Charlotte E. Wilde

Identities constructed on the linguistic champ de bataille | Words, like little foot soldiers, march out in the armies of my poetic failures

Category: dating

Mr. Right Swiped Left, aka. modern romance [is dead]

*Note: This is an updated version of a post from July 17th 2015 that I decided to come back to and re-work.*

(A Tragicomic in 10 acts)

{ACT 1}

He was one of those rare, mythical creatures everyone’s heard of but nobody’s actually seen — like unicorns, or people who know how to fold fitted sheets — the Cinderella of Tinder profiles, a 1000 yard stare and an ass to write home about.

Swipe right.

Despite showing up 15 minutes early (a rookie mistake wherein the desire for control trumps that of any possible dignity) I hadn’t seen him walk through the door. He was camouflaged by the bobo decor of  the bar like one of those employees at over-priced specialty-stores wherein their sheer level of aloof-yet-cool is somehow enough to convince people of the appropriateness of spending a month’s salary on that “must-have” silk skirt.  Europe excused the monotone of his look, set off by a turquoise ring that matched mine and a tattoo that desperately wanted closer examination. He was done but not overdone in a way that screamed ‘don’t even think about it.’ But I make a habit of never taking my own advice. Something about the way he walked over, offered me the requisite “bise” and arranged himself in the chair across from mine made my mouth dry.

In the span of hellos I conclude he must be one of these people who always finds themselves asking what’s wrong — there’s never anything wrong, of course, it’s just that you constantly have the impression around them that there’s something in your teeth, that your smile is screwed on crooked, or that you’ve committed some egregious faux pas while ordering your wine.  Meanwhile, it seems my legs and hands have somehow forgotten how to sit or hold a glass. Not something I’m used to, but the phrase ‘out of my league’ was 1000 under the sea with a fish like this and colloquialisms don’t translate well. I’m watching from the outside, subway-struggling to breathe, looks sliding off him like water on scales and scales breaking under the weight of his stare until I catch myself looking away just to break the tension.

Happily, alcohol winds all inhibitions and some time later after my third mojito and a 20 minute mental detour I find myself ready and willing to cash out. Turns out ‘out of my league’ bites hard in the rain and one slow grinding song topped with a licked-lip-stare finds us holding hands in a taxi cab listening to the driver chat away about his ex-wife’s seemingly egregious shortcomings to god-knows-who at 4am. Romance is dead, I think, but I feel his fingers rubbing mine and I realized that 29 stands its ground on the scale of take your wins where you can get them. So I do. Sensibilities swallowed like a #tobedeleted hashtag, I’m envisioning myself a liberated-liberal-lady-luck with requisite flaming torch and toga. Fuck it, it’s a Thursday and I’m painted into these jeans like a mainstay attraction complete with lipstick stained teeth and a doe eyed grin. What do you want? He tastes like a 14 dollar whiskey, decadent if over-priced, and I make a mental note to congratulate myself in the morning.

{ACT 2}

My heels are too high and he has hands softer than anything I’ve never felt on my skin, the combination of which helps me forget how to walk, reading like an invitation or a warning.

“Are you inviting me up?” he asks in the hallway, and I want to smile or respond but somehow my face feels angled all wrong. Words are slippery things– like peeled grapes or spaghetti without a fork they’re best enjoyed cold, alone, and without the pretense of good manners required by someone else’s presence. In any case, what comes out must have  resembled “sure” because I quickly find myself pushed  up against the wall in the stairwell with his hands in my pants.

Romance is dead, I think. ‘Who cares,’ chorus two glassed of wine, three mojitos, and a forgotten dinner.

Majority wins.

{ACT 6}

“I really can’t see you again,” I warn him the next day after acquiescing to an ill-advised whatsapp exchange, but I got the impression neither of us were entirely convinced of my sincerity. An army of half-baked protests ranging from hair-washing to grocery-shopping later he shows up at my door with a Nick Cave record and a dozen roses stapled with awkward and three of those little packets that keep the water fresh.

“The florist asked me if I wanted to add a card that said ‘I love you’ but I told her it was a bit early for that.”

I choke on my gum, or my tongue, and go to the kitchen for a glass of water under the guise of looking for a vase. Desperate times, or measured ones, call for eventually cutting the stems short enough to shove them in a rinsed spaghetti jar. It occurs to me that I feel less moved by this trite little display of good faith than I probably should, it seems the only thing that can move me to tears or heartstrings of any sort is the carriage scene in Lady and the Tramp.

