I hear the telltale ping announcing a new message from the OkCupid site, mid-gulp. I check out the time on the microwave, the red fluorescent light burning the time: 1:10. Early riser or late to bed, I muse. 

I click open the message, and it appears that Heath has hastily responded. Too hastily. 

“You are 37 years old, sir!” I shout at the computer, startling the cat who had been soundly snoozing on the ottoman adjacent to my desk. “It's never too late to learn the difference between the possessive and a contraction!” 

I scan the two sentences again. 

Its a greT profile!! What are you u up too

Call me destined to be a spinster, but my gag reflex is enabled when I see an adult male use “ur” in place of “your” and the like. We're not texting. We're emailing. Theoretically, you're (that's right, YOU'RE) in front of a keyboard. Take the time to spell things out please.

I choose not to respond. I think it's in my best interests as well as his own for me to take some time and let my body metabolize the alcohol I've imbibed before I craft an answer to his query. Although, judging by the time and nature of what he's emailed, a response in the daytime may not be appreciated nearly as much. Or at all. Meh, booty calls aren't my thing. 

Shrugging, I watch as the notification icon at the top of the website pinkens, as if oxygenated, indicating that I have yet another new message from some young buck. Apparently after midnight on a weekend is the time to catch a fella on a dating website. 

As I'm growing to expect, it's another gem.

Hi. 

I swallow down the rest of my beer, and decide this should be fun. His picture is literally exclaiming ‘Online Now!' almost guaranteeing a quick response.

Hi, yourself.

I snoop through his profile, chuckling at his acerbic 29-year-old “wit," nod at his 6' 3” stature and choose to address his denigration of a specific horror movie - some masterpiece I've neither heard of nor genuinely care about. I'm more curious about what he has to say about it. 

I send another message.

Tell me about this movie. Why is it so awful?

I await his response impatiently, as I know it's going to come quickly. There's no way he isn't out trolling. 

Instead of cutting this exchange off, as I should because I'm all too aware of his end-game, I delight in the absurdity of me sitting at my computer bantering back and forth with some bro that I know I'll never agree to meet. 

I pick at the label on the sweaty bottle as I wait, amused to no end. He's just the kind of sarcastic sassafras that I'd like to chat with after the monotony of my job.

The computer chirps again.

If you want to be upset, rent that movie. If you want to commit suicide, rent it again.

I craft my answer, chuckling softly. 

Hey, hey, hey! No need for the vehemently violent verbiage, my friend. 

An immediate answer.

Can you forgive me?

I'm admittedly being coy at this point. I can readily own up to it, and that makes me a jerk. I have no intention of ever seeing this guys in person. So why the flirtatious response?

Well . . . maybe this one time. 

The cliche rings true as I've barely hit send -- and he responds.

Text me. 512-xxx-xxxx.

I panic, a little. Is it possible to only panic slightly? Wouldn't that necessitate a different word choice? 

If I continue contemplating this, can I continue delaying my response?

Damn. What do I do? I just ignored the other guy - maybe I should do that again and just go to sleep. 

I'm pretty frugal with my phone number. Sorry. :(

Send.

Ok.

Guilt oozes out of my lymph nodes and circulates with the aid of my endocrine system until my skin burns with it. Why? I don't even know this guy, I scold myself as I stare at his photo.

I pull out my phone.

Hey. This is Lucy. 

Darth Vader's breathy inhalations and exhalations blare from my phone as his text arrives. 

I knew you'd text me. You're going to be a challenge, aren't you?

Oh. You have no idea.

Who knows if you'll ever find out? :)

The Sith Lord's respirations resume.

Meet me at xxxxxxx in fifteen minutes. 

Can I really do this?

Ok.

Dashing into the bathroom, I run a razor up and down my legs rapidly, nicking my ankle. I slap a Muppets band-aid on it with my left hand while hurriedly brushing my teeth with my right. Spit. Wipe mouth, toss towel haphazardly back toward its hook. 

I slide my feet into my flip flops and dash out the door, tripping over the pumpkin dandily smirking up at me from its place by the entry mat. 

“Don't judge me, Jack,” I mutter and, at a more sedate pace, hustle off to my car. 

I don't know the city well yet, so I have to program his address into my phone. The only noises inside the car are the intonations of the mechanized voice directing me through the unfamiliar neighborhood west of my apartment. 

My toes tap insistently on the gas pedal, propelling me forward as the heel of my foot scoots more toward the brake. 

Good cop/bad cop.

A battle of the nervous system.

Toes win.

I'm here. Heel defeated but still willing to do its task, presses on the brake, I twist off the headlights and cut the engine.

Okay, I can do this. I'm fairly certain he's not a serial killer. Why this is my first thought, I don't know. I mean, shouldn't it just be I'm fairly certain he's not a killer? Why serial? Just one murder should be bad enough. I contemplate this when my little Death Star illuminates in the cup holder and Luke's father breathes into the silence. I should just go home and reprogram the text tones on my iPhone. Darth scares me every time. 

Is that you?

Shit. He's obviously been watching for my arrival. 

I mirror the old Jedi Knight as I breathe in and out, trying to modulate the rapid wheeze emanating from my lungs. 

I know that's you. Don't chicken out now.

I laugh, and the tension eases somewhat. I text back, all thumbs.

Don't get your knickers in a knot. Gimme a minute.

I drop a pin and text it to Jen. She'll know what's up and she can track my iPhone if need be. Ah, the modern age of technology. It's nice to be on this side of the digital divide. 

Grabbing my keys and phone, I swing my legs out of the car and slowly walk up to the door.

He's already standing there, silhouetted by the foyer light glowing behind him.

“About damn time,” he rasps, the timbre of his voice insidiously alighting in the chambers of my heart. An erratic beat, and then anew - A reset metronome. 

I skirt by him, taking care not to touch him

-yet - 

and step inside. 

He closes the door firmly behind him.

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