Inari was someone I met in a text-based online role-playing world. 'Inari' was her screen name... her real-life name is secret.
Her real-life identity, her player, was an electronic music composer with a small underground following. In real life she was male. For a living he did graphic design.
The circles of people we moved in converged, and Inari and I met. We decided we liked each other. But after a while, Inari decided she was in love with me. And she wanted me to love her, or at least admit it... she wanted us to be in a relationship. Though I liked her a lot, I resisted this for a while, telling her that I believed it would only end badly, like all my other relationships. She persisted. After a while, since I was lonely and basically alone anyway, I started to love her. Or at least admit it.
It was supposed to be a strictly online romance. Inari made that very clear. It would just be something we did through our characters. For the first year, I knew virtually nothing about her in real life... she was scrupulously secretive about everything that went on with her player.
Over time, she did allow me a few fragments. I knew the player's sex, his job, and about the music. She gave me her parents' address when I said I wanted to write to her, and I sent her holiday gifts, birthday gifts, drawings, whatever I thought she'd enjoy. I got to hear bits of her music but never the serious stuff, and saw some photos of her studio, minus artist.
I nevertheless offered information about my real life, ultimately telling her every detail, which Inari was happy to receive. Occasionally I would inquire how she was doing in real life, especially if she was in a poor mood. She didn't tell me anything she didn't have to; she was very secretive of the smallest details. Before long I rarely asked because the subject was off-limits. If she told me anything about what had gone on with her that day, she'd describe it in veiled, anonymous terms; her secrecy was comical at times.
Maybe I shouldn't have offered so much, because Inari came to desire it. She expected I would tell her everything, just as I expected she would tell me almost nothing.
After a while, though, it was like having a real girlfriend. The emotional investment required was the same as seeing someone in the real world, and I had someone who cared about me and what I felt. Once we'd been together a couple of years, I think Inari realized the distance we kept in the real world was kind of strange.
Inari imagined that the character she played, a Japanese fertility spirit, was representative of who she was within; she told me that her fantasy world had more validity than the real one, which was frequently beyond her control. Inari was confident that technology would eventually allow for a virtual world more satisfying than real life. It was as though Inari felt she was the real one, and the player her imagination.
She liked to think the same rule applied to me, that my character was who I really was, and that I shouldn't be concerned with the difficulties of my daily life, that it was ordained that I would triumph. My character was also a deity, kind of an Amazon bombshell fertility goddess, who, while immortal and capable of changing her shape, was strangely ignorant of her pedigree. Inari composed various fantasies about our characters, sometimes purely fantasy, but sometimes having to do with what we, secret deities, would do when we took over the world.
I suppose it might have been related to her player's Buddhist beliefs, though the goddess Inari was part of Shinto, and I think neither had anything to say about deities being reborn as ordinary humans.
She was also embarrassed of her real-life self; she feared if I met her I might not care for her anymore. This was possible... it often happened. But Inari would have to be pretty unpleasant in real life, or considerably different from how she carried herself online.
Inari believed in me, in my ability to conquer the world. She was strangely accepting of it, as though this was not much of a task. She believed it more than I did; I knew it wouldn't be easy, but Inari seemed to think it would just happen, just as she thought she'd find success by virtue of desiring it. I knew it was irrational, as she framed it, but Inari's belief in me encouraged me greatly.
But I felt after a while that she was mingling my real-world intentions with my online persona; it seemed like Inari was attributing my intentions to this character and working them into her fantasies about it.
She was dismayed when she discovered I was not nearly as confident and dominating as I was in my fantasy life. In real life I was concerned about consequences; I was concerned that my actions might hurt others. I worried about what might happen to me if I failed. This was out of character and it disappointed her.
To her I seemed to have immense talent, and yet was unable to focus it. I'd throw myself into a project, but soon lose interest and wonder what the point was. I became depressed, worried that I'd never accomplish anything. I feared I would die one day and nobody would care. Once I asked Inari if she would come looking for me if I vanished from the net. She said she would, but in light of her reclusiveness it was an unbelievable statement.
On more than one occasion Inari tried to convince me that following Buddhism would help put some order to my life. I couldn't get behind it any more than I could get behind Christianity or any other formal system waved before my face.
The real problems between us began when I lost interest in her sexually.
