text > Contact me ASAP (critofiction)

From: Ion_creanga@aol.com
To: undisclosed-recipients;
Subject: CONTACT ME ASAP
Reply-To: info@contimporary.org


Dear Mr.
Please permit to introduce my humble self to you. I am Mr. Ioan Creanga, the Director of foreign remittance department of the Central Internet Café of Bugeac. I 'm 41yrs old and I got your email address on the Chambers of Commerce address list and my confidence reposed on you to contact you. I hope you read my letter Carefully and reply me immediately, and although we have not met before but I suggest that this message will bring us together.

What I am about to relate to you, Mr., took place a while ago, sometime in the late nineteen nineties. It was the time when my nomadic people were first spotted as they moved in scattered groups over the barren map of Bugeac, hunting and gathering food. Today, in two thousand and eight, those days seem to me so far away, as if neither I, You Mister, nor anybody else had ever lived through them. I like to call those last years of the last century the swooshing nineties, and this is because the first thing that comes to my mind are those Adidas windpants that my people began to wear on special occasions. We have been told by those wfuteho spotted us that we were living in a historical moment, and that their discovery would put us on the right path leading to Progress: a new word that made as little sense back then (in the second) as it does now in the third millennium. Back then we still thought that this word was the name of some remote village. I still remember the disturbing rustles that those pants left behind us, escorting us everywhere like sentinels, as we were looking for the new path. We acquired the custom of wearing swooshy Adidas pants from our visitors from the cold, who to our uneducated eyes all looked the same. They wore two pair of shirts (one regular long sleeve beneath a button-up one), a tagged baseball cap, a pair of white sneakers called Keds, which peeped confidently at us from beneath their blue-jeans and Adidasses. However, the biggest blow to our burgeoning imagination was delivered not by the Keds that these kids wore, not even by their three-striped windpants – these we learned, soon enough, to manufacture ourselves from a special type of fabric that produced also an additional amount of electricity, as we moved along our latitude – by far, the biggest impact on us was by a new object, something that the visitors carried in their backpacks. It wasn’t the bottle of water that they carried fearing dehydration but the Computer and the Diskette. This black square thing together with the floppy disc – which we initially thought of as being fodder for the latter – would soon acquire almost a totemic significance. Especially when we learned that the plastic shell of the diskette hid from our narrow and restless eyes a transparent disk, which – we were told – could store on its surface the entire myth of our ancestors – that is up to 1.62 MB of data. Many of us were initially reluctant to believe it, but they proved it when, one day, a visitor inserted one of these diskettes into his PC and showed us Us – us and our backward world as it appeared on his shiny monitor. Us finally gave up. From that day on, Mr., we stopped checking our nets or following prey, and began instead to hunt in small groups scattered all over the dry Bugeac map for a Computer that would show Us to us over and over again. The point of culmination was reached when the visitors told us that their brightest minds had just discovered a new unexplored and virtually endless land called Internet, encouraging us to relocate our hunting and gathering skills and tools from the plains of Bugeac to those of the World Wide Web. Sometimes, when the spirits of our ancestors looked down on us, assisting us in tracking down one of these PCs, which usually were hiding in one or another of the visitors’ cabins, we would ask from our settler guest permission to see this new land, and when the visitor agreed to take us for a ride and to show us the wilderness of Cyberia, he first welcomed us inside his warm, clean hut and then was kind and patient enough to allow the bravest among us to feed his computer with some special fodder mixture that consisted of strings of figures and letters. By today’s standards that computer may be describe as a memory-starved megalosaur that inched along at only 16Mb of RAM, (one of the prime factors of its extinction according to IBM’s law); but to us it seemed fast. After throwing at it some username and password forage the Computer would begin to masticate it slowly making noisy dial-up rumbles with its tranquilized modem and would began to carry us sluggishly into the Internet, which at that time, Mr., resembled a sleeping domain, a virgin dry tundra covered by young and tender dotcoms, which like saplings planted here and there were still enjoying plenty of light, not yet concerned with the future impatiently awaiting them – a time yet to come: a time when each and every little dot would have to struggle fiercely in order to make it to the sunlit top of Google’s search algorithm.

Our first encounter with Internet filled our hearts with hope, for we saw in this new steppe infinite possibilities for hunting, trapping and gathering. During our daily wanderings in search for food, which became harder and harder to obtain, and which we sometimes had to wrestle from the snarling muzzles of the thylacines – we never forgot about the new steppe. We kept our nets wide-spread and our bows bent in case we spotted a computer, a diskette, or at least one of those usernames and passing words. And the day came. During one of our incursions, we came across a hut that bore on its metal door a shiny sign that read Inter-Net Café. We rushed inside and here we saw for the first time people of our own resemblance and image; their dusty and weather-beaten faces joyfully bathing in the cool gleam of dozens of computer monitors, allowing their gold-capped yellow teeth to catch bluish rays from the flickering surfaces of the screens. Looking at those virtual net-weavers, hunters and trappers, who seemed so self-absorbed and even lost in that foggy dimness infused with a strong smell of polymer wrapped in a subtle odor of animal dung, we realized that this was the Place. Having been assisted by one of the main net people (whom we begin to call Net Chief) all of us exchanged everything we had on us – our patronymics – for a brand-new “@” packaged and sold by a company called “Aol,” and after being given in an envelope the much sought after username and password (and having first been warned to keep this Information private and not share it with each other) we were told that from that day on we were to be called Users. I began to repeat my password and my username like a mantra, and the more I murmured that secret mixture of letters and figures the more I began to feel somehow special and different from the others. Today, Mr., I realize that it was that event that set us on the path to the remote village of Progress. In that short time we made a giant leap on the evolutionary path of the human race, a jump from Belonging to a grey mass of huntsmen, trappers and gatherers to Being part of a giant community of users scattered throughout the entire surface of the Google map. The most interesting thing is that our jump was not like that of the people from the cold who followed their path methodically. Initially they lived in scattered groups like ours, fighting each other for more food. It was their Church that had gathered them into a large and, on the surface, undiscriminating catholicity: at first, sermonizing with blessed words and then proselytizing with holy fire, burning their bodies on the stake for the sake of their spirits; but at a certain point in their history the Church had turned the purifying reformatory torch inside them, burning this time their spirits for the sake of their bodies, converting them into self-conscious and responsible Individuals, fully equipped to play their current all-body-and-spirit-consuming roles as users. Theirs was a logical resolution. We, in our turn, managed to avoid the baptism by fire and to pass over the subjective or individual stage altogether; we made a historical shortcut – a jump, from a Community of gatherers and hunters straight into a Community of users.

