Artwork by Emma Darvick
$24.99… that’s $30-ish dollars with tax… 2.5 hours of work...
I was standing in the garbage can aisle of Walmart on my first Friday night off in 12 weeks when my phone buzzed.
It was probably my Mom. She was very invested in my garbage can shopping. She’s never not supportive.
I ignored it.
It buzzed a second time. I took it out of my pocket while I continued to do existential hourly wage math.
It wasn’t my Mom. It was the guy I had matched with on Bumble on Wednesday night.
I felt my face involuntarily smile.
I had gotten Bumble on a whim after work on Wednesday night after overhearing some girls I was serving talk about the dates they had been on.
I wanted to go on a date.
I had matched with a few guys immediately, which I chalked up to being a young, semi-attractive female on a dating app but still, it felt good.
A few of them got back to me but none of them were able to make me laugh or keep up a conversation after the first few exchanges so I quickly forgot about them. Plus, I was mostly trying to focus on this episode of Riverdale.
Works in marketing.
His bio said: Workaholic. The quiet, low key person in the group.
From the photos, it was obvious Z couldn’t have been more different from Him, which was really the only thing I was looking for. Also, no bank workers or gym selfies… or actors.
I couldn’t help but be a little obnoxious when crafting my first message to him.
I’m glad you haven’t been murdered... The dude behind you in this picture is clearly a serial killer.
To be clear- this was a comment on one of the pictures he had of him at a Jays game and in the distant background staring directly into the camera was a man who looks very much like a psycho killer.
I had no expectations that I’d ever hear back from this man who was clearly out of my league with his dark, fit, handsome exterior. I’m sure he gets a lot of messages that are much more normal and cute than that.
You could have just written “Hey” with a winky face.
I put my phone down and rolled over.
A few minutes later it lit up.
It was Z.
Oh shit! Looks like I owe you my life Miss Robin. Now that we’ve been through a traumatic incident like this, it’s only right we get to know each other better. Other then saving lives what do you do?
Smooth. I like it.
I indulged him for a few more exchanges before I was too tired to keep it up. I flipped my phone over and fell asleep.
That was a nice, gentle wade into the dating pool.
The idea of meeting up with a total stranger scared me. I couldn’t understand how people did it so casually. Wasn’t everyone as afraid of getting murdered as I was? Plus, getting to know someone is so time-consuming. I work two jobs, all hours of the day; dating in Toronto seemed like some exclusive activity intended for the rich and famous.
Though, I had to admit- the attention from the handsome man felt nice. I fell asleep feeling good about myself, which was a welcome change from the seemingly endless amount of self-loathing I’d been experiencing the past few months.
The next morning I was up at 5 am to go serve shit coffee.
At 6 am my phone buzzed from inside my ugly green apron.
I hope you slept well, detective
Why is that so sexy?
I couldn’t remember what his face looked like, so I opened up his profile again.
You’re up early!
As soon as I sent it I thought of a hundred million reasons why that was a terrible response.
This is not going to be easy for you, Hebb.
Haha, yeah, I like to get up and run in the morning before work. You’re up early too!
Lol, yeah I'm a morning person.
You dirty little liar.
We messaged back and forth for the better part of the day. I’d sneak away from barista purgatory to go check my phone.
Every time there was a new notification from him.
Every time I felt my face blush.
He was smart and funny without trying to be. I was constantly anticipating the ball to drop and for him to say something unlikable. It never happened.
I want to go out with him.
I was struck by the realization I hadn’t felt tired once so far today. That was rare.
Someone told me earlier that day that I looked good. That was even rarer.
It was October and I hadn’t looked good since April. I hadn’t slept more than 5 hours at a time since June. My hands and feet were incredibly inflamed, my shoes didn’t even fit properly anymore. My face was really badly broken out and my black hair was turning grey in places.
I hadn’t felt pretty in months. My eyebrows were over grown, my skin was dehydrated, my hair was constantly unkempt and I’d stopped shaving my legs all together. I felt uncomfortable in my body and nothing fit right anymore.
I felt like a fraud. The pictures on my Bumble account were from well over a year ago.
You’ve never looked worse.
You’re working hard. It’ll be worth it.
You’re aging prematurely.
Think of everything you’re gaining.
No one is going to want to sleep with you-you're getting soft.
My phone buzzed.
