My friends and family describe me as a good catch, meaning I bathe regularly, have working sexual parts, and can hold down a job. Until I turned 35, they often asked me why I was still single. Then they gave up. I imagine I did, too.
I am 41 years old now. A homosexual living in Los Angeles. This past month, I embarked on my first adult, romantic relationship. No, I am not a virgin. No, I am not a gay incel. In fact, I’ve slept with many, many men since coming out twenty years ago, yet I haven’t been serious about anyone until now.
The man is lovely in every possible way. He too, bathes regularly. Twice a day, in fact. He has working sexual parts. They’re actually quite beautiful. He was temporarily unemployed, but found a job after only looking for a few days. According to the incel community, he is a total Chad.
I am 5’8” on a good day. He is 6’4” all the time. When we kiss, he stoops down, while I balance on the cusp of my toes. When we hug, I rest the left side of my head on his toned abs. When we go out together in public, I feel like a hobbit. Without the hairy feet.
I’ve always loved to travel, but since we’ve started dating, I’ve become obsessed with moving abroad. All day at work, I check flight prices, peruse travel blogs, and shop for backpacks. When my job ends later this year, I plan on becoming a digital nomad.
 Incels (a portmanteau of “involuntary” and “celibate”) are members of an online subculture who define themselves as unable to find a romantic or sexual partner despite desiring one, a state they describe as inceldom. (Wikipedia)
 Hobbit – a race that exists in the books of J.R.R Tolkien, namely the Lord of the Rings trilogy. They are short human-like creatures with hairy feet and curly hair; whether they have pointed (elf-like) ears or not is under debate. (Urban Dictionary).
 Digital nomads are people who are location independent and use technology to perform their job. They work remotely, telecommuting rather than being physically present at a company’s headquarters or office. The digital nomad lifestyle was made possible through a number of innovations, including cheap internet access, smartphones and voice over internet protocol (VoIP) to keep in contact with clients and employers. (Investopedia)
They say all personal growth comes from sitting still. A friend in recovery tells me that my unceasing wanderlust is akin to “pulling a geographic,” meaning my malaise will inevitably follow me wherever I go. I argue that I could either continue to work a miserable job that pays for my 400 square foot apartment or I could quit such job and instead island hop throughout Southeast Asia. Either way, I will be a basket case so I might as well get a tan.
One night, before bed, the man I’m dating complains he can’t keep up with me and all my plans. You want to go to Koh Lanta, Berlin, Bali, Korea, Buenos Aires, he says. Which one is it? I reply, no need to keep track, you can just follow me whenever you can. I then turn off the bedside lamp and fall asleep right away.
That night, I dream of cuddling with a shiny-coated, golden retriever. The online dream dictionary says this is an omen for lasting friendship. Instead of researching digital nomad packing lists, I then look online for golden retriever rescues. Most of them are quite old and require expensive daily medication. I like the idea of taking in a dog in-need, but more importantly, I like what it says about me. When I tell the man I’m dating about it, he encourages me to adopt one before mentioning that golden retrievers are horribly inbred and that I should brace myself since they tend to die young. That’s perfect, I reply, cause I would definitely need to fly somewhere after it croaks. He looks horrified.
I return to the digital nomad blogs that supply detailed packing lists. One blogger says that a portable, Bluetooth speaker will make any guesthouse or rented room feel like a home. I research speakers for three days and narrow it down to two, highly-rated options: a larger one in teal with a bonus microphone for answering speakerphone calls and a smaller, avocado green one that will take up less space in my backpack. If only the manufacturer of the smaller one would come out with a version with a microphone? All of my problems would be solved. I don’t plan on leaving for my trip for another eight months, yet this dilemma continues to plague me.
I eventually fill my Amazon cart with all of the recommended gadgets and supplies, including both Bluetooth speakers, thinking I can give one to him since he often listens to music on his iPhone speaker during his twice-a-day, forty-five minute showers. I tally the cart and it reads $2,341.57. I move all seventeen items into a private wishlist.
 “Pulling a geographic” is term borrowed from Alcoholics Anonymous and is an illogical belief that switching locations will solve all of one’s problems, when in fact the problems are rooted in the person (NYTimes).
 The way he listed these destination triggers one of my big pet peeve: lack of geographical parity. Koh Lanta is a district in Thailand, while Berlin is a city in Germany and Korea is a country that technically doesn’t exist as it was split into North and South in 1945. The correct way to list my destination would be, Koh Lanta, Krabi Province, Thailand; Berlin, German; Ubud, Bali, Indonesia; Seoul, South Korea; Buenos Aires, Argentina.
 He is new to California and during his first week in LA, it rained for three days straight. I am slowly educating him on the statewide drought and growing water crisis.
 People use their wishlists in different ways. Some customers use it as a “Save for Later” list. Some use it to store items they are considering buying in the current shopping session (while narrowing). Some create wishlists explicitly to send to friends and family to give them gift ideas. Some (including myself) do a combination (Quora).
