Chat histories have become the modern version of a cache of yellowed love letters, a record of relationships that endured or went awry. In Love in the Time of GChat, couples show us the online exchanges that punctuated their time together.
Peter saw a photo of Helena when she was 21, with hay colored hair, a pale, rosy complexion and green oblong eyes. “I have to meet this girl, set me up” Peter told the friend with the photo of Helena, repeatedly. He was moving to Germany in six months — and to school in the midwest after — but he felt drawn to the girl in the photo. At the time of Peter’s sudden and intense fascination with her, Helena was living at home with her parents. She had recently graduated and, after a stretch of no job prospects, was working as an executive assistant in magazine publishing. The friend gave Peter her number, and he started texting and gchatting her a lot.
Helena ran into Peter a few more times, and though she found him handsome and charming, she knew things wouldn’t work because he was moving. But in mid-April, they did go on a date — which ended with them having sex in the bathroom at New York’s Grand Central Station. After that the g-chats between them came in an almost constant stream.
Helena says she realized from the beginning that Peter was the neediest person she’d ever met. He began talking a lot about Helena coming to visit while he was in Germany, and she started to think that maybe this thing could work long-distance. Then they had this conversation:
Helena surmises that Peter “had a lot of stuff to do before moving to Europe for a year” and was “gradually realizing the enormity of that” — which is why he started to “belittle” Helena in conversations. His manipulative method of communicating worked, making her feel “lucky that he was even talking to me.” Peter’s neediness led her to feel deeply responsible for his happiness, but even as she grew more attached to him, she ultimately “lost that sense.”
Peter came into New York to visit Helena, and they had a depressing evening. He kept speaking in German, which she didn’t know, and then he rescinded Helena’s invitation to his graduation, because his parents would be there. Helena says, “I let him dick me around at the end and treat me badly. I didn’t stand up for my needs and I didn’t set the boundaries I should have.” They were still IM-ing a lot, despite all of this.
The Inevitable End
They started missing each other on g-chat a lot, and would promise to call:
After some less-than-clear communication, Helena e-mailed Peter asking about the trip to Germany. What was the plan? Below is his reply — the last e-mail she received from him.
This led to a change of plans.
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