It begins with a chat. A stranger contacts you through a private message on social media. He tells you that he saw your work and that it touched him.
You’re wary of unsolicited messages from men. They usually send you monosyllabic greetings or tell you to smile more. Some resort to blunt aggression when you ignore their overtures.
The stranger’s messages differ in approach and rhythm from the others. He prods and then listens, in the same deliberate fashion that a doctor might take a pulse. Soon, your exchanges increase in volume and intensity. You chat with him while you eat, while you sit in fluorescence of your office and the intimacy of the toilet. Once, you even Skype, starting off with a shy video chat that you scale down to a voice call to improve the internet connection, as well as revert to the safety of words. The tenor of his speech exhilarates you; it’s measured, but confident, pregnant with concepts.
It’s a gratifying back-and-forth. He matches your questions with witticisms and affirms that your comments are valuable. You already know the value of your thoughts, but have rarely had men engage them. You have found that they usually prefer to triangulate around your statements and circle back to their own importance.
You don’t date. The concept eludes you. Why waste cash on a meal and entertainment when a fuck is free? After all, you have even spotted a homeless couple writhing under a blanket in a public park.
In the same park, you happen to share beers with a dashing acquaintance. He is a tall, obscenely-well sculpted man—the kind you want to want. Dashing Acquaintance seldom says anything of interest, but his gaze is hungry. You sit with him, swatting mosquitos, observing his mouth and forgetting his words. When the beer dries up, he invites you up to his apartment for a nightcap. Dashing Acquaintance has a strictly material interpretation of the world. Statuettes, photographs, and sculptures troll his apartment, booty and artefacts that he carried with him from his many travels. He name-checks obscure capital cities, but cannot explain his relation to the world. Platitudes emerge from his pouty lips, like clumsy wine dribbles. He says things such as “the solution to Africa’s problems lies in the redrawing of its borders.”
You’ve been taught to suppress your intelligence in front of men, to indulge them as they spout nonsense without correcting them. In the office, you have stood behind your sexagenarian boss as he painstakingly composed a typo-ridden email. You’ve watched from the pews as your pastor recycled the same tired anecdote week after week. You have nodded as a stranger on a train platform bragged to you about all the destinations to which he’d travelled. In practice, men are the doyens of technique, the monopolisers of knowledge. Men tell you things—how and why to do things.
Dashing Acquaintance lights candles. His pupils reflect the flames, which under other circumstances, would create the flickering illusion of depth, but in this case, make his face seem vacuous. You consider his beautiful empty head and eyes. You supress a yawn and tell him that you’ve got an early morning. You see his face stiffen. Tersely, he hugs you and sends you on your way. As you traipse out of his building and into the night, it dawns on you that you could’ve been fucking. Still, you’d rather distractedly rub yourself than lie under the weight of someone who only speaks with his mouth.
You arrive home late and check your inbox. You swoon at the sight of a new message from the stranger. He’s up, wondering about the impacts of such and such. You talk. He sends you his work and asks to see yours. You stay up into the twilight hours, interlaced in questions that would take lifetimes to solve.
Your lust has burgeoned into a pressing need. He has conversation, big-time conversation. He understands that a thought must be carried further, deeper, that points must be nuances, and assumptions challenged. It is the intellectual equivalent of someone who lasts in bed, who knows to caress your ear without prompting. He taps into the curiosity in you that sometimes aches.
Mentally, you make plans to meet the stranger—far-flung plans that you hope will sustain your expectations. You wonder if he fucks as well as he thinks.