Day 26: Am I still being bootycalled?

It’s the question that’s been on everyone’s mind since diary entry #3 when a mysterious stranger decided to light up my phone one brisk and impossibly early Saturday morning.

Now, after weeks of suspense and as you all mourn the death of Normal People and find yourselves endlessly trawling the Internet for another impossible love of implausible chemistry, I am here to fill the Connell and Marianne-shaped hole in your lives, to plug the void of charged sentences and unbearable sexual tension with my own modern-day love story: the epic WhatsApp adventures of me and Mr Potential Bootycall.

Quick recap for those of you not eagerly following every slight progression of my romantic dalliances (rude, by the way):

Approximately two weeks into lockdown, when the “hey, how are you?” texts were hot, heavy, and clogging up the arteries of data centres the world over, an unknown number flashed up on my screen. For those of you far more popular than I am, perhaps this is unexceptional – just another human looking to ingratiate themselves into your good (phone)book. For me, however, this was unusual – particularly when the message didn’t appear to be a bum dial or, the far more frequent and upsetting “wrong number” phenomenon. What made it extraordinary was that this unknown number appeared to be attached to a striking black-and-white WhatsApp profile picture of a man one can only describe as Adonis-adjacent. Reclining on some sort of grassy incline, his torso weighted sturdily on one taut and inarguably dense bicep, this man is gazing off, in chiseled musing, into the middle distance. And he is texting me. I had to recline, rest on a wobbly and unstable bicep and positively GAPE into the far distance just to gather my thoughts.

The pretence for his impulsive cellular intrusion into my life was the excuse I used to use when I was fifteen (or maybe twenty-three – FINE, OK, twenty-five MAXIMUM) and invariably infatuated with someone entirely unsuited and classically uninterested in me: “oh, hey, I just was randomly going through my phonebook and your number came up and I thought to myself hey! I haven’t spoken to (insert disinterested victim here) in a while and so I just thought I’d shoot you a message to see how you are so…how are ya? And also please see photo of this thing you mentioned you liked one time so now I’m sending it to you to try and act like we have a rapport and private jokes and also because everything I see reminds me of you.”

His message was kind of like that but also much more to the point. To paraphrase: “I’m clearing out my phonebook and your name came up. Had to think for a while but remembered you eventually.” It ended with the oblique and unhelpful sign-off of reminding me of his first name and that we met at NUIG, “years ago!” However – and this is key, so do pay attention – he also began the message with the phrase “blast from the past” which, unless my Spidey senses are incorrect, almost always translates to one thing: someone is feeling frisky and looking to reignite “friendships” in a moment of rose-tinted nostalgia.

He joined the pyre of the many ‘unknowns’ – those who weren’t quite ‘maybes’ or ‘almosts’ or ‘if onlys’ but those who were vague ‘I wonders’ – the jarring interludes you were never sure how to feel about or how to categorise.

All this before 10am on a Saturday morning. How to react? How to respond? Particularly when, despite his striking good looks, I had no recollection of who this person could be. Worrying, considered I studied languages at university and so had a pool of about eight guys to choose from – six of which could be discounted for being either gay or in eyebrow-raisingly long relationships. Who was this person from a blurry past and just how intimately am I supposed to know them?

After careful consideration (a restrained ten seconds) and much quiet reflection (a further indulgent five) I replied. Of course I did. I said something wonderfully aloof and vague, apologised for my lack of recall and inability to keep a phone alive for more than a year (utilising the classic, ‘hey, lost all my number’s – who’s this?’) and an ardent hope he’d forgive me if we’d been best friends braiding each other’s hair and now I couldn’t remember what his face looked like.

I waited. A frisson of excitement careering through me.

His response was almost instant and as stripped of colour as his first message. Clipped to the point of brusque, factual as a stenographer’s transcript, his only nod to a conversationalist tone was the trail of ‘haha’s littered throughout his text because obviously my message had been witty and hilarious and he had no choice but to acknowledge it in a plethora of virtual guffaws. But, despite this lack of synaptic connection, his reply did give me the foundational information I needed and then, of course, it all came flooding back to me.

Tinder.

It always begins and ends with Tinder somehow, doesn’t it? It was my first brief flirtation with the app back in the Autumn of 2016, a young Arts graduate still stuck in her university town, reluctant to leave yet unsure if she should stay. Freshly turfed from my first – and at that time only – serious relationship and trying to navigate the world I’d been dreaming of as a girlfriend, and now a little awed by as just everyone’s “friend.”

He, a tall, terribly handsome (in a conventional, Heathcliffy kind-of way – if you’re into that) stranger who used words I’d only read in books and was completing a Master’s in Sustainable Development. For those who don’t know me, this conglomeration of qualities is what the crude amongst us would call my wet dream. Basically, a twenty-year-cherished idea of male perfection distilled into a man in a small icon asking if I’d like to go for an autumn walk with him one Tuesday afternoon.

We didn’t kiss goodbye but I did explain the term ‘mansplaining’ to him, which I imagine gave me more endorphins than any Hollywood-curated kiss could have.

