learn to look at an empty sky

Written 20th January 2015


When I was somewhere between child and teenager, back before we had the word ‘tween’, she stared at me for a very long time and said,

“It’s a pity about your nose. You would be fine otherwise.”

For nearly 20 years, I subsisted by looking at myself in only bits and pieces in the mirror. I could never look at myself whole. There was always something to avoid.


I used to think that online dating was the land of the desperate. And then I decided to try out online dating, and it turned out to be the land of the practical. Also, of the convenient, especially if all the men you know are either married or related to you.

‘Putting yourself out there’ vis a vis online dating doesn’t get much easier than writing about all the parts of you that you want others to see — look at THIS, and THIS, and THIS — and then waiting for someone to find you.

When they click the Interest button (or whatever button works on your portal of choice), they expect someone who matches the words you’ve used to paint yourself. Clicking a button — easy. What happens after that is the clincher. The dealmaker. The coin in the faulty automated machine that tosses out drinks at random.

Only after I press the Interest button too can they can see my profile picture. It’s a close-up of me with a smile — one of the few photos of myself that I can look at squarely in the face without wincing.

Only one guy has ever written to me after seeing my photo. Online dating makes everything easy, including pretending you can’t see rejection a mile away.


He calls himself my wingman. It feels more like he’s my life coach.

Younger than me, working at his own pace through life, usually kind, very smart, terribly wise. I want for him everything good in the world.

He wants me to stop fretting about things I can’t control.

Don’t settle, he reminds me. You deserve better. If he isn’t a feminist, if his politics is problematic, you don’t need him in your life.

It’s easier said than done. I look around me and find nothing at all that fits. If I don’t settle, then I’ll be alone. And right now, where I am, it’s fine to be alone. Yet I know that at some point, I will want all the things society has told me I should want. I will want someone who’s mine. I want my person.

He sends me a link to a cover. ‘I know you’re tired of lovin’ with nobody to love.’

I try to hate the song, but I find that I can’t. I’m too tired.


We’re walking through a tunnel, and it’s dark.

There’s a light just ahead of us, white fluorescent dot on the dry walls, and we move forward. I don’t know where we’re headed. There are a few people ahead of us, going in the same direction and just as poorly knowledgeable as we are.

He reaches out his hand and grabs mine. It feels dry and not too warm. It’s not a perfect fit, but it feels just right.

I hold on tighter.

Then I turn to him and see his face. It wasn’t a face I expected to see.

“Look, we shouldn’t,” I begin to say for more than one reason, and start to pull my hand away. He stays firm and doesn’t let go.

He gestures with his head to the endless path before us. He shakes his head, tugs my hand towards the light. I am convinced, even as I shiver.

I wake up not remembering his face. My hand remembers his fingers, two days, 16 hours on. How sure, how wanted.


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