Have you ever blocked an ex?
I blocked all of them. Facebook, phone numbers, the whole nine yards. When my wife and I got engaged, it was time to give up my guilty pleasure of stalking exes… no matter how much joy I got from seeing Mia chronically unemployed, or Riya dating a man double his age.
I’d successfully avoided stalking them for seven years – until last night. A friend of mine posted a photo of herself at a wedding.
My ex, Jiya’s, wedding.
Huh. I felt that familiar twinge in my stomach. Not jealousy, exactly – I was happily married. Just… annoyance? Curiosity? Nostalgia?
Maybe all three.
I unblocked her. Sure enough, her profile photo showed her standing at the altar. Watching her lovely groom walk up the aisle. I couldn’t see much from the photo, since his back was turned. But he was well built, with long, dark hair.
Her “type.” My type.
I turned around. Kia was snoring softly, out like a light. Should I really be doing this? Checking out an ex’s hubby? I hadn’t seen Jiya in 12 years. I didn’t really care about her, or her hubby.
I couldn’t stop myself. I greedily clicked on the album titled Wedding Photos. The first image loaded.
I let out a gasp.
The groom… looked exactly like me. Dark hair, falling to his shoulders in soft waves. A pointed chin. Full cheeks. Even that mole on his neck, under his left ear.
It was like looking in a mirror.
I clicked madly through the photos. Through the ceremony, the reception. There he – no, I – was, throwing my head back in laughter during our first dance. There I was, closing my eyes, tossing the bouquet behind me. There I was, snuggled up to her, looking out the taxi window with a grin.
I would’ve thought it was some Photoshop trick, but the photos went years back. Us, standing in front of the Eiffel Tower. Baking muffins together. Engagement photos, showing off his ring – with the same freckle I had, near his thumb.
I clicked on his profile. Viraj Rajpurohit. Sadly, he kept it pretty private. The only thing I could see was his profile picture – a wedding photo I’d already seen.
Before I could stop myself, I clicked on his name and started typing a message.
Hi Viraj. My name is Rahul. I saw that you and Jiya got married. Congratulations! How did you two meet?
I didn’t point out the fact that we looked like twins. He’d see it herself. No need to be a creep.
The message popped up a second later:
✓ Seen 12:47 AM
Then three dancing dots appeared, indicating he was typing a response.
My heart began to pound. I grabbed my glass of wine and took a huge gulp, my fingers slipping against the keyboard.
But a reply never came.
After several minutes, I typed another message, nicer this time:
I’m sorry if this seems like a random message from a stranger. I just wanted to reach out, because I thought it was kind of cool that we looked so much like each other.
✓ Seen 12:52 AM
I tapped my fingers across the table, then took another sip of wine. Or, well, tried to. The glass was empty. I got up, poured another from the fridge, and sat back down at the computer.
Still no message.
Around 2 AM, I finally closed the laptop and joined Kia in bed.
He doesn’t look exactly like me. That’s what I told myself, as I slipped into sleep. His eyes are a little too close together. His smile hitches up on one side. And he’s shorter than me, isn’t he? People sometimes look alike. It happens all the time. My cousin looks just like Shakti Kapoor, when he does his hair right. Two guys I knew in college – Chintan and Dhaval – looked like brothers.
When there are 7 billion people in the world, some are bound to look alike.
The next day, Viraj popped up in my “suggested friends.”
I hate it how Facebook does that. You stalk someone, and then suddenly, it suggests them as a potential friend. It’s like some sort of stalking hangover.
I nearly scrolled past the friend suggestion, when I saw the text under his name:
12 mutual friends
He’d had no mutual friends with me last night.
What the hell? I read the list of names. Jhalak Parmar, Niki Parmar, Utsav Chu… They weren’t people I’d talked to recently, but they weren’t just random acquaintances, either. Jhalak had been my freshman roommate in college, Niki worked a few cubicles down at my last job, and Utsav was a pervert who I beat up from high school.
I saw that Utsav was online and shot him a message.
me: Hey Utsav. Did you accept a friend request by someone named ‘Viraj’?
Mike: Oh hey! You got your account back!
Did you find out who hacked it?
me: No one hacked my account. What are you talking about?
Mike: You messaged me from that Viraj account saying it was your new one. That your old one had gotten hacked. And you were using a new name because you were sick of your boss checking up on your FB.
me: That’s not me.
Mike: But the picture is of you.
I clicked over to his profile. His picture was no longer a photo from the wedding – it was just a plain old selfie. No makeup, morning light, with the caption “New day. New me.” I squinted at the background; it looked familiar, somehow. Blue sky, a patch of grass, and the corner of a stone building. But I couldn’t quite place it.
