Jeremy the Liar

by

11/04/2007

NY, NY 10012

Neighborhood: SoHo

“No, it should be to your left,” I whispered into my cell, trying not to disrupt the hushed conversations of the infatuated couples around me.

Jeremy couldn’t find the bar, it was tucked away upstairs from a bakery, so I guided him to it over the phone. With each direction I spouted out, I grew giddier, like a sixteen-year-old thinking she was going to go steady with the Homecoming King just because he smiled in the hall at her on his way back from art class. I was peering into my foundation-smudged compact mirror one last time to make sure my mascara hadn’t run, when my cell went dead and I heard a seductive voice in my left ear, “You should look behind you.”

Slowly, I turned around and there he was, the scruffy guy from the photo I spent the last few weeks obsessively thinking about, my Fantasy Hipster, in the flesh. The soulful blue eyes and messy strawberry blond hair I gazed upon were just as the blurry JPEG enlarged on my iBook revealed. He smiled, I smiled, and I instantly knew this evening wouldn’t end with one short-lived glass of Singha.

It all started with the piles of disorganized tank tops and skirts littering my bedroom floor and the inevitable search for a dresser. After scrolling through the photos of a number of bland IKEA creations that had seen better days on Craigslist, I stopped when I landed on a stunning 1930s chiffarobe. For a second I was worried. Was the little girl and boy painted on the door a quaint touch or a childish one? The panic was fleeting though. I snatched it up for a few hundred. Excited by my find, I emailed my friend Nancy a photo of the pine beauty. She agreed it was a treasure. When I sighed and said “if only I could meet a guy so easily on Craigslist,” and she responded with an enthusiastic “maybe you can,” I suddenly felt like we were bad actresses in a radio commercial hawking a gym membership that would leave me feeling great if I just signed up now. Tired of waiting for a man to swoop into a dark candlelit café and seduce me on my laptop, I decided to “enroll.”

While procrastinating writing, I’d often peruse the personal ads on Craigslist for amusement’s sake, and when I was feeling really ambushed by all my friends happily dating, I’d write a few ads myself that I’d delete 48 hours later. Most I read were blatant and obnoxious cries for non-committal sex, searches for 420 and fellatio-dispensing girls in equal measure. But, occasionally, a heartfelt ad would catch my eye and I’d respond, thinking that maybe, just maybe, this sweet-looking guy with the glasses was tired of meeting girls in bars and craved someone to get a cappuccino with and talk about the new Belle & Sebastian album.

This time around though, with the chiffarobe holding all my clothes, I felt brazen. After all, Craigslist had come to my rescue not only with a piece of antique furniture, but most of my apartment shares and hard-to-score Yo La Tengo tickets. Taking a stab at my own witty ad, one I was determined to leave up for more than two days, I called all artsy Brooklyn-loving boys to respond, and immediately the emails poured in: from the old desperate man who assured me he was a romantic, to the dude who began with a “Hey Baby” before the snapshot showing off his unattractive physique at Coney Island. Amid all the tacky responses though, there was Jeremy, whose wit attracted me from his first note.

For a few weeks we traded pithy commentary without even sharing our names. He was smart, had an impressive job in the music industry and a flair for sarcasm. To me, he was just the enigmatic JC, the name that came up in his emails until he revealed he was Jeremy Cox. I wondered if he was really as thrilling in person, or if he might just be a more subtle version of Coney Island Dude. Then came the photo. The sweet blue eyes, the shaggy hair. He was exactly the kind of smart aleck Fantasy Hipster I was looking for. If only I had looked a little more closely.

The evening we first met, Jeremy kept me waiting. He emailed me earlier in the day to tell me he had forgotten his cell phone at home, so I knew I couldn’t casually check in on his whereabouts. Sitting at the bar where we were supposed to meet a half an hour later, all alone in my low-cut shirt and sipping on a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, I felt foolish as the minutes kept ticking by and I kept taking furtive glances at my cell phone. After all this, was my dream guy just as much a loser as all the others I fell for at parties? I decided to call his office, just to see if maybe he got held up. Through the automated directory I typed in the first few letters of his name and was surprised to hear “no matches found.” Immediately, the paranoia crept in. Why was he not listed? I knew he worked there, as he had called me from the same number. Was he really a janitor? In the midst of my negative thoughts, he called me from home, feeling deflated, thinking I had stood him up. Apparently we showed up at different outposts of the same bar. Of course there was a valid excuse. Those phone directories weren’t the most dependable. Did I still want to meet up later? Absolutely. The lip gloss went on.

