I was at a party one night and we were all drinking like hell because that was what we did. And you know, every once in a while you’ll get into a decent conversation with someone and you’ll like them for not taking it over, or being too weird about their own opinion, or dismissing yours, and it’ll be sort of a nice walk through the woods and not a race and not some twenty mile march. So this guy’s name was Carl, and he was friends with the people who owned the house and he told me he had to leave because he was going fishing the next day, and then he paused and said, “Hey, come go fishing with me tomorrow!” and I nearly said yes, even though I don’t fish.
The next day rolls around and I thought to myself, you could start fishing again, and it was nice to think I had made a friend. A few hours later a woman called me to tell me Carl had been killed on the way home. He fell asleep at the wheel at slammed into a tree.
You know, I regret not telling Carl I would go fishing with him. A few hours after he and I sat down in a room full of drinking people he was dead but I still remember how he tried to explain to me how he thought the fish were going to be biting the next day. I thought his theory was unsound, unfounded, more superstitious than anything else, but the man had a way of believing without trying to drag anyone else along with him. I can’t remember a word he said, but he was just a decent sort of guy. I’m sorry he’s dead. That’s all that needs to be said.
Yesterday one of the people who rose to the occasion and donated to Lucas’ operation was nearly in a bad wreck. We’ve stayed in contact, via email, text, photos, and that sort of thing, and she sent me great coffee for my birthday. But she realized, and I do now, that the internet has some flaws as far as communication; if she had been killed how in the hell would I ever know it? We don’t any mutual friends. Would there be any real way for me to find out what happened or how it happened? We’re decided to tell someone, “Hey, if I die, email this person for me” and I hope it goes a lot more carefully than just that, but still, you know what I mean, don’t you?
My life insurance is going to cover the mutts very well and have a lot left over. I’ve made provisions for them. But what about you? There are people I have never met, may never meet, who I have never spoken to on the phone and might not ever speak to in my life, whose lives I’m grown attached to in various ways.
I’ve watched children grow up here, I’m watched parents die, I’ve seen new homes and new pets. People I know have gotten married. People I know have gotten divorced. I’ve met some people live and in person and actually became, uh, intimate, with some of the women I’ve met online. Long distance relationships very rarely work but the success rate for good old fashioned marriage is about 50-50. Besides, there is always something terrible erotic about meeting someone you have no idea who they might be! Unless they’re a fifteen hundred pounds rabid grizzly. Then it’s no fun.
But suppose you wake up tomorrow and your favorite FB person hasn’t posted a photo of her cat sleeping on her head, again. Or some guy hasn’t said a word about the snow, or someone you send a FB happy birthday to just isn’t responding. Yeah, this is the internet and you might discover that the 32 year old mother of two from Cleveland Ohio was a fourteen year old High School guy who loved to write weird things. But what if someone you care about online is actually very much dead in real life? I mean, really, really care about?
There are those people who will tell you, after that first pang of fear, when someone you’ve known for a while online, isn’t answering private messages, or texts, or even pokes, that you cannot care about those who you’ve never met. But you know this person. There hasn’t been a thank god for coffee post in two days, doesn’t that strike you as very odd? But then you notice that other people are trying to get some sort of response and then there’s this trading of messages about someone who knows this person in real life and…
All of a sudden you wonder if you should go to the funeral. “Hi! My name is Mike Firesmith and I traded online conversations with your sons for a few years and I am going to miss his sense of humor and the fact that he loved his cat.”
You know, I think a lot of people would understand that.
I would. I do.
So here’s what I’m going to be asking some of you for in the near future. I want a real time someone who know if you’re alive or dead on a regular basis. I want someone I can send an email to and they can email me back and say, “Yep she’s just totally pissed at you. That’s why she isn’t speaking to you anymore” and that makes a lot more sense than death, really, when it comes to me and women.
The difficult thing here is I’m not sure who to offer you in return. My life is so compartmentalized and I have so many names I’m pretty sure they’ll have to have more than one fire just to cremate us all. But I’ll see what I can do. I just realized there are people who have never met me who know me a lot better than some people who have known me all my life.
I’m not sure what to think about that.