April 9, 2002


There’s something wrong with my email program. It was working fine until I decided to upgrade. Never upgrade unless you absolutely have to.

Everything seemed okay until I received this bizarre email from my ex-girlfriend Barbara. It was an invitation to a party she was having. At first I thought it was just some generic invitation, but once I started reading I realized this couldn’t be true.

It went:

The only reason I’m inviting you to my party is because I’m concerned that if I don’t invite you, you’ll hear about from someone else and realize I don’t want you to come. Which I don’t, of course, but I can’t let you know that because it makes me look like a person who was hurt by you, which I am, only I can’t bear for it to seem so. So I’ve decided to pretend I want you to come, when really I’m praying you have the good sense to stay away.

Barbara had never sent anything like this before. It’s not her style. Her style is to pretend nothing happened. So I figured it must have been a mistake, that Barbara wrote it as some kind of therapeutic exercise but got carried away and accidentally clicked SEND. It happens. And if it happened in this case, Barbara must have felt awful about it. To be exposed in this way is her worst nightmare.

The more I thought about this, the sadder I became. You don’t stop caring about someone after a certain number of months apart. And I couldn’t help imagining the moment Barbara recognized her mistake.

It took me a good hour to write a response. I kept typing things and deleting them. My idea was to try to convince her between the lines that her email hadn’t been a mistake, since I hadn’t realized it was a mistake and since my reaction was the best possible reaction to such an email, mistake or not. In the end I was left with just four brief sentences:

I received your email today. More than anything, I appreciate your candor.

Suffice it to say, I will refrain from coming to your party.

Be well.

When I sent this I believe that I had done a good, caring thing. Certainly I never dreamed it would elicit the reaction it did:

I have an idea, sweetie. Why don’t you bring your new girlfriend along and fuck her on my couch? I think everyone would enjoy that immensely.

Then you can feel bad about it, and tell everyone how badly you feel, particularly since we used to have sex on that same couch.

This was too much. It was as though it had been written by someone other than Barbara. Not that Barbara would never think such things. In fact I’m sure she would. But I couldn’t believe she would tell me about them.

I went into my OUT box to re-read the email I’d sent her, for I thought that maybe I’d said something hurtful between the lines, not intending to.

This was a dead end. My email to her was nothing if not respectful.

Then, after reading Barbara’s email again, I scrolled down, intending to read her original email, the invitation. Right under her latest email, in the place where my email to her should have been, was this:

> If you don’t want to invite me to your
> party, don’t invite me.
> Like I fucking want to come to your
> party. What for, so you can find new ways
> to shit on me?
> It’s only because I’m a fucking idiot that
> I hold out hope that you’ll one day
> treat me like a human being and
> stop blaming me for what was nobody’s
> fault.

I immediately recognized these sentiments: they were my thoughts on receiving Barbara’s first email. In other words, this was the email I would have sent had I sent the truth. Just as Barbara’s emails were the truth. We had been telling each other the truth, without intending to do so, or even realizing it.

I knew then not to respond to Barbara’s latest email, though lord knows if I did or not.