But hell, I’m nobody’s fool. Love always starts with roses but frequently it seems to end with bloody lips or lost bets and belt-wrapped wrists. I’ve been reading this book by the guy that won the Nobel Prize in Literature this year, he thinks love often ends with Gillette special blues and, at the risk of bandwagoning, I’m inclined to agree.

Still, he’s standing by the window and I think he must be perfect.

He seems a bit disappointed about my lack of reaction to the flowers, but honestly not as much as you might expect. I’d like to find the words to explain to him that people both horrify and enthrall me. I sometimes imagine I’d be better off if I could watch them interacting as one does at a zoo, preferably with soundproof glass or a script of some sort indicating entrances, exits, and X’s where I’m meant to stand at certain moments, complete with stage directions to elucidate appropriate responses to such boy-meets-girl offerings. Words continue to elude me so I shrug instead and silently hand over the spaghetti jar stuffed to the gills with its strange cargo. Problem solved.

{ACT 7}

Having relocated the flowers we walk and sit in a cafe. I want to smile but I’m feeling  sure I have chocolate on my teeth. “What?” I say, accusingly, when he looks at me. “Nothing, you’re beautiful,” he replies.

I stare at a dog on the other side of the street hoping my feigned interest will negate my awkward as I digest the compliment. I think this may be a good time to introduce some fun fact about myself, such as the fact that I have double jointed thumbs or that I always wanted to be a truck driver as a kid. Instead, I go to the bathroom and checked my face for signs of “beautiful.”

Turns out I’d been wrong about the chocolate.

{ACT 8}

When I get home the roses stare at me. A rose is such a horribly stuck up flower, I immediately regret having poured the three little packets into their water. I put them in the bathroom and feel satisfied when they looked a little surprised.

{ACT 9}

The next day I think about baking him a cake or doing his laundry. I go with the former, decorated with blue frosting that reads “how about a blowjob?” I’ve always wanted to make a cake with something horribly inappropriate written on it, probably motivated by the same appealing juxtaposition of the cross-stitch patterns that sometimes pop up on my Pinterest — perfectly demure tiny pastel threads arranged to read: “Fuck the patriarchy” or “Cunt.”

In the end, unimpressed or just plain underwhelmed by the results, I swirl the blue and white into a tornado instead.

Romance is dead.

{ACT 10}

I gave the cake to a homeless man outside my apartment, my teeth stained blue from the frosting. I go back up the five flights of stairs and get the roses. I give him those too.

I’m on my way back up to my apartment, two stairs at a time, when my phone buzzes in my pocket.

“I really can’t see you any more,” I text.

“I know, I know” he replies, “but let’s just get a drink.”




Biding [y]our frozen time

My role is preordained perhaps, the dupe or the damsel.

I never mean to wait up for you to come home but somehow I do anyway. ‘Breathing is easy,’ I try to remind myself, wishing my hands would warm and the icy cold of my feet didn’t betray my racing mind when you slide into bed next to me.

I’ve been counting again so I know it’s quarter past 3am. Eyes closed to the obvious, I’m thankful that sleep sounds the same in any  language.

I think our love turned off its read receipts some six months ago, but at the time it had seemed best to pretend not to notice. So I did.  Now, back to backs turned, binding un-cracked, I bide my time and yours. Warm heart, cold feet; with each inhale I imagine surrealist landscapes and wonder if you’ve seen how ice crystals splay dentelle secrets when you sing them a song. I take mental note to stop drinking so much water in hopes of re-gaining some control over my kaleidoscope mind.

In moments like these I wish you knew that I can’t help but wonder about her…about you. Does the thrill of the chase get you hard, does her lust make you feel alive? I mull over the thought that maybe I’m a masochist, a voyeur, because I find myself wanting to hide in your mind, to experience the burn of this new desire on your skin. Does it taste the same as mine?

But your breath whispers that you’re already asleep and between inhales I’m reminded once again how my analogies never add up in time for my my brain and my tongue to coordinate some sort of response. Metaphor’s imaginations mapping tongues like minefields; save it for another sigh, Charlotte, another night.

If you’d only ask me, I’d tell you I’ve been trying to forget, but freezer burnt feelings just don’t taste the same.

If you’d asked me, I’d tell you everything. But when the cigarettes you don’t smoke tiptoe onto my pillow it’s always been easier for both of us to pretend I’m asleep.

If you’d ask me, I’d warn you; nothing keeps forever, not even here in the cold.

