…but neither knows. That could get awkward. Like most things in my life, I find this out, the hard way, of course.
Once upon a time, or on or around March 12th of this year, I was doing some traveling in Southern California. I can generally take or leave Tinder, especially when I’m out of town and the ratio of men who will consider me solely hookup material exponentially increases due to the distance. But, ya know, sometimes a girl gets bored and starts swiping. So I did.
And what do we have here? A cute blond gent with only 3 pics (2 in sunglasses, one kind of blurry) and little profile information. Probably bad news (comes off as signs of trying to be surreptitious), but I’ll give it a go. It’s just a swipe.
We match and he immediately reaches out with a somewhat questionable remark about my height (I’m tall) that confused me in whether it was meant to be disparaging or not. He immediately apologized and chastised himself for knowing that cheesy jokes don’t translate well via message sometimes. And then said he was glad we both went right. I thought that was endearing.
Owen and I clicked right away. He said he was separated with a toddler daughter, and while he is stationed in California (he’s military), his estranged wife lives across the country on the east coast. It’s “amicable.” I thought I’d get the cold shoulder when I told him I’m just visiting and actually live 2,200 miles away from him, but that didn’t appear to rattle him. We added each other on WhatsApp expeditiously and bantered a while. Unfortunately, that was my second to last night in town and I wasn’t able to adjust my plans in time to see him that night or my last one. But I wanted to.
When I got back home, he said he hoped he’d hear from me again sometime. I asked if that’s a hint that we should stop talking unless I’m back in the area, and he said of course not.
From that point on, it was pretty much 0-60 really quickly. Besides being good looking, he was charming and communicative and smart. He always matched my level of interest and enthusiasm when I would gush over him, and vice versa. He made me feel secure and pretty and blushy and googly-eyed. He seemed to make a valiant effort to talk to me even when he was running around and/or busy at work. He made me smile. There was some serious chemistry in the air.
On March 31, I officially booked a ticket back out there to see him in the first week of May. We planned a 4-day extended weekend together and both seemed to look forward to it in equal measure as the days counted down.
But there was one snag that occurred in the immediate weeks preceding the trip. He had warned me once that he might disappear for days at a time, but not to be worried. By “disappear” he meant not be available on WhatsApp if he doesn’t have cell service or something. He’s in the military, so it didn’t seem too out of the ordinary.
But starting the weekend 3 weeks before my trip, and continuing throughout the week approaching the 2-week mark, he was nowhere to be found. His “Last Seen” was like the preceding Friday. I let it go for a few days but then once we started getting to Wednesday…then Thursday…I genuinely started thinking something was wrong. Especially since my latest messages were only going through with one check mark, meaning they hadn’t even been delivered. And I wasn’t blocked or anything. He had never been MIA for THAT long and I was wondering why my messages weren’t going through – did he die or something?
So on Thursday I started trying his actual phone number. Of course I knew it since it’s connected to his WhatsApp account, but we had never texted outside of WhatsApp so it felt slightly “out of place” doing that. But I didn’t know what else to do. I asked if he was okay. No answer. I called and his phone rang at first, but he didn’t pick up. When I called again some time later, it was completely off.
I figured maybe it was some extended work thing but something still didn’t seem right about it. We were still matched on Tinder and I checked from time to time and would see his location updating by several miles, so clearly his phone is not off? I finally messaged him on there and told him I think something shady is going on – that this doesn’t seem quite normal. No answer there either.
On Friday night, my friend Hannah suggested I give her his number so she could call and see if he answered a number he didn’t recognize. Entirely confident that nothing would come of it because he’s a magical, upstanding gentleman and it just MUST be work, I said, Sure, give it a go.
Oh, but answer he did. Hannah asked for a random name and he said she had the wrong number. She said he sounded normal and not like he was in dire straits. Yikes. I was incredulous: What do you mean HE ANSWERED!? Hannah felt bad, because we both knew the writing was on the wall at that point. This ain’t good.
So I did what any
reasonable crazy girl would do and I called him myself, except I used an app that can spoof your caller ID to another number so he wouldn’t know it was me. He answered and I was basically like WTF?! He gave me some story about losing his phone and not having had the chance to download WhatsApp yet on his new one. Um…okay. I’m only flying out there in 2 weeks, maybe you should actually download our main avenue of communication, but no big deal.
I implored him to let me know if this was some sign I shouldn’t come – the trip was exactly 2 weeks out at that point. Just let me know now so I can cancel my ticket. He assured me he still wanted me to come see him. And he insisted on downloading WhatsApp right then and was back online and reading my latest messages even before we were off the phone.
We messaged some after the call and he apologized for being inconsiderate. Crisis averted I guess. Maybe for once I’m actually not dealing with an asshole. MAYBE.
