HELLO INTERNET BOY #28: Bye bye Bob

At my sixteenth birthday, I invited my school friends to come to my house at Maianbar, which is a little town in the middle of the Royal National Park. To get to Maianbar is a long drive from the nearest point of civilisation, so my bright idea was to pick up people in my dad’s boat from Cronulla wharf, which would be both faster and also a fun boat adventure ride. I assumed we’d have to do two trips, but my mate Bob who also lived in Maianbar, offered to pick some people up in his tinny. My dad’s boat was a nice big smooth thing with seats, while Bob’s tinny was small and metal and sounded like a drum and a small dog. The people who got in my dad’s boat sped off into the distance, the boat cleaving through the water like a hot knife through yet more water. Bob’s boat however climbed the choppy waves and landed with a thump, forcing the terrified girls to scream and hold on desperately. I was in Bob’s boat, and remember thinking ‘Hmm, must be really choppy, what a shame.’ Eventually Bob hit a wave hard, and instead of climbing over it, we went through it, the entire ocean rushing into the boat, drenching everyone from head to toe. The girls in the boat shrieked, makeup running, clothes gone see-through immediately. It was a sunny, yet deeply chilly spring day. From then on, the entire trip was just the boat hitting wave after wave, the only sound the rush of sea-water, the struggle of the motor, the deep thumping of the boat’s metal hull slapping the water like a maritime themed Fifty Shades of Gray, and the sound of teenage girls screaming.

When we arrived, the girls were hustled off to find new clothes and Bob and I tied up the boat. “Wow, must have been super choppy’ I said to Bob. Bob shrugged. ‘Nah, I was just having fun driving the boat at the waves as fast as I could.’ This is one of my favourite memories of Bob, and also an accurate snapshot of his personality. Bob definitely has a tendency to drive his boat straight at the waves if he needs to. After lunch, my friend from school Danielle decided she wanted to go swimming. Nobody else wanted to go with her, because the water was freezing. This didn’t perturb her, and she put on her swimming costume and then looked at Bob, who she’d only just met, and said ‘Come swimming’. He did.

Now they are married and have two children. Yep, all thanks to me.

This story is relevant because as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Bob and I played Alleria together as teenagers, and both him and Danielle and I met people from the game together, travelling to Canberra for weird parties. He’s always been a part of the real life part of this journey, always been roughly an hour south from wherever I’m living. But now on Sunday, I’ll be farewelling Bob and Danielle and their kids as they leave the country to go and live in Seattle. They’ll be making the transition from friends who I always feel bad about not seeing very much who live super near, to friends separated by all the oceans in the world. They will be transferring from real life friend into digital, more people who will be on opposite routines, drinking alcohol when I wake up, waking up when I go to sleep.

I’m super, super excited for them, and quite in awe. Doing this kind of dramatic, life changing adventure is impressive enough, let alone with two small children who probably aren’t super helpful with moving large boxes. I don’t know. I plan to go and visit them in Seattle, at some murky, distant point in the future. I also feel that due to my family’s lifestyle, I expect people to go away for large periods of time – but it will be interesting watching this transition happen. It will be interesting watching them turn into internet people. I am going straight from their farewell lunch to a conference, so it will be interesting to see how I go. Historically I am very controlled at farewell parties because I don’t really believe they are happening, but also strangely emotional at farewell parties of people I don’t know well (why do I keep going to stranger’s farewell parties is another story).

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HELLO INTERNET BOY #27: this is hard

to be honest this project has become hard and i’m not entirely sure why.

It’s difficult to evaluate a situation when you’re in the middle of it, like when everything is on fire, you know that everything is on fire, but you might not know why yet, that it was old Mrs Henderblurgh falling asleep with a cigarette in her bed. That is a massively melodramatic metaphor, but my point still stands. This project has become hard. I don’t believe in writer’s block – i’ve never sat down and not been able to write what I want. But in this case, it’s not so much that I’m sitting down and not being able to produce the words, it’s that the project feels like it doesn’t want to be written. There’s a sense of finality to the experiment – I went overseas and I met my internet friends and they transmogrified into real person friends and that’s that. The process seems so normal, it almost seems unremarkable. Not that they’re unremarkable, just that they’ve become a more coherent part of my life, a more private part. Before this, they existed only on social medias and websites. They seemed part of the world, partly owned by everyone. Now they are like the majority of my friends, folded into a more private seam of my life. Now that I’ve written about meeting them, it’s difficult to write beyond that.

Perhaps.

or perhaps it is because my confidence was shaken quite severely after I received some feedback from one of the stories I posted, which upset its recipient. It was all resolved, it was all as honest as mistakes can be, but it made me second guess the practice of writing about other people, about filtering a life into a story. It made me remember the heady days of fiction, where nobody can be hurt because it’s all make believe, all untrue.

But the best way to solve things like this is to write through them, and write about them, so I’ll just keep writing and see what happens.