I have never been in US. It was in 2012 when I received a friend request named Veronica Hernandez on Facebook. It was unexpected, because I had joined Facebook just in May 2011, and I had only a few friends then, mostly from India, of my own age and mind. Like me, they were enthusiastic about posting poems and jokes and proposing girls, unlike these days when I am a member of many book clubs and because of writing reviews and articles, many people from different countries are connected. So far, reading and writing extensively have brought a lot of change in me, but those were the days when I had a quixotic craving for the female company. I was single and in sheer need of a girlfriend.
It was intriguing, at that time, to get a friend request from US. I had mixed feelings when the friend request popped up on the notification, but after pondering over the name and photo, I clicked on it. Her profile spread out on the screen. She was from Guatemala and was living in Los Angeles. Age: 37, relationship status: divorced. I thought for a minute to add her or not. Her profile was not much promising for a twenty years old single boy. Nonetheless, I added her. I consoled myself saying that if not for an amorous chat, she might be a good source for increasing my knowledge about L.A. and Guatemala. I always had a knowledge-hungry part in my conscience.
We did hi-hello on the same day and I asked her why she sent me a friend request. You won’t believe, she astonished me by her reply. She said,
“Your profile pic was showing up in ‘People You May Know’ section and I found it very handsome.”
Whoa! I felt like the Tom Cruise of India having a fan in America.
That’s how our text-ship started. Veronica was tall and plump. Her face, in the photos that she often posted on her timeline, showed straight brown hair, wide forehead, a long nose and high cheekbones. I am not sure about her eyes, because in every photo she had covered them by the goggles. She had two lovely kids, Silvia and David.
What did we talk? Though it felt formal at first, but gradually, we opened our hearts to each other and talked on every important and unimportant subject.
Guatemala lies in Central America. It shares borders with Mexico, Honduras, EI Salvador and Pacific Ocean. Along with crime, poverty and corruption, Guatemalans have suffered a lot by a long lasting civil war which came to an end in 1996. These troubles there led to a large influx of Guatemalan refugees in US via Mexico. Majority of these groups live in California, New York, Florida and Texas now.
Veronica migrated to US in 1990. Some of her countrymen and relatives were already settled in Anaheim County of California, and she lived there for two years, after that she got married and settled in Los Angeles. Los Angeles is the biggest city of California State. Hollywood and Disneyland are the main attractions.
Life was good there and she was happy. And in due time, she became a mother of two kids. Kids demand attention and same is true with husbands. Her husband landed in an extra-marital affair. Soon, things started to appear ugly. Abuses, fights and domestic violence became the routine at home. Her husband was adamant and she was exasperated by the daily conundrum. Finally, they got separated. Kids got the custody of the mother, the father could visit them, but he was bound to give the alimony.
Veronica was not well-educated. However, I never asked her about such things, but I guessed from the way she used to write English. It was rudimentary and unsophisticated. Her native language was Spanish, of which, I just knew ‘hola’ and ‘gracious’ and of my native language, I am sure she didn’t know more than ‘namaste’.
After the divorce, she had to work. When I met her online, she was working as an assistant in a day boarding school and was earning enough to make the ends meet. Her kids were going to school; she used to talk about them and used to post their photos. She was a believer and as she told me, she had made peace with life.
We talked a great deal of various things like love, life, relationships, culture, et cetera. We never talked politics, as I discuss now with my online friends, because I was not much aware then, and she was not interested at all.
I wondered often how she always had time for me. She used to send me her and her kids’ photos, and one day when I told her a story which I had read in my high school years, we even exchanged addresses and she told that she would write a letter to me, in India. “Wow! What a great feeling it is to receive letters nowadays when you can reach to anyone in the world within seconds” I said. By chance, the lady in the story was also from Los Angeles.
The story that I told her was Pen-Pal by G. Srinivas Rao. The time-period was 1970s. It was a story of a 21 year old boy, the author himself, and an old lady living in America. The author was a college-student. One day, while rummaging through new magazines in a bookshop, he saw some foreign addresses with exotic names who wanted to have pen-friends. There were only names and address, not a clue about the age and gender. The author decided a female name Alice and sent a letter to her address. Surprisingly, the reply came within the next few days. Alice had written back.
