The writing, as they say, was on the wall. Or more currently, on the computer monitor. The percentage of ‘match’ versus the ‘enemy’ coefficient. In the universe of online dating, one could defy the concept of the whole through percentages that didn’t add up.? For after all how could one person be both an 80% like and at the same time be 49% your enemy? This sort of wisdom lay deeply concealed within the arcane recesses of the site manager’s twisted brain. No doubt tainted in the usual “Fast Company” outlook of the world somehow giving up its shell bound pearl repository in return for their latest cleverness. Self-summaries like shopping lists of must have items to pick up while you are on the way to the store. Favorite books and movies to channel one’s weekly angst towards when the hell of daily city bound existence had once again taken its toll. And the confessional of what occurred on Friday nights, or more specifically, what no longer did. This was the universe as crafted by these clever children of Arachne to entrap the suffering lonely in their web.
“The “Interested? Go ahead . . ” Stared her in the face. In her alter ego online guise of “Maybelle54”, she was determined not to initially check the “Income” portion of their “My Details” the way she was ever wont to do in the past. But as she scanned all the veneer of those all too cocky male leering smiles, she failed once again. “Cuddleobob59” was big and burly with tiny eyes. “SwimmingMike” dark and brooding before the questionable choice of a stormy lake behind him. “Loveontthepeaks” like what would have happened to Tim Robbins had he become a car salesman instead of an actor. “Fitandfriendly364” sanguine with a look in his eyes as if he was a U-boat commander looking directly at you through his periscope. Everyone looked liked the nightmare of that last high school date where you wondered what what happened to them in later life. The ones that seemed more promising having that “Rather Not Say” dead give away where a comfortable income should have been. It was trouble, trouble all the way down the line. The challenge of what to let escape from your heart in terms of real information a dilemma akin the whether of not to scrawl your phone number on a public space out of sheer desperation. Making sure of course to add a line or two about promising to assure a good time if someone, no doubt the local axe murderer, happened to call.
So what was so bad after all about listing “Honesty” or “My Kids” under “The six Things I Could Never Do Without?” She had edited her profile many times, possibly once a week. “Kids” seemed to kill the ‘Likes’ faster than the appearance of a new morning zit. After all there were a lot of other widowers and divorcees with a couple of kids in tow. Her own were grown up and on their own with the near to eventual threat of providing a grandchild oe day. But could she ever bring herself to state the possibility of the same in the “What I Am Doing With My Life” section? Goddamit, she was still a pretty foxy chick to be out on a good Friday night excursion to a downtown nightspot. She still got her share of looks from guys much younger than her own crowd a few times when she was, ‘out with the girls’. “Maybelle54″ checked her ‘Y’all Got Issues” and saw that some guy named”SadBernie49″ was online taking a shot at the mix of questions that she had answered. She perused the response as she refreshed her browser. He didn’t like baseball, he must be clingy as he expected to keep in contact every day. And, she couldn’t believe it, he called anyone who wanted to break up by email, a coward!?! “Well “SadBernie49”, she said to herself with a wry smile, “go back home to your mother, ’cause this gal certainly ain’t gonna to be given you a ‘Like”. On and on she scrolled and clicked, scrolled and clicked, going from top to just near the bottom before another set of postage stamp sized male portraits magically replaced the set just passed. More slick posturing and worn down hound dog snarky smiles beaming up or down in various angles the rectangular keyhole of the camera. She had to stop as her eyes were beginning to burn. She got up to walk into the kitchen and turned about somewhat startled by the flash of her own appearance in the mirror. Her shoulders looked somewhat smaller than she could recently recall? Somewhat amazing considering all they had to bear up under over the years!
“JimmyJet53” leaned back into his squeaky old office chair. The extended screech counterpointing the stretch in his back as he threw his arms up over his head. He had been at the screen on this damn sight another couple hours and it was approaching 5:00 AM. It wasn’t that he was so damn desperate. But he couldn’t help but waking up in the middle of the night around 3. Maybe it was his coffee rusted bladder nudged by the failing lifetime warranty on his prostate? He couldn’t just sit there in the dark in the lounge and listen to the occasional sirens cutting through the silence of the night. Besides half these broads looked comical, of pathetic. Sort of like his mother in those last few years before she died. He grazed past all the losers with a downward staccato sweep of the scroll bar mentally chanting his own internal mantra. “Too old, too fat, too wrinkled, too skinny, kids, kids, kids!” “My God!”, he mouthed in a low buzz, “Where the Hell did all the hot chicks go?” These all looked like the poor relations to the some bad TV prime time cliches about the suburbs. Temporarily halted by a sense of pixelized vertigo, he toyed about with the picture of one particular brunette somewhat out of a textbook sense of medical curiosity. “Maybelle54” smiled back at him with what seemed one lid partially lowered. “Was her left eye glass?”, he sarcastically pondered? He popped the clutch on the horizontal slide bar and to his surprise came out staring at a pair of very attractive younger bookends. “Ole Popeye could definitely reproduce some hot ones!”, he snorted. Too bad that she looked like she had lost her ceremonial corncob pipe? He chuckled maliciously to himself again at his own snide cleverness.
