Where do you start over? Travis thought to himself.
It wasn’t even about the aphoristic where, but more along the lines of how. He’d start over right here in the apartment he and Justin had shared. Their memories aside, he wasn’t about to consider moving to a new place just because Justin was gone.
He doubted Justin would go far. They both had roots in this city, friends and family. Justin had given up the apartment so easily which hurt. He’d been prepared to just pack his bags and leave it all behind. Travis was willing to go, but Justin didn’t even argue. So why should Travis consider giving up this city to him just to avoid eventually running into him somewhere?
Travis would start over here. Right here in what was now his apartment, even though it was in their city. Travis felt he had loved this city more than Justin had anyway. He frequently felt like he was having an affair with it because Justin had stopped wanting to go out and do anything. It was Travis who stepped out and met their friends at venues, concerts, or plays and enjoyed himself while Justin just stayed home.
“Where’s Justin?” they always asked in the beginning.
“At home,” Travis answered, never giving it a second thought.
And they’d dismiss it just as easily as Travis did. They soon stopped asking about him all together. Travis later contemplated if he should have been concerned about how easy it was for both him and his friends to forget about Justin when he wasn’t there.
But it was Justin who was having the affair instead, and with a foreign exchange student at that. It was Justin who didn’t want to be here and apparently didn’t want to be with Travis either.
Travis suddenly felt very alone after a few weeks of this. At first, he thought he’d enjoy living alone again. He’d been selfish and content with Justin being here though they had not been intimate in months and rarely shared conversations anymore.
Justin watched television or used his laptop in the spare bedroom while Travis entertained himself with a movie or book in their bedroom or den. Justin conveniently curled up and fell asleep on the single bed in there after a night of staying up late rather than coming to share their bed with Travis, who’d already gone to bed hours ago.
So, for what it was worth, Travis had been living alone long before Justin actually moved out. But now that he was actually completely solo, he felt lonelier than ever.
It was comforting to have Justin there, despite the animosity that was breaking down their relationship. They were like angry chess players, each waiting for the other to just make a move. Moving out was certainly not what Travis had anticipated from Justin, but he knew it was the best move for both of them. For that reason, Travis felt like he was the weaker of the two.
Why had he waited for Justin to call it off? Perhaps it was because their relationship was convenient, though it really wasn’t a relationship at all. It was an arrangement. One that neither wanted to change, at least not for the longest. Travis wondered what had finally pushed Justin to make the decision he did.
Travis found little legitimacy in online dating sites when it came to anything more substantial than an awkward one night stand, but many of his couple friends had met online. So, Travis decided to give it a try. He remembered a web address for a free online dating site he’d seen advertised in the back of the Midtown Flyer, the local bar rag that could be picked up for free in the entryway to any club or bookstore each week around the city.
So this is where and how, he thought. I’ll start over online. This was more of an uncertain question rather than a statement.
After creating a username and password, he was signed into the site and had to start by creating a personal profile. The first step to the profile was choosing a subject line. Make it catchy! , a tag line said under the box where he was supposed to give his profile a title. He typed Desperate just for a laugh and then quickly deleted it. It was a false laugh at something closer to the truth instead of something funny.
He rocked his desk chair back and forth while trying hard to think of something “catchy.” He finally decided on: “Loves Music, Loves To Laugh.” The cursor blinked at the end of what he typed, patiently waiting for him to move on to the next part of the profile. He leaned back in his chair and stared at the words, contemplating what he had just typed.
Loves Music, Loves to Laugh.
It was at least a true statement, but he felt it was too poetic while also sounding too generic.
Was there anyone out there who didn’t like music, at least some form of it? Every automobile came with a radio. It was the only form of entertainment in your car unless you listened to an audio book or talk radio. It was probably the one true art form that we all related to and shared somehow. Everyone had a favorite song or musical number. Didn’t they? Justin even knew how to play the piano; Travis had always admired that quality in him and appreciated it when he played. Travis and Justin practically had a whole soundtrack to their life together. Travis suddenly wondered if he’d ever be able to listen to any of those songs again without thinking about him.
And was there anyone who didn’t like to laugh, who might actually find it bothersome or painful? It made us feel good. Didn’t it? We all found different things comical. Travis and Justin loved to go see a comedic movie together. Justin was always good for a joke when they first started dating. There was even a stand up comedy club just a few blocks from there apartment where they walked a few times when there was a well-known comic headlining. They had shared many laughs together.
Travis suddenly had an epiphany. Music and laughter were the two things he’d missed most during the last few months of their relationship when it had become so estranged. They had not seen a comic or a movie together in months. Travis could not remember the last time Justin had sat down to play his piano. They’d lost the music and the laughter that made what they had special.
Travis knew he could never find it in someone else, at least not the same as what he had with Justin. And he certainly wasn’t going to find it on an online dating site. Or would he? If he did, there would be new songs to define moments in the next relationship. Maybe that person knew how to play a different musical instrument, maybe they even played in the city orchestra. Or perhaps they liked opera! Travis had always wanted a friend to turn him on to opera.
He decided to move forward with filling out the rest of the profile. He could always change the title later. He was putting too much thought into it this early. After checking the appropriate boxes to define his physical appearance and love making preferences, he uploaded a photo of himself. It was a cropped photo with just a bit of Justin’s shoulder still in it. He didn’t have any photos that had been taken of just him during the whole time they’d been together. Justin had always been in the picture.
After he was done and his profile was approved, the site offered to do a free match making service for him where it matched him with other users based on what their profiles had in common. Sure, why not? What have I got to lose? he thought. After a few minutes of checking the profiles, the system immediately found one profile with which Travis had a ninety nine percent match with. The title of the profile was “Seeking Music and Laughter.” He clicked on it and there staring back at him was the other half of the exact photo he had cropped, even with a bit of his own shoulder still in it. It was Justin.
It seemed their relationship had equally lost what it needed on both parts. They were both starving for the same thing. Travis didn’t know why they had not talked about it and tried to save what they had. Why couldn’t they start over and try to give what the other needed most? Music and laughter. It had fed their love. It all came down to that, the two things they’d shared and loved so much, and yet had so easily lost. They were so much alike that they both went online to the same website to find it. They even defined their profiles identically. What were the chances of that?
He clicked on the box that said “Reply To This Ad” and an empty box opened in another window for him to type a message to send. The blinking cursor waited patiently for him to find the words he wanted to convey. Travis leaned forward in his chair and began to type.
He paused after a sentence or two and realized this was just another barrier between him and Justin. If they couldn’t communicate face to face when they were living together, they wouldn’t be able to do it online either. And even if this distance between them was somehow healed by the joy of being connected to the grid, would it be any different if they got back together.
He decided it was too soon to find out. He deleted what little he’d written and closed the reply window. Small world, he thought to himself with a laugh. Then he turned off the computer, put in a CD, and went to bed.