Laura was sitting at the mirror in her hotel room checking her hair and make up one last time. It was apparent she had a serious case of jet lag. Her eyes looked puffy and tired even to her. She laid ice cubes wrapped in a wash cloth across her eyes and had managed to get some of the swelling down but not all of it. This was as good as it was going to get. Nervousness was starting to set in. She shook her head at her reflection in the mirror
"What am I doing here?" she said aloud half expecting her reflection to answer her.
With a glance at the clock she realized it was only a short time before she would meet the person she had flown half way around the world to meet. She was excited, but it was also such a bittersweet situation. She knew that this would only end in heartache for both of them. So many questions, doubts and fears ran through her chaotic mind. What if there is no connection? Or even worse what if there is? She knew that this is only a much needed break from her real life. Two weeks to be who she wants to be and do what she wants to do. It seemed surreal to her. There were just too many ties that kept her in the United States to uproot and move here. Now that she was here, she began to wonder if this was a good idea after all. Here, Perth, Australia. Australia? Really? They say God puts someone one on this earth for everyone. He decided as a cruel joke to make this match a near impossible feat.
Her mind began to wonder back to her thirty second birthday. She was recently divorced and lonely. The company of her two sons filled much of the void but still there was just a part of her life they didn't't fulfill. She smiled at the memory of how this all got started. On a whim she had bought a computer and was just learning to use it. This was the first one she had ever owned, she had very little experience with computers, until then.
It was a Friday evening, the kids were already tucked into bed sound asleep. As usual, there was nothing on TV that interested her in the least, so she decided to sit down at the new computer and see what was really out there in the world wide web. It was still a dial up connection in those days. How technology had changed over the years. The sound that erupted from her computer was really annoying, something akin to nails on a chalkboard mixed with a dash of teeth scraping across a fork. After a couple of attempts it finally connected to the internet.
Now what? She looked at her desktop at the different icons. Most of the icons were clear as to what they were a shortcut to, but this moon icon, she wasn't't quite sure what it was. She double clicked it to see exactly what it was for, She figured it must have been something that had been preinstalled on her new computer.
Welcome to I Seek You, would you like to create an account?
Oh sure why not. She was not sure she was entirely comfortable filling out the personal information it was asking for. She kept it very generalized.
Enter Screen name.
She thought about this for only a second and chose katz. That had been a nickname from her high school days. A shortened version of her maiden name, Katzmun
Enter your profile.
Profile, this is gonna be good. There was not one interesting thing she could think to put there. Her life was pretty boring. Stable, just how she liked it... but boring. Her recent divorced had left her a little worse for wear but she was on the down hill side of all the drama that surrounds a divorce. She began typing....
aging single mom over worked under paid one nerve left and it is about to surrender too...
She half heartedly smiled and deleted the sad truth and typed:
Blonde hair hazel eyed 32yo divorced lady with 2 wonderful boys. 12yo and 2yo. Own my own home, well the bank and I do anyway. Work full time. Not on Prozac. What more could anyone want? If you can't laugh or giggle, don't bother to contact me. There is already more than enough drama in my real life :-)
With that she was set to go. She wasn't sure what people put in their profiles, but she certainly wasn't going to get anymore specific than that. After all, this is just a chat program with a bunch of meaningless strangers interacting randomly with each other. She could have put on there she was rich and beautiful, but decided to stick to the truth. The lies would simply be to hard to keep track of.
"OK, I am logged on and have a profile. Now what?" She spoke to the computer as if she expected an answer from it. She clicked on the different tabs and functions of the program window. Flipping from screen to screen, options, preferences, privacy. She thought to herself this may be a little more involved than she was ready for.
She nearly jumped out of her seat at the creepy little UTOH that pierced the silence of her kitchen.
A little screen popped up. She sat back in her chair and stared at it, unsure exactly what she was supposed to do with it.
Incoming message from Chas do you want to accept?
umm sure why not....tentatively she clicked the button that opened yet another window. Her screen was filled with multiple windows. She was trying to get them under control.
