At about eight o’clock in the evening, the doorbell rang. Who could it be, damn it! In the end, she hadn’t called her, so there was no doubt that it would be Louise knocking on the door. What was she going to do? If she didn’t answer, she would worry even more. But, if she let her in, maybe she would realize it was all a sham and, knowing her as she did, she wasn’t going to stop asking her questions until he found out what was going on.
«Think, think something fast! She’s going to get impatient and she’s liable to call the police if she thinks something serious has happened to you.» Suddenly, her phone rang. She looked at the screen and saw it was Luisa. She waited for it to go to voicemail. She heard her through the door, «Hey, it’s me. I’m really worried about you. I’ve called you countless times today and I’ve sent you several messages. I’m at your door right now and you’re not answering. You’re supposed to be sick, so you should be here. I bought you some dinner, although if you’re sick to your stomach, I don’t think you’d really want it. Well, whatever. Call me, please. If I don’t hear from you in an hour, I’ll come back to your place or do whatever it takes, okay? Take care of yourself. She continued to listen carefully and felt footsteps walking away. All right. Now she really couldn’t get lost. She would have to call her. She would wait a quarter of an hour or so to give her time to get away from her house and, when she answered the phone, she would tell her that he had gone out to get some medicine at the pharmacy near her house and that she had completely forgotten to call her because she had been sleeping most of the day. At least, it was a half-truth not a total and outright lie for, in truth, she had spent much of the day trying to catch up on the sleep she had lost during the night.
«Hello, Luisa. It’s me. I’m sorry I didn’t call you sooner. Yes, I guess you were worried. I think I had something wrong with me last night and I’ve been pretty tossed around all day today. This morning I could hardly get out of bed, but I’m much better now. In fact, I had my cell phone on silent and that’s why I didn’t hear your calls. Yes, I heard in your last message that you had come home. I really appreciate it. I went to the pharmacy for a moment, in case they recommended something. No, I didn’t go to the doctor. I should have, but as I was feeling better, I thought I didn’t need to. Yes, you are right. At least I would have proof for work. I hope nothing happens because you know I never miss anything, so the bosses trust me. Yes, I’m sure tomorrow will be a tough day because I’ll have a lot of work piled up. Well, I’ll take it easy, how was your day?
One thing solved. At work it might not be so simple because there she would have to communicate face to face the reasons that had prevented her from coming in the day before. But she would worry about that the next morning. Now she had other matters to attend to.
She plunged back into the depths of the Internet. She submerged her self and dived with her new personality of radiant self-confidence. What a magical sensation ran through her body! She was as if ecstatic… On Facebook her friends kept growing. She already had almost five hundred, plus two hundred and forty-three twitter followers and fifty-six on Instagram. It seemed that this last one was not his social network, because in it his triumph could be considered more relative. She would not devote much more effort to it. She would focus more on the others. She started sending friend requests at will, while keeping the dating site open in the background. That was the real hot potato for her. Well, she wanted to make herself wait.
She checked her Twitter account. A like here, a retweet there. She was already following over nine hundred people. Well, he had to look for more unwary people willing to play his game. How easy it all turned out to be! She searched for photos of incredible landscapes on the internet and posted them on his Facebook wall, as if they were a testimony of her travels. She came up with something interesting to tell and updated her status. Fantastic! Time to make herself something for dinner because it was almost eleven o’clock and, this time, she couldn’t go to bed too late.
Since she’d only had a sandwich and a glass of milk, it didn’t take her more than twenty minutes to reconnect, including brushing her teeth. «Let’s see who’s still awake yet.» The time had come. First an apology this way for not answering sooner, due to the fact that I had been terribly busy most of the day. Then a «I’ve been looking forward to talking to you» or a «I haven’t been able to get you out of my head since I saw your message.» The situation made her laugh out loud. She was unable to see how sickening it all was.
In the grip of this ephemeral and intoxicating success, she let herself be swept away by another sleepless night. She enjoyed flirting with one and all, ruthlessly jilting some, updating her status, writing absurd tweets… Finally, she went to bed at almost five in the morning. When she arrived at work, as expected, she felt terrible as a result of the accumulated fatigue. The positive part was that it served as a perfect alibi for her, as she seemed to be physically ill. On the negative side, she found it hard to focus, and even harder to maintain her attention. She was continually tempted to be shipwrecked in the depths of the big net. And time after time, she gave in to temptation. She couldn’t remember ever having such an unproductive workday. So what if she didn’t? She had other, more important matters to attend to now.
And the story had only just begun. The descent down the slope was gathering momentum and gathering dangerous speed. The days would pass like a spider’s web. The boundary between the real and the virtual was blurring. Her performance was dropping precipitously and her bosses were becoming worried and impatient. Her contact with the outside world was even less than usual. Interaction with human beings was almost non-existent. It could even be said to be symbolic. She barely exchanged a few words when she had to go shopping because her fridge was absolutely empty. Those words were reduced to a good morning, a thank you and a see you later. Just enough so as not to seem rude, although that also mattered less to her as time went by.
She was less and less interested in the real world and more and more absorbed by virtual reality. And this would get worse after an event that ravaged what little self-esteem she had left. Following an impulse, she went on a date with a man from the dating website she had been communicating with online for some time. She had truly come to believe that her virtual disguise was exactly her size. So her alter ego went to that date dressed and made up as her new self was supposed to be. However, that image didn’t fit her at all, although she was the only one who didn’t seem to notice. On the street, people would stare at her. Human beings can be cruel and indiscreet like that. Her illusion and the blurred reality in which she had immersed herself made her believe that she raised admiration as she passed by. However, the truth was that they looked at the excesses that had coincided to conjure up an impossible image. So much so, that they almost seemed like pieces that did not quite fit together and had been forcibly glued together, as if superimposed by a space and time belonging to different dimensions of realities.
When she arrived at the agreed place, she recognized him instantly. He was much more handsome than he looked in the pictures on the internet. She had made a great choice, there was no doubt about it. Now she was really going to show off in front of all those who had denigrated her in one way or another. Even in front of those who had simply ignored her or left her behind because they thought she was not good enough to belong to their group of friends. Self-confident, unable to comprehend the grotesque thing that her imagination had constructed, she approached him and introduced herself with absolute naturalness and confidence. Obviously, she was a different person, not the shy and lacking in self-confidence she had dragged along for most of the past years.
The expression she observed on the man’s face was not at all what she expected. There was no admiration. There was no desire in his gaze. There was nothing at all of anything she had expected. His reaction was unexpected: «What’s this about, is this a joke? No, I’m sorry. You don’t look anything like the woman in the chat room. Seriously, are you kidding me? How can anyone be so extremely crazy to make all this up? I don’t want anything to do with you. Don’t contact me again, please.» Without further ado, he got up and hurried away without giving her any other option to respond.
She thought she was going crazy. Had it all been a nightmare? She looked in the window of the store next door and, for the first time that day, saw the real result. She ran away to escape the gaze of the curious onlookers. When she got home, she was overcome with rage to the point of exhaustion. Driven by a fury unknown to her, she started screaming as she began to break and throw things. She went back on the internet and started saying all kinds of outrageous things. She wanted to get it off her chest and didn’t care if anyone got hurt along the way. She had nothing to lose. she was going to make herself at home once and for all. She could always invent a new identity and start from scratch again. Millions of interconnections all over the world stretched out at his feet too far to settle for what he had had so far.
To his misfortune, her mind had become disassociated. Her internet addiction was no longer a simple game but a raging, purulent disease that was stealing her life with every breath that fogged his computer screen.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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