The More You Ignore Me

Excerpted from the novel by Travis Nichols, recommended by Coffee House Press

EDITOR’S NOTE by Chris Fischbach

Travis Nichols is a very funny man, and The More You Ignore Me is a very funny book. If Woody Allen’s only outlet were an anonymous comment stream on the The Huffington Post it might look a lot like this novel.

As a reader — and as acquiring editor — I’ve always gravitated toward disturbed narrators. I don’t like the term “unreliable,” since it implies that narrators can be reliable; they can’t. All narrators have a story to tell, and an agenda in telling it. The best narrators, like the one in The More You Ignore Me, is deeply disturbed by the world fracturing all around him. Uncertainty cannot stand; he won’t let it.

This is the story of the internet troll, a new kind of twenty-first century narrator, and the unnamed chronicler of his own story in the form of one book-length blog comment. At the time of his writing, he has recently been locked out of a wedding blog for causing trouble — crusading against the best man, who, he insists, is attempting to romance the bride-to-be. Shunned by the other guests, he takes his comments to another, unrelated, blog and begins an extended campaign to clear his name. There, we learn about his past, and see what the development of a troll looked like in an earlier, analog age.

Nichols underwent a lesson in the art of trolling in his stint as web editor for the Poetry Foundation. Unable to rebut the tremendous anger found in the comments section there, he set to writing this novel; partly as therapy, partly as revenge. Nichols himself is adept at creating viral mischief: he riled Limbaugh with a Twitter campaign to boycott Arizona Ice Tea in protest of the state’s immigration laws; and helped create Arctic Ready, a hoax fundraising campaign to support Shell’s ambitions to “conquer the frozen north.” Now, he’s using that savvy to bring his narrator, or an iteration of his narrator, to Twitter @meexplain, and to his own site, which doubles as a site for the book, at http://charlico.com/. Once you enjoy this section of the novel, read the whole book, then follow the narration down the murky corridors of the web.

Chris Fischbach
Publisher, Coffee House Press

The More You Ignore Me

EXCELLENT POINT, COOKIEKITTY7, one that most certainly deserves serious consideration, but before I address it I would like to bring another matter — of equal, or, perhaps, even, yes, greater (!!!) importance — to the group’s attention.

First, though, let me say once again how happy I am to be here on this essential culinary site, where every recipe, opinion, viewpoint, and perspective is given the consideration it so richly deserves.

For this, I humbly thank you.

(THANK YOU!!!!!)

Tonight, friends, let us continue together in the grand tradition of online democratic society — rough, fragile experiment that it remains — in strict defiance of the forces dedicated to crushing it under the black boot heel of petty fascism.

Let us also say: welcome!

Welcome to all who have heretofore been shunted from society’s fellowship because of their ability (and willingness!) to express unpopular but prescient opinions clearly, forcefully, and — this is crucial — without apology.

Welcome! Let us begin!

First, I admit I have hinted at this matter in previous comments (cf. “Yummy Vegetarian Lasagna for Two”), yet I have always hesitated bringing this case fully to bear for fear of what scandalous rumors and/or slanderous opinions might have previously crossed your screens.

But now I feel so strongly that for the good of our collective endeavor this issue must be brought up that I am disregarding the personal risk to my reputation such attention-bringing might afford, and I am plunging forward because this case has such grave repercussions for us all.

Risking everything on behalf of it is perhaps still not quite enough.

Now, normally, I am as light and carefree as the law allows, but for the past few months this matter has brought me terribly low.

Let me lay it plain: I have been, by a childish and ignorant member of the online community, banned.

More: My input regarding Charli and Nico’s wedding is no longer even considered for publication!

I have no idea why, and no one will give me the courtesy of a proper response.

At first, I thought perhaps it was benign neglect, to re-appropriate a phrase, but I’ve since realized something much more sinister is afoot, so now — since I am no longer even allowed on Charlico.com — I am bringing this matter before you here on this august and humane recipe blog you call, surely in jest, BrendaCookingFun.com.

