By Madeline Laughs
The words continued to stream by on the monitor, her porthole to the outside world. How do these idiots live day to day without adult supervision? Whining about ridiculous problems or sharing ignorant political opinions or flirting shamelessly with Barney. God you sluts, either get a real life or grow a brain.
Stubbing out her cigarette in an overflowing ashtray, she recalled a time when she was one of them, an ignorant shameless flirt. Her stomach heaves and every muscle tightens at the thought. Pushing the memories aside she focuses on the words screaming at her from the screen. The discussion has turned to menopause and the pathetic women are sharing their symptoms, over-sharing really. Darlene opens a screen with links to various medical web sites. These people are so predictable it’s become boring giving them medical advice, although the accolades she receives is worth the tediousness of reading their drivel. The worship awakens a portion of her mind that suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome. The relief is fleeting but welcome nonetheless.
She had been working on her online persona long before she opened her new account in this chat room. Instead of the Southern bred, country white girl from the sticks of South Carolina, she was the svelte and sassy Irish girl from the Land o’ the Leprechauns. Instead of the droll red hair and blue eyes, which everyone associated with the Irish, she was blonde and blue-eyed and young, but not too young. She didn’t want to scare any guys away thinking she was too young to be pursued. No, she was just old enough to appear experienced and just young enough to be desired.
Clicking on her typed biography she chose a few morsels to let slip out in tonight’s heated debates. Someone had remarked the other night that she must be an only child so she had fixed that by adding another fake persona to her arsenal. Now she had a big brother! He was fierce too! She made him a doctor, just like herself and filled his online profile with alternative music clips and rad sayings. Of course, he would have to remain hidden like she was because he couldn’t risk any fallout from his modern way of thinking. It could hurt his profession. She made some notes on the pad next to her keyboard and smiled.
Tonight she will have to tell them all about the large Irish family reunion! This was certainly a shindig to rival all others with a pasture full of horses, catered by the finest restaurant in town and attended by the power elite. No pictures, of course! Too many important celebs to be splashing around their photos. That would just be in poor taste.
There were a couple of women in the group that she genuinely cared about. Those were the ones she had to be careful around because on more than one occasion she had almost spilled the beans about who she really was. She desperately wished she had a real friend to talk to. There was no telling how they would react, so she never risked it.
Her mouse hovered over the icon for privates messages and opened a new window. There she typed away telling her friend about her tough day in the clinic and all of the heart breaking situations she was expected to manage. She closed asking for details of her friend’s day, knowing what she would get back would be the truth. Sighing she hit Send and closed the private messages.
Barney had been in the chat room all day. Honestly, how did he get away with leaving this open on his desk computer at work? During those hours she was always careful to remain hidden so she didn’t get caught in a conversation with him while he was at the office. If there was a colleague passing his desk that was smarter than he was, which wouldn’t be much of a stretch, that person might convince Barney to ask more questions than he usually did. She wasn’t ever going to answer Barney’s questions truthfully and a smart person might start to see through that.
Darlene watched as he chatted away about some political topic with a few of the guys. He was impressive with his opinions and surprised all of them sometimes by making total sense. Then there were the drunken nights spouting off nonsense that kind of negated the days when he was somewhat lucid. No, she took that back. He was fun on here when he was plastered. Fun and very bawdy and it livened the group up once in a while to have someone on there that had no inhibitions about what they put on the Internet. Barney didn’t seem to give a crap what he typed up. There were some threads that she had squirreled away and liked to re-read on occasion. He was quick on his feet with a comeback and even quicker with a come on. If he weren’t a cop he would be a standing room only comedian. She thought he had definitely missed his calling.
The timer on the oven started beeping and Darlene hated tearing her eyes from the screen long enough to get her dinner out of the oven. She knew she could always come in later and read everything then, but there was a thrill of pure voyeurism watching it happen live and knowing that none of them knew she was right there, in the chat room with them. Just like a wallflower.
She shuffled into the small kitchen galley and turned the timer off. Grabbing a soiled oven mitt she opened the oven door and pulled out the aluminum pan of mac and cheese she had admired on a television commercial last week. How come her version looked nothing like what she had seen on tv? She plopped the pan on the stovetop without ceremony and frowned. Perhaps hers didn’t look so great because it wasn’t being served in a fine porcelain dish by a beautifully made up woman in an apron to a shiny faced child. Maybe that was what was missing from hers.
She picked a fork from the pile of dirty dishes in the sink and rinsed the biggest bits from the tines. It was, after all, only her germs so why be obsessed? Grabbing a tea towel from the rack next to the sink she wrapped the aluminum dish in it to keep from burning her hands and shuffled back into her computer cubby. She curled up in her big office chair and watched the text roll by as she shoveled one tasteless bite after another into her mouth.
Barney: Look dud! You dont know what your talking about. Okay? Look at it this way. The right dont shit about that policy becuase it ain’t somehting they care about. Get yer head out yer ass!!!!!
Marty: I really don’t think there’s a need to start swearing at me Barney. I thought we were having a civilized debate, but you are very misinformed.
Barney: The Democratic Party stands behind the right of every woman to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of ability to pay. President Clinton took executive action to make sure that the right to make such decisions is protected for all Americans. Over the last four years, we have taken action to end the gag rule and ensure safety at family planning and women’s health clinics. We believe it is a fundamental constitutional liberty that individual Americans — not government — can best take responsibility for making the most difficult and intensely personal decisions regarding reproduction.
That’s right Barney! Go get ’em! This is what she was talking about. Some days he was just really on his toes! This must be one of those days. She read his comment again and just glowed. Tempted to strike the keyboard herself she bit her bottom lip and resisted the urge. Dam! She wanted to chime in here so badly, but she was supposed to be saving lives in a medical clinic somewhere in the big city.
She kept chewing and swallowing until the entire pan of mac and cheese disappeared. The garbage can was already overflowing from her fear of the outside. Sighing she looked from the pile of garbage to the front door of her tiny apartment. It wasn’t going to walk out there by itself now was it?
Cinching the belt on her ratty terry cloth robe she tied the plastic handles on the bag after shoving in the empty mac and cheese pan. She slowly made her way to the door and took her time peering out of the peephole. She reached for the door knob and quickly turned it only to jerk her arm nearly out of the socket. She had forgotten to disengage the deadbolt! Crap! Now she’d have to start all over again.
She carefully raised her right eye back up to the peephole and spent another five minutes peeping at the fish-eye view of her front steps. She could see the large city garbage can from there. She made sure that it was always in sight of the peephole. This time she remembered to unlock the door before turning the knob. Swinging the heavy bag around she maneuvered onto the steps and looked left and then looked right. The sidewalk was empty and quiet. Good. She pattered over to the can, lifted the lid and heaved the bag inside. As the lid slammed closed she ran for the door and was safely back inside. She was sure she had just moved at the speed of light and probably appeared as a blur to anyone watching her from their windows.
Once inside she engaged the deadbolt several times, making sure it was locked. Then she shyly raised her eye to the peephole for one last look outside to make sure no one was out there. Satisfied that this was a chore she wouldn’t have to do again for another few days, she made her way back to the waiting arms of her desk chair and spun it around in circles for a few minutes while she congratulated herself.
Her reward tonight will be a nice long chat with Barney. Darlene beamed with joy.