I shook off the feeling and continued typing to Utsav.
me: That’s not me, Utsav.
Mike: Oh, it’s a bot?
I didn’t know how to explain everything. So I told him yes, and to unfriend him immediately. Then I messaged the other eleven people and told them the same thing. I poured myself a cup of coffee – it was too early for wine – and sat back down at the computer, staring at his face.
“What are you up to?”
I jumped at Kia’s voice. She stood behind me, smiling, still in her pajamas.
“Just browsing Facebook,” I said, shutting the computer. “But I should get to work. I’m going to be late.”
I wanted to tell her about it. But then I’d have to admit to stalking Jiya, and spending hours tracking down her hubby…
After a quiet breakfast, I made my way over. The rain was driving down in sheets, drowning out the surrounding noise. I found the sound calming – water hitting the glass, over and over, washing away my fear.
I pulled into the parking lot.
Next to the door stood a figure. His face was hidden under a black umbrella – but familiar waves of dark hair fell down his shoulder.
I swung the car door open and swiftly walked towards him.
“Viraj?” I called.
He didn’t look at me. Instead, he turned around and walked down the sidewalk. Then he disappeared into the far end of the parking lot.
“Hey, you okay?”
My coworker, Leena, leaned against the stone building. In one hand, she held a Starbucks cup; in the other, her phone. I hadn’t even noticed her.
“Did you see that man?”
I shook my head. “Nevermind.”
Get a hold of yourself.
That wasn’t even him.
You’re driving yourself crazy.
I took a deep breath and followed Leena into the building. We entered the elevator and I closed my eyes, determined to put this behind me and get some work done.
My phone was gone.
In my rush to pursue what I thought was Viraj, I’d left my phone in the car. And my wallet. And forgotten to lock it up.
Now they were both gone.
Nothing else was missing. Not even the Rs. 300 cash in my glove compartment.
I swung into the driver’s seat. My shirt was soaked with rain. I gripped the steering wheel and began to cry.
It was too much stress. This weird man who looked just like me, now my stuff getting stolen… it was one of the worst weeks I’d had in a long time. I needed to tell Kia everything. She’d know what to do. She was always my rock, my calming force. Whenever I spiraled into anxiety, she was always there to pull me back.
I turned up the radio and drove home.
But when I pulled into our driveway, I found a car already there. A blue Honda Civic – just like mine.
I slowly got out of the car. Walked up to our door, my heart hammering in my chest.
I heard voices inside.
“That was fantastic! I didn’t know you knew how to make chicken cacciatore.”
I pulled out my keys. But my house key was missing from the keyring. I backed away from the door, feeling dizzy, and walked around the side of the house.
I peered through the window.
Through a gap in the curtains, I could see them. Kia clearing the plates. Her eyes twinkling as she stared at him. He sat at the table, his back turned to me. I could just make out his hair, the vague curve of his face.
I slammed my hand into the glass. “Chris!” I shouted. “It’s me!”
But she was already halfway to the kitchen with a pile of dirty plates.
Only he heard me.
He whipped around. Dark eyes locking on mine.
My heart stopped. He looked exactly like me – yet so, so different. He sat up straighter than I did, and his movements were too smooth, too graceful. The expression he wore – a small, mischievous smile that didn’t reach his eyes – was one I’d never wear.
How could Kia not see the difference?
Keeping his eyes on mine, he reached down and pulled something out of the table. The black metal glinted in the light, and I panicked.
He’s going to shoot me.
But then he turned – and pointed the revolver directly at Kia. She was hunched over the sink, her back to us, utterly oblivious.
“No. Please, no,” I whispered, my voice shaking with tears.
He lowered the gun.
Then go, he mouthed.
I backed away from the house. Footsteps thumped, and I heard his voice again. I was too far away to make out the words, but I could hear his light, lilting tone. My heart ached. More footsteps sounded, and then I saw a light turn on upstairs.
My insides twisted. Nausea bubbled up in my throat.
But I dutifully opened my car door, got inside, and drove away.
Now, I’m at a hotel. I’ve been here for the past few hours, pacing and panicking, not sure what to do. I can’t go back to the house. He’ll shoot him. I can call the police, but he has my wallet. My phone. He can prove that he is Rahul, through and through.
And then he might kill Kia anyway.
Because I know he wasn’t just making empty threats.
According to Facebook, Jiya passed away last night. Her profile is overrun with condolences and memories. Friends and family alike, celebrating her life, mourning the loss of a beautiful soul.
The top post is from Viraj himself.
I’m so sorry I couldn’t be there for you, Jiya. I wish I could have reassured you. Shown you how much you are loved. Been by your side, through and through.
I wish you didn’t take your own life.
Next blog will be out soon.Desai Thoughts MEdia.
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