“Hi Tom, I love the picture with your dog!”
Message received from Laura, Friday February 9, at 4:35 pm.
Tom checked Laura’s pictures in her profile. She had big green eyes and a good grin on most pictures. Her portfolio included the usual bikini pose, which showed marvelously sized breasts and quite more than enough skin. She looked beautiful in all her shots, but then you could never really know: most people used beautified, if not altogether fake photos on those dating apps, so you were never sure if your next date was going to be with Miss America or with her forgotten childhood neighbor.
“Thank you, that’s one of my favorite photos, too,” Tom responded later that afternoon. “Cannon always runs around, so it’s hard to get a good snap of him. This one is special.”
Three dots blinked in the bubble for a few seconds, before words appeared on his screen.
“You are so sweet! Cannon is the perfect name for your dog, and you look great too in the picture!” Laura highlighted her enthusiasm with a winky emoji.
He loved how a picture with his dog was enough to convince girls like Laura that he was a good person, and how fast it transformed them into flirty little animals, ready to spend hours exchanging texts with a complete stranger.
“Your pictures look awesome, too. You’re very beautiful. And the bikini…” he decided to give it a go.
“The bikini… what?” she flirted back.
“Well, let me just say I would love to see you in person with it.”
“Well, you never know,” she winked again.
Tom snickered: this one was easier than usual. He went through his pictures again, to try and guess what had convinced her to go for it so fully and directly.
The Dog Photo was always the first one in his profile: everybody liked dogs, especially funny pugs or sweet labradors. Months ago, when he had started his online dating adventure, he had The Baby Photo, but that turned out to be not as effective as he had thought: as much as babies attract women in real life, in the street or on a subway train, pictures of men with babies very often achieve the opposite effect, with unexpected levels of creepiness. Dogs were safer.
The Sunglasses Photo was usually the second entry in his portfolio. It was powerful, with its mix of sunny settings, stylish shades, and potentially a smirk or a full laugh, depending on the mood of the month. It emphasized his All-American squared jaw, in perfectly glowing tanned skin.
The Full-Body New York City Location Photo showed his coolness, or so he thought. He never picked trivial or touristic places, like the stairs of the MET, instead he went for corners in the West Village, or under a tree in one of the many public gardens of the city. It displayed how uncommon he was, and it gave him a refined taste. It also showed off how tall he was and how strong he looked.
The Medium Close-up Photo, the last one, highlighted his perfect features: fair bright eyes, with that mysterious and unreadable expression, which could say “I’m a really good lover, give me a try” as well as “I can also be very funny, let’s go for a ride”. Blond locks shining in the sun. The perfect shape of his mouth standing out in a soft smile. He could go shirtless to show his muscular built, or select fancy clothes to underline his pinch for fashion, depending on the season. His hands always in the frame, neat but manly. He was perfect.
“What are you doing this weekend?” he texted Laura on Saturday morning.
“I am going out with some friends tonight. Why?”
“Just asking,” he virtually shrugged.
She kept typing for several minutes, unsure of what his answer meant. He grinned.
He texted her again on Sunday morning, after having neglected to respond to her messages late on Saturday night.
“Sorry, I was busy yesterday night. Did you have a good time with your friends?”
“No worries,” she tapped right away. “I had a great time! What did you do? What are your plans today?”
“Oh, you know, a few things to do today too,” he replied with extreme coolness. “But I might be available tomorrow night, if you want to grab a drink.”
The bait had been thrown. She took it and swallowed it.
“Tomorrow night sounds perfect!” she didn’t hesitate. “Tell me where and when.”
“Let’s make it seven o’clock at Nitecap.”
“Awesome,” she replied, “I live quite close to the Lower East Side…”
Somehow he was not surprised.
He left his office in Midtown thirty minutes before the appointment on Monday night. He hopped on an M subway train at the Rockefeller Center stop, and he got off at Essex Street Station, right on time. Monday nights were quiet at Nitecap, so he found an empty stool at the bar, and he waited for Laura. She arrived only a few minutes late, and boy she was even more gorgeous than on those pictures. It was a very rare event, and he drowned his eyes in her beauty: her blond hair, flowing past her shoulders; her black dress, flattering to say the least; her body was flawless, her smile soft and resolute at the same time. He could have stared at her forever. Instead he took his phone out of his pocket, he scrolled to find the dating app, and he tapped on the button: Delete Account. Everything disappeared in an instant, as it did every time.
Laura looked around for a few seconds, pondering. She walked cautiously inside the bar, turning her head left and right to see if Tom was there. In the end she resolved to wait at the bar, and she ended up sitting right next to Tom.
Of course she didn’t recognize him: his real self, skinny, short and with his Taiwanese origins sculpted in his traits, was far from the pictures he had in his now deleted account. Once per month he liked to play his game: pretending to be someone he wasn’t, to get a close look at women who normally wouldn’t even realize he existed. Dreaming to be someone else, someone with his brains, his kindness, and Chris Hemsworth’s looks.
Laura sighed and she pulled her phone out of her Chanel purse. After a few taps, she realized Tom’s account didn’t exist anymore, and she now had no way to contact him.
“What the…” she mouthed.
“Is everything alright?” the real Tom asked her.
She didn’t bother to look at him, instead she mumbled, “Men are all ass-holes”.
“Nice to meet you,” Tom raised his glass to her back, as she walked away.