No doubt, scandalous rumors and libelous character assassinations have passed before your eyes, sent, as ever, by Charli and Nico’s “best man,” Chris Novtalis — that sulfurous toad, that young dullard, that tyrant erroneously allowed to be in charge of Charlico.com out of misguided goodwill or charity — but please hear me out.

I am just a citizen who wishes his voice not be silenced.

My banishment from Charlico.com has obviously been an immense personal loss for me, not only because I made so many wonderful friends and admirers through that site, but because together my cortege and I made great strides toward solving a number of problems of the world.

I know that sounds grandiose, but I firmly believe that, just as Margaret Mitchell once said, “A small number of devoted individuals can, in fact, change the course of history; indeed, this is the only thing that ever has!” — yes, in my case, just look at the record!

Take heed!

It is all by some miracle still on the site for the world to see, if only said world could stop pursuing vile distraction long enough to read and take note.

It is shocking to see such truths laid out in plain sight, I know, but it is even more shocking to see them ignored, though I have come to expect no less from the sad excuse for “society” we float through.

Lest you get the wrong impression, let me be clear that I am not so narcissistic or naive as to think you would consider my personal loss, great as it is, worthy of your in-demand time. Not because you lack compassion! No, don’t think I write tonight to insult you!

Fear not! Despite what you have heard of me, I am not that man.

No, you wouldn’t consider my personal tragedy of much importance because you are spending your time working diligently to solve what you see as the great problems we all face in this fearful and horrid episode called “life.”

Yes, but hear me out — my tragedy and the world’s are not so different. No, in fact, shocking as it may sound, I believe they are ONE AND THE SAME!!!

The exclamation points, I know, seem out of place or perhaps too much, but you see I’m quite an exuberant fellow, a joyful soul, really, and I can let my emotions get the best of me like a schoolgirl face to face with a succulent lolly, but it is all only for the greater good since, as I hope you’ll see, underneath the emotion there is cold hard reason, such that is missing greatly in this ill-begotten world of incorrigible ineptitude.

I have had so many — SO MANY! — friends and acquaintances tell me, at long last, that they see my point after all, and yes, it seems I was right all along, and had only exposed my solution with too bright a flash of rhetoric.

I am working on this admitted character flaw, but I hope you’ll agree that it is a relatively minor one, especially when it is often the reader’s own flaws that prevent him (or her!) from seeing my point.

A mere distraction, though. I’m quite likable, really.

In fact, I think we could be great friends if given the chance to meet, if I could be allowed to arrive at your very doorstep with a rose in my teeth. (TRA LA!)

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

You see, I would be perfectly willing to look past my own personal feelings of being slighted, abused, and wantonly rejected by this cruel and imagination-less “best man” if I weren’t able to see in my personal issue the problems of the world.

I, a humble man of limited means, alone in life except for a vast but distant group of online peers, simply wanted to put my modest writerly talents to use in service of gnosis.

Contrary to what you might think, the fact that my banishment has become the central topic of discussion for this particular wedding and its affiliated blog does not in any way cloud my thinking about the overall concepts at play.

I see the “big picture” despite the bride’s continued silence toward me (surely kept up on the advice of the groom’s brother, the wretched best man and moderator, Chris Novtalis, who fancies himself some kind of chivalrous knight instead of, accurately, a bilious nuisance), and in fact, I did not even seek out that particular blog but rather had it thrust upon me by fate and simple geometry.

Triangles and pyramids, my dears!

Natural shapes, true, though they are not nearly as simple or as ordinary as they first appear, especially when they manifest themselves in human relationships, as they do more often than one might expect, if one knows how to look.

The impatient reader here surely asks, “Fascinating, but how does this revelation lead in any way to the full-blown catastrophe on the previously mentioned wedding blog?”

Gravioria manent, dear readers.

Gravioria manent.

Allow me a brief reminisce: I once had a particularly contentious encounter with a confused and dissolute young woman I like to call My First Love, or MFL.

