2.21 When Blogging Backfires
This entry is an update on two previous posts and it would be advantageous to review them before diving into this one: 2.14 The Amulet and 2.5 Craigslist. I don't mean to give my readers homework, I just have your best interests in mind. I just saw you on the subway, the text message on my phone read. The number was one I didn't recognize. I glanced around the car at the other passengers but as usual, everyone stared blankly with eyes unfocused, listened to music or read a book. I exited the subway in a confused state, wondering who saw me on the subway without properly identifying themselves.
But I forgot about it.
A few days later, I picked up a library book I had on hold. The library system in Toronto still excites the nerd in me. I was a late comer to the library. Ever since I discovered the library a few years ago, I am still gleeful whenever the email arrives, informing me that a book is ready for pickup. I can put a book on hold at home through the website and they deliver it to the branch closest to me. Brilliant. Yes, it doesn't take much for me to get excited. My life is boring.
I located the book on the hold shelf and as I customarily do, flipped through it. A sheet of paper that was lodged between the book's pages floated to the floor. The last borrower must have forgotten their bookmark. The sheet of paper was folded in half, I opened it and there was a message spelled out in creepy newspaper clippings. I see you, Sincerly [sic], your arch nemesis. I think the terrible drawing of the 'eye' was supposed to be above the 'i'.
Sincerely was spelt incorrectly, but that was not the point. I slipped around and between some shelves. Peeked between books. No one seemed to have taken an interest in me. I quickly signed the book out, put my sunglasses on and snuck out the back door.
On the street, I felt like someone was watching me. Sure, this was most likely a figment of my imagination, but at the same time, neither the text message nor the note in the book were imaginary. They were both very real.
At home, I paced my place, wondering who this could be. Wait. Craigslist. A few months ago, I posted this advertisement on Craigslist:
NEMESIS REQUIRED IMMEDIATELY WITH POSSIBILITY TO EXTEND. I’ve been trying to think of ways to spice up my life. I’m 32 years old and happy with my job and my life. But something’s missing. I need a challenge, something to get the adrenaline pumping again. In short, I need a nemesis. I’m willing to negotiate $$$$$ for your services as an arch-enemy over the next six months. Just keep me on my toes. You need to have an evil streak and be blessed with innate guile and cunning. You should also be adept at inconspicuous pursuit. Evil laugh preferred. Please apply to Jeffrey through email and with the following information:
1. State reasons for your desire to be a nemesis.
2. State your influences.
3. Please include any previous experience.
You can also include an MP3 of your evil laugh.
Receiving few legitimate applications, I decided to shut it down. My life might have been boring, but I didn't think putting myself in potential danger was the answer. Someone must have hired themselves for this job and started without telling me. But this was not how it was supposed to go down.
Blinds drawn, locks locked, lights out. I didn't sleep much that night. When I finally fell asleep, the phone rang.
“Hello,” I said.
“Paul!” A groggy, drunk-like voice said on the other end.
“Yes, who’s this?” I asked.
“Hey, Paul, I got some booze, I got some girls coming - I just need you! Get your ass over here!” The voice said.
“It’s 3am on a Monday,” I replied dryly. “Who is this?”
“Wait,” a pause. “This is Paul, right?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“Paul H-------?” He asked.
“Nope. Wrong Paul,” I said.
“Oh, crap,” I heard his hand slap his forehead. “I got my Paul’s mixed up. You’re right next to each other in my phone.”
I hung up. Let's put aside the fact that this person alphabetizes his address book by first names. Was that my arch-nemesis? Keeping me up at night so I would be thrown off during the day? His voice sounded familiar, but I couldn't place it and definitely didn't regard this type of behaviour as cunning.
I felt so helpless. If this was my arch-nemesis, that would make me the good guy and if I was the good guy, weren’t good guys supposed to be brave? Show a little backbone? At some point, I drifted off to sleep.