Have you ever been to Friday night at the ROM? I’d like to take you there one day.
That would be really fun. I’d love too.
I can’t tomorrow, I have a birthday party I have to go to. Next week?
I felt my heart sink. I wasn’t sure if I had the energy to keep texting him all week, or if I would even be able to manage to get next Friday off- I wasn’t even sure how I managed to get this Friday off.
That's too bad, I have tomorrow free...
Damn. I wish I could get out of it. I really want the chance to take you out.
UGHHHH, THEN JUST GET OUT OF IT!
It caught me off guard how disappointed I was that he wasn’t free tomorrow night. I had built it up in my mind that it would be this beautifully serendipitous thing.
It’s serendipitous that you have nothing to do except laundry.
He kept texting me for the rest of the afternoon.
I decided to tell my Mom I had gotten Bumble. Normally I wouldn’t talk to my parents about something like that but I knew they were worried about me. I was checking in with them in ways I don’t think I ever had, asking for their opinions on every move I made. They aren’t dumb, I knew they could tell I had spiralled out. It wasn’t much of a secret. I noticed that people had started speaking to me in softer, gentler tones.
People kept telling me I was brave.
My mother was of course very on board with me taking the time to socialize. I would show her pictures of some of the men I was messaging, and we’d laugh at things they would say to me. It was a nice change from the usual type of check in’s we had been having for the past few months.
Did you sleep last night?
How many hours?
Uhh, like four, maybe 5?
That’s not enough.
I know. My break is over
I told her about Z and that he’d shown interest in going out with me. I also mentioned how I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep up the texting for the next week. She immediately turned into some sort of romance football coach.
C’mon Robin. It’s not that much effort. He’s handsome and smart and likes you. He’s implied he’s willing to commit to communicating with you for the next week. You can indulge that!!!
Woah. A good old fashioned Mom scolding.
I stood aimlessly in the garbage can aisle. I had been struggling with decision making for the past couple of months, I think mostly to due to sleep deprivation, but also partly due to anxiety. Deciding to leave my old life behind created a massive chain reaction of events that I couldn’t control. I worried that any decision afterwards might cause it all to snowball even more.
I felt light headed and my eyes started to burn from the fluorescent lights.
Keep it together.
My phone buzzed.
It was probably my mom.
Hey! Things fell through with the party. Any chance your night is still free? I could get us tickets to the ROM online and meet you at 8?
I felt a rush of butterflies. I snapped back into my body.
I checked the time. 7pm. I looked down at myself.
I was wearing worn out Vans caked in coffee grinds, jeans with rips in the groin, an old t-shirt I probably hadn’t washed in weeks. My hair was piled in a rats nest on top of my head.
I texted my mom.
Ma he wants to meet me in an hour, but I’m at Walmart and look like a goblin!
I bit my lip nervously and waited for her response. I had reverted to being 12 years old and only doing what my mom or friends told me to do.
Just go home and make dinner and go to bed.
My phone buzzed.
Get in a cab and go home. Brush your hair and put on lipstick. Red.
Make it 8:30 and you’ve got yourself a deal.
I ran to the cosmetic aisle with the trash can under my arm and bought cover up, foundation, blush, and mascara and ran to the check out and Ubered my ass home.
In the Uber I assessed what I needed to accomplish in the next hour.
The number one priority was definitely shower and shave my legs. It was a desperate situation and I wanted to be prepared.
Number two was finding an outfit that made me feel good. I settled for all all black. High waisted jeans, black V-neck bodysuit and black boots. I’d wear my favourite camel coat on top to give off the illusion of sophistication.
As soon as I got home I turned on my curling iron and hopped in the shower- dry shampoo would have to do for tonight.
I worked some fairy godmother level shit on myself. It wasn’t perfect, and I still felt like I was lacking in certain areas I used to excel in, but it was the most put together I’d been in a long time and it felt good.
I took a final look at myself in the mirror.
I had been so distracted with getting ready that I forgot to get nervous about meeting a strange man.
He’s going to be disappointed when he sees you.
He has to work to impress you.
Don’t wear lipstick. If you make out, it will be messy.
What if he’s short?
Worse, what if he’s not funny.
My phone buzzed.
I can’t wait to see you
I looked in the mirror. I was smiling.
My phone buzzed again.
My uber was close.
Odds are he murders you?
1 in 10.