At that time, however, I was not thinking much about my position on the evolutionary path. As soon as I found myself settled in front of my Unit – a Pentium clothed in a grey polymer – my crooked fingers, used hitherto to perform only rough and dirty work, began timidly to strike the warm panel keys. I was under the impression that the faster I moved my hands across the keyboard the brighter became the blue glow of my monitor. This experience reminded me of the Fire, which had been our computer before we were discovered. It was from the fire, or more precisely, from its Spirit that we learned about the weather, the succession of the seasons, the proximity of predators or the paths of animal migration. The fear of fire used to be so great among us that we never dared to eat or drink before offering to the fire our first and best piece of meat and the first drops of vodka. The new experience was similar in many respects except perhaps for the missing smell of burning larch and the presence of a prohibitory sign above the door: “No Food or Drinks Allowed!” My first experience with the computer was indeed an intimate and mysterious one, and I realized that this was also caused by the mysterious ambience of the net cabin, or Facility, as the Chief netman asked us to call it. As soon as he saw me finally seated in the plastic chair he left to assist other trappers, leaving me to detangle on my own this new User-Unit-Facility mesh. I looked at the multiple buttons, signs, and icons thinking which ones to press first, and if it weren’t for another user who seemed more experienced, who knows how much time I would have spent looking at the display that displayed to me my pale gray face. He showed me how to activate my browser and helped me to open my new e-mail account. After we logged in – he turned his face so as to show me that he did not want to know my magical letters and numbers – he briefly explained how everything worked, and before he left, told me to push on a little square called Inbox.

As I was wondering to whom in the world I would send my first electronic message, I Clicked on that Inbox as I was advised and a strange thing happened. As soon as I pressed the little box an icon popped up informing me that I got mail. Who might it be? Even now after the informational Deluge, it seems reasonable enough to ask such a question: nobody but me, and perhaps the Net Chief (the network administrator) knew of my new possession, for in my naiveté I thought of this new means of communication in the pre-historical terms of sender, courier, and receiver. Oh, Spirits! Today I realize how ill informed I was in the matters of hard and software machines and protocols. It turns out  that “user 1” (supposedly human) opens the MUA, which in turn asks permission to contact the SMTP and, if the permission is granted our encoded letters begin their trip, pausing at each of the stations awaiting them: TCP, MTA, ISP, FQDA, DNS, POP3 (to mention the most important ones), until “user 2,” on the other end of this hard twisted yarn presses his own Inbox and opens the electronic dispatch. And, in spite of so many parts being involved, the e-mail – I was told – travels like a flame. It is not that the traditional mail used by my people did not involve many components and links, but at least I could console myself with being able to see, or at least to imagine one of those folks and how they used to set a fire, to beat a stretched okapi skin, or to carry the message in a stone pipe, a knife, a clay tablet, or as a wrapped fish; more recently we used bags that we filled with paper. And it was easy for me to picture the messengers as they burned, stroked, pushed or dragged the messages across our arid and flat steppe. I could visualize them in my head as they moved from one camp to another, but now – let me ask you Mr. – what picture does your mind have of those SMTP or FQDA protocols?

I clicked on my Inbox and I found two messages. As it turned out the first e-mail came from the dotcom operators, who congratulated me (from behind the dim screen of my unit) for becoming a user and joining their network. I decided to compose a response letter thanking the doting team of net-weavers for their kind attention, wishing them all good prey, much health and everything good in the future, but when I was about to hit the button I noticed at the end of their message a sign, warning me: “Please do not reply to this email!” I gave a deep sigh and pushed the crossed in the upper right corner of the window in order to get rid of the message. The PC, however, was kind enough to alert me …

offering me three choices: “Yes,” “No,” and “Cancel,” and since in our community we used to get usually only two choices – either a “Yes” or a “No” – the possibility of a third option set me in a state of canceled stupor, for I must confess I didn’t know which button to hit in order to please the Intel heart of my rented Pentium. I decided to try the new, so with a sudden shriek I clicked the button with both my sweating hands, then lowered my chin to the leashed gray object called Mouse. The three-choice icon disappeared, and I was content. But when I tried again to get rid of my poor unsolicited message, pressing as hard as possible on the little of the browser’s window, the same icon kept appearing again and again giving me three choices. “What a stupid option, this button is,” I to myself and clicked angrily on uttering a declarative , and since I press neither nor my file vanished into the darkness of the 's rotating platters, or maybe into the Navigator itself. I will never find out. Shortly after, I clicked on my  message, and here I  this letter, which left a profound impact on , and which in turn compelled to write to you . Here is the message:

From: <Tatyana20@yandex.ru>
Date: March 19, 1997, 6:10:50 PM EDT
To: Ion_creanga@aol.com
Subject: Meet me in Internet

How are you? My name is Tatyana. I from Russia, city Cheboksary. To me 20 years. I hope that when you receive this letter, you won't close it without signs of attention and interest. I am writing to you in order to suggest you to build love and romantic relations.

You may wonder why such attractive woman like me is still single. It is very simple answer at this question: I have not yet met the one who will turn upside down all my life. I need such man who will appreciate not only my body, but see the beauty of my inner deep world. You can believe me or not, but i am a woman-fire who can make your life more interesting and full of bright impressions. How do you like the idea of mornings' breakfasts in the bed, romantic walks on week ends, happy family evenings after working days? As for me I dream about it every day. I am tired to come at lonely home, to cook meal only for one person and to eat at loneliness and to go asleep at loneliness too. I want to come at home and to meet my beloved, to kiss him, to cook him tasteful meal, to feel secured and happy every monrning and every night. I will close this letter, but it doesn't ordinary letter, it is a call to build love and change your life to better and to forget about lonely days.