That next week, on Wednesday, I checked in to see how his day was going. He tells me about a work activity he is participating in and that was pretty much that. At that point I’m flying out in 10 days or so, so I don’t really feel the need to hound him. A couple of days pass with no contact and now it’s 7 days to go. I don’t hear from him throughout the whole weekend. Starting to feel antsy, I text him on Sunday that he’s making me nervous.
On Monday, I start texting his actual phone again because I am starting to get anxious. How about some freaking contact when I’m flying out there in 4 days?
Commence train wreck on Tuesday. He sends me this long-winded text that evening about his mom having had a stroke and how he had been back in his home state since the preceding week. She will be fine but the stroke will be “life changing for her” and he has been “dead to the world.”
Needless to say, the trip was off. His poor mom, right?
Or not. See, the problem in the midst of this all going down, is that I was participating in some profession-related events and some steady drinking had ensued. So while I knew something wasn’t quite right, I wasn’t in the right mindset to put my finger on it immediately. But what I did definitely do was manifest my anxiety and suspicion over the situation in the form of many nonsensical tipsy texts that night and over the next day or so basically asking for the truth and why he’s being like that.
He got pissed (understandably – I did go off the rails a little bit with the texts) and kicked me to the curb. He said the last 2 days have “scared” him and he realized we’re not compatible and we should just consider this a “disaster averted.”
Now, realizing I did act a little crazy, when I sobered up in the waning days of the week, I tried to explain and apologize but he was having none of it. He “didn’t see a future” and maintained that we were done.
I let that sit for a day or so and then after going over everything, I realized what was wrong:
He had told me, in reference to his mother’s “stroke” that he had been back home since the previous Tuesday. But if you recall, I talked to him on the previous Wednesday. He was normal and said he was at work, basically. So how the hell were you back home since Tuesday if you were across the country at work on Wednesday? HMMMMM…
I brought that little tidbit up and started getting more confrontational because I knew something was wrong here and it wasn’t some stupid flurry of drunken texts. It started to occur to me that this guy might not be who he says he is and/or is actually married after all. Long story short…the next 2 weeks or so (off and on) consisted of me confronting him about his marital status or being a liar, and him being evasive and blocking me on any number or medium I contact him from, including all the ghost numbers I would text him from (modern technology is grand!) since he had blocked my real # and WhatsApp. Yeah…I was acting a little crazy, but I knew something wasn’t right and I just wanted the truth.
It pretty much just became a fucked up cat-and-mouse game of me pressing him and him downplaying the extent of our involvement, insisting that I leave him alone, or telling me he’ll get a restraining order or contact my job, etc. He was actually sort of vicious, like a cornered wild animal. It was actually very bizarre, really, how much of a 180 he did and it only bolstered my curiosity. Besides all that, I looked up his name, his number, reverse image searched…tried to find anything I could about the identity he gave me. I found nothing.
I did end up still going to California to see my brother. I tried not to, but I called Owen from my hotel to see if there’s any chance we could meet and talk in person, but I never heard from him. Surprise, surprise.
Eventually, I exhausted myself and gave up. May 20 had been the last time we talked. I let it go and tried my best to forget about it, although I was still puzzled. But what could I do?
In the first week of June, I noticed something peculiar – that he had unblocked me on WhatsApp. I was looking through archived conversations and realized I could see his picture and “Last Seen” again. Hmm. Very curious. He had made no effort to reach out, but he did pointedly unblock me. I tried not to give him the satisfaction of saying anything to him, but I did eventually, in the spirit of being catty, advise him that he might want to re-calibrate his security settings or whatever because I seem to be unblocked. I checked every once in a while to see if he had read it, but he hadn’t been on for a bit. I figured he’d just block me again once he saw I said something to him…didn’t care.
And then one fateful Wednesday night in mid-June, I was in bed asleep. At midnight on the dot, my phone rings. It’s an out-of-state number I don’t recognize. I’m half asleep and don’t know who it is and don’t really feel like talking so I don’t answer. Maybe 10-ish minutes later, my phone rings again. This time it’s a blocked number. And that’s when I started to sense the distinct vibe of a raging maelstrom of bullshit on the horizon. I pick up without saying anything and listen to see who it might be. No one says anything for about 10 seconds or so, so I hang up.
About 10 minutes after that, the original out-of-state number calls back. *Sigh* Alright, let’s just get on with whatever dumpster fire this is about to be…
And guess who it was? A woman wanting know why my number shows up so many times on her husband’s phone bill. Who is your husband? She recites a phone number and it’s Owen’s. Only she’s saying a different name from Owen’s. A completely different first and last name from the one he gave me.
I was confused about the name and wanted to make sure we were talking about the same person, so she was kind enough to text me the cutest little family photo of she and their daughter greeting him when he got back from deployment a few months before. Yep – definitely him.
And that’s when the fun started…