If you really think you love someone, what price tag would you give it? What would you be willing to do to prove it? Would you be willing to play along with someone’s delusions, their games to escape reality? Or would you play the only card you had in your deck to give them a real life? People are not chess pieces and life is not a game, my friends. Meanwhile, the perfect recipe for heartache was brewing.
Smiles. Friends. Attraction. They only knew each other online at first. They shared common interests, and enjoyed sharing casual humor with their cyber-friends. Then an event arose where they had a chance to meet each other in real life. It was so much fun to see the real faces behind those identity icons and the animated voices buried under their lines of text. When they were leaving, he happened to touch her. He had merely brushed against her as they were headed down the steps, and a new connection began, that spark of electricity that we all call “chemistry”.
That chemistry could even be felt across the internet connection lines, and the private messaging began. They were really just such simple things, like saying good morning, discussing the weather, if she was having a cup of tea, what he was doing to get ready for his workday, wishing each other good night. They started posting public messages with double meanings, entendres, mixed amongst their regular fanfare of postings. It was just a word game, to see if they could “catch” the hidden meaning behind a posted comment, their own “insider” jokes. But, most of all, it was about the routine. Someone to say hello to each morning, someone to wish them sweet dreams at night. Their lives were playing out in two realms, online and offline, but which one was real? and which one was the game?
As schedules would have it, another evening was planned. Messages counted down the days, then the hours until he would see her again, and when they did, those chemistry sparks really flew. He fixed a smudge on her eye-makeup. She smiled and connected her laptop. They teased and laughed about the real meaning of some of the messages they had misunderstood online. He touched her hand, then touched it again. Their eyes were locked on each other, as well as their hearts. They held hands during dinner. It was like there one big aura around them that could be seen from outer space. Even the waiter kept walking around it, and peering at them like he was looking at them through a veil. But they should have never kissed, then kissed again, and yet again. The game had collided with reality. This was bliss. This was sunlight, not shadows, this was real life, not a game. In these moments, they found themselves confirming that old adage, “time flies”, and then it was time to go.
Then it was back to their old online world once more, but that would never be the same again. For now their messages had a new tenderness about them and held questions and conflictions and confusion. When you are holding onto a dream by a slender thread of hope, it cannot hold taut forever. She could not just fall back into the old pattern again. Now she needed more. She asked questions and received playful answers, but real answers to important questions can only be delayed so long. Then, finally, her answer came. Their night had been beautiful, wondrous, splendid, it was a cherished memory for them to treasure. “Cherished memory”, those are words one uses about past events, not the here and now, and certainly not the future. She did not want to live in a world where she cherished a memory with him, she wanted to cherish him now, and she wanted to dream of a future, a real one.
He told her that his real world was a conflicted mess and that she had become his sweet escape for awhile each day. Watch the sunrise with her online, live and work in his reality, then return online to wish her good night. This changed the rules of the game, for now she knew that the messages that used to hold her little slices of heaven would become a life where the only love she could hope to share with him would be little scraps of sweet words on a screen.
What should she do? Which path would be the loving course? Help him to bear his burdens through playing his game? Or let his life return to its hellish conflictions, until it was so unbearable that he would have to deal with it and make the necessary changes to be truly happy? She wanted him to have the life of his dreams, not his current life of confliction, and not just a shadow world of an online game with her. She wanted him to have a real life, and she wanted one too.
She remembered a dear friend from a long time ago. A best girlfriend who had confided during lunch one day that their friendship was the only solace she had to help her bear the living hell of an abusive marriage. Her choices back then? Be the little spark in her friend’s life? Or remove the last glimmer of light so her friend would stumble her way through the darkness to the real light, a better life. She was fully aware of the price tag for her friend to have that better life. Its currency was their friendship, and she let her friend go. That marriage did fall away, and she cried tears of sorrow-tinged joy when she learned secondhand of her old friend’s new marriage. The price she had paid, losing her friend, had been tremendous, but she would be willing to do it all over again for her friend’s happiness. She had been a real friend.
She glanced solemnly at her laptop screen. Tears welled up in her eyes and she brushed them away. She had to remind herself to breathe and she thought her heart might burst. Then she typed the words that wished him good night, for the very last time. She print-screened the page that held his name, her cherished memory, then she clicked the button to disconnect her friend. She stared at the screen in a daze while the tears poured down her cheeks, her shoulders shaking. She bent down her head, her tears dropping onto the glass table where they distorted reality as she looked through them to the pattern on the floor. She steadied herself in the chair, turned off her laptop, then stood and walked to the window.
The beautiful snowy trees were still there all around her, and so were the stars in the heavens, and so were the city lights out in the distance. Her future was waiting for her, here, in this real life, and . . . maybe . . . just maybe . . . one day he would be in it.