/Whois - Chapter 16 - A Violation of Privacy
One afternoon I was called into the human resources department of my company. I was fired. The reason given was "solicitation of confidential payroll information." Was this the truth? No. It was a joke in bad taste, overheard by the wrong person. I'd simply said, "I wonder if Janelle is being adequately paid for the overtime she's putting in...on her knees." I never even saw it coming. The knife that slid into my back was expertly placed by Janelle...and just like that I was out of a job. Eventually, I would find comfort knowing many years later that the supervisor Janelle was blowing had been arrested on embezzlement charges and Janelle would slink out of the company before any fingers could be pointed her way...but at the moment, it hurt like hell.
I was sure I could find better employment...but I needed time to lick my wounds. With my savings, I could probably last a few months before work became a necessity. Jerry, on the other hand, didn't think having several months with nothing to do, was a very good idea. Not only did I have to put up with his nagging...but the nagging of his entire family, including his father, who thought I should be happy with some sort of "nice little secretarial position" somewhere. I'm not belittling this profession understand, being a secretary is not an easy job at times...but the fact of the matter was...I am an accountant. The mere fact that my own husband didn't even know what I did really irked me.
Otter, however, was very supportive. He encouraged me to take my time and not settle for just anything. He constantly boosted my morale by telling me how smart I was...how creative I was...and that I deserved a GREAT job. At his insistence, I rewrote my resume, mailed it to him and asked for his opinion. He dressed up a few things here and there and sent it back. It was quite good.
The day came when I was finally brave enough to go out and sell myself. With my resume firmly in my grasp, I walked into the headhunter's office.
"So, tell me a bit about yourself," she asked as she took my resume and started to read it in front of me.
"I have a bad attitude," I stated in all sincerity.
She flipped the page and kept reading...and I saw of all things, excitement on her face. Could it be...did she like what she saw?
"A bad attitude?" she queried, "Explain that to me..."
"Well...I like to do things right and I don't put up with people that don't. So when I see it's not being done right, I say something...and that's when I'm told I have a bad attitude."
She looked up from the resume, a sparkle in her eye and laughed long and loud.
"I could certainly use a lot more people with bad attitudes then."
She compressed her lips and looked at me thoughtfully.
"It's funny you should walk in here today of all days...in fact...your future boss just left."
I had to admire her confidence. She leaned across her desk and began to speak with great animation...
"I see that look on your face...and I'm perfectly serious. It's a small company, family owned...but with amazing growth potential. You could walk in and write your own ticket. They need you...you need them. And your personality is a perfect fit...bad attitude, bah! I only wish I had more resumes like this one...you wouldn't believe some of the things I see. I almost hate to give you away so fast."
She scribbled down a phone number and address and handed me the piece of paper.
"I'll call you as soon as I've set it up. Oh...this is going to work out so wonderfully!"
Her enthusiasm was contagious and I left that office walking on cloud nine. Unfortunately, by the time I arrived home so had Jerry...the great cloud killer.
"So you got a job?" he said.
"Well...no, not yet. But I have a potential employer...the headhunter will contact me as soon as she sets up the interview."
"So you don't have a job. I don't understand you at all...there are millions of jobs out there to be had and all you do is sit around and play on your computer all day. Why can't you just open the paper and pick one?"
At moments like these I really wanted to slug him. I had the feeling if I'd come home with a job at the local McDonald's he would have been happier...just because it would mean I would not be home where he couldn't keep an eye on me while he was working. It never crossed his mind that once I was working, no matter where I was, I'd no longer be within view either.
Once again, I turned to Otter for approval and encouragement.
Otter: That's wonderful, sno! See...I told you that you could do it. And when the interview happens just be you...they'll see what I see.
Why couldn't my own husband see it?
Finally, the day arrived for my interview. I was excited...nervous...but unlike any interview I'd ever had, I went in with confidence. Otter was with me. At the last minute, before leaving my house, I had grabbed my personal recorder and slapped a cassette tape into it. In the car, I depressed the record button and carefully set the small machine on the passenger seat.
"Well, Otter...let's do this."
Together we backed out of the driveway and headed to the job interview. To be sure, it was a rather one-sided conversation, but just sharing the long drive with him gave me the boost I needed to face what was ahead. He believed in me...and by believing in me...he gave me the ability to believe in myself.
I was interviewed by Vince, the owner's son. He was short and sturdy...but didn't seem to suffer from a Napoleon complex. His eyes sparkled with avid curiosity and he reminded me of an intelligent terrier. Somehow I suspected that nothing got past this man.
We hit it off immediately and it was the longest interview of my life. After two hours, if he'd asked, I would have sat at any desk and willingly started working immediately...for no pay. That is how much this job excited me. It was exactly what I had been hoping to find...and definitely not a nice little secretarial position.
Back in the car, I depressed the record button and fairly yelled in excitement.
"Oh my god Otter...I want this job. It's perfect...and I think it'll be mine. At least, I hope it will be mine. No...it'll be mine. I really liked him...my future boss. I know you'd like him."
Before going home, I placed the cassette in an envelope...addressed it...and sent it off to Otter. We'd shipped things to each other before...small things. There'd been the goofy little information cards on some Melbourne tourist trap, an inexpensive necklace that had been bought on a whim...and once even a half smoked cigarette, because Otter thought it would be great fun to "share a smoke." In return, I'd shipped him a package containing Otter Pops...those frozen little confections that I loved...especially Louie Blueberry...a stuffed moose for his daughter...and half a stick of gum. I always loved when a package arrived from Otter. Even though it had travelled halfway around the world over a span of many days, I still opened it slowly with my nose pressed to the opening, hoping to catch a whiff of Otter's world.
