Oct. 15th, 2004

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So I'm lobby trash, hanging out in the Ramada for IBR and meeting friends of friends, when this new guy I'm meeting points out some bear down the hall. "That cute one with the beard," he adds, helpfully. I see him, and yeah, he's handsome. New guy says, "I've been doing the eye-dance with him for two days now, but we're both too shy to say hello."

I understand his predicament, so I do something uncharacteristically bold. Hell, it's not for me, so I can. I make direct, unquestionable eye-contact with the cute one with the beard, and then smile and wave.

He looks away. Looks back. Smiles. Sort of waves. Contact made. Yay for our side.

Within moments, he's screwed up the nerve to come talk to me. He tells me I'm handsome, which is nice of him to say. I'm nice back at him, which is easy, because yeah, he's handsome. Then I introduce him to the new guy, and I get to watch that mystical, crackling-sparky mutual interest thing happen between them that I love so much to see. Then I get my toaster oven, so everyone is happy.

Before they disappear into the elevator together, I get a photo of them, grinning, standing side-by-side. Then they're gone. Again with the yay.

So that's the set up. A week later, while going through my IBR photos, I found that my camera's resolution was good enough to get the handsome bear's real name and nickname on his nametag. I searched online a bit to find an email address so I could tell him it was nice meeting him, but I came up with nothing. Oh well. That was that.

Within a couple of years, I had transformed into a slutty truck driver, and spent a not-insignificant amount of my down time combing through BiggerCity ads, and the like, looking for bears in different states who... um... seemed nice. It never paid off, but you have to try. Anyway, one afternoon I ran across an ad that had the same nickname as the handsome bear, but his head was cropped out of the photo, so I couldn't be sure it was him. I pulled up the old photo to compare, and yes, his chest looked right, and the city was close, and...

... well I'll be damned. It was him. Yay! I fired off a quick email, asking if he was the same guy I had met at IBR. Within a couple of days he responded.

It went something like, "Yes, that is correct. I took some trouble to hide my identity in that ad. Who are you?"

Oh. Oh God.

Instantly, horribly, I was the creepiest internet-stalker ever. All of my thoughts were malignant. My fantasies were a sick, greenish shade of wrong. Even the words I typed were ugly somehow. Why had I written to him? How could I not expect him to respond the way that he did? I felt miserable. Suddenly, I was Tootie, making a papier mâchè Jermaine Jackson head to worship, on that very special episode of The Facts of Life.

I did write back, trying to clear things up, but it came across as limp back-pedaling, and only made me look ickier. I got a reserved, "Okay, hi, nice talking to you again," response, but after that I resolved never to speak or write to him again. My shame was just too great.

A year later, while attending Fiesta in Tucson, I saw him outside by the pool, and the goal became Mission: Invisible. The problem with going out of your way to avoid someone, of course, is that it's so obvious. And grown up, I might add. But I hate being icky— just hate hate hate it— so I was determined that he have a nice time at Fiesta, and never know I was there.

My friends picked up on it, natch. "So who are you avoiding?" they asked, as if they cared, as if the information wouldn't be used for future evil. So I told them all about it, because my idiocy is boundless.

And now, the fun. Someone overheard me talking about it. I don't even know him, but he decided that he would be a great, big helper-bear and go talk to the handsome bear for me. You know, smoothe things over? Without asking me? Because isn't that what helper-bears do? "Hi! You don't know me, but see that guy over there? The one hiding behind the deck chairs? You might remember him. He took photos of you in the lobby at IBR three years ago, tracked down your address, and started writing cryptic, disturbing emails to you. Yeah, that guy! Yeah, he... what's that you say? Changed your locks? Phone number too, but you still tremble, sleepless at night? Unaccountable crying jags? Husband left you? Well, anyway, I just wanted to say that he's telling simply everyone all about you, but he assures us: Not A Stalker."

About an hour later, the helper-bear came bouncing up to me, beaming. "Hey, I talked to that guy for you," he said.

"Uh, what guy?" I asked.

"You know, the guy you were talking about. The guy who thought you were a stalker? I talked to him, so it's okay now." He grinned even wider. His work here was done.

"I... " I began, but I didn't know where to go with it. I experimented with a few more pronouns, but they didn't go anywhere either. Finally, I said, "You are joking."

It wasn't a question. I was commanding him to be joking with me, because the alternative was just unthinkable.

But tragically, he wasn't joking. And now, because handsome bear is handsome and probably has loads and loads of friends with whom he talks and shares important information, and as a result of helper-bear's help, I can draw a line. This part of the state either thinks I'm reasonably normal, or doesn't know me at all. That part of the state has restraining orders against me.

Whatever. Fuck it. It's gotten so off-the-charts bad that I might as well enjoy it. I think I'll start sending him birthday cards. It's in August.

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