Boston. Late October. The leaves changed colour and fell gently to the ground as young women all over the city looked to add sex appeal to their upcoming Halloween costumes. Nothing screams good times like a zombie with half a face and double the D’s. I’d only been in the city a day or so when I matched with Gemma*. She was 22, worked as a server in a popular restaurant and was studying a degree in health science.
On top of that she had a half sleeve among other tattoos, bright red hair and a smile that soared through my screen as I swiped right. Once we’d matched conversation flowed naturally and she came across as bubbly, energetic and full of life. She was intrigued about my decision to quit my job and travel the world on the back of a one way ticket and that curiosity had us meeting up one beautiful Friday night, at a bar around the corner from where I was staying in South Boston. The date was on.
Murphy’s law quickly ruined my plans as I forgot my passport, which guaranteed refusal at most bars, and the only bar I was granted access to was so loud you’d only end up screaming at each other the whole night. So we grabbed a bottle of spiced rum and headed to a nearby park. And while I didn’t yet know it (in fact I almost never know what is going to happen in the future) the night was going to take a number of unforeseen twists.
We clicked extremely well and we briefly became three when a homeless man came and told us he had lived in this park for close to 20 years, that he was a Vietnam veteran and that he loved spiced rum. Of all these claims I can only confirm the third. Once he wandered off we decided it was a sign from the universe to take the night by the balls, or the scruff of the neck, or whatever appendage life had close by, and decided on a whim to explore Boston by night.
Just like that we were driving through downtown Boston with Gemma narrating a history tour in a city which has more than most. We found a quiet back street to park her car and wandered through mostly empty streets. Boston is every bit as beautiful at night as it is during the day and that romantic feeling might have inspired our first kiss, as we jumped the fence into a closed off carousel by the water and sat side by side inside an ornate carriage pulled by a ceramic horse.
From there we made our way to a dingy Cigar Bar in the Italian quarter, sitting opposite ends of a rickety table as thick smoke filled the underground room with Gemma telling me of the phenomenon of ‘Indigo Children’ and that, in her opinion, I was one. That was a perspective I hadn’t heard before and it was refreshing, so much so that we decided to go home and have sex, it just seemed the logical conclusion.
The only catch being, she was a little tipsy and we couldn’t remember where the fuck we’d left her car. If this had been a film we would have a cheeky little montage about how hard but fun it was to find the parked car but as this was reality we wandered around for close to an hour and a half. All of the dark back streets looked identical. we were just frustratingly lost.
A sly Uber ride later, which soaked up another half an hour, and we were back in the car. Not just back in it though, but crushing cones in it. America, God Bless it, has a little more of an open mind when it comes to weed and Gemma was carrying her very generous stash legally. Life is about living and on top of her frequent hits of the pipe she requested what was left of the rum…as she was driving.
Looking across at this beautiful young woman hitting her pipe and swigging rum straight from the bottle as she drove me to her home suburb of Quincy, outside Boston, made me feel like I was truly living, maybe not for much longer as that behaviour is straight insane, but living nonetheless!
The madness was paused for a moment during a brief trip to the gas station but just like that we hit the road again, but as it turned out only briefly. As we pulled up to a traffic light the engine of her car came to an unceremonious end, spluttering briefly before going silent. We sat, a little confused, as she hit the gas over and over, but nothing. Her car was dead. I jumped out and pushed the car down a small side street as she jumped on the phone and called a tow truck then it became a waiting game. I don’t know about you but it can get boring waiting for a tow truck at 2am in the suburbs of Boston so we played games to pass the time**
By the time help had arrived we were worn out and ready to get moving, but the bad news was only just starting. It seems, as an incredulous mechanic told us, she had filled her car with diesel instead of regular petrol. That’s right, she was under the impression it was simply a more premium version of fuel to make your car even better, as opposed to the reality which this very shocked tradie told us, was that her engine was destroyed and potentially, so too was her car.
In that moment I realised her pure joy persona hid some deeper feelings. She broke down (much like her car ironically) and begged the driver to help, that she had no money, could not afford to lose her car, needed to drive to a job that barely paid the bills and she could not lose it, that things hadn’t been going well for a while and this felt like the last straw. I think I speak for the driver and myself when I say it was heartbreaking.
But life isn’t all W’s in the win column and her car was towed, leaving us to get another Uber to her house, before we went to sleep finally at around 4am.***
The next morning I was introduced to her pet rabbit and her roommate, who drove both of us back to the car yard. For a brief moment spirits were high when yet another amazed mechanic told us it was impossible to get the diesel nozzle in a car requiring anything else. A notion quickly crushed as Gemma admitted she had pushed the nozzle in with serious force to fill it up, leaving the mechanic open mouthed as he walked away.
Finally we received news of her car, thankfully not destroyed but seriously damaged and would require extensive maintenance at a serious cost. Not every date is a winner and I gave a rapidly falling apart Gemma a quick hug before her friend drove me back to South Boston where I was staying. The last image I had of her was a small figure, slumped in a plastic chair, sobbing and waiting for her Dad to come get her.
I’d learnt a lot that night. You should always park your car somewhere you won’t lose it, that freedom of choice doesn’t extend to petrol and you really should just do what you’re told when filling up your car, and most of all that sometimes the biggest smile hides the biggest pain. Not my Tinderella yet, but another step closer.
POSTSCRIPT: For anyone feeling a little blue from this date recap, in the time since I met with Gemma she got her car fixed, things at work picked up and she graduated from school. From all accounts she’s kicking heaps of life goals. Now I’m not saying I am the direct catalyst for this upswing in her life, but you connect the dots.
Alexander Porter will continue to look for new experiences and opportunities on Tinder, his Tinderella is out there somewhere. Follow him on Instagram @alexander_le_great
*Not real name
**Had sex up against the outside of her car as a couple of guys walked past and waved in celebration
***Had sex again