What can I say? When you love somebody, you do some pretty silly things. And make no mistake about it...I knew I loved him...this man I'd never met.
Back then, I still kept a diary. I'd kept one every year since the age of nine. That night, I opened it and made an entry that would start a chain reaction...
I love two men...
Loving Otter did not mean I didn't love my husband. I had no grand scheme of leaving Jerry and running off suddenly to Melbourne. It didn't seem unreasonable to me that I should have both. Looking back, I can see how selfish that sounds...
I think Otter wanted the same thing though. He loved his children with every fiber of his being. There were problems with his spouse, just as there were with mine, but nothing so horrible that tossing it all away was an option.
I suppose it was mostly unfair to Jerry. He had married a woman that he thought he knew...had given her all that he was capable of and believed it would be enough. It wasn't his fault that I wanted more...
Although it took several weeks, weeks of constantly being harassed by Jerry, I did get the job. It was everything I'd hoped for and more. Vince and I became great friends...and it was our joke that he had to remind me that he was my boss occasionally. He would tease me and call me his own personal Scheherazade. Since it was only the two of us in the office most of the time, when we weren't working, he'd beg for a story and I'd only too happily spin him a tale, usually drawn from my own life. Eventually we worked up to stories about Otter...and I was relieved to discover that Vince was never a judge or jury...he simply listened.
Then one day, I arrived home and noticed Jerry's car in the driveway. Usually he didn't get home until much later than I did. I caught a glimpse of him through the window that overlooked our driveway. He was just sitting at the computer...just sitting...and I had the feeling that something was very wrong.
The first thing I noticed was the stack of printouts on the table. I recognized them...they were copies of every email that Otter and I had ever sent to each other. Next to the stack was my diary. My stomach plummeted to my toes. After it landed though, to my surprise, the emotion that came next was one of pure and unadulterated anger.
Understand, I am a private person. I had never bothered to hide these e-mails...they were piled haphazardly at the side of my desk. My computer was not password protected. My diary was not under lock and key. I had simply trusted that Jerry understood that these were my private thoughts and would respect that. I'd certainly never dreamed of probing through his personal belongings.
Once I'd worked up a good indignant froth, I turned on him.
"How DARE you...what gives you the right to read my personal e-mails and diary?!"
Whatever Jerry had expected...it hadn't been that. He expected guilt...and probably a repentant wife. To a certain extent, I WAS sorry...sorry he'd read what he had...but it was his own fault. He hadn't been invited to read what I'd wrote...and what he had done was basically violate my privacy.
Years earlier, I'd snooped once and read my younger sister's diary. I came across a page where she had written about me after a quarrel...and reading what she thought of me was not pleasant. What I read had been hurtful, but what I had done was even worse. I closed her diary and put it back on the shelf and never said a word. I knew that she loved me...and I knew that occasionally a person gets angry with somebody they love. It's better to put those thoughts down on paper and keep it private, than damage a relationship by speaking the words out loud.
"It wasn't my fault," Jerry blurted out, "the cat knocked over your diary and I saw the words...those words...about being in love with two men...and so I decided I should look through your email...and wasn't I just surprised at what I found! You've been fucking Otter..."
My lip curled in disdain, "That's right hon...whenever I'm feeling horny, I just hop on a plane and fly to Melbourne for a little nookie. It's writing...Otter and I write to each other...that does not constitute an affair."
I won't bore you with the details of the entire fight...but it was vicious. In the end, I promised I would no longer see Otter online. I had no choice really, Jerry was holding onto me tightly and sobbing, saying, "You aren't leaving me are you?"
"Of course I'm not...the idea never crossed my mind."
But...even as I held him I wondered...I wondered if I was telling him the truth or lying to myself.
In a quick e-mail I broke the news to Otter. My husband simply came first...and I could no longer see him. He didn't like it, but he said that he understood. That if it meant my happiness, my marriage, he would do ANYTHING...even if it meant disappearing.
That lasted all of a week. Jerry finally grew tired of my moping around the house and my one word responses. I hadn't intentionally set out to sulk...but my life without Otter was pure misery and I simply passed it on to everyone around me.
"Go back to your Otter," Jerry said one night after dinner. "I can't stand anymore of your mood...and if only Otter can cheer you up...then so be it. Just...no more of that cyber stuff, okay?"
I fairly danced to the computer as I sent Otter an email and within twenty minutes we were falling into each other's arms in IRC. Elapsed time from making of promise to breaking of promise...about 5 minutes.
Otter: Jerry is either really stupid or...no...he's just really stupid. If you were mine for real...I would have never let you go back to me.
Snobird: Otter...don't talk that way about Jerry...it makes me uncomfortable. He just wants me to be happy...that's all.
*Otter snorts in disdain*
Otter: All I'm saying Sno is that I'd never let anyone come between us...you are MINE...and one of these days I'm going to get mad and tell him. Nothing will ever come between us Sno...ever...let Jerry try to keep us apart...not gonna happen.
I didn't like this side of Otter. It was dark...and rather frightening. The only thing a week away from each other had accomplished was to strengthen our determination to not be separated again. Otter's behavior changed, subtly at first, but at an ever-increasing speed. He was even more desperate than I was to keep what he considered his...and our "other stuff" began to show hints of cruelty, acts of dominance and perversion.
I began to question my own sanity in allowing this...and Otter's too for pushing us deeper and deeper into dark, forbidden territory. My attention was so focused on this...that I didn't even suspect that Jerry was starting to become unglued as well...