I met Penelope in a group setting. It was at the apartment of one of my friends and we gathered together for our weekly game night. I was friends with both hosts, who were roommates at the time. She joined that night through Roommate A, which seemed normal enough since game night is open to all who want to participate. Game night ended with no incident. I think we took a group photo. She chose to sit in front of me and lean back against my legs, scooting around until she was in position. I thought nothing of it. I should have known better.
The Facebook Interaction
Back then, I had a tendency to add people on Facebook after meeting them in person for the first time. Over time, I would unfriend many of the ones who I never met again. Seems like extra work for no reason now, but felt practical at the time. My mistake. I added her and she messaged me almost immediately. As a single guy, I kept several women friends around at arms’ length to help satiate my own need for validation. You could almost consider it to be a male version of the girls who say they have so many guy friends. As you’re cringing after reading that, I’m shuddering right now after typing it. After a few messages with Penelope, we got to exchanging phone numbers. The twist is that she asked me for mine first. I thought it was refreshing because I usually ask first. I should have known better.
The Super Bowl
Like many people in the US, I watch the Super Bowl every year. That year was no exception. It was Super Bowl XLVI with Patriots vs. the Giants. Everyone outside of the New England area hates the Patriots. Guess which team I rooted for. Since I didn’t want to watch it alone at home, I joined a party at someone’s house. Lo and behold, Penelope is there. How? Why? She knows enough mutual people at the party itself, so maybe it works through that logic. I thought nothing of it and watched the game, as well as engaged in the party games during halftime. Penelope sat next to me through most of the night. Some people took notice and ribbed me a little, but whatever. This is all normal behavior, right? I should have known better.
Chronicle (great movie by the way) had come out a few weeks before and I wanted to see it. I texted about 10 or so people to ask if they wanted to go. It might have been a group text. Like clockwork, one after another had something else or just didn’t want to see the film. Since I didn’t want to watch it alone (is this a pattern?), I did the unthinkable. I texted Penelope to ask if she wanted to see it. Her enthusiastic quick response actually made me feel better, because I thought she was into science fiction and everyone else said no up until then. We met at the local theater. A few minutes before the movie started, I looked up something in my phone. I don’t remember what exactly, but I do remember her leaning in very close and looking at the info too. At that point, I knew she was giving me flirty cues and I was just lonely enough to get an ego boost from all her attention. I should have known better.
After the movie ended, we went our separate ways. I felt kind of bad because it seemed like I used her just to be a presence so I didn’t have to watch a movie by myself. Maybe that’s exactly what it was. Maybe it would have been better if I left it at that. But my brain told me to justify her kind gesture with some coffee. I texted her again asking if she wanted to get coffee from the nearby Starbucks. Her immediate response again gave me that false ego boost. We met up and talked over coffee. She laughed a lot. I think I’m pretty good at keeping up conversation and causing a few chuckles, but she was really into it. She was too into it. We may have talked for 30 minutes to an hour, until we finally left. I think she said something about doing this again some time. I agreed. I should have known better.
The Words with Friends Confession
Since the Facebook friend request, Penelope and I had been playing each other on Words with Friends. I had a pretty good record, but she schooled me. This is what actually prompted me to want to get to know her more, because not many people I knew in real life could take me down as badly she did. During one of our regular matches, she used the messaging service to talk and flirt. At some point, she told me she was drunk. I think she was out with friends. Then, it happened. She said something like “I’m messaging the guy I like and want to date through a word games app. OMG I’m so embarrassed.” That was direct enough for me to understand that she confessed in her drunken stupor. I hadn’t received many confessions in the past, so this should have been flattering. But it wasn’t. It just felt off. We hadn’t spent enough time together to constitute a desire to date. I don’t remember my responses back to her, but they were definitely not reciprocal. I think I told her we should talk about it more after she becomes sober. She said okay and the conversation ended there, or so I thought. I should have known better.
Later that same night, I received apologetic text messages from Penelope. The contents were along the lines of her being sobered up now and blurted out something she didn’t mean. I was relieved because I actually believed her. I replied back thanking her for clarifying and to have a good night. But then, she asked “what if she did mean it?” Since any budding interest had fizzled away at that point, I told her that whether she did or not, I will need more time before making any hasty decisions. We had not spent enough time together yet and I didn’t want to rush into anything like I have in the past. She seemed unsatisfied. We said our goodbyes at around 10 pm. I thought that would be it until our next in person encounter. Nope. She called me at 11 pm. The call consisted of her repeated question and wanting to get a full answer on why I didn’t want to date. My fight-or-flight senses started flaring up. I tried my best to explain that I rushed into relationships in the past and learned from it, so I would appreciate if she could let a friendship start out first to see where that goes. However, I was done even being an acquaintance with her by then. She persisted but eventually hung up. I went to sleep. I woke up the next morning to find 2 voicemails. One was at 3 am. Another was at 5 am. I also had several text messages from Penelope. I don’t remember much of what she said in the voicemails, but they involved how she felt stupid for letting herself get vulnerable. I couldn’t tell if she was blaming herself or blaming me for rejecting her. There was a lot of scream-crying. The text messages tried to convince me to not listen to the voicemails, then to reassure me that whatever I heard was not who she really is. I deleted everything and moved on with my day. I should have known better.
Penelope was still friends with some people I knew, so she continued to be a presence for a bit. She sent a message to me that looked like it was meant for another guy, saying something like she can’t make it on a date with him that day. I knew enough to recognize this cheap tactic of trying to instill jealousy. It didn’t work. I unfriended her that day. She kept showing up to larger mutual friend group settings, like barbecues and events. She eventually started dating one of the guys, who was becoming a friend of mine. He fell off the deep end with her. I think she fed him some set of lies that got him riled up. He randomly called me to ask a slew of questions about what my relationship with Penelope was. I told him as concisely as I could that I had no relationship and the most we did was watch one movie together. I kept away from any connection to her until she gradually went away, with the poor guy. I saw at some point that they got married. Years later, turns out they divorced. I should have known better.
Well, that was my convoluted brain dump of a story. If anyone is interested in more info, feel free to ask questions. I hope this helps anyone else out there in a similar situation. If you sense something is just off, listen to those gut instincts.
I should have known better.
Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.
Instagram: @phicklephilly Facebook: phicklephilly