A Secret Life

My neighbor, Annette, was at the door.  “Are you ready?” she asked, warily looking at my disheveled appearance.  We had been walking around the neighborhood as much as we could over the summer, but as the weather had cooled and the kids had gone back to school, our walks were less frequent.

“Sure, give me a minute,” I said.  “Come on in.”

Annette and I had quickly bonded at the neighborhood block party a few weeks after we’d moved in. Her daughters were just above and below Zach in age, and she was only a few years older than me. This was unusual; normally parents of Zach’s peers ended up being much older than me.  We’d bonded over stories of being young mothers before we’d discovered we were both computer geeks at heart.  We’d resolved to try and get out for walks in the neighborhood as much as possible to combat the hours we both sat in front of computer screens.

“What the heck is going on here?” she was looking in my living room, which was a mass of boxes. Boxes of CDs were piled up under the window, and more boxes of padded envelopes and small CD mailers were pushed into one of the corners.  “Are you secretly making a killing on eBay?”

I normally didn’t talk much about my online activities with people who were part of my Real Life.   My sister knew, and my father, but I didn’t dare admit to anyone who lived outside of my house how much time this was all taking.  I’d gone from a hobby to a flat out all consuming activity in the space of a year.  R didn’t even tell his parents where I was when I went off to Rick Springfield concerts; he called them “girls’ weekends” if they called while I was away.  It was true; I could hardly even quantify to anyone who wasn’t part of the Rick Springfield fan world at the time how much time I was devoting to the whole thing.

By October of 2000, my days went something like this: I got up with Z for school, helped him get ready and sent him out to the bus stop;  then I parked myself in front of my laptop to answer emails or update one of the two websites I was running for Rick Springfield;  when I could no longer ignore Melinda’s fussing I finally retrieved her from her crib; I played with and fed her and dressed her, often while talking to Elizabeth or Vivian on the phone while I did so; then a run to the post office for more CD orders; midday I would put Melinda down for her nap, eager to get back in front of my computer screen to attend to any new issues that had cropped up in the previous four or five hours; Z would often arrive home from school at this point and I would alternate helping him with his homework while I continued to putter online; Melinda would wake and we’d have some quiet time in the afternoon after Z finished his homework, or he’d go out to play in the neighborhood while I coaxed Melinda into perhaps liking Baby Einstein videos; then I might make some dinner, welcome home R home with it, and likely I would then be counting the minutes until they all went to bed so I could get back to the computer and do more Rick Springfield stuff.

Walks with Annette had been a welcome respite from the Cyberworld Craziness over the course of the summer.  I had wanted to lose some of the baby weight, and R hadn’t been working late terribly often.  We’d talked about computers and web design and our mutual love of Adobe Photoshop, but I’d never dropped the bomb about why and how I knew all of these things. With her standing in my living room that cool, October evening, I calculated whether or not a lie made sense.  I could see her trying to figure out why all the boxes had numbers on them:  0-100; 100-200; 1050-1100.  I had chuckled the day they’d arrived; Rick had written those numbers himself.  I could auction them off for charity or something and make some money off of them.

“OK this is going to sound a little nuts,” I started.  I walked into the living room and opened one of the boxes, pulling out one of the shrink wrapped CDs.

“Try me,” responded Annette, following my lead.  “Rick Springfield?  Why do you have thousands of his CDs in your living room?  Hey, this looks pretty good.”  She took it from my hands and looked at the cover art, the same cover art that had changed from the original version that had plagued me so just a few months prior.

“Well, I’m selling them online,” I told her.

“Why are you selling Rick Springfield CDs?”  she asked, but the dawn of recognition already lighting up her eyes.

“Because he asked me to?  God, at this point, I’m not even sure.  I’m barely sleeping, I eat in front of my computer, and I haven’t talked to another adult outside of his fans and my family members since probably the last time we went for a walk.”

Annette handed me back the CD and gestured towards the door.  “Tell me everything, and start at the beginning.  Don’t leave anything out.”

I laughed, breathed a little sigh of relief to leave the stacks of boxes behind for a few hours, and started in.

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