By Virginia J. Pasalo
I am grateful to Facebook (FB) for giving me a platform to save my literary work, which could have been lost forever. In the year 2014, I uploaded a short story, “Four Women and a Funeral (a not-so-true story)” published in “The Clique Women’s Magazine”, in the February 1994 issue, pages 38-41 and March 1994 issue, pages 42-43. I found it among my old files, including the second part of “Holy People in Holy Land”, published by the same magazine for the June 1994 issue. Five years after my story, in July 4, 1999, an episode of “Sex in the City” was titled “Four Women and a Funeral” but it has a different plot. I can no longer find the magazines that I scanned, from the order of my clutter.
It is not only this privilege that I am thankful for, FB also gave me an unlimited storage for my posts, photos and videos, some of which re-appear at various times, to give FB users a chance to repost. I have reposted many times, and these reposts gave me insights on the recurrent themes of my life.
But what I value most is the chance to meet new friends with the same interests as mine, and there are many: writers, poets, advocates, environmentalists, human rights activists, feminists, painters, artists, musicians, antique dealers, photographers, organic food producers, and other strangers with strange habits that I gradually understood and eventually appreciated. Through their Timelines and exchange of Private Messages (PMs), I get a glimpse of who they are. A little cross-checking here and there, a composite human emerges, not exactly what you expected, but as interesting as a rare plant in the forest.
These virtual encounters can become real friendships, especially when there is a chance for a meet-up, like writers’ conferences and poetry festivals. I have also developed friendships and have exchanged gifts with FB friends. One gave me an espresso machine, someone sent me rare seeds, most of them sent me books, in various languages, without translation. Someone promised to send me the Koran but it never arrived. Others sent poems, others sent kisses, others were bolder.
Because virtual friendships are so dependent on the web, linked mostly on the Timelines and the PMs, a certain attachments to these “walls” develop and can become a habit, like visiting a real-life, touchable friend. I regularly check on some, mainly to check on how they are doing, and whether their sick dogs have recuperated, or if the newborn kittens are all alive. I see friends continually living up to their chosen advocacies, and some who still gorge on chocolates and ice cream and still get depressed.
And then the absence of posts, and worse, the deaths, before you have a chance to meet them. I was saddened by the passing of a poet friend, battling with cancer and still hurt over the abandonment of a husband who left her for another woman, very long ago. I felt her pain in the poems, she did not attempt to hide it, I can almost taste the husband’s sweat by her vivid description of what transpired in the arguments.
Another virtual friend, a talented writer, suffering with regular bouts of schizophrenia and a husband who beats her, and being guided by another poet friend with whom I had a chance to meet, had stopped to post anything. A wall left blank for months without notice, is a sign that something went wrong. We both wonder if she went back to the hospital for broken bones, or she had lost her mind. The concern is genuine, and in this kind of relationship, you learn, not to judge, but to care.
Sometimes a post that appears happy can actually be a cry for help. When communications become frequent, the difference is palpable. You learn to feel the soul, without a glimpse of corporeal existence.
your wall is silent
and no longer wails
it is as if
I am talking to a wall
overlaid with fresh paint
a pentimento of pain