The words there would be the beginning of the biggest adventure of her entire life.
katz: hi ya.
utoh Chas: How are you?
katz: not bad bad and you?
utoh Chas: I am great thanks. ASL?
katz: asl? sorry, what does that mean?
katz: this is all still new to me... first time logging on
utoh Chas: oh, a newbie.. ASL=Age Sex Location
katz: ooooooooo.. 32 female ky
utoh Chas: ky?
utoh Chas: Do you have a shift button in Kentucky?
utoh Chas: I was just wondering if you had a shift button because you have yet to use a capital letter, you've missed several chances........
utoh Chas: I am near Perth Australia
katz: giggle.. umm of course we do. i am just being lazy.
Her eyes popped open wide when she looked up from the keyboard to read his last remark. The conversation seemed a bit jumbled because he would ask another question before she had finished answering the previous one.
katz: australia? wow, really?
Chat request is coming in from Chas do you want to accept?
Her options were OK or cancel. She chose OK. She was very curious about this strange man from a different continent. She searched trough her head and couldn't pull out one pertinent fact about Australia. She was not a dumb person by any means but conversations about international travel were just not high up on her list at that time in her life.
A split screen popped up and Chas began typing. Laura couldn't seem to find where she was supposed to respond. After a few clicks she managed to find the little box that was hers to type in.
The conversation was a little slow in the beginning. They asked the standard get-to-know-you questions about each other and eventually fell into a natural conversation. There was a bit of a language barrier. Who knew Aussies had their own special kind of language. The letters o and z really seem to be important to them. Words were shortened almost beyond recognition and had a totally different meaning than what she had ever encountered in her somewhat sheltered life.
Even Laura became Loz that first night. Time seemed to stand still. Their type filled the little screens time and time again. "Loz" hung on every word he typed, as she saw it come up in real time one letter at a time. Sentences that started to appear on the screen only to be back spaced quickly deciding not to ask that particular question of make that particular observation. She did the same, unsure what was safe to ask about him. Several times during their conversation he hit the nail on the head describing what he thought she might be like. Although she would have never let him know exactly how boring her life truly was. Kids, work, family, a few close friends. Having more money than month was the highlight of her life during that time.
katz: oh wow do you realize we have been chatting for nearly three hours?
Chas: No Way.
katz: yes way
Chas: Can I add you?
katz: add me to what?
Chas: My friends list ya silly yank.
katz: oh yeah, as long as i can add you.
Chas: BTW what time is it there?
She looked at the screen for a minute... BTW...it came to her.. BTW=by the way
She wondered if she was supposed to remember all these cutsie little acromyns. If so she would have to start a list. Sometimes they were a completely different language on their own.
Chas: what day?
katz: fri/sat morn
Chas: hmmm I am 14 hours ahead of you.
Chas: talk again tomorrow?
katz: your tomorrow or my tomorrow
Chas: hahahahaha When you wake up.
katz: not sure i can. will try though.
Chas: g'nite M'lady sleep sweet. :P
katz: good night Charlie.
She logged off and went to check in on the boys. Looking in on each them Trent, twelve years old. Blond hair blue eyed, was really going to be a lady killer one day. Ben two years old. Such a gentle natured child. A polar opposite of his older brother. The divorced had been tough on both of them. Their father was an excellent dad. They loved him very much. Laura still wasn't exactly sure what had destroyed their marriage. All she knew was it was not a happy home and she didn't want the boys to be raised in that sort of environment. The whole thing had been quite nasty in the beginning, but now that it was all settled, Laura and Frank, her ex-husband, had decided to put the petty things aside and focus on what was best for the boys, and that included having their father around anytime they wanted.
She went into the bathroom to take a shower before she laid down for the night. After a few minutes of letting the hot water run across her aching shoulders she began to giggle, remembering something that Chas had said. Chas, actually Charlie Chadwick. She finished her shower and got ready for bed. As she laid there drifting between wake and sleep, their conversation kept running through her head. She shook her head, rolled over, and forced herself to go to sleep.
The morning after her first chat with Charlie, she woke up and the first thing that popped into her head was the conversation from last night. She looked at the clock and tried to work out the time difference in her head. Ugh... too early to think. She got out of bed and peaked in on the boys. Still fast asleep. She smiled to herself and tip toed down the stairs to the computer and logged on. She made coffee while she was waiting for the connection to be made to the internet. She quickly clicked the moon icon that would hopefully connect her to him. As soon as the chat program was connected a window popped up and she heard utoh...utoh....utoh.... she had three new messages from Chas. She was very pleasantly surprised. More than she should have been.
