“Well, here we are...” I think as I drop my bag on the sofa and throw out my jet-lagged body onto the bed. It’s too plush, probably bad for my back, I think as I lay across the bed with my arm across my eyes for a second. I think I watched too many movies during the flight.
Okay, so I am not in a position to complain. Just been through 4 years of college, and while my family is not loaded, its well-off, and I am promised a job at my father’s company. So why did I make that silly promise with my parents when I got into college?
That is, to agree to use this strange dating app to go on a dating party if I don’t meet and secure marriage material during my 4 years of college. And the first thing my app told me to do was to go to New York. Yeah, really.
Look, its not like I didn’t date anyone. It’s just that nothing felt right. Most of the time, I went out to date just because I didn’t want to be seen as not having a boyfriend, or seen as a virgin. Peer pressure - yeah that’s what it is.
I know I am not the naturally attractive type, because I think there were only 1 or 2 girls that sort of approached me during the 4 years with whom I went along, of course. Probably there is something about my attitude that puts girls off or something. Look, I’m not into fashion and I may not be the poster boy, but I don’t think I look unattractive either. At 6’11, I am sort of a little over average build, not extremely buff but not flabby either. I have brown hair and brown eyes. Hey, I think I would have a decent chance of meeting marriage material in terms of how I look. For the record, I am not a virgin.
And I think my parents agree. So when they sent me off to college, they expected me to bring back a “decent” better half, so I would settle down and take up the job at my father’s company and just sit back and be groomed for the job.
The problem is that it didn’t happen. And the downside was that, I agreed that if I didn’t, I would go to New York and go to match-making parties with this funny dating app.
At the time, I laughed it off, but I probably shouldn’t have. Although I did protest and argue that the conditions were not right, my parents waived the paper I signed in my face and shipped me off to the airport immediately. “You don’t want to end up like your uncle do you? Remember Uncle ZANE who lost his chance and then never got married!”
Apparently, this dating app called “XtremeMatch” is supposed to help you find your better match in the whole world within 5 days. It’s absolutely ridiculous I think. I mean, I have been at college for 4 years, and nothing came out. It’s just demeaning. And its unnatural. How could you hand over all human dignity and freedom to an AI app to do not just do what it tells you to do, but to date and get married? We are not chickens for gods sake.
“Beep! Beep!” the electronic wrist band on my left wrist rings.
This band is driving me up the wall. But the deal is that I wear it for 1 week and do what this silly app tells me.to do.
A glowing bright text starts to scroll across the wristband.
“Welcome to New York. Go to hall and take the red elevator to Level -14 in 15 minutes.”
I hated this wristband from the start. Its just scary. I know the AI of this app has access to all my past history, such as what sort of films, food, sports I like right up to my sexual fantasies.
I give out a deep sigh and get up and walk over to the window and pull open the drapes.
It’s a beautiful sight of the nightline of lower Manhattan. The hotel, which was built right on the demolished site of the Flat Iron, is one of those slim upright match looking skyrise, and I am on the 53rd floor in a room is looking out dead east. Its still one of few areas left in New York that still isn’t built up and the Brooklyn bridge is just where I saw it last.
The room which isn’t big, is in a super modern glass-aluminium style and I drag myself over from the window to the bathroom and force myself under the shower.
The hot soothing shower only makes my brain go into loops further.
Well, I did agree to this and coming out to New York again wasn’t a bad idea I thought. I’ll probably meet no one but I’ll just check out my nostalgic pizza joints, check out small and exquisite shop in Tribecca, and see if my favourite café on Columbia Circle is still there and go home. Should I get in touch with Jake? – naah, he’s too effervescent and just make fun of me coming to do this silly app. I’ll get in touch next time.
“Okay, so I’ll just go to this silly match-making party for 30 minutes and that’s it.” I tell myself as I get out and blow dry my hair. In the mirror, I notice the huge bags under my eyes. Well, that’s going to help, I think. I put on the very yellow-grey silk shirt and the stripped blue-black chinos before stuffing my feet into the brand new red-brown Italian shoes. I look at myself in the mirror again.
Not a bad choice for an AI, I think. “No, No! its just wrong, I shouldn’t give any credit to this AI,” I murmur and leave the bathroom.
Once out into the hallway, I turn left for the elevator hall. There are only 2 elevators, one painted red, the other green.