I will wait for letter with hopes in my heart

http://romance_hunting.com/happy

Good-bye

P.S. I shall answer with pleasure if you write to me on: Tatyana20@yandex.ru

I read this message slowly aloud, going at first from the right to the left, then from the bottom to the top, and finally from the left to the right and down to the very bottom. I stared at the flickering letters as I once used to gaze at the footprints left in our mud by animals, murmuring again and again Tatyana, Tatyana, Tatyana20, Tatyana20, Cheboksary.

Aside from her beautiful name and the touching story my gaze netted an amalgamation of blue underlined words set at the very bottom of the letter, in between a couple of slashes://romance hunting.com/happy. I can assure you that such a combination of words will intrigue every true hunter, and if the second word was incised on my body since early childhood, the first one – Romance – was relatively new. These two words brought back memories from my childhood. Long before talks about global cooling and the arrival of the backpacked computer, when I was still a baby, the first Bölkow Bo 105 helicopter covered in brown camouflage patterns brought our very first visitor. He said that he was from Anthropologie and this is what we began to call him. The grey-haired man who goggle-eyed at us through a pair of thick glasses while firmly holding on to his khaki hat, which was being requested by the helicopter rotors, greeted us shouting at the top of his lungs: meine Damen und Herren, Sie leben in der Natur! Few of us heard him and hardly anyone understood this sentence. It took almost an entire generation until these words fully reached us, and when they did, we realized that the roots, the birds, the bees, the trees, the honey and the eggs, the mollusks and the larvae that our women collected, as well as the fish and the birds, the ahools and the okapis, the mitlas and the thylacines, and even our hunting nets made from the inner bark of forest vines, and most importantly, our women – in short everything – did not belong to us anymore, but were part of a new registered domain called at first Natur and later simply Nature. When the chopper departed, Anthropologie started to follow us on our nomadic wanderings, attempting at opportune moments to stop us by encircling our temporary dwellings with little shiny yellow flags and hastening to measure us before we took off again. And when some of our youngsters went on, against the advice of the elders, and helped our guest to load and unload, to carry, and then to measure and catalogue the new realm with us as its moving attachment, seduced by the idea of owning a shiny tin box of Faber Castell pencils, a slice of Ritter Sport chocolate or a mouthful of Whiskey, they also got as a bonus the idea of “living in nature,” of being part of something too sublime and mysterious to comprehend. Romance, romantic or Romantisch, was that new attitude that had begun to spread throughout our entire domain like an epidemic. In former times – that is before that sunny day when the idea of Nature was unloaded from the helicopter – we also had something similar, something we all called Futere de minte. When our elders used to get angry at the most defiant of our youths, they would go around in circles showing the Ѱ-sign while shouting continuously: Nu va futeti cu minte blea! which literally translates: “don't copulate with your mind.” Today, Mr., I realize that this was our version of Romanticism, which our elders combated with a true Classicist passion, for they envisioned a great danger in the increasing predisposition of some of our youngsters to use their minds, instead of the proper organ, for sexual intercourse. Of course –meine Damen und Herren – they meant it allegorically, for what they rejected was the growing tendency to change the primary task of our heads. The younger-spirited rejected the age-old belief according to which the head is a just another part of the body which must be employed accordingly – as a carrier or support for our tools and utensils. Instead, they began to use their heads in order to weave fancies, to brood over fantasies and wishes, dreams and plans, intentions and objectives, goals and ambitions. With the arrival of the measuring man this process could not be prevented – our youths turned their heads inside-out (or, maybe outside-in) and, to put it in the words of Anthropologie: they made a step forward by beginning to breed, stock and carry in their heads (just beneath the nets and the traps) notions and ideas that did not have a necessary connection to the material world.

Most of my early adolescence I spent helping Anthropologie stick his yellow flags around us; to hold the measuring tape against our bodies as he took pictures; to set barometers and thermometers in every “critical” spot. This was also my education and from him I learned a lot of tricks that would soon prove helpful. When I was not helping him to contribute to the study of humankind I was keeping with my people’s routine, learning to weave nets and to make clubs and bows. In short, I prepared my path to adulthood. In the evening, around the fire, we all supplied him with his daily portion of words and stories about us, our ancestors and our spirits. And during the nights we (men) also used to chase girls and sometimes even married women, especially those who got lost on their gathering paths, or those who kept falling behind our seasonal routes. I must remind you that we were, back then, still in the barbaric state in which labor was gender conditioned, and our women blessed with the power to reproduce were performing various kinds of gathering, caring and carrying jobs. Sometimes, when I was lucky enough to capture, I would drag the inexperienced or lost gatherer into the bushes, snuggle her against me while holding her fast and begin gradually to lick her big toe and suck in between her fingers. After this she would usually give up, and we would spend the night under the mooning sky. At dawn we would open our eyes, look at each other like two strangers and rush back into what we, imitating our guest, began to call “the state of nature,” trying to catch up with the rest. These adventures played two roles: on one hand they cooled the heat of my young blood, but from another, they became a new collectable that I could add to my string of trophies and that at opportune moments we – that is my male friends – would brandish in front of each other. So it appeared and still appears to me that those special nights acquired their substance only afterwards, only later when I would share them with my friends, and it was on the condition that they be told and retold over and over again that they acquired a certain quality. This quality was like the thin layer of mold that we used to blow away before starting to gnaw at our winter supplies of wild carrot and potatoes, stolen from our collectively owned storage depot.