I thought at first I'd gotten tired of her character's sexual peculiarities, and there's some truth to that. 'Inari' was a fertility goddess with an immense, cum-erupting cock. Sex with her largely involved her getting it into me and then spurting ceaselessly. She worried that I thought it was sick or disturbing, but that wasn't true; it only got boring, through repetition.
Over time I've divorced sex from romance in my mind. That was part of it. The kind of online sex I enjoyed most was the sort with roles of domination and submission, with me as the dominant; not so much the physical act, but the control I could exert through force of personality. I want to use people who are in thrall to me, who love that I'm using them and adore me for it; I get off on that.
It wasn't the kind of game I could play with Inari, because I held her in too high a regard to use her... I also could not imagine her in either role. The character was delicate, and prodigious genitalia aside, was not especially sexual.
Whenever I got online, she would jump me. So would lots of people. It got so I was expected to perform whenever I appeared. So I gave my character an asexual form which offered some respite from the lust of my friends and admirers. I think their hunger for me pushed me, in part, to be dominant, so I could maintain control.
Inari preferred an Amazon who could withstand her sexually; when I stopped using that form, Inari became frustrated, subtly at first, but more often asked when I would bring it back. I didn't think anything of this... why would it matter what form I was in, as long as it was me inside?
Not wanting sex with Inari was a symptom of something larger. Growing over time had been a constant demand for my attention, a draining emanation of need from the moment I logged in. She was focused on me unwaveringly throughout each evening, until one of us went to bed. I felt an unceasing pressure to be near her, to attend to her.
You see, when we first met, we'd had a crowd of mutual friends who also held our attention, and we went out into public areas. Inari and I cared for each other, but we had other people to deflect and distract our interest. But that group had partly dispersed, and partly withdrawn into an exclusive area where I was not welcome, and which I had no interest in joining (Inari, however, was still welcome there).
We mostly sat in Inari's room. It was harmless at first, and then it became habit, and then it became expected. She always wanted me in the room with her, and whenever I left I sensed she felt abandoned. It seemed like Inari had nobody to talk to besides me. If she'd been one of my playthings I could have ignored her, wouldn't have even noticed her, but I loved her and I felt her need. It became unbearable.
I started logging in on alternate characters, leaving my primary character idle. If she learned one of my alts was fucking, she felt especially neglected. I was becoming more asexual, except for my abusive power games. She suggested that I play these games with her, but the thought didn't arouse me. I think she wasn't dirty enough for me.
Because of the pressure I felt, my patience with her was often short; because I loved her I couldn't dismiss her.
We had several arguments. I started to doubt the benefit of the relationship. It felt like everything was about Inari's needs, while I was hooked on this person who would drain me. After a while it seemed all we did was fight. I hated fighting. I tried to break up with her a couple of times just to make it stop. I tried to convince her to dump me.
I would become indignant, wonder aloud why we went on, and voice all my grievances. Inari would remain largely passive, and afterward I felt terrible for saying anything. Sometimes she would cry; sometimes I did, too. Was she doing anything I should be angry about? I was working myself up over what I seemed to feel; why was I getting so upset?
But I still wished she would be more open with me... I felt like I gave and gave. I didn't demand anything of her real life. It was that she didn't offer it, and yet expected so much of me, was indignant when I held anything back. Her player thought of me as his girlfriend, would mention me in veiled terms to his friends. By now she shared more of her day-to-day affairs, but there was still the wall she maintained.
It was during this period that I started to rediscover myself, to become the monster I wanted to be. I would say that Inari's part in this was minimal, but she encouraged me in my self-exploration and was pleased that I was changing myself. She felt I was brave for taking such drastic measures. Often she was the only person I could speak to about it. Her belief in me, biased though it was, made me more confident. It strengthened me.
She talked about what we would do when we finally met in real life, although we understood this would never happen; it certainly wasn't going to happen soon. Inari still felt that virtual reality was the only place she was truly herself. It would happen after we became famous, we said.
She would have to get drunk when we met, she said, because she just didn't feel physically attracted to me in real life. I didn't see why it was imperative that we have sex when we met. Inari described herself in real life. She was shorter than I was, more delicate, with what she called unruly 'anime' hair. I thought she sounded adorable.
I knew it would never take place. She simply wasn't attracted to my real self, sexually ambiguous or not; she felt being found out in a gay relationship by her family and friends would be deeply embarrassing.