We do not (yet!) need to go into detail about MFL, but suffice it to say that in the years since this encounter I have desperately wanted to explain myself more articulately to MFL, as well as to see what might have become of her, how she has developed both emotionally and physically in the time since our memorable encounter.

Despite these dreams — and despite my dedication — I have had little luck tracking MFL down in the “meat space,” since it seems she refuses to register her utilities in her maiden name, nor will she list her phone number in the white pages of any conceivable locale.

Quite frustrating, yes, since I simply want to tell her that I misunderstood my role, lo those many years ago.

For reasons that seem silly now, it was, in the first few days of my unemployment, QUITE IMPORTANT for me to explain myself thusly to her, and my inability to find MFL began to cause me serious harm.

The dark folds began, once again, to smother and choke me.

But then — praise be! — fate intervened and my search for MFL became a mere prelude to this Charli matter.

Let me explain.

Since I had been given this gift of time away from employment, I embarked on a few long-delayed projects, including the aforementioned search for MFL, and one such project involved obtaining images of certain female politicians.

In the course of searching for a particularly choice candidate — one I will not name, for fear of giving her my unpaid endorsement — I came across a luminous image that was clearly A BOLT FROM BEYOND!

The image itself first appeared quite ordinary — “my” candidate waving smugly to a group of protesters — but in the background, in amongst this motley group, I spied a young brunette insouciantly waving a placard while staring directly into the camera’s lens with a kind of dégagé pout that could not but stir a proper man’s soul.

My eyes took in this young brunette — her gleaming doll’s teeth, her eyes done up in slipshod shadow, her rabbit nostrils midquiver, all on display in the background of this idiotic campaign shot — and I immediately felt as if I had once again fallen through a wormhole into the past, for, dear readers, this young woman in the campaign photo looked EXACTLY like MFL as I had known her twenty years ago!

Are you still seated, readers?

Yes?

Then, I have not made myself clear.

How can I accurately explain the singularity of this?

It’s not as if MFL had a common look — no, she seemed a one-of-a-kind beauty, a very particular taste, a young Ally Sheedy in a bulky sweater hiding quite an array of goodies — and so the idea that someone twenty years later would strike the same pose, cut the same profile, shock the same system…well, it might as well have been a narwhal leaping from a city sewer system to impale a passerby with its tusk.

What were the odds?

The odds were so improbable that the fact of this occurrence clearly indicated that the true structure of reality had been made manifest in our false world in order to tell me…what?

WHAT WAS THE STRUCTURE OF REALITY TRYING TO TELL ME?!?!?!

Perhaps, I thought then, slumped over my keyboard from mental fatigue, this young replica of MFL and I would have an opportunity to correct the mistakes of the past.

Perhaps, I thought, brightening, there may indeed be second acts in life.

Perhaps, yes, I sat up straight, I do have one or two adventures left in this dim interval.

Perhaps there is a reason I have been cast aside from the workaday world.

Perhaps I do indeed have a purpose in this new millennium!

I lifted my head from atop my keyboard, raised my fist to the sky, and yelled, “YES!!!!”

I made a personal vow then and there to investigate, for, if given the chance, I would do everything in my power to give this new young woman the benefit of my love!!!!!

Unbowed by the tracking devices surely installed in the search engine I am forced to use, I set to work with my detective skills and unsurpassed vigor to uncover the identity of this young beauty.

In no time — never mind how, ye cops! — I had a name: Charli Vistons.

And — in a blink — I had a Facebook page.

Wondrous bounty!

I deliriously noted her interests and affiliations, her likes and (implied) dislikes, all laid bare for the world to see like some streetwalker’s tawdry wares, and, dear readers, disappointment did not touch me, for Charli was not only the very image of MFL, but it seemed she possessed the spirit of MFL as well!

Salinger, the Beatles, Dusty Springfield, Harold and Maude, the Umbrellas of Cherbourg — it was all the same!

