Catfish

My phone vibrated, it was him.

My stomach fluttered, blood was pumping around my body- “play it cool” -I told myself.

I didn’t. I tried to seem unaffected, impartial but, I’ve never been known for my acting. He knew, he always had done.

We attempted small talk, poorly. We discussed the past, the things that we had said to one another. I love this man, I do. But, I never knew that I even had it in me to be as cruel as I had been to him. It was pent up emotion, passion, raw feelings- but it didn’t make it right. I had said some unforgivable things. He wasn’t perfect either. Oh, he loved to sit on the moral high ground, but he was a liar, I had found him out.

Our relationship was a peculiar one. I had have never met this man, not in person. We met online. It wasn’t a dating site, more mere coincidence. We spoke for days, weeks, months. Gradually, I began to fall for him. He had this knack with words. Whatever I was feeling, he could articulate, he made me feel as if we were one. It was like we were soul mates. We clicked, we truly did. I know how it ended, but I stand by it- we had a connection, something that we could not have faked.

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“Love is the wisdom of the fool and the folly of the wise.”

We fought a lot. He was frustrated that I was unable to meet him. I was frustrated with my circumstances for not allowing me to meet him, but I was more annoyed with his inability to understand. We made up, we always made up. Had we known one another in person, I know that we would have had incredible make up sex. Our relationship was filled with passion. It sounds strange, as it was conducted through phone calls, by texts and over the Internet- but it was.

What we had was electric. He rang me every spare moment of every day and I devoured it. A five minute phonecall here and there if that was all that we could manage. I couldn’t get enough. We opened up to one another.

It sounds ridiculous. It was ridiculous! But here was this man that I had never met, that I felt I could trust. Completely and utterly. But I could not.

I went on holiday to France where I was unable to speak to him. On my return I was foaming at the bit, desperate to get in touch with him. We hadn’t spoken in what felt like an eternity. I missed him, so much. He was distant. Something was not right. He was polite and nice and all the things that he had been before…but now, well, something was not the same and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

After endless discussions with friends, I researched this man that I loved. I was certain that I would find nothing that I did not already know. We had had one particular conversation that stuck out in my mind where he gave me his address, his work and home numbers, everything. Merely as proof that he could trust me and that he could be trusted. Of course, I believed him. I never rang these numbers nor did I turn up at his house, but I believed.

It turned out that his name was not what he had said it was. Why he lied to me, I do not know. I get it- meeting someone online is risky, especially considering that we didn’t meet on a dating site or through any regulated means; it was just random. I understand, I truly do, why someone would give a fake alias. But, why after a day, a week, a month, why did he never come clean to me? I could have researched more, but I didn’t want to. This was enough.

Everything had been a lie.

My heart stopped. I could feel a lump forming at the back of my throat. I wanted; so desperately, for it to be a mistake or a misunderstanding- but it wasn’t. Tears began to roll down my face. I became hysterical. The sort of breathless, hiccup sobbing that spirals out of control. I was a wreck. I never get like this, never. Yet here I was, I had let my guard down for a man who it turned out I never even knew. I had been conned. He had stolen my feelings, my secrets, my time. He had taken a part of me; my innate trust and my hope.

Maybe it was just his name that he had lied about. Perhaps, things had gotten too far, too quickly and it became impossible for him to admit even such a small, but important thing. Or, as I fear, I had unraveled only the tip of the iceberg. I saw him on Skype, I knew he wasn’t an 80 year old man. But maybe he was married with children? I can’t imagine why he would lie. I don’t want to know.

Ignorance is bliss.

I knew enough. He was able to lie, he lead a double life. I couldn’t trust him, I can’t. Who knows the sins and secrets that he was concealing? This man who I poured my soul out to.

With hindsight, I am so relieved that I never went to see him. So relieved that I never made myself vulnerable in a way that I myself could never have imagined. I would have though, if not for my circumstances. I cursed the fact that I was unable to meet him, but now I see that it was a blessing in disguise.

I was upfront about my discovery. I had him up on it, during the conversation when I lost it, when I said vicious things and abused the trust he had once had in me. I brought up things he had told me in confidence but, maybe they were also all a lie? A means of making me believe him, of making me open up about myself. I tried to second guess his reaction. Shame? Excuses? Apologies? Perhaps a wholly logical explanation? No. He wasn’t surprised, he wasn’t defensive, he didn’t even apologise. I was numb. Who was this man that I was talking to?

He had been so smart, so clever, so funny- everything that I could ever have wanted and hoped for in a man. It was too good to be true.

I felt sick to my stomach. When I think back on it, I still do. I wanted to wake up from this nightmare, to go back to loving and trusting him.

This betrayal is unique. My friends weren’t there for me, not really. “You can’t love someone that you’ve never met, you’re clearly hormonal!” One of them joked. “What do they say about talking to strangers? Even your mother told you this when you were seven…” Another teased. I was faced with scepticism, confusion and an inability to understand. I don’t blame them, I know how it sounds. I was a fool, but its not that easy. You can fall for someone you haven’t met- or the person they portray themselves to be, at any rate.

I will never know how much of what we had was real or not. I don’t know if I ever saw any of the real man or if it was all an act. I don’t know what his game was, what he was trying to gain or what his purpose was. I dread to think.

I’m here to tell the tale and for that I am grateful. I’m a little bruised and a little less trusting, but maybe that isn’t a bad thing.

But, here he is, ten months after the ordeal, texting me again.

It’s funny how your heart can take you straight back to feelings that you’ve been suppressing, forgetting and moving on from for so long. Still there is no sorry, no explanation, no shame. He thinks he can saunter back into my life with a joke and a trip down memory lane. But he can’t. He’s a liar, an actor, a conman.

I am not a stupid girl, I have my wits about me, I’ve heard the scary stories and I live a normal life. Yet here I was in this predicament, living a nightmare of betrayal, confusion and deception. Just remember; if something is too good to be true, it normally is.

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