A Three-Week Relationship in 19 Parts

The saga of two people who meet on the internet

Harris Sockel
Human Parts
Published in
6 min readFeb 14, 2024


Calligraphic Trompe-l’oeil Calendar by Matthias Buchinger, 1709 | Metropolitan Museum of Art Open Access Program

1. Three weeks ago, when I was a totally different person, I met you outside of a bar. Back then I was a little dumber, but also happier, and my skin was clearer. I checked my phone a normal amount of times each day (approximately once every 10 minutes), which was a lot but probably half the amount of times I check it now. My resting heart rate was slightly lower.

2. How did you make me leave my house? You put all the exclamation points in the right places. You used tildes on either side of the word “date” and every once in a while you’d type in ALL CAPS, which I enjoy. You repeated parts of my messages in yours to communicate that you were listening, but not so often that you sounded like a politician. Sometimes you put that extra space before the exclamation point to make it ironic instead of sincere !

3. Ways a first date can make me feel: high, old, young-but-in-a-rearview-mirror-kinda-way, like a character in a mid-2010s dramedy, gay, irresponsible, “young and hot” [spoken off-camera by a gay man in his mid-50s], constipated, manic, funny in a focus-grouped way, fake, you know what it’s like when your teeth feel smooth after you brush them? like that but for your whole body, manipulative, understated, judgy, tiny and vulnerable like that meme of a baby grasshopper grabbing onto a human thumb, undercaffeinated, pretentious, desperate but trying to appear the opposite of that, nihilistic, mysterious, dumb.

4. I’ve learned, or thought I’ve learned — I keep thinking I’ve learned — to keep my expectations on the floor, to casually douse them in gasoline while I archive marketing emails on my phone. But you know what they say about expectations: If you’re not managing them, they’re managing you.

5. There’s a phrase I once overheard someone say at a bar that’s relevant here: You want to find something already moving at speed instead of just getting started. It applies to the first 30 seconds of a movie, the first sentence of an email, whether you want to keep talking to someone after they tell you one basic fact about themselves. Some conversations just have momentum. Every comment opens a portal to another ten. Maybe twice in the last five years have I met someone — and not all on…