by H.St Vincent Beechey
I think it was in Salzburg that Bonnie finally got my measure. At least she was now showing a lot more skill in baiting the hook. No longer did she fall into the error of expecting me to be lured by normal tourist attractions. She steered me clear of crowds and finally accepted the incomprehensible (to her) notion that social interaction was anathema to me. Yes, Bonnie was beginning to learn. She was also becoming crafty.
‘Charlie,’ she would say as we sat side by side in bed with our little computers in our laps, ‘How do I look up Bavaria? Does it have a Home Page?’
‘Put your Encyclopedia disk in your CD ROM. Look, I’ll show you.’ And before I knew it, she would have me discovering something interesting. And, what do you know, it turned out to relate to our next port of call. Bonnie was certainly making good progress.
I wasn’t quite so resistant to sight-seeing now. Salzburg had taught me a lot. I had actually got a thrill at seeing Mozart memorabilia in his home town. I had heard a string quartet playing his music in a princely salon; they were wearing period costumes and powdered wigs and I felt like a time traveller. I was quite moved, a strange experience for me. Bonnie had wisely said nothing, but I knew she was pleased.
I was getting very fond of Bonnie, which was just as well in view of our relationship. I had always been fairly celibate, never regarding sex as a social activity. Maybe I was a bit fussy; but why share your body with someone you wouldn’t lend your toothbrush to. To me, it was the means of expressing the deepest affection and trust, and, let’s face it, up to now those occasions were very rare.
At times I tried to work out what was happening. All this emotional stuff had occurred at such alarming speed. I would look back on the time, only a few weeks before, when I was keeping Bonnie in her place with a few well-placed insults, and I thought wryly that if anyone spoke to Bonnie like that nowadays I would probably punch him on the nose.
Bonnie was very attentive but she had learned to read my moods and recognised when I needed thinking time. She would quietly withdraw, confident now that I would resurface, and that my silences were not personal rejections. I was happy, but that should have warned me. Happiness, I have found, blinds you to the fickle finger of fate.
The trouble, when it came, was from a completely unexpected direction. It all stemmed from Bonnie’s innocent remark about a Bavarian Home Page. Out of curiosity, I checked, and there it was.
One of the seductively addictive things about the World Wide Web is called Hypertext. Every time you see a word underlined it is a gateway to another page. It is fascinating, and I was able to wander around the South German state, checking Hotels in Munich, museums, business opportunities, a student newspaper and dozens of other items. Some had e-mail addresses. That is how I met Gisela.
I was making good progress with the internet and had ironed out most of the problems involved in establishing a stable link whilst being whisked around the world by a demented travel guide. Fortunately communications in western Europe are sophisticated enough to make it possible. Some hotels even had business suites and then I was in my element, no digital phone drop-out, and really good lines so that my modem could work at full speed.
I found Gisela by accident. I had clicked on an e-mail address I found on an inconspicuous Home Page, touting some sort of Intra-European chat line; the attraction was that they seemed to be using English as a common language. Most of the contents seemed boringly juvenile, and I unwisely said so! I had heard of flaming, had even experienced some mild samples, but I wasn’t expecting the multicultural vitriol that was poured on me. I did receive one message of support and I seized on it like a life raft in the sea of opprobrium. Thus I cyber-met Gisela von Eisenberg.
There is something nice about talking to someone from a distance, especially by e-mail (we had both dropped out of the chat line on the declaration of war). Yes, with e-mail you can consider your reply and yet, for me, it is an even closer form of communication than the telephone. It is fun, too, with its smilies and acronyms We found we had a lot in common.
It was quite a while before Bonnie discovered that I had a female cyberfriend; she was furious. She found out because I was smiling to myself at a witty remark Gisela had made about Travel; I couldn’t have put it better myself.
‘What have you got there, Charlie? You’ve been grinning and chuckling to yourself for five minutes. Why don’t you share the joke?’
‘Gisela said that people travel to escape, but they take all their baggage with them. Smart, eh?’
”Who is Gisela. That sounds like a girl’s name.’
‘It is, German,’ I said. ‘Probably derived from Gazelle, a kind of small deer, quite a pretty name when you think of it.’
Inexplicably, this definition seemed to throw her into a fury.
‘How long has this been going on?” She was raising her voice.
‘This German person.’
‘You seem to be annoyed.’ I said.
‘How dare you talk to other women in my bed.’
‘My bed,’ I corrected her mildly. ‘And besides, I don’t see your logic. She is somewhere out there in cyberspace, and you are in my bed with me.’
‘We’ll soon fix that!’ and she flounced out.
Ah well, I consoled myself, A quiet night. Perhaps I can tackle that stuff I downloaded. I was trying to get the hang of HTML, the computer language for creating your own Home Page on the web.
It was hard going, but I was making good progress.
© Copyright H.St V.Beechey August 1996