Online he dazzled me with his mastery of biblical history. But over dinner, he pressed me to sleep with him no fewer than a dozen times, once for each apostle.

Published February 26, 2003 10:01PM (EST)

HELL: Song of Solomon

The author in question had named himself "Jcofnazareth." His ad was a witty sendup of biblical history and all things Roman. But it should have been a tipoff to his narcissism -- who calls himself "Our Lord and Saviour"? Nevertheless, I responded as "Mary Magdalene."

Until we met, the repartee was fabulous; in response to a question about other people he'd dated online, I said, "Are you sure there weren't any elephants in there? You really need elephants to cross the Rubicon." In my Mary Magdalene persona, I sent him lists like, "Put away Centurion armor. Refresh reeds. Order myrrh."

I hadn't had this much fun in, well, eons.

And then we met. A plague of locusts would have been preferable. That and 40 years wandering in the desert.

In the span of a few hours, over lamb and wine, no less, he asked me to sleep with him no fewer than 12 times, one for each apostle, I suppose.

When it became apparent that I really didn't want to know him in the purely biblical sense, we parted company, kind of like the Egyptians and the Jews.

-- Lisa Mims

HEAVEN: Czech-mate

I was a single American young thing, headed to Prague for a month's stay, hoping to find a short-term friend, not a romance but a travel partner. I searched Match.com for both genders, but could find only one person, a Czech male, based in Prague. (The year was 1998 -- online dating then was for computer geeks and weirdos.) His profile was written in broken English; he urged readers to contact him "for fun or whatever." I took the bait and e-mailed him, and received a prompt reply along the lines of, "Yes, I pick you up, I have car." I got the creeps and brushed off his invitation.

Once I reached Prague, however, the loneliness of the gray, winter days -- and then weeks -- made me lonely. I crept into a cybercafe and sent the Czech-have-car an e-mail. We agreed to meet at the Globe Cafe, an expat hangout full of used books. Our first meeting lasted about three minutes, because he had to rush home, but his smile boosted my spirits. He wasn't the skanky weird guy I'd imagined, but shy -- and almost too benign.

We met again on a Friday evening. He was a master's student at a Prague university, studying computer science. I myself was a few months' shy of a bachelor's in writing. Our interests were polar opposites, ones and zeroes. The moment he said his favorite authors were Douglas Adams and J.R.R. Tolkien, I stereotyped him as another techie guy without the least bit of sophistication. At the time, I was looking for a maudlin Continental philosopher who lived in a mostly depressive, reflective state -- not a man with a positive, idealist outlook who spent nights programming, networking and hacking.

That night, though, I ended up getting in his car -- after a few games of pool -- so he could drive me home. After a conversation about the good honey alcohol he had at his flat, we turned around for his place, where we watched "Blade Runner" and drank two tumblersful each of the sweet brew. He never made the first move -- he was too shy for that. So I did. A nice one-night stand, why not? A good story for the friends.

We spent another couple of weekends together, and when I left Prague by Eurolines bus, he came to watch me go. I later found out he told the driver, "Take care with her."

My one-night stand morphed into an overseas romance. We continued to e-mail, he visited over holidays, he applied to a graduate program in the city where I'd settled, he was accepted with a full ride. He moved in with me a year and a half after our first meeting. We marry this April.

-- Jane Friedman

Hell: So totally not what I was looking for

So, Dave sounded pretty cool: has a good job, surfs, mountain bikes. You know, the usual things that sound good. I decided to meet him right off the bat for coffee. I'm not into long e-mail chains --I think you should meet in person and not waste anyone's time. So, I met him for an hour at a local coffeehouse. He was nice and we got along well. We parted, saying let's talk at the end of the week to see what was up for the weekend, and I got an e-mail the very next day saying it was great to meet me and here is his phone number.

I decided to call him that night and got his voice mail, so I left him my phone number. At about 7:30 I was out with some friends at a bar and my phone rang with a blocked I.D., so I let it go to voice mail. It rang several times, no message. Then, there was a text message: "666" (the devil's number). I grabbed my friends, told them what was up, and they said I had to answer the next time it rang, which I did.

"Hello. This is Jennifer. Dave's ex-girlfriend! Did he tell you he had a girlfriend for seven years?" Her voice is frantic, loud and strong.

