Tangled Up in You – Gwen Hilton

        I’m trying to date men. I’m trying to convince men to go on dates with me in public. It is easy to fuck men. A date in public is two people sitting across from each other at a restaurant and talking. This is so rare for me. It doesn’t have to be anything that looks like a date. I cannot convince anyone except cis women to go on dates with me in public. Everything else is fish in a barrel.
        I want a boyfriend. I want a boyfriend. I want all that stupid old shit like letters and sodas. Every day I wake up and I listen to “Fuck and Run” by Liz Phair. I listen to Liz singing to me. I wonder what ever happened to a boyfriend? I think about how I just want one boyfriend. I wonder about Steve Albini calling Liz Phair a bad artist. Saying she wrote about dumb shit. Implying “Fuck and Run” is less of a potent song than “Precious Thing” or “Prayer to God.” She sings circles around him without needing to get explicit with the violence. I want to no longer say I’ve fucked and run since twelve. I want to say I tried to go all the way. I want a boyfriend that I know is my boyfriend. Not a weird guy I knew in high school. Not a guy I knew in college. I want a man to want me and I want a man to love me.
        When women tell me about their experiences with men I feel like I’ve had a boyfriend. Except I haven’t and some of them never have either. I’ve had a long complicated relationship with a friend. They’ve known guys or went on dates with guys or spent months occasionally seeing a guy in public that they fuck and it’s still a situationship. A what if? A question. So they say ex-boyfriend because it’s not like he’s around to decide what he’ll never be, but I don’t say ex-boyfriend. I want a boyfriend I know is my boyfriend, because I’m aware of men’s possessive power and I want to be possessed by a man who wants to own his behavior. 
        The men that show moderate interest in me on dating apps look like me, have similar interests to me, and do not message first. I hate them and with each match I hate myself more. When I look at myself in the mirror I want to kill myself like a Betta fish. Fit men select for fit men and I recognize I’m not going to put in that work. 
        It’s not that I’m lazy or insecure. I message first for the dates I want to go on. I’d rather be told no than choose it for myself. 
        I’m going to Furious Spoon, a ramen joint, to meet a man. This is one of the most infamous ramen joints in the city. He’s a foot taller than me. He orders. He pays. 
        When my tall friend, Jack, reads this story he says my first mistake happens here. We’re at a bar. I love my tall friend, Jack. He’s nice to me in ways he shouldn’t be, like letting me breathe down his neck as he reads my work. I always talk about how he’s my tall friend, Jack, even if he’s not my tallest friend. He says I shouldn’t have let any man take me to Furious Spoon. I think of the tall guy who told me to go to ramen joints. We lived in the dorms together. We’d get dinner sometimes. He was single and he let me know he was bi. Then he met a girl. He wanted me to watch anime. I wanted to watch anime with him. The streaming services don’t curate diverse catalogs. I didn’t have money left to spend. 
        I was into anime in middle school. I probably did the Naruto run. I never finished the first season. Banned in the household. Never watched other shows. My uncle who met his wife in Japan and had half Japanese kids told me that anime was a weapon against the west and pacification of the east. He liked Shin Chan. You can’t knock Shin Chan. I was already weird for other reasons. It was the end of the period where anime was allegedly still for losers. Kim K wasn’t photographed buying manga yet. Death Note wasn’t over. Anime films weren’t ‘surprisingly’ stomping American movies at the box office. Pokémon games didn’t come out at the same time worldwide. I have a vivid memory of getting kicked out of the Yaoi section at my first and last ACEN with my first weeaboo girlfriend. She wanted me to cosplay as Choji and left me when the insult stayed. I didn’t get that women liked chubby guys until I was living out as a woman. 
