by P.R.Banks

I have been browsing the web again. Hunting around the pages and seeking something, just don't ask me what. I just hunt around the pages, taking especial note of people's 'home' pages, and study things. I have touched on this before, namely that I find some pages difficult to read and others are a sucrease from the world.

But the pages I have the most trouble both reading and relating to are the ones dealing with the succesful finding of 'True Love' across the net. I am sure you will have met them, the more uninteresting ones rapidly descend into cloying displays of affection that you have to wonder why they are up on the net. Is it some form of public gloating? A 'look what I have' display? These kinds of pages are easy to deal with and ignore.

Yet there is still the rarer kind that I find hard to deal with. The kind where the reasons for loving someone are explored, explained. How people found each other, showing that random chance is a dominating factor, and in general a more thoughtful approach. These I understand more, they are exploring and learning about themselves. Seeking to know their compulsion. Which to me is wise because to know your compulsion is to understand it, and once you understand it you have power over it - should you ever need to have control of it instead of it controling you.

Yet I still find these pages difficult to read. Oh not in any great way, if you were watching me reading them the chances are fairly good you wouldn't notice any great change in my reading patterns. Much as I find them difficult, they interest me. There is a fascination in me for the things I dislike. What they do do is make me remember.

I went on a trip a little while back. Nothing spectacular for most people, just a sorta around the world trip. But it was a momentus one for me. It was my first time on a plane, first time out of the country and first time that I would be almost totally beyond the reach of relatives or family. I would be relying on myself to handle everything. And I did.

Getting the passport arranged, selecting clothing and working out route details were all things I did by myself for myself. I was slightly worried about how I would handle flying, especially given that I had decided to go on an especially long and arduous trip for the first time in a plane. In retrospect I shouldn't have worried. Not only do I handle boats and motion sickness in general well but I love doing looney things in flight simulators. Sufficiently looney that most people watching me play are convinced that I am slightly mad.[1]

Perhaps I am.

Anyhow I coped with the physical side of travelling just fine. I had pre-planed everything to a reasonable degree and had built a very generous safety margin into my plans. Even the meeting of friends I handled fairly well. I didn't seem to bungle any of the first contacts sufficiently to make them hate having me around.

So I met them. The people I had been chatting to via the net for a few years. I could faces and actions to the names. When I read their email I could put their voice and inflexions to the wording. These sorts of things are important to me, not just because I enjoy the physical contact side of it. ( Actually seeing someone smile at a comment is a little more satisfying than watching them type that they are smiling at a comment.) More because I like to know my friends in more detail than they can provide via text.

I like to see the unconcious reactions, what the body language is telling me. I consider it important to at least have a feel for that, it can be so hard to correctly gauge what someone is saying without that. Mis-communication results so easily. But I had built up images of these people in my mind, of how they would react and act. For the most part they were right, but wrong in some startling places. With one exception, one person I had judged just right.

Now I make no bones about it, I like this person. She has been a good friend over the years and I hope I have been the same in return. But at the same time I also knew that she could be quite infuriating. Sulking, a degree of paranoia and a small mix of spite can make a fairly nasty combination when directed at you. What I had hoped was that such was a result of the mis-communication the net brings and that, in person, my intent and meanings would be clearer.

To an extent it was. However my original judgement, that this person would drive me batty for extended periods of time, remained. But that was surmountable. Comprimises and workarounds could be sought to allow me my sanity. But both sides had to want it and I don't think the other side did. If they had offered such a sign I was prepared to meet halfway. But they didn't and instead I kept a friend, at a distance.

But now they inform me they are leaving everything familiar behind. Upping roots and moving on, something had happened and they wouldn't tell me what. (That hurt, that after all we had talked about shared I couldn't be trusted with this.[2]) After trying to get them to talk to me and understand, which they refused to do, I prepared myself.

I have a process I go through when I think I am loosing someone, be it friend or family.[3] I start to try and remember things, I isolate myself a little and I grieve. Not for the other person but more for myself, for at the core I am an inherently selfish creature. I grieve not so much for what has been but for what might have been. I grieve for the times, things and possible futures we could have shared - in whatever way. I mourn the loss of those opportunities for myself.

So in a way I find these pages hard to read, partly because I am jealous but, mostly because they remind of things that haven't happened. Things that could have happened and I mourn their loss, if only the loss of fantasies. Often I think myself a little silly for that, after all why should I be mourning the loss of events that never happened?

But then in today's world isn't better that somebody mourns the dreams that pass by, even if only a little?

[1] I like flight simulators. Dunno exactly why, although I could talk for a while about dreams I used to have when I was young. I enjoy doing dumb things in them and seeing what I can get the simulator to do. In the old Interdictor, for the Acorn Archimedes machines, game the most detailed and fun obstacle was the bridges.

The game was structured around a river valley with barges ferrying supplies up and down the river. (The enemy had a limitless supply of barges, which was a little frustrating.) So you had to interdict the barges, enemy planes and then raid their runways. However the enemy wasn't too smart so long as you didn't go near a runway you could spend lots of time happily buzzing barges. And the bridges.

Initially my brother and I tried flying under the bridges, then through the bridges by following the road. Then we tried flying upside down doing these maneuvers. Finally we tried, in a fit of careful timing to fly upside down, under the bridge, while a barge was coming through which would neccesitate a rapid climb after you had passed to avoid the barge's superstructure.

We perfected that and then moved onto other tricks. Like unpowered landings, fighting the enemy aircraft with engines off and other general fun. Flight simulators are definitely a treat for me.

[2] I attribute special meaning to the word friend. If I call you it it is because I trust you, and to a degree respect you. I don't trust easily, never have and I don't think I ever will. In a fit of unconcious standardisation I expect everyone else to hold to the same standards. It jars me when people don't conform to this standard of mine.

[3] This is because I learned of what, I think, is an old Roman tradition. Namely that someone is not fully dead so long as they are remembered by the living. So I try to remember my friends when they leave me.

Philip R. Banks
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