"No," I say calmly.

"Did he tell you we are on a break?"

"No, he did not. So, if you are on a break, what is the problem here?" I say calmly.

"Who set you up anyway? How did you meet? blah blah blah?"

At this point I say, "I think you should be having this conversation with Dave, not me." And I hang up.

The next day I get an e-mail that was written the night before at midnight:

"Hi, Marla, I am busy this weekend and the following weekend -- my recent ex-girlfriend has a ski trip planned for us. She broke up with me a few days before New Year's and I am trying to work things out with her. We have everything in common and she rips it surfing, windsurfing, snowboarding, mountain biking, and we love to hike with her two dogs. She lives up north and broke up with me because I was trying to push the issue of her moving to the city. I think you are just a little too forward for my tastes and would like to work things out with my girlfriend. We have been together for seven years and I am still in love with her and miss the dogs and our life together. I guess I am more ready to settle down with her than I thought. Best wishes in your dating life. Dave"

It was so obviously not a guy writing this.

This is confirmed several hours later when I get the following e-mail:

"Marla, how are you? It was great meeting you Monday night. I lost all my in-box mail yesterday and I had sent you e-mail. Let me know if you want to get together before the weekend. See ya. Dave"

I tell him to call me right away. He does, and I immediately tell him that his girlfriend, or whoever she is, not only knows his phone mail password but also knows his e-mail password and is impersonating him and maybe he should just figure it out with her. Obviously she is in a lot of pain.

Next thing I know, he sends me this:

"Marla, thanks for understanding. My phone password has been changed. FYI, Jennifer is harmless and has moved on to someone else. Looking forward to getting together again. Dave"

So I think it's over -- until I get two more phone messages from Jennifer, saying, "Stay out of our LIVES! Have some RESPECT. You are such a BITCH. Why are you so DESPERATE? He's only been to Hawaii once and it was with me ... You don't go out with someone for seven years and just break up like that ... blah blah blah ..." Just nonsensical and juvenile banter, with lots of dramatic pauses thrown in for good measure.

Remember, I met the guy for coffee once! For one hour! So it's getting kind of funny and my friends are getting a kick out of the messages. It's fun to pass the phone around and listen to Jennifer ranting about all sorts of things that don't make any sense.

Oddly enough, I run into Dave that Sunday (it's only been a week since we had coffee) and I tell him about his ex's messages. I told him I had saved them and he should have a listen, so he does. And the scariest part is that after he listened he said, "Oh, it's not as bad as I thought."

What? Not that bad? She is a raving lunatic totally harassing me! At that moment, I realized he was just as warped as she was.

-- "Marla"

Heaven: 'N synchronicity

I'd stumbled onto one of those 'N Sync hate pages. On this page I found a link for a live journal called "She's Got Issues." From this site, I discovered links for a new trend that was starting to pick up: the weblog. One of the links was to a guy named AtlantaSteve. I decided to start reading it since my brother lives in the Atlanta area, but I wasn't prepared for what it was: some of the funniest writing I'd ever read in my life. I read his blog for a couple of months, the entire time thinking to myself, I really want to meet this man. He sounds like he'd be such a good friend.

One particular night in November, I gathered my courage and sent him an instant message. (He'd conveniently posted his screen name on his blog.) Once he responded, I was so at ease. We had a nice conversation and agreed to talk again soon.

That was pretty much the extent of our relationship for a few months. We'd talk on occasion and each time we did, it was great. We laughed a lot, exchanged stories, and so on. At that time I didn't feel anything romantic for him. And he was actively pursuing a girl who wasn't responding to him, something I found hard to believe. Eventually, once the summer drew near, his feelings for me began to change, and somehow I didn't notice.

One day while chatting at work, I noticed that he'd become quiet and asked what was up. When we first began talking, I'd jokingly told him I wanted him to be my boyfriend. He said he'd add my name to the list, and later admitted he wasn't really sure how to respond to that statement. That particular afternoon when we were chatting, he said he'd moved my name to the top of the list.

That was close to eight months ago. We are now planning a wedding, and I am relocating to Atlanta soon. I would've never dreamed that a wonderful, beautiful relationship could be born out of a hate for 'N Sync, but we are living proof that it can.

-- Julia Cornejo

By Salon Staff

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