Would you mind masturbating and mailing me your panties?”
Franklin Horshucer, Serial Killer
I could hear his heavy breathing. He sounded like Darth Vader with a sinus infection.
I had another blog before this one. I didn’t write anything on it. Me and writing – we don’t mix.
When I write, bad things happen. I get addicted to heroin. Stuff like that.
I did leave lots of comments, and started receiving emails from bloggers. How the hell did they get my email address?
Most of the emails were creepy. I ignored them.
Wait. What’s this?
May I email you privately? Only if you don’t mind. If you do, I promise never to bother you again. But I am a Nice Guy and I do not breathe like Darth Vader.”
I liked him. He was a good writer, and so sweet. The one time I actually wrote something, he told me I was “brilliant.”
His email I answered.
We emailed back and forth constantly, all day.
I had a new friend. Someone who considered me a REAL WRITER, a moniker I hadn’t felt entitled to in two decades.
My entire life changed.
I was energized.
The Ex’s ongoing battle for alimony, my bankruptcy, my best friend with cancer, my son’s draining special needs…
I felt like I could conquer anything. After 20 years, I was a writer again!
And then –
Abruptly, radio silence. After a month of 50-plus emails a day.
I panicked. What had I done wrong?
I realized how lonely I was.
I never thought of myself that way. Constantly surrounded by people, I craved more alone time than I got.
What I didn’t know was how much I needed to connect deeply with another human being; to feel special and important. All this attention lavished on me brought something dead inside me back to life.
And this fierce longing for connection, awoken and now unfulfilled – was brutal.
In 3 days I was headed to Boston to take care of my best friend, my old college roommate, after her mastectomy. Just before I left, my cousin called me with tragic news.
My favorite uncle was dead. And I would have to miss his funeral, to take care of my friend.
My uncle. The only connection I ever had to my father.
I was unabashedly his favorite niece. He never tired of bragging about me.
For 40 years, my uncle fed me anecdotes of his beloved older brother – the father I never really knew.
Now, there would be no more stories of him, ever. All that remained of him was buried under 6 feet of cold earth.
At a funeral I wasn’t even able to attend.
From Boston, I emailed Nice Guy. I was desperate to have my writing friend back.
A day went by. Two. Three days later, he sent me a brief, dismissive email
I never heard from him again.
Exhausted. Confused. Grief stricken.
I was fragmenting. My past and present were colliding.
I checked in on Nice Guy’s blog. He’d found new favorites to fawn over.
I racked my brains to understand why I’d been discarded, until I realized –
He had found out
I was no writer. I couldn’t even sustain his interest for more than a month. .
It was 1994 all over again.
I relived the horrendous mess I’d made of my life. I stopped sleeping. Judged myself ruthlessly.
I spent my days drifting through “The Land Of Horrible Ways I’d Fucked Up My Life.”
Welcome back. So good to see you again.
Would you like some drugs?
My best friend got the pathology report back from her surgery.
“What do you mean, Stage 3 aggressive? You said Stage 1!”
She answered me patiently, as though I were the sick one. “Yes. But there was another lump in the lump they removed.”
“What does that even MEAN?”
It just meant she was much, much sicker than we thought.
I came home one afternoon to find Little Dude crying bitterly. The Ex had kicked him.
My son’s favorite hobby is torturing us. But-
DO. NOT. HIT. MY. CHILD.
During a session with Little Dude’s absurdly overpriced ADHD therapist, I suggested to my husband that he learn to cope with our son without putting a foot up his ass.
Dr. Interloper said, “You kicked your son?”
“I’m going to have to report you to Child Protection Services.”
The Ex handled it well. Shouted that I was a cunt, flung the car keys at me and stormed out of the room.
I waited for the inevitable fallout, walking around with a bruise on my cheek from where the keys had landed.
Just like old times.
The next night two social workers appeared in my driveway. We passed inspection with flying colors.
A few days later, the call came.
I was under investigation.
They’d asked if there had ever been any domestic abuse in our home.
I lied and said there hadn’t been. I didn’t think it through. I couldn’t think straight about much at all. Sleep deprived and depressed, I was too busy floating around in my failed past.
CPS found police records of emergency room visits and a restraining order.
What else had I lied about?
They informed me that, for the time being, he could stay in my custody.
I stopped breathing when they said those words.
This isn’t happening.
Please tell me this isn’t happening.
They arranged to interview his teacher.
The guidance counselor.
His motherfucking dentist.
I wondered how far back they would investigate. Dear God, the things they could find if they poked around enough.
I called the case worker. I groveled. Where my kid is concerned, I’m not above groveling.
I dialed her office. “I was the Class Mom 2 years in a row.”
Called again. “Did I tell you I run the PTO Trunk or Treat every year?”
I stayed up all night, searching through boxes of photos. Tears streamed down my face as I looked for evidence that I was a worthy mom.
I found pictures of the party we threw when my son started kindergarten. We had invited 22 kids we never met, and their parents, to our home for a “Welcome to Kindergarten Party.”
Little Dude and I had painted a banner that read:
WELCOME CLASS OF 2022!
At 2 am I texted the case worker the picture.
It was an office number and it didn’t go through.
I texted it over and over again, all night, anyway.
I had constant pain in my chest. I was sure it was my heart breaking.
It turned out to be bronchitis.
The investigation continued.
I was reliving the past, only the nightmarish version where you lose your child, instead of your self-respect.
One night I had such stabbing pains in my chest, they shot all the way through to my back. I couldn’t breathe.
I thought, “This is what Kurt Cobain must have felt like right before he shot himself. Utter heartbreak.”
And then I fainted outside the supermarket, and the shopping cart kid called an ambulance.
The stabbing pain was pneumonia.
I spent 4 days in the hospital.
I missed my son’s 10th birthday.
Despite that, my kid still thinks I’m pretty great. He’s upstairs, sleeping.
I’m going to go up and kiss his sleepy little head when I finish this.
CPS decided I was an okay mom, after all.
A fleeting cyberspace connection. Meaningless.
But what if you’re brand new to the online world?
And you naively assume every virtual friendship is as valuable as its real life analogue?
On each end of the wires is a living, breathing human being with a past and a present. And an ill-timed “meaningless” encounter might shake something frighteningly loose. Something that rolls around inside of you like a stray bullet, and damages a vital organ.
Your heart, maybe.
And you bleed out.
The Internet is a Rogue’s Paradise. People act without consequence, because they can.
I shut down that blog. I wanted no part of it.
Obviously, this wasn’t the end of my story.
To Be Continued…
Have you ever had an online experience like that? Do people treat online friends differently?
Talk to me. I’m listening.