        I played video games sometimes with the tall guy. I accidentally stole his PS4 controller. I didn’t realize I was lying when I said I didn’t have it. He wanted me to get sushi with him. I always wanted to go, but he liked the nice joints. My ex who I was with at the time liked the nice joints. He wanted me to try the Godzilla roll at his favorite restaurant. My mind trailed off. He must have told me that there’s Godzilla rolls everywhere, but I didn’t realize. I didn’t remember the names of the places. I couldn’t text him when I was finally single. I saw him outside of the courthouse by the Picasso with his girlfriend and could barely interact when we met. 
        I was always weird in the dorms. I was in a men’s dorm at my first school. Shared bathroom. Then I was in a men’s pod when I met tall anime guy. Shared bathroom. I lived next to a German named Dennis. He had a girlfriend in Milan. Dennis invited me to hang out once, but I didn’t stay up late enough for him. He still rose as early as me. He told me he doesn’t understand the disgusted looks from fat Americans that he gets while smoking. He chooses to smoke while we choose everything else. I joked about dabbling in both. He laughed. He said I’m not as bad as other Americans. 
        My date buys us both sake. The sake is strong. Ramen is hard to eat. I wish he didn’t propose a ramen joint. I feel like he has me on the spot. Soup is a vulnerable food. 
        I think of the tall guy who liked ramen who told me to get into Lupin the III. I’m on this date because I never went out with the tall guy. The tall guy liked ska and he wore bright single color suits and he had a big warm smile. He was nice and liked what he liked because he liked it. I wanted to be him. I never made friends with the tall guy because I was always visiting my ex. I couldn’t like anime because she was suspicious of anything Asian she couldn’t eat. When we moved in she let me know I’d never be a great artist if I kept playing weeaboo fighting games. You didn’t know the word weeaboo until I said it to you. She was suspicious of anything Asian that got in the way of me buying her sushi.
        I ask about your hobbies. You’re a gaymer. You play Prison Architect. You have thousands of hours logged in Prison Architect. You log close to one hour telling me all about the intricacies of Prison Architect. I struggle to imagine myself in love with someone who loves to build prisons. 
        In high school I tried to play Dwarf Fortress. I struggled with the ASCII art style and I wasn’t a strong enough lateral thinker to make the game work for me. I wanted to enjoy simulators and management games. It would be nice to have my one game that is already paid for and I enjoy for years. 
        I play Tetris. I think it’s meditative. I’ve fallen in love with Tetris ever since I became single. You didn’t ask. It’s my book. I love Tetris.
        You tell me you still date all your exes. You ask if I’m friends with my exes. You ask if I fuck any of my exes. I say no. I say I have an ex-fiancée. You’re bi. I’m bi. You say you like to make out with them. I just like to make out with my exes. Don’t you go to parties and see them and make out a little? 
        You tell me you have a hard drive dedicated exclusively to tentacle porn. You love hentai. You talk loudly about hentai. You ask if I watch hentai. I wonder if you’d treat me like this if I was a girl. 
        I had a folder dedicated to porn on one of my laptops. When I deleted it the folder was 69 gigs large. The irony of the file size was not lost on me. That was when I decided I’d never download another porn file again. 
        The folder where I hid my pornography was titled Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I kept my porn hidden there because people searched my computer, but no one ever wanted to watch Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I’d recommend Indiana Jones movies. I’d let people pick. No one ever clicked the file. You think this is the most incredible story you’ve ever heard. I talk about loaning my laptop specifically to stream my stolen movies to my friend’s parents. They never said a word. 
        When we’re leaving you go in for a hug. I go in for a shake. You ask if I want to go back to your place. I say no. I have a date later that night. 
        You ask why I didn’t come with you over text. I say I don’t want to date someone who conducts first dates like that. I say you can’t afford me. You say you can. You can.
        Years later I will buy a one day pass to a festival screening Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend on 35 MM. I will catch Covid and miss the screening. I will piss away that fifty dollars because I think about you all the time. I think about you all the time and I feel humiliated that I ever let a guy treat me like that on a date. 
        I don’t even care about your hentai fanaticism. What ever happened to the kind of guy that tries to win you over? Can’t you try and make me feel special for one hour?