Gustav and I broke up on the subway platform on the way to work, and it ruined my commute. I could no longer sit on the same wooden bench every morning, cupping coffee in my gloved hands, people watching with the sunny optimism of someone who was in love. I guess I could still sit on the bench, but it would be with the despondent anger and bad posture of someone whose relationship had dissolved just in time for Valentine's day. There would be no hello to the empanada cart man, no high fives with the African refugee selling scarves. I would just sit on the hard wood bench, risking bedbugs, glaring at people through the clouds of my own breath.
Fuck winter. Fuck New York. Fuck everything.
Even though getting to work involved a death march in the dirty snow through Bed-Stuy, I liked looking at all people more glamorous than me on the way to their jobs. There was Out-of-Work Model in Blue Corduroy Coat, Bald Guy with Hoop Earring and Beanie Cap, Bearded Hipster with Charles Manson Haircut and Peacoat. Everyone was so beautiful, standing in the freezing wind, looking immune to it because they were already dead inside from living in Brooklyn. My soul needs to maintain a core temperature of at least 98 degrees to look on the bright side. Any slight drop in climate and I am giving the finger to kids in strollers when their parents aren't looking.
It didn't help that everyone around me was in a relationship. After band practice, a time that should be reserved for shooting dope or banging chicks in an airbrushed van, my band would snuggle on the livingroom couch with their significant others. I took to sitting in my bedroom by myself, staring at the ceiling and listening to Gary Glitter, feeling the cold, diddling hand of February reach through the cracks in the windows and rob me of my optimism.
I was working at an antique store in Soho where the the heat had suddenly stopped turning on and I had to walk around following rich people, saying, “May I help you? No? Well, let me know if you need anything,” with a bright red nose and cheeks. It was vaguely demeaning in the way that jobs helping rich people always are, where you start to feel shrunken and insignificant and question your own purpose in life. My feet were numb all the time, a symptom which I started to wonder whether or not was diabetic neuropathy instead of just perpetual cold and a broken heart. The owners of the store were really nice, rubbing their mittened hands together, saying, “Eat is sooo cold!” and “He ease an eediot if he thinks he will do better than you!”
On one particularly freezing day, a couple came in off the street. She was blonde, with long hair and perfect rose-kissed cheeks. He wore a plaid scarf, a tweed jacket, and otherwise looked like he could be an underwear model. They gazed into each other's eyes with longing as he pointed to expensive objects, asking her if she wanted each one with a puppydog eagerness that made me want to throw up.
“Sweetheart,” she said, gesturing to a vintage sign for a 'SHOE SHOPPE.' “What do you think of that sign?”
“Oh, I think it would look great in the livingroom. Do you want it?”
“Well, I... perhaps,” she said. “I wonder how much it is.”
“Five thousand dollars,” one of the bosses said. “Eat ease from the nineteen-twenties.”
“Well, honey,” he said. “We can get it if you think it will go well in the livingroom.”
“But, lover,” she said, “five thousand dollars is so much.”
“Sweetcakes,” he said. “When it comes to what you want, money is no object.”
“Where did you guys find each other?” I asked, disgusted by their happiness. What I really meant was, What freak planet of unconditional love and mutual understanding did you both come from?
“E-harmony,” they answered at the same time, then giggled at the jinx.
“No way,” I said. “Really?”
“Yes,” the woman said, blushing just a touch more. “I never would have dreamed that I would meet someone so perfect for me on the internet!”
I had always viewed meeting people online with skepticism. Sure, it was an option if I ever decided to cyber with vocally willing underaged girls or Chris Hansen, but any relationship I knew that had flourished from the internet seemed like more of a last resort, a cool, dry place where you could just lay down and die, stop doing anything cool, and have regular sex with somebody ugly.
But maybe that's exactly what I needed: somebody ugly to settle down with. Somebody I could just let myself go with. Somebody I could throw away all of my old dreams for, and get a new set of dreams, dreams like microwaveable chicken, cable television programming, and human reproduction.
