The internet is a very fast paced place. Though e-mail, generally, is a patient and careful medium of communication, the invention of internet forums and, particularly, chat rooms, forced the average speed of reply to a staggering speed. The urge to get your response in before anybody else has captured almost an entire generation in the grip of getting there first, saying something anybody else would say and putting the word first' at the end so that everybody knows who has been the first person to say something in a thread. Chat rooms, though not synonymous with the first' ideal, are still just as bad. Failing to answer somebody particularly boisterous could well result in an infamous flame war'.
With the inherent urge to rush comes an unfortunate flippancy when it comes to actual information, and more unfortunately still, people. Bans, boredom, and the considerably more dangerous real life are constantly looming, threatening to take people away from whatever corner of the internet that they've managed to make their own. This results in a brand new e-penis to massage to growth, or, considering how each website might differ from others, fail to have massaged at all.
It comes as no real surprise that, with people appearing and disappearing every day, a lot of them are forgotten, ignored or just people that others are relieved to be rid of. Some small few manage to leave an impact. However, some websites, especially those which allow the anonymous is king' rule to come into effect, are not exactly friendly to the formation and development of friendships and relationships. Knowing the amount of people that lie under the shield of internet anonymity, do you even know people well enough to miss them when they leave?
If you think of all of the people whom you have known, either by meeting online or by meeting in life and then only seeing online, and then found them leaving either quickly or after a long time, do you think you'll even touch the surface of all of the people linked to you who have left the areas that you frequent? Not only that, but only the truly gigantic e-penises are visible from outside of close and real life friendships. There will be names that you've forgotten. You may remember some quickly, but that is not all of them. There are some that you will never remember because they did not make an impact or make their presence felt in any way. Some people do not register as important.
One person, forgettable and insignificant, did not like it when people left. He wanted to leave an impression on other people, but, in doing so, he was always the type to fail. He had very few friends, and quite a large amount of enemies, but he also had a cat called Maxie that he adored. To his cat, at least, he was important.
He also had a girlfriend, but their relationship was having to take a back seat for the moment. She needed him, and there was no chance that he would bring any drama to her door; especially considering that she was still in the hospital after something rather horrific had happened to her.
To anybody else, Henry Jones was meaningless. Sadly for him, a goodbye was looming over his head, preparing itself to hit him completely unexpectedly.
Henry was beginning to despise his own home. The red and white wallpaper, still there from when he had first moved in, was almost oppressive to his eyes by now. The fluffy, green sofa and chairs, equally as old, achieved the same results. Even the positioning of his tiny coffee table, TV stand and the little Nintendo that was the only thing he had brought with him, felt stale and unused.
With no job to call his own, Henry had been spending every single day following the same path. He would wake up to find his bed empty but for the cat that had stolen Jane's pillow. An hour or two of showering, getting dressed and browsing the internet looking for potential jobs came next, followed by the drive down to the hospital to see how Jane was doing. Once visiting hours were over, he would go back home to prepare his mail applications, eat something that took a maximum of ten minutes in the microwave and then go to sleep. His life, like his home, had become a prison for his anger and desperation.
His temporary escape in the early hours of the morning was on UG. His Bass, though he had been given precious little musical direction since Jane had entered the hospital, had provided many hours of careful and elaborate practice. It was a distraction, pure and simple, but it worked wonders for him. Television, the repetitive drone of evening soap operas and afternoon chat shows, held little interest for him. Instead, UG was ideal. He looked over the display threads in the Bass Guitar forum, attempted to interpret the theory relative threads in Musician Talk and did all that he could to force every tab he came across down his throat and to his fingers.
The Pit still held the same magic that it always had. His thread, though hardly the centre of business, popularity and comedy, was starting to earn itself a little crowd of regulars. It was upsetting at times that Jane was the major topic of conversation, but this at least brought the attention away from his own rather saddening and pathetic life. Occasionally, people would mention it again, but Henry would avert their focus by saying that his own life was on hold right now.
Hugh Gee had been quite a prolific poster in the thread. In fact, Hugh was actually the one with the most posts; even more than Henry himself under his chosen alias of HinJo. Despite being one of the least pleasant people to communicate with, the last few pages had actually shown some sense of concern. He had received a warning for something about blood a little earlier, and that seemed to have mellowed him out. It could also have been the fact that Hugh now had somebody close to him in the hospital as well. This might have taught him a sense of perspective.
Today though, he was in no mood for the internet. The weight of depressive sleep was beginning to weigh down on his shoulders. He had been spending less time every day awake - preferring to abandon consciousness as much as possible instead. Even with this, his eyes still looked as though he had been attacked and had them bruised horribly. It made no sense at all, but it might also have been something relative to his lack of nourishment lately. He was too poor for decent food, and the bland and tasteless mass that he had been able to put together was hardly life affirming.
He went to bed early again that night, wondering about how the next day might go with Jane. They had been under so much strain recently, and there didn't seem to be anything that he could do about it. Sleep wasn't the only thing that was weighing down on his shoulders of late. There was simply too much - the result of too little. He missed work more than he was willing to admit to anybody. Even back in the first job that he was fired from he at least felt that time was passing smoothly. All of these things running through his mind, he collapsed into his cold and lonely bed.
