2. fish: tix & texts.

I matched with fish on Bumble not long after my separation (ironically, I had just got off Plenty of Fish since it was, well, a swamp). My first message to fish was uninspired, something along the lines of “Hey we’ve never officially met but I’m Xxxxx Xxxxxxx’s daughter.” He replied quickly, “No way … you are?” Since Bumble day 1 fish and I have never been out of touch for more than a day or two. In relatively short order, he sent me his phone number and told me “it was easier to text” (inaccurate flex but ok – I’ll bite). I shot him an SMS letting him know mine in return.

Now, if I’m going to do this verbatim thing with some of fish’s standout texts, be forewarned: he loves abbreviations and taking phonetic liberties in his spelling and grammar. Also if you’re like me and appreciate the smaller details to help round out your understanding of a person’s unique features, know this: the small adjacent rural town that fish grew up in is known for having a slightly affected southern-esque drawl to their speech, which adds a certain flavour to fish’s first SMS text: 

Fish: Gonna take ur mini me to Jurassic Park or is that outta the age range? Thatd be a good theatre movie for my free tix.

While I did appreciate that he took my daughter into consideration in that small way, I remember being very fixated on the “free tix” aspect of the invitation. On one hand, does broadcasting free tix in the invitation seem cheap? On the other hand, I really appreciated the chillness of it all, somehow almost takes the pressure off of the date, like “it’s not big deal, it’s just free tickets”. Two other thoughts on the above: A) Fish has met my daughter in passing, with my mother, around age 4. This notion still sort of weirds me out. And B) Fish’s entire family is OBSESSED with movies and television. The longest and most in depth conversation my mother ever had with fish was on a two hour drive together to a work event was entirely about TV shows. Both of them have since told me about that conversation; apparently Shameless is a really good show and they both think I’m an idiot for not watching it but I digress.

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering how I responded to that Jurassic Park movie date thing request? Well I dodged it, duh. Why? Because I was too busy waffling over whether or not I thought the “free tix” statement was awkward or not. Over-analyzing and coffee are my main vices in life. One make me mentally vibrate into nigh catatonia and the other costs $3 at Starbucks. But at any rate, rest assured dear readers, there’s lots of callbacks in the comedy-of-errors that is fish and I. 

In all of the back and form messages, Fish and I came to realize as time wore on that our calendars were perfectly at odds with one another, and as it usually goes, the longer you text, the more unsettling the idea of actually meeting in person becomes. Weekends would come and go and we’d rattle off our respective social commitments, and setting a date never worked out. We resigned ourselves to a nickname for one another “penpal” and even now, we still use it. We both play more than one team sport, have active social/travel calendars, and put a priority on seeing family and getting sufficient me-time to recharge from our jobs that we both take seriously. I do however suspect that fish has, at best, a tepid attraction to me – much the same as I feel about him, which could also be in play for why we’re often unable to nail down dates with finality, examples to follow. 

One text exchange during this pre-first-date period that I was particularly fond of came when fish told me he had a friends wedding to attend out of town:

Fish: I’ll be up by Casinoland.
Me: Dancing!
Fish: Never know what the night brings.
Me: Bridesmaids 😉
Fish: is pretty funny ya
Me: Lol
Fish: Would you be jelly or something
Me: Of what?
Fish: Ahh nothing
Me: Bridesmaids spend so much money on the hair and makeup and nails. It’d be a shame if it went unnoticed. Toss em a wink for the good of humanity.

This won’t be the last time fish brings up the concept of jealousy with me. And this won’t be the last time I demonstrate an unwillingness or inability to emotionally invest in him. Maybe all for the best though, because what I didn’t know at the time was that fish was attending this wedding as a +1 with a girl he would later refer to as “his last fling”, and who will make an unexpected appearance later in our story. If I’m correct in my understanding of their timeline, they had already decided to call it off between them and attended the wedding as friends.

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I was always pleasantly surprised by the types of texts fish would send me on weekend mornings. The Sunday routines for fish generally involve being hungover, chores and what I refer to as “domestexts” aka the shmoopy texts he sends me when he’s doing laundry or making dinner. He’d tell me what new recipe he was cooking for dinner, what sports he was watching and then seemingly out of nowhere the conversation shifts abruptly and I’d receive messages like “I’m crushing hard on you Xxxxxxx” (my last name) or “your personality is prime”.

When I took inventory overall of the type of texts he sends me in order to write this blog, I came to realize he is not often crass or overtly sexty, but there have been a few select times he’s been very tongue in cheeky about masturbation which I found genuinely funny (knuckle children was a new one for me). He does drunk text me things like “U sweet little babe” and“Hheeeyy babbay!” Verbatim innocuous nonsense he stumbly-thumbs into his phone screen before passing out iPhone-in-hand.