Odds are he has no personality?
1 in 3?
Odds are he’s nothing like he seemed online?
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t in a state of panic.
I beat him to the museum. I was sitting out front on a bench. I couldn’t stop adjusting my watch, my clothes. Everyone outside the museum was dressed to the nines. I regretted not listening to my mom and wished I had put on the red lipstick. I always felt really sexy and in charge when I wore red lipstick.
There was a very drunk girl sitting on the bench next to me. She was having a cigarette and a loud conversation on the phone with her girlfriend gossiping about the guy she must have inside waiting for her. She was wearing a coat made of feathers. She was DTF, and didn’t care who knew it. I was envious of how she carried herself- she knew she was hot shit.
I was very much a fish out of water here, but I figured it would be fun to play the part of the carefree young person for a night. And if Z turned out to be a dud, well at least I would have a good story for my co-workers the next night.
I sent him a message.
Other than a handsome man what
should I be on the lookout for?
You can’t really pull off that sort of text.
He doesn’t know that.
He’s about to.
I had never realized how little dating game I had. I cringed when I pressed send.
My phone buzzed
Velvet camo printed blazer...I’m almost there!
Chic and sexy or murder rape-y?
I waited for what felt like an eternity. I was becoming more and more on edge. I considered leaving. What was I doing this for anyway? Conversation? Sex?
You don’t need either.
I had never slept with someone I hadn’t already known for a while. The idea of sleeping with someone I had just met seemed scary and very tempting. Was he expecting sex?
I couldn’t really see it happening... not tonight anyway.
Let’s not get ahead of our self.
Let’s rule out him not being a psycho killer first.
My heart started racing faster.
I could still run away.
Don’t run away.
I stood up and straightened myself out. I looked briefly over my right shoulder and did an immediate double take.
I knew right away it was him.
He walked slowly and cooly, with a bit of stiffness on one side. He had the stature of an NBA player. Long and lean, fit as hell.
“Robin?” he smiled a large toothy grin. He had an adorable gap between his teeth.
“Hi..yeah, nice to see you!”
Good thing it was dark out, I could feel my face turning red.
“Is it weird if we hug? To be honest I’ve never done this before.”
I laughed. We hugged.
The playing field was even.
“I think we go in over here” he said, leading the way.
If he was nervous, I couldn’t tell. He was charming right away. I found myself giggling like a little girl at everything he said. My crush was immediate.
As soon as we walked through the doors he suggested we go to the bar.
Dear god, yes.
The museum was magic that night. There was live music, great lighting, attractive people drinking and looking at the exhibits, but mostly looking at each other. The vibe was sexy.
We got our drinks and headed upstairs. We walked into a gallery that was empty of people- there wasn’t a bar in here.
We walked over to a giant sculpture in the middle of the room. He gravitated to the little plaque talking about the artist. I walked to the other side of the sculpture pretending to observe it in from another point of view, really I was just taking him in.
He bit his lip as he took in the art.
I love men in glasses.
I sipped my red wine quickly.
“I like your shoes.”
I looked down.
“Oh thanks, I just got them!”
I struck a little pose. He raised his eyebrows and smiled as his eyes traced their way down my body.
That was the first time I had been looked at like that in a long time. I had only been glanced at briefly while handing someone their order at work. It made me feel bashful. I was out of practice being an object of desire. I’d had blinders on for so long, I forgot what it felt like to be seen.
He certainly saw me in that moment.
We continued to walk through the exhibits. I stayed half a step ahead of him.
My glass was already empty.
How’d that happen?
“We need to get more drinks!” he said, reading my mind.
Luckily there was a bar only a few steps away. It was in the religious idols room.
We waited impatiently in line to cash in our drink tickets. There was a brief lull in conversation.
“Are you religious?” he asked, while gazing at a giant gold cross encrusted with rubies.
“Ummm… well. Ha. I… uhhh.”
He stared at me with a deadpan face. I couldn’t read it.
“Uh. No. I’m not. At all. Like. Really very much not at all.”
Fuck fuck fuck.
I knew he was too good to be true.
He’s definitely a mormon.
“Thank god! That was a test and baby, you passed”
“Rude! You scared me!” I playfully smacked his bicep.
We got our fresh drinks and kept walking. The conversation started flowing. I made him laugh. He made me blush. Our mutual nervousness began to fade but we maintained our distance.