The man I’m dating sleeps as if in a coffin. His head rests on a flat pillow, his arms tight to his side. The alarm clock’s blue glow makes him look like Frankenstein. I miss being the pretty one. The adored rather than the adorer. When we eat out together, I imagine servers think we look like a mismatched pair: a beautiful Frankenstein and a Hobbit. At the end of a meal, if there is anything left on my plate, he asks, are you going to eat that? He then reaches over and stabs his fork into my last bits of food, stacking them into a single, monstrous bite.
One balmy Sunday afternoon, we walk the Manhattan Beach boardwalk. We pass an elderly couple walking a pair of golden retriever puppies. I squeal and ask if I can pet them. One of the puppies laps my closed fist and it feels so good, I almost piss myself. When I pull myself away, the man I’m dating tells me I should get one. What would I do when I travel, I ask. He says, I’ll take care of it. I remind him that my building doesn’t allow dogs. He says, if you stay at your job, you could probably buy a condo.
At the office the following day, I throw myself into researching backpacks. I’m attached to the idea of traveling the world with just one bag. By 5 pm, I’ve narrowed the field down to three. They are all black, slick, and expensive. A little too tech-douchey for my taste. I don’t particularly need a new backpack. I could use one of the many carry-on suitcases I already own, yet buying the perfect one feels important, as if it could make or break my trip.
 According to Zillow, there are three condos for sale in my neighborhood. The average selling price is $550,000, which entails a monthly payment of approximately $2,800 with 20% down.
 Douchey, adj.: one that emits striking qualities of a douchebag. Objectively speaking, most common description is of a complete asshole who maintain an extremely shallow personality (Urban Dictionary).
The man I’m dating has a job interview and says the Lyft ride there and back will cost more than a hundred dollars. I tell him he can borrow my car as long as he takes me to and from work and fills up the tank. At the end of the day, he picks me up in my Honda. I slide into the drivers’ seat and notice the gas tank is at three-quarters, which is exactly how I left it. You did not just fill up only what you used, I say. He says sorry, a sheepish expression wiped across his face. I know I’m being petty, but I’m so angry, a vein pulsates in my forehead. For the next few minutes all I can think is thank God I did not buy a four-star Amazon-rated, portable Bluetooth speaker for this cheap-ass motherfucker. Before my head splits open and oozes vitriol, I open the windows and sunroof and shout, I want ice cream.
Magpies Softserve has my favorite seasonal flavor: black sesame. It’s an auspicious sign. I order a kid-size, no toppings. He orders a large with three toppings. The young woman at the register asks, together or separate? I say, together, and then march out the store, a bite of sweet, charcoal-colored ice cream melting in my mouth.
I’m lactose intolerant. That night, I emit noxious farts. My gas is so foul that when I lift the covers to run to the bathroom, my eyes burn a little. At breakfast, I apologize. He says he didn’t notice. I smile with relief and think, this is a kind man, a beautiful man. And then he adds, it’s a good thing you left the ceiling fan on though.
 Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest a sugar called lactose that is found in milk and dairy products. Normally when a person eats something containing lactose, an enzyme in the small intestine called lactase breaks it down into simpler sugar forms called glucose and galactose (KidsHealth).
When the man I’m dating leaves, I call an old friend. He might be the one, I say, but I’m wasting my time. I want to travel the world and write full-time. He wants a house, a big, fluffy dog, and a brood of mixed-raced children. My friend is an adolescent psychiatrist undergoing psychoanalytic training. These are your intimacy issues coming out, she says. Don’t you think all this travel is about running away to avoid being close to someone? I roll my eyes. She did undergrad at MIT, holds a masters’ from Columbia and a medical degree. She also sees her own psychoanalyst four times a week at an eye-popping cost of $3,200 a month. And yet, all she can tell me is what I already know.
At dinner, I ask him what he thinks of Mexico City. You speak Spanish better than me, you’ll love it, I say, it’s like LA, but on steroids. He sighs, drops his fork so it clanks against the plate. Please don’t mention any more places until you actually decide on one. One, he repeats before returning to his ahi tuna steak.
I no longer see a shrink, but when I did, I only saw him once a week, which I presume is the reason I’m not fixed. During our sessions, Rafael begged me to date more, to date anyone, just for practice. He said I was a victim of emotional incest. An Oedipal “winner”. The only way I could heal was to (a) be in a relationship and (b) unpack my shit in real time. After seeing him for over three years, all while successfully avoiding a relationship, I told him I was leaving San Francisco for LA. Through a friend who was also a patient of his, I found out Rafael closed his private practice soon after.