Anemic speech acts (your words bruise so easily)

I could say I felt you slipping away again, felt my fingers losing their grip on the hazy mirage we’d built for ourselves, sigh-laced with swelling feelings that dripped like sweat from bodies.  But I wont, I’ve started this habit of 64oz of truth a day, 3.5 bottles left scattered like the remains of “doctors orders” and wont-he-be-proud. I’ve started something and I move slow, but I don’t take beginnings lightly.

“Say sweet things to me.”

The words came ever easier and softer like they’d been waiting to tumble off my tongue, down your cheek into your neck. I made our bed with William James who told me that repetition makes a truth. I arranged the dishes with J. L. Austin, who whispered about the power of performative utterances until every first, second and third kiss became a theory of locutionary, illocutionary, and perlocutionary acts.

The power of suggestion. The power of words. I search the n-grams for “madness” and find only an EKG. Rate and rhythm, how easily we confuse hormones and hearts.

“This wont last,” you’d  said.

Somehow I felt a comfort in that, felt beautiful in its sorry. I fell into you, lost track in soft spots and tales of adolescence where fingers stole my caution like sun on my skin. Too late I saw your “nothing ever does” was due to the kind of sweeping decision-making you drape over all aspects of your life that are disposable.

This feeling, disposable? Just like anything that can’t be chiseled into perfection and time-blocked into a Wednesday evening between 7:15 and 8.

Let us remind ourselves then how hormones and hearts are heavy things. One is replaceable but the other must be held closely out of reach for lost caution burns and scars like lessons learnt.

“This wont last,” you’d  said. But it will. It will.


Countdown to the down-for-the-count (something about your hand wants holding)

“Nothing is ever as good as we can imagine it,” and I hate to harp, but how many times have I said it? While most people would be hard pressed to argue with such a statement those with particularly vivid imaginations will find that the inverse is also true. I was just such a person, and we were just such an imagination. Perhaps I’m merely a little-miss-know-it-all, but it never ceases to amaze me just how much I really do know.

I like to make lists, fill up the pages with coincidences that multiplay their ways into the eeriness of everyday life. Living inside my head has always meant that moving– upwards, downwards, across a continent or ocean– has never inhibited me from constructing streets of perfectly imperfect proportions. Here, my highways are cobblestones that give way to personalities looming larger than life and scenarios in which I am both the hero and the anti-hero wherein his lips dont find mine after awkward indian food and I make decisions to walk away instead of linger on the fringes of a life worth forgoing.

It’s human nature, perhaps, to believe that we are unique in our strifes as in our triumphs. Yet, December found me sitting in the passenger seat of a red sedan watching as the windows slowly fogged with secrets. Passive, that’s how she described herself and honestly as I listened to the tears rising in her throat I realized that despite my hardened pretense those painted lips looked a lot like mine. The difference between us existed only in my much more hefty accumulation of “stories,” which for several years had been ticking their way towards that particular shade of jade I like to call “have no cake and eat it too.” Also known as: ‘you’re barking up the wrong tree, buster.’ Also known as: ‘allow me to show you to the door of our relationship.’

If my twenty-something years of life have taught me anything it’s that dating is a game, often a game in which you lose. It’s as if we’ve stepped into some sort of fake monopoly board of rules that reveal themselves as innate, designed to be read in the length of a skirt, the lids of a languid look or the ratio of cucumber gimlets to the cost of the final bill. It’s a game in which someone pays for the pleasure of someone else’s company all the while estimating  how many doors must be opened before “go” can be passed and a pile of rainbow colored paper is cashed in for the final prize. The pay-out being the moment between the cheek heating can-i-come-up and the interminably awkward whose-sock-is this-anyway, mildly smokey, probably hungover morning after. (Disclaimer: cash prizes will be divided amongst the winners, taxes collected, and meager remains spent on a fittingly sigh-inducing consolatory pity-party or brag-fest, respectively.)

And for what? Do we thus remind ourselves that we are desired? Does this keep us from forgetting that the thing in our chest we call a heart does more than pump blood, but beats with the excitement of the chase? Does the click of heels on the stairs to my apartment or those slender cold fingers that found mine that night after dinner, begging me to understand that what objectifies is also objectified, reveal a wisdom I’m not yet willing to admit? Does it remind me that living is more than just the subtraction of a dress, the addition of a pair of hands and the sway and slip that keeps us up whispering until we remember that tomorrow we go back to being just as we were. No worse for the wear, perhaps, but worse for the want.

