He invites you to come over but doesn’t know who you are. He likes the skin you’re wearing, the bone structure beneath it. Would revealing more than that even be to your benefit? His chest looks hard, but his eyes seem soft, like light blue almonds of kindness. The conversation’s promisingly flirtatious, you think, as much as two foreign bodies can when they are 1,479 feet away.
“Now?” He says, sharing an address but not his name.
Knocking shyly on the stranger’s door, he appears cuter in person. You don’t risk tilting the balance of power by verbalising this, willing to stroke anything but his ego.
“Come in,” he says, offering a beer with too many calories. “Is there wine?” Half a glass later, there’s kissing. A few kisses later, you’re in his bedroom. He begins unbuckling his pants, and you reach for the drink.
“Is there more?”
He flinches an eyebrow like you must be kidding. You notice a slight limp when he returns with a bottle of Pinot Grigio.
“I was actually drinking red,” you say, and you’re immediately embarrassed. Being difficult is not a decision, but your personality.
“I’m not an alcoholic,” you assure him, guzzling down the rest to take off the edge, apologising, and he laughs. The mood’s back on track for a good time.
“What’s your name again?” You ask like a secret already shared.
“Does it matter?” He jokes. The anonymity encages emotions like a human-sized condom. His hard chest presses against yours. His almond blue eyes are kind and reflect yours. But you know he will never be yours—and this kind of behaviour is supposed to be progressive.
When he leans over, you instantly consider Hubby material, thinking, Oh my God, this man is reaching for condoms. But he leans forward, rolling up the end of his right pant leg, removing a brace underneath the fabric, revealing a leg a few inches shorter, ending with a deformity. You remember being terrified as a child watching Scary Movie at the sight of the Butler Hanson’s hands. You’re not sure if his foot is precisely like that because you turned away so quickly, nervous about being caught staring.
“It gets uncomfortable when lying down,” he says nonchalantly and proceeds to kiss you with more force. Without an opportunity to comment or ask questions, you let him. You have to, don’t you? Discriminating based on something he can’t control is wrong, and he undoubtedly suffered a great deal because of it… You try to fixate on the bullied little boy inside who deserves affection, but you can’t, for the sake of Mother Theresa, forget the foot. You glance around, avoiding looking down at all cost, and grasp for the glass of wine like a life raft.
“Oh, I think you want something else,” he says, seductively kissing your neck, but it sounds like a threat.
“What’s the rush?” You squeeze out under him, refill the glass, then chug it.
He’s handsome and fit and sweet and keeps multiple bottles of wine, but the goddamn leg and potentially deformed foot conquer your concentration. You shut your eyes and let your bodies rub against each other. Then, the leg brushes against you. As he thrusts himself closer on top of you, his foot caresses your left leg, which quivers for mercy.
Abruptly re-positioning yourself on top, he seemingly enjoys it. His profile said he was dominant. Dom top, my ass, you think. “Fuck me,” he says, holding up his thighs. Fuck ME, your mind echoes. The foot is up in the air, dancing and doing somersaults. He firmly grabs your face and imitates passion, but the only passion in the room exudes from the liveliness of his leg.
“Let’s just kiss for a little,” you say, pulling the sheets over your nakedness.
Will not having sex with him condemn you to hell? Does that make you an awful human being? Thinking about the word ‘human being’ epiphanies the situation, and the blame falls on his almond blue eyes, this time, seemingly full of deception. He should’ve mentioned it, given a warning… He asks you if everything is OK. “Of course, why wouldn’t it be!” You practically shout.
Your once full-on erection turned into bubble gum.
“I’m sorry, I think I’ve had too much to drink. Maybe another time?” You say, promptly putting on underwear, not even your own.
Of course, you would consider meeting guys for a coffee, if someone hot on Grindr ever messaged: looking for a latte, into an engaging conversation. What’s the difference between horny and lonely, anyway? Both are fulfilled by the presence of another body.
A guy and his husband offer their company, and you rationalise double the bedmates will make you feel twice less lonely.
Chatting with the shorter partner in the photo, he claims to possess a bigger package. He wants to know your name. He must be romantic. The couple live in a building, impressive for two incomes. It’ll be nice to experience that familiarity of love, even if it’s just via association, and be relished simply for being new. You give yourself to them but make sure to leave before they’ve had enough.
