David Wycislak

March 1998

"I wait all day for my sailor... and sometimes he comes..."
-- Song For Eric, Tori Amos

Greetings, Thoughtful Reader. I realized on January 16 (one day after the writers' deadline for the February issue) that I should have written something about love, being that February has Valentine's Day and all that. Instead, I wrote about going to get my first blood test -- which, looking back, seems really awful to me. Not the experience, but my writing for last month. I just seem to go on and on... anyway, if you didn't already e-mail me to find out, the results were negative, and since I can't really think of much to write about St. Patrick's Day (unless I digress on the attraction I have for a few Irish men...), I will use March for my Valentine's Day column. Yes, somewhat twisted and wrong -- but so is life.

So as I write this, it is not yet Valentine's Day, and I am sad. Why? Yesterday I was in love. Today the target of my love is gone. Yes, Cupid's arrow has gone astray and has grazed me right on the heart, only to have the wound get infested and fester.

So this month I will tell you a tale of woe, a tale of untruths, a tale of betrayal -- and what's more, a tale of the most powerful love I've ever felt for any person on this earth. And how I found out that my love was given to a phantom.

I met Ash in the middle of October in an America Online chat room. We talked, we joked, and we did everything that normal, sane people do in such chat rooms (i.e. -- we didn't exchange dick size on our first meeting). I liked him from the beginning -- not as a possible lover, but as a wonderfully witty, funny person I'd like to hang around with on AOL in the future.

Over the next month, I talked to him when I could, and eventually I realized that I was falling in love with him. I kept it to myself -- I had told people online that I was falling in love with them before (twice, friends -- this doesn't happen often, and I don't consider AOL my main cruising spot) and they rejected me. I went out of my way to talk to Ash -- at the time, there was no computer at our house so I drove 40 minutes to my grandpa's office in the middle of the night to talk to him. My efforts paid off -- one night Ash said that he was falling in love with me.

So the next month was absolute bliss. I was in love, I was being loved back. Yes, I was somewhat cautious, knowing that online love often doesn't work out, but he was so wonderful -- thoughtful, generous, caring, intelligent -- and he had a pretty nice picture, too. We entertained thoughts of the future, of meeting and falling in love, and living together, two gay men in love, spitting in the face of conservative society. When I was having a bad day, I thought of him. When some sort of good fortune fell upon me, I thought of him. Cautious as I was, I found my life was immersed with thoughts of this wonderful man -- and I didn't care. Because it was not puppy love, it was not some silly crush -- I was truly in love with him.

The main drawback: Ash's past as a gay basher. The story went like this: he was raised in a conservative Southern family, and grew up a little asshole punk, sometimes going out with four or five of his friends and finding a gay man to beat up and humiliate. He was put into a situation where for revenge on an ex-fiancee he took her brother to bed -- and discovered that he liked what he did to him. So over the years his sexual orientation blossomed, and he felt more and more guilty over what he had done to other gay men. So he was bursting with self-hate, and wanted desperately to die.

In response to this news I was, of course, taken aback. But the man Ash described was not the man I had come to know -- but Ash would not accept that. One night online he said he wanted to break it off so he'd have no ties to the world when he killed himself.

That night I spent hours trying to talk Ash out of killing himself, I cried like I had never cried before. I could not imagine how I could go on without him -- he was an integral part in my life, and I couldn't allow him to kill himself. I succeeded that night, convincing him that he was loved by me and I wouldn't let him kill himself -- and I was so relieved. And so saddened that the man I love hated himself so much.

And things went on as usual until last night. He said he wanted to break up with me for my own good. I asked him why. We went through all his self-hating spiel, and how he didn't deserve me, until he told me something that absolutely stunned me. There was no Ash. He was a 21 year old closeted college student named Eric with a weight problem, and according to him, the result of his appearance was a life of rejection -- and so he created a new identity for himself online, not intending to fall in love with me. Everything he told me was either a lie, a half-truth, or, in the case of his emotions, the truth.

Now, the possibility exists that Ash really does exist, and that he made up the entire Eric thing to scare me away. But I don't know. Ash/Eric told me how his phone number in Seattle was only a voice mail line, using a company called JFax (http://www.jfax.com). I looked up the Virginia address he gave me in an online phone book. It belonged to a Mail Boxes, Etc. He had told me that he only had one phone line -- and I called his phone line while he was online, and he heard the phone ring. It was a cellular phone. His entire life as a lawyer in Virginia was a lie. I haven't checked on it, but I don't particularly want to. My Ash doesn't exist anymore. He's either been replaced by this man, Eric, or another form of Ash who doesn't care how much he hurts me, as long as I'll hate him so he'll have a reason to kill himself.

The outcome: I still love Ash with all my heart. I'll never stop, even if he never really existed. Yes, I will move on, find other people, but I spent a month and a half actually truly happy because of the man who never was. And I will never forget that.

And sometimes you still might catch me imagining my life together with him.

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