The Bengal Beat

Behind a Screen

(Photograph courtesy of Pixabay).

(Photograph courtesy of Pixabay).

(Photograph courtesy of Pixabay).


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After pulling into a parking space in front of my apartment building, I cut off the engine and took a deep breath, trying to calm down after a long shift at work. I had just begun working night shifts at the hospital and my entire body felt weary and tired. Outside, rain began to fall from the dark sky and the moon was nowhere in sight. Pulling the keys out of the ignition, I stepped out of my Toyota and onto the worn sidewalk with an umbrella in hand. The dim streetlights illuminated the facade of my dilapidated building.

I had wanted to move months ago, but my search for an apartment that allowed pets proved to be difficult. As I walked up the broken and narrow stairs to my apartment, my eyes yearned to be closed. I hadn’t felt this tired since I was in school, having to spend my nights studying. As I arrived at my door, I pulled my key out of my pocket and placed it into the keyhole. It was only a small studio apartment, but it provided just enough space for me and my cat, Cecil. The dark walls of the apartment were painted a gray color that gave the apartment a somber air. My living area consisted of a black couch and my television, which rested atop an ancient oak table. The bed was separated from the living area only by a set of large black curtains. I pushed my way through the curtains and towards my bed.

I quickly changed into my night clothes and headed to the sink to wash my face and brush my teeth. After I was finished, I headed back to my bed. Laying down on the bed felt like heaven. As I lay on my bed, I thought of my friend, Sam, that I had been talking to online for months. With an unusual work schedule, I didn’t have much time to meet up with friends in person and had quickly lost touch with many of them, so I had turned to finding friends online. Although I was exhausted, curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to pull out my computer and see what Sam was up to.

Sam was twenty-seven, like me, and had told me that he worked as a lawyer at a small firm in downtown Seattle. In his profile picture, he had short brown hair and friendly looking brown eyes. On paper, Sam seemed like a great guy, and I sometimes wondered why someone like him would need to find friends online. I couldn’t tell if our relationship was romantic or platonic, but I sometimes imagined that we were more than just friends. On the chat website, I quickly typed a message.

NurseGirl18: How are you doing?

SamIAm: Good. Having a hard time going to sleep?

NurseGirl18: No, not really. Just got back from my shift and was thinking about you.

SamIAm: I’m flattered. How was work?

NurseGirl18: It was fine. Chaos as usual. What about you?

SamIAm: Pretty great actually. I’m up for partner at the firm. Fingers crossed.

NurseGirl18: That’s great. I hope you make it.

SamIAm: Enough about me. Why was work so chaotic?

NurseGirl18: Halloween is always an insane night for the ER nurses. You wouldn’t believe the crazy ways patients get hurt.

SamIAm: Sounds exciting.

NurseGirl18: Exciting yet extremely tiring. Talk tomorrow?

SamIAm: Sure. Goodnight.

NurseGirl18: Goodnight.

Ending the chat, I closed the page and powered off the computer. It was finally time to go to sleep.

The next afternoon, I woke up around one in dire need to restock my almost empty pantry. As I drove to the store, I decided to make a stop at a diner to grab a quick lunch. The old diner was a beloved restaurant whose faithful regulars kept the place running. I had only been there once before, but the food had been great and the atmosphere reminded me of a diner my parents had taken me to as a child. I seated myself at a small table next to the windows and browsed the menu while waiting to be served.

When a waitress finally approached my table, I ordered my food and drink. While waiting patiently, I glanced at the table next me to me. At the table sat an elderly couple. It appeared to be a lunch date between two people who had been in love forever. The old man stared into his wife’s eyes with adoration and his wife mirrored his gaze. I wondered to myself if Sam and I could have something like that one day. I mean, sure, we had only talked online and hadn’t met in real life, but maybe it was time for me to see if he would be interested in meeting up for a date sometime soon.

When my waitress finally delivered my food to the table, I quickly ate so I could head to the store. I soon finished eating and left the diner to make my way to the store. After arriving at the store, parking the car, and walking in, I began to shop for the items that I needed. While heading down the cereal aisle, I spotted a man with brown hair choosing a cereal to buy. He reminded me of Sam’s profile photo on the chat website. When the man turned around, I realized that it wasn’t just a lookalike. It was Sam.