Chas: Wakey Wakey have a lil breakie
Chas: You gonna sleep all day?
Chas: there you are!
Chat request incoming from Chas do you want to accept?
OK... more than ok, but sadly there was not an OH HELL YEAH! button.
katz: good morning.. or evening for you i suppose
Chas: Did you sleep well?
katz: well.. after i quit thinking and giggling about a conversation i had with some strange man from australia i did
Chas: hahahaha Whew, glad it just wasn't a one sided thing then. Loz, I haven't stopped thinking about you all day.
Laura thought RIGHT HERE, I should put the breaks on, log off and delete my account, but of course she didn't, she was curious, to say the least, as to just where this was going. She was a little lost for words to respond to that last comment. She didn't really want to admit that she fell asleep thinking of him and as soon as her eyes opened this morning he was the first thought of her day.
katz: how is the weather there :-)
Chas: hahahahahahaha, Nice change of subject.
The next thing she knew, two more hours had passed. She heard the boys starting to stir upstairs. She was sure she didn't want them to know about this. How would she explain it to them?
katz: gotta go.... the boys are waking up...
Chas: oh right
katz: talk soon?
Chas: Sooner the better.
Laura smiled to herself and shook her head. What are you doing silly girl. These are just words on a screen. He probably has a whole list of women that he chats with, saying the same sweet things to day after day.
katz: giggles... bye
Chas: bye M'lady :P
The strange ring ring of the telephone drug Laura out of her daydream. She broke out in a cold sweat. Her stomach felt as if it had decided to do a cartwheel. That could only be one person. She went to the phone and placed her hand on it to calm herself, before she picked it up, waiting for the second ring ring.
Awkward silence filled the line. She sighed out of nervousness. She could hear him take a deep breath as well.
"Umm.... think so."
"Ya know, it's sorta funny. We've imagined this so many times, I can't believe we're stalling. Are you scared?" he asked.
"SCARED? I just flew twenty three hours to meet you. Hell, I am either fearless or crazy.....I'm terrified."
Chas laughed "Yip, I'm on my way. Be there in about a half hour."
"OK SEE you then. Bye."
Laura could never get used to how it made her heart flutter when she heard him call her baby. It wasn't just baby. It was bAYby. That Aussie accent still made her weak in the knees after all this time.
Her family thought she had lost her mind when she had told them she was chatting with a man from Australia. The had the typical response, be careful he can steal your info, he may be married, he may be an ax murderer. She had listened to all this until she thought she would pull her hair out. After a while, they just didn't discuss it anymore.
Little did Laura, or her family, realize the depths of this chance encounter.
Days turned into months, months into a year. Hardly a day passed that there was not some form of contact between them. They had settled into a chat schedule. She could tell you what time of day it was in Perth with out much more than a passing thought, not that anyone in her circle of friends would require such information.
Then one day nothing, not a word. Laura wasn't too worried. Through the week it had always been hard to catch each other in person so they passed messages back and forth. By the fourth day she figured, yep just what she thought. It was a game and she had just lost. She hated to admit to herself how much of her heart she had foolishly given away and not even realized she was doing it.
Life went back to normal, work, kids, work, kids, boring, stable, safe.. none of it was enough for her anymore. She logged on every day lying to her self saying it was just a distraction. Secretly she wanted nothing more than to hear that creepy irritating UTOH, and to go back to the fun, exciting, conversations she had come to enjoyed over the last year. When she spent time with Charlie, she felt like she was more than a mother, daughter, or employee. She was a woman. A woman, that a man on the other side of this world found interesting and witty. She had forgotten that part of her personality even existed. It had been a very long time since she had let it show itself, quite literally, to the world.
After three lonely months had passed, she logged on, not really expecting anything, but still....she was not willing to give up the hope.
It was from Chas! She hesitated to click on it. She had every emotion a person could imagine running through her head. She eventually got the courage up to click on it. It was a message that filled the entire message box.
