13. fish: reel reflections

Fish: I love you 🙂

I threw my phone across the table of an all-day breakfast diner. “UhhhAH” is the best phonetic spelling of the sound I made. I sat there for a minute, in utter disbelief. Reclaiming my phone from the chrome legged table I ventured to the end of the setting for 7, to show my sisters what had just lit up my phone.

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The tabletop. The diner. The day he said I love you.

“I’m amorous when I’m hungover” my middle sister tells me. I decide it’s best to assume it means nothing. How could it mean anything else? My thumbs tap a reply:

Me: Are you still hammered?
Fish: Hungover yes
Me: Thoughts on Kansas City [game] next week?

Yes I did. Football. We talked a bit about the upcoming games a bit and then we don’t talk for two days. When he checks in asking how obedience class for my dog is going, I lament that she’s more apt to listen to the trainer than she is to me. He says perhaps it’s because I smell funny, like perfume. We talk scents. And I tell him I like aroma therapy, usually mint and eucalyptus, for headaches or to stress:

Fish: I heard sex was the number 1 stress reliever
Me: I heard men were the number one cause of early death in women\
Fish: Cuddling is too
Me: True. Endorphins, dopamine, or something. You need a cuddle?
Fish: Ya
Me: What’s wrong?
Fish: Ah nothing but i do
Me: Tomorrow?
Fish: Oooh well ya if ud like

I quite literally couldn’t make myself respond. When I say I’m averse to vulnerability I mean, it can stop me dead in my tracks. I can’t move, I can’t speak, I can’t text:

Fish: So ur coming over tm or i didn’t really get it
Fish: So ur not coming over tm?
Fish: 20 hour response time! What the sam dickens

In truth, I have a lot of respect for fish here; I absolutely need(ed) to be called on my bullshit. (And maybe one day I’ll call him on his.) But at any rate it worked. I replied him I was just drinking tea with my mom eleven minutes later:

Fish: U forgot to put in an excuse
Me: No excuse?
Fish: Ya for not msging me back in 20 hours
Fish: At least it wasnt 24 though right? 😉

I apologized. I asked him how his day was. He asked me how mine was, life goes on. I told him how stressful my work has been and that I was tucking into bed early with Netflix and a granola bar.

Fish: Okay ill assume no cuddles then have a nice night
Me: Already in bed 🙂
Fish: I worked out, now just drinking wine! Ha
Me: Fancy. For the antioxidants?
Fish: I dunno, just wanted that stress relief
Me: Whats the stress?
Fish: Not worth sharing
Me: :/
Fish: Wine helps
Me: Ah fish

So with his intent and meaning entirely unknown, waters muddied, I flopped on the invitation to go cuddle a fish. Some days pass, and on a Thursday in January I’ve climbed in the tub to warm up from our absolutely frigid Canadian winter temperatures of late. Fish is texting me about Netflix and I tell him I might open up my newly arrived box of hangers and reorganize my closet again. He throws out a bunch of words that don’t register with me until it’s too late for me to pull my normal avoidance tactics. I’m bamboozled:

Fish: Ill wait to start the post for you
Me: ?
Fish: Tom hanks meryl streep
Me: I don’t follow
Fish: Its a movie. Award winning flick
Me: You’re putting it on?
Fish: Haha yeah its on crave
Me: Craves a channel I take it?
Fish: Its like Netflix. Ill give you til 9
Me: To come over?
Fish: Haha ya .. I guess its cold though
Me: Hm yeah I jumped in the tub quick. If you’re serious I’ll come.
Fish: Always serious. Are you going to the Canal this weekend?
Me: Unsure yet. But I’ll try to be there by 9.
Fish: Ok

I got out of the tub. And without washing my hair or a stitch of makeup, I put on jogging pants and Buffy the Vampire Slayer t-shirt, pinched my cheeks in the mirror, a la Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, and slid on my winter boots and coat. I was at his front door by 9. I take off the coat that he helped me pick. He offers me a drink which I decline, and we start the movie. Every interaction that night brought me closer to the realization that maybe I’ve romanticized six months of barely knowing yet another man:

  • He remarks “you wore jogging pants”, seeming genuinely surprised.
    • In six months fish has only ever seen me in jeans or underwear or naked. He looked like he was shocked I owned them at all.
  • He earnestly asks me mid-movie if I “ever read the newspaper”.
    • In six months we’ve never discussed politics or current events or what we read. He has no idea I’m an avid reader, that my bedroom is full of books and pens and journals full of quotes. He has no idea I’d always intended to go to school for journalism, but on a whim chose graphic design.
  • He brings his legs up off the ottoman and lays them across my lap. “Is this ok?”
    • In six months we lack the emotional intimacy necessary for him to cuddle me without consent.