I turned around quickly, not knowing if I was ready to meet the man I had been messaging for months now. What would I say to him? My profile picture was very recent and it wouldn’t be hard for him to recognize me if he saw me. I decided to take one last look to make sure it was really him. I quickly spun around and glanced at him. I was positive. He looked almost identical to his profile picture, all the way down to the exact green t-shirt he had been wearing in the picture. I took a deep breath and decided it was time to take our relationship from online to the real world. I took a few steps toward him, adrenaline coursing through my body.

“Sam?” I called out.

He didn’t reply. I stepped closer, losing some of my confidence.

“Sam, is that you?” I asked.

He looked up at me.

“What? My name isn’t Sam. Do I know you?” he questioned.

I was shocked. How could this not be Sam? There was no doubt in my mind that this was the man from Sam’s profile picture, but his name wasn’t Sam? And he didn’t know who I was?

“Are you sure your name isn’t Sam? Do you have a brother perhaps?” I questioned.

“I’m pretty sure I know who I am, and I don’t know anyone named Sam. Can I help you with something?” he responded.

“No, sorry to bother you,” I replied quickly.

The man left the aisle while I stood in my place, feeling shocked and confused. If Sam’s profile picture wasn’t real, was anything he had told me real? Was he even up for a partner position? Was he even a lawyer? Was he even a he? Most importantly, who in the world had I been talking to for the last six months?

After my encounter with the man in Sam’s profile picture, I left the store feeling vulnerable and betrayed. On the drive home, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of person would play with my emotions like this. When I got home and walked into my apartment, I was met with unexplained heat. I rushed to the thermostat, only to find that it had been turned up the highest level. I immediately turned it down and walked to find my computer. I was going to uncover the truth about who had catfished me.

On my way to find my computer, I noticed a shattered glass on the floor. I felt chills run through my body. First the thermostat, and now the glass? I suddenly realized that someone had been inside my apartment while I had been gone. Blinded by my determination to uncover the truth, I decided that I would wait to check to see if anything had been stolen. Once I found my computer, I quickly logged onto the chat website. When I tried to chat with Sam, whoever he or she was, I was dumbfounded for the second time that day. On my computer screen was a shocking message, but it wasn’t from Sam.

“Sorry, this user has deleted their account,” my computer screen read. Sam had deleted his account, and I now had no way of contacting him. Then I came to an even more disturbing realization: I couldn’t find him, but he could find me. While messaging him, I had told Sam where I worked and more personal information about myself. As scared as I was, I was slightly relieved that I hadn’t mentioned my address or phone number. Suddenly, as I stood in my apartment, the power went out.

I let out a disgruntled breath and made my way to the hallway to see if it was just my apartment or the entire building. The lights in the hall were working, so I made my way to the fuse box to see if I could get my lights to turn back on. When I reached the fuse box, I noticed that someone had turned off the switch to the lights in my apartment. This was no accident. This is great, I thought to myself. Just as I was recovering from being tricked and misled for months by Sam, some immature person thought it would be funny to switch off all of my lights. While turning the switch back on, I observed a white envelope taped on the wall next to the fuse box. I slowly peeled the envelope off of the wall and opened it. To my surprise, the envelope contained a short letter addressed to me. I thought the message might have been from one of my neighbors, so I began to read the letter.

Dearest Olivia,

I sincerely apologize for the fake picture of myself. I wanted to protect my true identity in case of the event that you betrayed me like you have. It pains me to say that we can no longer speak with each other on that silly chat website. I thought that there could be a meaningful relationship between us, but when I saw you with that other man at the grocery store, I knew that our conversations had obviously meant nothing to you. I concluded that you must not have felt the same about me as I had felt about you. By visiting your apartment, I had hoped to show you how I felt when you betrayed me. I broke the glass to show you broke my heart and turned the thermostat to high to show how you burned me. Alas, I felt that my actions had not been clear enough to express my emotions, so I decided that I had to do something to show you how burned I felt by your betrayal.



After reading the letter, I stood frozen in my shoes. Sam had broken into my house and had been following me. Someone who I had considered a friend, had turned out to be an obsessed stalker. Once my shocked state wore off, I rushed back towards my apartment in a hurry. From down the hall, I could see smoke rushing out of my slightly open door. When I peeked inside the small apartment, my eyes were overwhelmed with the sight of blazing orange flames.

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