My phone is in my left hand. We haven’t texted since we switched our meet up from Thursday to two o’clock today. I presume I couldn’t wait that long. Did he forget? Should I text him now? I’m caring too much. A sharp inhale rips my nostrils open wide. The expansion in my lungs allows the butterflies more room to rupture my insides.
I hold the breath in.
My lips smirk. My right canine digs into the corner of my dry mouth.
I met Antonio on OkCupid a week ago. We talked for two minutes about nothing in particular. He just complained about being away from the city, about being in his hometown in California or Nevada or wherever.
Wherever? (The breath won’t let me force it out) Oh, who am I kidding? I know it. I’ve been rereading the messages since we talked again last night (wings flutter and cut the muscles of my rib cage) and we exchanged phone numbers. (Blood rushes to my light head) We texted about movies and writing, which he doesn’t know yet are my two favorite things after beer and coffee.
I filled myself with that instant of him.
It doesn’t hurt that he looks adorable in his profile pictures, either.
My left hand vibrates and the screen illuminates.
“2:02 PM: Are we still on for today?”
“2:02 PM: Yep.”
“2:02 PM: I’m here.”
The breath rushes up my windpipe. My chest collapses and crushes whatever was within me seconds ago. I chuckle silently at my anxiety.
I discern what I desire. When I date (which is extremely rare), I’m only looking for two things: to feel good; to feel it now. That’s it. My cravings smothered the moment I feel them. The confidence boost of talking to a stranger and meeting them, without the self-doubt of struggling to form a real relationship.
The modern age has given me the perfect solution. I meet all the guys I online—OkCupid, Scruff, Tinder, Grindr. It’s easy. It’s instant. It makes me feel good to get a star, a woof, a match, a message. It’s the helium to my ego’s ever deflating balloon.
I recall the news article by that Yale girl who died, Marina Keegan. It concerned a college girl whose boyfriend died. The girl hadn’t loved or even particularly liked him, yet remained with him for the convenience of always having someone there to hold, be with, talk to. Before the funeral, she found the boyfriend’s old journals and realized he had considered her in light of similar convenience. The girl was shocked, but at the end of the story she still wanted to be with a stranger she met at a party to get her fill, in just a moment.
That’s me. I want the rush of some guy liking me, some guy liking me back. I need him to make me feel like I’m worth anything. I want it now.
Or perhaps it is someone else entirely that I want?
I amble to the front where the coffee bar is. He is standing there waiting. I recognize him from behind.
We greet, shake hands. He’s just as cute in person. We make small talk, normal first date material: “Wow, where in California are you from? Your whole life? You didn’t like it?” sort of stuff.
He orders a cappuccino. I get an Americano.
We go to the back by the bar, and someone’s taken my couch so we sit at the lofted wooden table on aluminum tubed stools with matte brown seats. We are across from and facing each other.
We begin with easy stuff.
I ask if he likes coffee as much as I do. He doesn’t.
His voice is warm and smooth. He tells me about his school. I tell him about me and my writing. I bring up music. I get harsh about the Grammys and Kanye West. He laughs at me and then his lips purse.
“Music doesn’t make me angry like that!”
His laugh is rich like chocolate and the heat of it melts his eyes. The grey streaks from the skylight reflect off them in contrast with the darkened space. My teeth are biting my bottom lip again. There’s something rustling above my diaphragm. Must be kindling.
“What makes you angry, then?”
He’s talking now about what makes him angry in movies and his favorite screenplays and the passion shows in his bared teeth and furrowed brow and flushing cheeks. I feel my heart beating faster as his silky words flow out of his pink lips to my peaked ears.
His eyes are so brown, deep, full in such I can’t look away from them. I put my right cheek in my palm and look and listen. There should be smoke in my mouth on account I’m expecting a fire to begin to burn inside my chest. It’s simply that he cares so much when he tells me about movies and life and the future and the past that it makes me care too. My mouth curls up into a smile. Still I taste no smoke. Instead, there’s a fluffy sweetness like marshmallows or cotton candy.
I feel the rustling again. There is no crackling flame beneath my lungs. There is a warm and fuzzy gerbil. I never feel that for these boys at all.
Last September, Karen O released the album Crush Songs. I was infatuated by it. I must have listened to it at least three times every day for the entire month. At the time, I didn’t understand why I enjoyed it so much. Her words and raw acoustic sound ignited emotion which both lifted me to the sky, bathed me in energizing rays of sun, and held me underwater, suspending me in soothing tides. The album is only thirty minutes long with no track extending past two, yet in that short time Karen O forced me into such strong rapture I was sent to that other side of reality that is a crush.
A crush is a short period of heightened emotion. A state of intrigue. An obsession. All of me begins to burn for some guy. Even if that guy doesn’t want me back, even if he barely distinguishes I exist, the crush always fools me into believing he does.
It makes me feel good. I feel it now. I know that my body sometimes trembles when my thoughts won’t let me sleep once the night comes. I know my body, mind, soul are wasting away and the crush tears me up. I know it, but I don’t care because when I have that glimmer of a feeling all my pain is somehow gone. In the morning I get up and forget and move on from it because the crush has made me feel something, if even only for a moment.
That’s how it goes. My crushes are concentrated and intense, yet short enough I can ignore the beasts they are. That’s the only way I like it. One shot of espresso with water, no frothy milk to deal with. It’s just a second-long obsession, a down-low high, a soon-forgotten secret.
It gives me my fix. It’s everything I need, and everything I think I want.
It’s already five thirty. I want to stay here with him but he has to go. He’s meeting a female friend for dinner before they go to the cinema. We get off the stools. I want to look him up and down but my eyes can’t get off of his face. My grin flashes to meet his. I lead the way to the front and out the door and onto the sidewalk. I feel the heat of him following a few feet behind me.
The blinding yellow light of the late-afternoon day hits us and his pupils constrict. His skin is tan. His short hair moves when the breeze hits it.
“Are you taking the streetcar to the university, or…?”
“Actually, I was going to go home first and drop my bag off.”
“Oh, Okay.” I can see that his bottom teeth are a little bit crooked and I really, really like it. “I had fun today.” The tip of my tongue flicks out and licks my bottom lip. His lips are smiling.
Those eyes are smiling too. “Me too, I’m glad we did this.”
“So (his head cocks and I’m leaning forward) would you want to (his eyebrows raise up slightly, my right foot shifts onto its outer edge) do this again?”
His teeth show, smiling. “I’d love to.” We’re looking at each other. In my periphery I am very conscious of his mouth and I almost lean in and kiss it.
I hug him in a semi-awkward, end of the first date hug. He walks to the corner where the streetcar station sits. I walk south on 6th Avenue. Something is scratching my lungs, they’re black and scarred enough, I barely feel it. I don’t look to get another glimpse of him because I am afraid he won’t look back to catch another glimpse of me.
I realize we won’t do this again. It’s fine, though, honestly. An instant of it is all I wanted.
A little crush is more than enough.
I’ll be fine.
I’ll be fine.
By time I reach home, there is a text: "Meet me at the coffee shop tonight at midnight. We can pick up where we left off?"
Dinner seemed so much yummier that evening...