That last bit is ironic because when the movie ends he scooted down beside me on the couch and as we started kissing he put his hands down the front of the aforementioned jogging pants, all without a word. We fool around a while and without warning he abruptly says “Oh, you’re probably tired huh?”

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In a previous blog fish begged me to stay the night with him before pulling the rug out from under me “Or you know, you can just leave.” I wrote the following:

I was at his kitchen counter collecting my purse and car keys before he even realized what had happened – he was throwing clothes on following me scrambling for an explanation and offering retractions on whatever he said. I caught the look in his eye for just a second – he looked like he felt some combination of bewilderment and horrified. … I cried in my car as I drove home. It was 2am.
– fish 5: ps he loves beer

Six months later, fish is saying to me “we should do this again sometime” and it rang so empty, like I was just another girl, after just another first hookup. I put on my coat in his kitchen, he didn’t walk me to the door, hell, I don’t think I even looked back at him from the door. I didn’t cry in my car this time. I did however hit the girl squad group chat with a little gem of a text: “I just left fish. We watched a movie and he fingerbanged me on the couch. Like I’m 18.” It was 11:07pm.

***

Fish told me several times that while we “weren’t exclusively dating yet, maybe in a few months we would.” I was always relieved, back then, when he said it because I myself needed more time to feel him out, but I found myself missing him or wondering where he was and I knew – things had started to change for me emotionally. So I decided it was time: we reeled him, we kissed him, and now we have to take the hook from his lip and send him back to the sea:

Me: So I was thinking I should talk to you and just say that we’ve probably spent enough time figuring each other out. And whatever our arrangement was before, I’m at the point now where it makes me feel bad. Not bad bad, just not good. If that makes sense.
Fish: Not really but ill go with the flow
Me: I don’t want to be someones friends with benefits. So it is what it is I guess.
Fish: Gotcha. Thought you did for a while. Thats odd [you felt bad], we haven’t even hung out or talked a ton lately.
Me: Yeah maybe that’s why? I missed you and realized we’re on different pages.
Fish: Yeeeh im jsut like always, nnever get serious with anyone
Me: Yeah fair enough I wouldn’t ask anyone to do anything differently, you have to do what makes you happy.
Fish: Well going forth as is was still working for me. We could def chill more though if thats what you want. But if not … okay. … If you don’t want to see me at all, that sucks but okay.
Me: I don’t want to be a friend with benefits, to anyone, not just you. I enjoy my time with you but it isn’t going to change the fact that you’re a) not the relationship type or b) I’m not your type.
Fish: I swear u said you didn’t want anything serious a while ago and I went with it. Maybe not?
Me: You aren’t wrong. I absolutely did say that. I’m texting you now because that has changed for me, and I understand it hasn’t for you. It just is what it is.
Fish: Ok. So no hangouts tm? 😛
Me: My kid comes home. But I want to be clear here, how you feel is a sign that we should not spend time together … for me.
Fish: Well u kinda bombarded me after u not caring for a while.
Me: Yeah. I’m not going to wax poetic about this. I did care. It was hurting my feelings. It isn’t your fault. I wasn’t aligning my behavior with things that matter to me. I don’t want to change how you feel at all.
Fish: I do like u but uve decided it appears
Me: Yeah I don’t know. Maybe you like me enough to sleep with me or grab dinners or watch movies, but I’m more than those things. And for the right girl you’ll want more than those things.
Fish: Well I dunno, sorry for ur sudden change of heart
Me: Don’t be. I was never really the FWB type of girl. I don’t regret any of it though.
Fish: Ahhh look what u made me do.
Me: Don’t cry over spilled spaghetti. Enjoy supper!
Fish: U were just upsetting me so i fumbled. Are u going to block and delete me and all that stuff?
Me: No of course not. I’m not mad at you fish, we just want different things. Nobody’s fault.
Fish: Sooo never let u know when im bored and want someone to hangout with or have wine and movies? I just want to know ur rules.
Me: … I’d rather not be called because you’re bored and have nothing better to do. It borders on insulting. I’m kind and fun and people generally call me because they want to be around me, because they recognize those traits.
Fish: I didnt mean it like that, im always bored i live alone
Me: I don’t know what to say? Date someone. Boredom and loneliness are cured by building emotional intimacy.
Fish: Correct but easier said than done
Me: I don’t know.
Fish: Well ur the one that would see me then go on another date that day … if that didnt scream i dont care about u i dont know what does
Me: Fish I haven’t seen another guy since that day but that doesn’t matter here. We had enough time. It’s no ones fault. You’re kind, handsome, well loved, your family is lovely, stable, all good things. It’s just sleeping with someone, missing them, wishing they wanted to see me is unhealthy … for me … for my self worth.
Fish: Uve never said any of this … Im glad we met and shared time together.
Me: I said it when I knew I should. Catch ya on the flippity flop!
Fish: U gonna watch the superbowl?
Me: Of course!

