Christmas on Tinder
I wake up, grab my phone from the dresser and walk downstairs to the fridge. When I open the door, the cool air releases clouds of mist into the humidity. It is mostly empty. There is a stick of tempeh alone on a shelf. A small Bintang in the side door. In the back sits a black plastic bag. I unwrap it and discover a half-eaten circle of camembert. It’s old and stiff, but still tastes creamy and seems an appropriate way to start Christmas.
I throw a cushion onto the floor, sit down and stretch my legs out. It is already unbearably hot, and my sweat drips where my skin touches the tiles. The morning silence is quieter now that the others have gone home for the holidays, leaving three empty bedrooms in the villa.
I eat the cheese while scrolling through Facebook. My feed is lined with photos of friends with families I have never met. Their parents are old and vaguely resemble them, though in a swollen or melted down way. Each smiling picture is tagged with “Merry Christmas from the …”. Some wear reindeer horns on their heads or floppy Santa hats. The lonelier ones have their dogs dressed up in the same way. I wonder why they bother. It is too hot for thoughts like that.
I unpeel from the cushion and drive my scooter to the local pharmacy.
“How much for Valium?” I ask.
“10,000 each,” says the chemist in Indonesian.
“Bisa minta 10,” I say. Give me 10. Around 10 Australian dollars.
I pay him, smile and say Merry Christmas.
At home in the kitchen, I pop two pills and wash them down with the Bintang in the fridge. It doesn’t take long for the Valium to numb.
After 20 minutes, the stiff, hardened parts in my shoulders and neck soften and relax.
I drop my pants and head out into the backyard. The sunlight feels good on my naked thighs and penis. I smile at the cloudless blue sky and jump into the pool. The coolness swallows me. Sounds of scooters revving and birds talking muffle into dimness.
I sit on the tiled bottom and hold my breath.
I shut my eyes and the door on the outside world closes and locks. I’m a stone tossed into the centre of the ocean, buried in the sand. Forgotten. Left alone.
My lungs compress, forcing bubbles from the corners of my mouth that float to the surface and disturb the stillness. I stay sitting. I never want to see up there again. I don’t want to contribute to that world.
With the oxygen squeezed from me, I continue to wait. I don’t panic; the Valium has diffused that switch.
I decide I don’t want to die and push through the surface into the light and the sound. I swim to the edge and rest my cheek on the warm concrete. I pour beer into my sideways mouth.
A line of ants trail along the cement in front of me, coming from somewhere beyond the fence. I’ve watched ants in the past, but I’ve never focused on an individual ant for more than a couple of seconds before losing it among the rest.
I find one ant, a small black one just like the others, and follow it. The ants move in both directions but the majority are heading in the opposite direction to my ant. Each time an ant approaches my ant, my ant diverts towards it, and blocks its path. They spend a miniature moment touching antennas, stroking, twitching. Then they move on, walk for a couple of ant lengths and repeat the greeting. When clusters of ants approach my ant, maybe five or ten, my ant only touches antennas with the leader and maybe one other along the way.
I follow the ant for the length of the pool, antennas twitching, meeting, and moving on. It finally zig-zags its way under the door and into the house.
I finish the rest of my beer and its cool frothiness slides down my numb body like a tube. I climb out the pool, grab a fresh towel and dry off, then wrap my hair up.
I walk to my room and sink into the big bed with clean white sheets. The soft pillow supports my head and neck. I grab my phone and turn on the speaker with Bluetooth. Pink Floyd – ‘Breathe in the Air’. I press play, stretch out, close my eyes and sink even lower.
My nakedness is nice, exposed. Coolness drifts up my thighs. My knob lies warm against my leg, free to grow and get hard. I rub my penis with my palm, thrust against it, and for the first time of the day something feels wrong.
I need someone here with me. Someone to eat Valium and listen to Pink Floyd with. Someone to hold my hand. To close my eyes next to.
I reach a blind, heavy hand to my phone on the dresser and, with one eye, open Playstore and type in Tinder. The little green bar slowly moves from left to write. Download, install and complete.
My profile is set up. I muse over changing my tagline to, “Does anyone want to eat Valium and listen to Pink Floyd with me today?” but it seems a bit strong, so I leave it as, “The greatest thing I’ve ever said”. The ambiguity will cast the widest net, I decide, and begin swiping.
My thumb glides over pouting shots cropped to include cleavage, bikinis with a covered face, cocktails and friends, well-groomed happy dogs. Not one potential match seems beautiful. Or even sexy. Maybe these girls would be beautiful once I met them, but I just can’t connect. I mostly swipe right anyways.
Pink Floyd is on shuffle and the next song that plays is ‘Hey You’. My body has sunk into mush, pushing my index finger to the phone screen is the only movement I am capable of. Each time I swipe the motion drags out and echoes.
As the last lines of the song finish, a small Javanese girl pops up. Her name is Devina. She is 21. A rainbow bursts through a transparent triangle on the front of her black shirt. I swipe right and my phone freezes for a second and then flashes with the confirmation of a match.
“I just ate a Valium and am going to lie down in bed all day listening to music,” I say. “Want to come over?”
“Sure,” she replies.
Cover by Josh Felise