Woke to the yappy dog yapping away upstairs. The yapping seemed harmless enough, but with my new found paranoia, it had a dark and evil undertone to it that I did not previously hear. I went out for a walk. There was a large warehouse adjacent to my condo development that often sat silent. Not on this night. I walked by a large door designed for delivery trucks. Strange noises emitted from the warehouse, I put my ear against the door. Cries from what sounded like animals echoed through the cracks in the door. A thud as though something was thrown against the door made me jump back. I walked through the maze of walkways. Ahead of me, a woman dragged a teenaged boy up a flight of stairs, his feet flopping uselessly, his eyes shut. A body. On closer inspection, a wheelchair sat empty at the base of the stars. The woman returned for the chair, narrowed her eyes at me.
Everything had an air of threat to it during the night.
The darkness receded, the sun rose.
I counted 20 cameras on my way to work. 20 CCTV cameras in public spaces documenting our movements from one place to another under the guise of protecting our safety. Mobile devices that tracked our locations masquerading as telephones. Suspicious security guards watching bank transactions. Why were there so many mirrors in The Lighthouse shopping centre I walked through everyday? There must be cameras behind those mirrors, similar to interrogation rooms in police stations. Our every step tracked, monitored and recorded.
Funny thing when you think you're being followed. Kind of feels like you're on television or in a movie. The difference: What you were watching was fictitious. When you believe you are the subject of someone else's reality TV show, it makes you wonder just how real is your life.
Yes, this was the state of my mind at this point.
Walking along the street, there were just too many people. Too many potential suspects that could be following me. I was becoming increasingly paranoid. I turned down an empty alleyway, slipped into an unused doorway.
Footsteps. A man appeared in front of me, someone I did not recognize. Suspicious eyes.
“I saw you run around the corner,” he said. “I always wonder what people are doing hidden in the cracks of the city.”
More confused than anything else, I pushed past the man. Ventured out on to the main sidewalk. He followed me. I walked faster and he walked faster. This was taking curiosity to a different degree. I decided I would be safe in a large crowd and entered into a square where people ate lunch and enjoyed the unseasonably warm weather. He hung around for a while but soon left.
I used the public bathroom to wash my face. As I ran the sink, the fluorescent light above my head blinked and went out. A sign?
“Hey bub,” a voice said from a stall. “No more paper in here. Could you grab me a couple of spare squares from another stall? Come on, bub. Help me out.”
The light above my head blinked back on.
Outside, I tripped on something on the sidewalk. A large duffel bag was sitting abandoned. People walked around it, ignoring it. I was drawn to this bag. What if it was a bomb of some kind. I shook away those thoughts, my paranoia really was getting the best of me. This bag was for my benefit. I unzipped it very slowly. Unfolded the flap. Inside was an old laptop computer. After a moment, I realized this was my old laptop computer, the one that was stolen a few years ago. I put it back in the bag, grabbed the handles and headed home.
More pacing. The laptop sat on my kitchen table. The empty duffel bag by the desk. The door bell rang, I nearly jumped because I was so into my head, my thoughts ping-ponging through my mind.
I opened the door with the chain on. A blonde man stuck his droopy eye in the slight opening I allowed.
“Mr. Dore?” He asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
He handed me an envelope. Once I grabbed it, he said, “You’ve been warned.” And he left. I locked the door, ripped open the envelope. Inside was this letter, which I have recreated here:
Your blog was brought to my attention. Within the confines of your online world, you have created a gross misappropriation of my character. All those years ago, I provided my services for you and found the culprit who stole your safe and your computer. Let us put aside the fact of the true identity of the thief. This is immaterial.
I never received payment from you. Included with this letter is an invoice for my previous services as private detective (plus interest) and my current services as your arch-nemesis, a position you requested through Craigslist.
I expect payment within 30 days or you will be speaking to my lawyer. Also expect more arch-nemesis-like behaviour.
Wallace Crabtree, esq.
“Crabtree,” I scoffed to no one in particular. “It's on!”
Now I had a real enemy.