Writers block. Serious writers block, is what this chapter has had me at. Maybe the execution of the end always stumps writers; it has to be perfect. Justified. I am tempted to sit and post a plethora of different quotes from different writers on the subjects of broken hearts, unrequited love, unanswered questions, and the powerful force of technology in a world where full subways of people sit in silence. But firstly, that would be a massive cop-out, and I owe you all a lot more. Second, it would be massively clichéd and distasteful. And third, I don’t know where the copy and paste button is on this computer.
I am a year on from my whole escapade with Jonathan, and I don’t intend to ever return to it. (For any of you Saint Raymond fans, hopefully you will see the irony in my word choice there.) I wish I could say I have never touched a phone or computer since then, but then I wouldn’t be talking to you all right now. I suppose you could say that I have learnt a lot, in that I don’t have Tinder and I can leave rooms without my phone now, but I still have a lot of issues left over. I expect constant contact and communication with anyone I’m in a romantic liaison with, which is grossly unfair and really, really weird for my boyfriend. (And yes, I do have a boyfriend right now. And he is real (I checked). And we don’t text…that much). I suppose I could twist it into something quite quirky, just the way that boys can twist their sliminess around into looking like the coveted, leather-jacketed-bad-boy that manages to look utterly smouldering despite being crawling. As Miss Day duly noted, ‘…he won’t find your abandonment issues beautiful.’
Back at Christmas time, I couldn’t sleep during the night. I went downstairs, wearily switching on every light that lay ahead – it seems no matter how old you get, bad sleep always connects with something of a higher power. I sat in the kitchen at three in the morning nursing a cup of tea, and in the near-deafening silence of a sleeping household, one of Jonathan’s songs came dancing through the radio. It took me a few seconds to remember that that wasn’t in fact Jonathan, it was Saint Raymond, and it was just a rerun of the songs from that day on the radio loop. It had no cosmic significance, it wasn’t a message from the other side, it wasn’t anything because Jonathan wasn’t real.
But doesn’t it? Wasn’t he? Whilst it wasn’t who I thought it was on the end of the phone, it was someone. It was a living, breathing human, someone who could have known me, and I fell head over heels for that person – or whoever it was that he conveyed. Were they watching me as I smiled at my phone screen? Were they outside my house at night, knowing that through my bedroom window I was sitting up late in the heavy darkness pleading for them to come to me? Was the fact that he kept cropping back up, again and again, a sign that I shouldn’t just ignore what happened to me? That I should speak up about it?
I started writing If You Leave to release the story from my life. It was haunting me; Jonathan himself was sticking to my bones. But whilst it started off as something cathartic, something that was to warn people of their own vigilance online, it matured into something deeper as the months progressed. As each chapter was researched and published, and the reaction sparked, a bit more truth broke off that tight knot of confusion into my hands. It started with courage. I was able to open the album of pictures that I had saved on my computer. Next it was reading the texts, slowly and one by one. Gradually, I was opening the box that I had packed away with the intent for it to gather dust and rot. Only, however, if I did it from a clinical, detached perspective. This desperate, frantic person isn’t me; it was just someone I was for a while. But whilst more truths were given, more questions were proposed.
Before I started the blog, I spoke to a girl called Tertia. I had found her through twitter, the night that I thought Jonathan had killed himself. She could tell me Jonathan’s life story, just like I could tell her, because he had been speaking to her the same time he started talking to me. After the initial shock and betrayal and sense of relief came, we both agreed that he was probably someone stealing a man’s – a models – Facebook identity. But I still believed, deep down, that Jonathan could be real. He could be who he said he was, just twisted, mixed up, complicated. There was a part of me that wouldn’t let go.
Chapters 1, 2 and 3 came and went. I contacted a friend we had at Police Scotland, and gave him his number, knowing that no matter where they found his number, they couldn’t tell me where it came from. Jonathan has done nothing illegal – he has not committed identity fraud, he has not asked me for money, nor indecent images…all he has stolen from me was my trust. All he wanted was someone to talk to, constantly. A constant companion; a lover without any love.
Then, there was movement. A friend of a friend of a friend – and in an instant, Jonathan’s face was splayed out on my computer screen. The pictures that had been so cherished, that I had been so deprived of, were at my fingertips. There were hundreds, and there was a person behind them – a real person. But in that moment I knew – I had the hardest, most solid evidence in front of me that I had ever had, and it was reality giving me a hard smack in the face. I sat in my dimmed room with music blasting through my headphones and hyperventilated at my glowing screen, and a thought ran through my head that if I died in that room, it would take a good few hours for people to realize where I had gone to. The victim, you could call it, was a model whose pictures had been stolen. And the Catfish – my Jonathan, was a mere two weeks behind this guy. Following him so closely that there was a two week difference from when a photo was posted to when it was sent to me. The profiles in the exact same chronological order; every loophole filled. A true professional.