“Beep! Beep!” signals the wristband and tells me to take the green elevator. “Yeah, yeah, as you say”, I murmur and stand in front the face recognition camera of the green elevator.
A swooshing sound comes by and the elevator opens up. Just for a split second, I am fanaticising that a gorgeous girl would be in there who would sweep me off my feet.
Its empty. As I get in and push the -14th floor button, the irritating beep comes again. “Today’s chance 3.2%”
Well, that’s encouraging! I feel the urge to rip this wristband off and throw it into the corner. Then I remember that my mum told me that when XtremeMatch first diagnosed the possibility of me meeting someone in my college and town, it turned out a possibility of 0.12%.
Okay, so that may be quite a leap by just coming to New York. They say for every available bachelor there is a truckload of available women in New York. But it’s not much of an encouragement for someone that despises parties, not to mention going to one by an app prompt.
The elevator whistles down to the bottom and my ears hurt a bit before the expected “DING!” and the doors open up.
The doors open up to a foyer of a dark amber room with slate floors and high ceilings. A quiet jazz note is flowing in the background.
When I step out on to the slate floor, a sleek android couple emerge from my immediately jerk their faces towards me and the female version walks over. Her alpha-male companion in a tuxedo doesn’t flinch.
“Mr. Jeremy ZANETTI, pleased to have you here for the XteremeMatch party. May I see your band?”
The female android is in a china dress with green eyes and a blond wig. I put out my left wrist and it blinks.
“Thank you, now I understand that this is your first time to join a XtremeMatch Party. Let me just run you through the rules and boundaries.”
- Every night you will come out here at the time your wristband tells you and stay for a minimum 30 minutes.
- If you find someone, you can stay as long as you like and/or go to your room with them. There is no payment necessary whatsoever during your stay. If there is anything you need, just tell your wristband.
- No violence here will be tolerated. If the AI senses a fight, the androids will step in before and you will have to retire for the night. And no nudity will be tolerated here. If you decide to make out, you have to go up back to your or your partners room. Bathrooms are out of bounds.
- There are no events whatsoever. We want to make sure you meet someone in the most natural feeling way.
- The AI will decide if you have found a perfect match, regardless of what you feel. Given the quantum analytics, your chance of finding someone here is 8000% higher than back home.
- Please enjoy.
The android steps back after making the statement in a matter-of-fact way.
Okay, so what next?
I notice that actually this place is streaming with people. As my eyes get used to the darkness, I see a sea of champane towers and cocktail tables under hanging French colonial style lanterns leading to a dimly lit fancy bar in the back. A sign, “Oak bar” is engraved in glittering gold above in the air.
I decide I will just go up to the bar and spend 30 minutes before I go back up. It’s my first night anyway. Don’t want to get ahead of myself.
The party floor is much wider than I had initially perceived as I weave my way through the cocktail tables towards the bar. I notice that there is a mix of young people and older ones.
I get the impression that I am on the younger side, as I see this lady who appears to be much older than me slouching on a very young man, maybe even younger than me. And then there is a balding young man on the left who is seeming to have a great conversation with a young lady. The girl is my type – busty blond and bubbly.
“At least this is good business. I didn’t think that there are so many desperate people” I think to myself before realizing in disgust that it includes me.
“Just a martini please, dry,” I waive to the bartender.
“Be with you in a minute,” he says wryly. He looks super bored and unhappy. I cant but wonder why XtremeMatch didn’t hire a more attractive bartender. Surely, they have the money.
The bartender isn’t doing much, he’s just putting a few cups upside down in the sink. What’s taking so long?
“I know he’s not forthcoming. You need to be patient.”
I spin around to my left and there’s suddenly a girl propped up against the bar holding a glass of red wine. She has this fizzy jet-black hair and brown eyes doning a flowing black nightdress with a gold choker. She looks like a jazz singer right before a jazz session. It’s hard to make out her ethnic background.
“Yeah, I know. It get that often. I am quarter white, black, Asian and Latino, if that’s what you are trying to work out.”
“No.. that’s not what.... okay, well actually yes.” I blurt out.
I’m embarrassed and don’t know what to say next.
“Its all right. Anyway, I’m Kylie, U’r here because of the app right? How did you get here”
“Yeah, definitely. I’m...” I start.
“Your Mariniti,” I hear the bartender say, and he leaves the drink with a thud before leaving us promptly.
We both sort of raise our eyebrows and silently share a laugh.
