Sunday Stories: The Tinder On Which We Burned
This Sunday Story is a sequel to The Genesis of Something New. If you haven’t read that one, go read it and come back. And since we haven’t done these for a while, let me put this warning up front: this is FICTION.
“You prick. I saw your profile on Tinder. You’re a pathetic sex addict. We’re done and your wife is getting a copy of every text and picture you’ve ever sent me. HAHA BYE LOSER.”
Well, that was an interesting way to wake up.
Like most people in this third-screen society, I don’t get out of bed without checking my phone. That text, safely hidden behind the “1” icon on my phone, was just the latest in the series of crazy messages from my left-coast girlfriend, Fairuza. Both fortunately and unfortunately, depending on how I felt about her at that very minute, I’d spent most of my work time in Miami, and she was a little over three thousand miles away in Palo Alto, California. I knew there was no way she could’ve actually seen my Tinder profile from there.
She’d sent the message at 2:23 a.m. Eastern time, which meant she’d probably been out drinking with her spinster sister at some NorCal wine bar and felt neglected. If she’d really intended to notify my wife, she would’ve done so already, and I would’ve had a lot more than one message on my phone. Feeling slightly concerned, but mostly hungover, I deleted the Tinder app from my phone, hit the side button on my iPhone, and tried to go back to sleep.
I’d met Fairuza at a Ritz-Carlton resort in Palm Springs just four months prior — and what a four months it had been.
I’d just gotten back to the hotel after a lengthy business dinner, and there she was at the bar — resplendent in a little black dress, legs crossed nonchalantly, drinking a glass of 2012 Insignia. She was a darker-skinned, more exotic version of Marion Cotillard, with a grace and style clearly beyond my reach. She had more money in jewelry on her left wrist than I made in a year. The look on her face was one of pure disdain — as though everything and everybody in that four-star resort was beneath her.
Naturally, I made it my evening’s mission to win her over. When I sat down next to her, her first comment was, “I like your watch.” I looked down at my “Kermit” Rolex Submariner, smiled, and said, “What, this old thing? Why, I only wear it when I don’t care how I look.”
Thirty minutes and two more glasses of Insignia later, we were in my room. I knew I liked her when after an hour of fumbling around in bed, she looked me in the eyes and said, “Is that all you’ve got, Ryan?”
The next few months were a blur of flying around the country to see each other, if even for a single night at a time. New York, Chicago, Atlanta, even Detroit for 14 glorious hours at the David Whitney.
Oh, yes, Fairuza was completely, utterly crazy, but that’s what made her interesting. It’s also what made her dangerous. Of course, she was a psychiatrist. That’s how they all get into that business; they want to know what’s wrong with themselves. And while being a San Francisco Bay psychiatrist was certainly a decent living, all of Fairuza’s shopping was gladly paid for by her father, along with her E400 coupe payments.
So with her combination of insanity and infinitely disposable cash, I shouldn’t have been completely surprised that the next knock on my door wasn’t from housekeeping.
“Wake up, you asshole. Who have you got in there with you?”
Fuck. Are you kidding me right now?
“I know you like us dark-skinned girls — is she a Latina, Ryan? Open up and let me see how fucking ugly she is.”
Christ, please let me be dreaming, I thought. Please. Please don’t tell me that this crazy bitch took a red-eye from SFO to MIA. Ha, I laughed to myself. Of course she did. I grabbed the tiger-striped robe from my suite closet at the Surfcomber on the Beach hotel, and stumbled to the door.
“Good to see you, too, Zaza.” I opened it to see a petite, furious, but gorgeous Persian woman on the other side of the door. “How was your conversation with my wife?”
“Fuck you, Ryan,” she mumbled as she shoved past me into the room, throwing her Louis Vuitton overnight bag carelessly on the couch. “You know I didn’t call your fucking wife. Where’s your phone?”
“Why do you want to see my phone? Did you not bring yours?”
“I want to see how many Tinder matches you’ve made in Miami.”
Now, truth be told, I’d made dozens, including a stunningly pretty latina girl named Yvonne that had left my room at 2:30 that morning — Zaza knew me well — but I also knew I had deleted the app a few hours before. I grabbed my phone from the nightstand and tossed it to her where she stood in her Lululemon yoga/travel outfit.
“See for yourself.”
