Her first e-mail was unusually emphatic about the two of us meeting or at least talking. She was the one who had checked out my profile and then contacted me through the online dating site. She wrote, first.
The 33-year-old who I'll call "Andie" sounded interesting, vivacious, career- and family-oriented. Her profile said she worked as a journalist. As a former newspaper reporter, I love journalists.
It seemed obvious that we might share compatible interests. Andie also posted four photos that looked adorable. But you can never trust photos.
"We should meet or at least talk," she wrote as she introduced herself and told me where she worked. "Write back with your name and number, seriously."
So, I did. My response was made up of a few light and friendly paragraphs. It looked, on the surface at least, like we had the potential to start a nice dialogue that might eventually lead to a date, maybe more. But she never responded. A week later, I sent a second note and heard nothing.
Suspicious about the veracity of the sparse information conveyed, I did some low-level research to see if the name and information she had given me really existed at the publication where she said she worked. Indeed, there was someone with her name at that publication. I did no more research than that. How much time should I waste on the phantom?
Confused, but not heartbroken, I decided to move on. It obviously was not meant to be. It was also not the first time a girl online disappeared after an e-mail or two. Online, phantoms are just as common as actual, real live girls.
Not So Instant Replay
Then, six months later, she wrote to me again through the site. "Hey, we missed each other the last time around but if you'd like to drop me a line … all best." This time, she included her work e-mail address and a telephone number.
With nothing else going on socially, I dropped her a note from my personal e-mail address. When more than a week passed, I suspected that there was something awry. Maybe this was some sort of scam or prank. I had her number, so I wanted to see if she was real.
Some cynics with online dating experience suspect that some sites post phony profiles with pictures of attractive women who are professional models or just really cute girls who are not really members. That is an investigation for another day.
Was Andie one of these fakes or just a nut who derived some sort of sadistic thrill from contacting guys only so she could blow them off? Was she a phantom or simply a menace or both?
I called her. She answered the phone and acted like she recalled who I was, but said it was not a good time to talk. "I'm helping a friend edit a story, can I call you back in an hour?" she said.
Sure she could. When she did not call back, I was again suspicious. It was not the first time a girl I met online gave me the brush off with the ill-fated promise to call back for the first phone call. I have received that line at least three or four times from girls who had told me to call them but then between the e-mail and the telephone call they decided they didn't want to talk to me anymore.
But Andie was different. She wrote to me first, two different times, and then twice ignored my responses. Vexed, I still wanted to get to the bottom of this. After the first blow off, I didn't anticipate that Andie was really my bashert. But what was her motive? What was running through her head?
I called her again, this time, leaving a voice mail message to the effect of "Sorry, you probably didn't have my telephone number." I didn't expect a call back after this one either.
One of Two Choices
At this point, I had two choices: 1) Let it go and forget about the whole thing or 2) Try contacting her again and straddle that line between indignation and stalker. Never content to simply forgive and forget, I had to put in my two cents worth — or at least try, in a refined way.
Through the site, I sent her one final note: "Hi, Andie: So, is that your thing, you contact guys and then blow them off? I must admit, it is quite vexing and a bit on the inconsiderate side. I realize that I'm just some guy out in this bizarre cyber-universe, but I've done nothing misleading, insulting or offensive to merit such behavior.
"It's too bad because if you are who you say you are with the newspaper job and all, we might have had a lot to talk about. Seriously."
The Phantom Menace did not reply. But I figure if I'm still on the site six months from now, she will.
Roy S. Gutterman is a Syracuse, N.Y.-based writer. To contact him, visit: www.Lrev.com.