You can make a decision to love someone. I’m not saying I did this, but old exercise books have eligible men’s names drawn inside of hearts and popularity drove it, made it happen. It wasn’t a fateful, no choice in the pick, but an attractiveness scale and girl group to impress. They thought they were The Spice Girls. A tribute act doesn’t have to even look like the original, going by the ones I’ve seen, but maybe that’s England all over.
You were a decision in word only so I made a moat and rewrote cards I’d already written so you’d think my words weren’t meaningful.
What I know I suppress, and it’s only in the dreams I reveal my bent bra hooks to you and the hanging threads from my one pound Primark pants. And I want a worse judgement, to put-off, but yours is a fascinated face and when I wake up, I sense the wait in the seconds the clambering would’ve taken and I want to dream-learn, to dip into the memories of the dreams I did have. Instead, I end up in the ones I’m already dead, getting ready to die again, pursued, consistently, by the mighty and wrong.
I have no idea if the men we met in chatrooms when it was the thing to go in there – this was the nineties – were really men or the age they said they were.
We had conversations on age gaps with our parents, and they themselves had gaps, had dated people with bigger gaps, had questioned their parents about what’s too much and what’s legal.
But the internet’s the leveler. An equalizer. The alternative way to date, where you’re only as powerful as your search engine. Remember when we used Ask Jeeves for our homework and he almost always knew nothing. And neither did the men or the chat rooms.
Message boards ended it for us, created the archaic forms of communication we thought the internet extinguished, and once one had your address it was difficult to sleep, picturing outlines and outfits in pitch dark, and we wished Emma never said our patio doors were like the Scream house, or that it was remote enough for truth.
I looked for you but you were someone else. Your name was the same, uppers and lowers in the right places. The photo couldn’t lie the way some do: I’ve seen a professional go to work and smooth broken skin like custard.
You reminded me of islands in your absence. I was the water and the land and the lighthouses and lifeboats; you were somewhere else.
None of my tools mattered, weren’t solutions like prayer is in some sectors or helplines can be for right problems. My words fit crosswords but not the hole in your lip or your nose bridge or your left hip, more prominent than the right.
I imagined ransoms and a man search and a bot crawling through pages, lists, numbers, parsing your constructions.
My cursor didn’t pop on your name, didn’t flash your profile. It sat simply, like the internet did in the nineties, and you became Benjamin Allen, the next one.