I was born to two old parents and a fat older sister. My mother was a nurse and was either at work or blacked out on the couch in her moo-moo with the TV blaring the OJ Simpson trial. My father was retired by the time I came along and raised his kids the way God intended: with a fly-swatter and a determined resolve to whip our baby walrus-like bodies with it whenever we made too much noise. Our parents loved us, but they were too old and tired to fuck with us. Remember when you were a kid and your dad took you out back and played catch with you? Yeah, mine never did that. The closest we got was when he threw a McDonald's Happy Meal toy at the back of my head because I wouldn't stop blowing air in our dog's face. The toy was a Hot Skatin' Barbie, by the way.
Since any kind of Little League or any activity involving sunlight and standing upright was entirely out of the question, our parents tried to distract us with video games. My sister and I got into a fight one day because she wouldn't let me play Aladdin on Super Nintendo and I ended up throwing a shoe at her face and busting her nose wide open. My mother threw a fit and told my dad to throw away the video games because they were causing us to fight all the time. My daddy was in a tough position: the video games cause us to fight, but they also make us stop talking to him, something more precious to him than a mountain of gold. He had to find a solution. One day, he came back from the store with a new toy for me: a tape recorder and some blank cassettes. Whenever my sister wouldn't let me play Nintendo, I could just fiddle with this instead.
My sister and I fell absolutely in love with the tape recorder. We never fought over it and we always played with it together. We collaborated to create something called Keys Talk Radio. What does the title mean? No idea, my sister came up with it. It was our very own radio show. My sister and I, the chub-dumpster duo, the fat kids with no hand-eye coordination, recorded at least a hundred episodes. The format was varied, the earliest episodes were interviews. Here's a typical example:
Sister: Tell us what you told daddy happened at school today.
Me: I saw Rusty's wee-wee.
Sister: And what did you say it looked like?
Me: A long curly fry ... from Arby's
Sister: -intense, heated cackling for at least a minute and a half, end of episode-
Sometimes, when my dad was whipping one of us with the fly-swatter (which I will from here on out refer to as the Seal Hunt, since it really did look like a guy beating a baby seal with a club), the other would record the audio and laugh at all the crying and yelling. A few episodes were just us discussing which foods we liked and, not surprisingly, not a single fruit or vegetable was mentioned. Hey, this ain't Europe.
Of course, we got older and lost interest in our bullshit tape recorder and the cassettes were packed away in a box never to be seen again until years later when I was in middle school. Our lives had changed ... sorta. My sister became thin and beautiful and the most popular girl in high school and I remained in the stasis of blubber and bad skin. Middle school isn't easy for a big kid. Actually, nothing in this life is easy for a big kid. Going school clothes shopping was worse than AIDS. That entire disease is not as bad as my stomach cascading over a pair of jeans in a Montgomery Ward fitting room. What can a kid do about that problem?
Run away and create an entirely new persona on the internet and let it fulfill you to an unhealthy degree.
I didn't understand the internet, I didn't know what a browser was, but I spent every waking hour on that shitty AOL 56k dial-up. My sister had an account which she barely used because she was out being cool, so I would hang around chat rooms under her name. This was when I met the first "internet friend" I ever had in my entire life. Her name was Melanie, she was from California, and she was my age. Eleven years ago, we had our first conversation and I still remember her telling me her nephew hit her in the leg with a letter-opener. Since I was invisible to everyone in real life and had no friends, I lied to that girl about everything. Well, not everything. I just made her believe I was popular and had a large circle of friends, both of which were totally untrue. Somehow, even without any prior experience with females, I knew that I had to show as little interest in her as possible. I would sign in, see her on my Buddy List, and then wait for her to IM me. We would talk for hours and hours, but no matter how long we spoke, I made sure to cut it off first and make believe like I had more important business to attend to.
Each and every time I did that, my heart broke a little. This girl was the only thing in my life at that sad, desperate, middle school stage. We got to know each other so well. I even stalked her LiveJournal and saw a few entries which were about me. Specifically, I remember she wrote "He's the only thing that makes me happy anymore" and that was when I got the first hint that something was wrong. She always sounded so depressed in her journal and at first, I just kind of wrote it off as typical teenage girl angst, but I was dead fucking wrong. One night, she brought up suicide and how she wanted to kill herself and I played it like the faux-unconcerned douchebag that I was. She exploded and said that I never cared about her and then confessed all this weird shit she would do with me in mind. Avoiding the specifics, I thought to myself "Alright, maybe now is a good time to confess everything"
I came clean and told her the truth and that my entire persona was an act and that I cared about her more than she could ever know. Things got pretty heavy for a couple of 13 year olds involved with internet love. After the confession, pumped full of all the teenage melodrama in the world, we became sort of a thing ... "thing" in quotations, guys. She suggested we mail each other things and she started with some burned CDs with songs that she thought were applicable to us. If you're curious what they were, I remember one was Miss You So Much by TLC and another was Crush On You by 3LW ... it was the early 2000s, sue us.
Rather than sending a music CD, I thought it would be funny if I sent her some of the Keys Talk Radio cassettes that my sister and I made when we were little kids. I hand-picked the cream of the crop, including the episode where I took the tape recorder down the street and continuously yelled "Let's get naked" at every car that drove by. I mailed them and then said something incredibly stupid to her that night and we got into a huge blow-out and stopped talking to each other. I thought "Great, now she hates me and she has those fucking tapes" and tried to just cut my losses and move on. But I couldn't. I was in deep puppy love with her.
After a few months of no contact, I was standing in the supermarket thumbing through the magazines. I saw an issue of PSM (Playstation Magazine) and opened it up to the fan letters. One guy wrote a story about how he met a girl on the PSM forums and started a relationship with her and even moved to Hawaii to be with her. Unfortunately, he did something stupid and ruined it and he signed off with "Gwyneth Makalani, wherever you are, I love you"
That really cut deep into my little 13 year old soul. My world as I knew it came crashing in on me. I had to get her back, but she was nowhere to be found. None of her screen names were ever signed in, she wouldn't answer her email, she deleted her journals and blogs, and I didn't have her phone number. I thought about mailing her a letter, but decided against it. I knew she had emotional/mental problems and I was sincerely afraid that she did something to herself. Years went by and I never heard anything from Melanie ever again.
When I graduated high school in 2007, Myspace was insanely popular. I made a profile and then just out of nowhere, on a whim, I searched her name. I had not thought about her in so long. Much to my surprise, her profile popped up. The feelings were definitely still there, she was the first living thing on this planet which gave me any kind of emotional satisfaction, even if it was through the internet and cheesy R&B songs burned to shitty CDs. I went back and forth about whether or not I should add her.
I kept telling myself "You were just kids, she probably doesn't even fucking remember you anymore, just move on" but I just couldn't pull myself away. I had to know how she was doing and where life took her. Reading through her Myspace blogs, I could see that she clearly was still struggling with her depression, but aside from that, she turned out great. She was so pretty, finished school, had a good job, and ...
... she had a boyfriend.
I had absolutely no right to be crushed, but in some strange way, I was. Discovering that she turned out as well she did put my mind at ease and I moved on. The mystery was solved. She was living her life and I was living mine. One day, many months later, I was drunk at 4 in the morning and dropped by her Myspace. I don't know why. I just wanted to look at her face.
She had filled out a new survey and I was scrolling through it and then stopped on the question "Funniest Memory?" because her answer put the biggest lump in my throat.
Her answer was three words:
Keys Talk Radio.