While society’s warming up to the idea that mental illnesses might be no different from physical ones, legitimacy-wise, understand that grokking this on an intellectual level’s a lot different than actually forging a connection with someone who mulls over the idea of ending their life on the regular.
While you’re swiping right, wonder if you should go off the antidepressants because of the way they kill your libido. Realize you could be alive and impotent or dead with a hard-on. Cringe at the pictures you’ve used, the pathetic, full-of-shit life you could never, with good conscience, share with anyone ever again. Understand: every right swipe is a shovelful of dirt on the grave of your pride.
Keep swiping right anyway.
Go to the gallery showing for the free cake and the pop that’s been left out too long. Stay for the photographer who captures freshly foreclosed homes, newly abandoned factories, places at the interstitial point between habitation and vacancy. Tell her you think her work is “really very good.” Shake your head even as the words come out, like concurrently with what you’re saying. Take her card, but remember: she’s only doing this to be polite. Because she feels sorry for you. Choke on the pop but don’t let her see. Stand off to the side. Pretend to appraise one of her photos on the wall. Sputter silently.
Compose a text saying how great it was to meet. How you’d love it if she’d give you a “shot” and join you for lunch sometime. Delete everything. Start over. Be nonchalant. End the text with an emoticon of a smiling monkey. Realize that’s childish and change it to “hahaha.” Give the hahaha its own sentence and capitalize the H. Go back to the smiling monkey. Leave your phone on the bed, text unsent. Masturbate furiously. But stop, because antidepressants. End the text with a hahaha and a smiling monkey. Hit send.
Throw up in a dumpster outside the restaurant. Worry it might get all over the inevitable workers when it’s emptied. Decide you’re a terrible person for doing this. Consider stopping at the CVS, buying a towel, tossing it in the dumpster for absorption. Be in the middle of counting your change when she arrives. Put the change in her hand. Tell her you don’t know why you did that, that you didn’t mean she was a prostitute or anything like that.
Get Mederma for the scars that train-track stitch marks down your arms. But the kind for kids, because you’re cheap. It goes on purple and smells like a birthday party. Laugh at your stupid, birthday-smelling scars.
Get a match on Tinder. Be smooth for once. Set up a date. Marathon a show the night before, something cerebral so you have no brainspace for overthinking. Sleep for twelve hours. Take out the concealer you bought at Sephora from the purple-lipsticked cashier who wouldn’t stop staring at your train track arms. Get as far as opening the cap before putting it away. Compromise by putting on a nice button-down.
Get pushed against the wall, knocking over a framed photo. Apologize, but keep going when she insists it’s okay. When she moves for the button-down, bat her hands away. Take her shirt off instead. When she says “now you,” take your pants off. Laugh when she laughs. Get serious when she gets serious. Make it casual when you turn off the lights. Tell her you want to see her by touch. Make a note: good line. It’s super effective. Tackle the bed.
When her fingers trace infinity symbols or figure eights down your flank, resist the urge to pee. When her fingers approach the smooth tightness of scar tissue, let them. Listen to the vacuum of sound this surprise has made. Reach over and turn on the light. Be naked. Try not to notice the way her nose wrinkles, how she recovers by turning it into a sniff. Be grateful when her cat walks in, jumps on the bed, sidles between your naked bodies. Let the cat lick your arm with its sandpaper tongue and be grateful, again, for these creatures. Put your clothes on in silence.
Delete all your apps. Your profiles. Your personae. Toss out the Sephora concealer. Consider trashing the button-downs, but don’t be stupid.
Pull the concealer out of the trash.
Put it back in. Take the garbage to the curb.
Be okay with this. Go to a library book sale and cover your arms with a tower of books. Fantasize about dropping them and the mousy bookworm who will help pick them up. Bump into someone during your reverie. Be told to watch where the fuck you’re going. Drop not a single book. Checkout. Sit down and appraise your haul. Consider posting a pic on social media. Don’t. Be told the dude you bumped into was a bit harsh. Look over. See a woman behind her own booktower. See she has The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Tell yourself not to say “Oscar Wilde” when you gush, but do it anyway. Appreciate the dimples. Appreciate the dimples.
Let her unstack your tower, one at a time. Be naked. Notice her noticing. Try to bring it back to books, and be grateful as she goes along with it. As she smiles a smile to you that says. That says. That says. I know.