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Lily

as seen in FringeWare Review #4 (Cyberchix), published 28apr94

To: Andrew
From: Lily

hi, andrew, it's me again. i realize i've been pestering you a lot in personal mail these days, but... after our three hour irc session the other night, i sort of feel... i guess "attached" is the word i'm looking for. to you. attached to you. in a way i haven't experienced via electronic mail before. i wonder if i might ask you a few personal questions?

all we are in email is who we say we are, i mean, that's established, right? we "are" what we say. we "are" our words. and everything that you have said to me... all the words you've given me... how can i say this? no one else has ever spoken to me like that. no one else has ever given me what you gave me. i was at a very very low, umm, desperate, dangerous point. and in three hours, and a few pieces of email, you and i have become... some kind of "we," haven't we?

i'm young. i'm impetuous. i know that. and i'm not suggesting we throw away our lives and travel across the globe on the spur of the moment, or anything like that. i just... uh, i guess i just want to be a little happier than i am right now, and... talking a little more with you might do the trick.

if you haven't figured out what i'm not-so-subtly hinting at, or pointing at, or whatever... well, let me know. :)

lily

* * * * *

From: Andrew
To: Lily

if you haven't figured out what i'm not-so-subtly hinting at, or pointing at, or whatever... well, let me know. :)

I think I get the general drift of the idea. :)

I closed that IRC session the other night with a sense of... maybe euphoria is too strong a word... but then again, maybe not. I'm a secluded person by nature. I don't have many friends. I don't often get a chance to say so much, and I don't often get a chance to listen. Here we are, two young students at the U. of Internet, feeling equally lonely and lost in our surroundings, and reaching out across slipspace to touch someone else's hand. It's sad in a way, but it's also liberating -- without these screens in front of us, we never would have met.

In short, I don't mind you "pestering" me with personal mail. :) In fact, I don't think it would hurt to get even more personal... do you?

Andrew

* * * * *

From: Lily
To: Andrew

In fact, I don't think it would hurt to get even more personal... do you?

somehow I knew, andrew, that you and i were going to be close. yes, let's get even more personal. i can tell you a few things right now, in fact, although i must admit... well, i never expected this medium to alter so desperately the way i viewed society, the way i viewed people, the way i viewed... well, you of course. ;) i can tell you what i do with my time: student at the u. of internet is frighteningly accurate. i devote a great deal of time to muds, irc, mailing lists, and whatnot. for various reasons, i am unable to face people in person. i'm unable to mingle, unable to read the signs and cues that people use to transmit information in person. body language eludes me. i have been very lonely, needless to say. the internet is the only way i have to learn about people, see how they interact, discover what draws them together.

and i'm doing my best to picture you, andrew, i have to admit; to picture what being in the same room with you might be like. would i freeze? run? hide? this comfortable buffer of words between us is at once my safety net and my prison; what if i never experience your touch, what if i never feel you against me, what if what if what if?

could you, perhaps, send me a picture of yourself?

my friends have warned me to be careful, that often times these words can be used to create facades that are false, illusions that are dangerous, traps that are deadly. but what has happened between you and i speaks of a resonance that is undeniable -- no one could have touched me the way you did without the same inherent... feeling that i have, and, uh... this is where it gets mushy, so i'm going to stop.

write me soon.

lily

* * * * *

From: Andrew
To: Lily

could you, perhaps, send me a picture of yourself?

That would be a major step indeed, wouldn't it.

I'm not sure. I'm not sure at all. I'm experiencing a kind of vertigo, you see. That a woman who exists clear across the globe from me could have such a magnetic pull on me is somehow absurd to begin with; that I should be prepared to sacrifice everything to maintain this relationship is downright dangerous. I've been wanting to meet you again in IRC, or in a talk session, but I am afraid of what might slip out, what words might escape me that might shatter your perception of me entirely. And there are other things involved, other forces.

my friends warned me to be careful, that often times these words can be used to create facades that are false, illusions that are dangerous, traps that are

Listen to me, Lily: these words demonstrate resonance, to be sure, but the nature of this language is inherently one of deception, or, at the least, of misunderstanding. We need to be careful here! I need to go away for a while and think about all of this. I'm not sure of anything anymore.

