I am not usually comfortable in a bar by myself, but I had been in San Francisco for a week and the apartment I sublet had no chairs in it, just a bed and a couch. One Tuesday I had lentil soup for supper standing up at the kitchen counter. The bar had red fake leather booths, Christmas lights and a female bartender. At the other end, around the corner from where I sat, a bespectacled man my age watched the game. The couch had a woollen blanket woven in a Navajo-inspired pattern, exemplary of a trend in San Francisco that a friend of mine calls ‘White People Gone Wild’. I had fiddled with the knobs and the gas, but couldn’t figure out how to ignite it.
After I finished, I moved to the couch in the empty living room and sat under the flat overhead light refreshing feeds on my laptop. As the only man and the only woman alone at the bar, we looked at each other. He handed me his mobile and pointed to a Facebook post. When I moved in, the receipt for the blanket was on the mantelpiece. At night the room had the temperature and pallor of a corpse. I returned to my mobile and opened OK Cupid, the free internet dating service. ‘Tattoos are a big part of my friends’ and family’s life,’ he wrote.
I figure – if you are selling a car, you want it to look as good as possible, but also for it to be a realistic portrayal. Writing my profile: try to keep it here positive and upbeat about my life (no moans about how I need someone to complete me: I don’t. Worse, I think, are the ‘hi beautiful’ or ‘hi sexy’ mails.
Even if you feel that, perhaps keep it to yourself) but still conveying the point that I would actually like to have a relationship with someone. The cynical voice inside my head is saying ‘I bet you say that to all the girls.’!!
I sat on a stool at the centre of the bar, ordered a beer, and refreshed the feeds on my mobile. A basketball game played on several monitors at once. I allowed myself a moment’s longing for my living room and its couch.
Then I pretended to watch the game on a monitor that allowed me to look the other way. I refreshed the feed that indicated whether other people in the neighbourhood were sitting alone in bars. An OK Cupid Locals invitation has to start with the word ‘Let’s’:‘Let’s go now you and I’ always comes into my mind, but I’ve never broadcast an OK Cupid chat signal, I just respond. Every era has its own utopian possibilities: ours is the chance to make our lives more bearable through technology.
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