there was Grant.
He had initially messaged me on Jack’d near the turn of
the year. Though he had no face picture, he was at least able to carry a
conversation better than most of the other men and seemed to have motivations
beyond sex. Through our discussion, I learned that he had briefly returned to
Hawaii for the holiday season but would be returning to Los Angeles to finish
up graduate school and work before permanently relocating back to Honolulu.
Would I be interested in maybe meeting up during that time?
I honestly thought the two of us would lose touch, but –
to my surprise – we kept chatting for several months. When he finally did
return to Honolulu, I took an intense liking to him. He replied to my text
messages as though he had been waiting by his phone with nothing else to do all
day. There was never a lull in conversation during brunch or dinner. He always
had an idea for something to do during the weekend. He also had the rather
unusual hobby of being an amateur musician.
Strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin,
The ease with which he directed his energies to external
activities did not translate to an equal ability to guide them inward. I first
noticed this when we played a party game where the two of us took turns
answering a variety of thought-provoking, romantically oriented questions
designed to help people better understand themselves and others.
“Okay, first question,” he said, pulling a card from the
box. “Is it a sign of cynicism or wisdom to tolerate affairs?”
“Hmm…” I began. “I suppose it would depend on the person.
For me, I would perceive it as a learning opportunity to examine the ways in
which I might have contributed to the person’s reasons for cheating. Have I
been neglecting them? Have I not been as attentive to their needs as I should
have been?” I paused for a moment, absentmindedly fiddling with my bedsheets. “I
would like to think that, at the very least, we could have an adult discussion
of the relationship, but I guess I could imagine how other people might have a
“What about you?”
“Oh, same, I guess. Your turn to pick a card!”
To Grant’s credit, he did not have unrevealing responses
to every card we pulled that night, but I came away with the distinct feeling
that he either had very little interesting to say or a lot to hide. Before we
went to bed that evening, I put on Planet
Earth so the two of us could wind down from hours of talking. However, minutes
into one of the episodes he was already attempting to engage me in a quiz
show-like grilling of every animal and ecosystem flicking on screen.
How many bats do you think live in that cave? Do you
think the roaches in there are bigger than the ones in Hawaii? How long does
that fish have to live in the cave to get all transparent like that?
I did not have an especially easy time getting to sleep
that evening and I had an especially difficult time being around him when his
hobby as a musician began to pick up. As soon as that happened, it felt like he
took every moment of silence – no matter how tiny – to rehearse, revise, and
repeat lyrics to his songs in real time and in any location. I could hear him muttering,
mumbling, and murmuring while looking over restaurant menus, during the ten-second
moment when we split apart so I could walk to the passenger door, or while placing
my coffee order with a barista.
I felt like a new snow globe in a whirlwind. Without even
a moment to settle, hanging out with him became a frazzling, disorienting, and
exhausting experience. Realizing that my unhappiness would cause me to begin to
him less correctly than I should and that an open discussion of the subject
would be the best way to resolve the issue, I brought it up on a car ride home
from brunch one weekend.
“Hey, Grant,” I began. “You know I’m a quiet person,
“I think that is obvious to everybody,” he replied, flicking
his turn signal.
“I know your music is very important to you, but do you
think maybe – when the two of us are hanging out, at least – it would be
possible to tune it down a bit? I feel like I can barely hear myself think half
Without missing a beat, he answered, “Oh, sure. No
problem.” However, he did not say it with the tone of someone who properly
understood what I said. Instead, it was the cheery tone one might take when answering
in the affirmative to a request to make a brief detour to McDonald’s before a
long drive. As I sat in muteness tumbling between uncertainty and disbelief, he
resumed his vocals.