Their correspondence, thus started, lasted for many years. The author, being a young man, was always eager to know how his pen-friend looked like, but the lady always made some excuses for not sending her photo. They exchanged cards, gifts, books and magazines by mail, but the lady never sent her photo. After many years, the frequency of receiving and sending letters reduced, but they were in touch. Once, when the author didn’t receive a reply even after four months, he sent a letter again. No reply came. He again sent a letter after waiting for a month. After ten days, he received a packet sent from someone in Los Angeles. It had a feminine handwriting, but unfamiliar to the author. When he opened it, he found a short letter, some magazines and a photograph of Alice. The parcel was sent by a close friend of Alice.
He read, “I am sad to inform you that Alice died in a car accident. She wanted her photograph to be sent to you after her death. So it is here.” That day the author came to know that Alice was a woman of 78. She looked old in the photo, but the author found a motherly beauty and compassion on her face.
We exchanged the addresses, but I was not much inclined to send her any letter. By then, I had another girl in India, and I was more anxious to make her my girlfriend. In all honesty, I thought if Veronica sends me a letter first, I will reply back. A few months passed, no letter came, though we talked regularly and I asked her once or twice if she had sent the letter, of which, she replied that she obviously had sent but it might be stuck somewhere. I forgot about all that and never asked again, but a strange thing happened one day.
I received another friend request, by the name of Patricia Rodriguez. I clicked on the name and inspected her profile. This lady was also from Guatemala and was living in L. A. Veronica was there in her friend list. This phenomenal event of my social-media life happened in 2014, almost two years after chatting with Veronica.
I inspected the photos and found the lady in them voluptuously thrilling. She was rather short but had the physique of a perfect plus-size model. I instantly felt enthralled by the gesture, posture and style of that indomitable beauty in the photos. I went through almost every photo. Another fact that surprised me was -she also had two kids –a boy and a girl. She was 33, and her relationship status on the profile was single.
I accepted her request, and sent a “ Hi ”. She replied after an hour, and I asked her how she got interested in me.
She replied, “I have listened so much about you that I thought I should talk to you.”
“Oh! Who you listened from?”
“Of course, from Veronica. She lives nearby and talks a lot about you. Personally I don’t like people from India, but she always says that you are different.”
“So you two are neighbors? I see. And why do you not like people from India? Have you met any?”
“Indians here in US are good, but every Indian I met online always wanted to talk sex with me.”
“Holy shit! Well, what can I say, morons are everywhere.”
“Ya, they are morons, I blocked them, but you look like a nice man.”
“Had you told Veronica that you were going to add me?”
“No, I will surprise her.”
Before this chat I really didn’t know that I was a nice and different Indian. I said to myself, “Thank you, Veronica”.
Patricia was younger, prettier, and more jovial, but less sensitive –as far as I observed –than Veronica. Patricia had the same story almost. She was divorced, but still positive towards marriage and this might be the reason of mentioning ‘single’ on the relationship status. I was certainly not an option, as I was too young for her and miles apart. Moreover, I had a girlfriend then in India.
Patricia’s education level wasn’t better than Veronica, that’s what I guessed from chatting with her. Instead of ‘ha-ha’, she used to write ‘ja-ja’ that confused me at first but when I googled it, I found that it was the Spanish version of ‘ha-ha’. She taught me some common Spanish words like buenos dias, como estas, bien, hasta luego and. many words that I have forgotten now.
We, Patricia and I, developed a good understanding after chatting for a few days. Veronica never gave me her Whatsapp contact or ever made a video-call, even when I asked her for that once or twice, but Patricia added me on Whatsapp, Gmail, Hangout, Imo, Instagram and she used to call me, used to send me photos of everywhere she went, used to share every funny thing that happened with her presently. She liked me a lot, I liked her as well. She was beautiful, she was hot, and she was quite frank.
