“Am I doing a good job?” I was caressing Archer’s nether-regions like they were delicate china. I knew how to operate one, even if it wasn’t mine, but I could be rough on myself like I was self-flogging. In front of Archer, I was to learn and impress.
“Jesus Axel, it’s just my dick. It’s fine, it feels great.”
For two weeks and in spite of my learning curve, I was in a perfect place with Archer. I loved the high from new relationships, even if Archer was not my boyfriend at all. I spent every night I could with him.
Which sadly did not amount to much. We both had lives to return back to, which must have helped keep me sane in spite of finally having sex. I knew firsthand how important Archer’s work was anyways, which kept me from going mad over it. I didn’t even need Dr. K to tell me that, because I wasn’t about to tell her about being bi. It would add too many complicated layers to treatment. And she must have been a nasty whore too, coming into work on New Year’s in a silk nightgown. I wasn’t avoiding punishment with that.
Still, our nights were fulfilling, especially with all the ways I learned how to have sex. I would keep that knowledge for a lifetime, even if the future meant using it only on myself.
But then there were other nights that I thought would be perfect for having him all to myself, and Tina was there again.
It was part of our arrangement, if we even had one. All we did was engage in a casual fling every few nights, and if anyone hotter crossed out paths, nothing was wrong with seizing that opportunity. But for one, I didn’t think that Tina counted as hotter. Unfortunately, I also felt like people crossed the street to get away from me. And fucking uni students? I wasn’t about to become the University of Windenburg’s own Andrea.
I wasn’t built for a life of flings forever, or even temporarily. I felt some jealousy when I saw Ragnhild or Trent. She and Jörg saw each other sometimes, and Trent somehow kept the same girl for a whole three weeks and counting.
“Just go on Tinder,” Trent said, one day before leaving for work. “According to legends, men will flock to your inbox once you invite them.”
“That sounds awful…and just for hookups. I want a deeper life than that one day,” I said.
“Tall fucking order for your 20’s, I’m sorry!” And he was out the door. He might have had a different apartment to stay in that night, which was fine by him. Maybe I was worrying about the wrong thing, if this is what being 24 was all about. But maybe Trent was able to read my true desires with ease like I was a picture book. I didn’t want to admit it, though. I wasn’t listening to Trent about how to hook up.
I saw Istvan a lot too, often asleep next to those family pictures that he finally got out of storage. And his life was a fucking mess at 40, even with gainful warehouse employment and roommates he loved. But it was one I envied a little, with the constant partner and kid and a constant goal of reunion to work towards. Thu didn’t promise me that yet. So how hard would I have to work to get there?
“It’s called Tinder,” Jackie said. We met up in the student union after my shift ended, since he said they had good coffee, espresso drinks, and boba milk tea. It made everyone feel at home. It was like being in Sabier City all over again, but with more annoying first-years.
And like any young American transplant in Windenburg who was tuned in to new media and societal rules, Jackie knew what Tinder was for too.
“We weren’t talking about that at all,” I said. “We were talking about my parents and how you were going to play mediator if I talked to Mr. Karahalios. And I did.” It was uncomfortable and embarrassing on my part, so I need a bonus too.
“And you talked for about a minute about his forearms, so I thought I’d help you out.”
“I…that won’t come up to my parents, right?” I asked him. I felt more comfortable with the idea of one day having them meet Thu, my crazy Vietnamese wife. That was enough for them to prepare for. “We really need to tackle one new problem at a time with them…if you will at all.”
“Your mom changes the subject every time, and imagine your dad actually not going along with her.” I didn’t like the way he put it; clearly it was a harmonious dynamic that they both wanted. I always looked to them when I wanted to think about my future as an adult. Well off, married for over 30 years, two kids, and a dog now.
Didn’t all these people addicted to Tinder realize that? Apparently I was wrong for wanting depth.
“Could you try again?” I asked. “I mean, you know I’ll go crazy again like I did about Thu and talk to Mr. Karahalios about anything. So I’ll do anything for you to try again.” I wanted to avoid that (and Archer was doing a damn fine job helping me), but it felt like it was bound to happen within a month. It was all over if I started touching myself to the thought of Timo. It didn’t help that he was far more handsome than Archer.
“Nah, I’m doing good in my classes now,” he said. “But there’s one thing that’s missing.”
“It can’t be hard or embarrassing.”
“Spend some time with your little cousin?”
