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Vena McGrath

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Trev and the Boys - How I Came to Write about Trev
By Vena McGrath
Saturday, December 18, 2004

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Trev and the boys are real, their stories are based on fact and expanded by my imagination. This is the story of the man who is Trev.

The Story Behind Trev and the Boys

The events below are true except for a name change to protect my friend 'Trev'.  My first attempt at fiction and a bit of comedy all came about because I met him online in a chat room.

The vibes coming through the monitor to me were tearing me apart. I was there, with him, in his lonely caravan, seeing his pain, feeling it. The tears sprung to my eyes; tears of sadness, tears of frustration, and tears for a love that would never be. His words stung me, “stop feeling sorry for yourself, and stop wallowing in self pity”. I knew why he was lashing out at me; I was his punching bag, the woman he once thought he would spend his life with. That all changed in one fell swoop with a death sentence that he now had to live with until death took away his last breath.

“How would you like to go to bed at night not knowing if you will wake in the morning? How would you like to know that today is another one less you will be alive?” I had no answers; there was nothing I could say. I retreated to silence and angered him more. I wanted to run, to escape, and yet I knew this was where I was meant to be, here with him while his life slipped away from him in a horrifyingly painful way. No words were adequate. My music played away in the background and unwittingly I had neglected to switch off the function that allowed the titles to appear on screen. The music was following my mood and he asked me again, one time of many times, “are you picking the songs?” I assured him I wasn’t as my player was always on random select. He chose to disbelieve me and I felt guilty, even though there was no guilt.

I clicked on another chat room, looking for a respite, an escape for a moment. I still had ‘our’ private chat on the screen but I could also see the other room and the chat. People said hello to me and I answered like a robot, with no enthusiasm. I wondered if he was checking up on me to see if I was in another room, or if he had forgotten how to do that, along with any number of other things he had forgotten in the last weeks. He didn’t speak, and I decided to just let things lie quietly for a time, and watched the chat in the other room. I saw a nick come into the room that interested me; like always, any nick that was unusual was a source of curiosity for me, and so I quickly thought up something to say to get his/her attention so I could ask what the nick meant.

I was delighted when he/she saw my little funny and acknowledged me. I needed a diversion for a while and it seemed I had found one. I asked about the nick, the meaning, but really there was none. “Just a nick I had as a kid” was the answer, “with a bit added to it”. I asked a couple of mundane questions about location and if the person was male or female, and found out he was from Western Australia. Peter spoke to me in the private chat, and I quickly forgot about the guy from Western Australia, as I didn’t want to upset Peter by having to own up that I was also chatting elsewhere. I left the other room open but concentrated on Peter, and tried my best to keep the conversation going, but safe. I was wearing down bit-by-bit, and each night he came online, the time I spent with him was harder.

His typing was incoherent at times, just words, misspelt and confused. I knew his frustration and I felt his anger. He told me all he wanted to do was die, and the sooner the better. I felt anger towards him then, and I wondered why he even bothered to find me to talk to. But I knew why, and although I was upset at his words telling me to stop feeling sorry for myself, I knew he was partly right. I was sorry for myself.I sat there trying to make some sense out of this particularly difficult conversation when up popped another private conversation request on my screen. It was the guy from Western Australia.

I felt deceitful and dishonest when I clicked on the request and accepted it, and I was afraid that Peter would check my status and see I wasn’t idle. I said a quick hello, told him I couldn’t chat to him because I was involved in another chat with a sick friend. He apologised for privving me without asking, and said it was fine, that he would try and catch up with me another night. I closed down the priv and returned to my chat with Peter. He was tired, his headache was worse. He said goodnight and left in a rush, not giving me much time to even say goodnight. I sat for a while thinking about this predicament I had found myself in, and decided to make coffee and return to the other chat room for some light relief.

 On clicking back in there I noted my new chat acquaintance had left the room, so I sat for a while watching the chat before finding a room I wanted in my favourites list. I closed down the room I was in and moved to my friend’s room for a catch-up session with her.

Peter disappeared for a few days; that was the norm for this period of our chat relationship. It was early December and four months since he had told me he was going to die, and there were often many days between visits. I sat in one room with a few friends and was also logged into a couple of other chat rooms where I wasn’t talking. I sat and thought about Peter and wondered if he would turn up that night, and up on my screen flew a private chat request from the guy in WA. I accepted the request and we began the first of many chat sessions.

