So, like the other singles of our current day, I dabble in the world of online dating. It’s been more of a social experiment for the last couple of years, with the unintentional side effects. For my thoughts on the social experiment known as online dating, see a previous post–this is not the one to dive into that rabbit hole. THIS post is about R262 and the lessons that I’m currently trying to learn from him.
[In an effort to protect identity–which, at this point is laughable, but you’ll understand soon why–I’m giving him a substitute name. On one hand, it’s a real dick move if I were to actually use his name in the re-telling of this story. On the other hand, it’s a real dick move what happened at the end of this story. One could make the argument that it was warranted, but there is so much in question right now. Ultimately, dear reader, you will learn as to why I should have the warning label of ASSHOLE. of course, this isn’t the only reason nor will it be the last reason–but be warned: I am an asshole.]
Hey. -he said
Hey. -I responded.
This is how our conversation began. It’s thrilling, I know. Unfortunately, we live in an age where language has been lazily knocked down to syllables and people endeavor to get to know each other by demonstrating the least amount of effort. I was at the point, at the beginning of the conversation with R262, of being tired of non-conversations and feeling as though I was pulling teeth just to get to know someone outside my circle of friends. [See alternate post: I am an introvert.]
Chit chat is not my forte but when R262 asked me how my day was going, I was feeling generous. Not in the magnanimous way, but more in the ‘I’m about to delete my online dating profiles and live alone in a house full of cats because I’ve given up on intelligent conversation” kind of way. I responded in some manner along the lines that my day was busy, the job that I have is fulfilling but keeps me on my toes, that I’m currently working on home improvements, etc. Something along those lines. I am not entirely sure, to be honest. Our conversations started slow–obviously. I reciprocated the question and he explained that he was busy with work, was looking for someone to talk to, was essentially interested in my profile because I seemed like a happy person. Newsflash, I am not a particularly happy person but I do have my moments of positivity. He went on to ask what I do for work, which I answered in a vague yet exact way: I work in a school–but I am not a superhero of a teacher. I’m the kind of paranoid that doesn’t want to tell exactly where I am at all times of day, you know–because privacy and all. Also, people be crazy. Again, I reciprocate the work question to him about work, and he tells me that he is an engineer. Ooh–now we’re getting somewhere. Engineering has always interested me, in the sense that the people who do it are generally very smart and logic based. I enjoy them.
Our conversations over the first few days were haltingly pleasant, as we both were rather involved with work and only chatted occasionally. He was polite. I think that was the draw for me. R262 would greet me and ask how my day was–every time we chatted. It was novel, and I enjoyed it. Over the course of our chats, we moved from the online dating site that we had met to an instant message platform that I’d never used before: KIK. (This is neither an endorsement or a discouragement for that platform–just an explanation as to our messaging system.) I’m hesitant to give out things like my phone number, because–again–people be crazy.
We went from occasionally chatting to chatting all throughout the day pretty quickly. He became the last text I would see at night, and the good morning message I would see the next day. We talked about our lives, our childhoods, our favorite foods, our religions. I supposed this was how you’d get to know someone.
Little things would come up in our conversations that would make me question, but often I would just brush it aside with the argument that maybe I shouldn’t be so skeptical. Little things regarding his current job–he was out of the country when we first began speaking, on an international project in Mexico. I knew he was an engineer, but I didn’t really know what kind. Instead, I knew that he took the contract so as to change his environment, to try to get over the death of his fiancé. Little turns of phrases would be said that I would need to explain, or he would ask in different ways. After probably a week of chatting, I learned English wasn’t his first language and that he was actually from the Netherlands. Little things would pop into our conversation that I would just rationalize and move on. Why? Because he was kind to me. Apparently, I’m a sucker for a kind word.
We began to talk about relationships and what we were looking for in that world, and he asked me pretty soon if I would close my account on the dating site. He explained that I was the one he was looking for, so he was doing the same. Well, sure–I mean, I was already ready to do it when I met him. So, why not? I talked to him about my anxiety with dating, explaining bits of my past and being honest about the state of my heart. [Refer to alternate post: Hello My Old Heart]
We exchanged photos and phone numbers, and even talked on the phone. He asked why I was shy on the phone and I tried to explain that speaking in real time had no delete button, that the anxiety was running high, and that I was afraid of sounding stupid. He reminded me that I was the one he was looking for, and that I needed to trust him. At one point, I asked him if he was real. Actually, I’m pretty sure I asked a few different times. It was the kindness; it wasn’t what I was used to.
