At first, I thought Ron Artest, the man you may now know as Metta World Peace, and I could become friends. Blame my naivete, ego, or optimism, but I really thought this could be platonic.
But platonic friendship doesn't usually include discussing favorite sexual positions or stretching the truth about marital statuses, which is where Ron left things in June.
It began where crazy things begin now, on Twitter. I'm not a Lakers fan—rather a devoted Thunder girl—so I didn't know much about Ron Artest then, except for that he tweeted random crap. So I decided to follow him.
A few weeks later, I regretted it. His tweets were cryptic and frustrating. I found him annoying instead of whimsical.
It was reading week at school, a glorious five days in late May intended for studying for a last set of finals but more often used for procrastinating and dicking around. My friends and I were sitting in our dorm room, pretending to read notes while actually scouring the Internet for any source of distraction.
"Omg!!! I see an elephant in a thong," popped up in my Twitter feed, and I had tired of Ron's nonsense. But I figured I should shout him out before he disappeared from my timeline. Who knew this act of audacity would put me in mobile-to-mobile contact with Ron Artest, professional basketball player and famed Pacers-Pistons Brawl instigator?
I think I'm gonna unfollow Ron Artest. I just can't take it any longer, I wrote.
But I had a feeling he'd reply, and with something weird and nonsensical. True to form, he tweeted back, suggesting something weird with his feet. Typical, strange Artest. But then I had to stop and revel in the glory of being tweeted at by Ron Artest. It was cool.
Then I replied, he replied, he direct messaged me, I freaked out, my friends freaked out, I peed in my pants a little bit.
Ron and I had a pleasant conversation full of compliments—"u a fine lil thang," "u look good enuf to kiss"—he's a modern-day Shakespeare, no? After discovering I was indeed older than 18, Ron gave me his cell phone number.
I got a blessing from my Lakers-fan boyfriend and texted Ron. I had to. And yes, I sort of knew where this was headed—a few requests for a picture of me, some photos and videos from him, some questions about my personal life.
But I also thought we would bypass all of this and become friends, eventually. I could already see my picture-perfect friendship with this professional basketball player unfolding: Ron would walk around campus with me and beat up my bullies. Ron and I would play a few games of HORSE. Ron and I would go get frozen custard. Ron would give me free luxury suite season tickets. Ron would give me the game-winning ball, or whatever it is they do after basketball games. So on and so forth.
Ron: U ever been with a black guy?
Me: It would destroy me physically.
Ron: You like it?
Me: It would make me immobile.
The next morning Ron made it clear he had been drunk while texting me. I was not surprised. But still just as enthusiastic sober as he was inebriated, Ron continued our awkward conversation into the following weeks.
There were times when I thought I might have made a breakthrough from object to good old friend. For example, he often made it clear he wanted to learn more about me.
Ron: How tall r u?
Ron: How much do u weigh
Ron: U n shape?
Me: Hi, how are you today? What's the weather like in LA?
Ron: I bet u have a great body
He also once confirmed that we were friends. Kind of.
Ron: U r crazy lmao
Ron: Let's do it
Me: Do you sleep with strangers often?
Ron: You r no stranger
Our friendship now official, Ron wanted to meet face-to-face. Ron may not be a man of commitment, but he did like talking about the future. Specifically, meeting me in Oklahoma City. He brought it up on several occasions. I was never sure if he truly meant it or not. And I didn't know what I'd do if he did mean it.
Ron: so when can we meet
Ron: ill be in okc soon can i see u
Yes, Ron, and how would that go? Would you pick me up from my brick house in the suburbs, and meet my Chinese parents, my 5'2" mother and bookworm father? Would we go to the mall or a movie, the only two things to do in this God-fearing and godforsaken state? Would we stroll through fields of golden wheat, tipping cows and petting horses?
He was acting foolishly. Regardless, our twisted friendship grew, in the way that these things do, and we texted each other a few times at least every other day. He'd usually chime in at my midnight, his 10 p.m., and sometimes at noon, when I assumed he was waking up in a hazy hangover. There were times when he depended on me to carry the conversation. It usually did not work the way he wanted it to.
Ron: Can't wait to hug u and…
Me: take me to an extremely expensive dinner?
Sometimes, Ron would check in just to say hi and to notify me that he was drunk. It warmed my heart, sitting in my morning Chinese history class and seeing, "HI PRETTY IM LIL TIPSY WHAT R U DOING" pop up on my phone. It was a beautiful thing.
I wanted to blab to the world. My journalism assignments had never gotten me in contact with anyone more famous than the local alderman. And here I was chattin' it up with an L.A. Laker. Ron was refreshingly supportive of my education.
Ron: Hey sexy it's late there
Ron: U out?
Me: Nah it's finals week
Ron: Good girl sexy proud of u focusin on school
I found out later he majored in math at St. John's, a fact he brushed off, changing the topic to what I was wearing. He didn't like talking about himself. Or his children. Or his wife, who may or may not have been his wife. He didn't even talk about basketball. Ron usually only wanted to discuss one thing. And I wanted to talk about anything but.
I often tried to joke my way out of his sexts:
Ron: You like to 69?
Me: I mean like… what if someone really needs to fart. Then shit is awkward.
Ron: Have u ever swallowed during getting eaten out?
Me: No. I try not to snack while having sex. That is rude.
Ron: Talk dirty to me
Me: Dirt mud poop? Why are you so bossy?
It turns out Ron Artest doesn't really care about whether or not you have a sense of humor if you don't like to discuss sex via SMS.
Frustrated, our relationship not quite getting dirtier, he sent me some unwanted and underwhelming pictures and video of himself. This was a last-ditch effort: He was turned on, attempting to turn me on. I saw it once and tried to forget it immediately, but my guy friends were all over it. Figures.
Not wanting to repeat a Favre-Sterger situation, I warned him I was not into it. He could not comprehend it and offered to send more. I decided to halt the text-fest. It wasn't working.
So I let our three-week digital flurry die down, finding it difficult to reconcile our differences—another one being that he would forget my name while I remembered his. The one he had then, anyway.
But, hey, if the Lakers ever play my boys at the ThunderDome, I do fully intend on picking my phone up and reminding Ron Artest who I am.