I wore burgundy and mustard and my favourite tweed coat. We met at campus and he was very tall and, yes, definitely striking, and wearing those big Timbaland boots that suggested he was partial to weekend hikes and general outdoor pursuits. I’m sure I was nervous but I don’t remember it. I think I was more apprehensive about being back on a campus that was no longer mine to stomp around on – I vividly recall the pangs of envy watching students being students, the longing to once again feel like I belonged somewhere, despite the fact that college is essentially a four-year-long exercise in feeling like you don’t belong anywhere (so you naturally try to fit everywhere).

We set off on our jaunt and I tried not to think of all of the ways I had failed to make the most of the beautiful years of freedom and learning gifted to me.

I don’t like walks as a first date activity, I decided after that. There’s no alcohol and too much to focus on; like putting feet in front of each other, side-stepping shite and other calamitous debris, walking into a pole and additional concussion-inducing objects, not to mention the stress of trying to keep stride with an unpredictably-gaited stranger. I have short legs and terrible coordination. I am someone who needs to watch where they’re going at all times so, with my eyes trained on the leaf-strewn ground, this guy was just a disembodied voice, a shadow beside me.

And a shadow that was very fucking challenging and not a little infuriating to be honest. Our conversation was fraught with intense debate over societal ills and the various crises affecting the world at the time – I had just come back from time in a refugee camp and found his detachment, as a student in development, particularly irksome. I remember spending a significant portion of our stroll trying to figure out if I hated him. I spent the remaining brain capacity wondering if he felt the same about me, and trying to dissect the impossibly big words he was using. We didn’t kiss goodbye but I did explain the term ‘mansplaining’ to him, which I imagine gave me more endorphins than any Hollywood-curated kiss could have.

And yet I think – though it’s hard to be sure – that we were both still intrigued. I walked away feeling like a stupid school girl and so, obviously, there was a part of me that wanted to know why this man had caused me to feel that way. There was a larger part of me that then subsequently felt compelled to prove myself to this imposing intellectual. And, as is the case with any man I meet who seems defiantly disinterested in me, the biggest, basest part of me craved the validation of his wanting me. Besides, so much of the fact of him seemed perfect. He was a constellation of my most-cherished hopes for a compatible human – perhaps I just hadn’t given him a real chance?

He, for reasons unknown, continued to message me. And yet, we didn’t go on another date. I can’t really recall why now. I think it was sheer obstinacy on my part. He continued to seek out conversation but wouldn’t suggest any face-to-face tête-à-têtes and I was too stubborn to be the one to push. I was amenable to say yes if he asked me out again but blasé enough to be untouched by any desire to pursue him. In short, I was a shoulder shrug crossed with a firmly-set chin and muddled pride refused me from partaking in any conversation that involved a question. This, as would be revealed a shy four years later in the midst of a global pandemic, would be a trend in our acquaintanceship.

And that was it. Months later, he asked me to be his date for a New Year’s Eve party and I wondered if he’d got the wrong number. I declined – I was working (but would have said no anyway, just so you know). I promptly moved to a different country and fell into a different relationship and our interactions became a drip of random messages before teetering out entirely. He joined the pyre of the many ‘unknowns’ – those who weren’t quite ‘maybes’ or ‘almosts’ or ‘if onlys’ but those who were vague ‘I wonders’ – the jarring interludes you were never sure how to feel about or how to categorise. The people who were never downright nos but somehow never fledged into anything approaching a yes.

I hadn’t thought about him in years and suddenly, here he was, asking if I was working from home and telling me that, due to the rarity of natural blondes in Ireland, I hadn’t escaped his memory.

I began to feel it again – the insecurity of a stranger whose thoughts I couldn’t read and motives I was perpetually unsure of. It seeped into my typing fingers and lit up my phone with fast witticisms and hasty responses: the need to be liked.

… How did the story end? Still being written, mate.

Tree Tings

A collection of three things bringing me endless joy today and all the days of lockdown. Titled ‘Tree Tings’ in tribute to my lovely British friends who always mocked my IMPECCABLE Irish accent and who I should be packing to go on holiday with next week (wah!) but am instead receiving AirBnbb cancellation requests and flight refund updates from.

  • In tribute to today’s post, one must give special mention to the unutterable euphoria experienced when a potential romantic interest is proclaimed as “typing…” on a WhatsApp chat. Watching a particularly risky message move from delivered to seen, to soon-to-be responded to has to be one of the most exhilarating and emotionally tumultuous experiences known to humankind. I live for it.
  • Adam Driver. I am on Season Three of Girls – PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE message me if you watched it ten years ago when it was cool and edgy because I have a lot of feelings I want to express and no outlet to do so – and I swear to God, every time he flicks his shaggy hair out of his eyes another piece of me becomes immune and impenetrable to any other man. I am, quite simply, mesmerised.
  • The High Low. So late to this particular podcast party but am really enjoying the meanderings of Dolly and Pandora. Maybe it’s because I’ve time to listen to their episodes in one big gulp (an hour of listening was far too demanding on my time pre-pandemic) but I am genuinely a little bereft at the end of every episode (yet filled with reading, listening, and watching recommendations that have yet to disappoint).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s