I had my modem set to check my e-mail once an hour. Many times I couldn’t wait though for the computer to wake up from its sleep and the modem to start its screeching. I had put myself OUT there, and I was a nervous wreck.
About 24 hours later, I heard that familiar voice.
“You’ve got mail.”
I can’t remember exactly what his message said. I know he asked me some questions about where I had been the last eight years since we graduated from high school. So, I had to write back. I made sure to wait at least an entire day before sending my reply. I didn’t want to seem too interested.
I was living in Springfield, Ill., at the time. I was a newspaper reporter, working in the state Capitol Building. One of my main “beats” was the Illinois Department of Corrections. I had been covering a death penalty case and somehow the subject came up. For several e-mails, we chatted about the death penalty. I didn’t really care if he was for it or against it. I was just impressed he had some thoughts about it.
He lived in a university town in Mississippi, and he was proud of the fact that he had managed to get a password into the Internet on campus. That was what he used to check his e-mail. At some point in our string of conversations, I realized he also used the university’s Internet to look up some of my articles on line. He was spying on me.
For the next few months, we would e-mail almost daily. One time, I didn’t get an e-mail for several days.
“That’s it,” I decided. He must have met some cute Mississippi girl and forgotten completely about me. When he finally wrote back three days later, he apologized profusely. He had been sent on a work trip to Texas and couldn’t write. He checked for my message the minute he got home.
This was perfect. I had lived by myself for five years already, and I was accustomed to having the freedom to do my thing: hanging out with friends on the weekends, working late when I needed to, going for bike rides in Washington Park, meeting up with my reporter friends or their wives for our “book club,” meeting people for dinner.
I could come home and have some interesting conversation at the end of the day. I was starting to settle in. This was nice. Then he asked me if he could have my phone number.
“Oh, no!” I thought. “This could ruin everything.”
Things were going so well. Did we really have to destroy our relationship by talking on the phone? What if he turned out to be a complete idiot in real life? I wasn’t excited about this new phase, but I knew I was only prolonging the inevitable. At some point, we would need to talk. I mean, really.
Reluctantly, I gave him my number. He told me he would call me on Saturday. I tried to stay away from my apartment as much as possible. I wanted to make sure I missed his call.
When I was home, I would try to talk on the phone so he couldn’t get through. I definitely didn’t want him to get the idea that he could just call me any old time, and I was going to be there to pick up the phone.
He left a message.
He didn’t sound too bad.
I called him back at a time I knew he would be at work just so I could listen to his answering machine.
OK. He sounded normal enough.
I called it a few more times, just to be sure.
When he finally called back, I couldn’t handle the suspense any longer. Caller ID hadn’t even been invented yet at that point, but I could tell who was calling. My stomach was full of butterflies when I picked up the phone.
To be continued…