She was like an onion. No, she did not smell bad or make me cry. But the more we talked, the more I learned about her, and the more I felt like I was peeling away layers of an onion.
Her initial e-mail to me sounded depressingly fatalistic about her online experiences: "I'm going out on a limb to write you, even though no guy I ever contact first wants to meet."
She sounded sad. I can handle a sad girl. But I was surprised that she had trouble meeting guys because her photos looked nice, and her essays sounded as normal as any others from a girl "looking for my prince."
We e-mailed for a couple of weeks. Then she revealed that she did not actually live in New York City, as her profile said. Instead, she was 40 miles away in the middle of Long Island.
With her work, she alluded to "an ugly" rift with her business partner. Believing that there was probably a spurned attempt at romance, I asked some pointed questions.
The answer: Sure enough, the partnership, which was not even a legal business partnership, was doomed after the guy wanted to be more than business partners.
Knock Three Times
The woman I'll call "Connie" neglected to mention that she lived with her parents, and that their doorbell didn't work.
After ringing three times, I was greeted by her dad, barefoot in sweatpants but sporting a kipah. Connie was still getting dressed, so I had a 10-minute sit-down with her dad in their living room. At this point, I still did not know her last name, and I couldn't even properly address him by the respectful title of Mr. So-and-so, therefore, to be polite, I simply called him "sir."
When Connie finally emerged, she was even more attractive in person. She first apologized for not being ready.
She wanted to grab a snack and a drink at a nearby kosher restaurant. Connie was Modern Orthodox, which she explained allowed her to wear a skirt or pants, and even touch men in addition to keeping kosher and observing Shabbat.
In an e-mail, I reminded her that I do not keep kosher and would probably consider myself Reform. That didn't bother her, she said.
In the restaurant, I was the only man in the place not wearing a kipah. This was not the first time I had been in an Orthodox environment. I wasn't uncomfortable, even though I caught the occasional glance in my direction from other patrons.
Connie said that she wasn't very hungry, but ordered fruit, coffee, fries, ice-cream, water and an iced tea. The fruit on the menu was a banana and strawberry platter, which turned out was only banana due to some inexplicable dispute between the restaurant and a local rabbi.
The coffee selection was a negotiation in temperature, and the ice-cream was a question of taste. The iced tea was also problematic because she wanted a specific variety, which was not among the five or six the restaurant offered.
Meanwhile, my personal pizza tasted more like a personal piece of reheated cardboard.
We talked about a wide variety of topics, and I asked her if she felt pressure in her religious community that she was still unmarried. That's when she revealed that she was not 32 as her profile said, but 35.
For the record, I do not have a problem with 35-year-olds. I do have a problem with a woman who will lie about her age.
We talked more about her work. She seemed a bit vague about what she did. The best I could gather was her business partnership was not a full-time operation, and she had recently started a new job at a high-end boutique.
Then, of all things, she revealed that she had recently obtained a restraining order against her former business partner, who turned into some kind of stalker when she rebuffed his advances. But it wasn't so black and white.
At one point, she admitted that she had a brief relationship with the guy but ended it. She was also anticipating going to court to get back her intellectual property that was now in the guy's parents' basement.
Eventually, I gave up on the mozzarella cardboard. I was mesmerized by her big brown eyes. She was interesting, if not intriguing, even if she didn't ask me too many questions about my life.
We closed out the restaurant well after 1:30. We planned to stay in touch and talk some more, possibly meet again when I would be back for an upcoming long break.
After weeks of e-mail, which she usually answered right away, one went unanswered for a few days. I was coming home for a break and inquired about Saturday-night plans.
Her response was that she was in Atlantic City with a friend, and she was going dancing Saturday night. She gave me a play-by-play breakdown of her winnings: "My friend gave me $50 to play with. I got to $300, then lost $100 and ended up with $200, but gave my friend $50 back. I won $150. YAAAYY!!"
I inevitably surmised that her "friend" was a guy, and that she was his guest for her three-day stay in A.C. I don't know any "friend" who spends three or four days at an Atlantic City casino hotel without having some sort of relationship.
Unfortunately, I determined that in this particular case, it was the last layer of this onion I was going to peel.
Roy Gutterman is a Syracuse, N.Y.-based writer. To contact him, visit: www.Lrev.com.