Chas: Loz, I am sorry. I truly am. (here it comes she thought) I know you must be wondering what is going on with me. Why I did a runner. I was getting way too attached to you and it honestly scared the hell out of me. If you don't respond I understand completely, but.. I really, really hope you do. I miss you. How is it possible to miss someone you have never met? Yeah.. still trying to work that one out myself. Anyway, send me a message and let me know you got this at least.
Bye M'lady :P xxooxx
She read the message again. Not sure what to make out of it. Was this his idea of a sick game or was he serious? She thought back over the last year of all the conversations they had shared. They had been about anything from a stopped up sink to their hopes and dreams. Some chats were funny, pure nonsense, and some where more serious. What they did find out, is that on either side of the planet, life was pretty much the same for a single person. She had gotten so caught up in the routine of their chats she really had not realized that he had become so much more than a screen full of words to her. He was a real part of her life, even though she was sure most people would not be of the same opinion. Internet relationships in the nineties were still quite the taboo. She suspected that this was happening more then people actually let on. You could go to "parties" or a club like atmosphere complete with music. It was safe. It was cheap. Best of all you could sit in your pj's and not have a second thought about it.
She logged off. Don't be a fool she thought. It was late she was just too tired to sort this out reasonably. So, instead she trudged upstairs to bed.
After tossing and turning for what seemed like an eternity she rolled over and looked at the clock and deciphered the time difference. She cussed under her breath and got out of bed and quietly snuck back down the stairs to the computer.
She thought to herself, FOOL! It is three am what in the hell are you doing? She knew full well what she was doing. She was going down to the computer to log on and search the history for his message. After finding it she still wasn't quite sure what she should do, or wanted to do. She was sure of one thing though, they were two different schools of thought. She opened his message and sat there staring at it. Reading deeper into every sentence than was necessary. After a while, she decided she would answer him, she clicked reply to open a message a box to type her response.
katz: hey you.. i knew you couldn't stay away for long, i am a bit of an acquired taste, but once you are hooked, u are like putty in my hands. what can I say?
She read and reread what she had typed, her finger hovered over the send button.. she took a deep breath and punched at it like as if it was going to give her a shock. Now that she had at least responded to him maybe she could get some sleep. Well, something like sleep anyway. The rest of the night she spent tossing and turning, again trying to sort this mess all out in her head.
The next morning she logged on to hear that sweet sound she had longed to hear.
Chas: That's my girl. Will catch you tonite. 10pm yours.
katz: k see ya then :-) xxooxx
She couldn't believe how relieved she was to hear from him again. She knew that this was completely insane, a normal person would't have gotten herself in this situation. After all, it was not like they could actually meet or anything. What was the point to all of this nonsense? In her otherwise dull, ordinary life, it was sort of exciting to know that someone on the other side of the world was thinking about her.
Ten pm could not come soon enough for her. She hurried through her day. Spent time with the boys, dinner and a movie. She couldn't tell you one thing about the movie, she had spent the entire time what-if-ing the coming conversation ad nauseam. The hours seemed to drag on forever until it was time to find out what truly was going inside Charlie's head. When they returned home, she tucked the boys in to bed before she sat down to the computer.
Utoh Chas: hey you where are ya?
She smiled to herself. He is early. Part of her was relieved that he had even showed at all.
utoh chat request incoming do you want to accept?
katz: hey you
Chas: hey you wow it is sure is good to read your type again.
katz: :-)) yours too. now what is going on?
Chas: can I call you?
katz: call me what?
Chas: no silly lady call you.. on the phone.
katz: oh.... that is a tough one
katz: i have to log off first
Chas: right, 5 mins?
katz: k bye
She was as nervous as if he was going to be knocking on the door in five minutes instead of calling her on the phone. She actually went to the bathroom to brush her hair. She looked in the mirror and couldn't believe how flushed her cheeks were, she was positively glowing. The type that she had been reading on the screen for so many long days and nights was about to have life breathed into it. The minutes seem to pass like molasses in the winter time. The sound of the phone about made her jump out of her skin.
She took a deep breath, trembling, she picked up the phone. "Hello?"
She could hear him take a deep nervous breath himself and say "Hey you how are ya?"
