It was the summer of undeniable heat, in all senses. It was my first time staying in Los Angeles during the hot months. The apartment I was living in had no air conditioning. Something we really didn’t think would be that bad. And then came the days it was that bad.
We’d drag our lethargic, sticky bodies to our Craigslist couches, fighting for the perfect positioning in front of the fan. Those days, moving required too much energy, too much effort, so we became statues. Dripping, sweating statues.
Every now and then, a beautiful cross breeze would come riding in through the windows like some glorious knight, and we’d all rejoice. But those moments passed. And everything became hot again.
My skin was always itchy, the sweat pooling at my neck, underneath my breasts, in the bend of my knees, I began to feel like I was losing my sanity. Or whatever sanity I had left, had you asked the people who knew me that year. I’d melt ice cubes on my chest, turning over on the couch and think of texting him. I’d reread our conversations and listen to “The Way You Look Tonight” until the room became blurry. Everything was blurry that summer.
I like to blame the temperature for my behavior those months. It would be easier that way, to just shirk all responsibility and say everything that happened was on Los Angeles. The sun burned a wanting in me and that was that. He was an Oasis and I thought if I just drank enough of him, I’d feel relief. I’d be able to sleep. I’d be able to get through the night.
I wonder, maybe I never loved him. Maybe I was just too hot. I want to believe that. I do.
“I feel like I’m a recovering addict or something. Like first stage of rehab happening right now,” I said, my mouth soaking up the coolness of the beer bottle. I had decided to cut it off with him. Well, again. We kept circling the same track, I’d walk away and that would be that. For a week. Or a few days. I’m not sure, the sun was messing with my memory. Maybe three weeks I’d stay away at most, but we boomeranged right back to each other. The heat. I had to think it was the heat.
Johanna walked over to the refrigerator, grabbing another beer in preparation for the one I was about to finish. She has that ability, the kind of beautiful magic that comes from true understanding of one another, how she just seems to know what I need, even when I don’t.
We sipped our beers, joked about bullshit. I wanted to cry. I asked to watch a video of his on YouTube. She said no. We laughed more. I cried a little. I thought about his mouth and the softness of it on my neck. I wanted to cry more. She knew I was thinking about him. She let me think about him.
I downloaded Tinder and thought, “Well, fuck. Why not?” And we laughed more. Honestly, if nothing else, Tinder is a totally hilarious social experiment. We tried to see how many WEIRD, straight up strange things I could say to dudes and how many would still continue to respond. An alarming amount. A guy said, “How will we tell our children we met?” I said, “I don’t know, I’m infertile.” Boy kept talking to me. I mean, bless his persistence. Really.
And then I started talking to Seth. He was bizarrely charming and there was an ease in our conversation. I was still hot, unable to sleep, but now I was talking to Seth. He looked handsome and we shared a love of hip hop. We moved to texting and I was feeling fluttery. I was excited when my phone beeped and it was Seth. I put a little phone emoji next to his name to indicate he was someone from Tinder. But then again, he was the only one from Tinder.
Seth asked if I wanted to meet. I hadn’t ever anticipated actually meeting up with someone from Tinder. I guess I hadn’t thought of much. I had been too busy letting the other man control all my grey matter. My Oasis, captain of my brain and I wasn’t even sure why. But I was done with him. I had decided that. Yes. I had.
I discussed it with my roommates. I hemmed and hawed, played out the pros and cons. I mean, what if he killed me? I had never met up with a stranger like this, and it felt really, really scary. And exciting. Fuck, I was too hot to make rational decisions.
But I did. And he was handsome and kind. He knew I loved sharks, so we went out onto a pier, he joked that maybe we’d just see a shark poke out of the water. It was thoughtful and quirky. He didn’t even know me, and he was planning things I’d like. I couldn’t stop thinking of Oasis. I’d find my way into his apartment. That’s all we ever went. His apartment. Bars. We never went to piers. I wondered if he even knew I loved sharks.
We strolled along the beach, talking the usual first date stuff. School. Work. Being a lost 20-something. He was shy, a trait men I dated generally lacked. I found myself talking a mile-a-minute, filling all gaps with words. Omg. Shut up. Shut up. But he smiled at me. And for the first time in a while, I felt like someone was really looking at me. I was afraid of this feeling. And yet, I wanted it more than anything.
I liked Seth. I really did. I liked his big hands and how it felt when he hugged me. I liked his smile, how warm and inviting he was without the kind of sweltering heat that Oasis gave me. The kind of heat that gives people heatstroke. No, with Seth, it felt healthy. Like it could have really been something.
And then, I fucked it up. I only blame the summer because I want to sleep at night. I blame the summer because I don’t want to admit what a shitty thing I did. Maybe I’m just a bad person beneath all this “loving heart” stuff I spill. I hate this itchy skin feeling that comes crawling back during insomnia, as I see Seth’s Snapchats and his teeth and smile, and some girl who actually deserves him, I’m sure.
Instead, I disappeared on him. I swallowed guilt and couldn’t bring myself to be honest. I ghosted. I didn’t text him back, and he probably stewed in his own anxiety wondering what he did. I hate myself for knowing I did to him what Oasis did to me.
But Karma has the last word. Because Seth smiles in photos, beautiful teeth and a beautiful girl. And I found my way back into the arms of Oasis, and walked away with 3rd degree burns.