To exist

An acquaintance I have known only online for fifteen years wonders if I really exist. A legitimate gripe, I’m sure, for I am the type who hides behind his keyboard, never to show his face or let his voice be heard. He has invited me to call him more than once, but I have always succumbed to my shy cowardice, terrified that anyone else should hear my horrible voice, which I still abhor. Likewise, he has tried to arrange a meet-up a few times. No wonder he doubts that I’m a real person.

For this friend, at least, he could always rely on the testimony of a mutual friend, who finally sat in my house last year, after about five years of aborted attempts to meet. With another mutual friend, known since 1999, I served them tea, coffee, and Giant Wotsits, then a spot of dinner. We then went for a wander in Wendover Woods, and enjoyed hot chocolate with cream on top. Thus was the mythology of the Legend of Tim dispelled once and for all.

Perhaps there is hope for the online fraternity yet. Some I have bumped into in time, our shoulders brushing momentarily. Some of these folk are famous in their own special way, within our own peculiar bubble and echo chamber. One scholarly type once called me a sock puppet, for railing against communal wisdom on the need to stand by a man accused of serious impropriety — which I felt flew in the face of the divine instruction to be just even against ourselves — but fortunately a mutual emissary he held in high regard was able to assure him that I was not KGB, but merely an irritating friend with OCD.

But I get it. The outgoing and self-confident have a hard time dealing with the quiet, introverted ones, who find comfort in the written word. Some will recall my defence of losers previously, triggered by a talking-head dissing my people, by which of course I mean geeks, misfits and the socially awkward. I still stand by every word; this keyboard remains my primary tool of liberation. This blog — whether or not anyone reads it — is my means of expression, substituting for a tongue which often will not submit to my intellect at all. If I hide, it is because of social impairments which remain, however much diminished.

So, yes, I exist. I exist in restricted spaces. I exist in my home and neighbourhood. I exist for my beloved, and for her family overseas. I exist for my children — annoyingly, now that they’re teenagers, to be called a fat lump or an idiot if we dare intervene on bad behaviour. I exist for my parents and siblings. I exist at my local mosque and workplace. I exist for the friend I’m just about to go for a walk with somewhere between Aldbury and Ringshall. I exist for my wife’s friends downstairs, drinking Turkish tea.

When all is said and done, I’m not actually sure that I’m an introvert. Actually, I’m quite an outgoing person, once you get to know me. It’s just that people have a tendency to judge on first impressions, and I don’t have time for that anymore. I’m self-conscious about the sound of my voice, and I frequently suffer from brain fog, making conversations awkward at times. But if you especially want to meet me, you’ll find me a willing host. Let’s book a date. Come over. We’ll fill your stomach with food, go for a wander up the valley and ensure you feel like you never want to leave.

I assure you, I exist. Maybe one day you’ll believe it too.

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