I thought my dad was dead when I got home.
I came into the living room triumphant, the jump drives burning holes in my pants only to lose every ounce of excitement in my body when I found my dad out cold on his bed in the middle of the day.
“Oh my God.”
I dropped down to the bed, put my finger right on my dad’s pulse and put my ear to his chest. His heart was beating. He was breathing. He was laughing.
“Fuck. Dad. That’s not funny.”
I recoiled from his withered little body, truly angered, spit all over the room while he laughed his bony ass off.
“That’s not fuckin funny.”
My dad finally slowed down his laughter. He glared at me when I set up a laptop on the couch, pushed in the first jump drive.
“You lookin up porn?” My dad quipped from the bed.
I ignored him.
I was locked into my computer. The first 1998 folder I pulled up was less cluttered with files than I thought it would be.
The first few conversations I found didn’t help. They seemed to be two church kids talking about the movie The Lost World with one complaining that his mom wouldn’t let him see the movie because she insisted dinosaurs never existed.
It took a while, but I was able to pull up one of the chat conversations I was looking for.
June 10, 1998 – Private Chat
ChaseMANhattan: I can’t believe we’re sitting right next to each other, but writing to each other on the computer.
Ronniebobonnie:Pretty crazy but awesome. We can’t talk about this stuff around here though.
ChaseMANhattan: True, true. Did it happen again last night?
Ronniebobonnie:What do you think?
ChaseMANhattan: When doesn’t it happen?
Ronniebobonnie: He keeps telling me I will like it eventually. Like you do.
Ronniebobonnie:Shit. Someone is coming.
June 12, 1998 – Midwest Romance Chat Room Private Chat
ChaseMANhattan: Hey. Cool. What’s up?
ChaseMANhattan: 12/m/Middle of nowhere in Tennessee
ChaseMANhattan: Is it?
LareBear: I like Tennessee. My brother lives in Nashville. It’s not bad. Beautiful.
ChaseMANhattan: Where I live is NOT Nashville.
LareBear: Got it. So are you looking for romance?
June 14, 1998 – Private Chat
Ronniebobonnie: Who’s the guy you were telling me about last night? Your friend.
ChaseMANhattan: Larry. He’s older. From Chicago.
Ronniebobonnie: That’s pretty cool. He gonna take you out of this little shithole?
ChaseMANhattan: It’s not like that. I’ve talked to older guys before. It’s not like we are ever going to meet up. We just like to talk and stuff. They get me. People around here don’t get me. I can talk about stuff I actually care about. Not just like baseball and church.
Ronniebobonnie: I get you man.