So we say goodbye to fish.

Until next time dear readers.

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4. eight: destiny is cold af.

Eight has a way of letting you into his life with one fraction of a tiny detail at a time, but only if and when he was good and ready. Asking him questions generally made him back off entirely – so I learned to let him come to me. Why does he get the destiny theme in the titles? Honestly because I think he might actually be the boy version of me. But the few differences between us made all the difference in the world. The things I learned about eight, as I said, came slowly and at his pace; they all reminded me a lot of myself. He’s very close with his family, especially his mom; same. Our extended families are from up north; same town. Virgos; same. (Rest assured I sort of knew this was doomed from the start, imagine 2 Virgos, yikes.) He holds himself to a very high standard; same, sometimes too high. He seems to genuinely enjoy being around kids, especially sports mentoring; same. The people in his life love him fiercely; same, they will cut you if you hurt me. He’s unabashedly prone to singing and dancing anytime, any place; same, this is the one thing I can’t shake about him. And he is probably one of the most polite-on-paper people I’ve ever met, eight will find a way come hell or high water to fit ‘thank you’ into every conversation multiple times; same, thank you very much. Those qualities are all fine and dandy but, and this is a big but, he seemed to lack motivation, which, if you’ve been a bachelor forever, is sort of counter intuitive to dating. Like I said, eight has taught me that potential is meaningless without forward momentum.

The frequency and quality of the communication with eight had taken off the week leading up to my birthday, which fell on the Saturday. My Wednesday was busy as heck, eight had texted me to say he was going to his usual wing night with friends that night; it was the hot spot for our high school, I guess they never grew out of it. I never knew if this was his way of saying don’t text him, or do text him, or show up at the pub; but I always settled in my mind on, “uh I only care about where you end up if you outright ask me to join you, otherwise, have fun I guess.” I received a Thursday afternoon text from eight, telling me about his wing night leftovers for lunch (yes, really, thank you for the update eight). I was still be-bopping all over my schedule, generally crushing goals like a champ, and I knew he had a game that night in town, and since I’m a busy lady, I hit him back with the one-two punch because, carpe diem dat ass:

“I’m coming to see your butt tonight I think.”  – Me, a demure desirable lady.

Fortune favours the brave – and destiny, well destiny will send you a cute tush if you just tell it you’re coming to see it. “Oh nice, I’ll wear my extra tight pants then” he replies. Dead. Swoon. Wait, was this what he was waiting for? Me to just show up. I didn’t text him back for the rest of the day knowing that the text silence ensured neither of us said anything to kill the flurt vibe that took what feels like forever to figure out.

