A year ago. 5/7.

Thursday.

I disabled OKC’s chat function not long after joining. For years, one of my biggest peeves has been people sending me “hey” or “hi” or “sup” with nothing of substance to follow—they initiate a conversation, but then expect me to carry it. Bad enough when it’s someone you know and love, but immeasurably worse when I also have to navigate some horny stranger’s subtext. My inbox is already packed to the brim with ovary-shriveling a-romantic desiccant. Let’s not add 27 consecutive minutes of phatic banality to this godforsaken ritual.

But at 7:30 p.m., MTB_Dustin is online. Jessica and her sugar gliders have long since departed for the Palmetto State, so it’s just me and the couch and all the hours standing between me and Friday. We’ve exchanged a couple messages about Invader Zim and Jhonen Vasquez and if that’s not a sign to lower my guard, then what is.

(7:30:11pmCavatica83: I am temporarily lowering my IM filter rating thingie.

(7:30:35pmCavatica83: Trying to keep out the riff-raff. You understand.

(7:48:53pm) MTB_Dustin: Was afk. She’s lowered her shields! Hit her with spam messages!

The conversation yo-yos between Nickelodeon and our professional lives and where we’re from.

(8:05:29pm) MTB_Dustin: Born in Utah. OhbythewayI’mamormon.

(8:05:39pm) MTB_Dustin: Just kidding. No crazy here.

(8:05:41pmCavatica83: You are not!

(8:06:19pm) MTB_Dustin: No, but I’d love to see The Book of Mormon.

(8:06:26pmCavatica83: Well, yes.

(8:06:36pmCavatica83: And throw things at Orson Scott Card’s house.

(8:06:42pm) MTB_Dustin: Can we!?

(8:06:46pmCavatica83: WE SURE CAN!

(8:06:49pmCavatica83: He lives in Greensboro!

(8:06:56pm) MTB_Dustin: Perfect date!

This is the first time anyone’s dropped the d-word, even as a joke. My heart notices and I’m like, hey. Settle down in there. BE COOL.

The conversation wanders comfortably, in a bantering rhythm we both implicitly understand. There are some bizarre commonalities, too. My birthday is July 3; his is July 4, which makes him “a megapatriot.”

(8:17:42pmCavatica83: DUDE. BEST BIRTHDAY. Fireworks and shit, amirite?

(8:17:51pm) MTB_Dustin: Exacto.

(8:18:10pmCavatica83: The world makes sense again.

(8:18:28pm) MTB_Dustin: Every birthday. Adults get drunk and give you small explosive devices. What?

(8:18:41pmCavatica83: Truly, a magical time.

And it’s not long after this revelation that I, in a graceful segue, get us down to brass tacks.

(8:23:19pmCavatica83: Okay, so, confession time: I honestly have no idea what the fuck I am doing with this website. I ended a long-term relationship just under a month ago and now I’m here for…? A sociological experiment? Science. Basically I’m here for science.

(8:23:28pmCavatica83: FOR SCIENCE.

(8:23:47pm) MTB_Dustin: Hey me too! Eh, and science…

(8:23:53pmCavatica83: THAT said, there is this dude trying to get me to go to a thing on Friday and ehhhh.

(8:24:14pm) MTB_Dustin: How about a party?

(8:24:20pm) MTB_Dustin: I have one of those.

(8:24:21pmCavatica83: …what SORT of party?

(8:24:38pm) MTB_Dustin: A {ahem} Solstice party.

(8:24:42pmCavatica83: PAGAN.

(8:24:45pm) MTB_Dustin: Should be…rockin.

(8:24:54pmCavatica83: Describe the nature of this party.

(8:25:36pm) MTB_Dustin: A friend and his lady are hosting it. There will be homebrew cider, homebrew beer….probably homebrew meade… and a bunch of shoe-staring nerds. Probably.

(8:25:59pmCavatica83: Is there any part of this party where I get roofied?

(8:26:17pm) MTB_Dustin: If that didn’t catch you hook line and sinker, I don’t know what will!!

(8:26:52pm) MTB_Dustin: There may be some homebrew roofies. ROOFIES!

(8:26:56pmCavatica83: NO.

(8:27:10pm) MTB_Dustin: Only if you’re bringing them.

(8:27:22pmCavatica83: Everyone always makes ME bring the roofies.

Roofies or no roofies, it’s a date. I struggle to recall if I’ve ever been on a date with someone I wasn’t already dating.

He doesn’t like to be called Dusty; I propose Kansas, for “Dust In the Wind.” Social media details are exchanged, and subsequent photo stalking and commentary. We agree about cats (they suck) and tiny dogs (also suck). He has seven chickens. I have full-color photos of my innards, gamely autographed by Rebecca Skloot, which takes us back to his work, and HeLa cells. Insectia, sci-fi, books, books, books, bourbon, Dragon Con, we can’t get it all out fast enough. How did this happen? Didn’t I just come here to get laid? To wade into the stink of desperation with a perfumed handkerchief held to my upturned nose?

Finally, at 10 p.m., he’s ready to hit the hay, because he’s an 80-year-old man. We agree to meet around 8ish tomorrow, with the understanding that I will probably be late because I’m usually late to things.

(10:02:33pmCavatica83: I’m going to be reaaaally pissed if I get murdered.

(10:02:41pm) MTB_Dustin: If it’s terrible we can go gorge on wafflehouse and rob a convenience store.

(10:02:46pmCavatica83: THERE we go.

(10:03:03pmCavatica83: Okay. Go. Sleep. Dog cuddle.

(10:03:15pm) MTB_Dustin: Yop. Have a great night.

(10:03:28pmCavatica83: You too.

(10:03:30pm) MTB_Dustin: Had fun talking with you.

(10:03:39pmCavatica83: Yeah. Winning all around.

(10:03:42pmCavatica83: Strong start.

(10:04:01pm) MTB_Dustin: G’night

(10:04:04pmCavatica83: G’night.

I stare at the screen for a long moment after, struggling to master my giddiness. Don’t get your hopes up, Moore. There’s still every reason to believe this will be a disaster.

But my own words seem to know better.

Strong start.

To what?

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