Vibration, silence, then repeat: you’d think I have a man for every sound my phone has made. I have not settled for tedium, even after meeting a superfluous amount of these shadow people: social media made personalities, masked illusions eroded by reality. Yet dating in the modern age remains an alluring, though arduous sport, equal parts ritualistic and pleasurable.
The art of duplicity is the mutual, silent agreement between the men and women of Los Angeles — wear a mask, paint it with the brightest, most bewitching colors — deception is the nature of commodified dating.
It’s an icy, winter night; I’m dressed in a short, plaid skirt, in an Uber paid for by my date. He waits for me at the Roosevelt Hotel; we had met online weeks before.
I arrive in forty minutes, at the hotel bar, much like a delivery. He sits captive in the corner, hat atop his anonymous head, drinking tequila and lime; the DJ across from him feigns artistry as he queues up his Spotify playlist, Kanye West clearly his choice musician. My guy sings along as he orders me an idiosyncratic drink, which is a carbon copy of his.
Every date is vaguely similar: this one is from New York, his mouth is scarlet, ravenous, and sharp, he’s paper thin and does cocaine for both work and pleasure, and he’s a singer. He smokes American Spirits, has fourteen years on me, and is among one of the oldest men I’ve met.
He takes me up the hotel room — you get what you paid for — my frozen fingers tap tap tap on the tempered glass window beside the bed frame; I clutch ivory sheets that match my bare thighs. I cannot stop drumming my fingers to the beat of my heart as he plays one of his numerous demos. I gaze at him through matted black lashes, staring at the ticking clock. The mint walls make the room hypothermic, the wooden floors have a mirrored effect, and his mouth is ice when he kisses me for the first time. His glower is venomous, mine vaguely acquiescent, and he tastes me again, this time, pulling my body over his.
Who are you?
If either of us was asked this question about the other, it would be impossible to answer. He was a profile on a shattered screen; I was a name in Helvetica in his recommended likes. We are our illusions, and we have successfully deceived one another into some makeshift, one night love affair, meant to satisfy a primordial desire perpetuated by this virtual reality.
I leave his hotel room scented of cigarettes and hard liquor; down the hall I take the elevator, waiting for his Uber to take me home, my phone alerts me with multiple notifications, none of which are from him. How would you rate your experience on Tinder?
Is it possible to quantify an addiction? Reduce living, breathing moments to a 1-5 scale?
I fill in the empty stars, vacuous, half-asleep.
Thanks! We like you too.