That time I fell in love with a lesbian.

“This unrequited love. To me it’s nothing but a one-man cult.” 
Bad Religion / Frank Ocean

It was 2008, my last year at high school. Having lived a sheltered life, unexposed to the real world and dealing with health and self-image issues, I was not in a very good place.

You see, I have a condition called Cholinergic Urticaria: Every time my body wants to sweat, I would break out in hives instead. This meant that every time I laughed too much, panicked, stood under the sun, or when I would “try” to do sports, I would break out in an irresistible itch and have red rashes wherever those itches reside.

Over time it got worst and worst. There was a point in my life where every morning, I would bring two frozen bottles of 1.25 litre water to school. These were carefully wrapped in towels inside my school bag to prolong it from melting. Whenever I’d feel my body temperature go up, my panic alarm would slowly go off, and I would become more and more anxious by the second. The ants are coming, and they’re coming by the thousands. In that moment of desperation, I’d dig my arms into the make-shift cooler room that was my school bag. Slowly, as my body temperature drops, the ants slowly march away and I was safe for the moment.

Looking back, I don’t think I was living, merely surviving. Over time, I had developed a very good poker face, because no matter how much pain I was in, I didn’t want my friends to worry about me. I didn’t want my friends to leave me. When the school bell rang at the end of each day, I parted ways with my group of friends as they headed to play basketball, while I walk the lonely road home, often with a side of hives.

Lonely and unhappy, I turned to video games. It gave my life purpose, as I had absolutely zero joy in other aspects of my life. In the virtual world, I only had to move my fingers to run, to fight monsters, to travel the fantasy world in whatever weather, come what may. Only in the fantasy world was I able to be…normal.

In this world, I met her.

Do you believe in love at first sight? Me neither. Everybody’s online avatar looked more or less the same anyway. I was a lone wolf in the MMO (massive multiplayer online) world of Ragnarok Online. I started playing this game with my real life friends, but eventually they had grew out of it, and just abandoned their digital avatars without so much as a second thought. I couldn’t do it, I was more alive in the game than I was in real life. The game was more real to me.

My ‘home’ in RO was a town called Geffen. When i’m not on a quest to level up my character or getting meaningless digital pixels that were items and equipment, I’d sit on a bench in the southern part of town. Sometimes, I’d talk to my in-game acquaintances, but mostly I just sit there, waiting for time to pass in both worlds.

One day, time stopped.

Her name was Emilia. We stumbled upon each other in town while talking about a Nintendo DS game that we were both playing at the time. We exchanged our IMs — Instant Messengers, as they were called. This was before the advent of Skype — and what followed was the happiest 10 hours of my life. She lived in America, I live in Australia, and although there was a 12 hour gap between the two timezones, we stayed up chatting nonstop, having forgotten that time even existed.

We had so much in common, we just talked about anything and everything. I had heard the phrase ‘finding your other half’ before, but it was only at the time I felt like I really understood what that meant. She completed me.

Since meeting her, every day after school, instead of being miserable and sluggishly dragging myself back home. I ran. I ran as fast as I could. All I wanted to do was to talk to her. I fired up the computer and logged into IM, anxious to see the green circle lit next to her name.

“Where did we meet before just like this, I know your smile, your voice, just like that”, I’d say to her as soon as the she came online. This was just a quote from a video game that we both played, but this was how we connected, through thousands of quotes and references from games, music, books, movies, you name it. Whenever one of us would suggest something, the other would complete the thought. It was only when I talked to her, that I’d feel like my senses had ignited.

“I got your back until I die.
I don’t care if you don’t want me sticking by,
I’ll keep ten feet behind just to walk you home.”
– Seven / Vagiant

“I love the lyrics in this song!”, she said, and linked me to the Youtube video. I let the music play, I let the lyrics sink in. She really loved the song, and in that moment, I realized that I had fell in love with her.

In the real world, I was boring, quiet, anxious, always anticipating the pain that’d inevitably come when the hives hit. In the digital world, I was none of that, she didn’t know the real me. I was glad about that, because despite all of my flaws on top of me being just a generally immature kid, she appreciated my presence and listened to my every word. She was the bridge that I needed to cross to find out who I really was.

I remember the evening that she opened up and told me about herself. You see, in the online world, one of the many common words you’ll see or use in any game of a competitive nature was ‘rape’. For example, “Wow, he got raped in that fight.” which roughly translated to “Wow, he got destroyed in that fight”. I was one of the many insensitive people who would use that word, little did I know that Emilia had experienced abuse as a child. My heart sank, I couldn’t fathom how much pain she would’ve endured up until that point in her life.

“The world is a horrible place.”

I felt like a fucking jerk, a naive, immature brat who didn’t understand his place in the world. I apologized and asked for her forgiveness. From that day forward, I became much more self-aware about the things I do or say. I stopped using that ‘R’ word completely.

“I want to protect you. Even if one day you doesn’t want me sticking by, i’ll keep ten feet behind just to walk you home”. I’d think to myself. In order to do that, I needed to stop being a kid. I needed to grow up, to become a man. No matter how high your level is in the virtual world, no matter how many rare items you have, they are completely meaningless in the real world, in the cruel world.

That year, I read a lot of self-help books and listened to many well renowned speakers, in the hopes of absorbing some of their knowledge in helping me grow up. The most notable advice was this: vision in your mind the man you want to be in 5, perhaps 10 years time. This time, I wanted to level up my real lift avatar. I wanted to be strong, mature, caring, and charismatic. I told myself I wanted to be strong for her, because prior to her coming into my life, I’d just been a hermit sitting in a dark room, the only light illuminating me was from the computer monitor. Here she was, the brightest ray of light to have ever shone on my miserable life. In hindsight, I was projecting too much on her, but I didn’t care at the time.

“If you’ll be my star, i’ll be your sky.
You can hide underneath me and come out at night.
When I turn jet black, and you show off your light.
I live to let you shine.”
— Boats and Birds / Gregory and the Hawk

Every day, we’d go out in the virtual world and go on small adventures. We’d hunt monsters, do quests, and buy new hats and accessories for our characters. Whenever we’d felt like we’ve outgrown that community, we’d sign up to a new server and start anew. Before we created our new avatars though, we’d always spend an unimaginable amount of time deciding on new character names. It was like a ritual for us, the name was just as important as the adventure, it was our new identity.

Over the years, we’d jump from server to server, game to game. I had never confessed my feelings to her, but no doubt she felt it. She had told me she was bisexual, so I always hoped that one day we’d be able to meet each other in real life, and that I could convince her to choose me as her life-long adventure partner.

That illusion slowly crumbled as time we on. I guess i’ve always known in my heart that she will never let another man into her life. I had believed that *I*, the greatest man alive, will come into her life like a knight in shining armor. “I will be the one to save you!”, i’d think to myself all the time. “I am different to all the other men, I will never do you harm, I will protect you”. Well, I never got a chance to prove myself right, and in hindsight, nor did I have a chance to prove myself wrong.

Our “relationship” didn’t stand the test of time, for there was not only a twelve hour gap between us, but also many tens of thousands of miles that I could not transcend. We slowly drifted apart, for real life has called and we each have our duties to fulfil. Those adventures we used to go on still linger on in my mind. Once in awhile when I find myself in the quiet of the night, I think back to those times and wonder what could’ve been, had we each been dealt with a different hand.

“I see swimming pools and living rooms and aeroplanes.
I see a little house on a hill and children’s names.
I see quiet nights poured over ice and Tanqueray.
But everything is shattering, it’s my mistake.

Only fools fall for you, only fools.”
- Fools / Troy Sivan