I was caught in a lie.
My fake Twitter avatar and my false social media identity had been exposed by a woman I thought was a fan.
Marie Sevigne turned out to be as relentless as an investigative reporter.
She stared me straight in the face and said flatly:
“I know you don’t have a clinic, Richard—and you don’t have a doctorate in Psychology, but you do have a lot of other people’s money—and their trust.”
The ground fell out from beneath me. I felt my breathing stop.
“Okay,” I said hastily. “but honestly, Marie, I did this as a lark—it started out innocently and before long got out of hand—completely out of hand.”
“But why did you do it in the first place, Richard—whatever were you thinking?”
“That’s just it—I wasn’t thinking—not really. Maybe I was reacting—emoting—taking out my frustration at being Mr. Nobody from nowhere.”
She shook her head in disbelief.
“What are you talking about? You’re well respected in the book community.”
“How would you know?”
“I own The Ready Reader Bookshop in Place Ville Marie—you inspired me to go into the business. I read all your newsletters.”
“Yes. I was trying to get up the nerve to write you and maybe meet you when I saw you on-line—at least, I suspected it was you, posing as Scott Finney.”
She took a sip of her wine and stared off into Toronto skyline. It could have been romantic being here with her—but ended up tragic.
“If you thought it was me, then why did you keep up the ruse and push me to write the book—start an on-line petition and all that nonsense?”
“Because, I wasn’t completely sure. You didn’t use a photo—just a stylized sketch, but it captured your soul—at least the way I remembered you.”
“And how was that?”
“As very noble. That portrait brought out that hidden side of you.”
I let out a huge sigh. “So, okay Marie, it’s over. Where do we go from here? Do you want me to pull the books off Amazon?”
I was puzzled.
“I want you to keep the books out there making money—and then I want a full accounting of the proceeds—every cent.”
“I want the money directed to Doctors Without Borders to be used for HIV relief in sub-Saharan Africa.”
I shrugged. “Okay—you’ll get it. I’ll start on it in the morning.”
Her eyes were filled with tears. I could sense her profound sadness.
“You’ll have to close your Twitter site too, Richard.”
“Yeah, I was intending to do that.”
As bad as I felt, I had to ask.
“What about me—are you planning to report me?”
“No, Richard. I think some good will come out of this, actually—and I think you’re truly remorseful.”
She stood up, turned to go and then, stopped and looked me dead in the eyes.
“I hate you Richard—for what you did to me—to us. I would have died for you—I admired you that much—but your ego just had to get in the way.”
I hung my head in shame.
“I’m sorry, Marie—truly sorry.”
“So am I, Richard. So am I.”
The book revenues continued another month and then began to trail off. Reach for the Sky, a new pop psych offering took over first place.
Now, I can’t help thinking about Marie and the life we could have had. Nothing defines us, I suppose, so much as the things we hold dear.
I still read Cyrano in the spring—and think of Marie.
I still make contributions to the sub-Saharan relief, even though the book profits have run out.
I write my monthly newsletter and pack it full of insights and hard-won truths gleaned from my own furnace of affliction.
Maybe I’m seeking redemption by multiplying a few bon mots—who knows?
All I know is, I’ve had enough of the limelight.
Maybe I can do some good after all, working in my bookshop—writing my newsletters and hoping Marie reads them.
That’s what I’m doing lately—working like an elf in the dead of the night, quietly living my own obscure life.