I went to the game that night looking adorably incognito in the white-girl-at-sporting event uniform: a white tee, plaid shirt, ripped jeans, and cap. I arrived as the anthem started, grabbed a Caesar and took my seat closer to the opposing team among a group of white haired old men who know nothing about sports – my favourite kind of spectators, for real. It only took a second, and I then I saw him. It felt like a big deal at the time, frankly well past “long overdue”, it was bordering on asinine at this point. He was crouching by the team bench in his tightest pants; he has the meatiest butt and the thickest thighs (and I think I loved him). No I’m being stupid. None the less, very quickly I realised just how adorable he really is (do guys hate being called adorable, because too bad, bitches, some of you just are adorable mkay). He’s just a little taller than me and he’s thick the way I like dudes, with one of those crazy dark working tans that make men look like they’ve rubbed dirt on their arms. It’s evident he’s well loved by his teammates as their faces light up when they talk to him, slapping him on the back energetically. But the best part about finally seeing him? I knew, without hesitation, he was looking for me. I sat there, across a field, watching him scanning over the crowd, over and over and over again; he wasn’t even being discreet about it. There was something voyeuristic about the whole “I can see him, but he can’t see me” thing – it was exciting and also weirdly embarrassing too, like the two of us had a secret the other thousand people there didn’t know. Spoiler alert, the secret is that we’re idiots and this thing between us is never going to work out the way either of us wants it to. Don’t hold your breath though, I stayed undercover for the duration of the game, that night, he didn’t know if I was there or not, and I preferred it that way. The ironic part about him not seeing me was that where I was seated was directly in his eye line for most of the game. Like the depth of field for a camera lens, I was sitting in the middle of his field of vision, but I would’ve been out of focus if he had his eye on the plays, so  there I was, able to look straight at his face, unseen, it was surreal.

The other swoon-worthy thing (apart from his butt) is, whenever the music comes on between plays, he dances, and not like a little; he slaps the sides of his fist against his thighs and tosses his head back and forth. He feels music, and it reminds me of me. I send my closest girlfriends from highschool a video of him dancing – they’ve told me a hundred times to drop eight like a hot potato, but they still send heart eyes back to not kill my vibe. “Does he know you’re there?” they ask. “Not for sure I don’t think.” The combination of the intensity of the game and my lusty bologna made my stomach butterfly city. They didn’t win the game, but it was the kind where it was so well played by both sides you can’t even be mad about it for a second. I was full blown shivering from the night air by the end of the game, so I hightailed it out of there faster than you can say “bye bitch”; he wouldn’t have had a chance to spot me making my way down the stairs.

I went home and threw on some jogging pants and began rolling myself a joint in my futile attempt to try and warm myself back up from being so cold for so long. Ding, my phone goes off and I see his name light up my screen, well that didn’t take long. “Didn’t see you at the game tonight.  Where were you sitting?” he says. I tell him roughly where. “Fuck off. For serious?” I replied with a cool “Yes.” (So cool.) He was sitting in an uptown pub with the team drinking beers, as is their tradition, and yet surprisingly, this ended up being one of those texting conversations where both people are just super present. It’s less than a minute between each message and every text is short rapid fire. He seems disappointed he didn’t see me and says “I’m slipping, I normally see everyone.” I tell him that his dancing is my “like my favourite thing ever”. We talk a bit about his game: his best plays and the moments that rattled my chill. He told me about one of the opposing players previous temper tantrums. I told him I liked his pants, he thanked me but said I probably liked lots of pants that I saw (take the compliment jeez). I reiterated that dancing pants are the most distracting. We got onto the topic of our high school, what I was like back then, I tell him I’ve never been in any major trouble with the law or authority, mostly low-key. He tells me I should live a little and I tell him that I do, and to “try me”. He tells me he was suspended twice for smoking weed on school trips (be still my heart) and I remark that there are things that are fun to get caught doing, smoking weed isn’t one of them. I send him a picture of the joint I’m smoking on my porch, he sends me a photo of the beer he’s drinking. It’s just after midnight, now a Friday morning and he tells me “You should sleep you probably work in the morning.” I tell him I don’t, and he tells me that he doesn’t either. I take the opportunity to tell him that my birthday is Saturday, and that my work gives us the closest weekday off before quickly changing the topic. I ask him what sports he’ll play in the next season and he tells me – but that doesn’t last long because he watches the emoji stamped panoramic video of the sports complex that I had posted to my Snapchat story while I was at the game.  “I just saw your story. I can’t believe I didn’t see you there. I’m shocked and pissed.”

