I’m a man who floats through life. I can’t remember a time when I was ever one of the guys. The dudes I knew hung out in testosterone fueled packs. I was a total loner. I had no interest in sports. Never played them. Watching them was boring. I just hung-out in my parents’ basement writing code.
I’m as dense as any fellow when it came to the labyrinth that is the female mind. But my nerdiness attracts them. I think it’s the opposite of the “bad-boy” effect. I am so far from being a bad-boy that I intrigue certain elements of the estrogen bearing set. So, I have had my share of deep sexual experiences, no pun intended. But, getting serious with a female required too much commitment. So, most of my sex-life involved the sultry Rosy Palms.
It’s not like I’m a hermit. I interact constantly, with people in the virtual world of the internet. People on the internet are detached and anonymous. You can be anybody you want to be. But, you touch nobody; and nobody touches you. That’s where I met Biff. I’m sure that she had an actual name. But we had corresponded so intimately in the nerd-chat-rooms that we decided that we were best-friends-forever. Hence “Biff.”
I had no idea who she was, what she looked like, or where she lived. For all I knew, she might have been a 90-year-old Ukrainian babushka; or even a guy. People have no gender in cyberspace. And status isn’t determined by looks or money. You rise, or fall, by your intelligence.
Biff was the smartest person I have ever known. We chatted for two continuous years. It wasn’t just a few messages. We would go back-and-forth for hours each day. Normal people wouldn’t have as much sustained conversation in a real-world setting, anywhere. But for me, virtual schmoozing with Biff and her incredible mind was my form of reality.
Our discussions ranged everywhere. We would go from topics like geo-politics, to why anybody would ever a particular TV show funny. She had a scope of intellect and an understanding of humankind that dwarfed and humbled me and her perceptions about life were second to none. She was humorous, insightful, sardonic and profound; all at the same time.
When we were together, I don’t believe any two people could EVER be as close as we were. We held nothing back. What would be the point when we were both faceless in the anonymous jungle of the internet? We shared everything. And if love is an absolute connection to another person’s soul; than we were indisputably in love.
Naturally, that eventually led to cybersex. I mean, after all, I’m a guy and she’s a girl; that is, if she wasn’t catfishing me. Our cybernetic fucking was detailed, imaginative and very, very hot. But it also brought on the usual male insecurities. So, I finally asked her whether sex with me was as good as the physical sex she was getting from real men. You don’t need to tell me. I know I’m a weenie. I never claimed otherwise. What I got back was:
>” If I get fucked in a forest and nobody hears me is that real?”
> “What ARE you, Nietzsche’s wet-dream?”
>” Nope, I’m just a girl who loves sex.”
>” Is that what we’re doing, having sex?”
>” YES!!! You’re the male abstraction. I’m the female abstraction. It’s a perfect joining. Our pleasure isn’t constrained by our physical self. We’re opposite sides of one virtual soul.”
That caused a major stiffie. I understood exactly what she was saying. The other person existed in our imaginations. So, in simple terms we were fucking OURSELVES. I couldn’t conceive of an intellect so powerful that it could have figured THAT out.
Then one day Biff simply disappeared. When I got my morning coffee, she was always waiting in our private chat-space. It was a companionable way to wake up. We would chat about our day and any of the things that had happened since we last talked.
I knew that Biff was more sociable than me. Who wasn’t? Occasionally we missed evenings, especially if she stayed out late on a date. But she was always there every morning of every day for the past 700 straight days. Except that fateful day.
When I entered the room the curser just sat there blinking. I waited, staring at the thing. Hours passed and no Biff. I went from watching to restless pacing. I kept saying to myself, “Come on Biff, where are you?”
A lot of options went through my head. Maybe she got hit by a car, or mugged? Maybe she had a stroke, or a heart attack? But the dominant thought was, “Have I just been played?”
Biff’s disappearance put a lot of things into perspective. I went through every one of the five stages of grief.