We finished our third round quickly. We weren’t allowed to bring drinks through the bat cave and into the dinosaur room. We raced each other-- it wasn’t really fair since I was drinking red wine and he was drinking rum and coke… but I still managed to win.
“Hurry up handsome, those dinos won’t wait forever.” I said as I walked away from him. I was feeling very cheeky thanks to that third glass of wine.
We walked through the dark bat cave. Our arms brushed up against each other and I lost the ability to think for a moment. He might have said something but I didn’t hear, my body was pulsing with electricity just from that brief moment of contact.
We emerged out of the cave into the massive dino hall.
“I love this room.” he said, “There’s so much space for dancing!”
“Are you a good dancer?”
“I’m incredible. I don’t even need music.”
Right there amidst all those hot people and dino bones he started dancing to nothing except the sounds of conversation.
He was right. He was incredible.
I bit my lip to try and hold back the giddy smile spreading its way across my dumb face as I stood back and watched him dance.
“Are you trying to impress me?”
“No, I just love this song!”
In that exact moment he came very close to backing into someone. I grabbed his elbow to stop the collision. Electricity shot up my arm.
Does he feel that too?
“C’mon Michael Jackson, let’s go check out the herbivores.”
The next part is where things start to get a little blurry.
What I can tell you is that I remember standing next to him. I was leaning across the barrier spewing some sort of made up information about the dinosaur we were looking at. At some point in the evening I had taken on the role of museum guide giving him very fake information about all of the exhibits we were walking through. I remember saying something I thought was very clever- I looked over at him to gauge a response. He was staring at me with a look in his eye. I remember not being able to tell what the look was but that it made me feel very self conscious.
“Nothing. Sorry… To be honest I didn’t hear anything you just said. I hope it’s okay to say this, but I’m really infatuated with you.”
I looked down at my hands and let out a self conscious laugh. I’m very rarely speechless.
He just wants in your pants
Who cares. Let him in.
“I’m very flattered...you’re pretty great too.”
“And on that note” he said bashfully “I have to pee. Do you?”
I did have to pee, but I also wanted to check my phone. I had several messages from a few of my curious lady friends I had told about the date and had asked for wardrobe advice. I mostly wanted to assure my mom that I was out with a gentleman and that I was alive.
There was a message from her when I checked my phone.
Let me know how it goes. I’m going to stay up until I hear from you.
Dang, it’s after midnight at home now.
Everything is great. He’s really nice.
Okay baby, I’m glad your safe and I’m very glad you like him. Have fun! Be good! Tell me everything tomorrow.
Haha, night Ma.
I checked my teeth for red wine stains- I was in the clear. I fixed my hair and applied some lip gloss. He was waiting for me when I came out.
“Hey, things are winding down here. I don’t want to be too bold or over step, but would you like to go get a drink somewhere else?”
You really don’t need another drink.
Say yes stupid.
“Yeah, of course!”
I was definitely tipsy, but it felt nice. I was tired of trying to be polite and keeping my distance. As we were walking out of the museum I linked my arm through his. He reacted by squeezing it in close and smiled while looking straight ahead. I looked up at him and laughed.
We clumsily jay walked across the street to a little dive bar and sat down. He ordered us a round of drinks and some greasy food.
He ran off to the bathroom again
Broke the seal.
I sat alone with my drunkenness for a minute. I had gotten used to my drinking emphasizing my loneliness and anxiety. My face felt warm, my mouth was stuck in a smile, I couldn’t help but laugh to myself. I wanted to kiss him. I wanted him to kiss me.
I thought about the sex I had had since my break up. I had anticipated having a complete sexual renaissance this past summer but each experience had only left me feeling more lonely, more shameful. I had vowed abstinence to myself at some point in mid July.
He came back to the table. My whole body turned warm.
“How did you stay busy while I was gone?”
We locked eyes.
“I’ve been trying to figure out why you haven’t even tried to kiss me yet.”
“Hey, don’t you worry. I’m getting there.”
We sat at the dive bar and drank our very strong drinks.
Is this a double?
He put his hand under the table and touched my thigh. The warmth from his touch worked its way up my leg. Any doubt I had that he was into me had vanished. That new confidence combined with my drunkenness made for a lethal amount of forwardness.
“Do you live near here?” I asked.