To get the story back on track: after he had attended the wedding and after I had received a proper scolding from my mother for leaving fish hanging on the movie date, I texted him with two emojis: TRex & Film Reel. My attempt to get us to Jurassic Park fell flat because he was too hungover. Then I left for a week of family cottaging, he checked in. Then he got sick for two weeks, but still checked in.  All of the aforementioned texting habits formed and one day he saw on social media that I had gone to a drive-in movie, checked in AND offered up Jurassic Park again, but alas, the calendars just would not jive at all.

Fish was about to leave for a week-long trip to the Dominican Republic for a family wedding. We joked about how I was coming with on the trip and what sort of dress I would wear to match him. The next exchange offers a bit of foreshadowing:

Fish: Sorry if I dont penpal u down south
Me: Oh don’t be sorry. Enjoy your damn vacay like a champ.
Fish: Haha maybe if we chilled once b4 u could be on my mind though
Me: The goal of Dominican should be zero on your mind, plastered af poolside.
Fish: Its nice to have a girl to think of
Me: I mean, I’d vote for Sandra Bullock but I’m cool too I guess.
Fish: Yaa I’m building a little crush

We’d been texting almost every day for weeks; some of which included jokes and references to being together in the future, none of which seemed like it would actually come to fruition. And yet, we are at the point in the fish tail tale where in the next blog I’ll tell you about how, rather unexpectedly and about 28hrs before he got on a plane, fish and I have our first kiss. Until next time dear readers. Glub glub.

4. eight: destiny is cold af.

Eight isn’t a warm person, at least, he never was with me. I felt then (and still now a year gone) that a cold war wages between who he has been and is now versus who he feels he could or should be. If I had to guess eight’s darkest fear, it’s his unfulfilled potential.

But let’s get back to the story.

Cold and distant eight had warmed up to me towards the end of the summer. He was sharing things about his life and seemed keen to be in near constant communication no matter how trivial. He’d mention the mundane Wednesday wing night, Thursday leftovers for lunch and then there it was, a home game day for his team. And I was free.

me: I’m coming to see your butt tonight I think.
eight: Oh nice, I’ll wear my extra tight pants then.

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. 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 ruin what took too long 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, and ripped jeans. 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 but like to yell at the players.

And I then I saw eight. He was crouched by the team bench in his tightest pants that accentuated his meaty butt and thick thighs; I was attracted to him – no if’s, and’s, or butts about it. He looked to be a little taller than me, dad bod in progress, and a tradesman’s tan that makes men look like they’ve rubbed dirt on their skin. It’s evident by the warm smiles around him that he’s well loved by his teammates as they slap him on the back energetically. But the best part about looking at eight was that I knew, without hesitation, he was looking for me. I watched as he scanned over the crowd without discretion over and over again; it felt voyeuristic, exciting, and also weirdly embarrassing too, like he and I had a secret the other thousand people there didn’t know. The secret is that we’re idiots and this thing between us is never going to work out the way either of us wanted it to. But eight didn’t know if I was there or not, he never saw me, and I preferred it that way. Just like the depth of field for a camera lens, I was sitting in the middle of eight’s 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. I saw eight, but eight couldn’t see me. And if that isn’t a metaphor for our entire relationship I don’t know what is.

The other asset of eight that I’m most attracted to is his dancing … yes, he dances, during the games, and not like a little. I watched as eight tossed his head, hitting his fist against his thigh, a hint of a body roll in his rib cage. I sent my girlfriends a video of him dancing adorned with heart eye emojis. They’d told me a hundred times to drop eight like a hot potato based on his high school reputation alone but that night they let me have my crush. I shook and shivered from the cold and dark night air by the end of the hard fought and lost game. 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.

Ding. Didn’t see you at the game tonight. Where were you sitting?

I replied with an approximation of my seat. “Fuck off. For serious?” he asked. I replied with a cool, and literally cold, “Yes.” My fingers didn’t want to text, but my heart, oh my heart did. It was late, and though eight was sitting in an uptown pub with his team drinking beers, he texted me with such attentiveness he might’ve well been face to face. “I’m slipping, I normally see everyone” he said, disappointed he didn’t see me. I tell him that his dancing is “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 and I reiterated that dancing pants are the best. We got onto the topic of our high school and what we were like back then. I tell him I’ve never been in any major trouble; eight tells me I should live a little. He tells me he was suspended twice for smoking weed on school trips; I suggest there are things that are more fun to get caught doing than smoking weed. I send him a picture of the joint I’m smoking on my porch; eight replies with a photo of the beer he’s drinking.

j

Ding. You should sleep you probably work in the morning. It’s nearing 1am on a Friday, and eight’s concern prompts me to to tell him that my work gave me Friday off in consideration for my Saturday birth-date. He tells me he doesn’t work either. And what happened next, this exchange, verbatim and in it’s the entirety, is how we met.

