I was barely three days into my seven-day attempt at destroying my body when my body broke down. This was totally unexpected. And painful. A vindictive fever greeted me that morning, letting me know that the parades, parties, and general merriment of the day would come and go without my presence. I was devastated. At first I tried to deceive myself, going about my morning as if nothing was wrong, but that only made things worse. My movement was soon reduced to switching from various fetal-like positions in bed while my body sweated out every ounce of fluid that still remained within. My bed and sheets quickly became something of a swamp, while my mind felt like a raging furnace.
And all the while, Mardi Gras went on without me.
If you’ve never experienced Mardi Gras then you really can’t appreciate its power. It’s more than a holiday, more than an excuse to party. It’s a downed power line spewing high voltage electricity into a murky puddle. There’s nowhere to hide in the puddle, the raw pulsating energy will find you wherever you are. It found me in my swamp bed, and promptly strangled me with my own FOMO meter.
It was a dark time.
And in this dark time, I crawled back to Tinder for solace.
I had sworn off Tinder because I kept getting tricked by robots, and I found that discouraging. But right then I was desperate, I needed some light in my life, some kind of positive reinforcement during these bleak times. So I jumped back into the world of pretty faces and shallow desires, and proceeded to swipe.
For those of you ignorant of Tinder, here’s all you need to know. If you see a picture of someone you find attractive, you swipe right, if you don’t like the picture, you swipe left. It’s superficiality summed up in one broad stroke.
Now perhaps it was due to my poor health, but in that moment every girl I saw staring back at me on the titular app seemed beautiful. Healthy and beautiful. My finger rarely went left.
These swiping sessions came in spurts, each one only lasting a minute or so, until my energy would give out, then I would fall into a fever dream that would leave me in a state of panic. I would wake from this panic and go back to Tinder, where the whole process would start over again. This is what my Mardi Gras had turned into.
At some point during this vicious cycle, I awoke from one of my fever dreams to discover a great surprise. Matches. A whole slew of Tinder matches lined up for my perusal. I almost couldn’t believe how many there were, it had to be at least five.
Now I know I said earlier that I quit Tinder because of the robots, but that wasn’t exactly true. The robots were troublesome, sure, but the real discouragement came from the real tinder girls. It was never easy getting matches, and getting those matches to then respond to a message was even harder. Ultimately, the frustration became more than its perks. That’s why I quit.
And yet, staring at my phone in my swamp bed, you would have thought I was a Tinder God. Matches everywhere. Real women swiping right, and then responding to my introductory messages. At first I worried my fevered mind was playing tricks on me. Then I remembered the electric puddle outside my walls.
Of course, I thought. The party was still going on out there, the downed powerline was accessing and unleashing everyone’s dopamine and serotonin reserves, turning them into drunk happy animals. As a result, women and men wanted to meet each other more than ever, so they could have a story or two to tell when they go back to wherever they’re from. Just my luck that during this Tinder Oasis I would be rendered useless by fever.
But then I remembered there was still time left to get better. I chugged water till it hurt and forced myself to sleep, or at least try.
By Sunday morning I felt well enough to go outside. It was a rather cold day, which was unfortunate because I had to take my bike. Pedaling two miles in the cold to uptown didn’t help my health any. Again, I tried to ignore the facts, drinking beer and catching beads for a good three hours. But after those three hours even the beer inside me couldn’t hide the truth. I needed a bed immediately. The bike ride home was miserable. Almost as miserable as having to cancel the Tinder dates I had set up. It seemed some force of work did not want things to go my way.
The next morning, I felt healthy again, but by now I knew there was a big difference between normal healthy and Mardi Gras healthy. I knew in my heart I was most likely the former and not the latter.
But I made Tinder dates for that night anyway. Come hell or high water, I was going to have a crazy, awesome Mardi Gras experience, and Tinder was going to help me do it, dammit. I must have drank an ocean’s worth of water that day, trying my best to ensure my health. When I wasn’t chugging water, I was messaging my girls, seeing who was still up for some puddle romance.
Finally, after much messaging back and forth, I arranged a date with a 28-year-old girl named Amanda, who lived in D.C. but was here for the holiday. She wanted to meet outside Harrah’s, the large casino on Canal Street. That seemed like a pretty stupid place to meet during Mardi Gras but I agreed anyway.
It took some effort to get past the mass of tourists huddled up on Canal. I pitied them as I passed them on my bike. Damn fools, they had no idea they were in the worst possible spot for Mardi Gras. One of them jumped in front of my bike and I had to come to a screeching halt. That action alone caused me to feel dizzy and tired. Not a good sign.
By the time I arrived at Harrah’s, I was sweating profusely. I tried to tell myself it was just the bike ride causing me to sweat, but by now I had become an expert at seeing through my own bullshit.
I sat on the casino steps and waited for Amanda to show up. With each passing minute, I felt a little worse. At some point, I realized this wasn’t going to happen. When Amanda got here, I decided, I would have to tell her that I was in no condition for any Tinder love. Of course, she may very well be able to tell that just by seeing me shivering in my own sweat. God, this was going to be embarrassing.
But that embarrassment never came, because Amanda never showed up. Messages to her proved fruitless as well. Maybe she was a robot after all, I considered.
I headed back down Canal Street, through the mass of tourists once more. Whenever I saw anyone pulling a cooler I asked if I could buy a bottle of water from them. They always gave them to me for free. That’s the thing about this electric puddle called Mardi Gras, it makes people a little bit better.
Randy Walker is a humor writer in New Orleans. He is also an improviser and a lover of dogs.