/Whois - Chapter 2 - Truth or Dare and the Death of a Friend
Playing Make Believe
What I loved most about this room of imagination that I had found was that it was so fluid. While typically it was a backyard pool party, that scene could dissolve instantaneously to meet the requirements of make believe. It wasn't a case of playing cowboys and Indians (although we did that once) and then saying, "hey...let's do cops and robbers now." It flowed. All it would take was one spark to ignite the powder keg of imaginary power in that room and we'd be off and running with it. Star Trek parodies were among our favorites...or cooking lessons with the Swedish chef.
Even with just a few of us hanging around, it was just as powerful. I remember one particular lazy Sunday afternoon spent in the chatroom with two friends. We were sprawled across the room, which had strangely enough become a child's bedroom, lounging on the furniture in that way that only ten year olds have....comparing record collections. I still remember their nicknames...Cheesy and Barfly. The sun was coming through the window...as I recall, I could hear the distant sound of somebody's lawnmower and any moment now, a parent was going to yell up the stairs that it was time for dinner and to send the friends home. Oddly enough, in my imagination it wasn't my room...so it had to be Cheesy's or Barfly's.
Occasionally we would run out of ideas for improvisation. As creative as all of us were...it wasn't unheard of to suddenly develop a case of IRC Block. I had less patience than most of them...
Snobird: Sooooo...what does everybody want to do?
Kimbrr: Truth or Dare anyone?
That seemed to breathe some life into the room. Still relatively the new kid on the block, I had no idea what they were actually up to. Sure...I could understand being able to answer the "truth" part of this game, but how the hell do you perform a dare?
"Oh, it's easy sno...you'll see. Just watch and you'll understand."
While the truth portion was sometimes shocking, funny or downright gross...I learned quickly that the dare side was a hell of a lot more fun. It involved sending the player to another room to perform a task. Two others from our room would "follow" and report back the results, often in a cut and paste format. Occasionally it was just too good to miss and most of the room would converge on the channel in play to witness it firsthand.
We sent one chatter to the openly hostile teen channel and had her go in as Miss_Piggy. Furthermore, all she could do was say oink...no matter what question was asked of her, no matter how rude they became, she could only say oink. It was rather brutal...but bearable. The teens had their fun verbally assaulting our poor little porcine friend, and the rest of us had to change our underwear.
When it was my turn, I figured it couldn't be all that bad...so to appease the masses, I took the dare.
"Okay sno...you are going to #chat...your mission is to get thrown out."
For those of you that don't quite understand the near impossibility of this mission, allow me to enlighten you. The channel they were sending me to is a mass of writhing humanity trying to be heard. I could go in and type anything and it would scroll by so fast you'd have to be Evelyn Woods on speed to read it. The ops, or moderators of this channel, had seen it all too. This was the dregs of IRC, folks. So not only did I have to get noticed...I had to do something so grotesquely out of line as to be kicked from a channel that tolerated almost any bad behavior.
I did the only thing I could think of...
*snobird picks her nose and flicks a booger from her fingertips. The gooey, gobby mass of mucous sails across the air and hits @Bob in the forehead before sliding in a viscous mass down his nose.
Regular chat scrolls across the screen in regular text...actions come in colors, so it stood out momentarily from the others.
Instantly another window popped up on my screen.
@Bob: WTF?! Do you want to be thrown out of this room?
Snobird: Well...yes actually I do.
Snobird: Uh...it's truth or dare night. I'm on a dare...but I'm not supposed to tell you that.
@Bob: Ahhhh I see... :) Happy to oblige then...
Wow. Everyone knew about this IRC truth or dare stuff!
While I was very content with my success, it seemed that sometimes you could be pulled into a dare that was not your own. Like I said, the room was fluid...and so it seemed were the rules of any game.
Iva, who had been around for quite a while, chose a dare. He was a carefree and happy-go-lucky Aussie, typically up for anything. I knew that the two of us were going to have a great time with the dare that sent us to the #sex channel.
He was to go in under the nickname SweetLilVirginia and I was to accompany him in this gender bending mission as UncleClem. The goal was to go in, play out a scene that would tempt as many perverts as possible and count the number of propositions that Iva received. We had two minutes to accomplish our goal. It only took three sentences...
*UncleClem pats his knee and gives SweetLilVirginia a wink*
*SweetLilVirginia smiles shyly at UncleClem and climbs up onto his lap*
UncleClem: Why Ginnie...you aren't wearing any panties!!
Poor Iva's monitor lit up like the fourth of July...and we beat a hasty retreat back to our own room laughing our asses off.
Kimbrr: So Iva...how many did you get?
Iva: OMG...does anyone have the Lysol handy? I feel...*shudder*...really icky. And no...I lost count. Is that what it's like for women?
These were my friends. No less real to me than the ones I saw every day. We laughed together, played together...we even cried together.
I walked into the chatroom one day...and instantly sensed the dark cloud hanging over it.
Snobird: What's up?
Kali: Barfly died yesterday. His wife just called Cheesy...
The news rocked me. I remembered our afternoon hanging out together as if it was a memory of something that had really happened. Barfly and I were particularly close as we both were natives of New Jersey. We had already decided that he would drive up to New Hampshire next month to accompany my husband and me on a trip to Toronto for the first annual meet. His wife wasn't that interested in his IRC habit...and to be fair, neither was mine...but there was no way my husband would allow me to go alone on something like this.
My husband found me crying quietly at my keyboard a short time later. "What's wrong now?" he asked. I wiped my nose and looked up at him. "Barfly is dead...heart attack. He was only 39." His response was cruel. "Oh geesh...you act as if you know him. It's not like he's a REAL friend."
He was real...maybe not in the traditional sense. But he was very real to me...
I sought my comfort in IRC, with those like me. No announcement had gone out, but we were all there. The scene shimmered and finally settled...we had gathered as mourners to pay our respects. At first it was awkward, as eulogies often are...but eventually we were sharing our favorite memories of a person that had been an integral part of our community.
Cheesy: He was my best friend in here. I'm going to miss him...
PG: I used to call him Barf...
I discovered it was possible to laugh and cry at the same time.