Teenage wasteland

We talked for a minimum of 10 hours a day, every day, for years. He was still a virgin when we finally met.

Published May 14, 2003 7:57PM (EDT)

I met Thomas on the Internet when I was 15 and he was 14. He lived in Iowa, I in New York. We were both from poor single-mother families. We were both "home schooled." The quotes are there because our home schooling consisted of our mothers letting us drop out of public school and then giving us library cards. We were both bisexual. We both loved computers and the Internet, especially Linux. We both had Big Plans to one day open an ISP all of our own.

We fell in love. Our families were a mess and neither of us really had any friends, so we felt like all we had was each other. We talked for a minimum of 10 hours a day, every day, for years.

During the years I was having my online relationship with Tommy I was growing heavier and heavier, up until I weighed around 225 pounds. At 5'4", that meant I was a big, big girl. I wanted to meet him badly, but not like looking like a pumpkin. I started losing weight and I was able to take off almost 100 pounds ... just so I could meet him. After I lost the weight, I found out that he didn't feel ready to meet me, though, and by then I was starting to suspect that there was something a little funny about him. Maybe he was way older than he said he was? Maybe he was really a girl with a deep voice? I had no idea, but I was desperate to look at him, to touch him, to find out who he really was.

Because Tommy was reticent about meeting me, and because I had recently lost all the weight and was starting to feel like a real girl, I decided to head out into the world. I only had a seventh-grade education, but I took the New York State GED exam, enrolled in a local college, and started taking classes. I made friends again. I started dating a little bit, but my heart and mind belonged to Thomas. I really felt like I was saving myself for him, so I didn't take any of the boys I met too seriously.

Eventually I met a boy named Xavier, who asked me to move out West with him. I liked him a lot, but I ached for Thomas, who I was still talking to on a very regular basis, but not for hours every day as I had in previous years. When I told Thomas that I was planning on moving out West with Xavier, he started calling in the middle of the night and harassing both of us. He became known as my "Internet stalker," which I thought was hilarious ... in a sad way. I just wished he would meet me so that we could figure out if there was anything between us. He obviously didn't want me running off with Xavier, so what was holding him back from meeting me? We both had the means to do it now, but he refused.

When the time came for us to prepare to move out of New York state, Xavier replaced his beater with a brand-new SUV and we rented a U-Haul. We packed all of our things into the U-Haul and were ready to leave for Colorado, when Tommy called me and told me that he was in town.

I had never, ever been more scared or excited in my life. I agreed to meet him at a bar nearby to my house, first making sure that Xavier was close by in case Thomas turned out to be someone other than who he said he was. When I showed up at the bar no one approached me. I sat around for an hour and then left, wondering what had happened to Thomas. Did he see me and not like me?

I called Thomas' hotel room repeatedly for almost two days straight, but he never answered. Finally I called the hotel and the police and told them that I was supposed to meet my friend from out of town and that he hadn't showed up, that he hadn't answered the phone in his hotel room for two days, and that I was worried something had happened to him. The police sent a unit over to the hotel and it turned out that Thomas had been sleeping for two days because, he said, he'd driven straight from Iowa and was exhausted. When we talked he told me that he was sorry and that he wanted to meet me that night. I agreed.

We met in a bar. We'd never seen a picture of each other before, but we recognized each other immediately. We were both the only young, slightly geeky-looking people in the place, and we both had expressions of anticipation ... and terror. He didn't look like I expected, but I thought he was cute and I liked him straight away. He was a little shy, much less aggressive in person than he'd been on the Internet, and he had an awkward sweetness to him that I liked. We hung out for a couple of hours, talked, and then I had him drive me back home. He busted out crying when he dropped me off -- he was worried that I didn't like him and that I wouldn't see him again. I assured him that that wasn't he case

I saw him again the next day and we ended up at his hotel room. He lost his virginity to me and he gave me my first real orgasm (with another person, that is). Because we were so comfortable together and the sex was great, I was suddenly torn. I'd always felt a little awkward around Xavier. He was smart and interesting, but not playful and wry like Thomas. He'd also never made me come. I also had only known him for six months and I'd known Thomas for ... well, only two days, really, but we'd been talking for years. I had no idea what to do. I was packed, for God's sake, and Thomas was a big risk. I had no family to rely on, not very many friends, and I knew Thomas had little social experience and was easily irritated. I loved him, though. I loved everything I thought I knew about him. I kept thinking, "I love him, I love him..how can I leave him now?"

I stayed in New York and moved into Thomas' hotel room. We were both 18. I didn't have any money, but Thomas had several months of income saved up from (he said) a high-paying Internet job he'd had in Iowa. We moved from hotel to hotel while we were looking for an apartment.... "For variety," he said. We finally found a place, but Thomas decided he didn't like the landlords, so we moved to another place. Then to another. The last place I liked a lot and I didn't want to move anymore.

After we'd been living in the third apartment for a couple of months the state police called me. Could I come down and talk to them? I did, and they told me that Thomas had been kiting checks. That's when you get multiple bank accounts and write bad checks back and forth between them. He'd also been racking up thousands and thousands of dollars in credit card debt and loans. I should really check my own credit and banking information out, they told me. I was stunned enough for them to quickly decide that I wasn't involved, so they let me go and they arrested Thomas immediately.

Before I found out about the bank fraud, I'd been planning our wedding, picking out our children's names, and looking for jobs in Florida, since Tommy said he'd wanted to move down there. Now, I was a teenager with a destroyed credit rating, an inability to get a bank account, and $10,000 debt in my name. The cops told me I was lucky, that it could have been much worse. Thomas told me that he didn't know what else to do, since he hadn't wanted either of us to work because then we wouldn't see each other as much.

I moved on. Tommy went to jail.

As you can imagine, that was pretty much the end of the romance.

- - - - - - - - - -

Do you have a saga of love won or lost? Submit your story to heaven@salon.com or hell@salon.com.

- - - - - - - - - -

Go here for more matches made in heaven and hell.

By Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------