“You’ll get use to him. He’s like that to everyone” Kylie says and flashes a smile.
“Yeah, so I’m Jeremy” I say and then start telling her about my hopeless deal with my parents and the way I was booted out of my home with a ticket to come to New York.
Kylie laughs and teases me that I am just another hapless boy who needs the help of the AI.
She tells me that she is from Cyprus, the south side which is controlled by Greece, and that she split up with her boyfriend who was abusive. That was her 3rd abusive relationship and made her realise that her judgement and taste of men were abysymal so consulted XtremeMatch app to get out the loop and find a decent partner who would be marriage material for life.
She tells me this is her 4th night and the next would be her last.
I sort of have this itch to ask if she has met anyone and has jumped in bed with anyone so far, which I quickly suppress.
“Beep! Beep!”, “Beep! Beep!”
Why is my wristband bothering me at this important time?
And Kylie seems to have got a message at the same time as I see her glancing at the inside of her wrist holding the wine glass.
I take a glance at my own.
“Success rate tonight 23%”
“What the... why such the jump?” my reactions tell me before I look up.
“So what did it tell you?,” asks Kylie with a mischievous looking smile.
“Ah.. nothing important,” I sort of say and draw my wrist closer to my heart.
“Hey, come on! Tell me. I wont tell anyone,” Kylie teases me with her smile and tries to tug at my left wrist.
“No! No!” I say and instinctively retract my arm in knee jerk reaction, but I am sort of happy, in an odd way.
“Beep! Beep!” goes my wrist band again.
“Hey—what’s so important...” Kylie says as she leans closer to me.
I get a glimpse and sort of burst out laughing.
“Drink till she’s cute” it flashes before going back to sleep.
“That’s not fair!” Kylie pouts and climbs back into her stool.
“It’s telling you that I’m the one right?” Kylie says with her teasing smile.
“No, it didn’t,” I say smiling.
“But it must of said something nice about me anyway! Oh, tell me!” she demands and radiates this bubbly affection.
To be honest, I start to feel that I don’t need another drink to feel that she’s cute.
Kylie starts telling me that from her last 3 days of experience coming down here, most of the prompts are positive ones, even if the person in front of you is not your destiny.
Then she starts to bombard me with questions. Like what sort of girls I have dated, what I plan to do as a living, whether I care about girls taller than myself and so on.
I start to ask questions about her, so I don’t have to be the one always answering questions. She describes herself as an adopted child by a very wealthy family but still very lonely and in search of a best match, with someone she can feel at peace with, who is not as intense as herself. Kylie is a chiropractic and has an interest in Medieval Church art and 80s rock music and plays flamenco guitar. She loves the countryside and wouldn’t mind raising a big family away from the big city.
Our conversations begin to boil over into our love of playing AR games, which go on for what seems like ages.
Then we both get interrupted by a beep again.
This time, Kylie looks up at my face with a more serious look and takes me by the hand and asks if we should go up.
I wake up and look at my wristband. “Success rate 45%”
Wow! I think and turn around in the bed to face Kylie.
“What the..” I murmur.
I mean, for a start, I had thought she was the one I was looking for. Then why would she leave, and if she has left, why do I have a higher success rate now?
I sit up in the bed alone and look around. Then I remember that Kylie said that last night was her forth night which made me nervous. I need to go to see her tonight.
I sort of can’t believe that I am thinking about her like that, but here I am feeling extremely insecure of not being able to see her until this evening. I have no way of locating her or contacting her.
I look around to see if she has left a message. Maybe she wrote something down I think and scan the coffee table before walking into the bathroom.
There’s a faint scent of the Chanel No.5 in the bathroom which stirs my lust for her, and just drives me nuts a bit more.
I don’t really remember what I have for breakfast or lunch that day. I’m just really waiting for that prompt to go downstairs. To get my mind off her, I go to the gym, get into the shower a few more times, and just watch New York go by from my window.
“Bing!” it finally comes, and I jump up from my armchair.
“Take the red elevator in 10 minutes” it reads.
The elevator seems to take ages to come.
When I get to -14th floor, I practically run out, before the alpha male android stops me and checks my wrist band.
Already agitated, I hurry and weave through the sea of cocktail tables looking for Kylie, but I reach the bar without avail.
“Bing!” goes my wrist band.
“Hold your guns, no violence will be tolerated” it reads.
I turn around and see Kylie walking towards me.
She is arms in arms with a handsome buff man.