It had become Ms. Myska’s tradition to allow herself one month of the year to date through the interwebs. Signing up on a dating site involved a creating of a profile which she completed with relish and a certain glee, hoping her prospects would catch her tongue in cheek style, her humor, her joie de vivre. She spoke of her love for art, for the beauty of nature, the necessity of good stand up comedy, her passion for the eating of chocolate hazelnut spread, the patting of her soft dog while enjoying the breeze on her porch. Her initial offering netted an overall positive response and she was off to the races.
This particular month, in the month between Halloween and Thanksgiving, her first date was a military man who had exciting, interesting things to tell her over their salmon and broccoli: his work in search and rescue, his knowledge of Chinese and Russian intelligence, his concern for a wave of immigrants about to cross the border. But he also told her how easy it was for him to pick up women, how he could sit at the bar and they would just flock to him. There was no one at this restaurant bar. Eighties rock music reverberated throughout the empty chain restaurant dining room and the salmon was a little bit dry though she discretely slathered it with butter sauce. The barkeep was drying glasses and putting them away for the night. Ms. Myska’s date had lied about his age. He was actually more than a few years older than she. She could see it in his hair and frame and hands.
The military man convinced her before their second date to take down her profile and date him exclusively, that he was a great catch and well worth it. Another man she had been messaging on the site, a man slightly unhinged but who had been entertaining her nonetheless, got angry with her when she told him she was deleting her account for someone else. He flung a tirade of angry texts at her, telling her she had betrayed him though they had never gone out. He predicted that by the third date, she would be moving her stuff in with this person and making wedding plans. Ms. Myska’s heart began to race. She had no intention of moving in with anyone. And here’s the other thing: She was no good with a stranger’s anger, not this explosive and intense kind of anger, and seemingly without much foundation.
Because of dealing with this other man’s angry texts and the doubts it raised in her, she was late to her second date at another chain restaurant/bar and almost didn’t go. But she made it with apologies. Almost as if the dating gods had turned against her for this, the charm had drained from the military man altogether. His face appeared weary and drawn. His age was more revealing in the light. And she listened to a one hour tale about his lucky numbers and how he intuits them and uses them to bet and play the lottery, how lucky he is as if he were pretty much invincible. She supposed in a certain light on other dates this show of bravado sealed it for the uncertain as if he were a magic lucky teapot. The determinism of the numbers crushed her as did his seeming unwavering faith in himself. The fried chicken pieces at this second restaurant, a different restaurant than the first but almost interchangeable in a way inspired in her the following image: A very long tunnel with small round doors in the walls, each containing a lecture, a bland restaurant item, an angry political person, a disappointed man.
The next day she broke up with him over text. They had only seen each other twice. He called her a child for not breaking up with him face to face and he implied she was one of these “crazy ass women” he’d been seeing as of late. She asked him how insults fit into his self-presentation as a gentlemen. Then the doors to that particular slammed shut. Wham.
Her next prospect was an elementary school cafeteria manager who after one date convinced her to take her dating profile off the website, the profile she created after the military man dressed her down like the drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket. She and the cafeteria manager went out for tapas at a Brazilian restaurant. She liked the way they spoke fluidly of food and recipes and restaurants and ingredients. She liked his hands, nice, big, warm looking, and his height. They laughed and talked and went for ice cream. They hugged when the date was over. They hit it off so they both took down their profile.
Then he didn’t call her. Confused and puzzled, she confronted him. He responded he was following some sort of “rule” for not calling her. He was angry she was upset. And he seemed angry by the second date over delicious blackened fish sandwiches. She was trying to be cheerful and funny but she felt his scowl and withdrawal and later that night it depressed her and she broke up with him. She kept remembering the way he walked to his car after their meal like he was leaving a house on fire when really nothing was burning. She was only standing beside him waiting for a reassuring hug or something to clear away their early days of trouble. Down this corridor there would be the mournful tears of someone crying for the love she could have given but it was unwanted. She broke up with him in the middle of the night when she knew he would be asleep.
She met a man on a motorcycle. They met out for oysters. He had a heavy silver skull ring for each finger and a salt and pepper goatee. He smiled at her and they sat at the bar chatting comfortably. She hadn’t planned on it but she asked him to take her around town on the back of his Harley. She didn’t even have a helmet which is as bold as Ms. Myska had ever become with her own safety.
It was an inky, starry night. She knew instantly she loved him or could love him.
A few days later his mother died after a long and painful illness. Ms. Myska felt him slip away into things he must handle, though she tried to help him best she could and she tried to be supportive. She went to the funeral home, leant an ear and what she believed was her sympathy. She liked the way he included her right away. She liked the way he took her out and seemed to want to know some things from previous experiences in her relationships. Knowing him and the people he rode with was like knowing a larger family.
But there was another side that snuck in too, a sadism that caught her mouse heart off guard though she tried to chalk it up to his grief. In the short amount of time a bond formed, maybe it was she in her sympathy, a chance to be useful in a way she wanted to be, useful and helpful and good. She had given a lot of herself, her feelings, her care. She was, she thinks now, a bit of an idiot but in the moment that this happens, this bonding, her dedication always seems to be for some cause, as if love were a god to be served exclusively and everything and everyone is sacrificed on the altar. With the last and final man for the year, it had something to do with the rumbling of the motorcycle, her body pressed up against him, her arms around his waist, his little hat, the rock music, Tom Petty, the air.
But eventually after she had done what she could and what she thought she should do out of respect for his grief, he hated her too.
Ms. Myska deleted her account.
The deeper truths are in the green dark mystery of the woods across the street. You cannot give up pursuing this mystery, not even for a moment, she thought, in the quiet, no military histories on tv, no man banging around making something in the kitchen, no full set of skull rings falling on her black iron Neiman Marcus side table she bought from ebay. How the woods have missed her, the sky. Her dog’s small dark and bright eyes, watch her and wait for the moment she will tear her eyes from the lonely and dissatisfied and take her for a walk.