Six months after finishing college, Ginger Blair was completely stuck. It was harder to find work than she imagined and she didn’t have the money or interest in going to graduate school. Ginger had never really dreamed of putting her degree to use anyways. She wanted to do something bigger and better than being chained to academia. She had dreamed of being a model most recently, not necessarily a runway model, but at least good enough for a boutique or modestly-sized clothing line to use her for their catalogs. It wasn’t like she was unfit for modeling anyways.
Ginger was five feet eleven inches. She had rich henna colored skin and an amazing body without a hint of extra fat on her belly. She had medium sized breasts and a round booty. Ginger knew she had the body of a video vixen, except a little less thick. But where she lived, there were no opportunities for a girl who looked like her. Despite the fact that she felt her modeling dreams were hopeless, Ginger still took impeccable care of her appearance. Her “signature look” was always her hair. She wore it differently nearly every week. She went from faux locs to natural hair to waist length weave at a moment’s notice. Wherever she went, all eyes were on her hair; with people desperate to either copy her or praise her bold new look.
Looking good had no bearing on Ginger’s current burgeoning problem: she was unemployed and her student loan bills were soon to be approaching fast and furious. Ginger knew if she worked as a waitress, she was unlikely to make enough to pay the bills. So she was trying desperately to get a job that paid better. It was more difficult than she could have imagined. At least she didn’t have to worry about rent…
Ginger’s mom was a professional escort. As a single mother it was the only thing that had allowed her to provide for Ginger’s every need. Because of her lifestyle, she was always traveling around to meet various clients. Unfortunately even if she made a lot of money, Ms. Blair was unable to support Ginger completely. Back in 2006, her mother had a major disease that they were still paying hospital bills for. These bills made Ginger’s student loan look miniscule. But it wasn’t miniscule to Ginger.
The only light at the end of the tunnel was her long distance boyfriend Tobias Berkowicz. They had never met but he had promised Ginger that someday, he would come east to be with her. Ginger was far more attractive than Tobias, but he seemed to be the only guy who had ever really cared for her as a person and not just for her looks. Tobias was thirty, a full eight years older than Ginger.
He tried never to make their age difference a problem but Ginger could tell that he was desperate for marriage, children and to have a life she wasn’t ready to lead. Tobias was also “culturally Jewish” and his mother strongly disapproved of his long distance relationship with a “gentile” – as she ever-so-kindly referred to Ginger. It was an okay relationship, and most of all, it felt totally safe. Ginger wasn’t sure she was in love with Tobias, but she did really care for him, and at this point in her life she felt like that was enough. Plus, she was unemployed and Tobias had a job working for his father. He had a lot of potential to take care of her.
Of course, Ginger’s best friend Latika absolutely hated Tobias’s guts. She thought he was a “balding little chubster with a small dick”. Ginger thought Latika was too obsessed with sex. Her connection to Tobias had nothing to do with his baldness, his chub or his penis (which Ginger had never even seen). Latika Sethi was Ginger’s Indian American bestie. They’d been the only women of color together in their school’s theater group and they’d taken to each other like two strips of velcro.
Latika was short with a voluptuous body and waist length black hair. Her family was somewhat traditional, but they’d eventually come to accept Latika for the out and proud lesbian that she was. Latika had an extremely feminine style and attitude, so the misinformed tended to believe she was straight at first glance. In fact, Ginger was the first person who Latika had come out to and since Ginger had encouraged her to embrace who she was, she took that advice to heart. Since high school, Latika had slept with over forty women and she had a string of ladies she cycled through who she called her ‘harem’.
When Ginger’s doorbell rang, she knew it was Latika right away. That girl was so damned impatient! The doorbell rang at least three times before Ginger could even get up to answer it. She opened the door and Latika burst into her house screaming greetings and blessings. Latika hugged her tightly as if they hadn’t just seen each other the day before. “Ginger my beautiful princess! Ah!! How are you sweetheart?” Latika squealed. Ginger hugged her back, rolling her eyes at Latika’s over the top behavior.
“I’m alright girl. Let’s head up to the living room to talk. My mom isn’t here this weekend,” said Ginger.
The two sat in the comfortable chairs of the house’s living room and immediately poured glasses of wine. Being able to drink freely still felt like a novelty to Ginger, only twenty-two. Latika was slightly older, but she was always ready to drink.
Once they sat down, Ginger began to tell her friend about her day.
“… I have no idea how the hell I’m going to pay this student loan Latika. I would do y’know, some kind of sex work but it feels wrong. My mother hustled, she’s still hustling so I wouldn’t have to live like her,” Ginger finished.
“There’s no shame in it K,” Latika said, whipping out her phone and taking a few selfies. #DrinkingWithBae
“I know… but I feel like I should be able to do more for myself,” Ginger sighed, taking a sip of her moscato.
