I lasted but sixteen days on Grndr before I swiftly shut it down, and in doing so I may have saved a high-profile politician’s career.
But before we begin this story, I would ask you to please Google GRNDR if you have no idea what GRNDR is. The Wiki entry will suffice. Go ahead and learn about it, then come back and read the rest of my sad, lamentable, sexually graphic tale.
This story begins near Christmas of 2012, right about the time I left my partner of three years.
Finding myself suddenly homeless and suddenly single at Christmastime (ho ho ho), I stumbled into the welcoming arms of my first cousin Paul, who is just three months older than myself. People often mistake us for brothers. I tell them, “No, our fathers were brothers. We’re cousins. I’m the gay one, he’s the straight one.” That always gets a laugh.
I wasn’t laughing all that much during that holiday season, but Paul was very good to me through it all, saying more than once, “You always have a home here, John-John.” He let me use his Toyota Corolla often, so I could get out of his drafty house in West Windsor, New Jersey, and search for coffee shops to write in. My good cousin Paul even permitted me to use his cargo van if the Corolla was detained. His cargo van is a 2004 GMC Monster. He uses it primarily for his privately owned small business which takes care of mass mailings for companies/organizations. You know, junk mail and stuff. One of his clients happens to be a high-profile politician.
You will not, as far as I know, find that high-profile politicians’s profile on Grndr. You would not have found MY profile on there either, for I did not have a profile on Grndr. I had no reason to have a profile on Grndr. I had been in a happy, peaceful, boring sex-once-a-week marriage for three years and had decided Grndr was for single guys, not for married guys. Call me traditional.
Now however, I was suddenly single. I wanted to at the very least be TOUCHED, and by touched I do not mean touched by a Maya Angelou poem. I’m talking about being touched by another freaking MAN, preferably a naked man. I had forgotten, in my three years of marriage, how the need for touch can underscore the life of a single man, everything he does, and how wretched life can be without it.
I also just wanted some friends. West Windsor is nice, but it’s um…well, it’s about forty-five miles from the nearest gay bar.
By the time I went ahead and took the plunge and signed up on Grndr, taking photographs of myself to advertise how amazing I am, I had not been touched by another man in 45 days. My good cousin Paul had hugged me often (with his clothes on), and that always felt good. But it ain’t the same thing as being touched by a naked gay man, come on. I had been touched every day for three years (give and take) by my partner, so forty-five days in a row of no touch is way too much for this starving and suddenly single man.
Date? No. I did not want to date. I wanted attention, adoration, I wanted to reach out and touch someone — or several someones. I was hurting, I was in pain, I needed a diversion.
I picked NiceDudeJD to be my Grndr name. I thought that summed me up. I was nice, I was a dude, and my name was JD. The photo I used for my profile was the one you see below. I thought that photo looked pretty groovy, and sexy, with just the right amount of insouciant toughness and sexy availability mixed with guarded roughness and simmering handsomeness. I also wanted to get across the idea that I had thoughts and could spell.
I started to get messages from other guys almost immediately. “Hey.” “Handsome!” “Into?” “Top or btm?” I found it interesting that those guys who had “Looking for Relationship” on their profile sent me messages like this: “Any dick pics?”
But I soaked up the adoration and attention like a sponge. I also wrote messages to guys, like “Hey, nice picture, how you doin? John here.”
One guy responded by sending me a photo of the palm of his hand. In his palm lay a puddle of semen, which I assume came from his penis. I wondered if perhaps this was some traditional custom of the country he came from. Perhaps this was how the men of his tribe proposed marriage. Perhaps dowry came in the form of a palm-sized offering of the groom’s semen.
Things got stranger after that. More dick pics, more ass pics, more body parts tossed back and forth like salad ingredients, and sudden, urgent requests for sex. I got sucked in. Grndr was a Hoover vacuum and I was a crumb on the rug, just a dusty, crummy, sexy, lusty crumb on the rug desperate for as many dick pics as I could get my hands on.
