Halfway through dinner, I realise she’s drunk.
We’re dining a la fresco over plates of coho salmon and glasses of red wine. It’s one of those gloriously warm Northern evenings where the sun—which never sets this time of year—hangs bright and clear in the west and everything takes on a soft, sepia-tinted glow. The restaurant sits next to the Chena River,* which runs brown and lazy beside us, full of ducks and gulls. It’s basically maximum level romantic for Fairbanks, Alaska.
Except that my date, Alice, is half in the bag.
I thought I smelled alcohol on her breath when I got in the car with her, but I dismissed it; we’d been together most of the day—when the hell would she have had time to get drunk? She accidentally answers my unspoken question when she reaches for her phone and carelessly leaves the top part of her bag open—I can see a Gatorade bottle amid a handful of papers, three-quarters full of a golden liquid that is obviously not an electrolyte-replacing sports drink.
I think about the bottle of Jack Daniels on the counter in her kitchen.
I take a sip of wine and try to process the fact that she has been ghost-drinking in the bathroom like a teenager at a school dance, probably all day. It explains a lot. In the last few hours, Alice has:
- Made disparaging remarks about homeless and First Nations people
- Continuously offered me backhanded, aggressive compliments that I’m pretty sure qualify as “negging”
- Talked non-stop about everyone she has ever dated, fucked, eye-banged or had a wet dream about
- Is presently engaged in the middle of an elaborate retelling of how her first true love was an underage, 17 year-old girl she met while she—substantially older—was her high school volleyball coach.
Lesbian Dating Tip # 1: NO. For the love of god, NO. To all of it but especially the last one.
I am, in short, completely miserable.
Alice and I met on Tinder. I live in Whitehorse, Yukon, where there is an active but extremely small lesbian community, many of whom are older or already in relationships. Dating here is hard—honestly, I’d have better luck sticking my head out my window and shouting “ any ladies want a piece of this?” than trying to actively and meaningfully date up here. Which is why, even though Alice lived in Fairbanks, roughly 1000 kilometres away, I still swiped right on her.
I was fresh out of a terrible break up with my girlfriend of two years, an affair that had—literally—ended with her shouting, “It’s not cheating if I tell you about it!” and getting on a plane to Peru. I wasn’t looking for anything serious—just something light and easy to take my mind off the hurt.
On-screen, Alice was an ideal candidate—charming, witty, kind, herself in an open long-distance relationship. I was really open about where I was with Alice, but even as she said she understood, she came on hard right out of the gate. Soon we were texting and talking on Messenger for several hours a day.
Even across a time zone, we had chemistry. I’ve done a lot of courting but had never myself been courted; I was flattered and smitten. She sent me sweet good morning messages. She encouraged me and took an interest in my work as a writer. She talked about Rupi Kaur. When I told her I was worried about how quickly our emotional relationship was moving, that I wasn’t ready for anything as intense as I felt this was getting, she quoted Charles Bukowski to me —“I want to whole world or nothing,” from Post Office — as a way of driving her point home. It would all be worth it, she said, if we could find love together.
Later, it would turn out she hasn’t actually read any Bukowski, but seen his quotes on Instagram memes. She wasn’t even aware he was a writer. To this day, I am still suspicious of anyone who claims Kaur as their favorite poet.
This went on for two months. She invited me stay with her for a week at her house in the city.
So, I hopped into my car and drove the 13-some hours to Fairbanks. The weather was warm and the sky was clear. It was June, the North was in the full throws of summer, and I was on my way to meet a woman I was crazy for and believed was crazy about me too. It was one of the happiest drives of my life.
And now, here I am. Listening to this drunken faux bourgeois tell me about sneaking into her under-aged paramour’s house through a basement window to fuck her and having her parents come home part-way through. She had to hide in a closet and pray they wouldn’t hear her, like in some bad teen comedy. But it’s totally OK now, she says. Her parents were very supportive, once they found out and had calmed down and decided not to call the police.
There’s a pause in the conversation. I can see she is waiting, with the baited, childish impatience of the drunken confessor, for me to approve.
I ask her how old this girl would be now, which is actually me asking covertly how long ago this all was.
“Oh,” she says casually, signalling the server for another round of drink. “Thirty or so. Your age, I guess.”
Colour me massively creeped out.
Alice steam-rolls right over my discomfort, seemingly without noticing. The waiter comes with our drinks. She is talking now about how she had a boyfriend recently. There was just this like sexual chemistry between them, you know? I mean, he had a wife, so they could never really be together, but she had gotten kind of doughy, you know, he just needed someone who was into fitness the way Alice was.
“His cock was just way too big though,” she says. “Like, terrifyingly big.” She has her phone in her hands. She turns it to face me. “See?”
There is a picture of a man on the screen. He is posing in front of of a mirror, holding his own phone in one hand, taking a selfie. He’s tall, with ripping muscles and a shaved head. He also has, as promised, a terrifyingly huge cock.
Lesbian Dating Tip #2: if you are showing your date a dick pic, you’re doing lesbian dating wrong.
I politely nod and take a sip of my wine. I’m suddenly incredibly anxious about the handful of very graphic pictures I’ve sent her of myself.
When dinner is finally finished, Alice gets up and wobbles inside to pay the check. She is gone for thirty minutes. I can’t bring myself to go look for her. A passing bus boy, seeing my distress, tells me that if I am looking for my date, she is at the bar, doing shots.
I thank him and turn away to watch the ducks bobbing in green lines on the river. I somehow manage not to cry.
When Alice comes back out she is half-staggering on the deck. She grins at me. She ran into a friend, she says.
We go home to her house and get into bed. She puts on a movie and passes out, fully clothed, with even her socks on. She snores heavily. I lay awake and stare at the ceiling, pinned in place by the weight of a crushed romantic fantasy.
In the morning, the trouble—or part of the trouble, anyway—is revealed. Her so-called open relationship is not actually as open as she said, and her partner is not happy about her having me here. Alice is wracked with guilt. She cannot bear it, she says. Her partner has been texting her constantly.
This just isn’t working out, she says, and then she coldly asks me to leave.
I get in my car and I drive the 1,000 kilometers back again in nearly a straight shot. In a bid for pathetic irony, the sun has vanished; it is grey and cold, pouring rain. The whole way I am crying, berating myself. Everything feels like my fault. I’m so stupid. Is there really something so wrong with me that this woman had to get hammered just to tolerate me? Am I such a screw up that this kind of woman is the only kind I’ll ever be attracted to?
By the time I get home, though, my hurt and disillusionment has turned to rage. It actually took me longer to drive to there and back than I was actually with her in Fairbanks on what was supposed to be a weeklong romantic getaway. I’m furious.
I pick up my phone, call Alice and lay into her—how the hell could someone be this shitty to someone? How could someone treat another human being this way? I thought you cared about me? I thought you were really an amazing person.
“I am an amazing person,” Alice says calmly. “None of this was my intention. What I do doesn’t mean anything.”
Lesbian Dating Tip #3: YOUR ACTIONS TOWARD YOUR PARTNER (OR ANYONE) MATTER.
Stunned, I hang up the phone. I pour myself a scotch and sit on the bed.
And I start to laugh. It’s as if a huge weight has been lifted off my chest. I take a sip of my drink. There’s a ringing in my ears. It’s the sound of me, dodging a bullet.
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*Story has been updated 5:00 PM Monday, March 19.
This article originally appeared on VICE CA.