After a slight pause to make sure her voice wasn't too shaky, "Better now how about you?"
"Yeah I'm good. Loz I am so sorry I disappeared on you. I wanted to call and tell you this in person, well the closest to in person that I could. I ..."
Silence filled the phone line and she thought she had lost the connection.
"Hello? You what?"
"I am in love with you."
She almost dropped the phone. She couldn't speak. It felt like the world around her was spinning too fast and she was standing still in the middle of it. The room was a blur.
"Charlie, I am speechless. This can't be real. You
wouldn't even know me, or
I you, for that matter, if we were standing in the same crowded room."
He laughed and said, "I know crazy huh? One day I was typing you a message and my heart was breaking. You are on the other side of the world completely out of my reach. I just couldn't do it anymore. It was even worse without what little contact we did have."
She searched for the right words to say. How did she feel? Since he disappeared she had not been able to eat or sleep or focus much for that matter, but love?
"Loz.... expensive silence here..."
"Oh sorry... Well... I haven't let myself dare to think this could be more than a pen pal relationship-she lied. I can tell ya this, if you were here or even just a little closer, on the same continent, would be nice, I wouldn't hesitate to say let's meet and find out. Are you bein' serious or are just sayin what ya think I wanna hear?"
"Loz, Completely serious. I don't date. All my friends know about you and the boys. I have taken quite a ribbin for it too!
"Tell me about it... "she giggled
"I know. Neither of us are in the position to just drop everything and go to the other one. So what do we do?"
Tears begin to flow. "Charlie, I've missed you more than I can tell you, my day has just not been complete without hearin from you. Don't ya ever do that to me again."
"Aww bAYby I am sorry. OK this is really expensive. Gonna hang up now before I have to take out a loan to pay the telly. Go back to the computer?
"Yes, meet you there."
Absent mindedly she hung up the phone without even saying goodbye. She floated back to the computer. Love? No, it can't be love. Very strong like yes but she would not give into it being love. She shook her head and logged back on to the computer.
They began to chat, keeping it light waiting for the other one to bring up the L word.
Just when she thought he was not going to mention it again, he did.
Chas : Did I scare you?
Chas: If I wasn't in love with you before, that giggle and little southern twang sunk me for sure. You sounded just like I have imaged you in my mind a thousand times.
katz: giggles..u didn't sound so bad yourself... it was so good to finally put a voice with the type....
katz: now we really got to exchange pictures. ..
katz: scare me... no... shock me... yes. how do i know you are not stringin a long list of ladies along just like you are me.
Chas: Loz, ouch.. for a year? How could I keep that up?
katz: lets just keep things the way they have been and see what happens.
Chas: deal. abby, i do luv you
katz: who the hell is this abby?
Chas: oh shit TYPO stubby fingers baby... baby... baby I do luv you
katz: i know just had to get you on that one. :-)
Chas: if I could get my hands on you, you would definitely be in trouble.
katz : O REALLY?
Chas: really, oh look she does have a shift key!
katz: how exactly do we trade pictures on here?
Charlie began to explain the complicated process of getting a picture uploaded to the computer. Scan? Save? What? After a little bit she thought she had it down. By then it was very late. The picture would obviously have to wait until next time.
The next day she did manage to get a picture saved to the computer. She logged on and left it running while she did other things around the house, waiting for the UTOH to sound.
Her smile was a mile wide as she rushed to the computer and sat down. She did not even say hi. Just sent the file to him. She sat there like she was in front of a firing squad, biting the fingernail of her thumb, waiting for his response.
His response was a file of his own. She clicked accept. Praying that this man that had half stolen her heart did not look like something out of a creature feature.
She opened the file and there he was.
Correction, completely stolen her heart.
She couldn't take her eyes off his picture. Yeah, she knew then she was in love too.
katz: :-)))) yes
Chas: very... you?
katz: very :-) what would we had done if one was not impressed with other one?
Chas: honestly? I don't think it would have mattered at this point.
katz: me either
From then on they either messaged, emailed, or spoke on the phone, on a daily basis. Nothing seemed to come between them. They mailed each other cards and gifts. They exchanged many pictures of themselves, family friends and places that they visited. Trying to make the other one seem more real in any way possible. Friends and family on both sides thought they had lost their minds. After a while they paid no attention them. Laura's sister, Renee, had a very heated discussion with her one day about the whole sorted affair.