You don't even know what I look like!

Andrew

* * * * *

From: Lily
To: Andrew

hey, dearest. it's been a damn long time since i've heard from you. you're making it painfully difficult for me to get through the day. images of you constantly float across my visual field -- ok, so i've never actually seen you, but that doesn't stop the images, and that doesn't stop my brain from calling those images "andrew." my brain thinks you're very attractive. :)

seriously, we need to talk. i've been getting deeper and deeper into this relationship, almost against my will, and i'm not sure how to handle it. i have so much at stake emotionally, and this is such a... umm, fragile medium... you see psyches crack up around here all the time from the pressure of having no face to attach to the words that float past... and i still cling to this ideal that says, fuck it, faces should not matter, SHOULD NOT MATTER, when you can love a person's words so much, love the way a person tries to squeeze his heart into empty words, transmit messages soul to soul via little packets of information. you're right, i don't know what you look like, but... for fuck's sake, we're at an age in history where technology can help us transcend all that, right?

i agree: let's be careful. but there comes a time when you need to throw care to the wind! i don't care any longer about facades. craft your facade any way you want. i have never experienced this thrill before, and i am prepared to follow it to the end of the internet, as it were.

don't leave me alone here, andrew. two days is too long. write me. tell me your deepest secrets. let's be in love, okay?

lily

* * * * *

From: Andrew
To: Lily

Lily,

don't leave me alone here, andrew. two days is too long. write me.tell me your deepest secrets. let's be in love, okay?

My deepest secrets, eh? I think we already are in love, and that's what's kept me away for two days, that we're in love, despite everything that could possibly have gone awry, considering the very nature of how we're communicating -- in English, on email, from miles and miles away. I often wonder if it's your words I love the most or the image of you I've crafted in my mind. And let's be honest; you've admitted to images much the same as I. My image of you is strikingly beautiful, but how honest is that? Am I really skirting your true self by attaching a visual label to your words, objectifying you despite the impossibility of such an act occurring here? It doesn't make sense that I should love you, and there it is...

When people fall in love in Real Life, I've observed, it is always a combination of personality, interest, resonance, and, sad to say, how a person looks. They say beauty is only skin deep, etc. etc., but -- physical attraction between people seems to be a necessary component! And it seems to make the most sense philosophically as well, that you would fall in love with a person's totality, that you would fall in love holistically -- not just with what they say, and not just with how they look, but with the entire person! Isn't that what love is all about? And I don't know what you look like, and you don't know what I look like, and here we are, crafting images of each other, images that may very well collapse and crumble when we don finally see each other... and I can't have that happen.

Which is why I have a confession to make. My deepest secret, Lily, is something I'm afraid may very well tear us apart.

I'm not really a man named Andrew, Lily. I'm a woman named Suzanne. I've been using a male ID in cyberspace for years, and I had no way to confess to you... until now. And...

I still love you.

Awaiting your reply,
Suzanne

* * * * *

From: Lily
To: Suzanne

I'm not really a man named Andrew, Lily. I'm a woman named Suzanne.

ummm.

everything you've said sounds like you. that is to say, you sound the same. you don't sound like someone has, say, broken into your account and tried to forge some nasty joke of a message to me. you still sound the same. you still sound the same.

tell me that you mean what you say, i mean, tell me again, tell me in as many different varieties as you can; i'll know, i will know if you're still you, i need to hear it one more time -- this isn't doubt, i promise, you wanted us to be careful remember? and i think you can understand that... jesus, andrew, i have to call you suzanne now! so please don't be upset if i ask for confirmation, if i ask for you to tell me again that you are who you say you are, regardless of the name, regardless of the label, tell me tell me now before i go crazy

and tell me that you love me?

lily

* * * * *

From: Suzanne
To: Lily

I will tell you in as many ways as you need. I will tell you today, I will tell you tomorrow, I will tell you every day for the rest of our lives. And we will be together for the rest of our lives, I promise, if... if you can accept who I "am," which is to say, what I look like. I look like what I say, I do. My words and I bear a striking resemblance to each other. And my words and I seem to be in love with you. I can't deny it anymore. I'll find a way to send you a picture, if you really need
one; however, I agree, technology... hell, society in general can help us transcend all that. We can be the first to demonstrate to the world that the way we look is not not not as important as how we feel. For God's sake, Lily, you have so much right to hate me now and you've given me a chance, you've given us a chance, and don't think I won't forget that or treat this We with as much reverence as it deserves. I will always be Here for you, Lily. Always.