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?
8: Doesn’t mean I don’t know your face.
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.
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?
me: XXX Xxxxxxxx Drive
8: Ok I’ll be there in about 10. I drive a black Jetta.
8: Out front.

I was as high af and chilled through to the bone at 2am when I met eight. I had changed back into my jeans, wiped the smudged mascara under my eyes away, smoothed my hair behind my ears, and got into the black Jetta parked against the boulevard outside of my home. I had practically skipped down my driveway, opened the door, and didn’t try to hide the smirk across my face. I think I said “hey so this is unexpected huh?” I remember his hand into the console of his car and handed me a joint and a lighter. “Do you always smell this good?” he asks. (My internal high-as-hell monologue went something like this: 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.) He put the car in drive as I told him it’s probably hairspray. He mutters something about it smelling like flowers and I shrugged as I lit our joint. I could feel the heat on and seat warmers on high, but I noticed that I was still shivering uncontrollably and it was visible. I was cold, and high, and excited but realized how ridiculous must seem. (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 having a conversation – the content of that conversation escapes me. I remember 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 more of the same. As we headed back to my home he asked me what my big day off plans were later that day, I told him shopping and he suggested that if I was interested, we could go get a drink in the afternoon together on a patio somewhere. I agreed and 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, and my internal high-ass dialogue went on a trip:

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 bitch.)
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. (I love him.)
me: Ok mom.
me: Its still goddamn summer, I’m sorry I expected weathhher more congruent with our season.

We chatted a bit more and 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, “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.

I was infatuated with the idea of eight. It’d been months since we matched on Bumble. It’d been months of daily texts and not making plans. It’d been months of nothing and still, I couldn’t stop thinking about him even though I was in the middle of a frequent and intentionally undefined situationship with a man you’ll meet that I call fish. I was so infatuated with eight that I relished to bask in our infinite nothing instead of real life.

I was infatuated with the idea that eight and I were the same. We went to the same schools. We knew the same people. We’re both Virgos. We loved the same sports. I was so infatuated with eight that I ignored every incompatibility and inconsistency full-stop.

I was infatuated with the idea that I’d be good for eight. Whether it was his pessimistic outlook, inexperience with committed relationships, or inability to follow through. I was so infatuated with eight that I never considered if eight would be good for me.

But let’s get back to the story.

Ding. Hey! It’s eight. How’s your summer been?

I’d successfully zombie’d eight and I’s little nothing via a Snapchat Story. The words “gotcha bitch” absolutely escaped my lips in real life when his text came through. I found it cute that he’d included his name, perhaps assuming I had deleted his number. I hadn’t and clearly he hadn’t. I was so infatuated I thought that meant somethingWe talked about our summers with predictabilties such as work, sports and vacations, then I asked how the sport season had been going for his team. He felt confident about their upcoming playoff run and I threw out a quick double entendre. “I have a good feeling about your chances.” But in general eight seemed different in that he himself was more open and we seemed to finally click conversationally. He explained a few “unspoken rules” of his league relating to player behaviour, things I found genuinely interesting and wished he would keep talking about, and then …

Ding. I’ve been meaning to ask you what your situation is? Are you divorced, separated, still living with your baby daddy?

Whoa destiny lacks tact and the ability to segue-way but ok. I answer eight’s questions as plainly as he asks them. I was engaged, timelines for the split, where I was living, and the like. The only thing he really said about it was that my situation was “still sort of fresh”I agreed the formality of it was, but the finality of the separation was comfortable for me. I wondered if he was considering my emotional availability; I did not wonder any other motive for his line of questioning. I asked him if he had any long-term relationships to speak of and he replied as noncommittally as one could: “chilling seems like the decent play” he said to describe his romantic life and referenced the many divorces his friends as his reasoning for a lack of meaningful romantic attachments.

Over the next few days eight and I exchanged Snapchats selfies and videos from work. He’d say I was cute and send me something goofy and I felt I had gotten the side of eight I’d hoped existed. I smiled every time I saw his name light up my phone. We added each other on Instagram, and his messages became more contextual, his questions were more personal, and we got to know each other a little better.

bus

My favourite conversations were when he’d text me from his team bus for away games: we’d flirt, he’d share about his day, I’d wish him good luck, and he’d sign off that he’d message later.

me: And then what? Run around and talk about how good your butt looks in your pants?
eight: We leave that to the fans.
me: Can you be a fan if you’ve never been to a game? Asking for a friend.
eight: Of course you can.
me: They. Of course THEY can. My friend. You know.

