Here’s the sickest part: I knew he would appear in my dream last night.
Listen, I can’t say that the knowledge of his upcoming presence appeared in any way like a linear thought in my mind. It’s not as though I went to sleep with perfectly muted lip-gloss on so I would eventually look all sorts of dewy and pretty for him in my dream state. But when I woke up several hours later and the last few spliced images of my slumbertime fantasy realigned into something resembling a cohesive order in my mind, I almost immediately remembered him standing there, the starring role he’d just played. I might have smiled softly. I most definitely whispered the words “of course” out loud into the emptiness of the night.
I was born during the height of rush hour on a snowy Monday morning in the first week of January. My father – less calm in a birthing scenario than my mother who thought it prudent to take some time to apply several coats of mascara to her lashes before heading into labor – almost ran down a school crossing guard in his quest to make sure I wasn’t pushed out somewhere along the Expressway on the North Shore of Long Island. He was promptly pulled over by a cop, received an immediate lights-blazing escort to the hospital, and I was born two hours later, my mottled and purple face the first visual indication of what would become my lifelong tendency to try to avoid the dread that comes with waiting.
I’ve taught Film for a bunch of years now, and the one thing that has stayed consistent over the passage of time is that at least two students a year will ask me to please start the course with a screening of Scarface. (They especially like that movie when the volume is turned all the way up. Apparently hearing Tony Montana fully snort that blow clear up his left nostril is absolutely integral to the experience.) I appreciate their advice – or at least I pretend that I do – but I usually choose to start the semester with a lesson on the concept of willful suspension of disbelief.
One time I watched as you leaned against the railing of my back porch. It was the middle of summer then, and the moonlight beamed hazy. All of it – the sound of the crickets, the heaviness of the air, the atmosphere itself – felt alarming, but only in the quietest of ways. It was just too close to perfect, I suppose, and the night seemed carved out of slippery silver. It was late, but not as late as it felt, and you’d just put my lighter into your pocket, a move done purely out of instinct. A few seconds later you’d realize it and you’d laugh and then hand it back over to me, our fingers touching in the kind of light and tempered way so different than how we’d touch each other later. But before – before the bedroom, before the shifted levels of control, before the way your face would go slack as I peeled off my shirt – we stood together in the sloping darkness. I felt my lips relax into an easy smile when your voice settled into that singsong sort of cadence. I recognized that cadence; it meant you’d reached your unfiltered state, the one usually so hard to get to with you. It was a sound that indicated you truly were happy. It was a sound that signaled that maybe I had made you truly happy. We shuffled on our feet – I was in flip-flops, of course with a wedge, and your feet were tan and bare, and we battled ravenous mosquitoes while ideas flew back and forth between us. You and I did a lot of things, but we never once talked small.
Remember how shocking it was when twenty-two utter fools actually managed to pair up correctly at the very last minute of the seventh season of Are You the One? Remember the fleeting look of accomplishment smeared across their faces as they sauntered off that island with approximately $40,000 and some very probable invitations to appear on even more reality shows in the way-too-near-future for my comfort? Remember when this cast acted like they were entirely capable of forgetting all the fighting and the furniture smashing and the sociopathic bullshit they’d inflicted on one another all summer long? Remember how they instead clung to one another super tightly and swore they’d be like family until the very last second of time? Well, it seems time is relative and this little televised family is even more dysfunctional than the Manson Family after a particularly potent acid trip. The sweet goodbye that blasted across our airwaves occurred months ago and the sweetness between these people faded – much like genital warts eventually do. Now it’s Reunion time, most of these people officially hate one another, and if you’re surprised that the majority of these relationships didn’t work out in the long run, you too are an idiot and such a thing means you should immediately apply to be on this show because you’d be a motherfucking natural.
My sweet readers, several zillion ultra-important questions have been swirling round and round inside of my head since Are You the One? aired a new episode. It’s sort of been hard to sleep, what with my grave fears about what could happen (nothing) should Nutsa and Brett turn out not to be an MTV-approved soulmate match. And that concern isn’t even slightly comparable to the wave of stomach-clenching terror I sometimes feel (it’s probably just cramps) when it dawns on me that this right here will be the very last time these people can try to pair up correctly. But the most ominous question weighing heavy inside of me (along with that fistful of Twix I consumed on Halloween night…and then the next night…and then the night after that) is the question about these contestants and their futures. Let’s just face it – the vast majority came on this show not to find temporary love, but to snag themselves very non-temporary careers as H-list reality stars on every show this network produces until the end of fucking time. I’m pretty sure what’s really been keeping me up nights is how very certain I feel that the very worst of these people are not going anywhere.
