map How to Realize That You’re Lonely and Waste Six Months of Someone’s Life

by Maya Cramer

Published in Issue No. 244 ~ September, 2017

Step 1.

Create an OKCupid account because at least two of your friends have started relationships from the site within the past two weeks and it’s been one month since you broke up with Matt and you think, goddamnit, if you want something then you should just go out and make it happen. Also, come to a number of epiphanies about the relative normalcy of online dating (maybe an Internet persona is actually more representative of you as a person?). Do this and tell yourself that this is a big step in you taking control of your dating life. Drink a bottle of Pinot Grigio, write that you “poop and pee” in your “What I’m Doing With My Life” section, and go to sleep priding yourself on the creativity with which you wrote your profile.

Step 2.

Set your eyes on a moderately attractive male from the next town over from your suburban hometown on the website. Chat about books. Send a Bukowski poem— the one that goes, “some men never die and some men never live but we’re all alive tonight.” Write “cool” after sending it. Joke that you will catfish him when he says that he’s never met anyone so well-read and pretty. Arrange a meeting at Starbucks.

Step 3.

Arrive early to your 3 p.m. coffee date. Mess with your hair a bunch before he shows up. Make him noticeably uncomfortable by introducing yourself with a hug. Talk for three hours about books, music, and movies. Talk only about books, music, and movies. Shred your napkin into a million tiny pieces. Fall in love with his gruff, yet soft-spoken voice and innocent, round, blue eyes. Leave the date glad that it is over. Go to your friend’s house, stalk his Facebook, find out that he has a kid. Accept his text message invitation to date number two.

Step 4.

Order a Pinot Grigio on your date to ease the tension. Think about whether or not you will do this for the week leading up to the date. Decide that drinking is okay despite the fact that he is a recovering heroin addict.

After dinner, walk around Asbury Park until midnight. Talk about your mutual hatred of the suburban public school systems that you both grew up attending. Talk about existence. Reference the Bhagavad Gita.

Step 5.

Start seeing each other regularly. Watch movies at his house— Mr. Nobody, Enter the Void, an old stop motion version of Alice in Wonderland. Get introduced to his mom. Go to a music festival with your best friend while he works his weekend night shifts at the rehab center. Do drugs— psilocybin, MDMA— the ones that you used to do with Matt. Some cocaine too. Don’t tell him this until you get home.

Step 6.

Tell him that you love him. Do it while you’re rolling around on his bed in the basement of his parents’ house, mouths sore from smiling, planning visits to Barnes & Noble and Massachusetts. Bury your head in his beard and say it under your breath, between lines of Neruda and Instagram poets. Laugh and hide your smile on his chest piece tattoo when he says it back.

Step 7.

Meet his entire family. Bond with his younger, high school-aged sister. Drive with him to his AA meetings, but sit in the nearest coffee shop while he goes despite his many invitations to join. Walk around the neighborhood late at night spewing theories about eternity. Cut down on your drinking. Start thinking about the possibility of having kids together.

Step 8.

Go to another music festival with your friend. Accidentally kiss someone while on mushrooms. Spend the car ride back from upstate New York thinking about the idea of open relationships.

Step 9.

Start grad school. Wake up to flowers on your car every morning before your 7 a.m. student teaching internship. Keep yourself awake with the cold brew coffee that he left for you overnight by your car. Keep the handwritten notes in piles on the passenger side seat— every day a new motivational quote. Tape one to the mirror in your room: “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” Go to his tattoo parlor for your first tattoo. Meet his daughter. Spend nights at his house. Get introduced as his girlfriend at his cousin’s engagement party in Williamsburg. Take numerous photos for Instagram.

Step 10.

On your birthday, get an unexpected call from Dr. Phil regarding a message that was left by your father in his attempts to reconcile your family’s issues. Resentfully decline the invitation to the show.

Make up an excuse not to wear your new birthday present when you spend the night at his house. “Black crotchless panties look better in the daytime,” you’re “tired”— it doesn’t matter how you put it. Go to sleep and pretend that they got lost in the laundry tomorrow.

Step 11.

Memorize the lyrics to “All Ages Shows” by Bomb the Music Industry!. Go together to the poetry club that you used to go to with your ex-boyfriend. See Matt there. Assure him that he has nothing to worry about during the entire ride back to his house.

Cook more vegan meals together and bicker often over how to correctly scramble the tofu. Regularly argue over which movie you want to watch on Netflix. Spend nights sleeping in different rooms of his parents’ basement. Start drinking more at home. Go to punk shows together. Talk more to strangers than to him.

Step 12.

Break up and get back together a few times before finally calling it quits. Make a few dramatic exchanges of both of your belongings, but eventually realize that all of the emotional upheavals take more effort than you’re willing to expend. He’ll call you in a month to patch things up. Don’t react; you’ll only prolong his sadness. Tell yourself that he’ll move on soon. He will.