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There she was. The face he hoped to see, but deep down wasn’t expecting, when he unlocked that Bumble notification. That same pug nose, fiery red hair, freckles, and dorky smile. His heart fluttered for a moment as he carefully swiped through her photos once again. God, she was cute.
“Ladies go first” Bumble half notified, half scolded him. The 24-hour clock sat on the match page, slowly ticking away before the match expired forever. He was powerless, unable to message her, and forced to wait for her to decide that he was more than just a casual swipe right. That he was message-worthy.
Yet, he still had one ace up his hole and trick up his sleeve. Bumble gave him the power, once per day, to reach out to those matches who were still on the fence. A little nudge to those girls who were undecided whether that guy they matched with was really a potential prince charming, or if she was better off leaving that toad where it was. The daily extend, a not-so-subtle notification to the girl that says “this guy really wants you to message him.”
Although he desperately wanted to slam that “extend” icon, he managed to stay his hand. Sending the extend immediately after matching, and at 10:30 on a Friday night no less, would unleash a stench of desperation so powerful it could drive a hungry dog from a meat wagon.
Tomorrow morning, he decided, would be the best option if she didn’t message him first. Give the impression that he had been out the night before, having a life, and only saw the match on waking up the next day. And so he spent the rest of the night awake, watching Netflix while stealing glances at his phone for another Bumble notification.
* * *
The buzzing of his phone against his oak wood nightstand brought him back from his slumber. For a moment, he stretched and basked in the wonderful feeling that one has on a Saturday morning. Then he remembered the phone, the girl, the match, and snatched his smartphone up.
He had quite a few notifications and texts to scroll through. Instagram likes, Facebook posts, and a few new Twitter followers, as well as texts from his college friends and brother, but nothing from Bumble.
While slightly disappointed, he wasn’t that surprised. Normally, if a girl didn’t immediately message you after matching, it was highly unlikely you’d ever hear from her. The extend was a nice reminder but very hit or miss as to how effective it would be. Nevertheless, it was time to put his plan into action. He hit the “daily extend” icon, glossing over Bumble’s plea to get money from him by offering as many extends as he could want, before hitting confirm.
He didn’t want to admit that the day had started quite yet, so he laid in bed combing over the latest on Twitter and Instagram. His alma mater was facing off against a conference rival that day at noon, and he considered messaging one of his former roommates, Ian, to see if they should stake out some spots at the nearby bar. Then, mid-text, the notification dropped down onto his iPhone screen that made him sit up and smile.
He flicked right over to Bumble.
“Hey there! You look a lot like this cool guy I used to go to school with, only not quite as handsome and suave *tongue out emoji*”
He read and reread the message. It was her, classic sarcasm, wit, and all. He should have known she wouldn’t be like every other unoriginal girl on Bumble to lead with “hey” or ask some inane question like “where do you like to travel?” Of course, she had more to go off, having known him, but he really admired how she immediately sidestepped the potential awkwardness of matching with an acquaintance.
Since she had messaged him so quickly after he sent the extend notification, he had no qualms in replying straight away. Making sure to follow along with her teasing gambit, he slowly typed out his reply.
“Oh hey! Yeah, I thought you looked a lot like this girl I knew in college. But she was way cooler and cuter *winky face emoji*”
Momentarily, he panicked that she might not catch the joke and not appreciate his insulting her looks. Luckily, she responded only a few minutes later.
“Well, I see you haven’t changed since college lol.”
“Yeah God, it’s been what, six years since beach week.”
In fact, he was very well aware that it had been six years and three months since their last encounter. But her next message cast doubts.
“Um, I think you’re forgetting about the time we saw each other at 9:30 club last Thanksgiving.”
Indeed, he had forgotten this chance encounter, in part because he wasn’t sober enough at the time to forge a cogent memory. Now, he began to cringe as the details sprinkled back into his mind.
