hour before staggering, exhausted with bewilderment and grief, to
"But you said you wouldn't go away," she
said in an agonized whisper before being overcome by sleep, despising
herself for her gullibility even as she wept over the loss of her
Carmen found herself almost unable to check
her personal email for weeks afterwards. But eventually she did and
clicked through 387 spam messages and dozens of emails from family
and friends without seeing (and her heart seared with pain the moment
she realized it) a single email from him whose words on the computer
screen she had once kissed.
Eventually, after months had passed~moving
through life like a zombie, between her apartment, her office, the
grocery store, and the video store, where she increased her regular
movie watching fourfold~she got over it; "forget" would be too strong
a word. Then one day the
fear and nausea that just looking at her com-puter had caused her
for so long vanished, and she went back to her usual evenings of checking
email, surfing the web, checking online dating sites for the member
profiles, and so on. She still wondered who had been her "online paramour"
(as she thought of him now, with a little arch sarcasm to protect
the wound that was still healing, with infinite slowness, in her heart),
and she met her male friends and colleagues with a hint of suspicion
and hostility, wondering which one of them might have been him.
A year and a half later, Carmen was audited
by the IRS. It came out of the blue, and she wondered what the red
flag might have been that caused it.
"No red flag," the auditor had said, sympathetically.
"Just your unlucky day. We audit a certain percentage of returns each
year. We choose them at random," he simpered. "To be fair." Carmen
gave him her death glare,