By Liz Gerrity
1. Collect a number of photos of yourself Doing Stuff and Looking Good. Be fit and shirtless! Write snarky, dismissive descriptors of yourself. Live behind a veil just vague and thin enough.
2. Be lonely. Swipe like you might fire a shotgun into an alley. Read pithy bylines beneath curated photos, or don’t. Think about who that person might actually, really be, or don’t. Wonder where all of these people are in Real Life. Wonder how your parents met one another. Swipe more.
3. Match with someone you could imagine existing outside of an inch-and-a-half of iPhone screen. Say nothing because the idea of it makes your mouth go dry and keeps your fingers from typing. Water and manicure your doubts like so many bonsai trees. Wonder at what age you became such a wonderful gardener. Keep swiping.
4. Find yourself looking back at Someone’s profile again. Bite your lip. Stand up. Sit back down. Slap your own face. Read and reread the pithy bylines. Give yourself some sort of ra-ra speech. Search for common ground with cartographic precision. Write something dumb and ridiculous, slowly, with both index fingers. Send it before you can decide you’d rather remain single for sixty more years. Wait in anguish. Flip back to another photo of a complete stranger Doing Stuff. Throw your phone under your bed and hope never to find it again.
5. Find it again. Discover that Someone has answered your ironic comment with an equally ironic comment and asked you a generic question. Feel your stomach swirl with a bizarre excitement. Spend an hour deciding what to write back. Smile like an idiot when she replies. Banter wittily for days. Exchange numbers. Talk on the phone for hours. Field questions about family and gainful employment. Laugh easily. Smile often. Fall asleep with your phone in your hand.
6. Invite Someone somewhere. Be pleasantly surprised when she says she’d love to go. Change your shirt eight times. Panic mildly. Debate calling her to cancel. Don’t cancel. See Someone before she sees you. Be surprised by how pretty she is. Think briefly about ducking back into the crowd. Play it off because she has already spotted you. Approach wearing a dumb smile. Let her demeanor put you at ease. Have a lovely evening. Accept when she asks to meet up again. Meet her at a bar but explain you can’t drink. Accept when she insists on buying you diet cokes. Kiss her. Be startled by how easy this is. Delete Tinder.7. Acquaint yourself with the strange and disarming vulnerability of Liking someone. Only allow yourself to text her after she texts you first. Hold her hand on the metro. Let the weeks pass. Sit side by side in cool summer creek water with her head against your shoulder. Laugh when the sky turns dark and rain dots your glasses. Comfort her when her cat dies. Answer honestly when she asks where the scars on your arm came from. When she says “You make it hard to go,” kiss her again. Half-joke she could stay. Notice the prickly feeling telling you it’s too soon to like her this much. Ignore it.
8. Try to hide your outrage when another friend texts you to say that she has also matched with Someone. Find Someone’s profile and thumb through a brand new collection of pithy bylines and sepia-toned photos. Feel like an idiot. Passive-aggressively hint that you’re Not Mad and that Nothing is Wrong. Agree vehemently when Someone explains they are Focusing on Them right now and not Looking for Anything Serious. Agree more vehemently when your friends tell you this is a bad idea. Think about Someone before you fall asleep and when you wake up. Agree that you shouldn’t see one another anymore. Craft dramatic written explanations for your behavior. Delete them all. Call her when you are drunk. Cry because you knew this would happen. Wonder if this is a thing well-adjusted people do. Feel extraordinarily bad. Do everything in your power to appear manic and unhinged. Realize this is a pattern of yours. Block Someone across all of the Internet lighthouses you have connected through. Plunge your lifeboat back into the ocean. Wonder if this is how love feels.
9. Try to be friends. Fail miserably at being friends. Beg Someone not to contact you again. Explain that you are crazy. Muddle through simultaneous joy and rage when she wishes you Happy Holidays in the middle of November. Ask everyone you know what this could possibly mean. Photoshop her out of pictures. Read and reread the messages you’ve sent. Regret hard-nosed blue blocks of text. Wish you’d pretended to be someone else. Become suspicious of your perfect participation record in failed romances. Miss her. Wish you really were someone else.
10. Let a year go by. Reinstall the app at the urging of others. Change your photos because you’ve been determinedly Doing Stuff and Looking Good. With each new conversation fail to stifle the part of you that considers that this new person is not Someone. Remind yourself that’s the point. Swipe absentmindedly. Chew on the Styrofoam fakeness of filtered images. Hate the staleness of the same series of questions asked in different orders. Wonder again how your parents met. Insist you’ve forgotten her. Think of her daily. Like your friends’ engagement posts and wedding photos. Draw a hot bath of ambition and planned activities. Sink neck deep into far-off goals. Never quite forget Someone. Delete Tinder again. Quit drawing blueprints of this machinery that has shifted your bones. Accept that you’ve given Someone part of you, and she took it with her when she went. Forgive Someone anyway.