Let me think about this a minute. That sign's up there for a reason.

Perhaps I spend way too much time on the Internet. But I don’t think so. Am I addicted? Of course not. I could walk away from the computer at any time! I mean, once I finish this blog entry. And, I’ll stay away from my computer until my next blog entry tomorrow. So you see? I’m not addicted to the Internet! Okay, I must admit that I have been using computers ever since Bill Gates invented MS-DOS and lifted the C:> prompt from UNIX, with enough slight modifications to make it look original. And, I’ve been using Instant Messages even before AOL offered IMing to their subscribers. My friend Vito showed me how to send and Instant Message at UIC in 1991. We used to IM each other all the time. In a school of about 25,000 students, there were only about five of us at UIC IMing each other. I would always check to see who was online and then IM them. I really enjoyed IMing strangers out there in cyber space. I’m not even sure why. Not that I think of it, I’ve always loved talking to strangers since I was little–even when they weren’t listening.

Anyway, over the years, I’ve met a lot of people in cyber space through IMing and chat rooms. I love talking to total strangers and I’ve met a few interesting ones. One that I occasionally remember is joie. One day, out of the blue, she IMs me. How she found me, I’ll never know. I did the asl thing and she told me she was f/27/Phillipines. That is the one thing I noticed about about every female I ever met on the Internet: She is always 27! I mean, ALWAYS! So I met joie, her screen name, about four years ago when she introduced herself to me. I figured she was just another scammer, so I didn’t take her too seriously. Usually, I just like to chitchat online for awhile and then I never hear from that person again. And usually that’s how it happens. However, joie was very persistent. I tried everything to discourage her from getting too involved with me, but she insisted. I was too old for her I told her. She lived too far away. Nothing dissuaded her. Age was not a barrier. She was actually an American dental student from Illinois. Her English was very good so I believed her. But something was really amiss. I just couldn’t figure out what it was. I kept waiting for her to ask for money or to lay some sort of scam on me. Then one day, I didn’t hear from her anymore.

About a year later, I receive another IM from joie. This time she’s in Singapore. But I thought she was in the Phillipines! She told me that she was never even in the Phillipines. And, get this, she was still 27! Just to confirm that she was the same person with whom I had spoken before, I asked to describe me, which she did better than I had expected because she remembered almost every personal fact about me that I had told her. She still had the same screen name, so I asked her what it meant. Again she told me that is was an acronym for “just on internet enough.” But something was wrong. But what? I still don’t know. Anyway, she still insisted that when she finished her dental internship in Singapore, she would return to Elgin, Illinois, so she could marry me. I could feel the scam coming on. But wait! She was very serious and sincere about the whole thing. When we chatted, she always wrote in perfect English with very few typos. She was actually quite witty. Then one day, she says that she wants to e-mail me a very personal letter so that I may understand her better. In this letter, she explains how her father had died when she was fourteen. When her mother remarried, her stepfather raped her several times until she went away to college. She was afraid of what he would do to her, so she never reported the rapes. I didn’t know what to make of this letter. When she IMed me the next time, I told her I was very sorry for what had happened to her. Anyway, she still wanted to marry me. I had been telling her all along that we would never get married for all the reason that I had alread enumerated to her. But she was persistent! Then she sent me some pictures of herself. They were obviously taken by a professional photographer. She was definitely American, or so I thought as I saw her pictures. She was very pretty with short brown hair and blue eyes. Then, I don’t hear from her for about three months. I figured I would never hear from her again. Good riddance!

Well, one day, three months later, she IMs me again. Why hadn’t she IMed before? She was sick. I keep pressing her for more information and she finally tells me. She has malaria. I don’t really believe her. I’m sure that this time she’ll ask for money. But no! She doesn’t. She is continuing her dental internship despite her illness. She is bedridden for days. Some days, she interrupts our chat so that she can go to the doctor. She promises me that she will get better and then she’ll come to Illinois to marry. I keep telling her that we’ll never get married, but she’s persistent. Then, she suddenly stops IMing me. I figured she got sucked up by that mythical black hole in cyber space. Then, I receive this unexpected e-mail from her. She tells me how sad it was that we never got together. She even wrote a poem for me, or so she wrote in her e-mail. In the poem, she writes about all the things we missed out because we never met: our first kiss, getting caught in the rain, walking hand in hand, etc.

About a year later, joie IMs me again. She still has the same screen name, she’s still 27, she’s still in Singapore, she still has malaria, and she still knows enough personal facts about me for me to be sure it’s her. However, she begins talking to me as if she had never met me. She tells me some facts about herself that I don’t recognize. For example, now she is no longer from Elgin, Illinois. She sends me some more pictures of herself. Only she is no longer white. She’s inexplicably black now. I broach the subject subtlely. But she insists that I’m mistaken. I’m sure she only wants money from me. But she doesn’t ask for any. I am obviously IMing the same person as before, but something is terribly wrong! What? I don’t know. Suddenly, she stops all communication to me. And that was the last I heard of her. And she never even once asked me for money. I was always awaiting some sort of scam that never materialized. This joie will always remain an enigma to me. Luckily, I knew better than to get emotionally attached to her. Who she was or what she wanted from me, I’ll never know! But I did learn to be “just on Internet enough.” No more, no less. That’s my joie de vivre.

Are you there? I don't even know you, but will you talk to me?