Sometimes we shared our night escapades with Anthropologie, for whom I worked in those days as an informant, proudly bearing the name “Source.” When one of us told him his story, framing it in terms of a hunting adventure, introducing at first the ingenious tricks and tools, the cunning that went into the setting of the trap, then proceeding to describe the proper act of mating in terms of taste, smell, shape, sound, and touch, Anthropologie – after staring long at the moon reflected in his Whiskey – would note down our gushes of words and emotions clustering them into clear-cut images, with categories at the top followed by precise definitions. After splitting with his forefinger our thick air that swarmed with scads of mating mosquitoes, leaving a clear contour of a ♡, he spoke to us about Love, describing it as an intense feeling of deep affection, a deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone. He repeatedly emphasized how much this affection is dependent on time and on memory, on local habits and customs, and how many times people in his village had expressed this feeling in art and literature. Not much of what he said made sense to us, for we were not yet familiar with the vocabulary. For instance, in regard to our night-time incursions and how pleasant it was to remember them, he used to explain in a low voice that our human awareness of time and space wraps our past experiences into a thin mnemonic layer which, as time passes, fossilizes and produces long-term memories, which are one of the main ingredients of love. When some of us asked him to explain what all this meant, he would go on for hours splashing us with unknown and to some insulting words, confusing us even more. For instance, he used to refer to one of his countrymen who had argued long ago that both time and space are a priori forms of intuition (an unknown to us sixth sense): “time and space,” he said, “are like two nets that each of us individuals, carries in, not on, his or her head, day and night, since early childhood, and without these tools we wouldn’t be able to catch and enmesh the reality around us.” Despite numerous efforts we could not grasp these two nets called Time and Space. We could not understand how could one of us carry these nets (which to begin with, were collectively owned) not on the top of our heads but inside them. How would they fit there?

To us Anthropologie was rather strange but he taught us many new words and stories that would be very helpful in the future awaiting us. He talked often about his village and the people who lived there. He would tell us, for instance, that their heads consisted of two vessels, and in order to illustrate this strange type of head he would pick up two baskets – woven by our women from strips of dried grass, which later were replaced by telephone wire – and place one on the top of the other. The basket atop, he called Consciousness, and here, he said, throwing his notebook inside, his folk kept their knowledge, judgments and thoughts.  The other basket, the one just below, he called the Subconscious – and here he would carefully place a stick or a stone – here his people stored their dreams, memories, and desires. We didn’t know, initially, what to make of this tale, and we had our reasons, Mr., for let’s say that his own head looked just like ours (with small differences of course) and it was one basket capped by one single khaki hunting hat, and not two. And even if we admitted that his people’s heads resembled two baskets, one topped by another, as he claimed, we could not understand why one would let his dreams and desires be covered by his knowledge and thoughts. Only later we realized that he wasn’t serious or that he was simply flying (he called that hallucinating) from too much Whiskey mixed with a type of uncultivated fungi that we used to poison our arrowheads.

As scraps of petrified memories were traversing my mind the monitor of my unit suddenly disguised Tatyana’s letter under a bright-blue sky branded with the tag “Windows 95” right in the middle. I started panicking and looking for help and the netman, who happened to be just behind my back, came and touched slightly the little plastic mouse, explaining that if one does not use the computer for a certain amount of time it goes to sleep. Tatyana’s letter came back from the dispersing fog of the screen saver and I caught myself looking again at the hyperlink http://romance hunting.com/happy. Thinking about my reply to Tatyana I re-visited in my mind my username and password to make sure I did not forget them. They were still there, hanging by a hinge on one of the corners of my memory. “There must be something,” I murmured, “about those nets and baskets in our heads, for how else would one store and carry so many letters and figures. He may have been right.” Then I remembered the day when the same Bölkow helicopter appeared from behind the tree tops, covering our bright sun with its noisy engine. As it hovered above our temporary camp one of the pilots threw at us a cargo net in which we started to load tools, books, samples, artifacts and finally the Anthropologie himself fastened to his belongings, and when the khaki iron bird vanished behind the loud clouds we found ourselves left face to face with Nature. I found out later that our first visitor from the cold returned home safely but soon became very distressed and had to join an anonymous club called “AA,” and this happened in part because when he began to put together his data from our empirically-tested dry steppe he realized that the final story of our ancestors did not match any of the approved theories on the structure of kinship relations.

After his departure many of us felt that the world around us had changed. Some began to spend time staring aimlessly at the new backdrop of nature whereas others felt that they were constantly and persistently watched – not by the spirits of the ancestors as before but by something different, something that was impossible to put in words. We were still following our corridors of predation as we did before, but our traps and nets began to shrink as many of us started to modify our diets, and instead of ambushing mid-size and large mammals, we engaged in seizing insects, fledglings or eggs, or diverse rat-sized creatures. But this stage of our evolution did not last long, for as I have already mentioned, soon we were spotted again and this time not from the sky but from above it. The new visitors from the cold began to arrive in parties of seven to ten. NGO (as we called them) were steering across our steppe while staring at their GPS. As I have already said, Mr., they were the ones who lured us again, and this time more persistently, with such words as freedom, progress, truth, love and food, encouraging us to try an easier and a more progressive life-style. They finally convinced us to relocate our hunting and gathering skills onto the steppe of Internet, which they carried in their backpacks next to the keys from their houses, and as soon as they settled down, they opened for their and our entertainment all kind of agencies: kiosks,  boutiques, stores, and of course the Net café, which was the most popular among us. Ghita Popa, one of our last leaders, who held multiple positions (commissar, brigadier and part-time shaman) had been, from the very beginning, extremely critical of the visitors’ intrusions. But when the second phase of our opening to the world began he was totally outraged, blaming at first our learned friend Anthropologie for opening our dry steppe first to these settlers, and later to the hordes of tourists, who escaped their taxations and elections and safaried our virgin steppe in search of Land Rover global experience; and on their breaks they made sure that they were having their rest within their camera lenses’ angle of view. “Why would they do that?” asked Ghita Popa in a husky smoked-out voice. “Because,” he continued “they want to prove to themselves and others that they are still alive?” And not that he cared much about those pioneers, for living in a continuous present he did not care about anybody, including himself; but he used to get very angry when he would stray by accident into the frame of their cameras, and end up serving as part of their background, as a prop that supported these visitors’ imagined lives. When he got drunk from our fermented honey vodka, kindly provided to us by a wild species of bee, he used to howl with sincere anger, “I would crush those damned Coolpix Nikons and PowerShot Canons on their two-basketed heads; they’re stealing my soul, they’re making me part of their imagined pixelled lives. But there is more to that,” he shouted. “Those ingenious settlers and data agropastoralists, instead of keeping their image-capturing traps to themselves, they give them to the Lechs, to the White, Black, and Red Ruthenians, and other undomesticated Wallachians, to make them settle down, to fool them into following a path leading to a village called Progress, where everybody will have food and live in love and freedom. And they get trapped into giving up their names, their nets and their traps, their real possessions, in exchange for the illusion that collecting, depositing and exchanging empty words, images, and sounds will make them happy. This is a conspiracy, oh my comrades, and I warn you that all this is done in order to let the settlers mark our domain, place little yellow flags on our beehives and termite mounds, and finally to take possession of our women.” I never approved of his harsh and hostile rhetoric, for in the end, I was and still remain a believer in the power of PC and I am still convinced that the village of Progress with all its promises could somewhere, in the infinite space of Internet, exist.

