Weed, neon and an overconfident alter ego made my first Grindr hookup one for the books.
“Thanks for meeting me here. Do you live far?” He started the small talk.
“Naw, I live right down the street.”
“Hmm,” he replied, looking me up and down; legs, torso, shoulders, arms, face. He smiled, so I assumed he was pleased with his choice.
“I’m right across the street from a park, it’s beautiful in the spring. All the trees…” By that time, he could tell I was a newb.
“I haven’t seen you on Grindr before, are you new to the area?” He gave away the frequency of his Grindr usage.
“No, I’m just new to Grindr.” I gave away mine.
When I meet new people, I try to get to know as much about them as possible, to make a deep connection. But this was a completely foreign experience to me. It felt odd continuing my usual thoroughness, seeing as how the whole principle of Grindr is to “fuck and forget.” Nevertheless, I chatted away. You can take the boy out of the Midwest, but you can’t take the Midwest out of the boy.
We strolled past the beautiful brownstones, all dark and sleeping. I couldn’t help feeling we were being watched, like secret onlookers were peering from behind curtains in the darkened windows that stared down at us. And I was defying them. Like a child staring into his mother’s eyes while he takes another cookie and eats it. “Stop thinking about your mother!”
He let his dog off his leash and we sauntered behind, neither one of us wanting to show our eagerness. As the dog turned towards one of the homes, so did we. I could see the glow of his garden apartment 5 houses back. Bright blue and green and pink poured out of his half window like a cotton candy machine had spontaneously combusted. He opened the small front gate onto his patio and I put out my cigarette in the wet ashtray next to the garbage cans. Continuing the small talk, he unlocked his door and we entered. Nowhere to run.
I was assaulted by squiggles of light hanging on every wall. Neon burned inside coiling glass tubes all around me. A neon artist he called himself. A fine setting for a first hookup. But my Grindr alter ego kept pushing me forward.
His apartment was magnificent; brand new kitchen, vintage fireplace, back yard. It was stunning. And looking at him in the light, he fit right in. A collage of classic and avant-garde. He offered me charcoal filtered water. Obviously.
“Okay,” I prepped myself. “Turn on the smolder.”
I curled my lip into a cocked smile with my hand delicately leaning on the counter. “Straighten your back. Push out your chest. Good.”
It was a challenge trying to keep up the conversation while paying such close attention to my body language. It’s a skill I never developed.
I asked about his neon work, which he preceded to go on and on and on about. Did you know that if molten glass cools too quickly it will crack, and you’ll have to start all over? “Oh, I never knew, that’s so interesting.” My voice was sultry. Forget cracking glass, the real challenge was pretending to be interested.
He walked over to the couch, and I followed at a distance as if to suggest I made my own decision to move in that direction. No one is going to tell me where to go, what to do. Like a game of Monopoly: cutthroat, yet slow, painful, and seemingly endless.
I sat down next to him on the couch and glanced over to my glass of charcoal water. Suspicion began to creep into my mind. “Did he roofie my water?” I casually looked around the room calculating an exit strategy if I needed one.
“Should I turn on some porn,” he asked. Apparently that’s what one does on a Grindr hookup. His Apple TV was connected directly to PornHub, and the screen on the wall flashed with male genitalia in high definition. Bareback, French, interracial, public. He made his selection.
I asked about his dog who was chewing on his toy in the corner, seemingly comforted by the sound of overacted pleasure from the TV. It was a strange soundtrack to accompany our conversation.
He leaned over to the coffee table. “Do you smoke?” He grabbed a glass pipe and a metal container, packing a bowl as we chatted. I told him I did as to not ruin my cool-as-a-cucumber guise. The reality is that people who use the term “cool as a cucumber” are usually far from it. But he lit up and passed the pipe to me. I took a drag.
The smoke came shooting out of my mouth as I choked, my lungs refusing the inhalent and my throat burning from the intense heat. I tried to suppress the gagging and chugged my possibly roofied water, hoping I wouldn’t spiral into a seizure. I calmed the coughing as much as I could and leaned back on the couch with my grin in place, my chest sporadically heaving with the unstoppable urge to hack up a lung. Sexy.
“That’s medical marijuana, it’s really strong.”
“Yep.” I couldn’t risk saying too much fearing I might start my conniptions again. He was right, though. It was really strong and its effects were felt almost instantly. My character started to crack.
“Get it together, Dain, it’s just a little…”
“… a little, um…”
The room began tilting to the right and the neon blurred on the wall. As my mouth hung open and my eyes stared at the door reevaluating my escape route, I felt his hand latch onto the back of my head. My vision couldn’t keep up with the downward force of reality as he shoved my face into his crotch.
“The window! I could jump out the window!” As I tried to wrap my brain around what was happening, my primal gay instincts took over and went to work on him through his sweatpants.
Two trains of thought were on a collision course towards each other in my brain: sex and panic.
“Remember not to use your teeth.”
“Maybe I could use one of his neon pieces to send a distress beacon.”
“A little to the left.”
“Shit, my phone is dead.”
“Don’t forget the balls.”
“Just jump out the window.”
Then I stopped. “Do you want to take a break,” he asked. I nodded my head yes.
We sat on the couch quietly. The TV screen was still taunting us with videos of what we should have been doing. He was kind, offering advice on how to stay calm when you get too high. It was diminished a bit by his pantslessness. He was completely naked from the waist down, stroking himself in the hope that we would continue after I came down. He hoped in vain.
After about a half hour of idle conversation, I threw in the towel and broke the bad news. He took it well and put on some pants as he walked me to the front door. We said we’d reschedule, but we never did. I said we should grab dinner at the diner down the street, but we never did. I said I’d pay for the weed, but I never did. We hugged, I left, he closed the door. That was it.
I clutched my almost fresh pack of American Spirits in my hand as I walk down that cold empty street in Bay Ridge. I took deep, slow inhales on my cigarette, trying to flush out the pot. It didn’t work. Exhausted, I dragged myself home, got into bed, turned on 30 Rock, and fell asleep at 11:53 pm.