Our eyes met across a crowded room, or at least that’s what I would always tell people when they asked how we met, because ‘Brendan88 has viewed your profile’ doesn’t quite have the same romantic appeal. Not that I was embarrassed to have met the love of my life on Guydar, but having to explain to co-workers and cousins exactly what kind of app it was made the whole thing seem unnecessarily seedy. And I’d had enough of seedy by then; take the last man to send me a message before you, ‘Shy_Guy_6’, who communicated solely via dick pic and emoji. I tried engaging him in polite chitchat but that just got me a close-up of his anus followed by a winky face.
Thank god, then, that you replied to my message. You’ll never know how long I deliberated over what to say, before finally settling on an unimaginative but reliable ‘Hi', hitting Send, and holding my breath. In my head I call it ‘the last hi’, because I deleted the app immediately following our first date. Amy called that move ‘a little keen’ but I preferred to think of as ‘quietly confident’.
We spent a fair portion of that date sharing war stories from our respective experiences of online dating, laughing about the various deviant requests we’d received, both of us aware but unwilling to admit just then that we were drained, that loneliness is infectious and if we were forced to spend any more of our lives typing out gambits to strangers in text speak then it wouldn’t be long before our messages became tainted with the same desperation as all the others. We were each other’s saviour.
You were the most serious relationship I’d ever had, and even though I never said it in as many words I think you knew. You’d had a couple of proper boyfriends before, none of this was new to you, and that bothered me sometimes, but mostly I was just happy. Amy thought that the six month mark might be a bit early to move in together, but we joked that in gay years we were an old married couple. Not that we bickered much; mostly I hated it when you stole my aftershave and you would turn the air blue whenever you tripped over a pair of my shoes in the hall. It was tiny stuff though, silly stuff, because we were in love and we trusted each other.
And I did trust you. I wasn’t spying, I swear, but my phone was dead and I needed to check my email so I used yours, and while I was scrolling through work memos a notification popped up with a familiar little chirp. A message from Guydar; ‘VersFunSW4 has viewed your profile.’
And that was when morbid curiosity overtook me, and I opened the app which was still on your phone almost a year after I deleted it from mine. Maybe you just forgot it was there, I reasoned with myself, but then I saw your updated profile pic, tanned and gorgeous in Barcelona. I took that photo myself, had even remarked afterwards how handsome you looked in it. Was that what made you choose it? It was certainly a success with the men on Guydar, judging from all the messages complimenting you on your eyes, your smile, one even saying he was captivated by the chest hair peeking out from under your shirt collar.
I felt sick. Sicker still when I saw your responses, all LOLs and winky faces at first but then less coy. Lengthy, intimate exchanges where you implied that you and your boyfriend had an ‘arrangement’, where you described in detail exactly what you would do to LondonSub22 and TroyBoy and all the others. And I realised that I hadn’t been your saviour after all, because you had never been lonely, you had a phone full of men just gagging to keep you company. I was crying by the time you walked in, that awful messy kind of crying where the words don’t want to come out, but you pieced it together quickly enough, grabbed your phone out of my hand and stormed out.
The thing with fights is, they usually end. Whether it ends with shouting or tears or sex or exhausted indifference, there’s always something. But that was the last time I saw you. Hours later when my phone rang and it was your name, I ignored it. I ignored it the second and third time too. When I finally did answer, it wasn’t you on the other end. It was a nurse who had been trying to get through to your emergency contact.
‘It was incredibly quick’, she told me. ‘He wouldn’t have felt a thing.’
That was a year ago. Just over, actually. I stopped counting the days after the first anniversary. Amy has finally convinced me it’s time to move on, maybe even to go on a date. But the thought of walking up to a guy in a bar and starting a conversation makes my stomach hurt, so I compromise, and say I’ll think about downloading Guydar again. It’s another month and a half before I finally give in and actually do it.
Shy_Guy_6 is still doing the rounds with his smut and smileys. They’re not even up-to-date photos; he’s spamming me with the same picture of his penis that he first sent over two years ago. This fills me with white hot, utterly irrational rage. I’m typing out a message to him, a furious demand to show his face or get the hell off this app forever, when my phone vibrates with a notification.
‘Brendan88 has viewed your profile.’
At first I think I’m reading it wrong. But there’s no mistaking the picture in the profile; not the one I took in Barcelona, but the one you had two years ago. The first glimpse I ever got of you. It’s you, or at least a few thousand pixels of you, and I’m so deliriously happy to see it that it doesn’t register at first that this is impossible.
It’s a catfish, I think. Some scumbag found this picture of you in a dark corner of the internet and fancied taking it for themselves. ‘Despicable,’ I mutter. But what if it isn’t? What if this is really you, and you’ve found a way back to me? I have so much I want to say. I might even finally get to break up with you, and it would serve you fucking right.
I look at my Guydar tracks. The last person to view my profile before you was a Belgian in a gas mask. I realise with a sinking feeling that I could actually do worse than a cheating ghost or an identity thief. So I type out an unimaginative but reliable ‘Hi’, press Send, and hold my breath.