Photo by Femi Aaron
Camara Aaron is an Aries. She is also a writer and filmmaker, based in New York City. She is curious about Black histories and near futures, how the digital interacts with our IRL connections, and (most of all) how to love well. She graduated from Yale University in 2021, where she studied film & media. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Stop swiping. Find your better half.
“What’re you looking for?”
Heather wiped her face with her shirt. The city was sweltering, the sun burning her like a slap on the back. She looked up and saw Kamari holding his hands over her. Side by side, they made a makeshift cover.
“I mean, in general,” he prodded.
“The usual,” Kamari laughed as she adjusted to fit under his sliver of shade. “Somebody on my level.”
It was why she downloaded MatchMade two weeks ago. Six Hot Girl Summers had passed her by. There wouldn’t be a barren seventh. Plus, her friend Alicia swore by it and Alicia was really picky.
He opened the door for her when they reached the gallery. Inside, the art was as sun-bleached as the street. It was an interpretation of the desert, Kamari explained. Her phone trilled, interrupting him: MatchMade’s tone. She couldn’t check it with him right there. She followed him to the first painting. When he moved closer, she glanced at her screen.
You’ve been upgraded. Read more.
Alicia said the app did this automatically, optimizing your matches as new users entered the pool. Heather skimmed her home page. Four days earlier, she found Kamari. There was a new face now: shiny teeth and blond hair.
She clicked the banner.
This new match better reflects your level of education.
It made Heather’s stomach hurt. She kept her voice casual as she asked, “Where’d you go to school again?”
Kamari looked back at her, then down at the phone in her hand. She didn’t move to hide it. “I didn’t,” he shrugged.
She rocked in place. “I’m going to keep looking around,” she said. Kamari nodded. She almost didn’t move with him watching her. But then, he turned back and she drifted away.
She settled alone on the opposite side of the gallery. The back of her neck burned. She was allowed to want better for herself, wasn’t she? Without meaning to, her gaze slid off the art and to Kamari.
“I never got modern art.” She wasn’t alone anymore. A blond man stood next to her. Her upgrade recognized her recognizing him and smiled. “So, what do you do?”
There wasn’t much information on MatchMade profiles to make people open up, but Heather felt herself cross her arms. She uncrossed them. “I’m a medic.”
She knew it was nothing to be ashamed of. It was a good job, helping people, but she felt his wince more than saw it.
“That’s…” He trailed off, glancing past her. Heather followed his gaze. Behind her, there was another woman examining another painting. She was taller, thinner, paler than Heather. “That’s intense.” He finished, landing back on her.
He was optimizing, beating the algorithm to the punch, seeing if anybody better was there.
When she told Kamari her job, he nodded. “You have a healing touch. I can sense it.” At the time, she ignored it as flirtation or maybe, a poet’s tendency towards flourish. Her work was lonely and brutal. She tended to people at their most desperate. But now, she appreciated that when he said it, he drew closer. Most people pulled back.
“I’m actually here with somebody,” Heather told her upgrade. She walked away, spine straight. But when she reached Kamari, her hands were sweaty. Who was she to doubt the app?
She couldn’t decide how to approach him. So, she stared at the painting, bands of pale pink the same color as his palms, searching for what fascinated him.
He stood, knees cracking, and she finally spoke. “I never asked. What are you looking for?”
Kamari stretched his hips. “I’m still figuring that out.” He started for the next painting and Heather fell in step with him.
“You know, me too.”
Torch Literary Arts is a 501(c)3 nonprofit established to publish and promote creative writing by Black women. We publish contemporary writing by experienced and emerging writers alike. TORCH has featured work by Toi Derricotte, Tayari Jones, Sharon Bridgforth, Crystal Wilkinson, Patricia Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Elizabeth Alexander, and others. Programs include the Wildfire Reading Series, writing workshops, and retreats.