But there are always ways and means. Another two girls; you will hear their stories soon. Jonathan’s made up life stories all overlapped; Tertia had the mental illness, Freya the Divorce, and Issy the Sick Sibling. I was lucky enough to get all three. But there are more girls; one that I know of, and probably hundreds that I don’t. The number still rings out – the phone is still active. Still being used, and still never being answered. I am still finding things: today, I enlarged a picture and could see it in a new light. On the left arm, just at the wrist, was a pointed triangle tattoo. That could be anyone’s wrist, and anyone’s picture. But it could also be Jonathan’s. So many unanswered questions, wrapped up into an unending web of lies.
The question that has been ringing in my mind for the past few weeks is what could possibly have been lacking in my life to allow me to allow such a relationship. Was I lonely? Not that I remember. Was I bored? Not particularly. And then it was put to me by none other than the God himself, Matthew Healy. In explaining his song ‘Robbers’ he stated
“Robbers’ is a love song. It was originally inspired by my love of the Quentin Tarantino film ‘The Romance’…it was the sentiment behind the film that appeals to me, the hopelessly romantic notion that two people can meet and instantly fall in love, an escape story where love is the highest law and conquers against all odds…couples so intoxicated with one another that they fear nothing in the pursuit of the realization of each other, actions fuelled by blind, unconditional love. ‘Robbers’ is an ode to those relationships. The type of relationships all humans long for. All or nothing.”
And that’s what it was – what I thought I had with Jonathan. The perfect relationship – all consuming, all loving and powerful. We, I thought, were so wrapped up in each other. It was the perfect love story, and like I said before, it was most dangerous because it was all in my head. He gave me the skeleton and I gave him back a body, with flowers sprouting out the ribcage and seas in the stomach. But it wasn’t a relationship. It was exploitation. It was wicked, a constant reminder of the fault in this world that you make when you refuse to bow down to the dark corners and the shadowy whispers that teach you never to trust anybody. That’s what you get for being naïve, for being a dreamer in today’s world – John Lennon got shot, and I had a sky rocketing phone data bill.
I have two things left. The first is a plea to every person that has read this blog, or watched the program, or texted someone they don’t know, or added someone they fancied with no other basis. These people are clever and know how to get under your skin. The enemies of today, as so eloquently put at the end of Skyfall (I do apologize for that, but I can’t think of a better explanation) are no longer standing upright to fight to the death. They are in the shadows; they are behind a screen. They have no name, and they are not black and white, but grey. Please, please don’t make the mistake I did. Please only let yourself fall in love with someone who you can reach out and touch. It’s hard enough to trust the living, let alone the dead and the non-existent. Social media can be a wonderful thing, and If You Leave is testament to its powers. But please, please be vigilant. Make things private, don’t accept people you don’t know, don’t talk to people who you may suspect, and hold yourself close. Keep yourself, and your integrity, and nothing can be taken from you or used against you.
Lastly, this is for Jonathan. I don’t know your real name, so I’m just going to use the one that I have, the one that I gave you and you gave me. If You Leave was to begin as something that was mine, but like everything else it seems that has your name on it, it became something of yours. But it’s not just yours now – it’s everybody’s. It belongs to the public, to every person who has read this, and every person that has spoken to me about you and what you did to me. They know what you did. What you did to me, what you did in the privacy of our own worlds, its now available to anyone – it’s the least I could do for the world, and the least the world could do for me, to share the pain that you inflicted upon me. And I have felt pain like it from no other person – but you have no control over me anymore. And that is something you should know.
I was angry – but now, I’m not. I don’t know what to be angry at anymore; I don’t know who I should direct that anger towards, and so I’ve turned it inwards. I’ve made it productive. I want to know what you are like. Did you know all along I was going to find out? Is that why everything seemed to be loaded with some backwards hints, some small mocking laughs? Did you send the letter to show me how much control you could have over me? Did you choose the Sonnet because I was so aware that you were so much more beautiful than me? Were you mocking me? Was it funny? Did you get too confident in your abilities? There are so many things I want to ask you.
I am trying to find you, and I am trying to stop you from doing this to any other naïve, vulnerable girl like myself. I am almost there, and I know some of the others already. There are 8 of us so far, that I have found. And there might be hundreds, but I won't stop until I find them and I tell them the truth. I wish someone had done that for me. I doubt that you fear me – I know that plenty of others have addressed you about this, and you have flicked them away like you did me, at the end. What have you to fear? I am a 5”3 small girl who uses words better than her fists, and even that is saying something.
Instead, all I ask of you is one thing: please come to me. I will never ask anything of you again - I will never ask you to show yourself or love me or speak to me after you have. You broke my heart, but hearts get broken every day. I'm not asking you to come back. I don’t want you in my life as much as you don’t want me in yours. All I ask is that you come to me and you tell me whom you are. Tell me why you did it. Tell me what made you keep it going for so long, and why you left so quickly. Or - just tell me your name. It can be like Proctor’s role in The Crucible, where all I’ll ask from you is your signature. It is the least you could do, to sign off the life of Jonathan, and let him hang. You owe me that much.