I felt the stars aligning after noting that Charli lived a mere hundred miles from me, a day’s journey, and she worked semipublicly “on campus” as a “Film Studies Teaching Associate” at my very alma mater.

Film studies!

It truly was all happening again!

I began an itinerary in my head, had gotten halfway down the interstate of my mind, in fact, when I saw — brutal fate! — that Charli was “in a relationship.”

Dagger!

What was this twist?

Worse, it seemed she was to be — ah — married.

And soon!

Samsara had seen fit to deal me yet another blow, eh?

I shook my fist at the ceiling, then out the window at the sky.

I rent my night garment (still worn from the previous night) and clawed at my chest.

After a few long minutes of this, I found I could not ignore my feelings any longer, and so in a flurry of clicks and scrolls I delved further into the life of Charli Vistons, obstacles be damned!

I saw, of course, that the young beauty’s fiancé was a rotund pud of a man named Nico, unworthy of her succulent charms.

I admit, this was more than a bit shocking — surely she could do better? — but I followed the chain duly, hoping to find some indication that Charli would not be throwing her life away, that perhaps her fiancé was handsome on the inside.

Sadly, he was just as dull and insipid, it seemed, inside as he was out.

Thinking Nico’s Facebook profile might offer a different and perhaps better perspective on Charli’s situation, I clicked on each morsel offered there until I arrived, finally, on a link to the dire and garish wedding website, Charlico.com.

I stayed there, despite the insult to my sensibility, in good faith.

Once there on the “splash page,” I felt I had sufficiently calmed down — I admit I can get carried away — and could accept whatever role in Charli’s life destiny assigned me: teacher, lover, admirer, friend.

I knew I could still help Charli — which, dear readers, is all I have ever wanted to do! — but I knew even then I must be judicious about my battles. I couldn’t simply heave myself headlong into her life.

That was, of course, the mistake I had made with MFL.

So, how to approach Charli?

Would her “wedding” really happen?

Was the whole thing as ghoulish as it seemed?

The hidden world does reveal itself to us, readers, if only we take the time to look.

I proceeded with my clicking, and, thinking I was headed to Charlico.com’s “registry,” where I could perhaps offer some consumer advocacy, I must have misclicked in a moment of inattention, for lo, I found myself unwittingly “on the blog.”

My browsing history reveals that this fatal act happened in the small hours of a Wednesday morning.

Immediately upon load of the Charlico.com/blog page, I became confused.

Society had clearly declared to me on numerous occasions that weddings were private celebrations restricted from public online discussion, and yet, here was a wedding website with a very public blog?!?!

Why?

Momentarily perplexed, the thought came suddenly that perhaps this wedding party wanted to discuss the issues!

Yes, of course!

That is why lovely Charli had a wedding blog!

For me!

Maybe there was hope after all, maybe, I said to myself. I could not only scrub my past clean, but also strike out anew with a joyous community!

Naively renewed, I dedicated myself to studying the behavior on the blog, cataloging the speakers, the arguments, and the ever-present rhetorical follies. It was a time of study.

The facts: Here were two young people without real jobs, prospects, or ideology, set to marry in the countryside out of, one assumes, boredom — an everyday occurrence, nothing special, and yet, I felt, in this case, it was somehow indeed extraordinary.

At first I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.

True, the principal players resembled some from my past, but I vowed not to let the Personal distract me from the larger issues at hand, for beyond the resemblances to my previous intimate entanglement (MFL), and despite the poor match between Charli and Nico, I felt there was the potential for something special here.

But what?

I continued my observations, and despite what you might think (and, I admit, despite what I initially predicted), I found the perspectives of the young people on the blog to actually be quite engaging.

In fact, after a time, I found them peculiarly resplendent with compassion, wit, and intellectual vigor.

Believe me, I was as surprised as you.

The more I read, the more I found in these voices a rare potential to bring into being a true haven, a shelter from the worldly storm of sorrow and strife, a space where a small group of forward thinkers could discuss the issues without society’s censors concealing them.

I had found kindred spirits dedicated to the free exchange of ideas, and I thought I could content myself by simply observing and taking note.