The cat soon followed.
The next morning, armed with some flowers that he had managed to swipe out of somebody else's garden, Henry found himself back in the hospital, wandering towards Jane's ward. She would be expecting him, as she did every day.
Most of the staff knew him by now. As such, he received many nods, smiles, and even a couple of passing greetings. The hospital was starting to feel more like home than his home had ever done. He was oddly welcome here, as though, for once, people were actually glad to see him. It was a strange feeling and, instead of the reaction that he had expected himself to feel, it actually made him quite uncomfortable. The smell of sterilisation had always made him sick, and now he spent most of his time around it.
As he came into the room that Jane shared with another woman, he saw his favourite nurse packing clean sheets into the little cupboard beneath Jane's bedside cabinet. Jane was sitting up, a newspaper in her hands and her tiny round glasses perched on the edge of her nose. This brought about Henry's first smile of the day, as Jane had refused to let him see her wearing glasses instead of with her contact lenses in. She didn't spot him at first, as the door was open, but the nurse did. She offered him a wide and genuine smile as she cleaned, but made no visible or vocal welcome.
I brought you some flowers, Henry mumbled, just loud enough to make her aware of him.
The response was instantaneous. Jane dropped the newspaper down onto her covered lap and literally ripped her glasses from her face. In the next moment, Henry found himself shrinking under one of the most pained glares that he had ever seen.
What have I told you about doing that? she asked him. I don't like having to wear them, you could at least have the decency to let me be seen how I want to.
Alright, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, said Henry, which was only half a lie. The door was open, and besides, I've seen you when you've just woken up; this is nothing. Anyway, I got you some flowers. That vase has been empty for far too long.
This earned him a brief smile, though it was rather a haunted one. He had noticed the vase a couple of days previously. The nurse had brought it in out of another room, since the occupant had woken up from quite an extended coma and the vase had been left there. The nurse moved quickly to take the vase from the bedside table, then took the flowers from Henry in her other hand and left the room without a word. The woman was surprisingly efficient.
You haven't got bored of me yet then? Jane asked of him. Quite why she was asking this question was not something that Henry wished to face just yet. If I was you I'd have been sick of this place days ago.
It's not that bad, replied Henry. Besides, you're not going to be here all that much longer. I'll be able to take you home soon and pamper you. I suppose I'll have to keep up what's going on here: breakfast in bed, sponge baths in the morning, and all with Maxie to stroke.
Sounds like a good deal to me, I can take advantage of you easy enough, came the answer. Jane seemed to be in a much better mood during the last three days than she had been in the days previous. In the beginning, she had been quiet and, unsure of what to say, Henry had only been able to match. The silence during those days had not been companionable.
It was with this in mind that Henry decided against bringing up the topic of conversation that the police had given him not far from the hospital entrance. Having recognised him from the last time that they came to see Jane, the two policeman made of point of telling Henry that they had caught the man responsible and, right now, he was being quite fiercely questioned. They had gathered enough evidence from Jane herself to send him down.
I'm looking forward to it, she continued, shifting herself in the bed. I'm sick of all of this rest bit. My mother's worried about me and I miss doing my shows. You going to buy me a new guitar?
This had been a bone of unwelcome contention between the two of them. Her attacker had kept hold of her guitar and Henry's bass until the police had arrived and, finding them there, they had been briefly examined before being returned to Henry's care. The guitar, unfortunately, had originally been a gift from Chris though, so, on Jane's orders, Henry had set fire to it in his back garden. Now, since he had still not told her that he had no job available to him anymore, she was trying to talk him into buying her a new one. Henry had been desperately trying to find a way out of it without revealing his situation.
We'll have to go shopping and see what you like first, he conceded. You never know; it might be a while before we find anything that really suits you. I want it to be perfect for you.
Something about her expression told him that Jane was starting to see through this particular charade. If it's from you then that's all that matters, she said, though her face was hardly caring and nurturing, as her words were. I just want something I can play my music on. I've lost my crescent pick as well. I really liked that.
Well I'll see about finding you a new one then, but I'm pretty sure it will be hard to find another one like that, responded Henry. In actuality, he had had the pick custom made out of tortoiseshell and carefully carved back when he had been working and actually had a ton of savings. Now though, he was flat lining, and he had run out of money completely, so excuses were the only options left available to him.
It's a shame, I really liked it, Jane said. I really miss back when we first started dating and everything was easy and comfortable.
Though he tried hard to push the words straight back out of his head, and felt sure that she didn't quite mean him to take it how he did, these words stayed with him for the rest of his life.
He arrived home again feeling worse than he had ever felt before. Maxie made the attempt to make him feel better, but he pushed her away with his foot and carries on to collapse on his sofa. His life was serving him aggravating reminders. Things were not going well for him. Since being fired things had been going constantly downhill. Even so, he had a headache coming on. He could almost feel hands squeezing either side of his skull tightly. He had no aspirin, so he went into the cupboard where Jane kept her period painkillers.
