Romeo was probably a dick.

A story about loving my laptop.

“u r such a DICK.”

Was the last text message I ever received from Sara.

Looking back now, I can recall several reasons why that relationship just wasn’t going to work out.

First of all, she had the same first name as my sister, which would make Thanksgiving gatherings confusing and uncomfortable.

And then there was her trypophobia — which, is the fear of dry sponges, and required me to hide all of my sponges every time she came over, and frankly I can’t envision a future where I’m not using sponges to clean my dishes.

And finally, there was just something about the way she knocked on my front door –tap. tap. tappity tap — that sent cold chills up my spine; not the good kind of chills, but the bad kind, like when you eat a stick of celery, and seven hours later you have to yank out that stringy thing still attaching that poop to your lower intestine.

My mistake was figuring all of this out after sleeping with her.
 
This isn’t the first time a woman has called me a dick.
 

After my third year of college, when binge drinking was still a competitive sport, I went to a bar to reunite with the diverse, yet homogeneously white group of friends I went to highschool with. And after maybe my third shot of what I can only presume was Jägermeister, I spotted the dame of my affection, the éclat of my teenage angst — my one — my only — my high school crush.

And since everyone’s high school crush is forever burnt into their DNA, which has moved men to topple great cities, and rocket to the moon, and since I was at what will obviously turn out to be the social apex of my life, I decided to engage my high school crush, in like, a conversation. She greeted me with a warm smile and pinched my elbow skin, which sent the good kind of chills up my spine.
 
 I learned two things about my high school crush that night: (1) she was now happily engaged to her charming fiancé, with whom she was expecting a child with — which, I probably should have guessed considering she was drinking from a water bottle that night, and she certainly had no moral qualms about performing keg-stands in high school. And (2) she, and I quote, “always thought [I was] kind of a dick.”
 
I had a hard time fully grasping her statement. Mainly, because I don’t recall ever being able to form full sentences around her in high school, let alone pollute her airspace with my filthy eyes. 
 
Now, in the years following that jaunting experience, and a few non-white friends later, girls kept calling me a dick; only, sometimes it was dressed in new clothes. If a woman liked me, I was described as elusive, or mysterious; for women who didn’t care much for me, I was boring, aloof or repressed. But if she did not like me, well, you might as well call a spade a spade — I was just a dick
 
Then I started thinking about dicks.
 
A lot.
 
And I was no longer thinking about dicks as in, “that guy was such a dick.” Nor was I thinking about guys named Richard. I was thinking about actual dicks. Schlongs. Snake trousers. Veiny, bichromatic, post-pubescent penises.

Now, from years of personal research, I know the dick to be a softie most of the time, who gets hard only when excited. I know the dick to be sensitive. And awkward. And always in the wrong place at the wrong time. I know the dick to like putting on big spectacles, and even bigger finales.
 
In short, the dick is a romantic.

Well, this makes sense — at least to me it does. I remember bringing a bouquet of flowers to my first date in high school; there was never a second date.

I remember following classic sitcom protocol, and asking a father for his daughter’s hand in senior prom. He said yes. She politely declined.

A year later, I took my soon-to-be college sweetheart to see Wicked at the Pantages Theater — which, at $120 per ticket, is to a broke Freshman what a ’89 Honda Accord is to a toddler. We then went back to my dorm, where I played to her music from Marvin Gaye’s Pandora station, and I did everything short of throwing rose petals around before making sex with her for the first time.
 
I wasn’t a very original dick. But, I was definitely a dick.
 
Romeo was probably a dick too.
 
And, I don’t mean to imply that young teenage dicks are any less sinister than old decrepit dicks. Because looking back, I did the same thing to my high school crush, that I currently do to women now. I turn them into cardboard cutouts. Instead of getting to know what makes a girl an actual living breathing person, with hopes and ambitions, and father-related baggage, and grotesquely opposable big toes, I instead choose to have a relationship with her glossy, pithy composed surface, and I simply fill in the blanks of her personality like a child fills in the lines of a coloring book. This is fantasy. This is solipsistic. This is masturbation of the heart. 
 
And now I figure there are two ways a young dick can grow old. He can either keep pursuing his cardboard boxes, and realize how empty and hollow and alone it makes him feel. He can learn from that, deflate his ego, and start treating others like actual people; only reserving his grand gestures of love for the people he loves, and who love him back.
 
Or, he can just keep playing with himself. Which, now, more than ever, is easy to do.
 
Last year, I was in a romantic relationship with Anna Kendrick. I was madly in love with her mordant-yet-chic wit, and her immaculate comedic timing, and the way her bottom eye-lids seemed to be independent of her body in spirit and mind. How she could sing, and dance, and make funnies on twitter, and eat Taco Bell, and look really good in a tank top. But Anna Kendrick doesn’t know who the fuck I am, so, I began fantasizing about a reality where some version of me would swoop her off her feet, and we would live in a loft and own St. Bernard’s and kiss three times before going to bed — where she was the big spoon — and we would have snot-nosed kids who would fight over our estate as we died in each other’s arms; in other words, I used her cardboard cutout (Anna Kendrick, if you ever read this, please forgive me) to jerk off my heart.
 
Robert John Bardo was probably a dick too, with an added pinch of schizophrenia.
 
And Anna Kendrick wasn’t my first.
 
Before Anna, it was Natalie Portman.
 
And then a brief bromance with Ryan Gosling (I rather you not ask).
 
And for those of you who judge me, this emotional foreplay is easier to slip into than you might think. Come home from a hard day’s work, turn on The Tonight Show, and feel your heart palpitate with every quirky facial expression that that one manic-dream girl, or boy, makes. Then go online and search her entire filmography, or find his TV show on Netflix, and start consuming it. All of it. In one sitting. Then Youtube her blooper reels, and the heap of press junkets from said movie/show. Then read his interviews in The Rolling Stones, or rummage through her funny, yet racially sensitive tweet messages. Tell me if you don’t feel a slight twinge of love after all of that. And when you’ve finished, put down your laptop, take in a deep sigh of relief, and pick it up again when you feel rested, well and ready.
 
It now occurs to me I wasn’t even in love with Anna Kendrick’s cardboard cutout. I was just in love with my computer screen which can animate Anna Kendrick’s face through the miracle of pixels. And these pixels are aggressively moving closer and closer to my face. And now that Virtual Reality is in full swing, I’m afraid these pixels are going to brutally latch themselves onto my face and burst out of my guts; you know, like that alien. From the movie Alien.
 
And because my heart is exclusively reserved for my laptop, it’s also closed off to anyone else. So no more romantic gestures. No more flowers. No more Marvin Gaye. Just indifference. Just insincerity. Just stale cold jokes. Just a guy who sleeps with a gal, and then avoids her text messages, and phone calls, but keeps watching movies on the HBO NOW account that she forgot to logout of.
 
So, where art thou Romeo? He never grew up.

Neither did I.
 
Well, at least I’m not an asshole.


Originally published at www.dirtyandthirty.com on September 1, 2016.