"Laura, don't be an idiot this is a fantasy. It can't be real. There is no way there are true feeling between the two of you."
It was sort of an ironic conversation, since about five years later that same sister called her to tell her to meet her after work she needed to tell her something, and needed to do it face to face.
They met in the parking lot outside Laura's hospital. When Renee' pulled up, Laura got out of her car and got in the car with Renee. She had barely shut the door when sista dear blurted out,
"Laura, I have met someone"
"Oh that's great, where did you meet him"
This was very god news indeed. She had be alone for quite some time since her own divorce, and she had been looking very sad about that fact.
She cringed "internet"
"HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH now Sis, you know that this is just a fantasy right?"
" OK, I deserve that. I get it now."
"Does that mean I can come of the she's crazy as a loon list now?" They both laughed. Laura was very happy for her. Renee's kids meant the world to her but there was a void in her life that they simply could not fill.
The years passed, Loz and Charlie stayed in contact. It hadn't been as regular for a few years. They had decided that it was just healthier for both of them to keep each other in their hearts and try to live out a normal life. Both went on to date other people, but every once in a while out of the blue one would contact the other, and no matter what the other was doing, if it was a call, they would drop everything to get the chance to spend a few precious minutes together. They would automatically fall into the same comfortable conversation. It was as if the time apart was nonexistent.
Laura had been thinking of Charlie lately. A lot. She sent him a message to set up a time to see if he could meet up for a chat.
Charlie agreed, as she knew he would, and they had a chat "date" set for Saturday night hers, and Sunday his. Chat had changed over the years. Now they could actually use voice and video chat. Next best thing to real life. Almost.
katz: cmon slow poke
Finally. His name lit up. She had to do this before she lost the courage.
Chas: G'day Gorgeous
katz: hey you
Chas: everything alright? Your offline sounded like something was up.
katz: no i'm good... charlie, how long have we been chatting now?
Chas: well let's see...
katz: since my 32nd bday. that's how dang long...how old am I now?
katz: I will be 46 in 3 months.
Chas: and I will be 48 in the fall. so what?
katz: so.... let's do this!
Chas: do what?
katz: What would you say to me coming over there for my birthday?
Chas: Loz you serious?
katz: as a heart attack
The silence terrified her. Oh no, what if he was in a serious relationship. She should have found that out before she just blurted it out like that....
Chas: Loz.... sorry I was picking me jaw off floor. YES YES YES a thousand times YES!
Chas: can you swing it? If you can get airline I can take care of hotel arrangements for sure.
katz: yes i can. the boys are both older now, money is not as tight and i have a bunch of vacation time built up.
Chas: so you will really be here for your bday?
katz: yes, i do believe i will be. for 2 weeks?
Chas: I can manage that for sure.
They put their heads together planning her trip. The days drug on forever. Her days were filled with work, passports, tickets, arrangements for Ben, shopping, packing and travel plans and time with Charlie talking into the small hours of the morning. When things were set, and it was about time to for her to leave. The excitement was almost unbearable for both of them.
Chas: you all set?
katz: yep.. i leave bright and early in the morning.
Chas: Please be safe.
katz: wouldn't that just be about our luck? something happen to one of us now?
Chas: Don't say that.
katz: i know but still.. ok i really got to go to bed. i have a long couple days in front of me.
Chas: k.... SEE you very very soon, bye M'lady :Pxxoo
katz: bye :-)xxoo
So many nights they had acted like two school kids imagining what this would be like over and over they had laughed and cried and been out right silly about it. Everything from a large scene in an airport, to meeting in public places verses privately. Finally they had decided a private meeting would be best. The plan was to meet in her hotel room and then later go out to dinner with some of his friends to introduce this fantasy lady.
The flight over had lasted an eternity. She was exhausted. She called to let him know when she landed at four am Oz time. They agreed before she left, that they had waited this long, a few more hours for much needed sleep wouldn't kill either of them. She was regretting that decision now. She was ready to see him now. Who needs sleep anyway? It is way overrated.
The phone rang jerking her out of her stooper.