This short story explores the complex area of internet relationships, and how, travel and work arrangements, the conflict between responsibility and freedom, between obligation and personal desires converge. A believable and vivid story we all know someone has had a similar encounter with a relationship online.
It is appropriate to think of places as texts, layered with meaning. Every place has an excess of meaning beyond what can be seen or understood at any one time.
Phillip Shledrake, Space for the Sacred Place, Memory and Identity.
It's an internet romance story. There’s this guy who hangs around the internet all day. He has ten different aliases for ten different chatrooms. He got talking to a woman from LA. They got close and used other applications such as Snapchat to get closer and closer. Angela was on the webcam and they worked out the arrangements for his visit to the airport in LA. She was wearing a headset and was wearing a cravat and a casual shirt. She wore an eighties style suit with large shoulder pads. He arrived at the airport to find no one there at the gate.
She had sent him over the course of their exchanges online, 100s of jpegs of the past and present and of his imagined future. From nights at the club with loud friends, holidays with the family. His past he could not remember as vividly as her. It all seemed so real to him.
He went to a cocktail bar to drown his sorrows and hide in the music. There he found his girl it was no mistaken identity. They were a true fit, as they talked and laughed at the bartenders side, it was close to closing time. He had ten thousand in a suitcase, she worked as a barmaid. And he would move to to 2nd Avenue. How long he hung around was a long time. He never left that place. They married and had a son and daughter.
All the lonely nights of the quiet flickering TV sets was gone, they had TV dinners and trips to see the Broadway Musicals and Salsa nights and restaurants such as Spice Bazaar, where the views scene were luxuriantly splendid.
My name is Little John, born in Forest gate, London. There was a time I was lost in the woods and misunderstood. I sent Caroline an e-mail after our extended Instant Messages in the New Age Chatroom, Rendevous. The chatroom brought people from all walks of life who were looking at life more deeply, for truth and a meaning to their existence. Their profiles were individualistic and stylish, you would know they were independent-minded folks in town, that perhaps they took to travel, not from loneliness but the freedom that modernity had offered them. You would not have guessed what they had been through, the situations they lived through to make them emphasize their personal liberty above all else, perhaps they drank of life deeply and easily, had been around the block a few times, had exercised their mind, body, spirit. Above all else, they lived life to the lees, this cannot be doubted. Yet they were philosophical, imaginative (and naive at times), and if there were charlatans in the chatroom I would have caught them a mile off, from a distance, spying. But between the lively discussions and insights in the truth, people's true identities -- who on earth could say, if you looked beneath the surface, the internet superhighway was a wonder as the lamplights hunched over the terrace when we surfed at night, was I just wishy washy , blinded by the light of love, or a technocrat on my PC, my memories transferred to the hard drive, so different to the Polaroids we used to know and keep in drawers.
It's said the room drew soulmates together, that serendipitous encounters were not out of the ordinary. So it was, I met Catherine online. One of the attendees was saying I was Don Quixote, and wished me well on my adventures, who was Don Quixote? I think he meant I had a quixotic streak. I e-mailed her the following:
We'll be able to meet before long, let the divorce papers be finalised,
and all the cosmos be restored to some kind of balance, then we'll be together, soon.
She was a dream - a blonde divorcee from Chicago, I was in my twenties, I felt or intuited that she was my trophy, the road less traveled. I would use what remained of my abundant student loan, to change my karma and move to America, the land of dreams. I would pay her rent to the landlord, or whatever, and find a job within a month of staying at her place, and uprgrade to something concrete achieved, no doubt.
I went to the travel centre - the guy in there was really nice - the transaction for £500 ticket to Chicago had been printed off their computer. I was in two places at once back then, my heart in Chicago, my mind on my job as Administrator in Walthamstow, London. How long my heart was to be kept there, I wasn't to know until later, in this story of longing, parting and returned treasures to the way we were.
I wrote her poems, was I acting from chivalrous concern or was I just a boy not man enough for the ideals that permeated my youth? I read a poem about Gueneva and Launcelot. For all the lofty metaphysical speculation there was the muddy old mythologies we dug out and read.
It wasn't olde English that enchanted us so, the Italian and the American words she used made me say I wanted her in my world. As communicative we were with all these mediums, and even when I said nothing she could read my mind.
Was it that imagination added dimensions and colour to those conversations on the phone 'till dawn, that made it a more powerful drug than reality? Was idealisation and imagination out of control, and the muddled boundaries that the Internet dimension over and above geographical demarcations and designation? Structures of living quarters, shops, libraries, clubs, restaurants, coffee shops. Did imagination lay waste to the affluence in our immediate locale and natural habitat these years?
