What Was I Thinking?
By Nayanna Chakrbarty
Virtual friendship is the new trend of socializing in this modern fast-paced lifestyle. With a click of a button you log on to the worldwide network and meet millions of people spread over different continents. Common interests and hobbies draw you to each other and soon you wait for your friend, deciding on a suitable time each day to meet and share the ups and downs of life. It’s all so relaxed—there is no need to get dressed up or reserve a table in a fancy restaurant.
Twenty-eight year old Jerome was one such chat addict, whose life revolved around the cyber world. He was a private man living alone in a studio apartment, seldom leaving. When he did, it was to go to the supermarket for food, or to the dry cleaners. He required his clothes to be in perfect order when he had to enter the corporate world and market his creativity. His passion in life was to create stimulating virtual games with a touch of reality to accelerate an adrenalin rush, sitting in the comforts of one’s home.
In the chat room, he remained anonymous, preferring to use the nickname, “The_Hermit.” Although he was a veteran chatter, he preferred to have a small circle of friends. One night, he was working on a presentation when an unknown nickname messaged him.
“could you help me out?”
“I need your help, please? Is anyone there? Hello?”
“how can I help?”
“The nickname ‘Ride-With-Me’ is stalking me. He keeps writing lewd messages and I can’t get him to stop. I changed my nickname a couple of times but he tracks me down.”
“go to the tools button, click on commands and there’s an option called ‘Ignore.’ When you click on that, a box pops up and you type in his name. He won’t trouble you again.”
In this way, his friendship began with someone named Buttercup. Both did not openly disclose their real identity. Jerome briefly explained that he worked on computers while Buttercup revealed working in the confectionary industry. They communicated daily on the chat server and soon a year passed. They remained anonymous and yet continued to build a solid virtual friendship.
“Do you meet people from chat rooms in real life?”
“Hmm, only if it’s work related. Why do you ask?”
“Just wondered what it would be like to meet a man, I’ve been talking for a year? What you doing this Saturday?”
Jerome was leisurely enjoying his frosty beer when he read this, he almost choked. He coughed, turning red, spilling drops of it on his keyboard.
“Where did that come from?” he thought. “Virtual friendship is good, but meeting? We don’t have anything in common. Our professions differ, so what will I talk about when we come face to face?”
He didn’t want to be rude but at the same time, meeting would be a bad idea.
“Ah! Maybe some other time. I have an urgent matter to take care, this weekend.”
With that Jerome disconnected from the chat room.
The next day, Buttercup didn’t come online. Jerome kept looking for her nickname. He drummed his fingers on the keyboard, then on the table trying his talent to become a percussionist. Ordering a pizza, he sat and ate it in front of his monitor screen, hoping she would turn up. It was past midnight when he decided to focus on preparing a manual for his new spy game, but he couldn’t concentrate.
A week passed, and still there was no sign of her. Now Jerome felt guilty.
“It’s my fault. I bet she saw through my lame excuse. But I’m not getting involved with someone from the virtual world. We have nothing in common.”
He tried to justify his reasons for denying the rendezvous.
“But she has always been there for me, listened to my work strategy even though she had no clue about the technical terms, paid attention to my failures and the rejection letters. She’s been tremendously supportive and what have I done? I refused to meet her.” He kicked the dustbin under his worktable, venting his emotions.
Late that evening, Buttercup joined the chat room.
“I’m so sorry. Did I hurt your feelings the other day? I didn’t mean to. Let’s meet this weekend.”
“It’s quite alright. I know you have your hands full. My staff quit so I had to work overtime until I found suitable replacements. I don’t think meeting would be wise, we don’t know each other that well.”
“Oh, come on, you don’t mean that. I know I was being silly but I was just nervous.”
“Let me think about it.”
“If you still need to think, then it means that your feelings were hurt.”
“Alright, let’s meet tomorrow 6 pm at the Steaming Cup.”
Jerome felt a heavy weight lift off his chest. He didn’t want to lose this harmonious friendship that he had built.
“How will I recognize you? Send me your picture.”
“You’ll know when you lay your eyes on me.”
With that she logged off.
Jerome dressed in his best and was ready by 5pm. He was nervous because he hadn’t dated in a long time. He carefully shaved without any nicks and cuts and spent time styling his hair. He couldn’t decide if he should apply gel and create a new look, or let his natural curls do their own styling.
Standing in front of the mirror, he watched his facial expressions. He smiled checking his teeth, coughed to clear his throat and practiced on his opening welcome greet. “Welcome greet?” he thought. “I sound like the loading screen of my games.” He laughed.
Jerome arrived on time and found the place swarming with people. He couldn’t find an empty table and stood for a while at the entrance, making sure he was visible in case Buttercup had already found a seat. His eyes kept scanning for any signs that someone would recognize him, but all were busy talking and drinking beverages.
“I better go, she isn’t here. I feel awkward standing here.”
As he turned to leave, a woman stood up at the far end and waved to him. Jerome immediately walked up to her and smiled.
His palms were sweaty so he avoided shaking hands and nervously nodded, encouraging the woman to take her seat.
“This place is usually crowded at this time,” she said, smiling. “How are you?”
Jerome stared, wondering how wrong he was in creating her mental picture. He thought her to be an older woman, definitely on the heavier side as she kept telling him how she loved her job of creating new chocolates recipes for breads and puddings.
“So how’s work?” she asked, looking at him.
He was self-conscious and could feel his pulse racing, seeing a gorgeous woman looking into his eyes and showing an interest in him. They were about to order coffee when a large hand touched Jerome’s shoulder.
“Hi, sorry I’m late. I told George to watch for a well-dressed man at 5 pm and get him a table. He was on the phone when you walked in. But looks like you already got a table and a pretty lady,” said the man.
“Do I know you?” asked Jerome.
He couldn’t recall meeting this muscular guy before. The man smiled and pointed to his T-shirt. It was printed in bold-golden letters “BUTTER CUP.”
Jerome was stunned. He paused for a moment, looking at the man.
“Who are you then?” asked Jerome to the woman.
“Why did you invite me to your table?” He tried his best to take control of the confusion.
“I was just looking for company. You were alone so I waved to you,” replied Darlene, casually.
“Ah! That’s okay, Hermit. No harm done. Let this beautiful lady enjoy the table while I take you to my design studio — the kitchen,” said Buttercup, excited.
“You have to taste my new recipe for walnut cookies.”
Jerome followed him silently.
“Tell me Hermit, you thought I was a woman, didn’t you?”
“Naah! You — A woman? Never.”
Jerome tried to cover up the lie and glanced at gorgeous Darlene, sighed and walked into the kitchen.
Capturing the hearts and minds of every reader with sublime imagination is Nayanna Chakrbarty’s specialty. She provides solutions to every writing need. Her website www.original-writer.com truly reflects her creative nuances.