I met Adam on Bumble in September, because I’m a feminist. I was in London, and he had a British accent, and the world felt alive. It was still sunny, and to me, pounds were equivalent to dollars, and everything was flavored by elderflower and rose. We met on a Wednesday, in Hackney, and I walked through a back alley to get to Hatch Coffee, which looked just indie enough. Adam was waiting outside, in a burgundy sweater and the black jeans I would soon give him shit for (why would you ever wear black when you could wear dark wash denim and maybe even roll the cuffs and actually look like an adult man?), and we made the awkward introductions. He hugged me, which I would never typically accept, but perhaps this is what people who meet on the internet do, and I, a foreigner, would give my origins away.
Inside, I drank a flat white and he drank an Americano. This was a relief, because I have much to say about Americanos.
“Do you know why Americanos are called Americanos?” I asked.
Adam looked confused and amused. I told him it’s because when Americans were fighting in World War II, they were given espresso to drink. This was too strong for them, so they watered it down and thus the Americano was born through a bastardization of French and Italian coffee. I burbled this out, and continued to give him a series of other facts interesting only to me, because that’s my nervous tick in romantic settings.
The conversation continued, a braiding of my facts, exclamations about British culture, and impertinent questions. I think he was surprised by what I was. We decided to relocate, and walked down Homerton Road. There were multiple drains in the sidewalk, arranged in squares of twos and threes, and as I stepped on a three-squared drain, he tried to take my arm and pull me out of the way. But it was too late.
He groaned. “Don’t you know you’re not supposed to step on odd–numbered drains?”
I was taken aback. “Is that some backwards British bullshit?”
I proceeded to step on each trio of drains I encountered for the rest of that day, and for the rest of my time in London.
Homerton road runs over swampy canals that slither through the borough of Hackney, and we soon turned to follow one of these stagnant streams. Peering in, I asked, “How deep do you think that is?”
Adam told me, “Not that deep. I think I could probably stand.”
“That probably means I couldn’t. But I think you’re lying. You’re lying so I’ll get closer to the edge and then you can push me in and drown me. Or you might use this to dispose of my body, weigh it down until I wash up on some unlucky shore.”
“I’m not going to do that.”
“That’s what a murderer would say...”
The conversation continued like this. I babbled about Dante, he talked about medicine and kidneys, and I asked about his favorite books, animals, foods.
He kissed me on the cheek before I left to board the train that would take me to my friends, a train I claimed was stuck underground for twenty minutes to excuse my tardiness. Something about the kiss on the cheek was so vintage and sweet. No one had done that to me as a means of parting before. I knew it was stupid, but I felt like this may actually be what adult dating was. Men offering to hold my trench coat while we walk, a kiss on the cheek, a career to discuss.
Some people play with my words, and I consider them brave for engaging in the game before they know what it is.
I started seeing Adam regularly, after a localized event of admonishing him for keeping me waiting all evening only to eventually claim he was too busy to get dinner. I told him I wasn’t a toy he could pick up and play with when he was bored, only to throw, rag doll-like, into a closet when he was done. He didn’t string me along again.
We went to pubs older than the United States, Ye Olde Chesire Cheese, composed of compartmentalized rooms and sloping stairs, bathed in warm light and adorned with Victorian chairs and portraits. He got me a double gin and tonic which was his first mistake, and we clamored to the tube with me holding onto his waist as if afraid of drowning, absolutely smashed. The Last Tuesday Club was a cocktail bar ornamented by taxidermy and fetuses in jars, my kind of place, and I told him of the pea–coated bodies I witnessed encased by glass in Dublin. He was fascinated, and the night tumbled on in swirls of gin and British accents until I knocked my glass all over him and the table, and couldn’t help but laugh hysterically at my own idiocy. We saw a revival of Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke and stayed up late discussing the fate of Alma, whose name is Spanish for soul, while wrapped in his light grey sheets. We went out, we saw London, then returned to his apartment with its stark white cabinets and unpatterned bedding, and I constantly teased him for living in an asylum.
Adam would fall asleep and I would lay myself on top of him, half blanket, half burden, and listen to the inhalations and exhalations accompanying my own. It was silent and peaceful and my mind was drained of worry, of stress, of seemingly indefatigable anxiety.
One night, laying in bed, he stared at the ceiling and claimed, “I haven’t been this comfortable in bed with someone in a long time.”
Another night, he put on instrumental music on repeat; the keys of the piano and several strains of synth echoed behind me, and our lowered eyelids raised and met in recurrent succession. We said nothing, but felt for each other in the slate–colored light suffusing the window in his room. I moved to kiss him slowly, and as I pulled back, he stared at me with wide eyes and I didn’t look away. I brought myself back to him and he held my face in his hands, and it felt as though warm water were swirling around me, enveloping my body, the sound of waves rising to mute the vibrato of thoughts coursing between my temples. Our eyelashes formed diaphanous feathers, framing an invented gravity pulling our pale faces together. The piano still shivered softly, forming the backdrop of a moment pulled out of time. I fell asleep with my head on his chest, his hand draped across my back like a sheath of silk.
A moment implies a chronology, something fleeting, yet something about this fell out of step with the events immediately before and after—a concrete connection rather than an ephemeral souvenir.