Our conversations were innocent and joking, serious and flirty. I told him about my best friend’s wedding (which was in full swing during our chat times) and he told me about his weekend adventures with boats and beaches in the ever so sunny Mexico. He let me cry when I lost a friend and tried to be present for my grieving loved ones. We had good chats. His project was coming to an end and he was due to come back to town, and I was finishing with large stress projects and school was due to end. We both seemed genuinely excited to get to meet for real. All of this chatting —ALL OF IT— took place in a 2-3 week timespan.
The weekend of the Fourth of July holiday, he had trouble with his contract. The Mexican government (his client, technically) had delayed the project, delaying the inspection and ultimately his return to the US. He explained that he couldn’t leave until the project was inspected. Fair, I understood. He asked me if I could pick him up from the airport on the 4th, because “(mine) was the first face he wanted to see.” [Insert cheesy gag noises here. Sure sure, I mock… BUT I admit, I liked it.] I agreed, and we decided that as soon as he had flight info–he would forward so I knew when to be at the airport.
There were other things discussed, much to my own discomfort. I add this, dear reader, so that you might understand where I am coming from. I am an independent woman, with strong opinions and terrible self-confidence. It traces backwards pretty deep with me, and it will be something that I struggle with my entire life most likely. I am uncomfortable when people pay me compliments, most often because I don’t feel that I deserve them. Honestly. Refer back to my warning labels–these explain plainly why I don’t deserve them. There are far better people in the world than I–and it makes me uncomfortable when people try to get me to see that I’m not one of those outspoken warning labels. Slowly but surely, with a lot of prayer and counseling (and often whiskey) I am becoming more comfortable with myself. I say this because I am trying to explain why R262 seemed to become important to me in such a short time. I mean, I personally think that a month is a short time–don’t you?
So, the day before the holiday is oddly quiet from R262. The last we spoke, he was going to pack and get his plane tickets together. That was in the morning. I didn’t hear from him for the rest of the day. Normally, if I don’t text with my friends for an entire day–nothing bothers me about it. I go a week at times without talking to my best friends or my family. No big deal. I had been talking to R262 NON-STOP for a few weeks though, and radio silence made me worry. I reached out to my best friends and explained my worry, asking them to talk me down from it. They had, at this point, already heard me talk about him and were accustomed to my chatting with him. They told me not to worry. Then, Fourth of July came–and still no word from him.
Whenever someone pulls radio silence with me, whether intentional or unintentional, my brain immediately thinks the worst. I can be a fatalist; this is just how it goes. I worried that he had had an accident, or that his phone had been stolen (and the only contact that we’d had was through an app & a few phone calls). I’d worried that maybe he decided that he didn’t want to meet me after all (yes, my brain went there). I’d worried that he was hospitalized and unconscious in a foreign land where he didn’t know anyone. My brain went into overdrive. Well, in the afternoon, he finally text to tell me that something was wrong.
He had tried to make his plane reservations and found out that his debit card was not working. He contacted his bank, to find that his information was suspended due to fraud concerns. He, understandably, went into panic mode. Because it was a holiday, his US-based bank was making it more difficult on him to prove his identity and he was at a loss for what to do. He still had to finish paying his workers, and he didn’t have a way to exit the country.
Do you see where this is going?
Dear readers, I wanted to believe him. With all of my heart, I wanted to believe him. I looked into emergency financial assistance through the embassy, researched different transportation out of country, and even thought through different scenarios that he could pay off workers. He shot down each of my suggestions. I tried to be an emotional calm for him during this time, explaining that there HAD to be a solution and that he would surely think of it. In the meantime, his texts are getting more and more manic, the panic almost tangible. He was worried for his life; his workers were upset and violent. He would text early early and all through the day still, and I was stuck not knowing what to say to comfort him. Then, almost 24 hours after he tells me of the problem, he asks for help financially. I, as you well know, have no money. This is one of those lean times where I am budgeting and scraping to pay my monthly bills–often negotiating to pay one bill one month and another a different month. Newsflash: I am not Dave Ramsey. I’m just stuck in a play where I am covering a lot of bases for a lot of things, and not being compensated for it. Well, back to this nightmare. I couldn’t respond to him. I didn’t know how to tell R262 that I had no financial support for him, that I myself have been borrowing just to stay afloat for the recent months. All the anxiety built up in me, and I was–as the kids say–a hot mess. Again, I consulted my wise friends.