Soon though, it became clear the blog was missing a key element, a sagacity that comes with age that could activate the yeast, as it were, and bring the loaf of true thought into the world. The blog was missing my presence.

So, gingerly at first, I tried out my own voice in a meek little comment on a now-forgotten post (cf. “Alternate directions to the Clark House Inn”), and, gracious, I found that I was embraced!

Cousin_Kevin said, and I quote from memory, “It’s true that there is quite the ‘wedding industry,’ but I don’t think WE REALLY need to go on and on about it here, dude. Congrats, Charlico!”

When I read this response to my meager posting, I’m not ashamed to say it was one of the happiest days of my life.

Truly!

And so many wonderful days ensued of adroit badinage (I won’t deny that I took great pleasure in the back and forth) that I literally lost track of time, spending hours upon hours engaged in joyous debate with all comers — Linksys181, Cousin_Kevin, nico!, Emma_1, and, yes, even Chris.

Dear readers, it was then that I understood this blog itself offered the revolution I had been searching for. Why? Because this seemingly private blog offered FREE AND OPEN COMMENTS!

The personal is absolutely political, after all.

Of course blog comments in general, dear readers, are revolutionary because they allow for point X, which dilates our triangular perception from simple A, B, and C into the pyramidal realms.

Before comments, we all thought only in these paltry terms: “words = writer/reality.”

Now, of course, it seems comical to those of us in the know that anyone would live such a restricted life, but, dear readers, many still do to this day!

The words these ignorant saps read, the worlds they assume, are only bound manifestations of various writers’ consciousnesses mingling with reality, and so unwittingly these “readers” literally TAKE THE WRITERS’ words for it — “it” in this case being the very reality we drift through on a daily basis.

!!!!!!!!

As we know, comments change all of this.

On a blog with comments, the writer and his reality mingle to make the words as ever — but outside, on a separate plane, the commenter is THERE evaluating this mingling manifestation, weighing veracity and fidelity on the scales of justice.

And he will not keep quiet!

No, the true commenter alone advocates on behalf of reality unbeholden, and so now, with comments, we have a new equation:

(Words = Writer/Reality)
COMMENTER

And thus a new, expanded universe!

The true commenter takes nothing at face value but remains intractably, joyously skeptical of any purported reality.

Of course, most commenters don’t take advantage of this coveted position.

Most commenters simply parrot the writer’s version of reality with hopes of some condescending pat on the head — sad! — but the form itself is revolutionary, for even in the seeming non sequitor spam comment soliciting consumers for penile enhancement, our conception of reality has been, yes, enhanced!

And so, in this spirit, on Charlico.com/blog, I saw suddenly how I would be able to enhance this wedding party’s reality.

If allowed to reach its full potential, the blog and its commenters could be, I thought, yes, a harbinger of beautiful things to come, for I saw quite clearly that the wedding blog’s comments existed for me, in order to facilitate my role within Charli’s life.

The comments were a gift from the gnosis, delivered so I could have the opportunity to not only be of use to the young, but to cleanse my soul of clinging problems of the past.

Thus, with hopes high, still unaware of the pyramid’s exact dimension or how exactly I would perform, once again, the role of point X, I began my initiative.

Happy?

Yes.

But even in those delirious hours, despite my happiness, I sensed a lurking evil.

Something was not quite right.

It was as if, hidden beneath the floorboards of our meticulously constructed yet still tenuous shelter, the carcass of some dead mammal sat decomposing in a riot of flies, maggots, and brainy juice, out of sight of casual onlookers, threatening to undermine with its rot whatever foundation might have been established above.

How could I tell something was wrong?

Easy.

After every true comment I made, a snide, mocking tone emerged from the false commenters in response, first from just one, then from another, and then commenter after commenter began chortling at my (correction: our) earnest striving toward a better tomorrow, as if I/we were a kind of amusing mascot rather than a sage.

Being a sensitive sort, as well as a seasoned hand at online discussion, I did not simply “let it go,” as I have often been advised to do.