It was the Saturday after the holiday. He was out with Ryan, celebrating his recent engagement to his longtime girlfriend Jennie. The pair had met in a music composition class his senior year and bonded over their eclectic music choices. He listened to electronic beats from bands like Ratatat and M83, while she was a classic rock girl through and through, listening to nothing but the Doors and Van Halen. Naturally, they wanted to celebrate their engagement with a concert.
So they spent the evening drinking, celebrating, and taking in the sweet music of Mogwai along with several of their closest friends. Naturally, Ryan had invited his former roommate and good friend to join, and he was thrilled to oblige.
She hadn’t been them at the start of the night but must have shown up with Bethany’s group. It made sense, now, since Jennie and Bethany were good friends, but for some reason, he hadn’t remembered her there at the time. What little memory he had after about 10 o’clock that fateful night was getting a late night slice of pizza and then an Uber home. But the next day, Ryan had texted him, ragging him about how he made out with one of Jennie’s friends the night before.
Could it have been her?, he thought
It seemed unlikely; Ryan would have probably used her name and tried to goad him into asking her out. After all, he was the first one to notice the way he looked at her when they first met. Instead, he assumed that Ryan saw him kissing one of Jennie’s crazier friends and didn’t want to pour more gasoline on the fire. That theory seemed to be borne out by some very aggressive, drunken advances at their wedding by one of Jennie’s roommates.
With a knot in his throat, he paused and pondered how to respond. The pressure was becoming heavier and heavier in his mind as he imagined her laughing along with the other girls he was into in college at his stupid response. But the adrenaline kept him going as his fingers flew across the keys projected by his iPhone’s screen.
“Lol, I thought that was you! I was pretty drunk so it’s probably good that you didn’t get too much exposure to whatever monster I turned into.”
She took a bit longer to respond this time, perhaps matching his pace.
“Haha it’s okay. I was pretty drunk too, but it was nice to see a friendly face!”
It was a clear opening, an opportunity to press further. He normally would have taken it without hesitation, but he found himself uncharacteristically anxious, re-reading the text twice before finally pressing send.
“Oh man I guess it’s fortunate that Bumble has given us another chance for me to correct my mistake.”
He leaned back in his chair, puzzled by what his next move could be. On the one hand, it felt like an invitation, but on its face, it was quite the non-answer. At this point he was stumped, so he forced himself to do what he did countless times when a conversation with a girl stalled: he put his phone down on the kitchen counter and sat in the living room, pulling an episode of Archer up on Netflix. Until the cartoonish escapades were complete, he would restrain himself from sending something.
Halfway through the episode, he slammed pause and scurried over to his phone, which had started buzzing.
“So should we ignore the awkwardness of the situation? Or just lean straight into it?”
There it was. He’d gotten her to send the coveted double-text. He smiled, knowing he’d won the game of messaging chicken. Not wanting to lose that momentum, he chose to respond immediately.
“I mean, I feel like you’re steering us right into the awkwardness iceberg. I might need some drinks in me to survive the collision.”
He grimaced at the stupid metaphor as the message whooshed into the cloud, but went back to his television. This time, he set the phone right in front of him on the coffee table, ready to see if she would follow his lead. It was ten agonizing minutes until the phone buzzed again.
“Oh man you read my mind. We should grab some drinks, catch-up, and figure out how to make this as awkward as possible.”
Reflexively, he pumped his fist in the air in victory. It was odd, he didn’t remember feeling this excited about a date in a long while. This was different. This wasn’t a stranger. This was a girl he had wanted to date badly and hadn’t had the guts to pull the trigger. But he was a much different man now than the young, dumb college kid he was six years ago. Smarter, more confident, and dare he say a bit more charismatic than the scared kid who was afraid to take his shot. He wasn’t going to hesitate to pull the trigger this time.
“Absolutely. Do you know the Mad Hatter in DuPont? Maybe we can meet there at, say, 6:30 on Wednesday?”
He held his breath and hit send, hoping she would respond quickly. She took less than a minute.
“Yeah that’s great!” .