By Lennay Kekua (1990-2012)
( – I may be up here in fake heaven with the make-believe angels and the cardboard St. Peter and the CGI Pearly Gates, but my outrage on behalf of Manti Te’o, the love of my not-actual life, is real.

lennay kekua
Don't you wish your girlfriend were "not," like me?

I am outraged that people say Manti created me for the publicity; that he did it to build a great back-story and boost his chances to win the Heisman trophy. I haven’t spoken to Manti since or anytime before I apparently died last September, but I know this man as well as I ever knew anyone if I had ever known anyone, and believe me when I say that’s not the Manti I knew not.

The Manti that I knew in all but the corporeal sense was kind, giving and loyal. Intensely loyal. Doesn’t that count for anything nowadays? This man stuck with the me he said I was. For instance, when I was sick and dying from cancer, he didn’t turn away. He kept up our relationship until my last fictional breath. Manti said that my last words to him were, “I love you.” Think about that. If he did this for the publicity, my last words to him would have been, “You’re the best player in college football,” or “My dying wish is for a purely defensive player to win the Heisman for the first time in history.” But that’s not what he said I said. Instead he said I said, “I love you.”

Now, to be honest, I don’t remember saying that, per se. Maybe I was too sick. In those final days, the medication they give you tends to cloud your memory, which is particularly difficult when you don’t have a memory. Or maybe I don’t remember because the pain was too intense because I couldn’t take the medications because the nurses couldn’t hook up the IV because they couldn’t find a vein because I didn’t have, for instance, arms.

But I believe I said it. I did love Manti. I do love Manti. In fact, my love today is just as strong as it ever never was.

Why? I guess it comes down to trust. That was the thing about our relationship — it was based on real trust. Notre Dame trusted I was real. The media trusted I was real. Manti trusted that you all trusted that I was real. If that’s not real trust, what is?

Go ahead, laugh if you want, but it takes a lot of trust to believe in our love despite all the obstacles, like the fact that we never saw each other, that no one, including Manti, ever spoke to me or my family, that there is no record anywhere of my existence. Yet despite all those impediments – barriers that would have destroyed most relationships — he still loved me. So of course I loved him. How can you not love a guy who loves you no matter what? And in my case, I mean no matter what. Nothing could stand in our way, including my nothingness.

Because we never actually met, because I only existed online, some of you think this makes Manti, if not complicit, shallow. It’s just the opposite. Here he was, this handsome, strapping football hero, a guy who could have had any girl he wanted, but he fell in love with me, sight unseen. That’s because Manti doesn’t just look at the person on the outside. He looks at the person on the inside. Of his computer.

And I know Manti loved me. No, he didn’t come to the fictional hospital when I was not actually dying of leukemia, but I didn’t want him to see me like that. I wanted him to remember me as the young, healthy coed we pretended I was when we first never actually met in person at Stanford like he for some reason always told people we did. I wanted him to remember me as the lively, beautiful person I was when we went on vacation together in Hawaii like his own father publicly said I did several times.

In the end it doesn’t matter what any of you think. I know deep down in where my heart would be that one day Manti and I will be together again, for the first time. I know this because not only was I “made” for him, but he was made for me. That’s right, Manti Te’o is fictional. If you think about it, you know it’s true. That would explain why he didn’t show up at the hospital, or at my funeral, or for the Notre Dame-Alabama game.

Copyright © 2012,


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