Now, the following exchange is as sweet as it gets between eight and I – from now until the end. It’s this conversation that let me know that when he wants to, eight is capable of making a risky move to see a girl he likes. The other edge of this sword though is, of course, that once I know a man can be this motivated to get to me and he chooses not to, I move on. For now try to imagine me in that moment and enjoy the best of eight and I, because I know I still do:

8: I just saw your story. I can’t believe I didn’t see you there. I’m shocked and pissed.
me: Why pissed?
8: That I didn’t see you sitting there. My focus is in that general area for most of the game.
me: Well. Heyyy!
8: I’m slipping.
me: No. You’re watching the game.
8: I watch everything. Who’s coming in, who’s getting food, who’s warming up. I scan the crowd constantly.
me: Well I got my drink during the anthem, which is when I got there.
8: That means I didn’t see you the entire game. That’s bad.
me: Well there was well over a thousand people there.
8: So.
me: You’ve never met me? (Hint.)
8: Doesn’t mean I don’t know your face. (Cute.)
me: I had a hat on? I don’t know! It’s not a big deal dude. Hiiiii!
8: Like I said, I have high standards. I like knowing everything that is happening during the game. Everything.
me: Because? You’re analytical? Whats the goal?
8: Not so much analytical but it helps me focus.
8: If I roll up a pinner and come pick you up, wanna go on a doobie cruise? (This.)
me: I literally just finished a big joint. lmao
8: It’s your birthday / day off / live a little goodie 2 shoes.
me: Ok. (Be cool bitch.)
8: If you don’t want to that’s cool, you can say no, I’m just busting your metaphoric balls, but if you do, whats your address? (Are you stupid, get in the car already.)
me: XXX Xxxxxxxx Drive
8: Ok I’ll be there in about 10. I drive a black Jetta. I apologize in advance it’s not the cleanest.
8: Out front.

It’s 2am on the day before my birthday, I’m high as a kite and chilled through to the bone, I’ve changed back into my jeans, wiped the smudged mascara under my eyes away, smoothed my hair behind my ears, and I’m getting into a black Jetta, with tinted windows that’s parked against the boulevard outside of my home. I practically skipped down my driveway, opened the door, and didn’t even try to hide the smirk, I got in the car and said “Hey … so this is unexpected huh?” He reached into the console of his car and handed me a joint and a lighter. “Do you always smell this good?” he asks. (Am I wearing perfume? Nope, I’m not. I had hairspray in my hair earlier. Is this a line? What’s happening? Can we make out? Omg, shut up.) I say it’s hairspray, he says it smells like flowers, I shrug, and light the joint, and I look like a bad bitch doing it too. I could feel the heat blasting, seat warmers on high, thank god, but I was still shivering, and it was visible, and I was immediately annoyed with my body core temperature. I’m not a nervous person and I’m realizing how I look like one. (But maybe just maybe if I get higher that’ll go away. Nope, it didn’t, got worse, cool.) We drove around for 15 or 20 minutes, smoking the joint and getting to know one another in little bits. I told him to stop asking me deep “whats the meaning of life” questions because I was way too high. He laughed and asked me something else that was way out of this world “Oops I did it again. Sorry.” Honestly I don’t even know what we said, that’s how high I was, that never happens to me, ever, honest. He asked me what my big day off plans were later that day, I told him shopping and he suggested, that if I’m interested, we could go get a drink in the afternoon together on a patio somewhere. I said yea I’d like to. We finished the joint. He dropped me off and wished me a good sleep. I went inside, changed back into my jogging pants and a text came in:

8: Are you going to be ok?
me: About? (Jesus, he noticed the shivering, fuck.)
8: Well you seemed a little uneasy. (Fuuuckkk.)
me: I had assumed you were going to be my funny penpal forever?
8: I’m pretty easy, we can do that if you want.
me: I didn’t say that.
8: I know I’m just razzing you. 🙂
me: I’m still cold from the game and high as balls. (Be honest.)
8: No wonder you’re cold your pants had tonnes of holes in them.
me: Ok dad.
8: Well it’s not rocket surgery.
me: I wear office bullshit all week. I like to dress like an idiot on my days off.
8: You could dress like a warm idiot. (This is still one of my favourite things. Ever.)
me: Ok mom.
me: Its still goddamn summer, I’m sorry I expected weathhher more congruent with our season.