“You’re pushing it.” I wanted to dump my tea on his head, but in a funny way. “Will it be with all your first-year friends?”
“I don’t know, man. But I need to get out of your parents’ house as much as possible.”
At least I knew that Mė and Vater went to bed before 22:00. I knew even better that Lili would rather eat crisps on the sofa than play a game with a younger cousin. But Jackie was used to a different home life.
It worked out well when his twin brother James stayed up as late as him and took the same classes…
“…why would James want to elope with Maddie anyways? He didn’t even knock her up, he just…wanted to!” It made him angrier than he had even been at me. “I dunno. I don’t get that, so I’m all for endorsing Tinder instead. I can’t lose another relative, even if it’s you.”
“Are you getting pussy like it’s water?” I asked. Jackie was never a handsome boy, if I had to be honest.
“Come on, of course I’m not. But it’s fun for trolling.”
The next day, I couldn’t fix one of the computer towers on my own. The power light blinked amber in a pattern I tried to follow. Whatever was wrong, it wasn’t even a remote possibility to fix without breaking the warranty and going above my skill set. Then again, I also dreaded the phone call or chat with customer support.
It was going to be so boring, waiting in the chat with the same generic questions about my serial number and the diagnostics I ran. This could take thirty minutes, and university IT limited the number of ways I could pass the time on their laptop. My only option was using phone data.
I had to be extremely bored to admit defeat and that Trent and Jackie were right about Tinder. But as long as I didn’t connect to the employee wireless network, it wouldn’t be that suspect at work. No classes were scheduled for another hour, so I would be alone. There was no shame.
In spite of other temptations, I made an honest profile.
Axel Hahn, 24. 162cm, and Viet/Somali before you pester me in DMs about my skin.
Recent bisexual, lifelong geek, and recovering goth. I will cook before we hook up if the restaurants are too pricey, and please don’t mind my roommates.
I said it in my profile for everyone. Recent bisexual. And with both sexes visible to me, anyone could see that fact. I felt weak being so fearless, but it’s what Archer would want me to do. Maybe he’d even like my new hookup…
Brad and Erick, 35. We’re a ten years married couple who also like the excitement of new people–
Okay, never mind. I was not ready for that life, even with Archer. I at least wouldn’t fuck another person with him.
Windenburg was a big city, and my search included a lot of university students. Some, such as Helene, 19, were far too young for me to ever think of dating until we were both above 30. And she wasn’t worth waiting for anyways.
I didn’t have a shortage of men either. Even the most attractive 21-30 set wasn’t enticing me. Too skinny, Bernard, 22. Too fat, Heidi, 25. Too boring, Zeynep, 24. Too many words, Peter, 28.
And Karl, 58? You were my robotics professor, please set a better age filter from now on.
I swiped left on almost everyone. A few women passed my high standards, but one immediately sent me a DM with a racial slur in it. Maybe being honest was more trouble than it was worth. No one was hoping for a perfect, short, half-Vietnamese man to match with them.
That night or the next morning, I could at least tell Trent that his plan didn’t work. I was hoping for the end of the list, but it kept going.
It couldn’t be him. I thought I had him profiled like he was facing me sideways–
Timo, 25. 185cm, so many flags addsgjkkll
i want whatever you can give me! especially if it’s beer
He listed “All I Need” by Radiohead as his “anthem”, which didn’t sound like the top choice for a man with a lip piercing.
God, he photographed well too, especially while working out. More fat cushioned bits frame than it did that of a chiseled statue, but I preferred that look. Timo was real. A little imperfect, hairy, doing that annoying keysmash thing. He smote me like one of Zeus’ lightning bolts.
…to be fair, I didn’t know what other metaphors to use for the other flags. Being German wasn’t exotic to me. I was new to being a weird half-gay (and told not to describe bisexuality like that). And I didn’t recognize the second flag. Having a red, white, and blue color palette was as recognizable as having brown eyes…in that it wasn’t.
Timo was incredibly gentle to me during our first and only meeting, but I feared rejection. What if “whatever” still meant that he wanted a fat guy or a tall guy instead? What if he learned that I never owned a pet? I didn’t miss the little dog he held in one of his pictures. What if he just sensed that I thought that Radiohead was as pretentious as gold-plated shit or Himalayan salt?
But I couldn’t even contain how happy I was when I was wrong.
A/N: are you there God? It’s me, Trip (asking for a proper reflective work vest instead of a yellow lifevest)