Edited by: Planetes
This was the first time Fang Zhaomu had ever used a dating app, so he was a little nervous about it. However, having not a single person he could talk to at school, he was truly very lonely.
He was still not very familiar with the workings of the app. After completing the registration, and selecting a few interests, the app started showing him a few possible matches. He swiped past profiles that he had no interest in, then a profile with the name Andrew appeared.
Andrew was a 29 year old Chinese mechanical engineer. Much like Fang Zhaomu, his face was hidden in his photo. Dressed in a shirt with the top buttons unbuttoned, he exposed his 8-pack abs. Zhaomu was not a fan of showy photos, but was intrigued by the fact that the other party was an engineer, and 8 years older to boot. He decided to swipe right, and gripped his phone tightly, anxiously awaiting a positive response from Andrew.
This year, as he did his exchange at T University, he was met with all sorts of bitterness.
In the beginning, nothing was out of the ordinary, but gradually, Fang Zhaomu discovered that the other Chinese people in the laboratory were reluctant to associate themselves with him. Although the caucasians in his modules were quite friendly, their conversations were always short. As for his friends back home, due to the time difference, they could not help much.
He dreaded solitude, and constantly surrounded himself with friends. As such, these silent days were foreign to him. And as if the silence weren’t enough, it also made him fearful; even the moment where he had to leave his room every morning filled him with fear.
No one had said it directly, but Fang Zhaomu could feel that his ostracisation was because of Song Yuanxun. As for why Song Yuanxun did not like him, Fang Zhaomu did not have a clue.
He only knew that everyone revolved around Song Yuanxun, and since Song Yuanxun did not like him, everyone else started distancing themselves from him, whether on purpose or not.
Having to bear such silent abuse from adults would instil fear in a person. Fang Zhaomu had a countdown set on his phone that counted down to the end of his exchange. Every day he would look at his phone, longing for his day of departure, a parallel to when he was still in his university; he longed for his exchange to start.
Fang Zhaomu had downloaded this app a while ago, but never had the courage to try it, not even daring to register an account. It was only because he had been angered today, and without anywhere to vent his frustration, he finally gathered his nerves, and wanted to try it out to relieve his pressure.
He sent Andrew two messages, then stared at the chat and fell into a daze. On his twentieth time going through his memories to try to see if he did have any unhappy interactions with Song Yuanxun ever since he entered the lab, Andrew replied his message.
“What did you say?”
The four words and a question mark startled Fang Zhaomu. He had nearly forgotten how long he had not spoke Chinese with anyone during the evenings in City C.
Fang Zhaomu tapped on the voice message function, asking Andrew, “Where are you?”
Exiting the chat screen, he took a look, then told Andrew, “The app tells me that we’re only 3 miles away from each other. We can easily meet up if we want.”
After a while, Andrew replied. “Meet up?”
Fang Zhaomu paused, and then received Andrew’s third message. “Where are you?”
Fang Zhaomu thought about it, and told Andrew that he stayed near T University. He then tried to ask him out, “Is this your first time using this app? If you have the time, let’s come out and have a drink.”
Andrew’s replies were very slow. Fang Zhaomu put down his phone, looked at a few pages of his book, before he received another reply. “Why are you in such a rush?”
Fang Zhaomu felt that Andrew was a little strange, and he switched to typing, asking him in return. “Isn’t the app for this purpose?”
This time, Andrew replied very quickly, but it was another question. “Which purpose?”
Fang Zhaomu looked at the screen for a few seconds, and lost interest in replying. Putting aside Andrew’s chat, he started looking at other profiles.
Not long after, Andrew sent another message. “You’re a frequent user of this app?”
Scrolling through many profiles, Fang Zhaomu did not see anyone else that he was interested in. As such, he once again returned to his conversation with Andrew, and replied honestly, “I’m using this for the first time as well, you’re the first person I matched successfully with.”
“Why did you try matching with me?” Andrew asked.
Chatting online had reduced the sense of reality of their interactions. Andrew did not send Fang Zhaomu any voice messages, and his words were very cold. Fang Zhaomu felt as though he was chatting with a robot, and could not help but want to tease the other person. Sending a voice message, Fang Zhaomu told Andrew, “I feel that engineers are very sexy, and I like people who are older than me.”
Even after a long pause, Andrew still did not reply. Fang Zhaomu then asked him, “Don’t tell me you’re feeling embarrassed.”
“No.” Andrew replied instantly.
Fang Zhaomu felt that Andrew’s reaction was very entertaining. He had never felt such joy in a very long time, and so continued teasing Andrew. “I don’t believe you.”
Without waiting for Andrew’s response, Fang Zhaomu asked, “Why are you using this app? Is it because you’re shy in real life, and can’t find a boyfriend?”
“No.” Andrew repeated.
“I think I’m right,” Fang Zhaomu joked. “You don’t even dare to send me a voice message.”
After half a minute, the other person finally sent him a voice message that was two seconds long.
Fang Zhaomu listened to it, it was a very cold and low male voice. “No.”
When he heard it, Fang Zhaomu suddenly felt that he seemed to have heard this voice somewhere before. However, in the next moment, he burst out laughing at the person’s serious denial. Listening to it a few times, he then sent a mocking reply. “Andrew, you’re so stupid.”
Andrew ignored him, then Fang Zhaomu continued. “However, has anyone ever praised you for your voice?”
“I bet your colleagues definitely won’t,” Fang Zhaomu was getting addicted to teasing him. “Then, I’ll compliment you. Andrew, your voice is very nice — and your muscles look very good too.”