“Crucify the insincere, tonight, tonight…”
Like buying bitcoin for pennies, the peak time to meet a girl on the Internet came and went before you ever knew what you were losing. Before anyone would have thought to use a term like early adopter– a time so raw that it couldn’t have been confined to language. Before they called it the “wild west.” A time without shape or form.
Forget selfies, rewind past digital cameras- when scanners were still emerging technology, the most pressing question after “ASL” became finding out what she looked like. The description of her body would ignite the imagination. You’d never have guessed that this primitive fumbling would yield more honesty than digital pictures, twenty years later.
I knew I was in over my head when I heard Kristen’s voice. She spoke with the easy confidence of beauty. I always came out of left field. The outsider art of trying to get laid. A puncher’s chance, but give me enough time and I’ll land a clean left hook. There was a crazy charm to this and Kristen picked up on it. She didn’t know what to make of me, but she knew I was unlike anyone she’d ever met. I spoke with the easy confidence of insanity.
We met on the cusp of autumn turning cool- where the air feels heavy and frames the night for romance. Parked under the tracks, she tugged and tugged the sleeve of my sweatshirt until I was close enough; we made out to the sound of passing trains. She was the prettiest girl I’d ever kiss- when I thought kissing the girl meant riding off into the sunset. She likes you, with a capital-L; you’ve slayed the dragon. The victorious boxer getting his gloves cut off- opponent unconscious on the mat. A time when it seemed natural to think your work was done and you’ve reached the end of the movie.
Kristen was the first girl I’d kiss after Jessica. She was the kind of girl who had every guy in the room gawking at her wherever we went- dark hair and large breasts. She was the hottest girl in the club out with a kid in a Misfits t-shirt. She would’ve never known I existed without the Internet- a realization I made concurrent to the feeling that I was in over my head. Had life progressed naturally, in a timeline without the interference of technology, I would have never been afforded these opportunities, but the human animal adapts. Seagulls at the beach learning to scavenge through garbage. First guy in the room to buy Bitcoin- meeting local singles in AOL chat rooms.
Our drama would only last a few weeks. A girl with disposable attention will expect constant hits of dopamine. Minor deviations- seconds fractured into milliseconds; moments less than ethereal; temporary loss of emotional faculties- will extinguish interest. I was too heavily invested to effectively compete. Her game playing was effortless- built into her muscle memory; unconscious reflexology; Anderson Silva dancing around Forrest Griffin. Patty Hearst with a machine gun- not getting the message, instituting my own torture- everything disconnected; symbols vacant of meaning- the less she wanted me, the more I needed her.
Like the drug dealer in an after school special- she gave me a taste and I was instantly hooked. This kind of emotional warfare would define all of my future relationships. I did my best to keep up. I wrote taunting poems accusing her of being spiritually dead and kind of fat (she wasn’t) while implying that I was fucking another girl in her absence. When you can’t compete, you try to win by disqualification- the others were inauthentic and insincere; they didn’t understand truth and beauty; she didn’t need them like you knew she needed you. This bought me a few more hook-ups, but I was ultimately out of my depth. Still, she’d remember the poems years later.
When you start down the road of emotional manipulation, you end up an addict. You’ll never let a situation spiral out of your control again but you start getting hot for the process as an unintended consequence. Coming up with jabs and tuning into the subtle reactions that a girl thinks are hidden. When you find a sore, you pick at it. You’ll end up getting off on this harder than you get off on sex.
Years later, I’d tell Abigail that she had cute knees. And she did- petite in stature, she had the thighs of a woman who had not yet borne children; the knees of a teenager- untouched by time. But when you play these games with a smart girl, you get called out on your bullshit- something that would make me smile. If you’re smart enough to pick up on it, you deserve to win.
You like to break women down so that you could rebuild them in your own image, she’d tell me. Your compliments are backhanded- insults by omission. You want her confidence dependent on you; reliant on your permission. Her only source of dopamine; good feelings; self-esteem. You become her dealer and you want her hooked. You want to own her.
You want to own her and there’s a magic to believing that ownership- permanency; consistency; is even something possible. That the acknowledgment of feelings had and moments shared will create an organic entity, that may necessitate both parties active and present, but is also something so tangible that it can exist independently of either- talk of our relationship like an eighteenth century alchemist; Henry Frankenstein, stitching together something beautiful and new, creating life out of thin air- us against the world; good times and bad; riding off into the sunset; writing your own story and getting to the end of the movie.