Bernard Page 5
     Carmen hesitated, and then, glowing with something she had not felt in a long time~something like trust~typed: "i believe u."
     A moment after her response popped into the IM box, the machine crashed. It did this regularly, and always at the worst possible times. She might need to call Barry, her geek friend and cyber savior at the office. He'd stop by after work tomorrow: he was always willing to do her a special favor.
     From then on, every night, if her machine were working and Barry didn't have to come in for an emergency save, Carmen would find a new email from TJX037X2. And as time went on, she found herself answering with increasing freedom. He (she was sure it was a "he"~he never asked the sorts of questions her girlfriends did) would ask her about her day, and she'd tell him about the firm, curious incidents, her psycho

landlord. Sometimes he sent her an Instant Message, and they chatted about nothing for hours before she sud-denly looked at the time~always long after midnight~ and signed off with a breathless, "i have to work tomorrow :( good night!"
     She had tried to get him to give her his name - but he always put her off with a "later - i promise" or "not yet." She at first wondered at his coyness, but soon got used to it and stopped "nagging" him (her word). She even found herself rather liking the mystery: she often found herself daydreaming during the day: just who is he? And she would glance around her at the office or imagine one or another of the men she knew who might just be her mystery cyber lover. Definitely not Jack Kushner! And she realized that not knowing was in a way sweeter than knowing: she could imagine him as anything she wanted.
     It went on like this for weeks. But then one evening, before turning on her home computer, she felt a wave of