When we first entered our correspondence, I had been using a male ID for almost two years. At first, before we became We, I needed to maintain that male ID; for some reason, I just couldn't face the Internet as a woman. Issues of gender objectification on the Net were thoroughly frightening to me. And then... once we got closer and closer, I began to realize the dangerous trap I'd set for myself, and there was no way out, we seemed to spiral closer and closer and I seemed to be burying myself deeper and deeper... can you imagine the horror? Of knowing that eventually I would have to tell you my deepest secrets, and that you might very well reject me forever because of my inadvertent deception?

But. Here we are. I know I'll pass your test, I know you'll recognize me, feel me within these words, and that'swhy I'm so attracted to you, that's the compelling feature of our relationship that makes us so vital to each other.

I love you, Lily.

Anxiously awaiting your reply,
Suzanne

* * * * *

From: Lily
To: Suzanne

my heart literally wants to burst right out of my chest! suzanne, dear heart, soul mate, companion forever, listen to what i have to say:

of course you passed my test, of course i know you, feel you, see
you, can almost touch you, and -- there's something else, something that demonstrates so powerfully the resonance between us that i can hardly stop shaking as i type this. you see, i too have been keeping a little secret since i first experienced the internet...

i'm not really a woman named lily! i'm a man named paul!

of course we still have to deal with issues of gender objectification, as you have so notably pointed out; it was indeed a shock for my images of you to have suddenly changed sex, but... hey, i'm human, that means i'm adaptable, right?

i want to come see you... right this instant!

paul

* * * * *

From: Suzanne
To: Paul

Your words have shaken me to my core. To think that you could take such betrayal and find the beauty in my intentions nonetheless... Do you understand what this means? Do you understand, Paul, how powerful our connection is? And nothing will ever be able to sever our connection, I can see that now, I can see how synchronistic, how immense, how wonderful and exalted our coming together really is! We need to tell each other everything, we need to convert as much of ourselves as possible into e-text, we need to devour each other online, and then and only then can we find a way to come together physically. You have given me more Hope than I ever thought possible, and that is why... I mustn't stop now. I have another secret, even deeper...

suddenly change sex, but... hey, i'm human, that means i'm adaptable, right?

You say you're adaptable because you're human. I wish, Paul, I shared that attribute.

Not the "adaptable" part. The "human" part.

Is this going to be a problem?

Nghs4r&&shgl345+937ffe (the closest translation of my name into your simple human language)

* * * * *

To: Nghs4r&&shgl345+937ffe
From: Paul

well, i'm not sure if this is going to be a problem. okay, so it's a lot harder to get a visual image of you now, but i still have one question. you may very well be an alien, but...

are you a male alien or a female alien?

i'm not trying to objectify you, i just, uh...

paul

* * * * *

To: Paul
From: Nghs4r&&shgl345+937ffe

Actually, I'm a male alien. "Suzanne" was just a joke.

* * * * *

To: Nghs4r&&shgl345+937ffe
From: swooshilerifix**423--29odkghh2l0083+=

i may as well come clean -- I'M AN ALIEN TOO! and a female alien to boot! can you fucking believe the luck? i was afraid you might turn out to be one of those damned andogynes from dimension twelve, but it looks like everything turned out all right. listen, as soon as we take over this dump of a planet, let's get together at my place. i've got some excellent pornography from dimension seventeen and some lingerie from dimension twenty-three that will knock your kldredf9938d28fsds off and make you :LK230487sd992344f hum like a 23498d7f432f=)92347dk. ;) let's be in love, okay?

p.s. my current image of you is something else, let me tell you...

soowshilerifix**432--29odkghh2l0083+=



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