“Hey,” comes the Discord message popping into the corner of my screen.

My eyes flick towards it, shifting away from the bright colors of my game client. The username is unfamiliar to me, complete gibberish in white text.

I’m sure I never added this guy. But he must have heard a glimmer of my voice in an innocuous group call on a mutual server. That’s always how it begins.

“Hello,” I reluctantly reply, allowing myself to take the first step in the familiar dance.

“So, what rank are you?” he asks.

I’m taken aback. Who starts a conversation like that? Rank is an agonizingly sensitive subject to anyone who has ever stared at a screen until sunrise, chasing a win, attempting to muster that latest guide they watched to climb to a place where they could at least close their eyes satisfied. Most people have the couth to at least warm up with small talk.

“Gold four,” I answer anyway. If I wanted to, I could let myself get insecure of the recent loss streak that had dragged me down two tiers and ruined my weekend. But acknowledging insecurity is the first step towards doing something stupid.

“I could coach you, babe. We could reach platinum together at least,” he says.

“That’s nice of you,” I reply, “But I’m not looking for a coach.”

Predictably, he is not deterred. I could have responded with any possible combination of letters, and it wouldn’t have mattered. “This is my main account,” he says, posting a link.

I don’t bother clicking on it. It could be anyone’s account. Honesty is never a high priority on the internet.

“But I’ll need something in return,” he continues.

A grimace slides onto my face like tar. “Like what?” I type.

I click back to my game, hoping that I can make this guy stop existing if I ignore him. But his response is immediate.

“Do you have an insta?” he asks.

I sigh. “No,” I reply.

“That’s too bad,” he types, “Your voice is so cute.”

“Thanks?” I respond.

“Send me some pics?” he asks, “I bet you’re so pretty.”

“…” is all I reply. Anyone with tact would know that these weird compliments are far from flattering. I wonder if he thinks I’m blushing in my chair.

Predictably, my obvious discomfort is ignored. “Send me something sexy?” he asks.

A familiar disgust floods my stomach. “Not a chance,” I type as quickly as my fingers will move.

There is a microscopic chance of him actually accepting no for an answer. They never do.