I started giving more time to Patricia than Veronica. It was because she was new to me and she had more to talk. She talked to me everything she had and now and then would send a photo to support the argument, sometimes a voice message, and if she was in a happy mood, would make a video call. Even sometimes I felt embarrassed by her frothiness.
One day she was talking about her ex-husband, like how she met her, how things proceeded, and how the things got ugly and how he used to beat her. She sent me a photo in which her fingers were crushed and there was blood all over. I sympathized with her but it seemed to me somewhat uncouth. I couldn’t guess why exactly I felt that, though I didn’t express that feeling in message, but I felt uneasy seeing that photo. It was hard for me to decide then whether she was really having a great trust in me or she was just a shallow woman. She said,
“That’s why I left him.”
“You did well.”
What else could I say?
There are many beaches in Los Angeles. One fine day, Patricia and Veronica both went to a beach. I came to know about this as Patricia had posted some beautiful photos of the beach, and when I asked her, she told me that she was enjoying with Veronica and kids. After five minutes, she sent me a pic, of herself, in bikini. I saw that and didn’t give an instant reply. This was odd, because in this pic, she was not on the beach, but in the changing room, standing in front of the mirror. Besides, I had not asked for a pic at that time. It was true that I liked her and complemented her beauty, but after talking for more than a year I hadn’t any such expectations, neither I ever asked for, to see her in bikini or in topless. After all she was a mother of two, and no matter how great Casanova I considered myself, I certainly had left all hopes for such privileges . I saw the pic. She was tempting, in a word. Had I had praised her at the same time, she would have sent another photo, but I replied,
“It doesn’t seem appropriate. You see, Veronica never send me such photos.”
“She cannot. She has fat.”
This was her reply and I was rolling in the aisles. When I had had enough laugh, I replied,
“So this is the only reason you could think of? She might be shy to post such a photo in bikini, or may be, as you said, she might haven’t a flat tummy. Enjoy your day, dear.”
“No, women, in my country, don’t feel shy to post such pics. It’s common here.”
“I got it. May be, she is a bit different. Okay! Enjoy your day. Bye.”
Next day, I talked to Veronica and told her about the bikini incident. I cut the fatty part, of course, but I feel now that it was the greatest blunder on my end that made further consequences inevitable. I shouldn’t have talked to her about that. When I told her about this incident, she told me all about Patricia adding her own perceptions as what she thinks of her as a person. That day I realized: two women, no matter how great friends they are, have always some kind of hidden rivalry and jealousy. I am trying to sum up in her own words what she told me, an online friend, about his close neighbor-
“She is a cheap woman, and always falls for easy dates, her boyfriends keep changing. Although, she works as a cashier at a gas station and earns well but doesn’t hesitate to take gifts from men. Have you noticed that she has two kids, but their fathers are different, both kids aren’t from the same father. She gets two alimonies and even after this, she is ready even today to marry again. She is always on hunt. I never said to her to befriend you, I just talked her once or twice about you, and lo, she sent you friend request, and now because of you, we came closer though, but I really don’t like her.”
“My God, What the hell is this!” I said to myself and regretted on the foolishness that I had just committed. I shouldn’t have talked about one woman to the other. No matter how cunning and selfish Patricia was in her personal life, but for me, she was not that bad. She might be a huntress of L. A., but I was quite safe here. I was sure that she wouldn’t come here for hunting on me, getting a kid and taking alimony afterwards. By all means, I was safe and I shouldn’t have known all this. We both have just an innocent friendship. To me, she never said something that could arouse the doubt that she wanted to seduce. She was just frank and open. In a way, I found her brave. If men are so inclined to use one woman after another, what is bad if she applies that same tactics on them. But if she really was a huntress as Veronica described, she must not be sad and pathetic on her past. I’d say that she ought to be proud on her achievements. But what is the meaning of all this blabbering, I’m in no capacity to judge a woman who was just an online friend.
I swore by all that was good in me and resolved that I am not going to inquire about this to Patricia. It will remain with me forever and our friendship will bloom in the same way as it was earlier.