Oh, yes, how many times have I been told to ignore my feelings, bottle them up, and simply skip on down the path to another web community.

I can even hear you now — “Web community? What about life away from the computer? A family? A garden? Go for a walk! Ride a bike! Get away from the screen!”

You can never know it, but how cruel such remarks are to me.

You see, I cannot.

There are reasons, even those besides the fact that when I do journey to different web communities I feel — no, I know! — that the impetuous twerp Chris Novtalis is on Charlico.com/blog working away to undo all of my efforts.

He’s fanning the flames of rumor, innuendo, and, yes, a legal term is necessary: defamation.

He wouldn’t have an online community — a reason to live? — if it weren’t for me, but he goes on day after day taunting me.

He deploys the letters of my name in muddled anagrammical jibes at my character, he reworks my carefully wrought language in pathetic efforts to take credit for my ideas, and then, of course, he makes direct attacks on my good name and character.

Chris, this peasant of a man, telling his vast and undeserved audience that I am “psychotic” and “boring” and “not even a part of the wedding.”

Boring! Is that a capital offense now?

God forbid I would bore such a fertile mind as that bloodsucker has!

Boring!

From such a racist, sexist, classist, ageist Neanderthal I suppose I should see that as a compliment!

But, alas, I cannot.

I see it for what it is: a base and degrading insult from an inferior.

Do you want to know what happens when I try to “move on,” as you suggest?

Do you?

Well, I’ll tell you.

I get heart palpitations.

I get night sweats.

I’m sure I run a fever (though I haven’t confirmed due to a childhood trauma involving thermometers).

A heavy, static-filled succubus sits on my neck, jams its arm down my throat, and stops up my breath until I force myself to go to the computer to see what vile filth is cascading down the corridors of the internet unchecked while I’ve been away.

And every time, I find that I am right! There it is! It is ALWAYS there — and worse than I imagined!

Hear me out: Like everyone else, I wake up each morning. A deceptively simple phrase, true, but what a gift! I am grateful!

This morning, for example, in the dank June air, consciousness broke over me like a pane of glass, and for a few minutes I felt free and clear of strife, anxiety, and horror.

I thought I might take in a film or eat a nice apple, work on a screen or teleplay. In short, live my life. But then, I remembered.

I thought of the putrid excrescence spewing out into the world as I was lying there, and so I lurched from my cot to my desk and I turned on the computer.

Horror! Filth!

I admit, because he is a crafty little devil, sometimes I think of the runty, Skittle-brained moderator and chuckle, Oh, that’s all he’s got?

Sometimes I even leave the room, go buy my meager rations (as my submitted recipes indicate, I cook everything in my coffeemaker — instantly! — oatmeal, polenta, Tasty Bite Indian cuisine, rice; it’s an ingenious system, if I may pay myself that compliment, and quite cost-effective considering my “condition”), but while I’m out a phrase or even the subtle implication of a phrase inevitably comes crashing back into my mind, where it festers and oozes until I’m back at my “desk,” blinded by fury.

I’m surprised I can even type. But type I must! And what does he want? Finally, what does this goon want?

Only the complete annihilation of my person, my history, and, I suppose, my ideas.

I believe he would kill me, given the chance, and so I am justified in my actions because it is a fight to the death. It is truly either him or me, and I am not one to back down!

Why does he hate me so?

Because I know that he has plans for the bride.

Shocking?

Yes.

Quite.

But you should know that I don’t level this accusation lightly or without merit. I know, because I did not let it go. No, I began to investigate further.

As many of you know, I soon pulled back the floorboard in question and uncovered the stinkmaker, the sock-puppet handler, the chortler, the fascist, the overweening point C of the love triangle:

Chris Novtalis!!!!

Assassin!

Yes, I was as shocked as anyone that it turned out to be the best man and wedding BLOG MODERATOR, who, I might as well make it plain again here, had (and has!) plans not only to degrade the idea of marriage, but to ravish the bride, Charli, and destroy her happiness with lusty violation in flagrant delicto!