Still lonely, maybe horny, you didn’t get enough.
There’s more urgency in interactions after midnight, like a clock is counting down. Time’s running out.
“???” He says when you take a couple of minutes to respond. Now, you’re hesitant to continue. And there’s someone else who caught your attention but no answer.
Maybe he went offline.
Maybe he thinks you’re hideous, your self-esteem responds.
Like if revenge permeates through different existences, you ignore the other body.
You decided to give the heterosexual mating ritual a try and go on a date. His name is Chris. Blue eyes and chiseled, his profile brags: 6 ft. Performer. NYC is home, but travel often. He looks muscly and bald in a purposeful, sexy porn star way. He is proud to be hot. You swipe right.
You invite Chris “for a drink” to the gay bar where one of the bartenders is a fuck buddy, so you drink for free. Threatened, the muscly, bald porn star engages you the entire night. Your scheme is working.
Chris goes in for the kiss in front of your building steps. Why are men from Tinder so corny? You send him home with only a heavy make-out session, refusing his persuasion.
He texts you almost immediately afterwards, inviting you back to his place. You accept, reminding him that while one-night-stands aren’t your thing, you’ll “give it a try.”
* * *
A few days later, Chris invites you out. Didn’t you two already go on a date? Why does he want to go on another one?
“It’s OK to just invite me for sex again. I don’t need to meet your friends…”—but you select all and delete, instead sending, “Sure.” Whatever, you enjoy clubbing anyways.
Your conservative yet accepting fraternal straight twin, an Ivy League graduate who considers Katy Perry provocative, is visiting. Chris invites himself over before going out. You purchase the most expensive looking bottle of wine—$30.
After discreetly putting away new wine glasses, you offer your brother a glass of Pinot Noir. “Did you already break the set Mom bought you?” True-to-form, he thanks you with criticism. Someone knocks on the door thirty minutes later.
Your roommate forgot his keys.
“Cool, you’re having a party?” He announces like an open invitation.
You withhold the urge to attack him when he grabs the last available wine glass. The Buzzer rings. You beam at the mugs with despair, promptly cleaning your cup. Your idiot roommate lets him in.
Rushing to the door, you discover Chris is no longer bald. Long, blond curls dangle from his head, bangs shelter his forehead, sharp chin softened with concealer, lips smoldered with nude metallic lipstick. The look would be fabulous on any man who is not the first romantic partner introduced to your family.
“I’ve never met twins before,” Chris says.
“I’ve never met a man in a dress,” your sibling counters.
“Are you like a woman in the head or for fun?” Your roommate asks.
You chug the mug of wine.
“A friend asked me to do a number tonight,” he says, “is that weird to you?”
“He’s a drag queen,” you announce, determined to drink him back to a man.
They get along, engage in small talk, so why are you visibly the most uncomfortable? The seconds pass like minutes. You find the solution inside the bottle of Titos hidden in the freezer. These unexpected situations don’t simmer well with your anxiety.
Chris concedes it’s getting late and that he should go.
“Stay for another drink,” you say, rescinding his wine glass.
“It’s really no big deal,” you say, helping him put back on the sequin jacket.
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay longer?” you usher him towards the door.
“What nightclub starts at 9pm?” The three of you acknowledge.
* * *
You attempt to say hello to Chris amid bar hopping a couple of weeks later, see if he holds grudges, maybe it was an early show. But it’s a different muscled drag queen. The popularity of drag skyrocketed over the past few years. It’s not a deal-breaker, you suppose. Turns out, your family’s rejection exists only in childhood fears. The clock strikes 3:30am. Crowds at gay bars become exceptionally social when realizing that it’s the last call. You offer your place as a makeshift after-hours, and walk home with a love interest and his two buddies, spotting your friend Eric sitting on a stoop. Noticeably intoxicated, he eats a slice of pizza with one hand and is sending pictures of himself in succession, presumably to someone on Grindr.
You roll your eyes, yet sympathizing that he’s far from his apartment in Bushwick, you offer a couch. Plus, he can entertain the miscellaneous guests. You’re living a fucked up Groundhog Day, where everything changes but remains the same.
When pouring drinks, one of the randoms points out the absence of the hot one. He’s getting head from Eric in your room. He glances over to you, convinced you’re going to join. Instead, you suggest that everyone leave. The alcohol has run out.
