As originally published on The Gaggle…
The Ballad of Jerry the Creeper Texter.
by Kirsten Knisely
It all began when I was working as a barista in a small coffee shop, crafting lattes with care and laughing too hard at the dad-jokes my boss would use to induce the family-friendly-atmosphere Midwesterners crave. And as is the plight of young, female baristas everywhere, it was not a rare occurrence for a prowling bachelor to misconstrue my cheery [corporate-mandated] disposition as an invitation into my pants. In no other world could one so easily mistake “2% or skim?” for “your place or mine?”
You should know, dear reader, that I am not a young woman easily exploited. I have absolutely no problem telling a man that I am not interested in him romantically. Thanks a latte, but cappucci-NO, sir. I do not give my number to customers. And as awkward as these encounters could be, they were hardly any more than the occasional annoyance.
Until the day I met Jerry.
Jerry was a late 30-something corporate bro who drank too many soy caramel lattes and tipped a consistent six cents per visit. He was altogether lacking in self-awareness, or at the very least didn’t at all care how creepily he behaved. When he asked to take me to sushi one day, I respectfully declined. Sorry Jerry, but that’s against my policy.
I should have known that in the moment I said “no” I became a challenge to Jerry, a conquest. I should have known this because in the moment I said “no” a sinister smile slowly began developing on his face; you know, the same slow smile the Grinch gives his dog Max before he terrorizes the town of Whoville.
And so began Jerry’s relentless pursuit of my number. He was persistent and I was consistent for weeks, months even.
Until the day my dear, good-intentioned manager Emily inadvertently invited Jerry to a stage play that I was producing. I can’t exactly blame her, my producing partner and I needed to get butts in the seats to break even financially; and Emily had found an interested butt. This butt paid for a ticket and clapped and cheered through the entire thing.
The butt was behaving like a thoughtful pain in my ass.
A brilliant move on his part, because my mother was likewise in the audience that night and found him [dare I say it] charming. And so when Jerry asked for my number in front of her (“just as friends, of course, to attend other professional events”) she insisted that I be polite. He handed over his iPhone and that sinister smile returned. I eyed him back carefully. So it’s like that, is it? He thought he had won.
So I gave Jerry a fake number. I even spelled my name wrong. (Kristin B.: 555-1234.) Of course, this was not as solid a plan as I thought it was; but desperate times called for desperate measures. That, and let’s be honest: every one of us has wanted to give a fake number at some point in our dating careers. Most people just do it to a weird stranger in a dark bar because, well, this weird stranger likely won’t wonder into their place of employment 3 or so days later, asking:
Why are you ignoring my text messages?
Damnit, Jerry! Isn’t it obvious by now that you will absolutely NOT get your grubby little Grinch claws on my digits?! As I searched my brain for a professional way to say exactly that, Jerry’s expression morphed into one of sincere sadness. “Did you actually give me a fake number?”
I can’t entirely explain what happened next. Suddenly, the part of me that loves wild flowers and the sound of babies laughing began to gurgle deep in the pit of my stomach. Suddenly, Jerry became a mangy puppy that someone just abandoned on the street because he never stopped pooping on the carpet.
I was going Chick: Full Throttle.
I felt bad for Jerry and guilty for my behavior. I put on my mom-voice and said, “you know what? I must have accidentally entered in the wrong number.” He lit up and handed me his phone again. I corrected my first mistake. He called right away to confirm.
Jerry had won.
The text messages came frequently (ie. When are you working next? or How do you get your hair so shiny?). I responded shortly and infrequently (ie. dunno and #magic). The rules of text flirting are simple: if my responses are short and infrequent, I am politely not that into you. If my responses are short and infrequent after you harassed me for months, only to win my number in a brilliant manipulation of my beautifully feminine heartstrings, I am definitely not at all into you (but, for reasons only Sheezus understands, am still being polite).
The day finally came that I simply couldn’t handle it anymore and so I did what any capable, young woman would do: I quit my job, moved across the country and stopped responding to Jerry completely. Peace had been restored to Whoville.
Now, dear readers, this is a cautionary tale, one that does not end here. In celebration of weeks and weeks of radio silence, I deleted Jerry from my phone. Plain old hubris, really, because I believe that in that exact moment, somewhere in Southeastern Michigan, Jerry knew that I had let down my defenses. He knew that it was only a matter of time and that he would live to creepy text another day. And this time, Jerry was right.
Nearly nine months later, I received a text from a Detroit area code that I didn’t recognize.
Unknown (313): Hey you.
Me: Who is this?
Unknown (313): It’s Jerry. Remember me?
He had me. Jerry, you sneaky bastard! I frantically re-saved his contact under JERRY DO NO ANSWER. No time for that T, it was that urgent. How could I have been so stupid?! I didn’t respond to this message, or any of the ones that came directly thereafter asking how I was, etc. Finally, JERRY DO NO ANSWER said:
Wait, is this Kristin B.?
With that one question, Jerry had given me all the power. A seemingly amateur move for what can only be described as a worthy competitor thus far. Is this a trap? Could he be that easily fooled? Are the calls coming from inside the house? After some intense over-thinking on the matter, I decided it was completely plausible that I moved away to California and, say, joined a nunnery and was completely stripped of my worldly possessions, and so my number now belongs to a nice, quiet hipster from Dearborn, MI.
“Not Me”: Sorry, dude. Think you have the wrong number.
JERRY DO NO ANSWER: Oh sorry.
I was relieved. I was overjoyed. I was [once again] pre-maturely celebrating.
JERRY DO NO ANSWER: Who the f*ck is this then?
Whoa, Jerry, language! I began pacing in front of my phone, watching as he gave Kristin B. a piece of his mind. It had been a trap and apparently my back-story of faithfully devoting myself to the Catholic Church was not so plausible. After a long silence, JERRY DO NO ANSWER said:
You’re so frickin mean and racist and that’s why you’ll never be successful.
Ouch, Jerry. Maybe he was right. I was behaving like a boob. I had been dishonest, socially sparring with the emotional equivalent of a 14-year-old boy. I’m not entirely sure why he brought race into it, other than it’s like the worst thing you can say to a white person. If anything, I was just a bully! Not cool, Jerry. Not cool!
That was the last I heard of Jerry until he sent me an “April Fools” on April Fools. It’s astonishing that I still hear from him. Of course, I didn’t respond. I think we both know that those days are long over.
Fool me once, shame on you.
Fool me twice, shame on me.
But seriously, fool me thrice and I’m writing about you on the internet.