“Not really no. Like, a 20 minute Uber ride”
“So, I guess we’re going back to my place tonight.”
He bowed his head and smiled.
“Do you live close by?”
“Like a 5 minute Uber ride... let’s get the cheque.”
Who are you?!
I hadn’t felt this sure about anything in months.
What if it goes badly?
What if you get hurt?
I wanted him. I was going to have him.
It was decided.
We made our way outside. He grabbed my hand. Our fingers interlocked. It was a good fit.
He had his phone out to get an Uber.
“What’s your address, I’ll get us a car.”
It was late and there was no one around. I stood a few metres away from him.
“You have to earn that sort of information, I don’t just tell strange men my address.”
“Yeah. I like to know I’m inviting only the trustworthy ones over.”
He stepped closer.
My breath got caught in my throat.
He put his hand on the small of my back, he put his phone back in his pocket.
He touched the side of my face.
He paused with his face close to mine.
He pulled me in close and kissed me. I gave over immediately and kissed him back.
He’s so tall.
I wrapped my arms around his neck and stood on my tip toes. I gave over to him. He let out a quiet moan.
Time passed. It’s hard to say how much.
I broke away.
“Did you order the Uber?”
“I’m still waiting to hear if I’m worthy of your address.”
I reached into his pocket and grabbed his phone. I punched my address in and ordered the car.
“Give me that.”
He grabbed the phone from my hand, pulled me in close and kissed me again.
The second time was even better than the first.
You’re in trouble, sister.
Hush. Not now.
We got in the Uber and sat in silence. I couldn’t wipe the smirk off of my face. I couldn’t tell if the spinning was from the alcohol or the kissing. I felt invincible. His hand reached for mine. I pulled his hand onto my thigh.
It was a painfully long drive. It took just over four minutes.
I fumbled with the keys to my apartment. I unlocked the door and headed up the stairs to my walk up, he followed close behind.
“Your place has a great view” his hand playfully touched my butt.
“Excuse me sir, is that how you speak to a lady?”
I grabbed his coat collar. He gently pushed me against the wall with one hand on my face the other around my waist and kissed me.
He kissed my neck, my chest.
“Do you want a tour of the house?” I said with my eyes closed.
“Yeah. Where’s your room?”
His tone changed. He became assertive. Dominant. He closed the door behind him.
I did what I was told.
He took off the velvet blazer and unbuttoned his shirt. He never took his eyes off me.
He took his shirt off. I felt a rush of heat run down my body.
Are you fucking kidding me...
I covered my eyes.
He was perfectly sculpted. I remembered how soft my body was. For a moment I regretted getting this far- I didn’t want him to see what I had under my clothes.
He started to undo my pants.
“You should know...I’m not as pretty as you.” I said, still covering my eyes.
He stopped what he was doing and moved my hand from my face. He kissed my mouth, my cheek, my neck.
“You’re fucking gorgeous.” he whispered in my ear.
Goosebumps ran down the back of my neck.
I think he meant it.
He kissed his way down my body and pulled off my pants; he unbuttoned my bodysuit from between my legs. He traced his finger underneath the seam of my underwear.
I ran my hands over his shoulders and down his back. His skin was so smooth. I wanted to memorize every bit of definition but I couldn’t see straight.
He stood up and took off his pants. I watched him as I lay there. He picked up my legs pulled me aggressively towards him.
Now not to be a tease but it really did get even more blurry from here.
What I can tell you is that the room got warm, and we started to sweat.
Is that his heart beating or mine?
He grabbed firmly onto the deposits of fat I obsess over on my outer thighs and upper arms. He moaned and bit his lip.
He bit my lip.
A work of art.
He went deeper. I arched my back and gave myself over .
My mind fell silent. I felt the judgement and anxiety melt away.
We laid next to each other drifting in and out of consciousness. His heavy arm draped over me. I traced the length of his arm with my index finger.
I slipped out from underneath the weight of his arm and grabbed an old flannel shirt from my drawer to cover myself with. I stumbled out to the bathroom.
I turned on the light and stared at myself in the mirror. Everything had a dazey, dreamy sort of filter over it. My brain was still wine soaked.
My hair was a mess, my face was flushed and raw. My mascara was smudged. I leaned closer to the mirror to try and get a better look into my own eyes.
There was something going on behind them that I hadn’t seen in a while.
I was pleased with myself.