Saturday, March 5, 2016

Long Term

Stepping out of the of the cafe, the man almost ran into the short woman with wire frame glasses.  "I'm so sorry", he said.

She smiled and quickly turned her face away, but not quickly enough for her face not to trigger a flicker of recognition in his mind.  He turned to follow her retreat as she walked rigidly up the street.  Did he know her?  A mild sense of deja vu haunted him for the remainder of the day.

Several weeks passed by and again, he found himself blocking another anonymous account on social media that wanted to follow him.  This one had yet another cute picture and improbably paired name and set of interests, but he noticed that the interests of the seemingly bogus accounts got closer and closer to his own each time.  The sense of a recurring pattern nagged at him well into the night.

Time went by, he lived his life, shared fragments of it online, glimpses of a life lived well doing things he loved, thoughts and ideas and fragments of stories.  One day, many years later, he stepped out of the cafe and a middle age woman blocked his path.  That old sense of deja vu came rushing back with such force that his spine tingled.

"Who are you?" he asked, squinting in the hope that her face would register some clear memory.

"Hello, Mr. Smith.  I'm your biographer.  I've been following you for quite some time, with no small difficulty."  She handed him a beautifully embossed, leather bound hardcover book.  The title read "The Collected Writings of John Smith, an Unauthorized Biography".  His mouth fell open and he looked up to find she had retreated once again, up the street and stepped into a waiting driverless car, disappearing around the corner.

Sitting on a bench, he opened the cover and read the first page. "Hooray!  My first journal entry!" in text, just below a color photo of his barely legible 4th grade handwriting.  Page after page, all through school, love letters passed in class, angry tirades posted on the internet and then their corresponding edits, indexed against later posts, letters, and publicly spoken comments that expanded or contradicted each.

Tears fell from his face, and his body began to shake.  How had she had so much unfettered access to his life for so long without his knowledge?  Why did she do it?  Who commissioned the work?  Who else had a copy?

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