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Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Modern Romance

I woke up with this idea because I'd fallen asleep (finally) thinking about something else I'd written. It's interesting to me how the mind roils over itself even when the rest of you is dead to the world.

This is not a memory. It's not even a story. It's not even true. Maybe it's my first attempt at writing fiction in a long time--just an idea, really.

Like the disclaimer you see before the movie starts, all of the characters and events depicted in this piece are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. If you still want to read between the lines, then you can. Perhaps this is your story.

A Modern Romance

She doesn't remember exactly the date or time that they met, considering the fact that they never really met at all. It's one of those things, the way you meet people these days, in the modern way that things happen. Maybe it was the comment he made on a blog, maybe she was websurfing and found a link to something he said on a topic that interested her. She was probably looking at websites instead of doing what she was supposed to be doing.

But then again, she thinks maybe he found her and that's how it started. Yes, that's what happened. He sought her out.

He sent her a kind email and commented on something she wrote to someone else. She was flattered. It was a nice way to come to the computer in the morning, after the coffee ritual, instead of looking at the normal day's work.

His email was bland, anonymous, pleasant. No name. No place. The world, anywhere.

She wrote back an equally bland, pleasant email. A kindness extended to a stranger somewhere on the planet. She used her screen name, not her real one.

That was it. Nothing, really.

But inside the nothing was a tiny seed.


He must have looked for a million reasons to write back, when there was nothing to say to someone he didn't know. After a while, after a few days of thinking about it, he sent another message. This time, he used a screen name, too. His persona distilled into a secret name he made just for her.

Because he planned to write to her again if she answered this message, and now he needed a name. But you never give your real name, just to be safe. You make up something that sounds like how you would be, if you ever met for real.

She wrote back.


The moment there is a message in your inbox, something out of the mundane--not a request for a spreadsheet, not a scheduling request--something inside you quickens for a second. It's like receiving a message in a bottle, a message floating seemingly aimlessly, rocked by waves, but a message really with one intense purpose.

The message never says this explicitly, but this is what it means:

Save me.

Are you real?


She's not alone, she's not lonely. She has a good job, a nice figure, nice friends, a personality that often goes untapped by the normal course of events. He seems to bring out something in her that she knows is always there, but for which there is no natural outlet. It's a quieting feeling. It reminds her of when she took organic chemistry in college, mixing clear liquids in a graduated cylinder, and when those anonymous fluids swirled together, looking like nothing more than water mixing with water, the esters created in the compounds produced a subtle scent, like a fresh peach, like flowers.

Before those liquids mixed together, there was nothing.


This time when she writes back, she uses the first letter of her name, instead of her screen name.

To him, that single initial is like catching a glimpse of her ankle.

Then he thinks: You are real.


To be continued.

Must go back to sleep for a while to see what happens next.

Painting, La Lettre, by Delphin Enjolras (1857-1945). Snatched from Femme Femme Femme.


paris parfait March 10, 2008 at 11:52 AM  

OK, you and I need to talk. I know this story and I know it well - I have lived this story and you tell it beautifully!

Elizabeth March 10, 2008 at 5:42 PM  

O.K. this is good. Waiting for the next installement.

tangobaby March 10, 2008 at 7:34 PM  

Dear Paris Parfait,

Oh, I think we'll have *lots* to talk about...I can't wait. Just don't tell me your story until I finish this one!

Hi Elizabeth,

I'm glad you liked this. I am waiting for the next installment too *smile*. I guess it's the inspiration installment coming to my brain.

This story is partially the result of not getting enough sleep and feeling romantic all by yourself at 2:30 in the morning.