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In April of my twenty-fourth year, I have still never been on a real date, so my long-distance best friend Evangeline convinces me to make a Hinge profile, coaching me through it over the phone so I won’t chicken out. I then get my roommate Anna and friend Chloe to make them too, in solidarity.

“We’ll get summer boyfriends and dump them in the fall,” we say. The real soulmates will be the friends we dragged with us along the way.

Anna matches with an emo guy. Chloe a finance bro. Evangeline a dude who lives 200 miles away, accidentally. Me? Two Italian Jersey boys, who I see on alternating dates for a few weeks. Make them duke it out in my mind. “What is this, Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It? I want to tweet but don’t.

It becomes like this video game I had in high school, Harvest Moon, where I played a young farmer and tried to simultaneously woo all three eligible women so I could have my pick of the lot, postpone the long-term decision. But it was exhausting, and I couldn’t earn the four heart points needed to make any of them fall for me, as if each knew she was not my only pursuit. You have to stop seeing other people long before you decide to stop seeing other people.

In May, I let the first Italian Jersey boy down gently, over a text that Anna helps me draft on our way to the gym. I’m all in with the second boy, now; we kiss under a blue umbrella in Washington Square Park, take the ferry to Dumbo for pizza, and tour the ruins of a smallpox hospital on Roosevelt Island. He invites me to his 25th birthday party, where he introduces me to his friends, and I stay after everyone else leaves.

Anna finds out emo guy has a truck while on a date that also ends with an umbrella kiss. I tell her she has to date him until they reach the level where she can call in favors for her friends, like helping me transport this bookshelf I really want from IKEA to our apartment. She laughs, agrees.

I bring my boy over after a long walk through the park where he tells me I should hold his hand in public more often. He charms everyone he meets, including Anna, and when he leaves, she tells me: “I think my guy is a summer boyfriend. I think yours is a keeper.”

Chloe comes over to bake cookies, and I hold her hand while we sit on the floor and dish the drama. Her finance bro drinks too much, she says, and also talks about flying her home to meet his mom in China. Oh god, is he falling in love with her?

Meanwhile my summer boyfriend target is leaving for the rest of summer, flying to Rome at the end of June. I now see the fatal flaw in my plan. Before he goes, I tell him I’m not seeing other people. He tells me maybe I should.

“Did I just get dumped?” I ask Chloe on the day of his flight. “By a boy who would say we never even dated?” I third-wheel with her and finance bro; we get drinks at a wine bar and go see the new Men in Black movie, and I let him pay, the gentleman.

Evangeline calls to complain that she’s only been on one date with her dude. I tell her she shouldn’t have gotten a long-distance summer boyfriend, then open Facebook messenger to see if my boy has been online lately. Anna observes as I go out with a few other Hinge boys, but none of them are viable summer boyfriend candidates when we’re already in July.

Summer’s officially gone to rot when Chloe tells me she’s leaving the city after her lease is up at the end of August. Couldn’t get a good job, and it’s too expensive and disheartening to live here without one, even though her finance bro never made her feel bad about it, never asked her to pay (though she’d often volunteer). She wears her nicest dress to a fine-dining dinner she knows will be their last. Eva tells me she’s thinking of giving up on her dude, who she’s only met twice and hasn’t even kissed yet. Long distance was too much for them too soon.

Anna lands a new job in Indianapolis, so she’s leaving me, too. Her guy tells her he talked to his therapist about her and the future of their relationship. She admits she’s moving and ends it. Our third roommate tells me she’s moving in with her boyfriend uptown, and here I am alone again, exhausted by the prospect of the search.

My boy messages back with his return flight information and a proposed date. And I wish I had washed this boy right out of my hair. But we meet for a picnic with strawberries in the park, he says he missed me, and my heart points skyrocket, so we agree to stop seeing other people.

“Do you want to beat the other boys off with a stick or should I do it?” I ask. He doesn’t get the joke.

My late-summer boyfriend becomes a fall boyfriend who helps me pick up that bookshelf from IKEA, becomes a winter boyfriend I tell my mom about, becomes a spring boyfriend I spend my first week of quarantine with, becomes a summer boyfriend again—this time for real—becomes a fall boyfriend, becomes a winter boyfriend, becomes a spring boyfriend, becomes, is becoming, became.