Teddy had only known Jean for a few months and technically they had never dated, but they’d been emailing and instant messaging daily. Protected by cyberspace, they discussed their hobbies and dreams, joked and confessed.
Neither was an impressionable adolescent. They were both in their early thirties, divorced with children, and tired of bars and blind dates. A computer chatroom seemed perfect: if conversation grew awkward, they could always change their screen name and disappear into the anonymity of cyberspace. Jean warned Teddy she had done so numerous times.
They even shared carefully chosen photos. Teddy scanned a picture of himself with his daughters, making sure his chipped front tooth didn’t show. Jean sent a smiling head shot in which she looked attractive but not overly so.
And Teddy fell in love for the second time in his life. He had married his high school sweetheart right after graduation. Twelve years and two children later, they divorced and she remarried within a year. He remained close to his daughters and wanted the best for them, but felt jealous when they began calling their stepfather, Pops.
Teddy confided in Jean and she understood. She had a similar experience with the boy who had taken her to her senior prom. After they married he remained a boy, drinking and staying out late with his buddies. When she complained, he’d laugh.
She sensed he was cheating on her when she was pregnant. He blamed it on her hormones making her paranoid.
Three months after Jay, Jr. was born, he left her.
She wrote all this to Teddy and shared how difficult it was raising a boy, now a teenager, alone.
Teddy finally gathered his nerve and asked Jean if they could meet. She hesitated at first, but finally agreed. They IMed each other like adolescent cyber sweethearts.
The day before they had agreed to meet, he emailed directions to a restaurant he thought would be a perfect place for quiet conversation. A message appeared on the screen: This screen name is no longer valid.
published 17 October 2012