Several of you will remember my landmark post, Scars. It wasn't pretty, and after this I assure you that any future landmark posts will be more pleasant. But toward the end of that one I alluded to something worse--a psychological scar deeper than any of the physical ones, having to do with a girl I knew as Yasaman. Too deep, at the time, for me to talk about.
The time has come.
I ask you to be patient as I explain what happened. I am aware of the limitations of getting to know someone over the internet; I know that people lie about who they are, sometimes for kicks and sometimes for nefarious purpose. So you don't have to tell me that it is entirely possible that everything Yasaman told me about herself was false. I've spent years hoping it was. Not knowing only makes it worse.
In 1996, I was an undergraduate at Harding University. I had been introduced, at last, to the various joys of the internet--well, some of them. For the most part, my knowledge was limited to e-mail and to a telnet BBS known as ISCA. At the time, ISCA, though based out of the University of Iowa, was said to be the largest BBS in existence. I don't know if that was literally true; I do know that I often had to wait in line behind thousands of users to log in, and met people from a good many different nations.
Some time during the fall semester, I met someone. I was not inclined, at the time, to give out my real name, and I did not ask for hers. I knew her as "Yasaman", which she informed me was Spanish for "Jasmine". Yasaman did not talk a great deal about her family, except that at times she mentioned her mother with a great deal of love. We spoke about various things, most of which I have since forgotten. Assuming my memory serves, she was the first of many internet crushes. If it is possible at all, I have sometimes wondered whether I didn't feel something more for her--a strange thing, when you have never seen even a picture, but there it is. It would help explain my reaction.
On December 8th, a Sunday, I came online as usual, found her there, and proceeded to message her. And that was the end of "as usual", not just for that day but for months.
Yasaman informed me that her time on ISCA had come to an end. Not because her computer was dying or her school was forbidding access or for any of the normal reasons. Because she had been sold. Her father, she explained, was (Asian) Indian; he had sold her as a sex toy to some wealthy scum. She had hoped, on ISCA, to get in touch with her sister and say goodbye, but it had not happened and her time was up.
I suppose that, in theory, I could have kept my cool. I could have asked her for personal information so that I could perhaps have verified her story--conceivably, even done something to help somehow. But my state of mind was somewhere well beyond "freaked out". I stammered out a few bitter words--she replied with equal bitterness--and finally I leapt from my seat and fled the lab.
It was a Sunday, about 4 PM, and therefore the lab closed shortly after to allow the monitor personnel to go to church. I was unable to return until later that night. I found her profile had been changed to a brief goodbye message. By the next day her account was gone.
I spoke to a few close friends on ISCA about it; most were sympathetic, a few uncomprehending. One person told me it was possible I had been the victim of a particular user who made use of false identities for kicks, but by the nature of the case there was no way to contact said user, or to learn anything true if I had.
Not long after I went home to celebrate Christmas and my birthday (the 20th--just 12 days later). I sleepwalked through vacation, such as it was, reinforcing my usually unemotional exterior to avoid giving anything away. I had no illusions that my parents would understand what I was talking about. As it was, a few times members of my family spotted me acting strangely; fortunately they asked no questions. I don't know what I would have told them. It so happened that one of my gifts was Children of the Mind; I got no further than the name "Si Wang-Mu", a character I had forgotten about, before I broke down. It was months before I could even think of picking up the book again.
I cried. I prayed. I cried some more. At one point I even had either a low-level hallucination or a psychic experience, depending on what one believes about the latter. And, very slowly, I began to heal. After returning from vacation, I spoke to no one about what had happened. It hurt too much. And now, after years have passed, I find that, though the memory is faded, I still cannot devote too much thought to the matter without tearing up. But I have been able to talk about it again. I spoke to a few of you about it via AIM, and fortunately you told me to go at my own pace.
Was she real? Or was she someone playing a cruel trick--a vicious prankster; an immature person unable to break off relationships; an activist with a spectacularly nasty way of hitting people where it hurt? My initial hope was eventually dashed--slavery still exists. But, of course, that was no guarantee about her. It seems unlikely that I would have encountered a person in such dire straits online, but given the right timing, I have no way of knowing it was impossible. And certainly, I read about things much more bizarre every day. In truth, I'd like nothing more than to find out I was lied to.
I've been reluctant to talk about this. Certainly I expect to encounter a degree of skepticism. And it remains painful to discuss--nor is the real pain mine. I am, in effect, a bystander, and my experience is peripheral, which left me uncertain how or even if I should present the events to others. But I believe I will be better for getting it out in a supportive environment--and perhaps make those who read it more aware and able to help others. So here are the facts of the case, as I remember them.
Seven years. Thirteen days. Two and three-quarter hours.
I think this story sort of illustrates why I feel such hesitance about any sort of internet relationship that didn't originate in the real world. Hatrack is an exception to my general rule. Glad to see that you're still going strong after all the scars of your life.
Posts: 871 | Registered: Mar 2002
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I am sorry for your pain, and for any guilt you may feel over not trying to do something.
I am a long-time user of ISCA. I still have an account there, in fact, and have had one continuously since I think 1992. I don't remember the year the account deletion policies changed for sure, but I believe during that time frame the only way to have your account deleted was if you changed your user name. You built a new account, yelled to the sysops your new name, and they deleted your old account. If you weren't changing your name, they wouldn't delete your account... they'd just let it age off after you didn't log in for a certain period of time.
You're the one who knew her. I don't know why anyone would go through the trouble of getting their account deleted while they were trying to say goodbye to their sister before being sold into slavery, but stranger things have happened. Still, I hope that helps move your mind a little further into the comfort of "I was probably lied to" and away from "but I'll never know."
Posts: 7919 | Registered: Mar 2004
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This is a really sad, scary story. The best part is that you are moving forward at your own pace. Heartbreak is the hardest of all hurts to heal, I think. (((Mabus))) Still, I sense you will get through this and be better for it.
By the way, my b'day is on December 20 too. We sagitarrians are a sensitive lot. I know, my heart has been broken too (though nothing like your story).
Posts: 392 | Registered: Aug 2004
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