I read something that was not meant for me today. I didn’t mean to, but I did. It wasn’t like I picked the lock on someone’s diary—I am not twelve—or that I scrolled through their text messages—I am not jealous soul--but it was just... there and I just… oh whoops, read it.
Of course you can’t “accidentally” read something, can you? It reminds me of the Sandi Toksvig novel Flying under Bridges: "How do you get accidentally pregnant? You don’t just fall off a stool and accidentally land on a penis, do you?"
Reading takes intention. You have to focus your eyes and string the words together, your brain makes a choice to do that. You could, at any moment, stop yourself after that first “oopsie” word; realizing it’s not for you, you could close your eyes, turn off the computer, throw your hands in the air and wave ‘em like you just don’t care. You could. But would you?
You see, Facebook chats being left visible; texts popping up, readable under the nose of someone they are not meant for; texts sent to the wrong person, it happens every day. I have heard many of the Closests lament to me that they have sent or received or left messages visible for an Unintended. And then they have laughed, or cried, or both. Ah Technology! You can be a cunning little fucker when you want to be.
There’s a term for this Reader, it’s a Communicatory Fucssue: a fucking issue, that literally, “fucks you.” I have never really been exposed to this kind of exposee. Well, not in adult life. As an annoying little sister it was only my duty to steal into my brother’s bedroom and try to read anything that was specifically not meant for me. An invasion of privacy, certainly, but don’t worry, I was always on the receiving end of a sound beating after every reconnaissance mission. How did he always know when I had been in his den? How? I was always so bloody careful! I was like a seven year old pink ninja, in a leotard, ballet shoes and gloves. That scene in Entrapment with Sean—GRRR—Connery and Catherine—Queen of Wales-It should have been me-Spartacus-Zeta-Douglas-Jones, sliding and crouching and planking through the security net of laser beams? That was me! Yet, every bloody time: “ELEANORRRRRR!” I would hear yelled with obvious I’m-going-to-beat-the-ever-living-shit-out-of-you-you-little-turd tone and I’d be up like a character in the Hunger Games listening for the direction and speed of his footfalls and sprinting in the opposite way as fast as my little pink legs would carry me—never fast enough—and I would always be apprehended, upended and tackled to the ground, my legs kicking uselessly in the air and screaming for Mum. Yeah, ninja. Completely.
Perhaps it was this early, painful punishment of childish curiosity that made me resolutely, vehemently fanatical about others’ privacy. I have never read anyone else’s mail, email, texts or FB messages without their approval, or rather insistence, that I should for some reason. In fact, I like to think that I veer the other way; when the Pavlovian conditioning, that makes me look to the cell display on the table as it illuminates and vibrates, is finally overridden by the realization “Oh shit! That’s not my phone,” my neck almost snaps to look away in the opposite direction. Messages are only supposed to be seen by the sender and recipient, right? Right.
But this, this bait and lure left visible on my own computer was just too much.
Let me set the scene. Papa Smurf, known to some as Michael Caine, has been visiting his favourite daughter. Well, his only daughter. Oh we’ve been bonding (by that I mean eating and drinking) and aside from the pressures that a visit around my busiest work time of the year, multiplied by the aggravation of uncooperative household projects, we’ve been having a jolly good time, I think.
But it’s hard, when you have lived independently from your P.U. (Parental Unit,) not to get a wee bit claustrophobic. The '1's On The Ridge is hardly Wayne Manor; I can't send him to the east wing, the billiard room or the library. I don't have a TV to plop him down in front of and distract him while I get on with things, so it's a smidgen awkward. Writing this has been the most constantly-interrupted piece of all time. I can only look at the screen for so long while he is talking at me before politeness kicks in and I have to break away again. I have, however, put specific days and evenings aside to see my Papa—I was feeling very Good-Daughter-Cordelia-Smugface about this.
Dad has become reacquainted with the area and has been enjoying the company of my friends. I threw a dinner party—okay, he cooked, but he likes that, and it was my idea; I threw another party, complete with St. Germain and champagne, and a veritable fromagerie of cheese—I may be crap at throwing balls, but boy do I like throwing parties; we’ve been to jazz at Bazil, Blues at the Back Yard Ale House, I took him to Gannon’s for beers and wings, what more could a darling daught do? I did shit, People!
And I was obviously doing a bang up job, because..."recalculating"... Papa Smurf 180-ed and decided that instead of buying a home and a boat in North Carolina, he will buy a home in NEPA! I was rather surprised by this idea and the sudden geographical “U” turn. Long have I thought about how nice it would be just to call my parents in the morning and say, “Let’s go for a trot around Lake Scranton and then out to lunch at State St!” Many are the times that I have wished I was able to include them in a Bond Party, or Oscar Doodah, or seasonal shindig. There are so many places I want to take them; so many people I want them to meet. And yes, there’s always been that little silent speech bubble in my brain: where will you be if I have a baby?
But then the idea of North Carolina appealed too. Oh, somewhere new to visit! Somewhere warm! Somewhere in the same time zone!
This new turn of events, therefore, made me quite discombobulated. Did Papa Smurf really want to be here with the welcoming community I had fallen for; what about his boat, sunshine and retirement idyll? Surely, thought I, both are mutually exclusive.
Yet, he is gung ho! He has been salivating all over the property websites like I salivate over the cheese section at Wegmans. He has been in cahoots with my darling friend Kathy Casarin from Coldwell and they have set up property viewings (without me)! So, it's fair to say, Papa Smurf is serious.
It’s as we were discussing this around the kitchen island that he said,
“Well, you mother has written me a long email about it. She thinks I am giving up my dream of having another boat…”
“Oh. Well, round here it’s not really boating weather 9 months of the year. And the local lakes aren't really, you know, the Atlantic Ocean.”
And that was that. Papa Smurf went to the bathroom to continue the endless and soul-destroying many-layered wall paper stripping, and I clicked closed my lap top and toddled off to work.
Then it happened. In my studio in Wilkes-Barre. I opened my laptop, restored my Google Chrome and there it was: the email on MY Google Chrome. Papa Smurf never uses my Google Chrome. Papa Smurf always used the regular blue Windows Explorer internet dooberry. But this time, he had logged in, and the tab was there, restored in front of my eyes.
I should have closed the tab. It would have been easy enough. But I didn’t. After all, I was interested to know what dearest Mama had said. I wanted to read her opinions on this sudden life changing decision. And it was from Ma! The person I know best in the whole wide world. So, Dear Reader, Mum, Dad, I read it.
I won’t go into detail. (I’m trying to make a point it was private after all.) But, to read one's mother's carefully thought out opinions, including the concern that their daughter never has time for them and she probably will never have children anyway, made me realize five things:
- I must make more time for my parents.
- I really hope they move whenever they will be most happy, and if that is near me, I will be pleased. We can always vacation somewhere warm with beaches and lighthouses.
- My eggs protest and heart fibrillates at such a death sentence.
- 2013 is going to be interesting.
- You should never use someone else's computer and leave your messages open.