I’m 10 months out of a relationship and the painful throb of single life has yet to abate. I haven’t rubbed up on anyone, been held by anyone, pressed my lips to anyone, or engaged in anything more than a stiff hug with anyone since January. Now the trees drop their leaves and the city becomes cold once again. I draw my shades at 5 p.m. and wonder how the hell I am going to get myself through another Midwestern winter alone.

“How long can I pretend you are a person?” I ask my cat.

The relationship I left was not a good one. My ex was not comfortable with intimacy and was therefore unable to show me the physical affection I craved. I spent four sexless years with him—living together, raising cats together, sleeping together in the bed where he frequently rejected my advances. Each night, he turned his body away from me and muttered that he was sorry; the self-hatred colonized me further, weeds spreading through and destroying a garden.

I like to be in a relationship, but I’m not sure I’ve healed enough from my last one to take on another long-term commitment. Right now, I’m looking to fuck, and the pain of celibacy is hitting extra hard because I have a lot of missed time to make up for.

I’m trying to find someone to have sex with, but I am not trying to find anyone to have sex with. I grew up in New York City, a notoriously difficult place to find a partner who has interests beyond whether your apartment is nearby. I’ve slept with a double-digit amount of people I mostly met in bars or while traveling, and while the experiences are memorable, it’s not because of the pleasure they wrought.

My sister and I sometimes bemoan the absence of a public market for suitors: The Boyfriend Store, we call it.

I got lucky with esteemed gents like Kareem, a janitor at Barnes & Noble who showed up at my house uninvited and tried to convince me he was too big to wear a condom; my friend Dan who wooed me with the line, “Well, neither of us is using our genitals elsewhere,” and confessed (after he orgasmed inside me, of course) that he disrespected every woman who engaged in premarital intercourse with him; Alex, the investment banker who hid his live-in fiancée from me with the creative excuse that I could never visit his apartment at night because he had sleepovers with his grandmother. Alex and I had sex on the bed of his best friend Gilbert, who would be concurrently making out with his flavor of the week in the area designated as kitchen and living room. (Beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to NYC real estate.)

There was the guy from Spain who told me I made his dick turn purple (he thought this was a great compliment; I thought it was a sign he needed to see a doctor); the boyfriend who eschewed vaginal sex and claimed he was aroused only from anal; the tall one who said he was a poet living on a bench in a French bookstore and derogated me for my mismatched bra-and-panty set.

I’ve never had someone look in my eyes and tell me I’m beautiful while fucking me or call out my name during orgasm or bite me out of passion. I started sleeping with women in my search for tenderness, but those dalliances too fell flat.

“It feels like we’re friends,” said the girl with platinum hair.

I have hit many milestones in life—running a 5K, graduating from a master’s program, hitting a six-figure income—but I have not had good sex with a person other than myself. I want to rectify the situation, but without increasing the sample size to include every Brad, Chad, and Steve on the North Side of Chicago, I’m not sure how to go about doing so. My sister and I sometimes bemoan the absence of a public market for suitors: The Boyfriend Store, we call it.

You can adopt puppies, exchange students, and children online. You can shop for booze, mail-order wives, groceries, plants, a bag of insects to feed your lizard, breast milk, illegal drugs, medical equipment, and unpasteurized dairy online. Why not boyfriends?

I’m too old for hook-up culture; I’m damaged from past encounters and I can’t weather disappointment the way I used to.

Yes, I’ve heard of Tinder. Yes, I’ve met men on the internet. Yes, I have an active profile on Hinge, and yes, my right thumb is strained from the constant swiping. None of it has mattered. The messages I receive now, in 2018, have not changed much in content from the messages I received when I first entered the virtual dating landscape 10 years ago.

“You have a very pretty face,” read the first message I was ever sent (this one by a user named WhereDaWhiteHos).I would like to cover it in sperm.”

I’m too old for hook-up culture; I’m damaged from past encounters and I can’t weather disappointment the way I used to. Issues surrounding safety and consent make the endeavor feel frightening rather than sexy, and I can’t let go of the fact that no matter how the Internet Person chooses to treat (or mistreat) me, they face no repercussions. Our social circles are unknown to one another, our neighborhoods are on opposite sides of the city, and our backgrounds have either been carefully manipulated or altogether hidden. We have not even exchanged last names. How could this separateness ever translate to sexual intimacy?

I want a quick fix, like usual. I want strong arms wrapped around me and a hot body pressed against my back. But I also want connection, communication, and safety, the promise of which cannot be expressed by a one-dimensional selfie and a list of favorite movies, intimacies that tend to be diametrically opposed to the hot-and-horny risk of drunken stranger sex.

There is no boyfriend store, no magic app, no late-night bar chock-full of kind, intellectual people with a knack for cunnilingus. I’m a weird person looking for love, and I imagine it’s going to take a while to find a fellow weirdo who will complement me in the ways I seek.

There’s no quick fix to quell both my desire for love and good sex in a single encounter, so I’m relegated to the long game: therapy, investing in friendships, taking solo vacations, and lots and lots of masturbation.