Parke’s initial contact birthed a string of emails that lasted weeks. Every morning there would be an email waiting for me and every night I couldn’t go to sleep without telling Parke about my day. Each email would range from philosophical to funny to confession. Nothing was mundane. He would pour compliments into each line. One read:
“I can’t believe how amazingly beautiful you are. I wish I could say it to your face because I mean it. I hope this email business doesn’t dilute my sincerity. There’s something about you-your style, clothes, posture, smile, eyes, cheeks, hair….it’s everything that makes you you, and that is amazing. You blow Elizabeth Hurley out of the water, no contest, hands down. And you blow my mind. You’ve got a light in your eyes. I wish I could see your face in person. You, Ashley, are amazing.”
A couple of boys had written poetry for me, but I couldn’t get over the cheesiness. I would try to restrain myself from laughing when they looked into my eyes and described my lips as rose buds or my eyes as liquid gold. Gag. Parke’s emails were natural poetry flowing from every word. Instead of wincing, I found myself being lulled by his stories and compliments.
“I too find my mind constantly drifting into thoughts of you. You intrigue me. You’re not like other girls. There’s something about you, maybe it’s everything about you that makes me like you.”
I am a great catch; intelligent, ambitious, optimistic and loving. Outwardly, I am petite, with long brown hair and hazel green eyes. People compliment me on my eyes over any other feature. Good, thick, mascara is my secret weapon and constant companion. I have clear, olive skin and pouty full lips. One day I came home from school upset because someone had teased me about my big lips. When I told my mother about the situation she picked up a fashion magazine and pointed out a model. “Look at this model. See her lips? She has big lips and she is gorgeous!” Page after page she identified models with full lips. Wow, all of the models have big lips like me. She further described how women put injections into their lips to make them bigger. “Ashley, you may not like your lips now, but when you grow up you’ll love them” she insisted. “Plus, everything shrinks when you get older so enjoy them while you can!” Over the years I have found this to be true. Most men have praised my lush lips and I have always been grateful that my mom cleverly abated my cosmetic concerns.
However, during Spring Semester 2000, loneliness and heartbreak wrecked havoc on my self-esteem. Parke’s written admiration bolstered me. He wasn’t afraid to reveal his true feelings. With every compliment I began to feel more beautiful and worthy of his worship.
Parke’s enchantment for me wasn’t one-sided for long though. I was curious about Parke and questioned him constantly about his likes, dislikes, his routines and his experiences. Parke raved about astronomy, travel, philosophy, cuisine, music and history. The more I learned about him, the more I liked about him. I loved his confidence, his spirituality, his intellect and his humor. Our friendship grew as emails were reciprocated. I began to sincerely return his compliments. I would read his messages over and over until they were captured in my heart. I took Parke’s words with me wherever I went. I didn’t feel vacant anymore. This man had put a spring back into my step. I began to notice the hyacinths growing on campus and the pink blossoms falling from the trees. I constantly wondered about this man over the electronic waves who had, unknowingly, begun to heal my heart.
Weeks after continual email correspondence, Parke called me for the first time. I wasn’t expecting his call so when I heard a very deep voice on the other end I had to catch myself as my knees buckled. He was coming to Utah and wanted a second chance at taking me out.
Parke was the perfect man over the Internet. Would he live up to my expectations? Although tucked away in my mind was a sublimely attractive vision of Parke, as time advanced I was forgetting about the details of his face. I know he is attractive. That day in the hallway, I remember objectively scrutinizing him from head to toe and being more than satisfied by my findings. But now that a deep friendship had developed between us, would we be physically attracted to each other? I have always been wary of entering a relationship with a friend. It had never worked in the past.