He seemed a nice enough guy, wary though. He told me a few snippets of information about his world, his work, but nothing specific. He hinted at having had problems in chat some years previous that could have harmed his career, and how he had decided to stay away from chat rooms. Why he had come back I didn’t bother to ask; I wasn’t really interested. He seemed to want to befriend me, and I soon rattled off a few snippets of information about myself, including of course, information about my writing and my book that would be published in the USA. I talked to him about Peter and he was attentive and kind. He asked me for my email address, and the next morning he sent me the first of many emails, usually early morning ones to my work address. They were always very proper and almost always ended with ‘regards’.

He would turn up in chat after that night irregularly, always apologising for not being around very often, explaining that he had a heavy schedule of work that usually extended into the evenings. He told me that as time went on, and he trusted me, he would reveal whom he was. He alluded to being in public office without actually saying he was. I assured him I really didn’t care who he was, or what he did or didn’t do, that as chat acquaintances it wasn’t necessary for me to know.

He told me a few things about his business without telling me what it was. All I really knew was he had an office near the sea, that he lived close to the water as well, and that he had a small but healthy sized staff.As he got into a routine of coming into chat before 9.00 pm Sydney time, he was never online when Peter was, so there was no conflict of interest. I wasn’t remotely interested in him romantically, he was just a lifeline, someone who knew about Peter and someone I could talk to anonymously and relieve my mind a bit. As Christmas approached he told me about his planned overseas trip for the holidays and that he was going alone. He had told me he lived alone, and yet he had mentioned early in our chats that he had a son who was in his last year of High School. I didn’t ask any questions, I wasn’t really interested.

Christmas came and went and Paul, as I had learned was his name, went off on his holiday. I stayed at home, chatting to Peter whenever I could as his condition worsened. The last time I spoke to Peter was on 30 December 2003 and late January 2004 I learned that he had passed away on 8 January. I knew he was gone, and had been mourning him for weeks. Now I knew for sure he was gone, and I cried many tears for a man I had grown to care so much for, and for the pain he had endured for so many months. Paul provided an online shoulder for me to cry on and we spent a bit of time talking about Peter. Gradually I pulled myself out of the slump I had fallen into, and began to look forward to hearing from Paul each morning, and to seeing him occasionally in chat.

He had begun changing his nick frequently and that bothered me. I asked him why, and he said he didn’t want anyone seeing him online too often. I asked him was he in hiding from someone, but he denied it. I was suspicious. It came from my exposure to chat for a few years, and from knowing that people who changed nick often usually had a good reason for doing it. However as it really didn’t matter to me, I just accepted he could be anyone at anytime. One thing he couldn’t change was his login address that appeared on screen, so I always knew who he was, regardless of the nick he used. This seemed to perturb him a bit, as he would mention that he couldn’t hide from me, I always spotted him. He would often apologise for being allusive about personal details but said that he would tell me soon. I reiterated I didn’t need to know.

One night in chat with me, he threw up on screen a website for me to go to, telling me I would find his pic in there if I looked for it. It was a Government website for a city in WA, so I assumed once I went online and looked, and remembering other bits of information I had gleaned from him over the months, that he was in some kind of public service. I did a quick look around and finally stumbled on someone with the same first name. I didn’t tell him, I kept quiet about perhaps having found his pic and details on the website.

He was very straight in the way he chatted; very ‘old school boyish’, even old fashioned. I found it amusing how he called me ‘dear’ and even in chat would sometimes sign off with ‘regards Paul’ like he had been writing a letter. I wondered about his man. On the one hand he lived a life full of male things like camping, fishing, canoeing, spending time with his dogs, and on the other hand a businessman with little time to spare. He seemed to be constantly on the go with very long working days. He would often drop by in chat of a weekend, telling me he was at work. He made it clear that he didn’t have a computer in his home, that once he locked his office up of a night that was the end of computers for him.

He told me funny stories about his dogs and I asked him if he would mind if I wrote some stories around his adventures. He was keen for me to have a go, and so I started to write a few funny short stories about Trev and the boys. Paul read them all with interest; his only stipulation had been that I change his name and the dogs names as he said he was well-known and didn’t want anyone to know I had written about him.