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The aforementioned jeans of a cold idiot.

We chatted a bit more. Why he couldn’t have just STUCK around and said all this in person I’ll never know. At 3am he signed off “I’m going to crash. Have fun shopping tomorrow. Message me if you’re down for that drink.” I replied in typical me fashion; “Same. Duh. I will/am.” I was so goddamn proud of that text – you don’t even know – probably because I was high, but I thought it was adorable. Eight replied “Ok, sweet. Have a good sleep.”

3. eight: destiny’s infatu8ion.

The goal here, today, me and dating, dating and I, isn’t necessarily to find a boyfriend or love right off the hop. I’m also here to be present, me, as I am, enjoying the growth and the journey I’m on in each moment. I’m learning all moments have the opportunity for sweetness, even bittersweet. Eight will come to tell me, in a conversation towards the end of our brief nothing, that there’s “nothing sweet” about bittersweetness. How wrong he is. Are you ready to hear just how effective that Snapchat Story was? Lets go:

How has my summer been, he wants to know, or does he, its possibly the laziest way to test my waters but I was pushing myself back into his life with social media – something I would eventually find out eats up a lot of his time. I found it adorable that he included his name in the text; in case I had deleted his number, silly goose, we both had each others numbers in our phones, Snapchat needed those to add each other.

“It’s not rocket surgery.” – Eight, after meeting me in person the first time.

We talked about our summers: for him it was all sports and work. I told him I had been cottaging and working a lot as well. I think I followed up with asking how the sports season had been going, they were doing really well, and he felt as though they had a chance at the playoffs. I threw out a quick double entendre “I have a good feeling about your chances.” Did he pick up on it? He explained a few “unspoken rules” of his league, with regards to player behaviour, stuff I found genuinely interesting and wished he would keep talking about, and then boom, mid message about team drinks he dives straight into the fray.

“… So I’ve been meaning to ask you what your situation is? Are you divorced, separated, still living with your baby’s daddy??” Whoa destiny, I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure very few love stories start this way.

I tell him I was never married, just engaged, and provided as little context as I could manage without coming off as distant because the phrasing frankly feels like he thinks I spend some of my spare time being interviewed by Maury Povich. His inquiry that night focused around timelines for the split, where I was living. He commented that my situation was “still sort of fresh”, and I agreed the formality of it was, but the context of the separation was comfortable for me. My mind wandered off “Is he trying to figure out if I’m emotionally available yet? Because that’s adorable and exactly what I want.” I asked him if he had any longer relationships recently; he had none to speak of. I mistakenly used the phrase “been chilling” to describe one of the circles of hell commonly understood levels of modern dating (we need to stop validating this shit), he agreed it was a good way to describe it. “Chilling seems like the decent play” he says, again referencing all the divorces his friends have gone through.

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Over the next few days we start to exchange Snapchat selfies and videos while we’re at work. He’ll send little chat messages to tell me I’m cute, all of it is enough to make me smile when I see his name pop up. I make the bold move to send him a follow request on Instagram, he doesn’t post anything new, his account is full of travel photos from a big European trip from last summer, but he likes everything I post, and sometimes sends me a message to ask me about whatever he had seen. But the best moments of chatting with eight was when he would text me from his team bus on game nights. Those conversations are playful; there was banter and flirting and selfies. I assume that these conversations were the best because he was a captive audience who probably liked the idea of a girl texting him, A LOT, in front of his team mates – yes I’m a cynic. But none of that matters really; just that in those moments he is the eight I liked and miss now.

Full disclosure before this next part: Between all this fruitless texting I’m very busy being an employed, gym-frequenting, puppy-owning, shopaholic, coffee-addicted, mother-of-one who also happens to be involved in a fairly frequent and intentionally undefined friend-with-benefits situation with another “past life peripheral” guy, that you’ll find I am going to introduce as “fish”. And as of writing this, I still flop around on the fish deck. 

