I’ve sat on this topic for a few weeks now and after reading an article on Yahoo just now, I figure now is as good a time as any to write this.
In July/August 2000, I flew to Amarillo, Texas to meet a friend I’d made on the internet. She was the first one I’d ever met. We’d chatted and spoke on the phone for about a year before I went to see her for about a week. I had a thoroughly wonderful time. Janet was a good friend who taught me a lot without really trying.
In the months leading up to my visit, though, my mother was a wreck. She was convinced – and still is to a certain extent – that anyone I chatted to online was not real. That the friendships made were not real. In short, she was convinced that Janet was a murderer who would kill me the moment I arrived and I’d never be seen again.
Nine years later I’m still alive and quite fond of the memories I have of that week in Amarillo. I have since met and even lived with many other friends I’ve met online. I’m not going to sit here and lie and say every meeting has been perfect because they haven’t. I know, though, how fortunate I am that I’ve not experienced anything as bad as others have. I do have rules about meeting people which I’ve stuck by since meeting Janet. I think nine months has been the shortest length of time I’ve known someone and chatted before we met. That’s the minimum. I also talk on the phone a lot with them. Well, not a lot, because I’m not and never have been a phone freak, but frequently enough. In my mind, anyone who wants to do harm will want to meet straightaway and not have the patience to stick around.
But, if you followed the link I started out with, you’d know that you can live under the same roof with someone and not really know them. It happened with the parents of the two murderers of Columbine and it happened with my friend Scarygirl. In both cases, there was ignorance on the part of someone that they were living with an individual who was capable of murder.
I remember just a few weeks ago when Scarygirl showed me a notice of arrest on her local news. I saw the surname and figured it was a cousin or nephew, but then she informed me that it was her ex-husband. He had committed murder in Texas before they were married and hid this from her for their entire marriage. Apparently he’d decided to kill a landlady of his while he was living in Texas then went on the lam.
I don’t know of any way, short of a lie detector test, to really know the people closest to you. But I do know that these two incidents and hundreds, if not thousands, of cases like them prove that living with someone doesn’t mean you know all about them.