As it turned out, the cupboard was nearly full. He poured himself a tall glass of water and took that and the entire collection of pills into the living room with him. Henry wasn't entirely sure of which would be good choices for him, but he would worry about that while he was laying on his back on his tattered little sofa.
Twenty minutes of reading packets, labels and leaflets followed, though, in the end, it made little actual difference. He popped two pills out of the first packet, crushed them with the flat side of a knife against the surface of the coffee table, then brushed the remnants into his water. He was in no mood to dry swallow anything. He watched the bits dissolve as he stirred them with his knife until there was nothing to see.
He looked down at the rest of the little boxes there, picked another one at random and did the same again.
Thinking was not an option. There was nothing that Henry allowed to distract him. Still, thoughts of his own stupidity continually assailed him as he filled the glass with an assortment of different pills that came in all different shapes and sizes. The fact that he would have to explain her lack of painkillers to Jane when she came out of the hospital was the idea that came closest to stopping him, but even that failed.
He laid there afterwards, looking at the glass and daring himself to just be brave. Just once, he was desperate to have enough pride to force himself to consume as much of that glass as possible. With the amount that he had swimming around in the misty water, it would take little more than a sip to succeed. He picked it up and put it down several times, each time with a mind that simply was not determined enough.
It was late when his eyes next opened. The plain black curtains that usually covered the window at this time were wide open, displaying the darkness outside. Henry felt groggy and barely awake, but he always did when he first woke up. There was an ache in his back, and a cramp in his neck from how he had been laid on the sofa. Sleep must have come on suddenly. He certainly wasn't prepared for it, but he likely should have been. Rest had been claiming his earlier and earlier these days.
He sat up as quickly as he could and left the sofa and the strewn packets and leaflets on the table there. The urge to check on UG had taken over. Asking for advice on how to break the bad news to Jane seemed intelligent, and he had a dedicated thread for it that was beckoning to him. He waited while the computer booted up, his previous sleep pulling him back and forth as and when it could, but he fought it just enough to stay conscious.
When he got to his thread though, he found that it had been closed. Somebody had decided to start an argument in it, so it had been silenced in order to save running through it with a fine toothed comb. One of the people behind it was, of course, Hugh Gee.
To Henry's surprise, he actually had an apologetic private message from Hugh, which actually made him laugh. Hugh seemed genuinely sorry, not just to have been banned, but also to have been the cause of any discomfort for Henry. Sadly, the very action of laughing awoke all the pains of the stressed headache. Annoyed by the persistent pain, he reached over from his computer chair and grabbed the first pack of painkillers he laid hands on.
He wasn't patient. He put two tablets of Anadin straight into his mouth and swallowed hard, but the dry pills defeated him. Blaming a dry mouth, he felt quite glad to find a glass of water on the table ready to help wash them down. He took a gulp, balked at the odd taste on the water, but put it down to the fact that the glass had likely just been sitting out.
With no thread to go to, Henry threw down a quick response to Hugh and turned the computer back off again. Afterwards, he began to lose the fight against unconsciousness. He had been very tired recently. Thinking about Jane with a hopeful smile, he went back to his bed, wishing that tomorrow might be a better day.
Your boyfriend's got some good taste, the nurse told her, spraying the flowers in the vase to make sure that they were perfectly nourished.
Jane smiled to herself. He took these from a garden somewhere, she replied. I'm pretty sure I know exactly which garden too. He has these habits. I haven't noticed them until recently, but they're cute.
Why didn't you say anything if you knew that? asked the nurse.
Well, he hasn't had much to be proud of lately, came the response. Jane shifted a little, trying to move the pillows behind her into a more comfortable position. She wasn't usually one to enjoy being propped up, but she also had been asleep on and off for a while, so she was just glad to be awake. He's trying to hide that he's lost his job. I want to say something, but if he's not ready to admit it then I just have to keep trying to trap him. I'll get there in the end though.
The nurse laughed, flicking the petals of the flowers as she did so. You're looking after him even though you're in here. That's dedication.
He's earned it. He's really looked after me lately. I can't wait to get out so I can do the same for him. You look after the people you love.
It's only a thread, don't worry about it. I would make another one, but I've got to ask permission from the mistress of the land, you know?
Don't worry about me either. I know it's all a bit pathetic in there, but I'll be fine. I get a bit down sometimes, but I pick myself back up again. It's not as bad as it seems. I might be having some problems, but I still have an awesome girlfriend and I even play music. All I need to do is find some work, and I'll keep trying. Maybe some friends too, but I'm sure it'll all come. I appreciate you checking on me though. It's nice to know somebody cares.
I think my biggest problem is I'm just lonely. When Jane was here it wasn't so bad, but if I talk to her now I feel sort of like she doesn't want me around. When I'm not there I have nowhere else to be and nobody else to see. I haven't seen my mother in years, and my father never even bothered to meet me. A lot of friends have moved away lately. I guess I'm kind of hard to get along with, but perseverance is important.
I'll get there. I know I will.