In September, your photo came up on my screen while I was scrolling through Tinder. I accidentally swiped left. My stomach dropped. I hurried to the bathroom to avoid waking my roommate, flicked on the light and proceeded to spend the next half hour trying and failing to download Tinder Plus so I could undo my erroneous finger movement. I flooded my best friend’s phone with texts, frantically trying to figure out which way you would’ve swiped on me, and how to show you in a totally-deniable-but-still-flirty-and-cute way that I really, really meant to swipe right.
Over time, we became friends. You dated other people, and I wasn’t jealous so much as in awe at the way you moved through the world. Once, we were sitting together after dinner and you stood up and said, “Alright, I’m gonna go flirt with some girls now,” and then just walked away and did it. I thought, why don’t you flirt with me instead?!
I think I must’ve liked you for a long time before I fully realized what I felt, because I remember each one of our early interactions in hyper-definition. Sitting across the room from you in our discussion section before we really knew each other; my eyes were constantly drawn to you. You, running into the kitchen or into my room, excitedly telling me about something that happened to you during the day. Driving with you to buy beer as you teased me lightly about my eternally angsty music. Timidly approaching the counter to order coffee from you at Zeus — you must’ve been sure my cheeks were permanently flushed.
I spent winter break complaining about how I hadn’t ever fallen in love at Cornell. I didn’t know what it would feel like to be with someone completely here, to see the Arts Quad and all the other places in my daily rotation through the rosy lens of romance. “I just don’t think it’s gonna happen at this point,” I told my friends back home. They laughed and replied, “You know you’re still a sophomore, right?”
I spent the first few weeks of the semester staying up late with you. At first, I’d find excuses to be with you: padding downstairs to boil water for tea, as if I hadn’t been drawn from my room by the sound of your voice in the living room. Even in groups, we’d sit side by side and speak mostly to each other. We’d talk about poetry, about potential house pets (my first choice is still a family of ferrets) or cringy memories of middle school. I told a friend, “It’s so easy to choose talking to him over getting sleep or doing my homework. Everything we say to each other just feels so much more important.”
I didn’t want to like you that way and then end up disappointed, and our friendship felt so delicate then, the best thing about my semester so far, I admitted shyly and only to myself. Eventually, you told me you had a crush on me, and then the next day I waited for you to get off work, and we walked down to the gorge and kissed. Everything we said or did made me want greater closeness. I lay in my bed that night thinking of your room down the hall, imagining the sway of your curtains, the heat of your body beneath your blankets.
Everything after that happened faster. I fell in love with you almost immediately — maybe because I already did love you, though in a different way. Each part of being with you felt like a first. Never before had I actually wanted to be with only one person. You were the first person I really felt comfortable asking for what I wanted sexually, admitting all my secret desires. You were the first person, too, I felt fully comfortable telling when something hurt or when I wanted to stop. Your name is the only name on my lips when I moan; your fingers are the only ones I need tugging my hair.
I have so many different layers of feelings for you; I’m sometimes not totally sure how to reconcile them. You are one of my best friends, someone I can cry in front of or talk to until we’re bleary. When you smile at me across the room, or when our eyes meet while you’re talking to other people, I feel the breathlessness of a crush and I can’t believe it’s me you’re looking at, too. Lying in your bed at night or as morning light seeps through your curtains, I am so in love with you that my chest aches, and I hate to feel even the tiniest space between our skin.
Everything is painted in the colors of my love for you. My walk to class has never looked so beautiful. My heart tugs loose from my chest when my phone lights up with a text and I see it is from you. Every song is a song about you and me, and every passage I read, I imagine in your voice. You are the hearts doodled in my notebook; the body over mine making me gasp; the arms around me when I dream; and my missed connection no longer.
Dirty Blonde is a student at Cornell University. Love in the Time of Tinder runs monthly this semester. Sex on Thursday appears every other Thursday.