The Internet was in its infancy when I logged on to a sprawling online community called LambdaMOO, a virtual world built entirely of words, where members took whatever form they pleased. My friend Manimal was half-man, half-leopard. MugWump described itself as “gelatinous amoeba-type goo.” Gang_of_Eight appeared as a group of people moving about in concert, often arguing amongst themselves. My character, Melanie, had breasts that swelled a cup size or two as time went on.
It’s all a game, I told myself. It wasn’t real. So what if my heart pounded when RazorJack, a virtual cowboy with steel grey eyes, a rapier wit, and a heart the size of Texas, strode into my character’s circle of friends? No way I could fall in love with him. I was happily married with children. A romantic relationship with him — virtual or real — was out of the question.
My feelings paid me no mind. I ached to be with him. For the first time in my life, love songs on the radio made sense. He and I spent hours together online — hours I should have spent working. (My only internet connection was at my office.) I often pretended I had to work late so I could be with RazorJack.
I was wracked with guilt. What was I doing to my kids, my spouse, my marriage? I kept trying to leave the virtual world, but I kept crawling back. RazorJack understood. He supported me and was willing to let go if I was. I wasn’t willing. I clung to our relationship.
I lost my job because of the time I spent not working. I lost my wife when I realized why I wasn’t happy at home. I lost RazorJack when I told him I was only pretending to be a woman.
This article appeared in The Sun, Issue 415, July 2010