He is online, and that pleases me beyond what words can describe. It is time to travel the last mile. Quickly I send a greeting to his inbox. He doesn’t respond immediately, but I know he has read my message.
This posturing is part of our ritual cum mating dance. He is the alpha male, fully crested and aware of his irresistible allure, and I am the stricken mate, mostly ignored, sometimes tolerated, but drawn all the same to his bright colors. It usually takes an average of thirty minutes for him to acknowledge the first greeting, so I look at my watch and settle down to wait. I know the rules of this queer game, I know that they may vary a bit from time to time, and I also know that they never really change.
His reply comes in just after thirty two minutes and I smile as I read. In my head I can hear the condescending tone of his carefully selected words. I respond and wait again, assured that this time the reply won’t take as long. It doesn’t, comes in just twenty minutes. Like a game of shrinking tennis we go back and forth, the time between each query and reply gradually reducing, until it becomes almost a normal conversation.
It started as a stupid challenge, after I’d accused him of being a serial flirt, a shallow and emotionally infantile guy who wouldn’t be taken serious by any grown woman. We’d been twitter friends for a couple of months and though I liked him at first for his cool updates, I had grown frustrated with his incessant and indiscriminate flirting. In retrospect, I regret going in on him that hard, but in fairness to me that was what he was. Somehow the allegation must have hurt his ego, and real bad too. Maybe it also revealed something I’d been trying to hide from him because as part of his rebuttal we had a bet that if he started flirting with me, I would eventually fall. Of course I totally disagreed, secure in my ability to guard my heart and a wager was set – a nude selfie, to be submitted by the loser. Agreeing to the bet was another stupid move on my behalf, but I did.
He would wake me up in the mornings with one romantic text message and send me to sleep at night with another. During the day he wrote and sent the most amazing poetry I’d ever read, all dedicated to me. Suddenly work at the venom research facility didn’t look so boring; I had something to tickle me at lunch. His words were soaked in passion and oozed of affection, and he would call just to sing me love songs. I would sometimes respond in kind, laughing at the silliness of the charade. It was all just a game wasn’t it?
For twelve months we dueled, and he grew more and more intense in his declarations. He stopped flirting with all his other online interests and focused solely on me, something I’d always believed was beyond him. He told me the most endearing things, and devoted all of his free time to making me feel extra special. I became the only girl in his world.
The barrage went on for so long that somehow, somewhere along the line, I slipped.
Now before you start crucifying me, I swear it was so subtle that I didn’t notice the point where I started believing his words. Things changed, and to me it became more than a game, especially as his fervor never wavered. Having been single for more than three years must have unconsciously taken its toll on my reserve. I wanted to ask him if indeed he had changed but I didn’t want to look foolish, so I never did. How he managed it wasn’t clear, but he had gotten under my skin.
One day he drew and sent me a picture, a woman, and named it ‘you’. He drew another one, a man, and named it ‘me’. Then he drew a road, a long and winding road, along which ‘you and me’ walked till they found a heart shaped house painted bright red. Above the house hung a sign, on which was written in beautiful lettering, ‘love’. This he sent to me.
It was a message and I understood what he was trying to say. So I drew and sent a unicorn in return, it had a garland of roses around its neck, and three bold letters painted on its side.
Five minutes later he sent a wildly laughing smiley, ‘LOL’ and ‘GOTCHA’ and he was gone.
All my subsequent messages went ignored, and he didn’t pick my calls. Only then did it dawn on me that he’d never stopped playing the game.
His face haunted my dreams, and the sound of his voice in my head drove me to distraction. I missed him bad, and read all his messages again with tears in my eyes, wishing I hadn’t been outsmarted just like that. Yes it was supposed to be a game, but I had fallen under his spell before I could help myself. It had been a game all right, but I had allowed my heart to get drawn out. I had flown too close to the flames, and my wings had been burned.
I had foolishly gambled with my heart and lost. I felt bad, but a bet was a bet, so I honored the agreement and sent him the picture as earlier agreed. He never acknowledged receipt.
Three months after our last conversation, he ‘leaked’ the entire story and my picture on twitter.