What the hell had happened to me? Not two months before I was texting my partner “How are we on toilet paper?” from Shop-Rite. Now I’m texting “You want more pics of my ass? How about you just see it in person!” to someone I had never met.
Note: I did have some nice conversations with guys who shared similar stories with me of how they had to leave their partners. I did engage in some nice bonding and some genial, warm conversation. In fact, tonight I may be sharing a beer with one of the guys I met, but I do feel a certain sense of caution about meeting anyone from Grndr ever again and that’s because I went ahead and decided to meet Larry7.
Larry7 texted Hi to me, I texted Hi back, and we exchanged pics. Larry7 wasn’t very far from West Windsor at all. Grndr said he was twelve miles away. He was in a town called Yardley. He lived alone, was about 52, very handsome in an aging Steve McQueen kind of way, and he owned an antique shop. That seemed nice.
At one point he sent me a very graphic video. I received it while I was eating a sandwich at Subway. It was odd. I was enjoying a delicious turkey club while watching Larry7 masturbate on my Iphone. I imagined aliens from outer space watching me eating my turkey club while screening Larry7’s masturbation vid. I imagined the aliens monitoring my erection from their spaceship, asking each other, “Is the erection from the masturbation video or the turkey club?”
I decided it was time I met Larry7. I decided that he would be the first man to touch me since my divorce. Larry7 would offer me company, warmth, affection and touch AND he would devastate me with erotic thrills seen only on the covers of romance novels. There was another thing Larry7 had to offer me: firewood. This may seem trivial, but it is not trivial. The winter of 2014 has been hell, and Paul’s house in West Windsor is cold, very, very cold. Moreover, Paul’s house is heated by OIL, which, I learned, is incredibly expensive. How the hell would I know this? I used to rent in Manhattan. In Manhattan, there are radiators and the heat comes from underground where little trolls make the heat by burning homeless people.
So. Burning wood in Paul’s fireplace became the antidote to burning the oil. Wood itself became precious. I had gone through it all. Lowe’s was closed. It was Friday night. I wanted to write but it was very, very cold in that house. Paul was out on a date with a woman. He took the Corolla. Larry7 had wood. Larry7 also had KINDLING wood and for those of you who have never used a fireplace, kindling wood is CRITICAL. You cannot just hold a match under a log and expect the log to explode into a fire. No. You. Must. Have. Kindling.
So I texted Larry7 at 9:30 that Friday night.
Me: Were you serious when you made offer of wood?
Me: freezin in this house. can i come get wood now?
Larry7: yeah! ive got other wood for you too ;) ;)
Me: heh heh. okay. cool. you have kindling wood too right?
Larry7: yeah. come over! i havent shot a lod in three days
Larry7 had misspelled “load” but I knew what he meant. So I rationalized it this way: I was freezing, Lowe’s was closed, there was no wood to be found, all of West Windsor was covered in snow, and I needed firewood. And I needed to be touched. And Larry7 needed to lose his load. I could help with that. People helping people. That’s what it’s about in the age of Obama. Isn’t it?
So I took Paul’s cargo van. I drove the van to Yardley, all the while talking to myself like a madman. “Well, it’s okay I need the wood, and I need to be touched, and yes, I need sex, I’m a grown man and it will be fine and my fantasy will be real, I will get my wood and come home and write…”
That never happened.
When I arrived at Larry7’s home in Yardley, I drove up his driveway, which was narrow and crooked and insane. The driveway, completely unsuitable for a cargo van the size of Mothra, took a sharp right into Larry7’s wooden fence. Larry7 came out of his house and yelled, “Watch out for the –” but it was too late. The van had ripped into the wooden fence, right over a nail, and SSSSSSHHHH!
Flat tire. Flat. Freaking. Tire.
Yeah. I hadn’t even gotten out of the van. I hadn’t even made eye contact with this man, and already I had ripped apart his wooden fence and put a gash in the tire of my cousin’s cargo van, the van he depends on for his livelihood.
