The Tinder Deception
I make one final crease in my napkin to complete the origami swan before resting it on the bar in front of me. The truth is I’m nervous, and when I’m nervous I make tiny, adorable origami animals. It’s a weird habit, but women seem to find it charming. I also have excessive back sweat when I’m nervous, which women find much less charming.
I take a long sip of the tonic water I ordered, hoping the drink will settle my stomach. It doesn’t. I can still feel the butterflies swimming around. In the movies, when a guy gets butterflies in his stomach before a big date, it’s considered cute. For me, it’s less of a romantic sentiment and more of a precursor to my IBS flaring up, which I’ve been told by several people is decidedly not cute.
I can’t help being nervous though. Tonight is the night I finally get to meet Chloe. We have spent every night over the last 3 weeks messaging back and forth; chatting and flirting and sometimes talking for hours on end. But now we finally get to meet face to face. I’ve gone on other Tinder dates, but I’ve never spoken to anyone like Chloe. She’s smart and funny and so easy to talk to. I don’t usually throw around the word soulmate, but I really feel like she might be. I’ve truly never felt a connection like this with anyone before.
I take another sip of the tonic water when I suddenly hear a voice in my ear.
“Spencer?” the soft voice whispers.
I turn to meet Chloe. Three weeks of anticipation, of hoping and dreaming and yearning, has finally led to this moment. I’m not going to say that I already planned our wedding, but I did. It has a Settlers of Catan theme - our favorite game. The reception would be in an exposed brick barn, adorned with flowing wool tapestries. The centerpieces would be vases overflowing with bundles of delicately arranged wheat, and the table numbers would be carved into blocks of old, reclaimed wood. Chloe would love it. It would be tasteful and elegant, yet playful and nuanced. So Chloe!
But when I look up to meet her gaze, my heart sinks. It isn’t her.
“Can I help you?” I ask in a rather short tone. I’m not usually this curt, but my mind is set on one thing and one thing only, and I can’t afford distractions right now.
“Spencer, it’s me. Chloe.”
I’m stunned. I can’t believe it. I don’t even recognize this person. She looks nothing like her Tinder profile picture. How could I have been so stupid? I can’t believe I actually got catfished. I thought only morons and NFL players get catfished. And to think I spent an entire afternoon making our wedding vision board. I’m such a fool.
“What are you talking about?” I ask, my voice wavering as confusion and hurt and rage take over my body. “You don’t look…”
“I am so sorry,” she interjects. “I didn’t mean to trick you, Spencer. I really didn’t. I just didn’t want people to judge me based on how I look.”
“So who was that person in your profile picture?” I shout again.
“It was a stock photo I found on Google,” Chloe says. “I just wanted you to get to know the real me first.”
“So you lied,” I state coldly.
“Just about how I look, but everything else I said was the truth. I swear to God.” Chloe rubs her hand on my right shoulder and tries to meet my eyes, but I quickly turn and look down at the bar.
“I feel like I don’t even know you,” I hiss back, continuing to avoid her gaze.
“It’s still me,” she says in a reassuring tone. She tries to place her hand on mine now, but I pull away. She sighs, but presses on. “I really do love Catan. I didn’t lie about that. And I truly am obsessed with Harry Potter.”
“I bet you’re not really even in Ravenclaw!” I charge.
“I am!” Chloe pleads. “I promise. I can show you my Pottermore results.”
“You probably figured out a way to forge those too,” I scoff and turn completely away from her now so she can’t see the tears welling up in my eyes. I take a deep breath and try to choke back my emotions, but Chloe circles around my stool and places her hand gently on my cheek.
“What we have is special,” she assures me. Her tone is calm and convincing. “So what if I don’t look like my profile picture? Are you really going to let my looks get in the way of what we have?”
I wipe my eyes and collect myself for a moment before responding.
“You don’t understand. I spent weeks thinking you looked completely different,” I argue. “The person in that profile picture, that’s the person I fell for.”
“So is that what you want?” Chloe asks with a hint of desperation in her voice now. “You want me to look like her? Cause I will. I can gain weight. I’ll stop doing yoga. Eat more fast food. Will that do it for you?”
“No, that’s not it,” I argue.
“Is it my face then? Is it too symmetrical? I know my eyes are much bluer than the woman in the picture’s. I can wear colored contacts if you want.”
I shake my head. “Chloe, you don’t get it. Stop it.”
“It’s gotta be my skin. I’m too tan, aren’t I? I don’t have to go outside as much. I can look as pale as that woman, I promise! I just need time. Give me time Spencer.”
“It’s not your skin Chloe,” I shout. “You’re being ridiculous.”
“It’s my boobs then,” she says. “They’re way too big, aren’t they? God, they’re always getting in the way. I hate these things.” Chloe looks down in shame at her voluptuous breasts.
“Chloe, you are insanely beautiful,” I say. “But that’s the problem. The woman I fell in love with in that profile picture wasn’t. And I’m not about to start this relationship off with a lie. I’m sorry.”
“Give me one round of Catan. I’m sure I can change your mind,” she cries.
“It’s too late Chloe,” I say, standing up from my stool. “And to think, we could have been soulmates.” Chloe wraps her arms around me and nuzzles her head into my shoulder, quietly sobbing. After a few moments, she looks back up at me with her piercing blue eyes.
“If you could just look past my perfect body, I really think you’ll see the person you fell in love with,” she says.
“I wish I could, Chloe. I really wish I could.”
And with that, I place the origami swan in the palm of her hand and walk out of the bar.