She scrolled with purpose through my apps, grunted with mild satisfaction, and tossed it back to me.
“I see you were smart enough to delete the app when I texted you. Good, you’re not as fucking stupid as you look.” She smiled slightly, her brown eyes still shimmering with anger and mischief. “I’ve missed you, Ryan.”
“Apparently,” I smirked back at her. “How much did it cost you to buy a ticket 45 minutes before the flight took off?”
“More than your next paycheck. I date doctors, you piece of shit. You know you’re nothing. You’re nobody.”
“I do, indeed,” I murmured as I drew her into my arms. She was tense at first, but she softened as I stroked her thick, dark hair, placing her head on my chest. “Come on, let’s go have breakfast.”
We walked two blocks down Collins Avenue to 15th Street, the late morning sun already heating the sidewalk enough that a slight layer of sweat had broken out on my forehead. There we found a favorite of mine, the Front Porch Cafe, still serving breakfast at 11:30 a.m., which was exactly what my hangover needed.
Zaza was having none of it. “Two mimosas,” she barked at the server. Ugh, I hated the way she treated people in service roles. Zaza was testing me, seeing what my tolerance for alcohol would be. I smiled and said, “That sounds good for me. What will you be drinking, love?”
“Ha!” She let out a harsh, abrupt laugh that was completely out of character. “If you’re down for two of them, so am I. And no cheap champagne, please,” she reminded the server.
“Yes, ma’am,” our poor waitress replied as she strolled off to the kitchen. I imagined she was plotting how to obtain a vial of cyanide to put in Fairuza’s Veuve Clicquot.
“Well,” I sighed as I leaned back in my chair, looking into Zaza’s eyes, “now that you’ve flown across the country and completely blown up my work day, what do you want to do?”
“You tell me, Ryan. I hate this fucking city. You’re the one who made me come here.”
I laughed with such force as to draw the stares of surrounding tables. “I made you come here? You’re the one who got all paranoid and decided to fly across the country at midnight. Don’t you put that on me.”
All joviality immediately left her face. “Okay, Ryan, let’s get this straight. I’m 29 years old, I’m wealthy, and I’m beautiful.”
“And also humble.”
“Whatever. You know I can get any man I want. Any time that I want.”
As I looked at her from across the table, it was hard to disagree with her. Even at her angriest, her most deranged, she was still easily the most beautiful woman I’d ever been with.
“I’m not like that little crackhead you were with before. Men have named their boats and horses after me.
“But I want you. I don’t know why I want some poor, married, odd-looking man like you,” she chuckled, “but I do. And I’m terrified that you’ll never leave her. In fact, I’m certain that you won’t.” And in that instant, her face changed. And in that instant, I understood.
Yes, she was wealthy and beautiful, but the most important fact she had stated in her little rant was that she was 29. A mere month away from her 30th birthday. And every day I was taking from her in our little fling was a day that she wasn’t with a man who would ultimately marry and have a family with her. I was stealing from her the best days of her life.
In that instant, I understood all of that — and I knew that she was right. I wasn’t going to leave my wife for her. I had told her in the past that it was a financial issue, that I couldn’t afford the child support and alimony payments, but Zaza had brushed all of that aside. “I’ll pay that for you. You know that’s not the real reason.” And, again, she was right.
“Fairuza,” I began.
“You never call me that. It’s always ‘Zaza.’ I know you hate that I’m Persian. I know you hate that our kids won’t be blonde and blue-eyed, like your little angels.” Holy shit. Were those tears in her eyes?
“Fairuza,” I tried again. “I’m sorry. You’re wrong. We will be together someday. It’s just been a few months. Give me some time to figure this all out. I love you.” Well, that was a new approach.
“Love!” she snorted. “You don’t love anybody but yourself. You message me when you’re bored.” She stared off into the ocean from the patio cafe.
“I …” I tried to start over, but the look in her face told me that silence was the best course of action.
We sat and drank our mimosas in near silence. Every single man who walked by on the neighboring sidewalk stared at her centerfold-quality face, but she saw none of them.
When the bill arrived, I pulled out my American Express Platinum card and put it on the table. Without warning, Zaza trumped me with her black Centurion card. “Put that card away,” she snarled. “It’s embarrassing.”
We walked the two blocks back to the hotel, still in silence. My phone was exploding with emails and texts from people in the Miami office wondering where I was, but I dared not look at it for fear that she would suspect me of messaging another woman. They’d all have to wait today.