“Oh SHIT I DO NOT BELIEVE THIS!!” was the first thing I shouted when I got out of the van. Larry7 had his hands in his pockets — it was freezing cold — and he looked at the tire, and then at his mauled fence. With a slight Philly accent he moaned, “Oh my gosh, this is so awful.” Then he looked at me. “Oh my gosh this is so awful but you are so cute! Oh my gosh, you are so much cuter than your picture!”
Suddenly, the catastrophe of my cousin’s flat tire took a hike. I was cuter than my picture, according to Larry7. “You’re marriage material!” Larry7 added. Having only known me for one minute, he decided I was marriage material. Maybe it’s because I drove over his fence.
Then came the dogs. Two dogs tore from the house like two demons, two Boston terriers, mother and daughter. Their barks, their screeches and howls, were something out of a horror movie, from a scene in an asylum, where the torturers devise various noises to drive the hero insane. The dogs didn’t stop. They never took a breath. All they did was bark and howl and screech at me, as if I had arrived with one purpose: to kill their owner (after demolishing his fence). “Get back inside, get back inside!” Larry7 commanded them, but they would not listen to Larry7. They would not “get back inside”, like what? Like a father? Like, “Oh there’s nothing here that concerns me, I’ll just go back in and read my paper.” No. The dogs targeted me, encircled me the way the Indians did to the settlers, and whenever I moved, they moved with me, like a planetary orbit. Now I really did want to kill Larry7. Why the FUCK did Larry7 invite strange men to his house when he KNEW these two MOTHERFUCKING ASSHOLE DOGS would corral the strange man and TORTURE him with screeches that make nails on a blackboard sound like sounds of waves on a BEACH??!
“Can I just — do you have any bourbon?!” I yelled to Larry7 (one had to YELL over these dogs).
“YES I THINK SO!”
So we moved into the house, leaving my cousin’s van out in the cold with itsi flat tire and unknown future.
Larry7 and I drank a bit and talked, but those two fucking dogs would not leave us alone. I was amazed — truly amazed — that Larry7 appeared to have no control whatsoever over these two Harpies. It was as if he had just inherited them at his doorstep, like they were dropped there by some freaked-out worker from the Insane Dog Asylum.
Finally, the dogs calmed down and Larry7 and I got down to business. But in the middle of business, Larry7 suddenly got limper than lettuce at Subway. “What’s the matter?” I asked him. “Oh, oh,” he chuckled, “it’s just so — so hard to concentrate…”
He broke out in laughter.
“Why?” I asked him. “Why is it so hard to concentrate?”
“The dogs were sniffing your ass as you were going down on me.”
Well, that did it. Sex was now over with Larry7. We agreed that stopping was best, for in the case of dogs, there’s no “putting them to bed” as there is with children. No. They stay up. They watch. They sniff.
So now it was time to attend to the flat tire in the freezing, painful cold. The spare tire would not budge. It was stuck. Larry7 had to drive me back home. He brought the dogs. As they climbed all over me, sniffing and howling and barking, banging into Larry7’s hands as he drove, almost sending us off 95 North, I rehearsed telling my cousin Paul that his van was now stuck at Larry7’s house in Yardley. Paul had no idea about Larry7. He had no idea about Grndr. Uh oh. This one’s gonna hurt.
It did hurt. Paul had been so good to me, and now I had to tell him this very, very bad news. He was mad, and he had a right to be. “You lied to me!” he said. “You texted that you were going to a friend’s place in Yardley for firewood! You were going to a stranger’s for sex!”
“Now wait a second, Paul!” I said. “I really, really did go for the firewood! That was the first priority! And the kindling wood! Seriously! But you’re right. He wasn’t a friend. He was a…Grndr person. Grndr man…friend. Grndr trick. I don’t know.” I didn’t even know what to call Larry7 except perhaps a mistake.
