- I, Spy
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[End Page 22]
My friend Megan is my lifeline, the only person I can tell about my nocturnal cruising of the cyberworld—not porn sites or chat rooms but my lover’s e-mail accounts and phone logs, where I can see whom he’s phoned, hear his messages. I visit them as a laudanum addict of another era might take a sip. I log on, take a look, log off. No harm done, except that I have the faint, disturbing sense that I am losing my mind. Slipping away. Become a cyber-specter, haunting someone else’s life. [End Page 23]
“I used to be a person who could make dinner,” I tell Megan when I phone her that evening. It’s the first week of December, a week after Geoff moved out, and outside my window, Brooklyn is tender with snow, the sky an indigo blue.
“That’s why God invented takeout,” she says. “Don’t worry about it.” I can hear her frying something in the background, the hiss of oil in a pan, a child’s babble.
“I think I may be having a nervous breakdown,” I tell her.
“You’re not having a nervous breakdown,” she laughs.
“Um, yes,” I say calmly. “I think maybe I am.”
Megan is my only real friend in this city of eight million, but increasingly I tell her not about my life and loves but about Geoff’s, which have begun to interest me more than my own.
“I know more about him now than I ever did when we were living together,” I tell her. I know, for instance, that the day after he left me, he contacted an old girlfriend and proposed they see a basketball game, only to find that she has a boyfriend now. The following Sunday he went to a cocktail party in Carroll Gardens, where he ran into some friends and invited them for lunch; that Monday he attended a lecture on Black Mountain College and, when he got home, negotiated on Craigslist for the purchase of an antique velvet couch. On Thursday he went to the Hamptons and dined with a friend who runs a family foundation. Late that night he responded to three matches online and wrote to one who’d not replied, asking, Did I say something wrong? (His vulnerability pained me.) On Friday he e-mailed me about bills, then went to a rehearsal with his quartet. On Saturday he woke at dawn in pain. I know because he started calling Duane Reade and his rolfer in a flurry of calls between 7 and 8 am, two full hours before he’s usually awake. In the space of that week, he’d ordered a six-pack of porn flicks and signed up for an erotica site.
“How do you know all this?” Megan asks.
“I listen to his phone messages,” I say, “and I read his e-mail.”
She is silent on the other end of the line.
I laugh, trying to make this seem like a typical Info Age breakup ritual, which for all I know it is. “It’s not as crazy as it sounds,” I say.
“I think maybe it is,” she says. I picture her familiar mouth. A little hyphen of doubt. A blend of disapproval and sorrow.
I remind her that Susan Sontag read her lover’s diary and even wrote entries in response. Unapologetic in her curiosity, Sontag claimed that [End Page 24] diaries are public documents, “social texts” meant to be read, as arguably our whole lives are now. Sontag actually said, “One of the main (social) functions of a journal or diary is precisely to be read furtively by other people, the people (like parents + lovers) about whom one has been cruelly honest only in the journal.”
“It’s a little like being God,” I explain, defending myself by reference to a higher order—religion, philosophy. “You can see everything but can’t change the course of events.”
“It’s a little like being the...