I think the only way to explain this is the truth: In 2008, I answered a craigslist ad. Due to the high probability that the writer is psychotic (for real; not the way you affectionately say to someone, “You’re crazy!”), among other things, we never met. However, we have remained loosely in touch. Every so often, he’ll send me an email asking how I am.
I thought our “relationship” had finally expired when I hadn’t heard from him since September 2010. But then the other day, I received an email with the subject line: “oh my god…” The body included a link to my New York Times essay and the words:
this isn’t you. Tell me this isn’t you.
I wrote back:
Well, it is a pretty common name.
And he wrote back:
Well, I would like to offer my sincere apologies for us never having established a real relationship. If we had done so, I think I would have prevented you from meeting such a weird person.
I know he wrote those words to try to get me to respond with something about how it was his fault we never met, so he could reply that it was my fault, and he could then rope me into a pointless argument that goes on for far too long and is a colossal waste of energy. But I love that this person thinks–or at least wants me to think–that he is less weird than someone I dated for a year. It doesn’t make sense on any level: on the one side, we have someone who supported my writing enough to agree to be the subject of an article in a national newspaper, and on the other side, we have someone who has, well, all but stalked me for the past 3.5 years just to remind me that we’ll never meet each other and I will never really know whether he is in prison, an obese shut-in, or an otherwise normal person who for some reason finds pleasure in strange pen pal correspondence.
He’s right, of course. I do date weird people, but I’m not sure that’s something to be ashamed of. And I know there’s no point in trying to understand the behavior of a psychotic person, but I wonder if he’s just trying to make himself feel better about the fact that, back when he had the opportunity, back when I first answered his ad, before our relationship turned into this thing that is too absurd for fiction, he was too afraid to ever give himself the chance to be one of the weird people I dated.
Whenever I think about my past relationships, I never consider the possibility that the other person feels he may have missed out on something great with me. However, this crazy 3.5 year relationship makes me wonder if maybe I’m the one who got away. From a psychotic person, yes. But it still counts.