During the week of my 23rd birthday I was in the height of my Tinder phase.
I had become disenchanted by the process of modern dating and began to accept my fate as perpetual “cool girl,” who juggled noncommittal fuckboys and never let her true emotions be known.
Hell, as the clock struck midnight on my birthday, I was at a bar talking to a guy I had been on a few dates with while swiping new guys left and right on my phone. He caught me. I didn't care.
My official birthday party was a few nights later at my apartment. I invited the number one guy on my roster and another guy, Dan, who I thought I might be interested in. Both RSVP'd "no."
I got liquored up and braced myself for a lonely night as I waited for my fashionably late guests to arrive.
However many drinks later, my friends from work finally arrived and I measured my level of drunkenness by my decision to greet them all with a kiss on the cheek, despite it being the first time we were hanging out outside of the office.
My favorite co-worker brought a friend with him he didn't tell me about, but the friend was cute so I let it slide.
The plus one smiled brightly and stuck his hand out as he introduced himself, "I'm Dan."
“So you're the replacement Dan,” I slurred in greeting this poor man who looked so excited to meet me. His smile faded.
My co-worker explained to New Dan that another Dan was supposed to come, while I walked away to play host and make sure the newcomers and I had drinks.
The next few hours of the party were a blur of beer pong and other drinking games that never had a clear ending.
Eventually, it was time for a bathroom break and while I was sitting on the toilet, I decided I should take a nap on the bathroom floor.
After pulling up my pants most of the way with all the energy I could muster, I curled up on the bath mat and reveled in how soft the polyester fibers felt against my cheek.
I don't know how long I actually laid there, but it felt like within seconds of passing out, my friends were pounding on the door to check on me.
My friends rushed into the cramped space and forced me to drink water and eat pretzels while they gave me a pep talk akin to one Mohammed Ali might've heard on the brink of being KO'ed.
The words of encouragement worked, and I walked myself back to the party with the promise of “no more drinking.”
I found a spot on the couch next to New Dan's keeper and promptly started shoveling popcorn in my mouth. In between handfuls, my co-worker asked what I thought of his friend.
Having an epiphany, I blurted, “He's cute. Should I go talk to him?”
“Duh,” he probably replied, but I wasn't really listening. At that point I had already made up my mind.
After walking as soberly as I could across the room to New Dan, I sat next to him and started the conversation as ineloquently as possible. (I'm assuming this because I don't remember it and it's probably because my mind blocked it out from embarrassment.)
Dan and I talked for some time until we were interrupted by our friend's announcement of going outside to smoke. Immediately realizing we needed fresh air as well, Dan and I followed him out.
We gathered around the fence of my apartment complex's pool while I demanded to see Dan's Tinder account to give him pointers on how to get more matches. (I don't know why I did this.)
I soon felt the need to get some alone time with Dan and asked him to go for a walk with me around the grounds, loudly instructing everyone else who had congregated outside not to follow us.
We found a quiet bench away from the crowd and he talked some more while I stared at Dan's profile, willing him to kiss me.
After an eternity of sending telepathic vibes and inching closer and closer to him, he finally looked over at me and took the hint.
We flew off to our own little world, consumed in each other and not coming up for air for hours.
Before I knew it, everyone at the party disappeared and we floated back to my apartment where we learned one another's bodies on the living room floor.
The carpet felt scratchy against the bare skin of my back and I could feel the hardness of the concrete beneath it, but I had never felt more comfortable with someone, even though he was practically still a stranger.
I finally felt at peace with my place in the world, and I never wanted to go back to life before this moment.
In the wee hours of the morning, we begrudgingly decided to part ways. I put on his black and white plaid button down and refused to give it back as I walked him to the door.
He told me I could keep the shirt and I waited for him to ask for my phone number, but he left with only a simple goodbye.
I was bummed, but since I expected this, I retreated to the couch to sleep it off and chalk it up to a fling.
To my surprise, I awoke a few hours later to the sun beaming in through the windows and a text from an unknown number.
“That weird guy Dan,” as he described himself in the message, had gotten my number from the guy who introduced us and wanted to see me again.
We went on our first date later that week, and he quickly showed me real relationships hadn't been murdered with the birth of Tinder.
It didn't take long for us to fall deeper in love than we'd ever been with anyone else before.
It's over two years since that drunken night, and the black and white plaid shirt still hangs on my side of the closet that Dan and I share in our apartment.