From the upcoming collection of short stories titled “The Secret Society.”
I met Mia through Instagram. She liked a bunch of my photos that showed me deadlifting massive amounts of weight, so I messaged her, saying, “I think I’m somewhat attracted to you.”
She responded immediately, “Somewhat?”
Mia went on to blast several messages that were typed in all caps, which I did not read. Instead, I asked her to FaceTime me, dropping my number for her to use. I never carry on a conversation through text that could be had face-to-face, and besides, it’s always my goal to move meaningful interactions away from apps and offline as quickly as possible. Despite what I may have said to Mia, I was extremely attracted to her.
I became even more attracted when, fifteen minutes later, she called, looking both amused and slightly angry, saying, “So what’s this bullshit with being somewhat attracted?”
“I am a little more now that I can see your face pouting,” I said.
“A little more? Pouting?”
“Okay, a lot more; I’m attracted to emotions... Real emotions, you know, and I can’t see that in any of your pics. They all look staged and photoshopped.”
She laughed. “Fuck you.”
I laughed with her. “I’m serious. That small pimple on your cheek, your laugh lines… You know what?”
“I take back everything—I’m so attracted to you.”
She paused to gaze at me with glaring brown eyes that seemed to see right through me. Her black hair curled down to her shoulders. Her face, with no makeup (which surprised me), lit up when she smiled and said, “Don’t think I don’t know what you just tried pulling on me.”
“What did I try pulling on you?”
I smiled. “It got you here, did it not? And now we’re talking.”
“Admit it, you’re having fun.”
“Yes, you are. How many DMs do you get from chumps that all say the same thing, ‘Oh, you’re so beautiful?’ I wasn’t gonna tell you something that you don’t already know, so here it is: seeing you like this, with your blemishes, makes you more beautiful to me. I appreciate realness.”
“So do I.”
“Then let’s hang.”
Her look became incredulous. “Hang? Is that how you ask women out for dinner?”
“Who said anything about dinner? I’m saying, ‘Let’s hang.’”
“I don’t know you like that to just wanna hang,” Mia said.
“I don’t know you like that to want to take you out to dinner.”
“Where’s the romance?”
“Who says hanging out won’t be romantic? We can go out to a spot just outside the city where the night sky is at its darkest, and we can hang out hard while we’re both on a blanket spread out on a field of grass under the stars. Is that not romantic?”
She paused, her face uncertain. “I don’t go out to remote places with strangers.”
“Neither do I, but since it looks like we’re connected to the same people online, I’m gonna trust my gut and assume you won’t try taking advantage of me.”
She laughed. “How can I do that? You’re bigger than me.”
“And that’s what would make it that much more exciting for you.” I paused to give her the space to allow for the subtext to sink in, then said, “You don’t have to give me an answer now. If you want, ask the people we both know, then hit me back up, or don’t. It’s your choice, but I’ll say this: Just think of the great story you’d be able to tell about the experience.”
“You’re assuming I haven’t hung out in nature before.”
I smiled. “That’s even better. Maybe you can teach me something new. I’m always looking for a new master to learn from.”
She paused, taking a big gulp as though swallowing how hard her heart must’ve been beating from hearing me say that, like, “Oh shit, that hit me in a way I’d never felt before.”
I was about to say more when someone banged on the door behind her, making her abruptly end the call. It was then that I realized Mia had been talking while in the bathroom all along. I didn’t think much of it at the time. I mean, we all need our privacy, and there was nothing on her profile to tell me anything about her living situation or if she was in a “situationship,” and I didn’t care.
Dinner is for girlfriends. All I wanted to do with her was hang.
I explicitly made that clear so there would be no misunderstandings if she decided to take me up on my offer, which she did, calling me a week later. Despite what I may have said, we did owe each other due diligence. I’m sure she asked around about me because I know I did. It was safe enough for both of us to have our face-to-face. I invited her to join me at a coffee shop in south Austin. When she arrived, she spotted me in a corner by the window and walked over to sit next to me.
Before I could say hello, she placed her finger on my lips and murmured, “I don’t want to talk. I don’t want you to say a word. If you’re still looking for a new master to learn from, I’m that girl. You got that?”
She smiled. “Good. What we’re going to do now is get in your car, and you take me to where you want to take me. I don’t want to know where, but you just go.” She reached into her handbag, pulling out a blindfold and handing it to me. “Before you drive off, you’re going to put this on me, and you’re not going to take it off until we’re there. I won’t be doing any talking until we’re on our way back, and I give you permission to talk again. You got that? This is how I hang: I let my body do the talking. Now, let’s go.”
We both got up from our chairs at the same time. Mia followed me out of the coffee shop and to my car. Inside, she sat next to me in the passenger seat, leaning over so that I could do as she had commanded, placing the black blindfold over her closed eyes. She sat back as I drove off and down winding roads leading to the hill country west of Austin. Her hand was on my thigh, squeezing. With my free hand, I reached over to squeeze hers, and when I did, I heard her breath stutter, with her mouthing silently, “Higher.”