I finally gathered myself up and began to compose a reply to Tatyana. As I began to press the first keys with all my five fingers I pictured myself getting a good wife, from that steppe far more immense than ours, the historical home of all hunters and gatherers. I was in good spirits, for I was about to contact a higher and more progressive specimen of woman, a liberated woman, woman that was ready to follow an axman, a netman and bowman, on the new paths of Cyberia. Was this the promise of eternal love and happiness, of family and tasteful meals, of a much desired and peaceful family life? I did not know. Frankly, I was getting tired of my own home with these women of ours, who could only survive by gathering: roots, rootlets, wood, bark, leaves, flowers, nuts, bulbs, plants, uncultivated berries and fruits, weeds, seeds and greens, animal shit (for fire), several species of mushrooms (for flying), and also crabs, mollusks, some insects and larvae, honey from the wild bee. For that matter, they had gradually switched to collecting: pencils, erasers, yellow and rose sticky notes, discharged 35-millimeter black and white, or color film cassettes, initially metallic but later in plastic, black overexposed film attached to a Kodak or a Fuji reel, blue carbon or plain white paper that said something about us in a language we could not comprehend; and this was in the times when Anthropologie was following us along our corridors of predation. Soon with the arrival of the settlers, we all (hunters including) engaged in piling in front of our tents reddish or bluish Gatorade bottles (first glass, then aluminum and later plastic only), crumpled and wrinkled packs of yellow Camel or silver Marlboro Light, cans of Swanson broth or Campbell’s Soup, discharged Philips light bulbs, blown Michelin tires, exhausted exhaust pipes and oily oil filters, pieces of cork and rubber that bore the logo of Birkenstock sandals and much later: plastic, 1.6MB Verbatim floppy discs, then 650 MB CD-ROMs made of practically indestructible pure polycarbonate plastic, which we began straight away to use as silver platters, and later, when their storage capacity and number increased and when their hitherto colorless surfaces began to turn bluish-violet as if ripening we started to use them to catch bluish sunbeams, by hanging the 4.7 GB DVDs down from the trees and bushes. It was then that we also began to notice on our faces the first signs of those empty facial expressions worn like dresses, and those frozen, petrified smiles that we would occasionally see on the covers of forgotten magazines, smiles which looked like certain muscles had either atrophied or had simply refused to engage in a collective project such as facial gesticulation. Soon we would find our voices sounding in a higher more sarcastic pitch than usual. The most interesting thing, Mr., is that none of us ever remembered gathering these latter items, these voices and smiles. We just got them, I guess, following the “Buy One Get Two” formula. But I believed back then, as I do now, that there is no good without bad, and frankly I didn’t mind these new acquisitions, save, perhaps for those frightening smiles that many of us began to perform in our sleep; then again, I saw them as part of the bargain, especially after being reassured by those who had discovered us that these were necessary installments demanded by the ruthless spirit of the Market – a Spirit, which unlike ours was completely imperceptible, and this is perhaps why they used also to call It: the Invisible Hand.

With these thoughts in mind I began finally to type – slowly, at first, – learning to move each finger separately, as I remember Anthropologie did when he was recording our measurements on his Mercedes typewriter. In the first paragraph I expressed my sympathy with Tatyana’s cravings for the appreciation not only of her body but also of her soul, and how I also felt sometimes lonely eating in the nights by myself, with my suppers always depending on luck, or on various cryptids’ intelligence and dexterity in avoiding our nets, and that I was ready to build love, and to take a look into the deepness of her world. Then I wrote a few sentences about myself, about my skills as a hunter and trapper and how tired I was of our backwardness and that I was ready to take a new hunting job in the Internet followed by a wife who could also be a friend, for here in this dry steppe I could not afford to have one of each. I told her that I was ready to overcome my patriarchal and misogynistic conventions and habits for which we were often criticized by our settlers, and to be followed by a woman to every corner of the vast Cyberian steppes, for in my young and savage naiveté I thought back then of the world wide, wide web in terms of a square, the shape of the visitors’ laptops. I read my letter carefully, edited it slightly, replaced some words so that they sounded more literary, and then, after a quick over the body of the message, I lead my little to the button, pressing anxiously, with both , one corner of my tethered mouse. My unit thought for a while and notified me that my message had been sent.

I sighed in relief and thought that it would be nice to absolve the plastic chair of my weight, and to step outside for a gasp of fresh unheated air. Like computers, furniture was a recent invention in our steppe, and it took some effort to surrender our bodies to their curved surfaces. I walked towards the door, stepped outside, and as I made a couple of circles around the net cabin, picking up a few roots of wild carrot and munching at them with such gusto that it caused my stomach to make funny squeaking sounds, my heart started to fill with warm feelings of pleasant expectations. I instantly remembered Anthropologie’s stories about this feeling unknown to us, and I realized that it was Love I was falling into. I swallowed the last remains of my lunch then hocked a wad of reddish loogie on the white wall of the facility, and after spitting twice over my left shoulder I stepped back into the café walking confidently towards my unit. My unit, however, had been taken and I began to panic, fearing that the new user may have erased my letters. The netman came in quickly and reassured me that nothing could be erased or lost from the Internet even if one wanted it to be, then he sat me in front of another computer. I gently caressed the grainy polymer back of the mouse and the processor began to purr noisily waking up the operation system from its siesta mode. I clicked on the icon of the browser and the Netscape blossomed, leafing its windows in all directions of the screen. I got finally to my Inbox, logged in, and here I found a couple of letters. “That was quick,” I murmured and with a trembling heart I opened what I believed to be Tatyana’s replies to my letter.

