My mouth fell open at my mother’s statement of complete and total rejection by my father. In my head I replayed my caring help at his bedside the night before and wondered what was so wrong about it. Should I have stood at the end of the bed while he feebly fumbled for the Kleenex – almost choking to death?
I turned my face to the wall and resumed my work, unwilling to show my mother how deeply hurt I was. The salesladies who had been in the backroom had suddenly found work to do out in the showroom and had sidled past me, unable to look at me. I found myself clenching my teeth together in an effort not to cry and I refused to run to the bathroom in case my mother thought I was.
At the end of the day I was free to go home instead of to the hospital. Without the anguish of a sick father to distract me, I logged on to the internet and went in search of my favorite chat room. Michael Bolton’s voice filled the confines of my bedroom as the conversations reflected off my eyes. With my nephew still at his grandfather’s bedside, I had the house to myself and I cranked the volume and sang along, tears of anguish streaming down my face. Yak sidled up to me and asked me for a dance and I whirled out onto the dance floor in an effort to stomp my father’s horrible words into the ground.
As Yak and I danced and chatted, a new name flashed on the screen. I watched the newcomer out of the corner of my eye and I only managed one small silly comment to one of his before he left. Yak noticed my interest and immediately stepped up his attentions, but he was taken and I knew it.
The next night the stranger appeared again and I watched him as he sat quietly in a corner. His comments were few and far between, but they still caught my eye and I attempted to draw him into a conversation. His answers seemed almost flippant, or like he was brushing me off, and that incensed me. This continued for the rest of the week and in the real world Yak sent me flowers. In the real world my mother had also taken time away from the business to look after her husband and I was relieved of listening to accounts of his health. I didn’t want to know, and I didn’t want to care.
I spent my days waiting to get back to the chat room. I was antsy and annoyed at the daily grind and my friends started saying I spent too much time on something that wasn’t real. I disagreed loud and long, saying that maybe the chat room didn’t exist in ‘reality’, but the people in it were real. They argued that they all assumed ‘personalities’ – they didn’t give their real names. I argued the assumed names meant nothing and that everyone was a real person. My friends pointed out that Yak was in the chat room as a single man and I just waved that away. It didn’t matter to me any more. His flirting was just flirting now and we had become friends.
They couldn’t understand it at all. To me it was a place where no one knew my background. No one knew my family. I could only be judged by the words I typed. Here I could dance with a stranger and not be physically abused. I felt welcomed and part of a crowd that didn’t judge. Maybe some were not who they said they were – but I didn’t care. There were people in there that I never spoke to and some I knew I would never be interested in. But there were a few who cheerily called my name when Ani made her entrance. And it made me feel like I was a part of a ‘family’. So unlike my real life.