Every one of my friends told me not to lend him money. Every. Single. Person. I knew this already, I told them. Even if I didn’t know this, there was no money to lend. I ended up telling him that exact thing, that I would help if I could–but there was no way that I could.
My heart was breaking and my conscious weighed heavy. I had lost any appetite that I had, the churning in my stomach doing well to make me want to vomit at all times of the day. I wasn’t sleeping well, often waking up to check my phone and be sad at the messages found there.
For the first time in two years, I had an honest conversation with God. I explained what I was feeling, even though I know God knew that already. I prayed for safety, even though I had this growing doubt of the truth in the situation. I prayed for peace. Oh, how I prayed for peace. This whole relationship with God that I’ve been having for the last couple years has been tremulous at best, all by my own doing. I am a petulant child, who receives grace for more things than I will ever realize. But, during this time, I was acutely aware of the gift of peace I was receiving. My stomachache began to lessen, my constant headache weakened, and random people would give me hugs when I least expected it. I prayed for peace, and I received it with open arms.
One of the early morning texts spoke of our building something strong together in a relationship–of a future. It also spoke of his despair at living. He said that he would rather die by his own hands than at the hands of an angry mob.
Now, here’s where I am going to pause the story. You know, dear readers, that I do not take suicide lightly. As a writer that I most recently read succinctly described himself, and ultimately me as well: I am an ex-suicide. “I had the option of being dead. I do what I do because I had the option not to. I’m what’s called an ex-suicide.” [Dan van Voorhis, “Monsters”. Go check it out.] I am also a suicide survivor, meaning that I carry the blame and guilt of someone else’s suicide on my soul. That’s a ghost that I will bear forever, and possibly not a story meant for the online format. Just know that I do not take suicide lightly.
So, when he said these words to me, part of my brain went into reaction mode of “I need to fix this.” Yep, that’s right. I said the F word that has been long banned by my counselor. The other part of my brain went numb though, with the constant peace that had been wrapping itself around me turning on full force. I wept. I wept because I didn’t want him to feel that way. I wept because I didn’t believe him. I wept because I couldn’t fix anything. I wept because I couldn’t trust myself anymore with him. I responded to him that he would find a way home, and that he needed to fight for himself. I responded that he shouldn’t give up hope–even though I was giving up the hope that he was real.
He continued to text me after that, knowing that I had gone back to work after the holiday and that work was extremely busy. He was oddly repeating himself from days prior, to the copy & paste effect from things he had said before in an effort to get me to crumble my resolve and help him.
He didn’t know that I had given up.
You see, dear reader, I gave up on us. On building that elusive “strong relationship” that he spoke of. My ever so gracious friends who tolerated my own weeping surrounded me with love, and did their own versions of background checking on him. Things that they found out and informed me:
⁃ he had only created a Facebook account a month before I started talking with him
⁃ The screenshots & pictures that he had sent me of things (he had screenshot his bank app & passport–all to which, I responded THAT was a bad idea) were oddly close to being legit but just a little bit off in their own ways
⁃ his company that he owned had no actual roots/groundwork
⁃ his background story had no real substance
⁃ He had no friends or family to speak of, really–I asked. He had no one.
⁃ Embassies have emergency protocols for losing your passport, losing your money, losing your safety–all of which he argued that they couldn’t help him.
The end of it: I had already deleted my online dating account, but I went forward to delete my KIK account. I pulled the plug, without even an explanation. I researched how to actually block someone on my phone, and went through with it. I also sobbed, the entire time. Me, who better identifies with dogs and robots, sobbed as I closed this chapter of my story. It was a super short chapter, I realize, but it cut pretty deeply. If he was real, this was a pretty sensational thing to have happened to him–and I abandoned him. If he was not real, this was a pretty sensational story that I fell for for a long time. I had built an intimacy with someone who I’d never seen face to face, and now I’m ending that intimacy. For someone who struggles with that sort of thing, do you now see why I was sobbing?
Warning Label (of the story): I am an asshole.