One afternoon, it’s a game day for eight and he’s en route to a town three hours north of our city, he texts me that he’s had a horrible day at work. He never elaborates into detail about anything so instead I tell him I can UberEats him a steak and milkshake if that’ll cheer him up. He says all he really needs is a vacation and rest, but that the idea cheered him up. He asks me what I’m up to and I tell him I’m getting ready to go to the movies. He asks if I have a group of people to go with and I give him the most non-chalent non-answer I can muster “Yes I do have friends lol.”

The truth was I was going to the movies with the aforementioned fish that night. We had sex in the backseat of the car in the parking lot afterwards, because I’m a romantic at heart.

I changed the subject with eight to ask about pre-game rituals, and I think maybe this was the first time eight let me try to flirt with him: “And then what? Run around and talk about how good your butt looks in your pants?” He told me they leave that to the fans. I replied with “Can you be a fan if you’ve never been to a game? Asking for a friend.” He said “Of course you can.” And I set him straight: “They. Of course THEY can. My friend. You know.”

Later that night, after my teenage-esque tryst in the parking lot, my phone buzzed on my nightstand a few times – it was eight. I popped over to Twitter to see what their score had been; the tied up game had gone way over but they got the much needed win to continue on in the playoffs. “Just what I needed, over-time on a Tuesday” his text reads. Maybe he wants congratulations but I’m still fixated on his tush, so scolding he gets. “Stop it. Are you happy?” “Yep but tired.” “Happy makes you sleep well. Ride the high into Wednesday.” “You mean Thursday.” “Why not both?” “Good call.” I put my phone down and go to sleep. In the morning I woke to a video he had sent sometime during their bus ride home: it’s his face, only intermittently lit by oncoming traffic, loudly singing along to David Wilcox: “I’m sailing away from my heartache … on a Riverboat Fantasy.” I’ve mentioned before how I’m unreasonably swayed into romanticism by music – well, you better believe I played that song while I blow-dried my hair – and the grin on my face while I got ready for work on that Wednesday morning can only be described as stupid.

And dear readers, in the next post, I’m going to tell you how the very next evening, eight and I finally ended up  face to face.

2. eight: destiny interrupted.

Eight took his sweet ass time using my damn phone number. I wish I could say but at least the drinks came shortly after. But we know that’s not true.

The drinks don’t come for a few more months, yes, I said months, and I had to do some serious mind-fucking to get us that far. When that first text came through he went straight back to his check-ins, and some days I’d catch a whiff of a nice gesture or intent, and others I’d find his texts to be a chore not to chuck my phone over. Part of me thought, maybe he’s insecure, maybe he’s not sure if dating a single mom is something he can handle, not a single part of me assumed that he was going to waste vast amounts of my time. But we learn these lessons best by experiences.

At this point of the summer he’s pretty busy between his work and game schedule. But he continues to check in, and I think, he wouldn’t waste precious time doing this if some part of him didn’t care. (Girl, shake your head, I know.) Its in these brief texting conversations that it first becomes apparent that our communication styles are completely at odds with one another. I never know what he means by anything, he misuses words, things contradict themselves and he keeps bastardizing all my favourite turns of phrases, and I really love idioms, so it’s throwing me for a loop.

I’ve worked as a graphic designer for the same firm for ten years, it’s my second home, second family, they’ve watched me grow up, make mistakes, become a mother, and finally, take charge of a life I was going to just let pass me by. We’re chatting about work and my history there, and all the perks that come with such a tenure. I reciprocate the inquiry and ask him what he did before he got into his trade. I’m not even joking a little when the conversation comes to a screeching halt with his response: “I was a little late to the party but I’m glad I’m here.” Excuse me, but what the fuck does that even mean? You can’t say “Oh I worked odd jobs. Oh I went to school for a few years.” I’m not going to judge where you’ve been, how could I, I’ve lived a life, it wasn’t perfect, but today and now I’m ready to build something new, that’s why I date. We’re supposed to be trying to get to know one another and the answer just felt out of place in the pacing of the conversation. These sort of abrupt out of place answers are a dime a dozen for us, I never know how to respond, so I generally just stop replying, and the next day: Ding. “How was your day?