Denial: first I sat for almost 48 straight hours watching the curser blink. I kept telling myself that Biff would never do that to me.
Then Anger: I said to myself, “Fuck her! I don’t need the bitch!” I went out and bought a case of Jameson’s and spent the next week drunk on my ass. Occasionally I staggered over to the screen to look at that diabolical little prompt. It was still blinking away. Finally, I smashed the monitor with my last bottle of Irish.
Then Bargaining: I woke up lying on the floor covered in vomit and little pieces of plastic. I took my wasted body out to the local Best-Buy, and bought a top of the line system. I wanted all the compute power I could get; because I had made a deal with God and every proxy server that Biff had ever hopped through. I would find her and we would work this out. I n the end, I was pretty sure that she lived in the continental U.S. but that was as far as I got. The girl was good.
Depression: that led to two solid years of sadness, regret and anguish. It was unpleasant and scary. I was not used to feeling anything about anybody. The depression stage DID boost my business because working was the only way I could stay sane. During that painful period, I was a code writing machine. My élan-vital was all-consuming.
It took me an endless two and a half years to reach Acceptance. Of course, I didn’t move on. But at least I could function like normal. Ahem!! You don’t need to remind me. I know Biff was a virtual entity and that I’m a geek; and that “normal” is a pretty relative concept with me.
One of the oddest outcomes of those two years was that I began to cultivate a buddy. He worked on the talent management side at the contracting house I was attached to. He was an actual human being not a nerd.
I think they tasked Julian to look after me; because my behavior had been so bizarre; even for me. Somewhere in that assignment he came to like, or perhaps the right term is “feel sorry for”, me. He would take me out for drinks every time I dropped projects off.
Julian was a very affable guy. Of course, you don’t succeed in sales if you’re an asshole. So, the likeability factor was to be expected. He had just moved down to DC from New Haven; where he had done the entire Yale MBA experience. So, he wasn’t dumb.
Nonetheless, he was about as opposite me as you can get and still be in the same species. I am early 30s very tall, skinny and best described as unkempt. He was five eleven, and a preppie’s preppy. Crisp blue oxford shirt and khakis.
I have no social skills whatsoever. Julian could sell fabled ice boxes to proverbial Eskimos. Whenever we were at a bar he would flirt outrageously with every female in the place. They all loved him. Those same girls didn’t even know I existed.
That was probably because I spent the entire time looking at my hands. I liked girls as much as he did. But inarticulate, painfully shy and self-conscious doesn’t come close to describing my savoir-faire.
It was the day before Thanksgiving. I had brought in a C++ code module that was a little jewel. Julian was buying me the usual reward. He said, “What are you doing for Thanksgiving Jake?”
I told him that I was planning on microwaving two turkey TV dinners with all the trimmings and sharing them with my old dog Buster. Then to be conversational I added, “What are you doing?”
He said, “We’re new in town and the family is up north in Boston so it’s just Hannah and me. We would love to have you join us, you can bring Buster if you like.” Normally I would rather be tied to a rabid porcupine than have dinner at somebody’s house, especially on a holiday. But I got the sense that the guy really wanted me there. So, against my better judgment I said, “What time’s dinner?”
I have no idea what caused my sudden onset of sociability. But the situation with Biff had changed me and Julian was a decent fellow. Maybe I was finally growing a heart? Consequently, I was standing on the doorstep of Julian’s trendy McMansion the following afternoon. My unruly shock of brown hair was slicked back and I was wearing my only sport coat. I had even given Buster a bath. He wanted to know what he had done to deserve such painful abuse. Buster is big, stupid and smelly and the best dog in the world. I got him from the pound seven years ago. He looks like the hound from hell. But he is as sweet tempered and loving as any dog, EVER. He is also just as shy and unforthcoming as I am.
He’s mostly Labrador with a touch of some bigger and rangier dog, like an American Bulldog. There was also what might have been Shar-Pei in him, since he has wrinkles. In fact, his skin fits him just as badly as my clothes fit me.
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