* * *
You swear to the God you don’t believe in that you’re going to stop using the apps, that is, after your upcoming vacation in Miami. Just a break, you immediately clarify. After a night at South Beach nightclub TWIST, you take an Uber back to a friend’s apartment until a few messages lead to rerouting the address. During the ride, you admit it’s not the best idea.
It’s 3am, you acknowledge, and, I’ve never met him, scrolling through his photos again, as if his attractiveness makes it less sketchy. He messages: “Hopping in shower. The door is open. Help yourself to anything. Hadn’t planned on company…”
You appreciated his honesty.
The driver pulls up to a massive luxury building. Honey, I’m home! As you strut into the lobby, glancing around for the elevator, the doorman calls out. “Where are you going?”
“Who are you here to see?”
“Who are you visiting?”
At 3am, names don’t spark curiosity.
You repeat, “Apartment 201.”
“Are they expecting you?”
You nod and smile. Not only is he expecting you, he is preparing for you. You ride the elevator up. As instructed, you let yourself in, gliding your hand against the marble kitchen island with a boozy confidence. You scan the area and help yourself to a tall glass of red wine. To seduce the now, even more attractive homeowner, you undress and pose comfortably yet sexy on the grey velvet couch.
“I’m in your living room getting cozy,” you message.
He replies, “Wise. I’ll be right out.”
You drink heavy gulps of wine to loosen up, accidentally choking and coughing, splattering the sofa with droplets. He messages you again, this time questioning your location.
“I’m in your living room…”
Noticing the apartment is, in fact, 210, you dash out the door clutching the pile of clothes, throwing yourself in the correct apartment like a survivor of war. Online dating is a battle. The hilarity sparks chemistry. You and the inhabitant of 201 fuck all night, but he doesn’t message the next day.
* * *
A month later, you wake up so disoriented. The window reveals the light of early morning, signifying a blessing of a few more hours of sleep. However, the mix of alcohols running through your bloodstream soon gives you a migraine. You only understand feelings: Drowsy. Sleepy. Hungry. Burying your face in the pillow, you realize it belongs to someone else.
Shutting your eyes tightly, you frustratedly grasp for the most recent memory. A colleague had celebrated a lowkey birthday in a neighborhood bar. There were several rounds of drinks, folks left gradually, one by one, because of “work the next day.” You stayed for whatever reason; perhaps, someone bought another cocktail, maybe it was you, there were definitely shots, cigarettes outside, possibly cocaine in the bathroom stall, an angry bouncer, those horrible carbonated cans of diluted liquor from the bodega, accidentally bumping into a housekeeper in a lobby and profusely apologizing, or mocking, then you’re here.
Oh, this must be a hotel.
The blur of a stranger stalks your memories, visiting for work, you assume. It’s been a few weeks since using an app, so you’re proud you’ve met someone traditionally… On top of your hand, you notice a smudged number scribbled under “Great night!“
Was it? You wonder, who the hell uses a pen anymore?
Typically, after a night of partying, you come to consciousness from the comfort of your bed. There’s a weight of disappointment, maybe guilt, that your superpower failed.
You retrieve scattered clothes and pat pant pockets with relief—phone, wallet, keys. Thankfully only a few blocks from your apartment, you arrive home and immediately charge your phone. You live on the 33rd floor of a doorman building with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Hudson River. The sun pierces the glass with such intensity that, most days, you stop the alarm clock before it rings. When reaching to close the blinds, the sky looks darker.
This can’t keep happening, you think, rubbing away the writing with soap like it never happened. You never plan to get wasted, in fact, honest to whatever omnipotent being will vouch for you, every time you try so hard to remain cognizant, to go home and fall asleep with intent.
An unknown number text pops up: “Please close the door on your way out. You were so wasted last night. Not my scene.”
You curse yourself for washing off the presumable bartender’s number.
Despite losing the day to oblivion—it’s already 5pm—you plunge back into the blackness on the bed that’s your own. Finding men online was not the problem but another escape. You forgot what a snooze dating in real life could be without the veil of anonymity, the judgement against enjoying a drink too many, perhaps, that’s why you reach for the trapeze of unrequited love.
Jamie Valentino is a New York-based freelance journalist, columnist and author. His writing has appeared in Vice, WIRED, Business Insider and more. In 2021, he was a finalist for the SinC’s Pride Award, recognising emerging LGBTQ+ authors.