I met Richard on a dating app called Suited. I know, my friends have never heard of it, either. They all called it sketchy, claimed they didn’t trust anything with fewer than ten reviews in the app store.
But Tinder specialized in hookups and — although I considered myself an independent woman — I had zero interest in being forced to make the first move on Bumble.
So I searched elsewhere. After downloading and deleting about a dozen obscure apps, I finally stuck to Suited. Mostly because I started talking to Richard and for some unknown reason, he refused to give out his phone number, so we continued speaking exclusively over the app.
I mean, it’s not like it made much of a difference. The app notified me whenever he sent a message, so it was like we were texting. It was like we were a normal couple.
What difference did it make if he never sent me an actual text? If he never called me on my cell? If he refused to use Skype, but never hesitated to use the video chat included in the dating app?
I could still see him face-to-screen. I could still hear his slight accent. I could still trust him.
We never went on any official dates, because we lived miles apart, but we set aside an hour after work (and three hours on weekends) to talk. About my catering job. About my night classes. About my big city dreams.
He mostly listened, throwing in a comment or a laugh here and there. When he talked about his life, he stuck to simple topics — his dog and his dinner plans.
He was quiet. So what? Doesn’t every woman want that? A good listener? My friends should’ve been jealous. Happy for me.
Instead, they winced at every story I told them, assuming he was playing me. That he was trying to get something out of me. Or that he was catfishing me, plain and simple.
God… I miss the days when I thought being catfished was the worst thing that could possibly happen to me. When I thought a little bit of mace would protect me from getting raped and murdered by a man thirty years older than the one I was set to meet.
That’s not what happened, of course. He wasn’t lying about his name or his dog or his job. He wasn’t even lying about his age. Not really.
After three months of criticism from my friends, my suspicion got the best of me, so I booked a ticket to London. I needed to meet him, just to prove them wrong.
I didn’t see any reason to keep waiting, anyway. I had the money for the plane, for meals, and for a hotel room if he wanted to keep it old-fashioned. (He never even tried to sext and never asked me to send nudes either. A perfect gentleman.)
I was halfway to the airport, inside of an Uber with a shit-ton of leather suitcases, when I told him the good news. That I was on my way. That I’d be on his stoop by the next morning.
I didn’t receive the reaction I had hoped for. There weren’t any exclamation points or heart emojis. No nervousness or excitement. Instead, he begged me to turn the car around. Told me he hoped I could get a refund on the ticket.
“You don’t understand,” he said. “If you fly to London, I won’t be there.”
That’s when he admitted that he actually lived in the same country as me. The same state. The same neighborhood. After I initiated a video call to curse him out, near tears, he told me where I could find him.
So I had the Uber rerouted.
As we drove, he explained. That he had won some sort of contest and was given a special phone (with the app and only the app available on the screen for him to use) as a prize, along with a select group of people. That it was part of some classified research study run by the government. He wasn’t allowed to tell anyone about it. About me.
Then he dropped the biggest piece of bullshit a boy had ever tried to use to ghost me. That he wasn’t from my time.
“We can never meet,” he claimed. “It wouldn’t be physically possible. Our timelines don’t cross.”
He went on about how his special phone and the partnering app could do more than allow two people to talk from a distance — that it would allow them talk between time periods.
“What?” I whispered, because screaming was the only other option. “You want me to believe that you’re from the future?”
“No. I don’t want you to believe I’m from the future.”
Right then, the Uber stopped. The driver told me we’d reached our destination. The address Richard had given me.
When I stepped out of the car, I saw gravestones. Miles of gravestones.
And, in the very first row, I found a chipped stone in the shape of a cross with Richard’s first and last name scrawled across it.
And, six feet under, Richard was there.