We couldn’t have arrived at my spot quickly enough. It was night when I pulled into the empty lot at Balcones Canyonlands and parked. I led her out of the car and down a trail. Her hands were shaking, not from the cold but from her nerves—her fear. I wanted to stop and ask if she was okay, if she wanted to turn back, but Mia must’ve felt my hesitation in moving forward because she yanked down hard on my hand and nodded for me not to stop. Keep going. And I did until we arrived at a clearing with dead grass off the trail.
I stopped to face her. I dropped her shaking hands to remove the blindfold. Her eyes widened, adjusting to the little light that came from the stars above. She smiled before turning her gaze back to me, kissing me softly. Then hard. We slowly knelt down. I chuckled when I realized I had left the blanket in the car.
Mia must’ve thought I was chuckling at her, at the way she was kissing me—part soft touches of her lips with slight nibbles on mine—and she pushed me away, looking at me angrily.
I pointed at the ground, motioning with my hands as though I were spreading an invisible blanket.
She nodded, wagged her finger at me, shrugged her shoulders, and went back to kissing me. She pushed me to lie against the dead grass, as though I were to be what she would rest her body on, got on top, and began dry-humping me.
I tried to keep her from rolling off me and onto a ground that had become hard from the lack of rain over the summer, but she didn’t care. She swung herself off and pulled me over to get on top of her. She unbuckled her belt and pushed her pants down past her ankles.
I did the same.
She breathlessly mouthed the words, “Give it to me raw,” while pushing her panties down past her ankles. I did the same, pushing my boxers down and sliding my cock deep inside her.
I wanted to ask if she was in pain from the gravel hidden in the dead grass, but her open mouth moaning and her eyes wide open to the night told me everything I needed to know to keep going. And I did, with her pulling at my hair and me grabbing her ass harder with each thrust, until she locked her legs across my lower back as we both came hard.
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For a long moment, we remained still—her insides throbbing, her eyes reflecting the starlight above us, her mouth opening wide from her deep breathing—until she unlocked her legs from across my lower back. I rolled off her to lie still in the dead grass next to her. She sidled up against me to rest her head against my chest.
My breathing synced up with hers.
We could have stayed there, in that spot, in that position, all night if her phone hadn’t started vibrating in her handbag. She rolled over to take it out and look at it. She quickly stood up and motioned for me to do the same. She rushed to put her pants back on. I did the same. Mia grabbed my hand, and together we ran up the trail back to my car, quickly climbing in. I raced out of the parking lot, speeding along the dark road back towards the city.
“Now we can talk,” Mia said, her eyes showing her sudden worry and fear.
“Was that your boyfriend?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
She gave me this look, like, “How do you know?”
“Come on… You didn’t think I’d ask around what your situation was? It’s okay. There’s nothing to hide. I’m not looking for a relationship anyway. It’s the last thing on my mind.”
“Is that because your wife had been sleeping with an ex-boyfriend the entire time you were married?” Mia paused. “I asked around about you, too.”
“Five years... Five years.” I took a deep breath to swallow the intense pain that I still feel to this day over that level of betrayal, not wanting Mia to see how it still left me feeling. “It is what it is—”
“I’m not a cheater—I’ve got my reasons,” she said.
“You don’t need to explain. It doesn’t matter. If it did, we wouldn’t be here. I just want to be happy,” I said.
“I want to be happy too.”
“At least we have that in common.”
“We have a lot more in common than you could ever imagine,” Mia said.
“Yeah, I know how you found that spot.”
She chuckled. “ There was no way I was going to come out here unless I knew where you were taking me, so I asked around about that too, and once I found out, I had to ask why. Why there?”
“So you know.”
“I know. I have my own spot, too. Down in San Marcos, by the river. And it’s not the stars that saved me from killing myself; it was looking at my own reflection in the river.” She paused. “It looked sadder that I was going to kill myself, throwing myself in, than the sadness I had felt from…”
I reached over and grabbed her hand. “You don’t have to say. I get it.”
She was silent for a long moment. “Don’t let the life I share online fool you. I’ve been so depressed. I needed a night like this.”
I sighed. “Me too.”
Mia chuckled. “I can’t believe I met you off Instagram. I’ve got mostly fuckboys trying to get at me, which I thought you were.”
“It’s a front,” I said. “I just don’t wanna get hurt anymore. I’m afraid. I’m really scared.”
Mia squeezed my hand tight as she smiled.
“You know,” she said. “I’m also attracted to emotions. Real emotions, and I can’t see that in any of your pics. They all look staged and photoshopped. I like what I see now—the way I can see your eyes watering and how nervous you are, like you’re naked. You know what?”