It was around this time that Paul decided to direct me to the exact spot in the website where I could find him. And I had found him weeks before, as I ended up in the place where I had visited then. Now I knew I had found the right person, I looked closely at the pic. I saw a bit in the pic about this man I was slowly getting to know. Once he let me find him he started to tell me a few things about his life, his work, his public life. He seemed to be totally wrapped up in himself though, and I tagged him as perfect as a politician. He had ambition and I saw his life being driven by that ambition. He complained about never having any privacy, about how no matter where he went someone knew who he was. I suggested to him once that he should visit Sydney for some peace, and he assured me that on a previous two-day visit to Sydney he saw no less than seven people who knew him.

I started to wonder how his head fitted through doorways, his ego seemed rather large. However, he was proud of his achievements, and rightly so I imagined, and wasn’t afraid to blow his own trumpet.Around this time viruses were rife at work and we were banned from receiving emails from email address such as hotmail, yahoo etc. As Paul had been writing to me from one of these addresses I wasn’t receiving his mail. I told him about the ban, and he started sending me emails from another service provider. His real name was part of this email address, and so two pieces fitted together. The information on the website was obviously his as the names were the same.He didn’t stay in chat for long at night, just dropped in for a short visit and often spent most of that time working while saying a few words to me. I would sit twiddling my thumbs waiting for him to speak. I used to check up on him to see if he was in another room but if he was, it wasn’t on the IRC we were talking together on.

He always left right on or just before 7 pm his time. He seemed so regimented, or did he have a wife at home and he was expected to arrive at the same time each day? Some nights he would come online very late, explaining that he had been to a meeting, had papers to collect to take home, and decided to log in and say hello before he left. I had heard all the stories before and although his had a new twist, I figured they were just stories.I kept writing my stories about Trev and his adventures, and completed three. Paul promised me more stories and I began thinking about a book of short stories on the escapades of Trev and the boys. He was interested in the idea and gave me permission to put the stories on the website where I posted all my writing endeavours.

He gave me another link to the website one night and I read a newspaper article where he featured. It was to do with his public life and an issue that had received press coverage. He told me about his aspirations, and that his life could well change during the latter part of the year. I saw him going far and realising his dream, and I also saw the kind of woman he would need by his side, and it sure wasn’t me. Reading the website about the area where he lived and worked, I started my own dream. I wanted to move to WA and likened it to the last frontier. I could picture myself living near a beach, watching the sunset over the ocean, while I sat in my study writing. I spoke to my family about my aspirations to get out of Sydney and NSW and was surprised at their reactions. They all felt the same way! And so began a dream for all of us, that we would escape within a year, if we could manage it, or at least during 2005.

I pumped Paul about the area where he lived and found out quite a bit. I surfed the net and moved up and down the coast with the starting point being Perth. There were innumerable places of interest but I knew that the only way to ever be sure would be to fly over to WA, hire a car, and do a tour personally. I found out about land prices, seaside, as the only way I would consider relocating would be to live near the sea, with views and the sound of the ocean rolling in. My aim in relocating to WA never had anything to do with Paul.

My sadness about Peter started to lessen and I was well into my writing, working with the editor in the USA and concentrating on increasing exposure on the internet, through my stories, articles, placing on search engines with key words related to my scope of interest. During March a new person entered chat in the room where I had been spending some of my time. I always had my own room opened, and a few friends would drop by, including Paul, but often it was lonesome.

I worked on top of the room with my writing, listened to my music, chatted to anyone who came in, but sometimes I needed to be amongst more people and so I revisited the 50s room where my chat life had begun. All the women in the room were soon questioning the new chatter, and I could see his discomfort. One of the women in the room was secret messaging me about him, and she appeared to be interested. We found out he was a widower, lived in the far north of NSW, in a mountain area. The other woman flirted with him, and he seemed to groove in and enjoy himself, although he made it clear he was not looking for a relationship, just a bit of chat. I teased them and encouraged them to get together. I wasn’t interested as he was way too far away, and I was still thinking too much about Peter. I also had Paul dropping by for visits to keep me amused most nights.