And the online seduction morphed into reality from the minute I turned around and saw him standing behind me at the bar that night. Free-flowing conversation led to a second date, a sexually charged evening, complete with a whirlwind of drinks, dinner and an awkward goodbye kiss on the corner of Broadway and Houston before dizzily ducking into a cab for a dreamy ride home.

The third date was marked by an urgent high school-esque half-hour make-out session outside a Williamsburg car service. Date four coincided with the tenth anniversary of my grandfather’s death.

“It will be okay,” he said, tenderly taking my hands into his as I got a little teary-eyed over our pitcher of Pilsner.

I was smitten.

Then before I knew it, he abruptly turned the conversation towards the banality of his business cards and how impressive they looked.

When I asked to see them, he turned ashen and muttered an unconvincing “Oh, I um don’t have them on me.” Overwhelmed with anxiety, my stomach churned. This was exactly how I felt when I couldn’t find his name in the office phone directory. Still, it didn’t stop me from bringing him home, to a room once again strewn with skirts and tank tops that escaped the faulty door of my now broken chiffarobe.

Just when I thought I had finally snared a boyfriend, he vanished.

I sent an email asking to have dinner. No answer.

I sent an email asking if everything was okay. No answer.

I kept watch over my inbox, waiting for the trite note proclaiming “Hey, we should just be friends,” or “Sorry, I’m not feeling it,” but one never appeared.

Two months went by and I perpetually wondered what happened. Friends told me that I needed to move on, that he was just a coward who lost interest and didn’t have the guts to tell me, but I felt the reason was more complicated.

One night I tripped over a pair of jeans on my carpet and scowled at my swinging chiffarobe door. For the first time, I really looked into the little boy’s and little girl’s faded blue-painted eyes. She looked so innocent clutching her basket and he looked so happy with his straw hat. What was I thinking? Of course this was meant for a child’s room after all. It was at this moment, consumed by rage at myself, that the Nancy Drew in me took hold and I knew I needed to know more about Jeremy.

I contacted a friend who works in the music industry and knows everyone in it. Twenty minutes later he confirmed what deep down I always knew. “There’s no Jeremy Cox who works there,” he said. “In fact, there’s no Jeremy who works there.” It wasn’t enough for me to know he lied. I needed to know how badly. I went back to the tell-all directory off hours and listened to the voice mails of the few men who worked there (it’s a small company, I didn’t waste much time with this) until I heard Sam Eckert’s voice. My breathing grew faster as I realized who he was. To confirm, I recruited my friend Nora who called “Jeremy’s” cell phone and asked for Sam. Sam said hello.

Why would a seemingly normal guy lie about his identity and not lie about his job? Perhaps the female roommate he talked of was really his girlfriend and he was using Craigslist to dabble in the world of cheating? Or, new to the world of online romance and not really thinking a Craigslist ad was going to last more than a few flirtatious emails, he made up a name and by the time we started to enjoy each other’s company, he was too embarrassed to divulge he had lied? No wonder he left after four dates. How much longer could he keep up the charade before we ran into one of his coworkers at a bar who greeted him with an enthusiastic “Hey, Sam?” It was a matter of pride, but I needed to let him know that he didn’t dupe me. I sent an email to Sam’s real email address with the subject heading “Hey, ‘Jeremy’” to shake things up. I refused to go crazy on him and hurl insults like some girls would have. He wasn’t worth it. We’d only had four sublime dates together. But I did have a burning need to let him know that he was a liar and that both the real Sam and his superhero online persona had proven to be disappointments.

Recently, a friend of mine pointed out “Jeremy’s” MySpace page to me. There are a few photos, a few playful messages from friends and biographical info that surprisingly meshes with the version he told me. I suppose I should find this comforting, cling to the few shreds of truth he shared, but it makes me feel worse. Sadly, there is no amazing online revelation. He looks like just your typical creative type, someone I once would have been keen to flirt with at a bar in the hopes he’d be punching my number into his cell phone by midnight. He is simply a normal guy I impulsively deemed as a salve. The delusions? The tricks? That was all me, left with a chiffarobe now more junk than jewel, with a door that needs a rubber band to stay in place to prove it.

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