My friend, the adolescent psychiatrist calls. She asks if she can present me as a case to her clinical roundtable where a world-famous psychoanalyst will weigh-in on my intimacy issues. Even though you’re technically not a patient of mine, I think it’s worth bringing up since there’s not a lot of literature on Oedipal Victors. I tell her to go ahead since I can’t afford psychoanalysis and I imagine this to be the next best thing.
 Psychoanalytic psychotherapy has been developed, practiced and taught by psychoanalysts from its beginnings. Students and practitioners learn to apply psychoanalytic concepts in a variety of clinical settings with a wide range of patients and clients (American Psychoanalytic Association).
 $200 per session * 4 times a week * 4 weeks = $3,200 a month. This is at a significant discount, I’m told.
 Emotional incest, also known as covert incest, is a type of abuse in which a parent looks to their child for the emotional support that would be normally provided by another adult. The effects of covert incest on children when they become adults are thought to mimic actual incest, although to a lesser degree. This term describes interactions between a parent and child that are exclusive of sexual abuse. The term has been criticized for broadening the definition of incest to an excessive degree, inflating the prevalence of child abuse, and being over-used and unsubstantiated (Wikipedia).
 Oedipal winners to signify people who, in childhood, were overstimulated by the opposite-sex parent in a setting where the same-sex parent competed inadequately or not at all. Children who score an Oedipal “victory” focus on the readiness of their parents to permit them to become the object of sexual interests; this relationship usually leads up to, but stops just short of, consummated sexual relations (PsycNet).
 Synonym for Oedipal “winner.”
My mother has a skin tag the size and shape of a small blueberry located on the slope between her neck and right shoulder. As a toddler, I would nibble on it until she smacked me on the butt, which would cause me to erupt in giggles.
She complained about my father’s snoring so he often slept alone in his downstairs study. And though I had my own room, I stayed with her and would sleep on my stomach so I could fully immerse myself in the familiar scent of her pillows, a fragrant mix of Vo5 conditioner, Aqua Net hairspray, garlic, and sebum.
Soon after I turned five, my father woke us in the middle of the night and scooped me into his arms. My mother yelled to let me sleep. I begged and howled. He dumped me on the single bed across the hall. I hate you, I spat at him. He slammed the bedroom door shut. I wet the bed that night for the first time in years.
When my father died years later, strangers at his memorial service came up to me and anointed me the man of the house. Take care of your mother, they said. I was thirteen and had finally won, yet I was no longer interested in victory.
One day, I take my clean clothes out of the dryer and notice an unfamiliar pink washcloth. It belongs to him. The man I’m dating doesn’t have a washer-dryer and often does laundry at my place. The folding of the warm pink square releases the most wonderful aroma, which gives me a head-rush. I bring the washcloth to my face and the scent is stronger, a combo of my laundry detergent and his natural perfume, sweet and musky with notes of sandalwood and all-spice. For some reason, it reminds me of the Biblical passage where Mary uses fragrant oil made from pure nard to wash Jesus’s feet. I don’t know what nard is, but I imagine it smells like the cloth in my grasp. My mouth waters. I forget to swallow and choke on my spit, hacking into the washcloth, sneaking sniffs in-between wheezes and coughs. I clutch the edge of the washing machine, bracing myself, and for a moment, I think I can do it: the condo in Burbank, the golden retriever puppy, the day job I despise, maybe even one mixed-race baby. I’m almost happy to forgo the nomadic dream for this other one. And then I remember my age – still young, but old enough to know myself. I crumple to the floor and bellow a primal howl. When I collect myself, I place the washcloth in a Ziploc baggie and hide it at the bottom of my underwear drawer, knowing that if he asks about it, I will feign ignorance. Before my travels, I will stuff the washcloth in my douchey backpack, in a hidden pocket somewhere next to my portable Bluetooth speaker. And when I feel lonely, I will take it out of its airtight bag and sniff it. I will continue to sniff it long after the hypnotic scent has faded and even after it has absorbed all of the odors of the places I plan to visit: the beaches of Koh Lanta, the smoggy plazas of Mexico City, the packed nightclubs of Berlin, the sweaty yoga studios of Ubud, the pungent BBQ restaurants of Seoul. Only then will it smell like home.
 John 12:3
Byron Davies is an artist and philosopher currently based in Mexico City. These days he is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Institute for Philosophical Research, National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), where he has recently been teaching graduate seminars in aesthetics. Before coming to UNAM Byron completed a PhD in the Department of Philosophy at Harvard University. Byron’s paintings and drawings have appeared in various exhibitions in Boston, Oaxaca City, and Mexico City (most recently in one of the parallel activities of the Zona Maco art fair).
Tom Pyun is a writer based in Los Angeles. He was a fellow with Tin House, Vermont Studio Center, Gemini Ink, and VONA/Voices. His work has appeared in the Rumpus, Joyland, Eleven Eleven, Blue Mesa Review, and Reed and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Best of the Net award. He is an MFA candidate in Fiction at Antioch University.