On a rainy night, an unknown number reached out. I was bored. I was lonely. The unexpected text felt like the spark of life or the strike of lightning that gave the monster life.

“Hey, this is so-and-so from the app. I was wondering if you would like to get coffee tonight?” My fingers doubled over and raced themselves. “Yes” came out quickly. One smiley face later and a date was set.

The coffee shop had a Japanese aesthetic: dark, lacquered wood, cozy lightning, and plush chairs. Green tea was on the menu. Lots of green tea, from hot and cold to ice cream. I ordered two coffees. I paid, as I always paid. Gentlemen are supposed to pay, right? Right.

She took the coffee and began talking. She talked a lot. She told me about being in residency; she told me about what she was watching and what she was reading. When it was my turn, I told her about the horrors of World War II and the intricacies of the French Army’s campaign to pacify Algeria. She smiled, she nodded, and she seemed interested. There were pleasant words all around.

When it was over, she asked for a book recommendation. I obliged. I offered a second date. She smiled. It felt like a confirmation. Except it wasn’t. Even before I made it home, I got the text: “Hey, it was really nice meeting you, but…” I did not need to finish; I had read a million like it before.

I’m convinced it’s a script. The secret girls club gives it out to their members before dates, I think. Either that, or my generation of women are truly boring. They text the same things, think the same ideas, and watch the same television shows.

There was the one that I took to the ancient history museum. Lots of good chatter. I showed off what I knew about Greece and Carthage and Rome. She admitted that she wanted kids. We parted at the train station with promises of a second date. I texted first. A simple one about how much I enjoyed everything. She shot back the familiar refrain: “It was nice meeting you, but…”

The same text came after coffee dates, bar dates, brunch dates, and dinner dates. Sometimes it was expected. There had been no chemistry, such as the one girl who only talked about dancing. Other times, it was a suicide bomber: a normal-looking thing that immolated any potential future out of the blue. Those times were bad, but not the worst. The worst came after multiple dates, and after multiple nights together.

There was the doctor. She had a kid. A true MILF. We shared beer before we shared a bed. Everything had been so soft; her body warm, supple, and delicious. The next morning was euphoria. It was over, I thought. No more pointless dating and heartbreaking texts.

Then the doctor stopped answering. Weeks later, she called. Told me I was codependent. She said that I had hang-ups and crutches and that she preferred the newfound power of single life. I spent hours at the bottom of an empty bathtub.

Another had been a college student. Weeks of sex and Thai food. Raw. Every touch was electric. It was like riding a machine gun. Every pulsation vibrated danger. She even took me to the gym where her ex-boyfriend lifted. We kissed while he pumped. It ended weeks later after a few drinks and a bad argument. She said she was going to London. She promised that she’d never forget me, but also found nothing in me worth keeping. She did not keep her word, as I was an afterthought even before Heathrow. She still has my BAP book, too.

I tried to keep the jewelry store worker as my girlfriend, but she resisted every attempt. Weekly bump sessions were enough for her. Feelings did not need to enter the equation. The IT professional liked me well enough but found it impossible to date in the middle of a mental breakdown. Like other times before, I had found her after a serious break-up. This charming man is not enough to defeat nostalgia or the march of time. Go figure.

The venture capitalist used a novel excuse to dump me: my flesh and bones interfered with her quest for lucre. Filthy. There were more. Some hung around for a few weeks and then got better boyfriends. One stuck around for years before finding a better husband. Through it all, I remain. I remain seated. I sit and drink coffee. I sit and drink beer. I sit alone, always. I sit and stew.

I do not date anymore. It is likely that I’ll pick the habit up again, as most things are hard to quit. Nothing is guaranteed, however. Being a lonely bastard is not the worst thing. Walking alone on a dark night or running in the sun are better than sitting on a mattress and waiting for the text. But, just before sleep, it is impossible not to feel the pang of emptiness. The lack of a different head and shoulders on the opposite pillow is a corrosive cancer that eats away at the last lingering bits of goodness in this man’s soul. It is malignant, and at this point may as well be inoperable.

Who thought that finding love online was a good idea? An idiot seeking to replicate Sisyphus, that’s who. A pox on his house.

***

This is an excerpt from Justin Geoffrey’s new book Full Moon Reaction, coming this Friday from Terror House Press.