The truth remains that we all wear laundry-day underwear, we all clench our teeth in our sleep, we all slink out the next day with the conviction that this time a lesson has, in fact, been learnt. Once again reassurance comes riding on the thought that next time we’ll know better than to go looking for ourselves in the approving regard of a stranger. Despite weak-kneed evidence to the contrary we will not find any answers lingering in that feeling we get from a glance that slides down and pools desire. Such moments remain, as always, just a lose-lose scenario with too many rules amounting to nothing more than a series of mistaken identity and misinterpreted looks designed to pass the time in an otherwise monotonous night or life.

Nothing is as good as we can imagine it, but I tell her “nothing is as bad as we think” and I suppose it amounts to the same message. We are not some sliding scale of good or evil, but a series of Tinderellas and Prince Charmings gone-wrong, all just trying to find a pair of fingers to fill the spaces between the thinking and the feeling. We’re all sitting, sipping, jotting down our sloppy love letters on a cocktail napkin, written in haste and dedicated to this violent need for something upon which to base a sentiment or sigh.

It seems far more likely that the answers we seek might be located in the introspection caused by the fears of a friend.  The true knowledge held in a realization that sometimes in life you find someone who may indeed be better than you could have imagined and that this perfection is located instead in how very imperfect they reveal themselves to be.

This Love is Password Protected (but I’m liable to forget it)

Love is a sticky thing, like fly-paper or molasses, slowly curling, sweetening with time and hardening in the sun.

Tell me then, stranger, where does one store the steady love of time-gone-by made of familiar frowns and years of moments that have amassed around memories like wrinkles in time? Passion is fleeting, so I’m told, but does one not beget the other? Where is the guarantee found and what are the penalties for breaking such a lease on life which would have us tow the fragile hopes of another in our wake?

So we ask ourselves: what is the demarcation between lust and love? A lifetime and a look?  Is it the moment when you’re beginning to see the truth in one another, where you start to find that you know secrets like how he brushes his teeth or that face she makes in the mirror that reminds him of a child? Is it the way he gets silly when he’s full of sleep but sleep won’t come, or how she sits crosslegged in his bed with a serious forehead and a slack mouth staring into a book that speaks volumes, and in it he reads between the lines a story of how her head might fit into the curve of his shoulder? Perhaps it’s how she sees his niche obsessions nobody knows like Communist Architecture or Lead Belly pictures for The Soul of Tone that change his voice because they move him like a song (to tears).

Maybe it’s the contradiction she reads in his two faces, one for memories and one for moments and one that he keep hidden, perhaps, in the pocket of a pair of black jeans. She thinks he must find them when he’s feeling for guitar picks (always a few in reserve for unpredictable predictions that write themselves between the lines of his forehead) while he looks straight into her eyes until they agree that maybe they both win since nobody wants to be the one to look away first.

Do we read love in cold metal that warms to the touch or warm coffee that cools with time? Maybe it’s a mouth that curves just right until she wants to touch him and wants to feel him touch her in ways that leave a mark on her skin so she won’t forget how he loved like he didn’t love at all.

And who’s to say fleeting isn’t the one to keep? Trade in a moment’s passion for a lifetime of calm, a flicker of alive that had been all but forgotten and a pain that reminds her how to count her breaths in the night like sheep or clouds while he tells her to imagine she’s falling and she wants to ask how he knows what she never said.

These aren’t the decisions of a madman [fo-lie, folle, fou] these are desire. These are mystery and make-believe. These are magic or these are the mistakes of a chronic quest for something destined to remain untenable, unattainable, intractable. The have-you-looked-three times [then you haven’t really looked, have you?] the very nature of which is linked to morphology, to mysticism and to metaphysical quests taking physical form just before they flit away–and maybe it’s the path that counts, just that. Not a rabbit hole, but the hole of a guitar that resonates (with a hidden two dollar bill), he says, the way only he can hear, and it tells secrets of Appointments in Samarra where her tears were just a touch off-key but he played them anyhow and didn’t blink an eye.

Are you too afraid to be alone? Maybe empty is the only way to remember what were looking for, that we are, in fact, still looking for something, after all.

But if nothing makes sense, nothing ever has so why not keep rambling in hopes of stumbling upon some quote, some combination of letters, of notes, some secret skeleton key or pathway to a pair of arms that keep the time that has been lost along the way.


An arm, or a heart, or a clock warning  that even when you stand still, you are the only one not moving.