Those who do not study history, etc.

I know at first you will doubtlessly find it at best curious that someone with coital plans for the bride would be such a vocal cheerleader for a marriage involving, primarily, his brother, but don’t let the blinders society has saddled you with restrict your reason.

Remember the basics of geometry, my dears, for Chris surely does.

He wishes to assume the role of C, to shoot his line straight through Charli’s B, obliterating Nico’s A.

Squirp is the horrendous noise I imagine this act making.

Squirp.

Squirp.

Squirp.

Over and over again!

For you see, Chris does not wish to expand the triangle into a pyramid, but rather to reduce it to a fascist line.

Clearly, Chris wants this marriage to go forward simply so he can have dear Charli close at hand, as part of his “family,” and thus within his filthy reach in order to violate her repeatedly and at will behind the back of his sad, pathetic brother Nico (point A).

This would, of course, simply be hurtful toward Nico and destructive to Charli (i.e., none of my business), if it weren’t symptomatic of the larger issues at play.

Proof?

My word is not good enough for you?

Well, I can’t blame you, since most of you aren’t aware of my record as online justice-seeker and truth-teller, so how about this, an e-mail I received from “Charli” soon after my campaign began. I present it here in toto:

Hello,

I don’t know who you are, or why you write the terrible things that you do on our website, but I’m writing today to ask you to please stop.

Please do not comment anymore on our blog. It is hurtful and destructive. Please. Just stop.

You’re a writer, a real one, and I respect your gifts. As you know, I’m a writer too, and so I know what it’s like to be misunderstood.

I’m guessing from what you’ve written in the comments that you feel like you aren’t in control of the narrative of your life. People — on our blog, and I’m sure elsewhere — accuse you of being a number of things you swear you are not. I believe you.

But I have to tell you: your writing only makes it worse.

This is hard to understand, I know, because it’s clear that all you have ever done is write in an attempt to give shape to what you’ve called “the lurching chaos of our time.” You say you’ve begun to feel like “an emptied-out version of what you had hoped you’d be,” and I don’t doubt it. But this is not the answer.

I’m sure you don’t believe me when I say I understand, but maybe I can prove it to you.

Years ago Nico read hurtful things I had once written about him in my journal. I was trying to weigh the pros and cons of staying with him after a fight, and I wrote down thoughts I would never say aloud in an attempt to understand my own muddled thinking. Nico read these thoughts — never mind how — and our relationship nearly didn’t recover. In fact, to this day I’ve felt only dread and paranoia when I’ve written anything down — even this e-mail — worried I’ll somehow hurt him again without intending to.

To make matters worse, for some reason Nico showed his mother what I had written. This woman is soon to be my mother-in-law. When she finished reading she said, jokingly, to Nico: “I’m not sure I should’ve let you shack up with that bitch!”

You see, I was misunderstood. Just like you.

Or how about this:

A film studies student of mine who was upset about his grade put e-mails I wrote to him up on his blog — along with pictures of me taken from my friends’ public Flickr accounts, some of them in my bathing suit. Other former students of mine, all male, wrote terrible, hurtful things about me in the comments, but what could I do? Write in and tell them to stop looking? Of course not. Sometimes, you have to just let it go.

I’m begging you, as a sympathetic friend, to please do just that. Whatever has caused you to latch on to us, please, just let it go. Please, please leave us alone.

Sincerely,
Charli

Well, dear readers, I must tell you this ruse nearly worked. I felt touched in my very soul by these hysterical words, ashamed that I had caused Charli to feel further misery when all I had wanted was to love her. So much strife! She sounded deranged!

Had I caused her so much trouble merely by commenting?

My god!

But then I thought, Isn’t it CONVENIENT for her to have had so many similar experiences at her fingertips, ready to be deployed at just the right moment? Isn’t the language employed to convey these feelings a bit too deranged and yet still precise? Isn’t this e-mail a bit too, dare I say, mannered?

