So what we mainly talk about is Tinder, rationalizing why we're "on it," trying to convey to the other that we're not really "Tinder types." Over a six-week period, most of my Tinder-to-reality experiences follow this narrative arc: the excitement of digitized potential fading the moment it's actualized. She sidles right up next to me and wraps her arm around my waist (good sign! But the moment Maya takes her shot, a friend materializes out of nowhere, grabbing her arm and yanking her into the crowd.
I hang around, repeatedly texting her through Tinder ("Hey, were you real or an acid flashback?
As we kiss on a street corner at the end of the night, she whispers, "Next time, pick me up on the bike." By the time I return to New Orleans, the novelty has worn off.
Once a salve to post-breakup loneliness, my Tinder usage has begun to foster a deeper, more existential kind.
Using the magic of GPS, Tinder finds potential mates nearby and presents them to you.
Should two people independently like each other, a "match" is made, prompting a private text-message box to open up, and leading to the fiery, 21st-century beginnings of... For all I know, Michelle, the first woman I've liked, has already gone and given me the nope.
But just as I'm about to delete the app, I hear from Lori, the 22-year-old aspiring doctor, which keeps me tethered to the app for a bit longer.
We've stayed in touch, though I wouldn't describe any of our exchanges as even bordering on flirtatious, which is what makes this particular message so jolting: It's a Friday night, and Lori wants my phone number so she can "drunk text" me throughout the evening.
She enters my life like the dozen women who came before her and the hundreds who will follow: in the palm of my hand, flickering on the touchscreen of my phone. Being nearly a decade older, I find her youth a bit distressing. Further stoking my curiosity is the knowledge that Michelle is three miles from here, which has the effect of making her seem more real than the catalog resembles, blurring the line between fantasy and reality, pixel and potential.
But mainly what I'm drawn to in Michelle is her looks: brown hair blown straight, white jeans that seem to have found their way onto her slender frame via skin graft, a face punctuated by the sort of vaguely suggestive grin made culturally ubiquitous by the selfie.
Our conversation is effortless and flirty, and we don't realize we're the last ones in the restaurant until the waiter politely tells us they're trying to close.