Since my mommy and my daddy committed a long time ago to the act of effective parenting, I was raised to be a decent human being. As such, I was able to muster up a bit of empathy for Kwasi when he lost whatever was left of his sanity. I mean, the man crumbled into the lap of a producer while wailing, “I came here for love!” Who amongst us hasn’t had a moment where real love seemed unattainable? Unfortunately, my empathy sort of shriveled up and died rather quickly because though I do happen to be a decent human being, I am also a smart human being and – though it saddens me to say this – intelligence and pragmatism kicks decency’s ass pretty much every time. And so as a smart person, I find myself feeling exactly nothing for Kwasi as he experiences a televised breakdown because what kind of faulty planning must be involved for you to decide that your greatest chance of finding forever love will occur if you enter a house loaded with booze, exhibitionists, exhibitionists drinking booze, something called The Boom Boom Room, and fifty-three cameras? And what insane lies did you need to tell yourself so you could become convinced that a show that’s been on for seven seasons and has ended with most of the couples breaking up both publicly and rather spectacularly would be your emotional safety net? As I cannot even force the decent side of my brain to attempt such a leap in logic, the only thing I feel for Kwasi right now is the hope that there’s some Xanax on the premises.
Romeo and Juliet. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Holden Caulfield and that metaphorical kid he keeps trying to save over there in the rye. Kim Kardashian and herself. What do all these pairings have in common? I think the main link between them is a level of adoration that borders on the obsessive. What these people feel for one another (and what Kardashian seems to feel for herself) is the kind of adoration that’s so powerful, its very presence causes the world to feel electrically charged. And now it’s time to add another couple to this illustrious list, so let’s all grasp hands and welcome Tevin and Kenya! They are the stars of what I like to call THE GREATEST LOVE STORY EVER TO BE TOLD ON REALITY TELEVISION AS THE APOCALYPSE LOOMS. Tevin, you see, is a modern day Renaissance man. Okay, I actually have no idea what the kid does, but for the sake of argument, let’s just say he’s an artist who happens to look a great deal like one of the greatest lipsynchers of our time so I’ve decided that factor alone makes him Renaissance-adjacent. His for-right-now beloved is Kenya, a woman who enjoys sitting on the lap of her ex-boyfriend probably way more than she should. But ever since that most recent ex left the island, Kenya decided that it might be kind of fun to settle and she declared her love for a very sweet (but a very very dim) Tevin. And guess what?! The MTV-sanctioned “relationship experts” (anyone besides me want to see the degree that officially deems these people experts?) agree with her! The lights of that Truth Booth – the ones that don’t actually do anything integral to the process – pass over their bodies and we learn that this house filled with emotional misfits has finally identified another perfect match! There are cheers and shouts of elation, but if you listen carefully, I’m pretty sure you can also hear the sound of nails and a very busy hammer. That noise? Oh, that’s Shamoy and Maria. They’re barricading the door of their until-now private Honeymoon Suite. Wouldn’t you do the exact same thing?
The last episode ended with a cliffhanger, but I feel compelled to assure you that I managed to sleep soundly all week long, even though I didn’t know with absolute certainty whether or not Cali’s ceremony strategy worked. Sure, the melatonin spray I’ve recently fallen in a deep sort of love with helped, but my restful slumber was really due to the fact that it’s almost impossible to care if beams of light will eventually illuminate the nighttime sky in a dramatic visual that’s meant to make us cheer for the success of these people instead of doing what we should be doing: shaking our heads at their continued idiocy. In any case, the results come back, they get four beams, and this definitively proves that Cam and Kayla and Cali and Tomas are not matches. This result also proves these people still have no earthly idea what they’re doing and Terrence J shakes his head at them like a disappointed parent. His reaction reminds me a lot of that one time I came home from a party in high school with hickies lining my entire neck and I swore to my mother that we’d all just sucked on each other’s necks for fun and of course nothing sexual had gone down, but she didn’t believe me for a single second because the woman has a brain. But instead of my neck, let’s talk about Kayla. Poor Kayla. Now officially one of the dethroned self-described “power couples,” she sits in the confessional wearing a bustier I don’t for one moment believe is actually her own and she bursts into tears because Cam is not the man MTV said she was meant to be with. Don’t despair, Kayla! If you miss the guy after you leave the island, I’m sure you will be able to find him at some Hitler-esque rally. He will be easy to spot; he may very well be the only African American in the crowd cheering about the destruction of our civil liberties.
It’s all come down to this, my friends. An episode MTV has chosen to call the “Summer Finale” of Floribama Shore – a term that seems more than a bit optimistic considering the fact that my tan has long since faded – is upon us, and we all know full well that there’s no way this group would ever enter a mini hiatus without experiencing and inflicting a heap of carnage first.