It’s your first time meeting up with someone from Bumble. The app, purportedly a more feminist version of Tinder, requires women to message first. You’re new to London and have never had so much trouble meeting people, so you think, what the hell. Most guys on the app work as “content creators” and listen exclusively to Travis Scott. You only end up messaging one guy who, in his pictures, wears cool printed jackets and an earring. He says he’s into music and went to Cambridge. You message: I like your vibe. He replies: I like yours, too. You make plans to meet up at the nearest tube station.
When you arrive, he’s leaning against the wall outside Garfunkel’s. You recognize him from the small gold hoop in his left ear and his curly hair. Aside from that, it’s all wrong. He’s shorter than you expected. When you say hi you notice the series of moles on his neck and the angry red acne dotting his cheeks and chin. He covers his teeth with his hand when he smiles. You spend the first few minutes talking about: It’s a nice evening isn’t it, yes it’s not too cold out, where are you from anyway. You observe each other as you walk. Where are we going, you ask. Little Venice, he says. I will admit, the name’s a bit of a stretch. You laugh. He’s nice.
Little Venice turns out to be a canal behind Paddington Station, dotted with bars and pubs which are lit up with twinkly nights in the already-dark early evening. You’ve been in Paddington for two weeks and never even knew there was a canal. It’s sort of nice to walk along the water with him, but you feel distanced from yourself, like you’re playing at being a grown-up. You think of all the times you imagined walking along a canal with someone in the evening.
He’s not that cute, but he’s interesting. You text your friends when he abandons his half-finished cider to use the pub bathroom. One replies: Is he really, though? You’re starting not to notice the difference. In London, the only guys you’ve talked to have been in bars or on Bumble; you’re losing faith in the male gender. You remember the guys you grew up with and how it felt when they saw you home from break that first time, looking you up and down as if you were surprising them, as if you’d grown up. You’re in a city full of strangers, and nobody knows you or what you were like before; they have nothing to compare you to. You’re encountering everyone fresh. You want to insist: I have a family and friends and dreams. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve traveled, I have a context. And I’m not just a girl you meet for drinks then follow upstairs without an invitation. But here, you are just that girl. You’re a body and a face and a pleasant conversation.
You’re sitting in a bar with a guy you don’t know how to walk away from, so once you’re two ciders in he walks you home and then starts kissing you. You signed up for this, you remind yourself, you didn’t tell him to go home, you wanted to be nice. You think of how you’d feel if a guy looked at you then turned you away, thinking himself superior. Then he’s in your room, and your finger grazes the mole on his back and you just lie there and let him kiss you, not moving but not resisting either. He pulls away and picks up the Camus collection on your bedside table. Ah, he says. I remember my Camus days. I would’ve thought yours would be over by now.
He wants to sleep over. You want him to leave. You don’t know how to tell him this, so you send an SOS text to your female flatmates who will have been in some variation this situation before. One of them comes bursting into the room holding an open bottle of wine in one hand and a vape in the other, tears streaming down her face, choking out sobs. Oh my god, you say as you leave him in your room and shut the door behind you. She’s laughing. I put onions in my eyes, she whispers. Eventually he leaves, and you sit with your two friends on adjacent kitchen counters, eating toast with hummus. I mean, how could I have gotten out of it? you ask. Nobody answers, but you all think: very easily.
Sara Luzuriaga | firstname.lastname@example.org