From: "Terrell" <ufsojkeaid@flashnet.ru>
Date: April 15, 1977 2:55:04 PM EDT
To: undisclosed recipient;
Subject: Re.: Friendship
Reply-To: "Terrell" <ufsojkeaid@flashnet.ru>

 

Click Me!

I clicked! A new window popped up, and I saw her. Before my very eyes I saw Tatyana, I was ready to swear, and she was – naked! Naked – Mister – like a fish, like DNA, like a chip on one of the modules of this computer’s motherboard. Even today after so many years, I am still searching obsessively for proper epithets to express that shock to which I was exposed. And she was beautiful: nice slim body, long blonde (almost white) hair falling all over her slim shoulders, large (very large indeed) breasts (I was particularly fond of this part of the file), long well-shaped smooth legs, a very warm and well-intended smile on her pretty face which expressed so much of that motherly warmth we all lack; and her eyes, her eyes were so deep dark, almost black, like the Microsoft logo in the Welcome splash of the Windows 95 operating system. Her legs were slightly spread to reveal the nicely shaved equilateral triangle of her pubic hair – not the natural grown wilderness that I used to get tangled into when coming across women from my own ethno – but a well drawn geometric shape which disclosed a rosy vulva, bringing instantly to my mind that delicious Spam meat that I was offered by Anthropologie – a product, by the way, that would later become a popular addition to the local cuisine, especially when the missioners began to distribute it together with copies of their magazines that depicted naked humans and animals hanging out in a garden. What a nice color Tatyana’s labia were, and to me it signified youth, health, blossoming, strength, beauty, taste in short, Kultur. Its rosiness, something that I was unable to forget for many years, reminded me of apples, chafers, geraniums, mallows, cyclamens, rosemary, of watermelons and of our lobsters, especially after you pick them from the hot embers. And the more I looked at her the more I felt overfilled with joy and sweet desire, which expressed itself in pleasurable muscular contractions in that lower (Adidas covered) part of my body. I felt my blood going fast through all my members, and now when I have to describe that state of bliss, I imagine those unimaginable packets of data communicating through internetwork switching protocols, particularly when they gush – as often happens – from the domain server into the final layer of the remote POP3 flooding the protocol’s buffer and crashing the system. I felt guilt and took a look around, but the faces of other users were caught in the same blue-lighted nets set by their own screens. A thought had begun to take seed in my suspicious mind: “We have known each other for such a short time and Tatyana is sending me such an intimate piece of information about herself,” but I repressed it instantly, blaming my inborn patriarchal conservatism, my wildness and barbarism, and I understood instantly what true liberation is – that emancipation of women of which Anthropologie spoke to us with such enthusiasm. I decided that this is what the new free world looks like; true freedom and love must be expressed in its natural naked form, and this was a belief among the settlers which had originated with their Enlightenment, when they had first envisioned the village of Progress. Oh well, had I known back then, Mr., about such useful applications as Adobe Photoshop that come armed with an entire arsenal of roughing, smudging, sponging, sharpening, distorting, diffusing and other confusing filters, I may not have fallen for that girl.

But I didn’t . I dragged slowly the along Tatyana’s smooth legs, held it against her knee for a while and, when I went up reaching for her gorgeous breasts, the arrowhead thought for a moment (), and turned into a little , and then decided to the window and to open my message from my . When I clicked on the next message a new window popped up.

The new window made some serious infringements on my plan of action. When I was looking at Tatyana’s image I had been seriously contemplating sending her a picture of myself, and in order to play fair I was planning to pose stark nakedly before one of my friends’ cameras – a 35 Millimeters Pentax stolen from a drunk settler. But when I saw this picture and the face of Tatyana who looked as if she had dyed her blonde hair, I realized that my chances were getting slimmer. It is not that my manhood was too modest, Mr., but I could not compete on such a level. The effect of the picture sent me into a state of nervousness and I felt my organ shrink like a decompressed JPEG file after multiple “Save as…” operations. What did Tatyana want to say with this message? Was this a common practice among her people? I spent a couple of minutes in a state of frozen bewilderment; my dreams and plans for my future love crashed like an overtaxed Netscape Navigator browser.

But I decided to take action. Struggling with my inner agitation I decided to write back, and to tell my sweetheart everything about my distress, about those pure feelings that she had instilled in me, about my colonized and enchained soul that I felt with my every inch of my breast, about my love that was spreading and firming like that flimsy plaster powder, used by the settlers, when it comes into contact with water and turns into concrete gypsum; and how this hard solid mass was pressing against the ribs of my chest, about to break through.

I will absolve myself, Mr., of describing these personal states and will simply say that I checked my letter for mistakes and pressed again the already familiar button. Instantly, I must repeat: instantly, I was informed that I had another . That was fast, too fast even for these electronic nets.

From: "A." <collier@balloondelights.com>
Date: April 15, 1997 4:03:44 PM EDT
To: "Ion_Creanga@aol.com>
Subject: maybe u want to learn me better

I greet you
Let's be realists, I understand that you receive letters from many beautiful women, of course if this would be a matter of my will I would block your mailbox and you would receive only my letters and you wouldn't have other choice as to get married with me, of course I am just kidding, but we all know that there is a part of truth in any joke.

I know what you have on your mind and I want you to understand that nobody but me knows better how to make you happy

http://foundthelove.com/romantic

Bye

Nastya,

I was puzzled. The style of this new letter lacked that warmness and that romantic glow that I found in Tatyana’s message; it seemed to me to be somehow aggressive and demanding, but soon I figured out it was not sent by Tatyana – it came from Nastya. Who Nastya was I did not know but I clicked on the hyperlink hoping that it would open a trail that would lead me to Tatyana.