Everything seemed normal for two months, and I myself forgot all about that bikini huntress. Then one day, Veronica blocked me. It was in January 2016.
I was puzzled and I was trying to figure out any possible recent mistake that compelled my best friend from US to block me; and I found none. Now I had one last option, and it was to ask Patricia. I was skeptical, but I had no other way to know. Doing something is always better than doing nothing, I told myself, and messaged her-
“Hey Paty, Veronica blocked me two days ago. Can you guess of any possible reason that prompted this sudden action? I didn’t say any thing bad to her.”
“I had this premonition. As you sow, so shall you reap. Did you get it now?”
“No, I didn’t .”
“Why? You told her that I sent you vulgar photos of myself. How mean! It’s quite normal here. I had never expected that you will say such things about me. That’s why I stopped sending pics or doing video calls to you.”
Then I realized -oh yes, she hadn’t sent me any photo after that bikini diva in front of the mirror, and I didn’t receive any video call also since then. However, we talked in this time-period, but those things were so normal between us that I didn’t notice. I replied-
“You have misunderstood. I never said anything bad about you. Believe me.”
“No, you talked about the photo, and she was showing me the chat, you both talked that I am a cheap woman and she told you bad things about me, and you believed all that but you yourself don’t know her reality. She was making you fool from the beginning.”
“Making me fool? Oh Really! You two had a fight there?”
“Yes. I thought she is a good woman, but she is not. You don’t know her reality.”
“Hey Paty, look, I really don’t want to know anyone’s reality. She met me as a good person, intending no harm, and I accepted her friendship. You, too, met me as a good person, and I liked you as a friend. Now don’t make things messy by exposing something that she tried to hide. It doesn’t make any sense. I live in India, you live in U.S. and I am not coming there to create any problem. Still, we can be good friends, here, online, on facebook, in this virtual world, by expressing positive things, positive energy. Do you get it? Yeah, she told me something about you, but have I ever asked you about that? She told me and I listened and I forgot. Why should you worry now? You are the same Paty for me.”
“No, at least you should know the real name of your favorite friend. Her actual name is not Veronica Hernandez, but Sofia Marquez and she is not divorced. She is living with her husband, and all this time she was making you a fool.”
And to support this revelation, she sent me the screenshot of Veronica’s another profile that was by the name of Sofia Marquez, and she sent me some photos also in which Veronica was laughing with her husband and kids.
I was just dumb-founded.
Patricia didn’t block me, but our chatting hadn’t the same warmth after that. Sending jokes, photos, memes or doing video calls was less frequent. In fact, it was limited now to hi-hello, how are you, I’m fine, good morning, good night. Whatever she told me about Veronica or Sofia, I didn’t say anything in response. It had nothing to do with me. I agreed, she hided something, but it was harmless. People do hide a lot on social media. It’s a fact.
Almost a whole year passed, Patricia was still in my friendlist, but we didn’t talk much. During the conversations, she told me one day that she had got a man from Egypt. He was a widower and a nice gentleman. She was learning Arabic from him and she showed me a pic also in which her head was covered by a scarf as Muslim women do. She was planning a trip to Jerusalem, the holy city, to meet that gentleman. Well, I was happy for her. I said, it’s nice to know that you are moving ahead in life.
I don’t know why, but after a few months, she unfriended me. I didn’t ask for a reason, neither gave much thought. I, too, had moved ahead in life by then, and was feeling myself a lot of changed; I wasn’t the same frivolous young boy. I had a job, a beautiful girlfriend and I was enjoying my life.
Out of the blue, on the very first day of 2018, I received a new year’s greeting from Sofia aka Veronica. I recognized that by the profile image. We did a bit of chatting, I asked her why she had to block me. She replied,
“You know it all. Ask yourself.”
It was night and my girlfriend on the other side, on Whatsapp, was waiting for response. I bade Veronica good night.
In the morning, I tried to chat to Veronica again, but I found that she had blocked me. I was waiting for her new year’s greeting last January also, but it didn’t come.
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