I Fell In Love Online--But Here's What Happened When We Met In Person
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The ride back to his one-bedroom apartment didn’t prepare me for what I found inside. The two rooms and bathroom appeared to be much smaller than what I had seen through his laptop camera. His bed was a mattress on the floor with a box spring underneath. The sheets were dingy and rumpled. I set my bag on the bed and sat beside it.
My would-be lover appeared unexpectedly glum as he plopped down on the mattress next to me. “I really want to kiss you right now,” he mumbled, unable to look into my eyes. “But I guess I’ll wait until we get down to the water, like you wanted.”
This is the kind of moment you can’t script online. I could have easily avoided his shy gaze and waited for the walk to the waterfront where we had decided our first kiss would take place. I could have stuck to the plans in my head about what the perfect first kiss with this particular man would look like. But I didn’t. I asked him to put down the glass of water in his hands. He set it on the sink above us. I climbed into his lap, my legs straddling his hips before wrapping around his waist. I leaned down until we were kissing, and in that moment it was as if I had kissed him hundreds of times before, with boldness and heat, softness and heart-wrenching sweetness. He moaned beneath me and pulled me close to him. We rolled around on his unmade mattress, catching our breath before leaning in to kiss again. This was (almost) better than sex. It was certainly better than my imaginary, water-logged first-kiss fantasy.
That’s the thing about fantasies – for most of us who make the transition from online chats to real-life meetings, the reality inevitably turns out to be complicated: simultaneously more than you planned on and less than you had hoped for.
Sex was one of those complicated realities. We had much to learn about each other’s bodies, to be sure, but his tiny, stale-scented apartment wasn’t exactly the romantic environment I had hoped to consummate our relationship in – and it didn’t help that he kept asking me if I was having an orgasm. I felt rushed and overwhelmed by his unrelenting race to the Finish Line. That first night, we didn’t go all the way; we rolled over in frustration and passed out, only to face each other the next morning with firm determination to complete what we had started (relatively successful intercourse).
We weren’t as amorous as I had expected – our infrequent bouts of sex seemed to punctuate moments of boredom rather than passion. Still, he was tender and gentle as he introduced me to his friends and kissed me on sidewalks, singing U2’s “With or Without You” at a karaoke recital and reading next to me in cafés. The following afternoon, we sweated together in an unexpected heat wave, only for him to roll off of me and ask, “Allison, do you think you could ever love me?”
I wish I had stopped to examine his wording. He wasn’t making a confession of love – he was asking me to put my feelings on the line, testing the waters before he leapt. This wasn’t like me calling him my Online Boyfriend. This was supposed to be a big moment – and it is, for most couples. Love should be the most intimate of risks, not a carefully-worded veil of ambiguity. Still, I didn’t see it that way at the time.