by Madeline Laughs
Darlene reached around to scratch under the frayed waistband of her threadbare sweat pants. They were the only thing in her closet that fit her anymore and the elastic had seen better days. Now it rubbed and rubbed and had created several itchy skin tags around the back of her waist. She scratched and continued to watch the text fly by on her monitor.
When had she gotten so fat? It wasn’t that long ago she was svelte and somewhat okay looking. She had never been a raging beauty. Her cheeks were pockmarked from cystic acne scarring and her brown hair was thin and lifeless. She wasn’t one of the hot girls, but she did get a little attention. Now the only attention she ever got was from this electronic box on the cluttered desk in front of her. It was how she started her day and it was usually where she fell asleep.
Three years ago a switch in her brain got thrown and she suddenly feared leaving the house for any reason. She remembered the first day opening the front door to walk to her car and feeling an overpowering sense of dread. Now going out to the street to get the mail from the postal box, or to put out the trash, was a chore. So she stayed indoors with her trusty friend, the computer.
This guy is a real dink, she thought to herself. What planet did he travel here from? Talk about asshole! She placed her fingers on the keyboard and they flew across it ratatating out a terse response. She could type pretty fast now. When you spent as much time as she did in front of the computer you developed speed. Her ability to type at lightning speed was giving her an advantage that others could only envy. All those years in Catholic school with those damn nuns running her through drill after drill and now she could type 140 words a minute with no errors, blindfolded. She despised it at the time, but throughout her life this particular skill had saved her time and again. She chewed a cuticle and waited for Barney to reply.
She had met Barney in an online chat room that was part of a Meetup Group she had joined. She never had any intention of meeting up with any of them, but she enjoyed the chat room. It was private and she could say pretty much anything she pleased with no repercussions from anyone. She knew Barney was uneducated, but he pretended to be smart. She liked that because he let her push him around quite a bit. He was cute too, if the pictures he had posted could be trusted. She thought perhaps she could believe they were really him though because he really wasn’t smart enough to think about posting pictures that would have made him look even better. No, he wasn’t as smart as she was.
When Barney had first appeared in the chat room every woman in there went bat shit crazy over him. She stood back and let them make fools of themselves falling at his feet. She engaged him on an intellectual level and participated in his debates. The guy had an opinion about everything. She checked out his profile and researched him online. By the time she was ready to reel him in she had a dossier that included every detail she could find on him.
Not one for being too forthcoming, Darlene had never used her real name or posted real pictures of herself online. For one thing, she knew she wasn’t very attractive, so why advertise that? Video chat was completely out of the question so she feigned poverty and said she didn’t own a webcam. Her hair usually had a patina of grease anyway because she wasn’t keen on showering regularly and preferred instead to sit in the darkened room downstairs in front of her monitor. Days would go by before she would even make the trip upstairs to brush her teeth, much less her hair. So her profile pictures were always cartoons that she found humorous. Men were always asking her what she really looked like. It seemed the less they could see, the more attractive a woman was. She used this eager-beaver bullshit to her advantage and it worked like a charm on old Barney.
She also lied about everything. She lied about having a job, what her profession was, her schools, even where she lived. It got so convoluted that she had to start keeping post-it notes plastered to the wall above her desk so she could remember what she had told and to whom. She gazed at the wall now to see it covered with multicolored notes.
One night Barney whisked her off into a private chat room, just the two of them. He was once again turning on the charm and asking for pictures. She already knew his type, petite and blonde, so she had searched the Internet and found some suitable pictures that all looked generally the same, to share. He was very excited tonight for the grand reveal! It was like taking candy from a baby. She uploaded the first one and waited for his reaction. The first picture was a cute blonde with her long hair tied in a scarf. She was sitting beneath a tree and her face, which was turned upwards towards the photographer, was dappled lovingly with sunlight. You could just make out a smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose. Just as she expected he was all over her. Oh yeah! That’s what she liked! Tell me how beautiful you think I am Barney! She uploaded the other two pictures, one of a blonde woman riding a horse and another of a blonde in a bikini on the beach, and decided that was all he was getting tonight. She had to dole them out if she wanted to keep him interested and he was bouncing off the walls!
After swearing him to secrecy and making him promise not to share her photos with anyone, they settled into the pattern they now had with each other. Barney thought he was the only man in the group she had shared her pictures with and that made him puff up with pride. She had thought of a good excuse about why she liked to remain anonymous and he lapped it up. She told him she ran a small medical clinic and it would be horrible if her patients found out what she liked to do in her spare time! So now he had not one, but two of her secrets. He was a happy, stupid boy.
Since that first private chat, Barney had come back to the public chat room a changed man. He was protective of her and jumped to her defense if any of the other members got the tiniest bit snippy with her. God, how she loved that! The women in the group all circled around her like a pack of hyenas trying to figure out how cartoon Fiona, as she was known on here, had bewitched the new hot guy. Hahahahaha! she laughed out loud at this memory and made the cat jump from her lap. Bitches! If all of you hadn’t been in heat you would have taken the time to bait your hooks better!
She sighed now as she read his response. Other members in the chat room were butting into their thread and that annoyed her too. She sent him a private message so she could get him all to herself tonight. She needed to have his full, undivided attention.
Once they were alone together they settled into their usual routine which was slamming every other member in the group. As far as she was concerned no one in there had enough brains to come in out of the rain and she had convinced Barney to feel the same way. She also thought Barney was ignorant, but he was a nice distraction from her boring life, so she allowed him to think they were on the same level.
Fiona: OMG! Did you see the way Terri was going after James? Those two make me sick 😛
Barney: Yea, they make me want to barfola!! LOLOLOL! How was your day sunshine?
Darlene leaned back in her chair thinking. What could she tell Barney about her day? Well gee, I woke up on the sofa over there in the corner of the room wearing these same clothes. I still haven’t brushed my teeth and I stink so bad I can actually smell myself. From noon until now I’ve done nothing but cruise the Internet and talk in the chat room. Oh, and I ordered a pizza and had it delivered. That was her whole day.
Fiona: I had to work really early this morning. I had a patient that’s suffering from night sweats and I’ve been working with her hormone levels trying to get them to even out. I worked out at the gym for a few hours. You should see the muscles in my legs! They’re popping out huge!
Barney: Wow! I went for a really loooong bike ride this afternoon after work. Ya know, to releave some of the stress of my job cause its hard work and stuff. I usually do my crunches in the morn. Gotta keep those abs all six packed out for ya when we see each other, yanno!
Oh lord, she thought. Here we go again with the visit-talk. She had made the mistake of telling him she lived on the beach and now he was a rad surfer boy. Geez! Why did she get carried away with the details? It worried her that Barney was an undercover police detective in the narcotics division. She often wondered if he could trace her through her computer and find out who she really was. She thought back to when she had first Googled him and found almost nothing online about him except very general information. Most of what she knew about him had come from looking at his online profile for the group they were in. She had worked up the nerve to ask him what he did for a living. It was a dance to be able to get details on someone without giving away any of yourself. When he had told her about his job he said that he was in deep, deep cover and while he used his real name in the chat room, he had a different name when he worked.
Barney: I gotta tough job Fiona. I can’t even wear my uniform in to work! I have to wear regular street clothes to the office and then change again to become my undercover person. It’s weird! Leading two lifes!
Two lifes, huh?
- What Happened To Chat Rooms? (dustindemille.wordpress.com)