“Girl, I know what you mean. Aaand I don’t. Money’s out there just waiting to be made! I needed some extra cash so I hit up Mike. I’ve been selling for him to college kids around here. Bam. Money,” Latika said, downing her entire glass and pouring herself another one.
“Latika, you don’t mean…” Ginger hesitated.
“No hard stuff. Only ADD meds, Xanax. Nothing that they wouldn’t find from someone else if I weren’t around. It’s good money,” Latika shrugged.
“It’s illegal,” Ginger said, hating how she always seemed to be lecturing Latika about one thing or another. It was like the girl knew nothing about how risky the world was.
“Come on K. You know how hard it is,” Latika pleaded. She felt bad that Ginger always worried so much about her.
“I know. Just be careful. You don’t know what that life could lead to,” Ginger replied.
“You need to get laid girl,” Latika said, drinking a bit more. Maybe that was why her friend was so uptight.
“Latika?! I have a boyfriend remember?” Ginger said.
“Baldie ain’t shit,” Latika scoffed.
“I think I love him,” Ginger said weakly.
“You don’t sound too confident. Girl, you should download this app Sparks and get yourself a little something something to pass the time while you wait for the old guy to finally decide you’re worth moving cross country for,” Latika said.
Ouch. That hit Ginger where it hurt. The entire time she thought she was lukewarm about Tobias, maybe he was the one who was lukewarm about her. Latika always knew what to say to spur her into action. The two drank, and Latika began singing a lullaby to Ginger in Hindi, something from a Bollywood film. They laughed together, sang and downed drinks until well into the night. Latika needed to go home to put her younger siblings to bed and to help her parents close up shop so she left Ginger’s house before her tipsiness had worn off.
Ginger was alone and a little drunk. She started to consider the advice that Latika had given her. Should she really be out there exploring her options? What was she really missing out on? Most men her age didn’t have any ambition. Their lives weren’t together at all. Ginger realized the irony behind her reasoning. She was arguably far behind. Just like these men she denigrated mentally. Ginger figured, what could it hurt. She could go out on a couple dates, maybe play the field. If things looked much better out there, she and Tobias could respectfully part ways. No harm done.
Sparks was a popular dating app that everyone around her seemed to be using. It was “the straight version of Grindr” according to Latika. The app uploaded your social media profile and you could swipe left on guys you hated and swipe right on guys you liked. If you matched up, then they might message you or you could message them. The concept seemed a little shallow to Ginger, but in the game of appearances, she never seemed to lose.
She uploaded her best profile pictures, where she truly looked like a model and not just a wannabe and she figured what the hell. It was a Friday night so the app seemed abuzz with activity. She matched with a few guys who weren’t that attractive, but it was an ego boost just the same.
A notification flashed on Ginger’s phone. It was an email letting her know what her student loan bill would be that month. When Ginger saw the number, her mood spiraled downward into an immediate depression. It was well over five hundred dollars.
How the fuck am I supposed to come up with this money? She wondered what Latika would do under the same circumstances. Latika would certainly not allow herself to panic. She deserved to enjoy the night alone for a change.
Ginger tried to push the number out of her head and return to her dating app. She felt so wrong but she couldn’t help look at the veritable buffet of men before her eyes. And chances were, if she liked them they would like her too.
While scrolling through the profiles, Ginger felt as if she were slipping into a state of hypnosis. Nope. Nope. Nope. None of them seemed to have any appeal to her. All of a sudden Ginger came across one profile that stuck out to her. She felt magnetically drawn to this man for some reason and he was online right now. She’d clearly never met him before, but he seemed somehow familiar. His name was Zachary Grunewald. He had light brown hair and lightning-blue eyes; he looked like a young Leonardo DiCaprio. Maybe that was why he looked so familiar. Ginger swiped right to indicate her interest.
Her heart beating faster as she waited to see if they were a match. Why did she care so much? She was beginning to get distracted as she continued swiping through other profiles when she saw a notification pop up. You and Zachary have matched! Modern romance was funny. Ginger wasn’t sure if she should message him first or not.
But she didn’t have to wait.
“Hey, After checking out your profile I would like to get to know you better. I would love to call you and see if we are compatible,” the message read.
Confident, short and sweet. Ginger was instantly hooked. She couldn’t wait to receive a call from Zachary. He seemed antithetical to her boyfriend already. The fact that she was thinking that way should have told Ginger that it was already over between her and Tobias. She gave Zachary her number and waited eagerly for him to call her.
Within a few moments her phone rang.
“Hello, Is this Ginger Blair?” he asked.
“Yes. I assume this is Zachary?” Ginger responded.
That was all it took. They spent the rest of the evening on the phone flirting, chatting and getting to know each other better. It was the best and most unconventional first date that Ginger ever had.