You’ve asked, so here it is. The story. I don’t like to think of myself as gullible, but if you define gullible as “I assume my best friends aren’t going to lie to my face, even on April 1,” then yes, I’m gullible. Here’s what went down.
Away in Boise for the weekend, I receive a warning email from Ashley. She has signed up on eHarmony. Found a “pretty great” guy. And they are going to meet in person for the first time next week. (!!!!!!!!) I tell Ashley I am behind it 100% and she has my permission to be as weird and stressed out as she wants and I will take care of her, because that’s my job. Besides the fact that every personality test tells me I’m “the counselor” or “the protector” or “Captain America,” I’ve got four sisters (two married) and I live in Moscow, so hello, I’ve seen a relationship or two. I know exactly what to do.
I race back into town for The Talk. All four roommates + close friend involved. They’ve known about it longer than I have, so now I’m playing catchup. Let the counseling commence!
His name? Marcus. (Ah. Yes, indeed, Ashley, that does sound vaguely handsome.)
Last name? Ribisi. (Hm, like Giovanni Ribisi, the medic who dies of a gut wound in Saving Private Ryan, but I won’t say that out loud…)
How old? Grace: Early thirties…? Ashley: Twenty-eight. (Niiiiice.)
Where’s he from? Grace: Spokane…ish? Ashley: No, Pullman. (Hurray! Pullman is close, but this means he has NO excuse for not attending our church. I shall pray for him.)
Grace: His profile says Abraham Lincoln is his hero. (Privately: EW NO NO NO NO NO.)
Lindsey: And he might be a pacifist, but we’re not sure. (Privately: That’s just as bad. I shall pray a little harder.)
I attempt to spy on Facebook. (Subtly.) But Ashley knows what I’m up to and explains. Ah, he’s not on Facebook. He’s working and doing school. Too much of a time drain. (Privately: Wise man. Possibly a wise, Lincoln-loving pacifist, but still wise.)
Then it comes. Tuesday, April 1. The day of the date. I chase Ashley with prayers and supportive IMs all day. She’s appropriately twitterpated with the idea of being twitterpated with someone she’s never met: “This is like sailing off without a map — most certainly an adventure, but kinda scary! But I like him. He’s quick and funny — Italian. Really CARES about things.” (Hm, this is starting to make up for Lincoln, but pacifism is still a problem. I shall prepare my “if you’re going to marry my roommate then you must learn to shoot” proposal/threat.)
It’s nearly 6:00. I hear swanky samba coming from behind Ashley’s closed bedroom door. A good sign. She is in The Zone.
Out she comes. So nervous and adorable with fluffy hair and cute stripes. I tell her she’s going to come home with a ring and then quickly realize that is not helpful. She needs hugs. We give hugs. Hugs all around. Blessings on her head, and off she goes.
Fifteen minutes later, a phone call. Grace listens to Ashley ramble a mile a minute and I’m watching Grace’s face turn upside down. “What a jerk move!” Grace cries at last. Pulling the phone away from her ear, she tells me: “He got cold feet and left a letter and some money for her meal at the restaurant and says he just wants to keep things platonic. So we are going down there to cheer her up!”
Heck yes! I throw my half-cooked fish dinner in the fridge, grab my sister Kate, and dash out the door. Grace arrives downtown first. By the time Kate and I get there, the two other girls are laughing hysterically outside the restaurant. Well, at least Ashley finds the humor in this! She must be in shock. I march up, armed with good cheer and jolly Romans 8:28 faith. “This,” I say firmly, “will make a really good story.” Her face is radiant with pure disbelief. She must feel so worthless right now, but we are here, we are all here to prove to her that she’s so much better than any cold-feeted Marcus the Italian Platonist from Pullman ever deserves.
Waiting for our table (cancel that table for two! we want a table for four!), she hands me the letter. “You have to read this. It’s like Anne of Green Gables on crack.”
I read. I’m glad I’m sitting down. I almost spit in horror. Who cares that I’m in the middle of Nectar? This guy is the biggest idiot I’ve ever (not) met.
“Dear Ashley” (he begins) “As the time grew closer for us to meet, my heart told me it was wrong.”
I bellow: “YOUR HEART TOLD YOU IT WAS WRONG?!?!”
Marcus (continuing in delicate, thoughtful penmanship): “Our words are where our hearts meet. They float in the air, sparkling like crystal.”
I stomp both my feet. “What? WHAT? This guy is an IDIOT! Sparkling like CRYSTAL?”
Marcus (soulfully): “Why must we ever meet in person? We have already met in soul. If you want to talk, you know exactly where to find me. You can always find me there. I wanted to buy you dinner–you are an amazing person and a pure spirit. Our relationship may never extend beyond the spiritual–but isn’t that better?”
Me: “You don’t want to meet ASHLEY? I tell you who you never want to meet, you never want to meet ME!”
Marcus (unperturbed): “Our conversations live in my heart–I would hate to ruin a good friendship–a marriage of true minds. You are my best friend–Let’s not ruin it. Yours always…Marcus.”
I snort and stomp and squeal. I’ve been taught to be strategic in my use of the English language, but right now I can only say things like “idiot” and “idiot” and “idiot.”
“Did you catch the P.S.?” Ashley asks me.
Wait, there’s more?
“P.S. There is a woman in your church who hates Lincoln. Do you know her? Obviously, her heart is in a hard place. Steer clear of her.”
My jaw drops. “How does he know I’m in your church? He’s a freaking spy! MY heart? In a HARD PLACE?? I don’t HATE Lincoln, I critique him! This is the most important thing he can SAY to you?” Sputter, sputter, sputter.
Our table is ready, but I’m not done. “This was good to find out early,” I say, scooching up my chair. “Drop him right now.”
We all raise our glasses. “To Ashley,” I declare.
“To Marcus,” she says.
I wrinkle my nose. Why, yes, if a toast counts as a prayer for his dratted eternal weepy soul, then I can toast the schmuck.
“He does not exist,” Ashley announces.
“No, he doesn’t!” I echo.
“He is a figment of my imagination!”
“Yes, he is!” I cry.
We drink. Suddenly, I realize. “GUYS. What if this is all just some massive April Fool’s joke? To trick us?”
Ashley’s eyes are sparkling. “It is.”
“He doesn’t exist.”
“He really doesn’t exist.”
“Marcus is not real. I made him up. I never met him. I wrote this letter.”
At this point, I no longer know what I’m saying, only that my voice has entered an I-just-sucked-helium range and all my roommates are laughing and I’m so mad at Marcus, I’m even madder that he doesn’t exist than I am at anything else.
“But hey!” Ashley spreads her arms. “I got you all to dinner!”
I’m panting and exhausted. “You did all this just to trick me? Who else knew about this?”
They rattle off half of Moscow, relatives in Kentucky, and everyone that I have devoutly kept out of the secret for the past few days. So basically, I’m surrounded by people who should join the CIA (maybe they already have) and who also believe it’s perfectly okay to bear false witness against your neighbor as long as your neighbor doesn’t actually exist. As for Mr. Ribisi, he may not be real, but when I meet him, I’m going to plant a hard right on his nose and see how much of a pacifist he is then. May this serve as a warning to anyone named Marcus: when you introduce yourself, steer clear of me and my hard heart. I may be the biggest fool on April 1, but I will protect my roomies to the death–or the altar (in this case, the two would have been combined).
And now, for your viewing pleasure, the letter: