A Vivid Imagination

Roger intrigued me from the first moment I saw his on-screen name — Amare Sine Timore. I didn’t know what it meant and he wouldn’t tell me. I looked it up. Amare Sine Timore means ‘to love without fear’ in Latin. He had been emailing me daily for more than a week quoting John Keats’ poetry, arguing the finer points of existentialism and urging me to listen to work by an obscure composer named Jan Dismas Zelenka. Roger was smart, smarter than me. And intelligence was sexy.

Although Roger had my phone number and sent me a text every night before I went to sleep, we never spoke on the phone. With only his written words to conjure up images in my head, I turned him into the perfect man. I stopped going on dates. I imagined that once Roger and I met, I wouldn’t be interested in anyone else.

I dressed with care for our date, wearing a black halter-neck dress and uncomfortable black and silver strappy stillettos. I entered the dimly lit upstairs bar and caught sight of Roger sitting at the bar before he saw me. For a moment I thought it was his younger brother — there was a resemblance to Roger’s profile photo but the man I was looking at seemed smaller and thinner than I had imagined. It had to be him though, so I put on my biggest smile.

‘Hi,’ I said, holding out my hand, ‘you must be Roger.’

‘Er, Katie?’ he said.

‘Yes,’ I nodded.

He stood up but he didn’t take my outstretched hand. His face turned a strange grey colour. He looked shocked, as if I was nothing like he had imagined either. Neither of us spoke for a few moments.

‘Sorry,’ he said, shaking his head. ‘I wasn’t expecting you to be, er, look like that. But you look nice.’

He moved his motorcycle helmet off the seat next to him so I could sit down. My leg brushed against his and he jumped as if I had given him an electric shock.

‘Am I that bad?’ I asked.

‘You’ve got a tattoo. You didn’t mention that. I’ve never been out with a girl with tattoos.’

‘You didn’t mention you rode a motorbike. I’ve never been out with a man with a bike. Maybe you can take me for a ride sometime?’

‘Er, yes.’

We ate gourmet pizza and drank red wine. I worked hard to make him feel at ease, unwilling to let go of the illusion that there was something I could say or do to release the man I wanted from beneath his pinched face, narrow shoulders and pale hands. After a few glasses of wine, he seemed more relaxed and confident. The conversation started to flow.

At the end of the night he left his motorbike parked in a side street.

‘I’ll come back for it later,’ he said.

He gave his leather jacket to wear to keep warm and held my hand as we walked down the back streets to my flat. I invited him in for another drink.

‘It’s not going to work, is it?’ he said, once we had settled on the couch.

‘I don’t know,’ I said. ‘Maybe?’

‘I’m smart enough to realise you’re not interested in me romantically,’ he said putting down his glass. ‘I should go.’

I’m not sure if it was because I had invested so much of myself in the relationship already that it felt like we were breaking up, if I was sorry for him or if it was because it had been a long time since I’d had sex, but I didn’t want him to leave. I leaned in and kissed him. He kissed me back.

I took in into the bedroom and sat him on the bed. While he watched I untied the knot at the neck of my dress and wriggled the fabric down until it lay in a crumpled heap on the floor. I began unbuttoning his shirt.

He pulled away and turned his back to me.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said, his voice breaking. ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I can’t …’

‘It’s okay,’ I said, ‘it’s probably just nerves. Just relax and take your time.’

He curled up into a ball on top of the covers and made a low moaning sound.

‘It really isn’t a big deal,’ I said putting my hand on his arm. ‘Why don’t you hop into bed and we can cuddle.’

‘No, I’m fine. I’ll just lay here for a while.’

I found a t-shirt on the chair in the corner and put it on. I got into bed. I heard what sounded like quiet sobbing so I left him alone.

When I woke up a few hours later he was gone. He’d taken his leather jacket, switched off the lights in the lounge and disappeared. The next morning he sent a text message.

‘Thanks for last night. All the best in finding your perfect man.’

When I remembered how upset he had been I felt sad. I felt as though I had lost something, something I’d never had to start with. But most of all, I was reminded that no matter how good someone sounds from the other side of a computer screen, you can never know them until you’re standing in the same room.

