It Wasn’t All Me

Illustration by Shae San Sim

By Raphael Farmer

Dear Theo,

Before I met you, the question I asked myself the most was, ‘Why am I so ugly?’

Mum used to comment on my cousins’ good looks. ‘So handsome,’ she would say when having dinner with the family. But when it came to me, she would smile and call me her little duckling. Every time she did, I involuntarily bit my upper lip. Dad didn’t offer me anything better. I was alone and I was lonely. I learned over the years how the two are different things. It messed me up so much that when I met you, it almost killed me.

We met by chance, in the wild early days of the internet. The web was my refuge at the time. In real life, I didn’t know anybody into gaming or comic books as much as I was, but on the internet it’s not hard to find people with similar interests. Similar mindsets. I scoured cyberspace for a spot to call my own and I found the message boards where we met. A profile photo, brief summary of who we were and only text messages to figure each other out. It was
both a thrill and a dangerous concept.

I felt free on these boards but I couldn’t help but lie. I took the opportunity to change who I was. I used a random photo of a pretty boy to introduce myself in a thread. That was the only lie though. My personality was true. I said 80s pop music was the best. I declared Superman the best super hero of all time. I commented that gaming is best experienced on PC. Naturally, a lot of the other users argued with me. But there were also some who commented
on how good looking I was. I felt a rush whenever I read those messages. I was addicted to the attention.

I could finally flirt with boys like I always dreamed of. I couldn’t get beaten up online. Unshackled from my real-life ugliness, I went on a seduction rampage. Tried turning on as many guys as I could. Many laughed it off. Some would ask if they looked good in briefs or boxers. But nobody ever crossed the line into actually returning horny words back at me.

Until you, Theo.

I remember seeing your photo in a thread. You’re the only one who made me swallow hard. I stared at your face. Damn, he’s hot, I kept repeating over and over. I sent you a private message and knew how to approach you. I said, ‘Hey, I saw your post on how it took you two hours to figure out how to finish the quest in Final Fantasy 12. I was the same.’ You replied instantly. We exchanged a few messages before finally deciding to take it to the next level: Messenger. Man, we spent so many nights talking about the most random shit, in between rounds of that in-messenger game of chess. You always beat me at that game.

Anytime you showed me a photo of yourself, I would send through the blushing emoji. You would always respond with a wink emoji or sometimes you were more playful and used the poking-tongue-out emoji. You often told me how I looked good in my profile photo. I felt a throbbing knot every time you said that.

You complimented me on how eclectic my tastes were and how interesting I was to talk to. You knew what to say to keep me coming back. Like the time you said how I should add a symbol to my name so I’d be at the top of your friends list. You told me that the millisecond it took for you to get to me was unbearable. I remember thinking, Oh shit, I think I might have a chance with him. ‘I’m addicted to you,’ I said. You replied with a cool-sunnies wearing emoji.

After the second time we talked dirty to each other, I began to ache. I would stare at the ceiling at night, feeling like a monster was eating me up inside. I imagined the word ‘guilty’ tattooed on my forehead. I had lied to you, showed you a photo that wasn’t me. Even if it was just one lie, it was the worst one to tell. You were cautious at first, asking for another photo. I was prepared, I had a dozen of the same guy I’d used before. I fed you lies about my webcam
but was glad to call you up on the phone so you could hear I wasn’t an old man. It was after that call that you showed me your dick.

And then you wanked on cam. We cyber-fucked.

God, I messed up. The first time I thought I might have a chance at being with a boy that made my heart dance like at a Jennifer Lopez concert, I panicked. Why did I lie?

I looked at photos of myself on my computer. Found one that didn’t make me gag. I had a black t-shirt on. My smile wasn’t awkward. I thought, ‘I might have lied about what I look like but I’m still me.’ You told me you had never met someone like me. I was sure you’d be okay with finding out the truth.

‘This is actually what I look like,’ I told you, after opening up about my self-esteem issues for fifteen minutes. I showed you that photo I liked of me.

You stayed silent. My fingers were shaking. I asked, ‘Are we okay?’

You said that yes, we were.

And then I stopped seeing you online on Messenger.

I was blocked.

You were right to do so, I know that. I switched off my computer that day and sat silently on my bed. I didn’t cry. I was empty. I thought of slamming my head against the corner of my bedside table. I thought I deserved the void for how I lied, how I betrayed your trust. I deserved nothing.

It took me a while to figure out that like myself at the time, you were nothing but an illusion. You never liked me for me. You liked the pretty boy in the photo.

Now, I have found a boy who sees my worth even when I’m falling into the abyss. He embraces my damage, but knows that I’m not broken. I still hurt from what happened but I’m not a sack of shit. I don’t wish you any ill. You are now a memory, an experience, a life lesson. I needed you then, I am letting you go now.

So, here is the short of it all: Fuck you. Have a good life.