“Will I die if I do this?” I whispered frantically into the phone from a toilet stall in Long Branch, New Jersey. “This” meaning the little packet of white powder I nearly dropped into the bowl. 1970. 1990. 2020. Some things never change. People are still clumsily dropping little packets of white powder into toilet bowls, especially after several double shots of Don Julio.
“This guy is crazy,” she said. “It’s a Tuesday during a pandemic. I’m frightened for what he’s like on a Friday.”
“I don’t think it’s his typical Tuesday,” I said, although how much do you really know about someone you met a half-hour ago? On Tinder?
“What happened to the anesthesiologist? Did he dump you for yelling GET ME THE MICHAEL JACKSON DRUG”
“No, and that was a joke. He’s on his boat. He’s always on his boat.
This boating thing is like a rich white people epidemic. All summer, I was turning down boat invites. I get seasick and not in a cute “baby, please get me a ginger ale” way. In a “horking over the side of the boat while praying for death” kind of way. I didn’t understand half of what these guys were talking about anyway. Boat-speak sounds like Klingon. The only thing I know is, “I like the cut of your jib” and “Chips ahoy!” which I’m pretty sure doesn’t even count.
I had just started dating again, after taking off 18 months. Anyone who online dates will understand why I needed a break. It’s emotionally draining. For every fifty people you match with, you will find one plausible candidate. Online dating, however, is quite convenient during a quarantine. You can lose your faith in humanity in the privacy of your own home.
Online dating hadn’t changed, only this time I was different. I was selfish about who I gave precious free time to. I won’t spend time with douchebags, when I have important things to do like watch Mark Maron talk to his cat on Instagram.
Now when they annoyed me, I deleted them rather than date them. They revealed themselves early in the conversations:
“Are you bikini ready?” – Sexist asshole. Delete
“Let’s meet at Home Depot” – Is this a date or an episode of Design on a Dime? Delete
“What are you cooking?” – For a second date? Delete
“There really is no pandemic. This whole thing is a hoax.” – Scary Tinfoil Hat Conspiracy Guy. Delete and Block.
“I think Trump is fantastic” – Block, delete, and wish him dick cancer.
The man I was out with hadn’t said or done anything annoying, and furthermore, he wasn’t afraid to make dinner plans. So many men are scared they’ll get stuck picking up a dinner bill for someone who isn’t Playmate of the Month. That’s a man’s biggest online dating fear – that the woman will be 20 pounds heavier than her pictures. My biggest online dating fear is that I’ll end up in trapped in a cage by a psycho who’s dancing around with his dick tucked in while cutting a McCall’s sewing pattern to make a dress out of my skin. But this guy made reservations at a swanky lobster place on the beach, and although he didn’t know it, it was the night before my birthday.
When we first sat down, I ordered white wine, but after he ordered a double shot of Don Julio tequila with lime juice, I caved. Tequila is my kryptonite. Over dinner he showed me a bag of edibles he had gotten in California (did he fly home with those? Are edibles easy to smuggle? Asking for a friend). He also presented me with my own little baggie of cocaine (he had 10 of them) and suggested I go into the bathroom to powder my nose.
My date was funny, confident, talkative, just like someone with a snout full of cocaine should be. He threw around hundred dollar bills like they were condoms at Planned Parenthood. He tipped the waitress $100 before we even ordered. He’s that guy. I know, I know, things are really BAD for people these days. I shouldn’t be condoning such a vulgar display of reckless extravagance, but I found him highly entertaining. He had that “joie de vivre,” which is French for “Republican tax loophole.”
The problem with being a degenerate is that it’s impossible to turn down drugs, even when you’re middle-aged and at a five-star restaurant. No one would ‘just say no’ to blow while watching the sunset over the beach, eating lobsters the size of puppies. Well, maybe some people would, but those are people with 401k plans. My financial plan is “work till I die.” Which brings us current to my phone call from the restaurant bathroom. No, gentle reader, I did not have a heart attack. What I did have was a trickle of white snot dribbling out of my nose onto an upper lip I couldn’t feel, and the ability to drink myself senseless without passing out. Remember those days?
We closed down the restaurant at 10pm, and he said,”LET’S GO TO ATLANTIC CITY,” and because I’m me, I said “SURE” Which is how I wound up hurtling along the New Jersey Turnpike at 11 pm on a Tuesday in a spaceship disguised as a Mercedes. When we got in his car, we face-timed with his two teenage sons so I would know he was not a serial killer, but don’t serial killers have families? I would have gone anyway. Who am I to turn down an opportunity to gamble in Atlantic City in the middle of the night with a cokehead Tinder date on a random Tuesday? You don’t just walk out of a Bret Easton Ellis novel.
On the two hour drive down we ate edibles, and he was playing Grateful Dead live concert tapes, which, if you know the Dead, contain no songs. Just long drugged-out jams which went perfectly with driving 90 miles an hour on a deserted highway in a posh Benz he had taken back from his ex-wife after she fucked the pool boy. The seats were massaging me – did you get that? The SEATS WERE GIVING ME AN ASS MASSAGE – and the instrument panel was flashing and beeping like we were on the deck of the Starship Enterprise. The whole experience reminded me of tripping my ass off at college, except in a car that cost more than my education. Very surreal.
Midnight, speeding along the New Jersey turnpike at 90mph, and I fantasize myself as Jackson Pollock. Drunk, angry, careening down the road in East Hampton, losing control at a curve, car plunging into the woods rolling over and over. Pollock at the driver’s seat, decapitated. A death like that is cinematic enough to suit me, except it’s only an artist’s death if you’re an acknowledged artist when it happens.
1:00 am on a Tuesday, and the casino was packed with debauched gamblers. Why? How? For what reason? I was filled with questions that I answered by ordering more double shots of tequila. “I’ll only blow a thousand dollars before I call it a night,” he said and began stuffing fifties into the slot machine.
And that’s how I wound up playing Wheel of Fortune in an Atlantic City casino till the sun rose into a gray milky dawn, the morning of my birthday. By that time, the edibles had kicked in, the room was breathing, and I was certain I’d find the meaning of life in the patterns in the carpet.
Please don’t think I have an exciting life. I was so bored during lockdown I started teaching my dog to do new tricks, only I don’t have a dog, so what was that about? I spent the last six months quarantined with a teenager. With a TEENAGER, people. The most dangerous thing I did was eat a gently expired cantaloupe.
This was a night reminiscent of the old days before I’d moved out of the city and become a Mother and a Responsible Human Being. It was an attempt to recapture something that I know is long gone, if only for a night.
I’m friends with my date, who I affectionately refer to as “The Human Snowblower” but I haven’t continued dating him because I don’t want to die. We text occasionally and when he mentions getting together, I make excuses, like “I can’t because I don’t want to die.”
But damn, that night was fun.
And I’ll never be that young again.
It’s been a minute, and I’ve missed all of you. Talk to me.