As we crossed the threshold into my room, I tried again.
“No, you listen.” She took my hand. “I can’t forget you, no matter how hard I try. In fact, I don’t want to keep trying. I want to be with you.”
She paused a moment, and continued. “I’ll wait. I shouldn’t, but I will. I don’t want anybody else. Believe me, I’ve tried. No, I haven’t fucked around on you, but I get hit on constantly by men who are wealthier and better-looking than you. I try to be interested, but I’m just not. I want you.”
“I want you too, Za—Fairuza.” And when I said it, at that moment, it wasn’t a lie. I had seen into the heart of this beautiful, damaged woman, and I knew that I could make her whole. So I tried.
Four hours later, as we awakened from our nap, I called down to the valet to get my rental car for dinner.
“What’s our economy chariot this evening?” she sang out from the bathroom as she put on her lipstick. “I hope it’s something disturbingly poor.”
“It’s a Chrysler 300. You’ll love it. It’s just like your Mercedes at home, only … more Chrysler-ish.”
She laughed, cried out, “I love you, boo!” and continued on with her preparations — Cartier on her left wrist, Tory Burch on the other, Christian Louboutin on her feet. “I’m sure it will be delightful.”
We strolled through the lobby, all eyes on her, as the valet rushed to open the door of the big, rental-white Chrysler for her. I had made reservations for us at Zuma, the finest Japanese steakhouse in America. No, I couldn’t afford it, but what the hell.
Dinner had been lovely — elegant even. The valets were too busy to park my car, so they just let me pull around and leave the car on the parking deck. Zaza ordered kobe beef at $300 an ounce, but I swallowed hard and smiled at the server. After an entire bottle of wine each, I briefly excused myself to use the restroom, which was not where I expected it would be, and in my drunken state, I would have had a hard time finding it even if we had sat right next to it. As a result, I had been gone from the table longer than I had expected.
“I’m sorry, babe, I got lost and—” I stopped mid-sentence. I had been so eager to go the restroom that I’d left my phone on the table. Fairuza was holding it to her ear, listening to something, tears streaming down her face. “Zaza, what are you doing? Zaza! Give me my phone!” I lurched toward her to grab it, but she ducked away.
“I’m just listening to a voicemail from your fucking wife. She loves you and misses you, and can’t wait for you to come home.” She threw the phone as hard as she could in my direction, sailing it over my head and into the middle of a party of 12 at a neighboring table. “Fuck you. Fuck you. God, I’m such an idiot to think you’d ever leave her.”
I apologized to everyone in the vicinity as I awkwardly retrieved my phone from an older woman’s edamame bowl.
“Fairuza, wait!” But she was up and gone from the table before I could even turn around. I went to grab my car keys and realized that I had left them on the table. They were gone, too.
Panicked, I ran out of the restaurant just in time to see her squealing out of the parking area into the traffic on Biscayne Boulevard. Unfortunately, the Ferrari 458 driver who had shown off his car’s speed to his blonde companion didn’t see her at all. There was a horrible, violent explosion as red and white metal combined in a shower of shards all over the street, the nose of the prancing horse penetrating the driver’s side door of the 300 at well over a hundred miles an hour.
I ran in slow motion toward the car, knowing that I ran in vain. Zaza hadn’t even taken the time to buckle her seatbelt, and I bent over and retched violently as I saw what remained of her in the cabin. I collapsed on the street, unable to do anything but shake and dry heave.
There was nothing to do but wait for the police and the ambulances to come. They’d ask all the questions they needed to ask — whose car was this, how did you know her, why were you together, why was she angry? — and I’d tell them the truth. In less than an hour from that moment, my marriage, my life, my career — all were ruined and gone.
Oh, Zaza. You finally freed me, just in time for me to never be with you again.
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This was very captivating, glad Sunday stories are back. Unfortunately, haters gonna hate, yo.
If her daddy's rich, take her out for a meal If her daddy's poor, just do what you feel Speed along the lane Do a ton or a ton an' twenty-five When the sun goes down You can make it, make it good and really fine Sing along with us, dee-dee dee-dee dee Da doo da-da da, yeah, we're hap-pap-py Da da da, dee da doo dee da doo da doo da Da doo da-da da, dee da da dee da da