The unit’s browser opens slowly and before my eyes lies a new landscape, a jungle of words and pictures, and in this highly ordered wilderness I am to decide which path to take, where shall I start my chase. This chaos is classified in directories, which remind me of Anthropology’s long lists escorted by photographs and drawings. I read slowly through the alphabetical order, skipping directories and netting with my eyes only tiny chunks of this new ABC: Amateurs, Anal, and Asian; Blondes, Brunettes, Big Boobs, Big Cocks, and Big Asses; Celebrities, Cumshot, Deepthroat, Fat, Fetish, Fishnet, Gothic, Granny, Housewife, followed by Handjob, Hairy, Indian, Interracial, MILF, Nurse, Old Man; Public Sex and Puffy Nipples; then Redhead, Russian, Slim and Stacked, Secretaries, and finally Titjob, Toys, Vegetable, Wet, Zoo. This taiga that I am about to cross through seems impenetrable, and I am intimidated not so much by this new type of classification to which I have never been exposed, nor by the new and often unexpected relations in which certain categories enter, but by the richness of this new world. I come across nations and races that I have never seen; I discover new kinds of objects, gadgets, clothing, liquids, drugs, jobs, movies, and rare specimens of exotic flora and fauna. As I begin my expedition I realize that I must proceed methodically, so I decide to exclude from the very start those qualities that do not match the image that I formed and now I am carrying in my head. I am determined to follow only those designations that remind me of Tatyana’s features. I hit Blondes. A new window releases a few dozens of girls – all white like our first snow – but I decide to pursue only those with Dark Eyes, and Big Boobs. Each time my cursor takes a new path the browser spits a mouthful of new windows that tend to hide from my eyes the blue sky of my desktop. It appears that the windows are competing in a race; as if they challenge each other over which one will cover faster the distance from the far end of the cathode-ray tube’s electron gun to the finish line at the inner phosphored side of the screen; and the winner is… the winner is that window which manages to reach and occupy the uppermost layer of my unit’s screen. Why do I say layer? There can be no layers in a CRT display. A screen is simply an translucent skin that hides from our eyes another form of repression and exploitation. It conceals zillions of enslaved electrons that swarm hysterically in the tube, trying to escape the magnetized ions who have been trained to police diligently every inch of this oppressive vacuum, and when at certain pre-calculated intervals some electrons manage to break through the phosphorescent glass they find their freedom on the surface of our retinas. And from there nobody really knows what happens.

I hit again my mouse’s left button, which transfers my anger to the cursor. Now the entire screen looks like a hide and seek game, and it seems to me that some of these windows are not playing fair. The most aggressive ones outrun the slower ones, stepping boldly in front and spreading shamelessly their pink fields over the entire surface of the flickering desktop. I go through most of the qualities that I think my sweetheart possesses: I hit Big Boobs and Round Asses, Housewives and High Heels, then dive into Celebrities, Nurses and Secretaries; I even manage to check for a few available jobs – Tit, Blow, and Hand – but soon I forget as I am carried on by my quarry. At some point I think I see her – I swear…I swear, Mr., that I saw her face! I whip my cursor and when I am about to reach again to her luminous face, to her prosperous liberal bosom, to her precisely marked triangle… a damn runaway popup window jumps ahead frightening all the other windows causing them to retreat and stick to the background, and all this in order to tell me…

… I click OK. Not that I want their prize, I simply have to get rid of this annoying popup as soon as possible, but here comes the unpredictable: instead of disappearing the little window turns into a large and very solemn looking white page that colonizes again my entire screen asking whether I am with Visa or with MasterCard… How should I know? My outraged cursor spurs the crossed button in the upper right of the window, but it is too late – Tatyana is gone.  She disappears among a few dozens of multicolored windows delivered by the browser. There are no popup filters yet, and the windows breed like rabbits, making any further advance more and more difficult. I almost have to hack my way through so I decide to check again each window before I close it, but some refuse with stubborn determination. I delegate the cursor to subdue and surmount the most defiant ones but judging from the behavior of my arrowheaded companion it appears to be tired. Before we start to stalk again on a new trail I decide to find the way back to our base and set a camp in the more or less familiar area of the Inbox. When we finally find the way to our familiar window, I allow my cursor to chill down in the frigid shadow of the green Netscape logo, while I am thinking up a new strategy. What a peculiar expedition. You may start following one distinctive hyperpath, but then, at some point, you end up in shadows and dusks you wish you had never entered. I realize that I have lost my track when I come across deformed vegetables, shiny polished toys, horses, donkeys and dogs whose sad expressions reproach me with a sharp red-eye reflection of the camera flash. While my cursor is taking a rest I turn my head towards other hunters, trappers and gatherers who like myself have completely forgotten themselves in these whizzy escapades. Their faces absorb the luminescence of the shining units reflecting it back onto the shared drabness of the facility. Their image-thirsty eyes follow with confidence the sharp arrowheads of their cursors. I decide to turn back to the gleaming skin of my PC, urging my cursor to renew its energy, and together we go again through the list of emails in my Inbox. There is still hope. In the meantime the letters burgeon like the flies before the rain. We (the cursor and I) open them – one by one: Replica Rolexes, a new Patch and the password “dog48;” then follows Healthy Lifestyle, PetCare, Protection, Levitra,  Propecia,  CYTV, Viagra,  Anatrim, a piece of Advice from Oprah, some Oil & Gas Pipes in addition to Cialis, Prozac,  and Xanax, but – no message from Tatyana. I have tortured my mouse enough, and my cursor shows signs of exhaustion, turning more and more often into an hourglass, as if thinking hard if it will go on with me or not. Shortly it recovers, taking its normal sharp shape, and we leave the camp refreshed and in good spirits, encouraged by the clear sky of Windows 95, which gradually dissolves as we enter the jungle of multicolored windows. We decide to proceed randomly this time and we embark on the “PetCare” trail. A new window opens. I am looking at brand new sweaters, blankets, raincoats, PJs and 100% UV protection Goggles for dogs. I am about to leave this directory which does not interest me when from the far end of the cathode-ray tube a new window pops up informing me that I am eligible for a 80% discount on the latest Alex Max New York dog perfume and aromatherapy, if I sign up for one session with Pet Behavioral Therapy. My cursor slides towards the bottom of the page as if trying to sneak behind the remains of the blue sky that I have long ago left behind but I bring him back forcing him to seek the exit or find another entry. I have started to personalize my scantly-pixelled cursor: I beg Him to lead me to Tatyana. He is now the only being whom I am ready to follow, He is my only guide and ally in this strange and hostile world. Finally we succeed, leaving behind the false track, and the next window looks more promising. There was something about Fire in Tatyana’s message and I let the mouse tell my arrowhead guide that we need to change paths, but the cursor seems too tired or perhaps He is pretending by turning more and more often into a spinning two bulb glass, which reminds me of our Anthropologie’s friends’ heads. Suddenly, when we are about to enter the Secretaries, a window that I might have missed at the beginning of this safari, my browser vanishes from the desktop abducting also my guide, but not without leaving me a note on the flickering surface of the sky …

