Pre-Screening for Romance

Warren couldn’t take his eyes off of that bright, tiny screen in the palm of his hand. Even with the blasting background music of the paused video game on the television all he could do was focus on that tiny screen. Warren spent hundreds of hours grinding and leveling his various characters in the paused video game. Long periods of time have gone into perfecting each and every one of his creations to suit his play style; he even took the time to find the perfect digital relationship companion for them. However, that’s all they would have ever been. Digital.

In these digital realities he created numerous families, relationships, and scenarios. Warren took the time to thoughtfully think and plan the outcome of every family member to ever appear in the game. Some families experienced the fairy tale ending of living happily ever after, while some went to hell and never found their way back. No matter how many families he made, no matter how similar they have been and regardless of the endings, every family had one thing in common. Warren knew exactly how they were going to progress from beginning to end. He was able to control whether a husband and wife were able to conceive a child, if that child was going to survive until birth, or even if one of the parents were going to fall ill and die—he was in total control.

Unfortunately, reality wasn’t complete in his hand. And with every passing moment spent staring at his phone screen, Warren grew more nervous. All he could do was make a decision for himself and wait to see what resulted. But based on how his latest streak with luck has been going, he was well aware of the signs and signals of these kinds of situations.

And each one only made him feel more and more unwanted.

“Hey, Warren. How are you feeling tonight?”

Warren had seen this opening line too many times, each time coming from a different woman. At least, he had used to believe they were different women. Beautiful eyes, glistening hair, full lips coated in dark colors, an hourglass figure with commonly desired assets: these were the kind of women who would message him. Warren couldn’t believe that women who would be considered “perfect” were messaging him—he was ecstatic. Any guy in their early twenties would have felt like they were on top of the world if a beautiful woman wanted to talk to him.

Too bad life wasn’t perfect for him.

Warren would quickly fall prey to these women, believing every risque photo he received were actually their own. They would send him links, promising him “You’ll see more of me naked here.” Naive and sexually active, he would quickly follow the links and sign up for whatever he needed in order to talk to these women. But once he saw the billing and payment section, he always stopped and froze with confusion. He followed the instructions thinking he’d be able to have conversations with them. Even though he was more than happy to see some naked, sexy bodies, why did he have to pay just to talk to them?

Stopping at the section where he had to type in his card information, Warren would go back to his original messages with whatever woman he conversed with. Genuinely curious about why he had to pay, he asked if this was a mistake. Surely, he thought, having to pay in order to have a nice conversation didn’t require payment. He patiently waited for a reply but one rarely came to his inbox. And if one did, it was only a repeat of the very first message that started the whole conversation: “Hey Warren. How Are you feeling tonight?”

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