When I met an Afghan guy on a dance floor in Delhi I didn’t really think much of it. Well, I mean, that’s if you don’t count the mildly offensive suspicions I had about a Muslim being at a nightclub; a nightclub Muslim? Nonsensical, right? It goes against everything the stereotypes ever told us. Anyway, you can imagine the surprise I got the next day when he found me on Facebook and handed me an out-of-nowhere declaration of his undying love. From fear to fascination to the birth of a weird sort of cyber relationship thing, I learned that two people with a world of difference between them could still laugh at the same jokes.
READ PART ONE
The next afternoon I woke up wrapped in a sari with a bit of a weird feeling in my stomach. It wasn’t Delhi belly, it was just the usual pain I get when I waste a day of sunshine or suspect I might have thrown my dignity up onto someone’s nice knits the evening before.
Luckily it wasn’t anything a cold shower and strong cup of chai couldn’t dissolve – and I can always trust social media to serve as a good distraction from any fermenting internal chaos too.
I opened Facebook to find that my mate from the disco, Sayed, had sent me a friend request and a little message to signpost the beginning of our pen friendship. I eagerly responded to him, this person I knew less about than the bar of soap I had been using at the hostel, and this seemed to incite some agreeable pleasantries
We discussed the predictable topics, you know, how we had pulled up after the previous night, a bit of thought-provoking weather chat and all that. And I guess this opportunity seemed as good as any for him to segue into the big announcement he had for me:
‘I didn’t know how to tell you last night, but I love you.’
Turned out my uncoordinated dancing and candid approach to conversation had snagged me an admirer. And no, there was absolutely nothing I could do or say to Facebook chat him out of it.
‘Love is a strong word, and you can’t just say that to someone you don’t know,’ I told him.
‘You think so negatively, Jessica,’ he told me.
‘I’m not negative,’ I explained, ‘but I think perhaps we are culturally very, very different.’
‘Love doesn’t see the difference in cultures,’ he explained back.
‘I’m six years old than you!’ I said to frighten him.
‘So I can’t love you because you are older than me? I don’t care about age,’ he said to (unintentionally) frighten me back.
I’m not sure if I was trying to take control of the potential stalker situation I had on my hands or if I was being driven by the uncanny fascination I had with how his brain worked, but our disagreement about love went far beyond the point where any other woman I know would have just deleted him out of fear or intolerance.
The conversation only ended when it became bedtime for me. I was flying home to London early the next morning so I withdrew by firmly bidding him good day. But the dilemma of the situation came with me to the thin mattress on the floor.
Am I supposed to use the unfriend button on someone if they start declaring their love after 24 hours? Or is that a bit rude? Gosh, I don’t want to be rude. Maybe it’s just an age thing? Or a culture thing? Shit, maybe love at first sight is a real thing? Go to bed, Jessica.
I fell asleep on the decision of whether or not to cancel my creepy new pen friendship, and when I woke up I knew what I had to do. I had to protect vulnerable real-life Jess from letting invincible social-media Jess from getting us into trouble.
So rushing to the airport that morning I decided the big elimination round would happen as soon as I could get back online. But I don’t really know what happened between that thought process and landing in London, because the next thing I knew I was home and somehow connected with him via three more social media platforms. And I was still trying to debate him out of love with me.
‘Where I come from,’ I continued to explain, ‘if someone expresses their love for you after meeting them once, well, that’s a strong indication that you might wind up strangled in a basement.’
‘I can’t help it,’ he said.
‘Help what?’ I asked.
‘Thinking of you, loving you.’
‘This is not love. This is lust.’
‘Whatever you say. Reasons, reasons, you have so many reasons. I love you and that is it.’
Sheesh. The guy was harder work than Bridget Jones.