The next day was Saturday, and Paul and I took the Corolla out to Larry7‘s house in Yardley to attend to the injured van. Paul and Larry7 shook hands in Larry7’s driveway, and that was odd. “Hi Larry7 this is my straight cousin Paul and Paul this was my trick from last night, Larry7”.
Almost needless to say, Mother-and-Daughter-Bitch-Hounds-From-Hell treated Paul the same way they treated me, as if I were Lucifer coming to rip Larry7’s heart out and stick it on the busted fence.
The three of us, Larry7, myself and Paul, could not budge that goddamn spare tire off its whatever-the-hell-it-was-stuck-to. Paul was on his cellphone with his brother-in-law, my cousin Lenny. Lenny is a mechanic. “Paul, just twist the —of the—upper end–then–” screamed Lenny through Paul’s cellphone as Larry7 screamed to his dogs to stop barking. Paul did not get good service in Yardley. His phone died, and so did Lenny’s voice. We were fucked.
Paul and I left Larry7’s house, leaving the diseased van stuck in Larry7’s driveway. Paul was despondent. “I have to have that van back at the warehouse on Monday,” he sighed. “We’re delivering a mass mailing for a politician.”
On Sunday, Paul’s roadside assistance came to get the spare tire off, but — believe it or not — they couldn’t get the damn spare tire off the whatever-the-hell-it-was-stuck-to either. So then Paul and I arranged for a tow truck to come to Larry7’s house. The tow truck driver called me while I was in Manhattan attending the funeral of a friend who had died on Christmas Eve. “Ey, yeah uh…dis is Dave,” the tow driver said. “Uh…I can’t tow da van outta here without dee uh…keys.”
Paul and I had not left the keys to the van inside the van. I called Larry7. “Hi, do you see the keys to the van anywhere there?”
“Would you please look for the keys?” I asked him. Larry7 replied that he had “a million things to do” that day but would get to looking for the keys asap. He never found them.
Paul finally found the keys in the Corolla.
This meant that on Monday, I had to get my ass out to Yardley for the third time to orchestrate everything, the handing off the van keys to the tow driver, towing, the Pep Boys replacing the tire with a new one (the spare never came off), and so on and so on, and finally…
at five p.m. on Monday night…
I got the van back to Paul, flat tire off, new Pep Boys tire on. Paul was able to make the delivery, and the high-profile politician’s career was saved. Oh. And Paul didn’t lose a client. But I sure lost a whole lot of sleep that night before, as well as the precious self-esteem I had been clinging to right after my life went to shit before Christmas.
I told Paul, “I’m getting off of Grndr and you are my witness.” He thought that was a good idea. So I did. I cancelled my Grndr subscription, deleted my profile, and deleted Grndr from my phone, all in one fell swoop. NiceDudeJD disappeared into the ether, along with all the other Grndr profiles who realized that Grndr would not save them the way they had hoped.
That night, I sat on the edge of my bed, held my chest, and I sobbed so hard I could barely breathe. I realized, in the midst of my sobbing, that I had been using my delightful, dizzying, dick-pic exchanging, distracting time on Grndr to delay the inevitable. I had to — absolutely had to — start grieving the end of a three-year partnership with the man I loved. And that’s tough. But it had to be done.
Paul sat with me as I grieved those nights thereafter. He opened a bottle of wine. He looked at me and said, “Let’s drink this, cuz.” I wiped my tears and said, “Yes! And let’s start a fire.”
Paul replied, “I don’t think we have any wood.”
“Oh but we do have wood,” I told him. “In the back of the van.” Despite the 72-hour-long tragedy of errors, Larry7 had placed firewood in the back of Pau’s cargo van while the van had been sitting in Larry7’s driveway. And kindling wood, too.
So Paul and I drank red wine…
in front of a fire that burned Larry7‘s precious wood. I imagined many other things getting thrown into that fire, a great many other things.
-JD Cerna is a GLAAD-Nominated Writer and Performer. From 2002-2005, he was a featured columnist for the Washington Blade and the Houston Blade.