― Sylvia Plath
Everything about me was a lie.
I made a fake Twitter account using an idealized ink sketch as an avatar and created a new identity for myself.
I was supposedly Doctor Scott Finney (Psy. D.)—Itinerant counselor to the downtrodden, but in reality, I was a poseur.
Despite claiming to treat victims of PTSD in war zones, I was really just a small book seller who grew tired of living anonymously.
The deception was taking its toll on me.
I came home from a book signing exhausted. There must have been a thousand people all wanting signed copies of my book and a quick word with me.
It took four hours to get through them—I could have been there all night, according to the manager. The mere thought of it depressed me—as did the ennui of having to maintain the deception.
The problem with erecting a façade is, it has to be constantly shored up. I was being drained and had no more coping juice.
Just as I was wondering what to do and how to escape from the charade, the doorbell rang.
I answered and a beautiful young blonde woman smiled at me. I felt my stomach flip.
“Doctor Finney! Do you recognize me?”
Her face was strangely familiar, but I had seen so many faces that day. I couldn’t quite place it.
“I’m sorry—you must forgive me—I just returned from a book signing and I’m a little overwhelmed. Do I know you?”
I looked at her blankly.
“Marie Sevigne, from Twitter.”
My heart sunk. “Oh yes, Marie. But how did you find me?”
She colored. “It’s your turn to forgive me Doctor Finney. I was at your book signing and there were so many people—I just didn’t get a chance to meet you.”
“I got a cab and followed you home. I feel as though I know you—after all, we’ve been conversing all this time.”
I had no idea what she wanted, or expected of me.
“I was hoping we could get together over drinks and talk—you’ve been such an inspiration to me and it’s so difficult to converse in 140 characters or less.”
“Um, I’d like to Marie, but I’m so exhausted tonight.”
“Well, maybe I could drop by your clinic. I’m writing a review on my blog and everyone’s looking forward to hearing first hand how you help in the Third World and what’s next on your agenda.”
The only way I could think of to forestall her was to go for drinks with her, and then tomorrow, be unavailable.
I felt like a fraud—but then again, I was.
We went to the rooftop terrace of the Park Hotel overlooking the Toronto skyline.
It had been years since I was here and had forgotten what a romantic setting it was—the starlit sky, the candle-lit tables and a gentle night breeze—it was the perfect ambiance for falling in love.
Marie in darkness was even more alluring than in full light. She was from Montreal and had a slight French accent. It also didn’t hurt that she adored me.
She looked quizzically at me. “You don’t remember me do you?”
“Sure, I do—I thought we got that all straightened out.”
“Not the Twitter friendship, Richard—I’m talking about Montreal.”
Why was this situation feeling like a Gino Vannelli song, and how did she know my real name?”
She sipped at her Pinot Noire, smiled seductively and leaned in toward me.
“I was seventeen and you were the guest speaker at the Book Convention.”
“You were there?”
“Yes. I thought you were the handsomest man I ever met.”
I shook my head. “I was scared to death. I’m not good at public speaking.”
“You were a little nervous at the start—but then, when you got impassioned about books—I was transported by you.”
“Really?” I gave a crooked smile—“Hearing this is so hard to believe.”
“It was five years ago,” she continued, “and, by the way, how old are you now?”
“Then you’ve renewed my faith in thirty-five year old men. Not as big a difference between us now as then, eh?”
“You mean in terms of age? No, not a big difference.”
“I hung on your every word.” She giggled, “When you said you read Cyrano in the spring, I thought it the most romantic thing I ever heard from a man. You were my hero.”
“Were—isn’t that the past tense?”
“It is,” she said sadly.
“So, are you saying you no longer admire me?”
She looked grieved. “Yes, Richard—frankly, I don’t admire you. I’ve put you aside with my other adolescent dreams.”
She laughed cynically. “ Isn’t it brutal when your heroes fall off their pedestals?”
“What do you mean?” I croaked.
“I know you don’t have a clinic, Richard—and you don’t have a doctorate in Psychology, but you do have a lot of other people’s money—and their trust.”
The ground fell out from beneath me. I felt my breathing stop.