We had been talking about stem cells right before I had gotten on the train. English was not his native tongue, but he did have a basic understanding of human biology and his very first text to me was what we like to call in the biz a "callback" to an earlier joke.
Me— showing him a picture of me as a baby and him— commenting that if science managed to combine our stem cells together and make an abomination, that abomination would be adorable.
It was all very charming at the time.
We met at a bar, which seems kind of outrageous in hindsight. Looking back on the cast of characters that made up my sex life in 2013— Overconfident Dom, White Korean, Small Business Owner, Nineteen-Year-Old, Port Authority Friend, etc.— they all came to me via the magic of the internet. An app, a "'sup," a lonely night and a couple of dick pics later.
I'd feel embarrassed if I felt like this were in any way unusual. But c'mon, idiots. I'm a gay Millennial. I live and breathe by Tinder or Grindr or Growlr or Scruff or OKCupid or Manhunt or Adam4Adam or Recon or Mister or Radar or Boy Ahoy— we have a fucking app called Boy Ahoy! I don't know what it does, but I have it, because if you want to get ahead in this game you have to set a lot of traps. The time I spend on these apps is only briefly punctuated by conversations with friends who have recently re-downloaded them after proclamations that they were gone from their Blackberry for good.
But it's not that weird. Of the lasting relationships I'm familiar with in our post-smartphone world, the majority (anecdotally at least) seem to be predicated on compatibility percentages calculated scientifically and interests hastily abbreviated in 400 characters or less.
So here I am, abandoned at my favorite Brooklyn gay bar at 4AM, literally dancing on my own to "Dancing On My Own," expecting nothing more than to finish my PBR and saunter on home to experiment with Tylenol PM and watch The Good Wife.
But somehow I meet this guy. He's an Israeli musician. He has an ill-advised beard that I forgive because he's an Israeli musician. He likes Asian guys, or at least guys who have comparable features (he once dated a Puerto Rican who looked like an Asian guy). He is there and he is enthusiastic about me as a human standing there in real life, 3D, in person. No stats or percentages or anything.
I think the last time I was picked up in a bar was in college. I had a Nextel walkie talkie phone. I really wanted one of those phones where the screen would flip up and reveal a bangin' QWERTY keyboard for texting and I also wanted someone to take me home from that Chicago gay bar so I didn't have to take the train back into the suburbs.
We talk briefly about our interests, my comedy and his music— he describes it as "indie," which is probably an accurate description of the production values, but tells me very little about the style of music he plays. I assume this description is for my benefit though, because I look like an idiot who listens to a lot of Mumford and Sons (my favorite indie band).
We get kicked out of the bar. He goes off to get bagels with his roommate. It's almost 5AM and we're all drunk and hungry. I opt to go home. But before I walk towards the train, I slip my hand in his coat pocket and grab his phone. I do this incredible thing (incredible for me) where I put my number in his phone and leave it. I don't take his.
I don't do this, this is not me. My standard M.O. would be to walk away and let my fantasies of our long life together as artists in the Bay Area fill my head for a few weeks while fully expecting to never see him again (just kidding I totally know we'll run into each other again, it's fate it's love it's got to happen).
Consider it a self preservation technique.
"Text me. We should hang out."
I get the text as I'm departing the train stop near my place. A sweet callback to the best part of our admittedly brief interaction at the bar. By the time I've walked the two blocks back to my apartment, he's asked me to turn around and meet him at his place. I rush home, take a puff off of my asthma medication, apply a fresh coat of deodorant and alert him that I'll there in twenty minutes.
An hour later we're naked and looking at each other horizontally. The sex was good. Really good from my perspective. But I'm not here to be lurid. The sex, like most of my best sexual experiences, is littered with brief pauses. Micro conversations. Jokes. Laughter. I don't think this is weird. We talk more about our stem cell abominations. Whether his roommate can hear us. I explain what a calzone is mid-coitus. He tells me about the Korean Yoga instructor he dated that had a way better body than me.
Let's move on.
A couple of hours later I'm laying in his bed. We're sleeping. Both facing the ceiling, his hand resting comfortably down the front of my boxers. I'm too afraid to move. This feels too familiar too soon and I like that.
I don't sleep. I'm already thinking about what it would be like to date this guy. Already thinking about not texting him during the week to show how cool I am. That I know how to play the game. Know how to take things slow. He'll be impressed by this and text me first. We'll go on 30 dates and argue about whether or not we should put our relationship on Facebook or if that's passe. Already thinking about what will happen in a couple years when I inevitably get invited to be the showrunner of my very own network sitcom and we have to decide as a couple whether we'll relocate together or try being bicoastal or maybe even break-up which of course neither one of us would want to do, but we're both still so young (this is all happening before I'm 30, btw) and have a lot of life to live so we'll cry and have amicable break-up sex and then get back together when his band blows up and he moves to LA to continue his music career which is now thankfully on par with my writing career and sure we'll probably both be dating other people at this point, but after a couple of months we'll remember everything we love about each other and dump those losers and immediately get back together, adopt two kids because science won't have caught up to our bit yet and buy a house and I'll get interviewed on all the podcasts I like.
