“You took your time to message me, didn’t you?”
The reply vibrated onto my screen. A consecutive vibration let me know a laughing-face emoji followed the first text. I smiled, slightly. She had a sense of humour anyway. We’d matched about a month ago, but I only messaged her for the first time the previous evening on the bearable end of a hangover. She didn’t waste any time calling me out on my bullshit. I liked that.
There weren’t many pictures on her profile—just three—but she was clearly very pretty, in a classical Irish type of way. Auburn hair and blue eyes. You could imagine her in a retelling of Tír na nÓg maybe. She looked like she’d been torn straight from a book of myths about the Fianna. Her smile was subtle and her wit was quick. At first, the conversation seemed forced by both of us, like neither of us knew what to say, but neither of us wanting the conversation to fizzle out and end either. Sort of like the conversation you’d have on a first date but spread out over several hours. We circled each other, both being too polite, unsure of whether to show all our cards so quickly.
Once the ice broke and fell away, that was it then. Our conversations, influenced by global warming, became less cold and rigid. Thoughts flowed into texts unfiltered. We chatted throughout the day, most days. She sent me pictures of how her day was going, and I sent her links to humorous tweets, because she didn’t use Twitter. We’d similar taste in music and she told me details of her life you couldn’t know if she didn’t tell you herself. There was no longer a sense of urgency or forcefulness, and we both got to know the other over the internet, like modern people do.
We didn’t live in the same city when we met. We did initially—when we matched on the dating app—but by the time I messaged her she was miles away. She told me she was on Erasmus in Europe, while I was working back home in the city I was born in. It was February, and we matched on the app the last time she’d been home, which I assumed was for Christmas break. We casually made plans to meet the next time she returned to Cork, which was only a few short weeks away.
There was nothing set in stone, but there was an intention to see one another at some point, and that was fine by both of us.
Our conversations didn’t make me feel insecure, and there was no pressure for either of us to do anything at all. Eventually voice-notes started flowing in, and it was nice to be able to connect her face to a voice. She let her words float on the air like the lyrics to a song, and her laugh was a gurgling spring of water found only in the mountains.
We talked about a lot of things and about nothing at all as well. It was the sort of meandering, everything-you-say-is-interesting conversation which characterises the start of something new. I found myself genuinely interested in the process of her mind, and how she thought about the variety of global dramas on offer. Her opinions were precise, well thought out, and open to further consideration. When she got drunk she’d send me selfie-videos of herself dancing in the kitchen in the early hours of the following day. She told me about the Netherlands and how different it was, and how she’d applied for part-time work in a clothes shop to keep herself afloat. She’d send grainy videos, with even grainier audio, showcasing her favourite songs playing in the background of whatever bar she found herself in. She asked me about what I’d done in college and I told her. I was a few years older than her but she didn’t make it feel like there was any age gap at all.
Her questions were pointed and exact. If she didn’t feel the conversation moving forward she didn’t reply for the sake of it. My phone would vibrate again later on in the day when she’d thought of something worthwhile to say, or if something interesting had happened in the hours of her absence.
She never messaged just for the sake of it, making each interaction less like an obligation and more like an adventure.
Her mind was a playground of sorts, always tinkering away at some epiphany-inducing contemplation. She seemed genuine in a disingenuous world, and I hadn’t even met her in person yet.
The weeks began to flurry past like cars on the motorway do when you’re standing very close to the road. It was hard to say exactly how long we’d been talking for. We’d only been in contact for a handful of weeks, but it felt like we’d known each other for far longer. Myself and this girl from Tinder, now mutual followers on the Gram, were digital pen-pals—a day didn’t go by when we weren’t texting. It was exciting and felt like there was, at the very least potential, for something good and meaningful to grow from it.
But then one day in March without warning, she stopped opening any of my messages.
Find out what happens in Part Two.