From my unpublished memoir Unravelled.

a vivid imagination dating T

Do you have any dating horror stories?


About KatieP

Embracing my midlife sexy while exploring modern love & relationships • Devoted to all things beautiful • Master of Arts in creative writing & non-fiction writing

31 thoughts on “A Vivid Imagination

  1. Nice timing on this! I’m meeting a man in January that I’ve “known” online for several years, but have been talking to intimately for almost a year now. We are spending a short weekend (aren’t they all short?) together and all of the ways I just *know* it will be are very well things that won’t be. AAHHHH!! Anyway, thanks for the little kick. I’ve already asked him to ask me anything about myself now that he’s wanted to know and hasn’t asked. Wish me luck. 🙂

  2. That was very kind of you Katie. Many would have ‘kicked him to the curb’ much earlier in the evening.

    I had one guy who was so anxious he ended up fleeing out the door of the bar within 20 minutes.

    Tres awks.

  3. As a long time married grandmother, the online dating thing mystifies me a bit but one of my sons has met a few girlfriends this way. He’s had some really bad experiences, and some good. Since starting my blog I have made some amazing online friends so I guess I’m understanding it better but I still want to tell you – be careful!

  4. Interesting story, Katie. The attraction was to his mind. This really demonstrates the power of the written word. If more men realized how powerful that is, they might use it more often. Too bad this man didn’t have confidence in other areas.

  5. Well, let’s see. The man who was about 10 years old and a gazillion pounds heavier who huffed and puffed as we left the restaurant and didn’t walk me to my car because it was uphill?
    Or maybe the guy who in the movie theater, first date, pulled his penis out and started absent-mindedly playing with it?

    I’ve had some very nice first dates as well.

  6. I have always maintained you never know the kind of chemistry you will have until you meet someone face to face. We love to believe it will work – sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t.

  7. This brought tears for you both. Shattered potential dreams on both accounts. It’s so easy to make people how you want them to be through a computer screen. Thank you for sharing and always putting it out there Katie.

  8. As always, you draw me in with your stories, Katie. It made me think of the online relationships, I tried so hard to make work offline, only to be hurt. Funnily though, I met my husband online too and we clicked. 9 years later we’re still together. So to anyone out there reading your post and my comment, I’d say proceed with caution, but don’t give up hope.
    PS: Looking forward to your published memoir soon. 🙂

  9. When I was dating online, I would do meet ups first. Meet at the mall, meet at a busy coffee shop, etc. So glad I did. One I went to meet should have been the perfect man for me, same interests, same hobbies….same….same….same. I thought it would be perfect, turned out to be boring, boring, boring.

  10. oh man that made me feel for him so much – to have gotten to that point and not be able to be the man he’d portrayed must be as devastating for him as it was for you. I hope he found someone to make him happy (you certainly did 🙂 )

  11. I try online dating once the guy met me at a coffee shop. His photo was not what he had online he look homeless and familiar like the guy begging at the subway. Then he asked me to pay for his meal because he is homeless. Brought his meal then politely step away.

  12. I was single before online dating (in the “olden days” of newspaper personal ads 20 years ago) but the outcome was the same. I met some doozies who definitely didn’t live up to their print or phone personas. At first I was eager to please and endured more uncomfortable evenings than I would today. But it soon got easier to simply tell them the chemistry wasn’t there for me and move on. So I wholeheartedly agree that you can’t really know someone until you spend time with them in person!

  13. About to have a date with some one today but he has barely spoken to me since he asked me out, Although he may be just busy. I’m not sure how well this is going to work wish me luck and safety.

    1. I hope your date went well. If he can’t find time for you this early on, I might suspect he was a fuckhead.*
      (*this is the technical term for it 😉 )

  14. Wow, that is a true horror story! I think I would rather feel angry a guy is an asshole than sorry for him! Definitely an important tricky thing about online dating- it’s so easy to project your wishes on people. At least you found out soon he wasn’t the person you made up in your mind- I’ve had it take a month before!

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