One day in the chat room the new guy said something to me that apparently upset me, and I told him to refrain from speaking to me and that I would in turn ignore him. That was how it stayed for a while, no exchange of verbals between us. I went to Brisbane in April to visit my relatives, especially my mother, and for two nights of my time away I stayed in an apartment on the Gold Coast. I had lunch with a few people from chat one day, met up with a guy I had known the previous year, and spent an afternoon and a night at Jupiters Casino with my brother. Unfortunately I went on this trip minus my multifocal glasses and even worse, my eye was having an attack of keratitis, so without my glasses I was flying blind to read. I did have my sunglasses, multifocals, and at night I would hook up my laptop and sit at the keyboard with my sunglasses on so I could read the screen. I laughed at how stupid it all was, and just hoped that my glasses were in my car, where I presumed they must have ended up after falling out of my bag on the trip to the airport.

It was a nightmare at the Casino trying to read the poker machines and fill in Keno cards. But I decided to have a try at Keno and use six special numbers, one being Paul’s birthday, and invested in a run of games. My brother and I were having dinner later that night, and we watched the Keno games while we ate. I saw my numbers come up, but my games had run out. I cursed my bad luck because for $1 a game I would have won $1800. After dinner I invested in more fifty-cent games using the same numbers, and stashed the card away in my bag. On the way out the door to go back to the apartment I remembered the Keno card, raced over to the teller, and stood there just waiting, not in anticipation, just to find out if I did any good. I was astounded when the teller told me I had won $900! The six numbers had come up again, and this time I was on them. I was ecstatic, almost did a dance in the Casino, and called my brother over, laughing excitedly. He was surprised, and happy, and we left the Casino in high spirits. I gave him one hundred dollars for dinner and his petrol, as he was very sweet to have come all the way down the coast to spend a few hours with me.

Once I was alone again I hooked up the laptop to the phone and dialled in. It was the early hours of the morning, but I wasn’t tired. I knew I had to get up reasonably early to pack and move out, but sleep would have been hard to find. I put on my sunnies and rocked into the chat rooms. Of course most of the rooms were empty. I logged into the 50s room and there, on his own, throwing popups on the screen, was the guy I was ignoring! I hesitated, would I just leave or say something? I decided it was stupid to just run out so I spoke to him, asking him why he was alone playing with popups. He seemed to be embarrassed to have been caught, but laughed good-naturedly. After a period of slow banter back and forth, we started to chat to each other. I told him about my win and he congratulated me, with honesty I recognised.From that night on we became friends, and I eventually invited him to visit me in my room if he would like to. He was fast tiring of the chat in the other room and the bitchiness that was going on.

Meanwhile Paul would still rock into chat when he chose, and came straight to my room after logging in through 50s room and saying a quick ‘hi there, not staying, just on my way through’. My new friend, Bryan, would disappear out of the room when Paul came in. Paul noticed and asked me who the new person was and why he left so abruptly all the time. I explained he was a friend I had recently met and that I didn’t have a clue why he left the room when Paul arrived. I asked Bryan about it and he told me he left because he didn’t want to be in the way, so Paul and I could talk privately. I told Bryan if I wished to chat privately to Paul I could still do it even if he, Bryan, was in the room. I asked him to stop doing it, as there was no need because Paul was, like he was, just a chat friend.

He started staying, but would often put up on his nick that he was away from the keyboard, or in the shed when Paul rocked in. I watched all this, and I also saw the music he was putting on the screen, and I wondered about this man. He seemed to be making a move towards me; his music spoke words to me that perhaps he wasn’t game to say himself. Paul asked me about Bryan on a number of occasions. Here I was, in the middle, trying to convince both of them that neither of them meant anything more than the other. I shook my head and wondered why things had to be so difficult, why I, as the founder of the room we were in, couldn’t sit there with any number of men, and not have to account reasons why any of them were there.

Paul started coming by less frequently, and for shorter visits. He was always apologetic, saying that he hoped when the work quietened down he would be able to spend more time with me. I wasn’t bothered much really; there was nothing between us but friendship. He was only 42, 16 years younger than I was, he lived in WA, thousands of kilometres away, and we were thousands of kilometres apart in how we saw our futures panning out. I had no ambition beyond having a successful book to sell, retiring from a paid job that bored me, and relocation to the sea to write and grow old in peace and happiness. His ambitions were centred on politics. I could tell that, in spite of his protestations that he wasn’t sure about his future. He had a successful business, or so I gathered from what he told me, a healthy social life, a life away from it all where he went bush with his dogs, and seemed totally happy with his lot.

