I've been chatting online to Graham - a 35-year-old scientist - for a day or two and still can't quite work him out. And I'm not sure I want to. It's like there is something he isn't saying; the unwritten words hanging in the air like hours-old cigarette smoke.
He talks me through the minutiae of his day like he's writing a report for his parole officer. There is no humour, no flirtation - just fact after fact after fact. At first I try to reply more spiritedly in the hope it will inspire him.
I am a one-man crash team trying to revive a fillet steak. His replies come back, still monotonous, but now longer. More information. Minutiae. He's an encyclopaedia made up entirely of musings on magnolia wallpaper and teabags.
I look again at his photos. His hair, receding, is an uneventful brown. His eyes, a dull blue and too close together, seem troubled. In all his photos, he's staring straight into the camera wearing all manner of polo shirts, each one buttoned right up to the very top. His mouth is a dull pink smear across his face - he doesn't smile, or frown.
I scroll through mugshot after mugshot. I don't know where any of the pictures have been taken. Sometimes I get a tantalising sliver of brick wall at the corner of the pic or perhaps... is that...? Is it the sky? Or a blue curtain? No idea. Every picture is cropped into the face as much as possible. He's certainly got plenty of spare pics should he lose his travelcard.
He badgers me about a date but I decide I'm not going to meet him. I'm not attracted to him, after all, and I don't see any point in leading him on. I've had a busy week and am not that desperate for a night out. I don't want to just stop replying - somehow my warped sense of propriety prevents me from telling him to bore off. I resolve to wind things down by making my gap between replies longer, and my emails shorter and impersonal.
Incredibly, Graham is undeterred. In fact, my lack of interest seems to excite him and enrage him in equal measure. Finally, the tone of his missives changes. It's not an upgrade, however.
"Off out later, are you?" he says when I tell him I'm busy. "Meeting somebody off Grindr for a SHAG?"
I don't know what to say, so I decide to say nothing
The next day: "I bet you chase after all the boys, don't you? I know what guys like you get up to."
I get the feeling that he's typing one-handed, so decide now's as good a time as any to go into silent mode.
He gives it one final go.
"I shaved today," he says.
I see the email has an attachment: a photo, which I open. Yes, he's shaved all right. Everywhere. Instead of a smooth chin or chest, I see gleaming genitalia - Spam-pink with sensitivity and not a hair to be seen.
I somehow manage to retain my lunch and delete the photo, closing the email and marking it as - what else? - spam, to match his angry little pecker.
A truncated version of this post originally appeared in the monthly dating column I used to do in Gay Times magazine. I now answer GT readers' dilemmas and dole out relationship advice. Take a look at the Gay Times website to see when the next issue is out.Suggest a correction