One day I’m surprised he’s sharing more about his team and he suggests he’d like to leave me tickets to a game at the box office sometime, but doesn’t specify when. A few days later I joke about how he’s so elusive, and send a little wink face. I’m flurting, it’s like flirting adjacent. And again I get a response that drops my emotional IQ another point: “How am I elusive? My game schedule is very public, you could track me down with one google search.” I’m dumbfounded, he hasn’t invited me out to a specific game; I felt like I had to be a faceless fan to be within earshot of him. I don’t understand the comment – if I was playing I wouldn’t want the distraction/pressure of knowing a guy is there to see me – a guy I’ve been putting off meeting for weeks.

I can’t remember what his last text was, only when, sometimes around the beginning of the summer, and I had just had enough and I didn’t reply. I didn’t get a follow-up invitation to a game, I never found out what he did for a living for the last decade, and we never went for those drinks I suggested. An entire month would pass before I found a way to reel him back to me, without saying a word. I don’t know if its psychological warfare but Snapchat stories can be just the spark you need to burn your own goddamn time with fuckboys. 10/10 would do again though. 

Here’s the trick. It’d been a number of weeks since I had stopped replying. Guys had come and gone since swiping on eight. Ironically, I had been asked on a date to go see eight’s team play (I swerved on that guy for other reasons but I’ll tell you that story another time), and I found myself thinking about him, his dark eyes, and sporty summer dates. I still had a morbid curiosity about why eight was so elusive with me. I had long since deleted the text thread, out of sight out of mind after all, but I still had his number in my phone, because as much as I love replying with “new phone who dis” I do sometimes prefer to go ghost on guys who’ve proven they can’t take no for an answer.

Our MVP of this part of the story is definitely Snapchat’s “Add From Contacts” feature. I added eight, without a text, or a reason, in the middle of a workday and he added me back almost immediately. Over the next few days I posted some nonsense photos of my new manicure and some random things from my workplace downtown. Look at me: I’m feminine, and funny, I have an interesting and active social life that involves a lot of trendy pubs and I can keep up with bros, I promise. I stayed radio silent – never chatting or sending anything directly but when I knew I had his attention in the views I posted a muted video on my story. It’s of my face saying “bitch I might be” with an overlaid caption that said “Living My Best Life”.

mybestlife

Now, take that dose of crazy with a grain of my self awareness: I’ve always worked in design and advertising, and thanks to dating apps and my gaggle of bro-friends that shoot straight with me, I know which photos, and thus, which of my “looks” perform best with most men. For whatever reason, my hair half up in a ponytail and a mischievous smirk gets me the most attention, which equates in online dating to matches. The game plan in advertising is always the same: when you have good ROI on a branding esthetic/content – you ride it out, build on it, get feedback regularly, and when results stagnate start implementing your new campaign that, if you’re smart, you’ve been developing for a while. And rest assured dear readers, I’m running a whole new campaign these days. Boys better bring their A game – because I will literally tell anyone everything I know about mind fuckery.

So let’s rewind to earlier in the summer: Eight knew what is was like to be in daily contact with me. He knew what my social life and weekend habits were like. He knew I was generally a positive person who was easy going. But he only ever had access to my Bumble profile photos back then. They’re unfiltered and generally I try to look pretty put together, I’m trying to attract a gentleman after all (I think? Am I? I don’t know.) But this was the new frontier for him, he had seen snippets of my life in Snapchat photos, he could understand the brand of myself that I projected to my followers, and now he had la piece de resistance: he had seen of video of what I look like talking, with a shit-eating smirk on my face. Was the message for him? Well, we all know it was here and now. But at the time, those were details he didn’t know. He was missing two pieces information that would’ve rounded out his understanding of me: 1. what in the hell I was playing at, and 2: by design, I had muted the video, so he would wonder what I sound like.

From my own experience, it’s jarring when you know how someone talks, then find out how they sound. Those first few minutes where you internally adjust to what their pitch, tone and cadence is as they’re rambling off nervous hellos on a sidewalk outside a restaurant. I miss a hundred percent of what guys are saying in those moments. I could avoid this by telling them to call me first, but honestly so far all the guys I’ve met are never really ballsy enough, except one.

And by the way, if my boss ever reads this, I need a raise. Because my viral marketing skills are fire flame. Within minutes of posting that video on my Snapchat story I had a new SMS text message: “Hey! It’s Eight. How’s your summer been?”

And I literally cackled out loud “Gotcha bitch!”