One summer night, after a tryst with a man called fish in a movie theatre parking lot, my phone buzzed on my nightstand a few times.

eight: Just what I needed, over-time on a Tuesday.

I checked Twitter to see what the score had been: the tied up game had gone way over but they got the much needed win to continue on in the playoffs. I was infatuated by the idea of eight, that we were so similar, that someone like me would be good for him.

me: Stop it. Are you happy?
eight: Yep but tired.
me: Happy makes you sleep well. Ride the high into Wednesday.
eight: You mean Thursday.
me: Why not both?
eight: Good call.

I put my phone down and went back to sleep but in the morning I woke up to a video he had sent sometime during their bus ride home: it’s eight’s face, only intermittently lit by oncoming traffic, loudly singing along to Riverboat Fantasy by David Wilcox.

eight: I’m sailing away from my heartache …

I’m unreasonably swayed into romanticism by music, so much so that even though I don’t care for David Wilcox in the slightest, you better believe I played that song while I blow-dried my hair that morning with a smile on my face that could only be described as stupid. I didn’t know then that the very next evening, eight and I would finally meet.

2. eight: destiny infinite.

The infinity loop looks like an eight. No definitive beginning or end. Like us. No beginning and no end is exactly how I felt about eight. He was as ever on the periphery of my life, not in it, just around somewhere vaguely aware of each others’ existence. Like high-school. Like now. I was about to find out, for the first time, that eight and I could do this dance indefinitely

infinity

Ding. How was your day?

It’d been days since I’d given eight my phone number, suggesting he use it to schedule drinks, but instead the loop played back: he’d ask how my day was, what I had going on during the week, and eventually circle back to how did it go. I’d reciprocate. Loop. Loop. Infinity. I’d come to find during these conversations that eight was deep into his sports season and busy with work, but moreover, it was apparent our communication styles were at complete odds with one another. He would misuse words, contradict himself and bastardized all my favourite idioms. “Um what?” was always what escaped my lips.

One day as I shared with eight some basics about my ten year career working in marketing I reciprocated the inquiry and asked him what he did before he got into his trade. “I was a little late to the party but I’m glad I’m here.” Abrupt and unnecessarily aloof eight left me speechless on a regular basis, I’d try to salvage it for a bit before giving up entirely.

Ding. How was your day?

The loop was maddening but the glimmers of personality I’d get kept me open to replying just one more time every day. Whenever eight would open up, just a little I was astounded, and finally he suggested 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 joked about how he’s so elusive and sent a little wink face. Ding. My emotional IQ died a little at his response: “How am I elusive? My game schedule is very public, you could track me down with one google search.” He hadn’t specifically invited me to a game. It’d been weeks of talking. I’d sent the winky face to show I was joking. This is all very basic low investment barely flirting. I called a flag on his play and took a knee; I can’t remember what his last text was, just that it was the beginning of summer 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. 

Ding. Silence.

It’d been a number of weeks since I had stopped replying. Guys had come and gone since I swiped eight. But our loopy destiny beckoned to bring us back together: I had been asked on a date to go see eight’s team play. I found myself thinking about him, his dark eyes, and sporty summer dates. I still had that morbid curiosity about why eight was so aloof and elusive. I had long since deleted the text thread but I still had his number in my phone. Snapchat’s “Add From Contacts” feature. Ding. I added eight, without a text, or a reason, in the middle of a workday and he added me back. He watched my nonsense social media presence unfold like photos of my new manicure, selfies, some random sights from my workplace downtown but nary a text was sent. He was watching my life in silence, it was unlike anything I’d ever experienced, but then again I’d never heard of any of those tropes of online dating. I posted a muted video on my story. More silence. The video is my face saying “bitch I might be” with an overlaid caption that said “Living My Best Life”.

So let’s recap the loop: 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.) I’d invited him to see snippets of my life in Snapchat Stories. He understood 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, something I’d come to learn (using advertising techniques I apply in my career) generates a high response rate for me with men. Was the message for him? Well, we all know it was, here and now. But at the time, those were details eight didn’t know. He was missing two pieces information: 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 or over the phone are discombobulating. I miss a hundred percent of what men are saying in those moments. And by the way, if my boss ever reads this, I need a raise, because evidently my marketing tactics are effective.

Ding. Hey! It’s eight. How’s your summer been?