I stood in the dimly-lit bathroom. My reflection stared back at me in the mirror above the sink. My lashes were still coated in a layer of black mascara and my lips tinted a pale pink. I checked the time on my phone. It was just after midnight. Was I really about to spend the night with a stranger?
I first downloaded Tinder (an online dating app which is basically opposed to the cliché saying, ‘don’t choose a book by its cover’) mainly due to the persuasions made by my best-friend, Kimberly. Apparently, it was something all single people should do after a break-up. My profile’s bio practically ridiculed the app; ‘Blonde and ready to be cat-fished.’
My online profile was, to be quite honest, a seemingly perfect representation of myself. As a society, we post picture-perfect moments in order to control how we are perceived. This makes it daunting to meet someone in real life. There is a fear that you will never live up to your online persona. Because of this, I never took the app seriously enough to actually meet any one of my acquired Tinder matches.
And then I came across one profile that changed my mind. Brett. He was a tall, sandy-brown haired musician with a sprinkling of ink on his right arm. I swiped right. We matched instantly and exchanged numbers. Both of us studied in Cape Town and flew home to Durban for our University holidays. Although we lived in walking distance from each other in Cape Town (yes, we had already mapped it out), we were both currently situated in our hometowns. So we continued to text online for about a week until the night of my friend’s birthday. After two vodka waters and a few too many tequila shots, compliments of the birthday boy, I decided to text Brett.
‘After two vodka waters and a few too many tequila shots… I decided to text Brett.’
‘I’m going out clubbing tonight. Come join?’
‘Sounds tempting.’ He responded immediately.
‘I’m a little tipsy.’
‘I’m leaving in five.’
I stared down at his last message, panicked. It’s important to note that he lived just over an hour away from where I stayed in Durban. It was ten o’clock at night and he was driving all that what just to meet me. Cailley, my wing-woman for the night, gaped at me after hearing the news of Brett’s impending arrival. I pretended that I was just as concerned as her to avoid judgment. To be fair, part of me thought that he wouldn’t actually show up. But he did. I wasn’t sure if it was my alcohol-blurred eyesight or the flashing lights in the club, but he was even more captivating than the photos he had sent me. Behind his glasses, his eyes mimicked the way wet grass glints in the morning sun as it warms the earth’s dewy surface. I was mesmerised, to say the least.
Unable to properly hear each other over the blaring music, the night consisted only of dancing until the club announced their final song before closing. That was when he finally leaned down and kissed me sweetly for all of ten seconds. I then ignored another cliché, the one warning you not to get into a car with a stranger, and I allowed Brett to drive myself and Cailley home at five in the morning. Was he really desperate? Really lonely? Or crazy to have put in so much effort to meet me? My friends tried to answer this for me. Ultimately, they decided against him. But I couldn’t stop thinking about him.
‘My friend, Connor, is having a get-together for the Soccer World Cup final tonight. Please come? I’ll bring you home in the morning xx.’ I received this message from Brett two days later. I’m still unsure what possessed me to pledge my consent towards his plan as I rarely subject myself to unfamiliar situations. It was as if my feelings towards him didn’t want to follow the usual protocol. The idea was that after our hour long car trip to his friend’s house, I would be able to decipher whether or not he was indeed a serial killer, and if so, I would then make my escape — solid plan, I know.
Kimberly was the only one whom I shared this information with. Mainly so that someone knew of my exact location and the identity of whom to accuse should I go missing. But when Brett picked me up, he was all smiles and an endless stream of babble about his life. I then ruled it safe to continue on to his friend’s house where the get-together would commence. Only there was no get-together. Nobody showed up apart from the two of us and his friend Connor, being that it was his house we were staying at. My constant thought of reassurance throughout had been my assumption that there would be other females to take refuge in. In a desperate attempt to secure my safety, I sent Kimberly a pin of my exact location in case of an ’emergency’.
‘Nobody showed up apart from the two of us and his friend Connor’
With my mind somewhat reassured, I sat on the couch and feigned an interest in the grown men kicking around a ball on the TV. The three of us were situated in a cottage separated by only a few metres from the main house of the property.
Moments after the soccer game had ended, Connor retired to his bedroom in the main house. I was then left alone in the cottage with my Tinder match. All I could think about was where we were going to sleep. I was too shy to admit, even to myself, that I hoped we would share the bed. ‘I’m going to brush my teeth now,’ he yawned. I waited for him to finish before I lugged my ridiculous bag too heavy for only one night into the bathroom with me. I didn’t need to look at my reflection to know that my thumping heartbeat had flushed my cheeks rosy-pink. Finally, I crept out of the bathroom and into the bedroom where Brett lay stretched out on the bed, waiting for me. His prolonged silence suffocated the air, making it hard for me to breath. ‘Would you mind turning off the bedroom light, please?’ His eyes smiled at me, calming my mind.
I propelled the room into blackness as I switched the light off and crawled into the bed with him. We lay for nearly two hours with a wall of polite awkwardness between us as we partook in a pleasant game of pillow talk. My rigid body gradually softened as I shook away my worries with laughter. My skin burned with anticipation as his hand rested on my lower back. ‘Is this okay?’ Brett’s hand tensed above my skin. ‘Yes. It’s okay,’ my voice was a dreamy whisper as I melted under his touch. It was the way his hands strummed my outline as they traced my skin. The wall of polite awkwardness was extinguished as our bodies gravitated towards each other.
Suddenly, I felt his nose brush against mine. Our faces had moved so close together that I was breathing in his exhaled breath until I could taste him. The night had teased us, tempting us toward each other. Instead, we treated each other as opponents, not wanting to lose the game by revealing our desires too soon. When he finally kissed me, he was sweet, like something I had craved for.
Tangled in each other’s limbs, we soon fell asleep, dreaming of what we still had yet to give up to each other.
It was a night intoxicated by my behaviour uncharacteristic to myself. I went to bed with a stranger, only to wake up with Brett. And I really liked Brett.
‘Tangled in each other’s limbs, we soon fell asleep’
Now, six months later, I’m still dating my Tinder match. Although I wasn’t necessarily looking for love, Brett made me feel as if I had been waiting for him all along. For the first time, I let myself fall until I knew that I could be hurt — but only in the sense of him leaving. He could leave and take with him, a part of me. The part that wasn’t afraid to love. My mind tried to alert me of my heart’s malfunction but I ignored it. I wanted to risk it all.
Dating in the 21st century has far surpassed the physical realm of encounters. Our generation acts on impulse and seizes most opportunities presented — no matter how daunting it may seem to our wary predecessors who chant their cautionary tales at us. While it still remains necessary to listen to that little voice inside your head (the one who possesses an instinctual hunch), it is also important to address a situation by your sensory responses. How does it make you feel?
He makes me feel alive.
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