“I take back everything I thought about you—I’m so attracted to you.”
I said nothing, suddenly remembering the reason for my racing back to the city—because of her boyfriend—and withdrew my hand.
Mia sat back in her seat and said, “Once we get back, it’ll all make sense. You’ll see.”
For the rest of the ride, we said nothing to each other until we were within Austin’s city limits. She began directing me not to drive back to the coffee shop, which would’ve been closed by then, but to where she had parked. It was there that I spotted a man—tall and slender, with a weak mustache and wearing skinny jeans—leaning against her car in an empty lot.
“Oh shit,” Mia said. “That’s Jacob.”
I parked several spaces away and got out, walking toward him, with Mia following behind me.
Jacob walked aggressively towards us, veering as though trying to get around me to her.
“Did you forget I could see you on Find My Friends?” Jacob said.
“I had turned that off!” Mia replied.
“No, you didn’t.”
“Yes, I did—did you pop an AirTag on me?”
“Yeah, you did.” Mia turned her handbag upside down, dumping everything she had in it on the pavement. When she didn’t spot what she was looking for, she began to feel the inside lining of her bag. “You’d sewn it in?”
“That’s not the point!” Jacob yelled. “What were you doing out in the middle of nowhere?”
“The same thing you’ve been doing through Tinder.” She began to laugh. “You’re so dumb. You’re on my account. You keep downloading and then deleting the app. I’m not stupid.”
Jacob looked at me. “You want to get involved with a cheater?”
I told him, “Bro, you better not come at me ‘cause I’ll bitch slap you six-ways to Sunday if you don’t get the fuck outta my face!”
Jacob realized he had come way too close to me to be talking in my face like that and stepped back to grab Mia hard by the hand.
“Come on, let’s go,” he said.
“I’m not going anywhere with you,” Mia said.
“Let go of her,” I said.
Without a word, I punched Jacob square in the face. He fell back on the seat of his skinny jeans.
He pushed himself off the floor and did the only thing that was in his power to do: stare impotently at me. “You can have her; she ain’t nothing but a ho anyway!”
“How can you say that? I had been nothing but faithful to you.” Mia said.
“While putting yourself out there on Instagram?” Jacob said.
“You know that’s all for my branding—at least what I’m trying to build of it.”
“And meeting men?”
“I’ve only met him, and that’s after I found out about you and Tinder.”
“What’s the difference? Instagram is just another dating app, but for ho’s who don’t want to be found on one.”
“Go fuck yourself!”
“The truth hurts, doesn’t it?” Jacob said.
“I want you out of my house tonight!” Mia yelled.
“Where am I going to go?”
“You should’ve thought of that before downloading Tinder, before calling me a ho.”
Jacob appeared to want to lunge at her but thought better of it after seeing Mia at my side, stepping closer to me. He turned, walked to his car, got in, and then drove away.
Mia looked at me and said, “I promise, I’m not a cheater.”
“You don’t need to explain anything,” I replied.
“I don’t want you getting the wrong idea of me.”
“If you have a spot out by a river, just like I have a spot out in the wild, then I think it’s safe to say people like us may need to change up the way we handle things. I mean, wouldn’t it be nice if being with someone meant waking up next to them, looking over, and saying to yourself, ‘I can do another day with this person.’ How much heartbreak would that save us?”
“It would save so much.” Mia paused. “It’s kind of like how sometimes I still drive down to San Marcos and go to that same spot by the river and make a choice to live another day with everything that goes on in my head… The memories.”
I sighed. “The memories… The last time I was out by my spot, instead of thinking about what I had lost, I began to think about how nice it would be to share that view with someone. Someone I’m not only hanging out with but also someone I could fall in love with.” I paused to take in just how enamored Mia had become by our moment. It made me ask, “Can I take you out to dinner?”
She smiled. “You may, but only if afterward I can take you to my spot, and I can show you just how much I love the hum of the river. It’s the same hum I now feel in my heart.”
“I would love that.”
“Good. I’ve always wanted to bring along somebody who would get it. I never thought I would meet anyone who would.”
“Me too. And we could take it day by day from there,” I said.
“Day by day, starting tonight. And since you’ll be taking me out to dinner, and since I’ve already hung out with you under the stars, why don’t you take me back to your place so we can continue to hang. This time on something softer.”
“Like my bed,” I said.
“That’s what I was thinking,” she said.
“Then let’s go.”
Since that night, Mia and I have gone to bed together and woken up every morning together, making the choice to do another day with each other. Most days, the choice is easy. On other days, the choice is hard. We both don’t want to get married. We both like the feeling that at any moment, either one of us can walk away, and that it’s an important part of our relationship to do what we must to make that choice for each other an easy one.
More short stories from the forthcoming collection, The Secret Society, will soon be available on this platform.
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