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The Pain of a Half-Eaten Burger 

"It turns out he was using me for sex and also the leftovers I abandoned in his fridge."

[Romance is for suckers]

We asked readers to submit their least romantic stories for our Valentine's Day issue. To read the other tales of woe and regret, see the rest of our (almost) romance-free ode to Valentine's Day.

Look, I lead a charmed life, more or less. I love my job, I eat brunch at least once a week, and the train always just shows up within a minute of me getting to the station. Things are pretty great. I'm not even sure I want a relationship, because would that person just be around all the time? But I want to get married eventually, maybe, and I've already slept with all of my friends that I'm going to sleep with, so I've been doing the online dating thing.

OK, mostly I've been drinking and looking at profiles and rejecting decent men for their most insignificant flaws. But one day, I came across TheVoice9000. He was a good-looking dude with a goofy grin, and his picture featured an MS Paint speech bubble that said, "sup grrrrl." It was charmingly weird, so I sent him a barely coherent message that consisted mostly of the words "BEAR FUCKING DOWN" in all caps. This worked because, again, I lead a charmed life. Although I did have to explain that I was a little drunk on Sunday afternoon because I eat a lot of brunch.

So I planned to meet The Voice at this burger joint where you can watch DVDs of 90s metal shows while you eat. When I got there, the first thing he said to me was, "I hope you like Gwar." I mean, I don't, but I can eat a burger with a stranger while a horror-metal show plays in the background. I've been on weirder dates.

This date went surprisingly well. I wasn't nervous or weird. We did the usual job shit. I used to have a fancy gig in the arts, he's the customer-service-hotline voice for a major corporation. We talked about yoga and sports and podcasts, and we spied on the people eating next to us. It was easy. I was comfortable. I didn't have to give a performance of someone having a good time because I was actually having a good time. I liked him. It was nice.

The waiter glared at us after refilling our water glasses for the third time after we had paid the check, so I boxed up my leftovers and we went down the street to a bar. We split dinner, because it's 2013 and I'm a feminist, but he bought me a beer and a game of Ms. Pac-Man and we talked about his parents in Ohio and a scary book we both read as kids, and I still wasn't nervous or weird, so when he invited me to his place to play Scrabble I agreed because I thought it was a funny euphemism for sex.

I really like Scrabble, so I wasn't upset when we actually played, even though he won. And then we had sex, obviously. And when I unbuttoned his flannel to reveal a Bluth's Banana shirt? I was more like "NO TOUCHING oh I didn't mean you I was talking about the show you keep doing that please."

"I mean, it was OK, I guess," is what I will say about this, ashing my invisible cigarette, when I get to this part of the story.

But the capital-T Truth is that it was great; he was great. It was easy, and funny, and sweet, and I didn't think about cellulite or ruin things by critically examining my own happiness or anticipating its inevitable end. I slept better than I have in months.

In the morning we hung out with his cat and drank coffee until I had to go home and get business casual. We made plans to get together soon and he kissed me goodbye, and still, still I was feeling uncharacteristically healthy about the whole thing. Instead of creating a richly detailed fantasy scenario of how he might eventually propose, I was just thinking, Oh, THIS is what's supposed to happen. And also, Shit, I left my fucking burger there.

A few days later, I sent him a text to see if he wanted to hang out the following week. And I need you to understand, what I am saying is that I did not treat the text like a goddamn sonnet or consider the subtle difference between "hang out" and "do something" or demand that anyone proofread it for me. I just hit send, without the usual wave of terror and desperate hope that so often accompanies talking to someone I find attractive. I felt like the Buddha.

I felt a little less like the Buddha when I got his response. I was really cool. He was really sorry. But he just got out of a thing and it was too soon and he was taking a break from dating, and he's sorry, and I'm cool.

I wasn't mad. I've been there. It happens. I was pretty sad, though. I had allowed myself a reasonable amount of hope. I mean, I didn't cry or anything. In my car, I took some deep yoga breaths and I changed the radio station when Taylor Swift came on, because maybe this wasn't the night for Taylor Swift, and fine, then I cried, so what, Jesus.

That night my best friend came over for sushi and wine and I lay in my bed, listless, while she talked about her husband and how much she loves him. She deserves this, and it didn't make me feel bitter or jealous, just totally unable to relate and very alone. Not the kind of alone where you wish you had someone to spoon because it's January, but the kind where you think about how on a molecular level maybe we never really touch anything, our atoms just exchange electrons with things around them, like a little force field keeping everyone apart, and maybe it wasn't the night for quantum physics either.

She said, "You never know, maybe he'll call in a few weeks." And I, very sensibly, said, "No, I can't have that romantic-comedy shit in my head," but the shameful truth is, it was already in my head; I turned a good thing into a mental Zooey Deschanel film, and I did not sleep very well at all.

So, that's what I mean when I wave my fake cigarette in the air and tell you that.

It turns out he was using me for sex and also the leftovers I abandoned in his fridge. Yeah, the sex was fine, but karma owes me half a burger.

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