“Racconfan64” says we’re the same age! Hardly likely he thought as he saw the woman barely visible in the profile shot. The mileage alone said no. She was online but there was not much to offer beside a full tank of gas gone with every transit. “Oceanbreeze48” was giving her tried and true pixie smile about ten years too late. The thought passed his mind that perhaps this is what happened in the ‘big house’ late at night from cell to cell. People passing notes through peepholes. “Nicenancy39″ chimed in just at that moment. He had diplomatically complimented her on her smile after reading through her ‘Y’all Got Issues” questions which were rife with innuendos about deviant sex. “Do still waters run deep?” he typed in reply. “LadyDina1932” had the camera canted up at her which gave he a somewhat arrogant demeanor. The expression on her face expressed some degree of hurt tensing those otherwise fashion model features into a smirk. Was it the approach of the loss of youth that was the cinder in that eye? The time on the computer said it was getting near to 6:00 AM. He looked up from the screen an was somewhat shocked by the dawn almost ready to make a break for morning. This stuff was addictive. But where then was the pay off? He hit the quit and heavily rose to his feet hoping to escape the sun’s rays before they came through the window and he could get under the covers and pull them over his head.
The supermarket wasn’t all that crowded by late morning besides of course the deli counter. Most people doing their week’s shopping further ahead towards Saturday. “Maybelle54” had lived in the area since she and her former had bought a two-flat here some twenty years previous out of high school. The fact that her dad, a tool and die genius, had put up the lion’s share of the down payment on the property anchoring her and her two offspring in the area. When her Jim pulled out of the marriage several years earlier, the kids were finishing high school. As much of a rat as he had been in running off with the new assistant manager of finance from his department, he had not contested ownership of the house. Those local bookkeeping jobs had dried up with the transition of the local economies to big box franchises. But the settlement and her frugal upbringing had preserved the embers of what was previously a comfortable, if not somewhat emotionally empty existence. Thank heavens that her two charmers were away at school in the hinterlands of Ohio. Whatever complaints Jim had had about her, he continued to defer to his two daughters as he had from their early childhood and was keeping up with their tuition. The shopping cart was seemingly filling itself wending its way down the familiar aisles as if versed in some long standing habitual ritual. “All the nice guys had families.”, she mused unhappily to herself. She was way out of touch with the club scene and her girlfriends still had husbands or at least a local circle of connections that she felt that she had worn out right after the formal divorce degree had been put into force the year before. Her own parents were gone now and there really was just her to sit in the family lounge an blankly stare at the latest rerun of “Shark Tank”. And of course, when she convinced her pride that it was not desperation but light entertainment, jumping back on the computer to the dating site to see if anyone had sent her a message or possibly sent her a “Like”.
“JimmyJet53” heard his phone chime as he was walking out the front door of his apartment. Instinctively, he pried the smart phone from his front jean pocket and expertly thumb down the levels to the email inbox. “Racconfan64” had sent him a “Like” “Not on your life”, he thought. That was the problem with these sites. It was as if you were a kid in the basement playing that old board game, “Battleship”. The way the dating site was set up, you could tell if someone was looking at you. It was like blood in the water to a shark! These old gray haired biddy’s would descend on you if they thought you were passing through their territory. Why did he sit there all night last night? This was nuts. He thumbed at the message flushing it away into the trash. The icebox was looking pretty lame in content. The frozen pizza department was down to the last box of same and the usual milk, bread, jelly, peanut butter and sandwich meat section had turned into a ghost town of sticky residues that traced the physical presence of the cartons and jars that emptied, he now held in the pendulous bag of trash dangling at his side. It clunked heavily into the dumpster as the garage stairwell door return cried in minor agony behind him. The shopping mall where the local supermarket was located was a bit farther out of the way in the next municipality about a mile away. There was a smaller place closer by that he could have walked to but the supermarket at the mall had a fresher selection. He parked the car, deplaned, and walked briskly up the long aisle of diagonally parked cars keeping alert for for the unexpected flash of red tail lights. The lane just after empty of cruising traffic, he continued walking on towards the entrance of the store where a trickle of exiting shoppers past by him on either side. “One of the faces looked vaguely familiar?”, he thought suddenly. It didn’t strike him until he was actually inside the store pulling one of the carts free what had transpired. It had been “Maybelle54”.