I told her once that if I failed in my rock-star plans and ended up destitute, I supposed I would kill myself, since I wasn't planning on becoming respectable again. Inari hoped that instead of death I would choose to come stay with her. I wanted to take her up on it, but I didn't think she appreciated the difference between me online and in real life.
Eventually I learned Inari's identity. She thought her secrecy was impenetrable, but she gave herself away one night.
She posted her photo to a website and essentially dared me and Sandi, a mutual friend, to find it. Inari had a change of heart and took down the photo, but not before I found it; I knew it was her just by looking at it. In verifying its identity I learned who she was in real life. I didn't tell her.
Our relationship was not improving. After our latest fight I suggested we go on as friends; she agreed, but it slipped her mind and she behaved as though we were still lovers.
When I decided to become a star, I told Inari I would eventually give up virtual reality to concentrate on this outcome. After I moved to Grand Rapids, I set about having most of my characters deleted. I invited Inari to keep in touch with me in real life.
Inari said she thought seeking real-life success was foolish; it was better, she said, to immerse one's self in fantasy and forget about the world.
I was very lonely in Grand Rapids and was only offline for a couple of months. When I returned, it was nice for a while between me and Inari, but our problems remained. It had to stop. I decided to withhold my life from Inari, only speaking of the most banal, meaningless subjects, hoping she would drift away.
She noticed, of course, and became increasingly agitated. I feigned ignorance. Maybe she got the idea. After a couple of months she sent me a few pictures of her player. I tried to act surprised when I saw them... I'm sure I was not as ecstatic as she'd hoped.
My withdrawal led her to speak in her journal of being in a one-sided relationship, as if she was the one who'd waited years for me to open up. I felt insulted... I felt this was a most telling statement about us.
Not long after I moved to southern California, we had another argument; I took offense at her dislike of a movie I'd recommended. It was a stupid thing to be angry about, but I had no patience left, and used this matter to finish us. I laid it all out for her; how I'd given of myself and felt buried under this need of hers, acted as her significant other by almost any measure, and she'd given me relatively little in return, and now was acting like I got the best of it. And it was now, near the end, when I finally figured us out.
Her insistence that I stay online to roleplay with her; her desire for a specific form of mine and her disappointment that I wasn't more like my characters; her resistance to communicating with me in real life, even when there was no other option; and the way she would idealize my real-life aspirations, in effect, making them into fantasy, or dismiss them as foolish and pointless... the way she wanted me to forget my real life and immerse myself in her fantasy... I came to the only sensible conclusion remaining. Inari was not in love with me, she was in love with my character. I was just its life support system, a necessary evil. I put this theory to her and she did not deny nor refute it.
I also told her I knew her real-life identity, but that the information itself meant nothing to me... I just wanted her to share. In the end, after it ceased to matter, she was willing to. Suddenly she wanted to speak to me on real-life terms, to meet me in the flesh. But I didn't want it. Her player was a stranger. I gave her the option of being just friends with me, again.
A week later she told me she couldn't. It was her birthday.
She changed her mind a few days later, but I had little to say to her after that. We made small talk for a couple of weeks, she went silent, and then one day Inari wrote and told me what a loser I was.
She interrogated me, asked me precisely what I'd done to further my desire to be a rock star. I remembered making a similar inquiry years before, and she had acted as though she was blessed and would be discovered by the world. She said my writings made me sound like I'd lost my mind. She claimed objectivity, but the subtext was that if I didn't devote myself completely to what I was doing, I had no business leaving her behind.
Inari had always espoused the merits of fantasy and told me not to worry about what happened in real life. By the time I was no longer concerned about the dire consequences of my actions, she was using them as a lever to try to keep me in her fantasy.
I told her that if she was going to do nothing more than make me doubt myself, she could get lost.
Three months later I learned she'd taken up with Sandi, our mutual online friend. Inari was much more open with her, incredibly so. In four years, Inari had not so much as sent me a greeting card; after being with Sandi for a few months, Inari flew up for a surprise visit in real life, and they were planning a second visit.
I would like to believe this was because Inari learned a lesson with me, and didn't want to alienate Sandi by being too distant. But part of me believes the reason Inari was so quick to meet her in real life was because Sandi is an actual girl, while I'm just a transsexual, and all that talk about fantasy being so much more critical to Inari than real life was horseshit, to mask the fact that I'm untouchable. I feel stupid for believing, and for wanting someone.