He was excited to find 150 new emails in his inbox.
It had been days, weeks, maybe months that his inbox had remained completely empty. Not even the occasional ad from some obscure online shop he’d used a thousand years ago, or the reminder for an invitation to some site, club or other that he had no interest in joining but would have jumped on the occasion now. Nothing! Not a peep, not a tweet, not a sign. He had even called the e-mail server customer service to make sure his address was still valid and in use. Maybe they have changed their policy, maybe they now want to charge customers, he thought. Ha! He’d even been offended at first and had sworn to himself that he would never go that low. That he, Mister XYZ de W would never go so low and pay to have his electronic mail delivered.
But that was a month and a half ago. When the mail silence was still bearable. When it could still be a coincidence. When it did not yet hurt. When he did not yet feel so utterly and totally abandoned by the whole of humanity.
That was when he still had a life. Albeit it was mostly online and virtually devoid of humans; no matter, he was quite a star there. In fact, he had decided a while ago that he much preferred his life onscreen than the one in front of his mirror. Onscreen, no matter his size and quality, he looked so good, sounded so intelligent, was so charismatic. What’s more, he enjoyed so much success with members of the opposite sex. They could not get enough of him. It had happened on more than one occasion that he’d had to virtually run away from the scene to avoid a cyber-crime.
This would have never happened in his other life. He could not call it ‘real’ life anymore. It was too lonely. Had always been. He could not stand to see his own sorry reflection in the mirror anymore. It seemed even in the mirror, pieces of its silvering cracked and peeled off at each of his visits. Soon the mirror would be completely dark, as dark as Dante’s inferno.
Yes! Dante! He would use him in his next chat with Mary. She was the most likely to be impressed by it. Sweet, but oh-so-silly Mary. She believed every word he said. She was infatuated by him and thought he was a demi-god of some sort. But, the hell with her now.
Back to those emails. There he was, sitting in front of his biggest screen. He felt such an immense joy, pride and satisfaction at the blinking numbers! One hundred and fifty! One hundred and fifty mails waiting for him! One hundred and fifty mails addressed solely to him! He knew there had had to be a mistake. He knew he was right when he decided in extremis to postpone his suicide plans last week. All right, it was also a little bit thanks to the cat that had run in front of him and had been killed on the spot from the confrontation with the car, but still, but still. Cat or no cat, intestines in or out, it had been his decision.
Whatever! He knew his real friends from his virtual world would not, could not let him down. He knew it. And indeed, now he was proved right. He would tell Mary about Dante, he would look with delight at all the fake pictures he’d posted as his. He would argue about very serious and deep philosophical subjects with Tom, the President’s most valued and secret advisor, Tom without whom the President did not make a move, he had told him so himself, during one of their last chats; he would talk about politics with an ex-MI6 agent, one who was on a first name basis with the Queen. Of course, it was all secret.
The names they used were fakes, his online friends, but who cared? Who was he to complain, he who put fake pictures of himself? They were best buddies. They shared everything. They had no secrets from each other. They were extremely brilliant, his friends, and you see, in real life they would have never met. They would have never had the chance to exchange all those brilliant and advanced ideas. He knew they had not let him down. He knew they would never do that. He knew he was still alive. He knew he still had a beautiful life ahead of him. That what had happened was just a phase. A phase everyone went through.
He sat in front of his huge screen. He had a new screen, a new PC. Of course, before contemplating suicide, he had ruminated over the latest screen in the shop window and then bought it. So there he was, looking at his emails. Anticipating with ecstasy the pleasure he would feel. Planning and plotting his next move. He would open them, the emails, one by one. He would not be gluttonous. He would open them slowly and delicately as if they were each a button of Mary’s shirt. The very shirt she sports on her latest profile picture. Between light blue and green. Very delicate, almost transparent. Each time he looks at that picture he gets an urge to run to the bathroom and relieve himself and he thanks god it is only a picture.
There he is sitting, straight and tall, in front of his new screen, about to let all his contained joy burst out with just a tender press of his index finger, about to let all his love come and go like a surfer through the waves, about to feel alive again.
His heart is beating at a very fast pace now, he can feel it. His breathing is hacked and heavy. He can feel each and every breath in his head. His temples are starting to hurt. He feels like a huge ball of fire is rising rapidly from his empty stomach through his haunches, through his oesophagus, through his mouth that is now on fire too, straight to his temples, which he feels are about to literally explode. His brain is constrained by the fire and the thumping. He starts choking. He does not understand what is happening. He wants to scream but his mouth fills with bile. He wants to scream for help but his fingers are paralyzed and he cannot reach his keyboard to call for help. He wants to go back to the mails. He wants to feel intelligent and deep with Tom, he wants to feel close to the Queen by proxy, he wants to see Mary’s shirt and tell her about Dante’s Inferno, but he feels himself in that Inferno, without Mary, far very far away from her. So far away, until he stops feeling and falls silently to the ground.
His face gets the most of the shock. Two of his front teeth break. But it does not hurt and it no longer matters. He will no longer need them. He will never know that for his birthday Mary wanted to surprise and let him know in one hundred and fifty different ways how much she loved and admired him.
(May 7th, 2013)