I don't sleep. His alarm wakes him up around noon. He has to work. Stay if I want? No. I should go too. I take a whore's bath in his bathroom. I explain to him what a whore's bath is. We laugh. He walks me out.
Already the plan is falling apart. I text him. Nothing insane. I'm not crazy. I'm not crazy. Just a quick thank you for the good time and a casual maybe-do-you-want-to-do-that-again-but-just-the-sex-thing-i'm-not-crazy-i-just-want-to-fuck-again-if-you-fall-in-love-with-me-after-a-couple-times-of-that-it's-cool-it's-whatever text. I'm funny. I'm charming. I'm brief.
Not as brief as he is.
I don't know what to do with this. So I don't respond. What the hell just happened here?
Yesterday you literally said you loved me in your first text and referenced the imagined children we were supposed to have. I brush it off. English isn't his first language. He probably doesn't know what he's saying.
I text again later on in the week. A day sooner than I'm supposed to (I'm supposed to wait three days, I saw in a Meg Ryan movie I think and I always thought that seemed reasonable and arbitrary and I'm often blurring the lines between fiction and reality). Maybe we'll hang out this weekend.
Spoiler alert: we don't.
I should feel embarrassed now. I should feel embarrassed that I did this to myself again. I should feel embarrassed that I spent the weekend aware of the radio silence. Embarrassed that I thought this interesting enough to write about now.
I do feel embarrassed if you were wondering.
Even though at this point I'm used to a certain amount of rejection. I'm a master at it. I get rejected frequently, and with the help of a few helpful encouraging words from ladies in my office about how gorgeous and funny and charming I am, I usually do fall on the side of justice and say that people are crazy for not buying what I'm selling.
But occasionally, usually in the winter, now in a city with approximately 568,903 gay men, I am left wondering a little more often why I've been single for the past six years. Especially if what the ladies in my office are saying is true.
I'm lonely. We are all lonely. The more time I spend in bars, away from the ladies in my office, with friends in their mid-whatevers, I'm finding more and more often that we're lonely. All of us. Every single person. How is that even possible? We're all, from what I can tell, pretty reasonable, quirky, fun people who presumably have a counterpart out there of comparable beauty.
We're not supposed to dwell on it though. Around this time I'm seeing more and more think pieces from Thought Catalog and the New Yorker and Huffington Post and Buzzfeed and every other place that wants your clicks, telling us all about the joys of being single. Or the lessens we can learn from our solitary years. Coping mechanisms and strategies and "up and at'em, he's out there, guy!" articles. Meant, presumably, for a largely millennial audience of similarly depressed and disillusioned crazy people like me.
None of them have made me feel quite as good as when I decided to just lean in to the misery and get mad about it. Break down and scream and cry and stamp my feet and throw my fists in the air and rail at the perceived injustice of it all.
"Look at me," I said. I'm a good person. I have a job. I have hobbies. I have a reasonably nice looking face, a four pack and it's just not fair that nobody loves me like I fucking deserve to be loved. I don't want to learn a lesson here. I don't want to try and learn to feel good about sleeping alone every single night and be some independent man boy thing who doesn't need anyone. I don't care if that makes me clingy or pathetic or insane. I know how it sounds. I am all those things. And I'm a fucking monster in bed if I'm on the right kind of stimulants. Does that not get me anywhere in this life?
Het met me. In person. In real life. We had chemistry. It's easy to write off your Tinder dates that don't work out because internet chemistry is something we all wish was a thing, but isn't. But I don't understand how someone could ignore the kind of tangible chemistry two people who meet at a bar after several beers and moments before last call have— Oh wait. Ok. I see it now.
It doesn't change anything, though. I sound like an insane petulant person and I'm okay with that. Because at the end of the day, if I have to choose between being sad and alone or mad and alone during what are universally considered the worst months of the year, I'm not even going to attempt anything but the thing that seems the most productive. Wallowing discreetly in my room may be more socially responsible than yelling wildly "I'm way too good for this shit," but only one of those options makes me feel marginally better at a time when the sun goes down at 4:30 and everyone on the subway looks inarguably awful.
I'll save my Eat Pray Love optimism for the spring time. I'll delete those apps again and start proclaiming loudly to anyone that will listen, that "being single is the best thing that's ever happened to me," in a secret bid at tricking the universe into sending him along already ("I'm not looking! I'm not looking! See how hard I'm not looking?!")
Until then I'll hold on to how angry I am, ignoring how sad I am, until it all gives way to the same comfortable delusions I always revisit. The "maybe this year" delusions that crop up sometime after Valentine's Day and before the first time I'm reminded that I can't sit down without a shirt on because no one looks good sitting down without a shirt on.
And who knows, you guys. Maybe this year will be the year that I meet the father of my stem cell abominations.