by Madeline Laughs
Danny: How was your day?
Harold: Hey sexie! What’s on tonite’s topic list?
Darlene rocked in her desk chair and watched as the greetings rolled by to the cheery “Hulloooo!” she had just posted. She always tried to use the curious Irish slang she picked up from reading the Irish newspapers and blogs online so that her claim to Irish lineage was never questioned. Look at them! They just loved and worshiped her!
She clicked on her message box and saw several new messages. Most of them were from her “girlfriends” but two or three were from Barney. She opened his first.
Oh drat, she thought. This message was some heavy metal video love song and nothing else. She banged out a quick response pretending she had listened to it and swooned. That’s what he expected to read so she didn’t plan to disappoint him. He was always trying to impress her with his musical taste. What he didn’t realize was that not only had she never opened a single video he sent her, she didn’t like any of the music he liked. Good thing he was so cute or she would have cut him off a long time ago.
His next message was about how life was like a Rudyard Kipling novel. He wrote “Kipling strikes me personally as the most complete man of genius (as distinct from fine intelligence) that I have ever known.” She shook her head and read the sentence again. This couldn’t be her Barney. Did he even know Kipling’s books? She copied the sentence and plugged it into her favorite search engine and sure enough, there it was. Henry James was the actual speaker of these fine words, not Barney. She sighed.
Recently she had figured out where Barney’s intelligence was coming from. In the beginning he never sounded intelligent or educated and one day, out of the blue, he started to sound like academia. It shocked her and everyone else in the group that he had been hiding this from all of them. For the longest time she would read his words and drink up every ounce of his mind. She fell totally and hopelessly in love with him.
Then one day he posted something that looked so familiar to her that she nearly fainted from disappointment. It was during the daytime hours when she was supposed to be “at work”, but was instead glued to the computer screen watching as Barney debated with another one of the fellas in the group. Several other members had signed on from work to add a comment here and there too. She wouldn’t dare do something that irresponsible though. She was supposed to be a doctor and no doctor would neglect their duty to get on a chat board!
That’s when it happened.
Barney came back with a comment that struck her to her bones.
He quoted her!
He used her own words as if they were his own!
It was from a private conversation they had online just a few nights before about this same subject. He didn’t paraphrase or give her credit. He quoted her word for word and even used the same italicized words she had used. She knew these were her words because she had also copied them from a website. They were written by someone else and she had claimed them as her original thoughts. However she had used the fancy italics, the original author had not.
She skimmed the new message and made a perfunctory reply and decided to wait a bit before opening his next one. It was always a big let down when he tried to impress her.
She noticed that her private chat icon was dinging and saw that Barney was online and wanted to talk. She clicked over and said hello.
Barney: I saw you on and wanted to say good evening. How was your day?
Darlene/Fiona: It was a fine day! I stitched a small wound in a little boy’s hand all the while counseling a new couple on their baby-to-be.
Barney: Aye that does sound like a fine day!
She sighed again.
This was another new development.
Once she had let on that she was Irish, born in Ireland Irish, Barney had suddenly become Irish too. It wasn’t long before he started using Irish sayings and posting stuff in Gaelic. It annoyed her to no end, but she kept reminding herself that he was very cute and he made her laugh.
Barney being Irish, however, had taken on a huge life of it’s own. One night he announced to the group that he was born in Ireland. From there his story stretched to his family owning several hundred acres of land there that he would one day inherit. The piece de la resistance was when he told everyone that his Mum and Da had met the Queen of Ireland on one of their many trips back to the motherland of the Blarney Stone!
No one in the group questioned him about this, but her. “Are you sure it was the Queen of Ireland?” she had asked him, knowing full well that at the time he was speaking of, the Queen of Ireland would have been the Queen Mum and to have met her they would have had to do so in London, not in Ireland. But he had insisted that this was indeed the woman they had met. She wasn’t at all surprised when a few nights later he told them all that his own Da had been knighted by the Queen herself. Knighted for what was never elaborated upon.
Darlene/Fiona: Barn, I was wondering if you were as miffed with Darrell as I am over his refusal to acknowledge that his facts about the GOP are rather skewed.
Barney: Oh I dunno that I’m miffed but he sure can be an ass sumtimes! Hey did you see we got a new girl in the group today? She is a hottie!
This was another habit of his she found annoying. Why would she care if a girl was a hottie, or not? Why did he have to flirt with every woman within sniffing distance?
Darlene/Fiona: No, hadn’t noticed.
With that she clicked out of their private chat and re-entered the group discussion already in progress.
She zeroed in on Darrell, her arch nemesis of the group, and started wailing on him and his really bad politics. Several minutes and several copy and paste attempts to foil him later, she had worked herself into a real froth.
Darlene/Fiona: Look Darrell! I come here to relax and take a breather from the trials of the world! I do not come here to be belittled and to be made to answer asinine questions of someone that won’t even take the time to do his own research! I’m busy saving lives! If this is all you have to do in this group then perhaps I should find another place to unwind at the end of a very hard day!
After pounding out her tirade on the keyboard she threw herself back in her chair. How dare he! Her brows were knitted in anger and her face was screwed into an ugly frown. She was literally shaking with rage and balled up her fists and punched the seat cushion in between her knees.
I am a doctor! she thought to herself. I didn’t spend all those years studying in school to be harangued by some chump change idiot in an online group! Her indignation was off the charts and her blood was boiling!
With a gasp she brought one of her fists to her mouth to keep from crying out. Then the tears started. Oh my god, she thought. I am losing my mind.
She had sunk so deeply into her online character that she believed her fantasy was real! She pulled her hand from her face and forced herself to recite aloud “I am not a doctor. I am a high school graduate and I never leave my apartment. I am not Irish and have never been out of the United States. My name is not Fiona. My name is Darlene.”
She had closed her eyes for this little reality check and now she opened them slowly to stare at the computer screen. Perhaps she needed a break for tonight.
Reaching up to the On/Off switch for her monitor she blinked as the screen went black. She got up and shuffled to the small sofa in the corner and curled into a fetal position around her pillow and closed her eyes. When had her life become such a mess? When had she lost her connection to the real world? When did she become Fiona in her mind and how was she ever going to be someone as boring and drab as Darlene now that she had become someone so exciting?