I met my version of “Her” on Twitter. It was a few years ago when I was at the tail end of my marriage and before I met my current girlfriend, who I love with all my heart (sweetie, maybe don’t read any further).
My wife and I were living separately together — she was downstairs in the den with our three tiny, annoying dogs, and I lived upstairs in what used to be our bedroom with my MacBook Pro and various “Twitter wives” — women I had befriended online and fallen in lust with.
I had been talking to Jules every day for more than nine months, ever since she DMed me one night. I don’t remember which tweet caught her eye, but she said, “It was like you were inside of my head. BTW, I like smarties.”
Since then, we had been at it hot and heavy. We Gchatted as soon as she got in to work in the morning and talked on the phone a few times a day and long into the night. To make matters worse (or better, depending on how you want to look at it), I was unemployed and had a lot of time on my hands, which certainly helped fuel the fire.
Jules was the funniest, smartest, sexiest, most beautiful woman I had never met. I kept asking her to meet me; it was like a running joke. I’d IM: “I’m gonna take the red-eye and I’ll be in L.A. in the morning.” Her reply was always the same:
It was hard to argue with that.
When I pressed her, she always came up with some excuse that sounded plausible in the moment: Her brother was coming to town, or she was just getting over a bad cold. I wanted to believe her. I wanted to believe that this young, drop-dead gorgeous woman who looked like Mary-Louise Parker’s younger sister in the photos she posted on Twitter was into me. I wanted to believe she adored me. Who wouldn’t?
Part of me recognized this as total fantasy. Part of me thought of it as little more than a virtual marriage of convenience. Two lonely people who connected online to feel less lonely. To feel needed. To feel loved. Thanks, Internet! Still, the feelings were real — though they may or may not have been the only thing that was.
Either way, I felt more connected to Jules than to any other woman on the planet. Though I didn’t even know her last name.
To me, she was just Jules. Her first name was Julia, but I never called her that because it sounded so formal. She wouldn’t give me her cell phone or work number and routed everything through Google Voice. Nor would she tell me exactly where she lived.
We never video-chatted — she claimed her home and office computers didn’t have cameras. When I suggested video-Skyping, she said she didn’t have a front-facing camera. When I offered to buy her a webcam, she always rebuffed me; she said talking to me like that would weird her out.
A few of my friends thought that I was being Catfished, but I knew deep down that wasn’t the case. And I also knew that that’s what they all say. But more than anything, I knew Jules.
As soon as I saw the green dot on Gmail that indicated she was online, my heart began to race. The moment I heard her voice, I smiled. When I read one of her sexy tweets, I pulsed with excitement. Jules filled the hole in my heart and I did the same for her and inside our bubble nothing else mattered. Everything felt warm and safe in there; we were insulated from what people call the real world and we could be whoever we wanted to be. We could be our best selves. And we cherished each other for it.
Though I’m not sure I’d call it love.
In fact, I never did. I usually told Jules that I adored her. I came close to dropping the L-bomb, but the truth was, I didn’t know what to call what I was feeling. That emotional connection, especially when we were online … it was like crack. Your whole body starts to tingle and your fingers just take over and all of a sudden you’re hard and giddy and typing so fast the words are pouring out and it’s like your entire being is filling up. This is the way you create the bubble.
But is the bubble real? Is it possible to fall in love with someone you’ve never met?
If you’ve seen “Her,” you already know the answer.
There was just one problem: I wanted more. And she didn’t. I wanted to see this fantasy come true; for her, the fantasy was as far as she wanted to go. She liked the safety of the distance between us. As she kept telling me, she wasn’t sure she could ever give me anything more. I was always apologizing to Jules for making her feel all squirrelly because I wanted her so badly and she apologized to me for making me feel all sad because she couldn't give me what I wanted.
“What the hell am I gonna do with you, Jules?” I whispered to her (we liked to whisper to each other).
“I don’t know,” she whispered back.
Thinking about the future, especially a future with me, frightened Jules. Perhaps no more so than the night she mentioned going to the doctor and casually joked that she wasn’t pregnant.
“I would’ve at least liked to be the lucky guy who didn’t make you pregnant,” I said, barely containing my anger. She said “whatever” and told me that my imagination was running wild. We talked for a while longer, but I couldn’t let it go.
“I always assumed that you had to be sleeping with other guys,” I said. “But you know how I feel about you, and it kills me to think that you’re having sex with other dudes and I still don’t even know your GODDAMN LAST NAME! What the hell are we doing here?”
“I want to meet you, Jules!” I pleaded. “It would break my heart if I never got to meet you.”
“Are you giving me an ultimatum?” she asked in her tiniest voice.
The next day, I kept at it, pestering her about her stupid last name like a dog after a bone. It started with an IM, then we jumped onto the phone. She explained that she couldn’t go to the next step with me, that she was just too young and I had already lived so much of my life … and whatever it is that we were doing, that’s all she was prepared to do.
I told her I’d let the fantasy get the better of me and allowed the feelings to be real. That she was better at controlling hers. That I’d let hope get in the way.
“There’s no fool like an old fool,” I said. “I was foolish to think that I was the one who was different. That I would be the one who you finally let in. I remember when we first met you said how you liked smarties. I don’t feel so smart right now.”
The last bubble had burst.
“I just need to tell you one more thing, Jules,” I said, holding back tears. We were both talking to each other via Bluetooth in our cars. “All the times I told you how much I adore you, you had to know what I meant. You have to know that I love you.”
I heard her crying. Crying over Bluetooth comes in loud and clear.
“Lar,” she said, “I can’t do this!” And then she hung up. I never heard from her again.
Maybe this was really for the best, I thought at the time. Maybe if I had a real life, I wouldn’t need a fake one.
Of course, that’s exactly what happened (and darling, you can come back and read the rest of this now). Today the sweetest thing in the world is when my girlfriend says, “I love you.” And I can see her smile.