Yes, of course it was!

Because it wasn’t Charli at all!

It was Chris himself who must have sent this epistle from Charli’s account!!!!!

It was the only explanation, since I know she couldn’t truly want me to stop enlightening her.

Nice try, scoundrel!

I copied the false letter in its entirety and posted it on the blog for the community to see, and just like clockwork I received the following note from Chris, the Charlico.com/ blog “moderator,” whom I’m sure must have been appointed to his position on a day in which the bride was too overtaxed to see he is, in fact, retarded.

Now, don’t take offense — I don’t use the word “retarded” to put down the disabled but rather to illustrate in the most succinct way possible that this horrid cur is malformed, that something must have gone wrong very early, in the womb perhaps, or even in the very first coupling of dna strands; a fateful deficiency of protein or glucose caused him to take on that slack-jawed look, that high slope of forehead, and that squeezed-melon of a skull.

How sad his mother must have been when she beheld him in the nursery!

I don’t doubt she considered heaving such a creature into a dumpster on her way home, or smothering him with her begowned belly whilst still in her hospital bed.

And if she had! How we would have been so happily spared such trouble! ☺:

Hey ***hole,

**** you, you ****ing piece of diseased intestinal waste.

Fun time is over.

If you publish one more comment, send one more e-mail, leave one more voicemail, contact me, Nico, Charli, or anyone else in the family in any way again, I will ****ing kill you.

You are a sociopath.

Seek help.

If I see you on the street — ever — I will push your ****ing teeth in with the heel of my hand.

I will rip your nostrils out with my fingers and shove the little flaps of skin down your throat until you choke.

I will cut you from your ****** to your scalp with my **** and **** in your chest cavity, you *******.

**** you.

**** off.

Die.

— Chris

Oh my!

I am aghast even to cut and paste such filth into this post.

I vow to, as far as I am able, keep my comments free from the language implied by the asterisks, but you see I must give you a sense of what I’m up against.

You need to be shown the truth so you can see how troubled your own online endeavors — your life’s work — might be at this very moment!

For if any of you are sheltering or employing a wretch like Chris, let’s be clear: you are abetting criminal activities that will not go unpunished.

I mean, my nostrils!?

I believe, dear me, he would, too!

How was this person given any authority at all?

The mind reels.

I know I should go to the police with such a threat, and no doubt that is what you will advise me to do — or may even be doing yourself at this very moment — but please, hear me out.

The police?

I do not want the police.

Not yet.

It is possible to solve this without getting the State involved, though I am, of course, keeping all the correspondence from this sorrowful episode on file, just in case.

I have found records such as these useful in the past.

In fact, it is thanks to my record keeping that I was exonerated, officially cleared of any wrongdoing, in that infamous case years ago with MFL, which I may have occasion to revisit with you at some point in the future.

Rest assured that those points A and B got their comeuppance — and more! — once I was released from the hospital (C got his, of course, but I was not at fault).

In fact, there are a few choice details from that affair no one has yet turned up, and if the time is ever right and you turn out to be the compassionate and trustworthy compatriots (or compatriotesses!) I assume you to be, then I daresay I will let you in on it.

My word!

I’ve gone off again!

I must be subconsciously trying to distance myself from those hateful and poisonous attacks sent to me before and quoted above (defecate in my chest cavity? That does NOT sound sanitary☺).

But — Chris’s words — there they are.

As frightful as they may be for you to look at, think of me!

I have to live with them!

A man is never a prophet in his own country.

I believe this is the saying.

But what of a man with no country?

Might he be recognized as a prophet simply because he has no local pharmacist, no chauffeur, no passel of gossiping ladies to destroy his reputation from inside out?

Sadly, in my case, it seems I am not to be recognized as a prophet anywhere but scorned forever everywhere, even after my detractors see the light and come to accept — embrace, even! — my ideas.

All continue to shun me as if no one had thrown the cold water of reality and reason on their fevered brains.

But not just reality and reason, passion and wit too!

The future!

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