Do you know what it’s like to be ghosted? What does the word mean to you?
If you’re like me, the word is cold, terror, haunting. Sick, can’t sleep, sick to the point I cannot eat. The word a spiral of nothing. A void where a person once was.
I met Jamie on Tinder last summer. He was passing through town for work.
The night is hot, suffocating. I am sitting with my friend Masha, swiping idly as we wait for sushi. My legs stick to the vinyl booth.
“You’ve been silent for an entire minute,” she says.
“It’s nothing.” But I’ve seen him. Paused. Read his profile twice.
The fan on the ceiling circles slowly in the heat. I place my phone on the table, face down.
We match as I walk into my lobby. That familiar animation, two circles bouncing toward each other that do not meet. Lovers crossed. You win. Please play again.
An hour later, I am frantically pulling on clothes, reapplying my face.
I walk to meet him. Hurrying but trying to seem casual, so I won’t be out of breath.
We arrive at the entrance at the same time.
The memory of that night is carved up, cut through a lens of remembrance, and I’m no longer sure in what order the pieces fit – what I recall and what I might have invented. Images catch in my mind. His smile, one crooked tooth glinting under the light. A muscle flexing under his shirt. Him putting on his jacket and looking over at me. I think, for a terrible moment, that it is over, that this is all there will be. I realize how much he means to me already.
In the bathroom, I coach myself in the mirror. I coach myself under the single hanging bulb. Room painted black. Can barely find the taps. Do not fuck this up.
But it is not over. He says, come up for one drink. Just one.
After, I float home through deserted streets, stand under a hot shower. The vacancy of the city feels sexual, charged with energy. From my perch on my balcony, I watch the sun come up. Every muscle in my body feels deeply good and alive.
This is the beginning. It becomes a thing, as if it has its own momentum, its own heart, its own life.
I see him the next day, and the day after that, and every day until he leaves.
Now, the simple act of opening Tinder brings a rush of pain. My stomach clenches; I find I’m bracing myself. Conversations – when I did try to force them – would die in my hands. I watched them die, I let them die, I didn’t do anything to help.
I hover my finger over the hidden folder.
Do you want to dig up this grave.
I click. I have 438 new messages. Six months’ worth of matches and words, men in little same-sized circles, smiling men, frowning men, men with their shirts off, men with their shirts on, men surfing, men summiting mountains, men with dogs and hats –
Hey girl –
Katerina, do you –
So beautiful –
Heart beating faster. Dive into my matches, scroll all the way down. Same profile pic. His messages still there.
Heart be still. Calm down. It’s just a fucking Tinder profile.
I click. Run my eyes greedily down the words. Take in air, dive back in. Same. Ball cap. Smirk. Designer. Lives in LA. Quote from Warhol. Not one word is different. Would it be pathetic to admit I have his profile memorized? I did, I do. It spoke to me.
A note, appended. This is new.
Looking to have fun and take things from there.
See what happens. Take things from there. You open the grave and then you find the ghosts. Something he had said to me. Lying in bed, playing with my hair. “Your hair is like seaweed.” I laugh. It makes no sense. I laugh because I am filled with light and I do not care.
He adjusts his glasses in that odd, bookish way that has become familiar to me over only a handful of days. “We’re gonna be okay,” he says. That bookish way, serious but also playing. “We’ll take it one day a time. Make it work. See what happens and take it from there.”
I unmatch him. Thinking as I do that I’m fucking this up too, cutting this last cord too long after the fact to count for anything.