On one of Paul’s visits he told me he was in a real bind emotionally. Someone had returned to his life from his past, someone he had never gotten over. He seemed torn, unsure of how to handle this latest issue in his busy life. On the one hand he seemed to be trying it out for size, on the other he appeared to be hiding out from the woman concerned. I had a flash of his future one day, weeks before this happened, and told him someone was coming into his life who would suit his future plans admirably, would be a trophy on his arm socially, and would help him politically to realise his dreams. I added that he would be very happy. I didn’t have a clue when it would happen, and was astounded when it actually did happen, and the lady concerned was someone he had loved deeply years previously.

He came into chat less and less from that time on, and told me usually he had to leave fairly quickly as he was cooking dinner for someone, or meeting someone after work for dinner. He eventually told me the ‘someone’ was always the same person, and he was trying to decide whether to give the relationship a chance or not. The last night I saw Paul in chat he told me he hoped to see more of me soon, that he had a few issues to set right first. He went out of chat that night using one of his made up nicks, and returned a minute later using the nick I first knew him by, kissed me over and over again, and disappeared. I never saw him in chat, or heard from him, after that night.

He had always been so upright and correct in chat, rarely venturing out of that mode. He was friendly, but wary, and he allowed me into bits of his life. He asked my advice sometimes, he read my stories, congratulated me often, and said how proud he was of me. His emails had always been the same too. Usually fond regards, or regards, or thinking of you were his stock sign-offs and his emails were usually short; just a hello, how are you, nice to see you last night type of thing.

He had talked of coming to Sydney to a conference he attended each year and asked me if I would have coffee with him. Of course he didn’t come to Sydney, or if he did I never knew about it. I left it for a week after he disappeared, and then sent him an email suggesting it wouldn’t hurt to drop by in chat and tell me what had happened to make him disappear, but there was no reply. Bryan knew Paul had disappeared, and I eventually talked to him about it. He and I weren’t getting on too well, I was tired of men using me, and in my anger at Paul, I saw that Bryan was doing that too, so I gave him a shove out the door.

After giving Bryan a hard time I thought long about how I was feeling and why, and decided I had been very cruel to him as all he ever tried to do was be there and listen to me. He liked to share music and thoughts with me, and I saw that really I was the problem, I was reading too much into the song titles he threw on the screen. I had this beautiful piece of music that I loved, and I sent it to Bryan attached to an email. He came back into chat, and we talked things over. Bryan became a regular in my room then, and Paul became a memory. One I could never quite work out though.

I still think about him and wonder. I came up with a solution that fitted the puzzle and completed it for me to my satisfaction. I decided he wasn’t who he said he was; that he worked in the office of that person, had access to his email address, and used it when the real Paul wasn’t around. Hence the hurried exit, the rush visits, the fear that I not use his real name or his dogs’ names in my stories. I liked the intrigue of my ending and I smiled as I put the piece of puzzle in place. It seemed to fit okay, although I did have to force one corner in.

I also decided that if I did in fact make a visit to his city in WA, I would drop in on him and I would know by the look in his eyes if he was indeed the man I spent so many months in a chat room with. Regardless of whether he was the real Paul or not, he took a big chance on telling me who he was. From the website I had his mobile number, his office address, and phone numbers. I knew his position in the town, his public life position, and being a writer with press contacts, I could have done him some damage, if I had so chosen. Coming from a man who impressed it upon me right from the start that he had run into a disaster from a woman in chat who almost ruined his public career, I found it rather stupid of him to allow himself to get into a similar situation.

Until, and if, I do visit his city, I will keep the ending I have come up with. I hope that whatever did happen, if he is the real Paul, that he is very happy and successful. I hope that he feels just a tad guilty about the way he wandered out of my life, as there was no need to do that. His secrets were safe with me and still are. No one, not even Bryan, who became for a time part of my life in a personal way, knew who he was, or made out he was. Another story from chat. A most interesting place to hang out if you take it in the right context, and don’t let it rule your life.   

Vena McGrath

Copyright 2004


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