It started on Facebook. She looked into his two-dimensional eyes, ignored the fact that the game was called Mafia Wars, and decided that this might be love.
Oh, perhaps it didn't start with precisely those indications of love and foreboding, but I can tell you how it ended--with an $8,386.88 lawsuit for "misrepresentation, promissory estoppel, defamation of character, and intentional infliction of emotional distress."
All of us who read romantic novels must pay a debt to the Tri-City Herald, which dutifully recorded the progress and regress of a Facebook relationship between Cheryl Gray, 50, from Michigan and Wylie Iwan, a 35-year-old Applebee's employee of Kennewick, Wash.
There are so many ins, outs, and versions that it's hard to know where the truth lies. Iwan contends that he met Gray during a Mafia Wars escapade. He reportedly insists they became friends and that he told her she was welcome to visit him as a friend.
But then this relationship veered into a place that romance couldn't find on its GPS, which allegedly caused Gray to form a Facebook hate group, the object of which was Iwan.
Gray reportedly contends that this was something serious. "We spent an hour-plus in the morning online and three, four, five, eight hours at night every day," she told the Tri-City Herald. She explained that Iwan talked of a relationship, even of love.
Oh, fickle heart.
Gray then reportedly showered Iwan with gifts and bought tickets to fly to Seattle. Yes, she even paid to see the Mariners play.
Then Iwan told her he had met someone else, and things took a turn for the tortured. Iwan says nasty things about him were posted on both Gray's and his Facebook wall. The shame of it. In return, he posted something nasty about Gray.
You might, at this point, be ready with a handkerchief for Gray, or a sympathetic, manly pat on the back for Iwan.
But here's where the story takes another turn--the turn in which lawyers get involved. First, there was reportedly a demand for $956.88--a sum not unadjacent to the cost of the trip Gray didn't take, and the gifts and flowers she most definitely bought.
Just when Iwan believed that had gone away, here came another legal missive--this one with the demand for $8386.88. Yes, emotional distress is an expensive business--even when the two people in question have never so much as consummated a meeting.
Where might this all end? Surely not in a court. Surely courts have better things to do than to decide upon the value of a purely virtual relationship. Surely relationships involve things like, at the very least, a handshake and a nuzzle.
Or are we now all no more and no less than our profiles on Facebook and Google+?