I give a deep sigh looking dumbly at the empty blue screen with everything else gone but the white clouds and the Windows sign. There is no trace of “My Computer” or that of the “Network Neighborhood,” not even of the “Recycle Bin.” I feel tired, and my eyes start to hurt. I stand up and step outside. The blurred image of Tatyana is still palpating in my mind as I was walk away from the closing Net Café thinking: “H0w her 1mage haunts me!  Wak1ng 0r asleep, she f1lls my ent1re s0ul!  S00n as 1 cl0se my eyes, here, 1n my bra1n, where all the nerves 0f v1s10n are c0ncentrated, her dark eyes are 1mpr1nted. Here – 1 d0 n0t kn0w h0w t0 descr1be 1t; but, 1f 1 shut my eyes, hers are 1mmed1ately bef0re me: dark as an abyss they 0pen up0n me, and abs0rb my senses.”

Years have passed since that day, Mr., and I have not stopped searching for Tatyana. At first I sent letters of inquiry to the new friends and acquaintances that I started to make in the net café and beyond in the Internet. I collected and stored new e-mail addresses in a special list. I did this with the same patient and methodical perseverance with which we once gathered and preserved our winter supplies. But as the www expanded so did the number of addressees on my list. Shortly, when I had my own computer, I started to pay for lists of users, and when the number of my collected @ increased to millions I resorted to special software tools, which sent my inquiries in bulk. I received many responses, but unfortunately most of them were complaints for my rude intrusions into inboxes. I realized that my mistake was not offering anything in exchange, so I decided to propose products and services for free or at affordable prices. First I began to offer Green Cards, then quality luxury watches, and later ingenious ways of increasing one’s manhood or decreasing and eliminating one’s debt or even bankruptcy. I offered good deals on home and auto mortgages and loans, great discounts on brand and generic FDA-approved pharmaceutical products, and soon I was approached by other people who like me were desperately searching for someone or something. For instance, I assisted many people who could not hold sway over their legitimately inherited fortunes. The overthrow of the dictatorship and the instauration of democracy in their countries had not guaranteed them the return of their money and assets, and I was asked to help them reach into the free world and find partners eager to help them (for a share of course) overpass the obstacles set by these countries’ embryonic legal systems. I also aided those who offered education and certified Masters or even Doctorate diplomas with no exams, no classes and no textbooks whatsoever; those who organized lotteries with generous prizes in euros; those who could free up your life potential; I helped bank employees who had discovered generous deposits belonging to rich but dead clients; I did favors for hundreds and hundreds of bored and tired girls who were searching for someone to chat with, for those who have found new solutions for increasing their sperm count or for losing weight, for those offering cheap flights or affordable health insurance, humanitarian solutions or exhilarating experiences in online casinos. Soon many citizens of the free world began to complain, asking their governments to do something about my unsolicited messages. That is when they began to install on their browsers spyware programs and filters. These undercover software agents began to sneak around my messages searching for words that bothered them. At first the filters strained such words as: “sex,” “love,” “romance,” “pussycat,” “blonde,” “wife,” “liaison,” “sweetheart,” “girl,” “madam,” “lady,” and later the spies grabbed and threw into their virtual dungeons such apparently innocent words as “family,” “husband,” “bed,” “size,” “health,” “relations,” “freedom,” “truth,” “credit,” “history,” “short” and “long,” which in the end led many users to delete these words not only from their inboxes but also from their everyday vocabularies. Now the filters decided what was permissible in terms of communication. It was then that I began to feel at the height of my creativity, for I began to see myself, Mr., as the last poet, as the last avant-garde artist, who has dared not only to challenge a certain established system of representation but also to penetrate the barriers set by the latest, most sophisticated agents of the system. I began to learn from the great predecessors. In order to penetrate the walls of protection set by the spyware I studied and integrated into my messages various avant-garde techniques: onomatopoetic words, zaum language, calligramatic and anagrammatic constructions, concrete poetry, Oulipian syntax…

… in short everything that would help me break through the walls and continue the pursuit of my love. I spelled the name of my sweetheart, and the products offered in exchange, in many ways, adding more and more numerals and symbols, and when searching for T2ty_n@ became illegal in some networks I began to take possession of other users’ computers, turning them into zombies that sent silently millions and millions of inquiries from the backstage of their operational systems. My knowledge, skills, hardworking attitude motivated me to appoint myself to the position of the Director of the foreign remittance department of the Central Internet Café of Bugeac – the very facility where my career began.

Now Mr., lets get to business. If you find this letter in your Inbox do not be surprised and angered. You must understand that I will not give up until I find what I am looking for. I want you to promise me that you are not going to betray me again and install another of those filters, for by doing this you will have deprived yourself and your children of many good words that your ancestors have passed over to you. My business proposition to you is the following: Please help me find Tatyana, as well as a couple of other things that we have been promised but never delivered: truth, freedom, progress, reason, culture, equality, jobs and perhaps some more food, and in exchange I will deposit in your Inbox a database that contains eight hundred million usernames and passwords of the current internet population, which is a considerable market asset nowadays. Indicate your interest towards assisting me, by sending your phone number, fax number, home and office address to me so that I can communicate with you at any time. I will also appreciate it if you can send across your photo for a better recognition. I will also send across my photo and phone number as soon as you reply this email. I will be waiting to here from you soon.

 

Contact me ASAP to my private box at.
Mister Ion Creanga,
The Steppe of Bugeac,
Google Map, 45°55′39.88″N 28°55′59.52″E