Is it our natural proclivity to yearn for that which is beyond and not as yet fully known, was the truth seekers quest for reality over illusion being confused with a soulmate?
What was our shared memory? Was it just audio more than visual or of second sight, what good is technology in the human need for tactile expression and harmony with one's environment. Surely we can only work on all things, step by step? How to step beyond the necessity of our immediate surround that draws forth our concentration for responsibility, ordering our material lives. If love is just chemical.
I decided I would go teach abroad and get on with my life. I had completed a TEFL teaching course at Windsor TEFL.
She had found someone else, she asked where was I? Had I any excuse manning the idea of it all?
She said she was to go to Mexico, where her boyfriend would arrange to go and move her to an apartment a living quarters, two or them would make the half of it, in the country. She spoke of how he called her white gold. I had two contracts in hand, one of Italy, and one of Mexico, where they were to go. A new golden dawn.
I said I would go to Mexico to catch her if she fell...She was in the USA, and she smiled to herself at the poetry. She said that I was her knight.
I met a person in Mexico, Catherine's boyfriend had deserted her, (she took him for granted) and I was at Coco cabana beach. Yet I met a person there and spent time, just to e-mail her all about it when I returned to London city. Was this getting on with life, I had undertook training to become a newly qualified English Teacher in the time I had known her. Was I moving on, but where was I moving on from, the psychical landscape we both inhabited online? A place where we could stand strong together? I was a student of the mystic arts, seeking enlightenment.
Some background on Chicago and Catherine. It's a city I have never traveled to but the lonely plant guide can easily take you there. She was married over a decade, bore four children, she said that the strong go forth and multiply.
To make a killing, providing for the brood? Was survival encompassed in careers? Of course they were! But what about those who had not built a foundation for a strong resume after graduating from University, who had to start work in retail stores at seventeen?
There were responsibilities I took up naturally, all encompassed in my career building and sensible, by the book upbringing, that I didn't perceive with as much seriousness as she would, I didn't need to worry about where the next month's rent was coming from. She grew up learning to hustle her way through, like the local man's dem in East London, street smart and worldly wise, selling herself to protectors, who didn't always have her very best interests at heart.
She had a series of relationships, life is what happens when you're busy making other plans, as it's been said. Each time my failing to get to Chicago compounded. It was such a waste given the chemistry. It taught me to look at what was right in front of me, although surburban America is transfixed on it's computer screens.
Mathematical and shrewd with money and false pledges in love. Was it just vengeance? Her ex she called merciless, was she replicating what had been done to her, leading her to mislead me? But how bothered was I beyond my vain idea of what life should be, being in Chicago. Four places: the person, the city, the internet, the phone.
Was it the merciless thrill of the chase, something just out of reach, the sublime or the ridiculous, or what it hormones or idea driven. Something seemingly in reach but too far off? Like some mystery.
Was it necessary to be well heeled on one's own turf, suited and booted at a state owned company, before one can take a leap elsewhere, and relocate?
A wild card is a wild card, and if opportunity flows toward balance, should I have been a more comped man, sobered by the calm of office hours. If I can find that the truth within me, would that take me there?
The years have passed, the alchemy of the furnace tempers our will to something stronger, to stand without you here in my own element, passed the tears of years alike, that divide and collect the material, our composition. That I've spun like a singing actor in a musical when you once betrayed with the 180, and the £500 spent, I've written down and made note of in this account.
It is said that a man sometimes goes through a journey in his youth, when he acts with excessive yang, which hurts him, so that the yin gives him solace, away from harsh self judgement and all the mistakes made. Being a woman, that's what you gave me, but beneath that you were always so angry, the knight on his quest finds within himself his lost feminine polarity, the excalibur sword, the place inside me what always accepts where I find myself in this life. May it be, may it be, always and forever.
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© Zubyre Parvez 2016 All Rights Reserved WRITER BIO: Zubyre Parvez (BA hons) studied English Literature at Hertfordshire University. He writes song lyrics, poetry, short stories, reviews, and articles for The Taoist Crucible. His poetry won runners up in a competition judged by Simon Armitage and Margaret Atwood. His poetry has been published in Kobita. His articles have appeared in The Epoch Times as a journalist for the newspaper. He has worked for New Tang Dynasty Television as a journalist. You can catch up with his tweets @TheEaghams