His name was Luke, and his entire life was on my computer screen.
When I logged in the office iMac for the first time, heart racing with first-day nerves, he was one of the first to greet me. His thick beard made up most of the thumbnail, and his eyes told me to take care of the desk he had manned for so long. Once I logged in, I changed the icon to a picture of a flower and renamed the computer.
But he persisted. His name was on the computer’s Gmail, Facebook, and my work e-mail. Again, I erased all traces of him within the first week, making sure that his past no longer infiltrated my present.
And then, as I was texting a friend on the desktop iMessage, I saw a list of unfamiliar numbers. I scrolled down to see dozens of messages that I had not written. I read the first two, assuming they were mine before realizing that these were, in fact, the entire chat history of Luke.
At first, I was hesitant. This was his phone, and at this age, unlocking someone’s phone is like opening someone’s soul. But then again, he was a stranger to me and I had two hours to kill before I could head home.
The first few messages were uneventful, but I got to know him albeit in fragmented text messages. He was a musician, and from all the compliments he had received from friends and family, he was a damn good one. One day, after one of his performances at a bar, he saw a girl in the crowd and asked for her number.
Hey, it’s Luke, that guy you met just now.
Yes, I remember. Looking forward to your company again.
Although they never exchanged pictures, to me, she was tall and blonde, the type of woman a musician can write songs for.
The next day, she was the first to talk.
Hey, great to hear from you.
There I was, present during the first chapter of two lovebirds, but two years too late to the party. So I carried on, watching him fall in love with this woman who used exclamation marks too liberally and signed all her texts with x’s when intoxicated. He had his heart wrapped around his thumbs; every message was carefully written with a hint of romance and the promise of a reply.
It took two days from the first hello for him to tell her how he felt. To which she replied with modesty, and not reciprocation. There was something about her, every compliment she received would be met with a question and awkward humor.
One night, before both dozed off to sleep, he asked her, tell me something about you.
She replied with a glimpse into her past. She spoke of her childhood, her favorite wine, how she always had a runny nose in the winter. And he gave her a window into his life. He told her about his earliest memory, the song that meant a lot to him, and how he loved cooking more than eating.
The conversation flowed; my eyes darting back and forth like watching an intense tennis match. I could feel his love through the computer screen even though he never said anything of the sort. He was a man slipping gently into quicksand, and it seemed like she was slowly descending with him. But since the first hello, he was always a few steps ahead.
After a night out together, he texted her good morning and asked to see her again. A few hours passed before she sent a lengthy reply—a bittersweet goodbye. A final message that came out of left field, full of regret and sadness. It wasn’t the right time, she said. And then delivered a proposal I knew she would not fulfill: we can still be friends.
And he, of course, could only say I understand. Two words said by someone who either loved too much or cared too little. I knew it was the former. I could only imagine the hurt he must’ve felt to show his cards to the woman he loved and for her to walk away so easily. She was a storm in his drought, and he never expected the rain to stop.
Reading that was like peeking through a stranger’s home during their most vulnerable time. Still, I can’t help but wonder how he’s doing today. I want to know whether he’s met someone who makes him feel the same way she did. I want to know if, two years later, both of them still walk by that bar and think about each other. I want to know if she still listens to his songs and if he can still look up at night without remembering how much she loved the stars.
I want to know because the story ended too soon. A story that I shouldn’t have read—but was too beautiful not to.