He warmed her hands in his, breathing on them while she looked at lockets. They spent three-hundred dollars on a heart-shaped one and left the store. I went home and signed up for OKCupid, which should pretty much be called, “OKCupid, I'm Doing This So I Don't Kill Myself Tonight.”
I filled out my profile honestly, maybe a little too honestly. The username I created was 45RPMayonnaise, which combined my two favorite things: records and mayonnaise. I figured it would weed out anyone who didn't like either, and I would only get emails from people who truly understood me.
I got three messages in a row when I first signed up. The first was from a dude who worked at a record store and was kind of jacked, but he was only five feet tall. His taste wasn't that great, mostly toughguy hardcore, which is kind of a turn-off to begin with. I am barely willing to pretend I care about Agnostic Front when someone is six-foot-seven, and even less so when I have to stoop eight inches to hear my tiny boyfriend tell me how well Victim in Pain holds up after all these years.
The next message came from someone named Supersperms who looked like Ted Nugent on the cover of Cat Scratch Fever and bluntly asked if I wanted to “get down.” The third email was from a guy who was wearing a trenchcoat in every photo, and his interests were roleplay and fencing. Did the anonymity of the internet allow me to be selective? Was I just being superficial? Why couldn't I just get down with Supersperms? What was keeping me from playing Magick the Gathering with Trenchcoat guy followed by a noisy and regrettable makeout on the band couch?
Perhaps I should have delved deep within myself to get to the bottom of why I was suddenly a picky, judgmental bitch, but there were already so many questions about myself I wasn't sure I wanted the answers to. I didn't reply to any of my new suitors, and got lost in the sucking void of the internet, looking at profiles of people's projected best selves when I could have been sleeping or crying or writing letters to God.
Then I saw him. My soulmate. The person I was destined to be with based on a computer-generated 96% Love Match rating: Bearded Hipster with Charles Manson Haircut and Peacoat!
Who knew that every winter morning when I had stared down the subway platform quietly hating everyone around me, that I had actually been gazing into my own future, my other half, who couldn't be bothered with shaving and stood frigid and stoic, looking annoyed by the cold and irritated by the other commuters? I had just written him off as some hipster douche, but how wrong I was. He was so pissy and judgmental, with his earbuds and his skinny jeans, of course he was The One all along!
I made my first internet move, something I thought was funny by being intentionally creepy. A real cyber yawn-and-boob-grope, which he would certainly understand based on our 96% compatibility rating:
I SEE YOU ON THE SUBWAY EVERY DAY. WE ARE OBVIOUSLY SOULMATES.
Three days went by before he replied. I was wrapped in ten blankets in my freezing room, lit only by the computer blue screen. Yea, I usually take the subway.
That was it. Our love had died before it even had a chance to blossom. The worst part was, he couldn't even bother to spell 'yeah' correctly, and had instead spelled it 'yea,' as in, Yea, though I walk through the valley in the shadow of the elevated train, I will not use spellcheck or fear loneliness, for springtime is upon us, and I will find a skinny girl who listens to Animal Collective and fits into American Apparel leotards without looking like a chimp in a wrestling suit. Yea, I forsake you, Soulmate of Bed-Stuy, and banish you to six more weeks of winter.
It was awkward after that, our love, because I still saw him every day, whether I wanted to or not. Discouraged, I deleted my profile and decided to leave my romantic possibilities up to chance and actual human interaction.
The winter seemed to last forever, and Bearded Hipster pretended he didn't notice me, standing cold and indifferent to the elements, adjusting his iPod and yawning from seasonal ennui. Bald Guy with Hoop Earring and Beanie Cap read a new book every three days, and Tall Out-of-Work Model in Blue Corduroy Coat disappeared and left us behind for nicer neighborhoods and other subway stops.
I hopped around on the platform, cold and waiting, rubbing hand against gloved hand, trying to replicate the feeling of something to hold onto.