I met Kathryn in a chat room during the fall of 1994, some 21 years ago. We couldn’t text each other, because that technology didn’t exist. We couldn’t send each other a snapchat, cause that app hadn’t been invented yet. All we had was a 14400 bps dial up modem, a keyboard, a computer screen, 3000 miles in between us, and a little internet service we used called Prodigy.
I was 18 years old, I just finished graduating from high school, but I didn’t immediately go to college. I decided to stay at home for a year and explore my options. One of those options was sitting in my Mom’s basement at night and going on-line and talking to people from all over the country. When I started talking to Kathryn, I never knew it would take me all the way to Southern California, but it certainly did just that.
After a few weeks of chatting online, we mailed each other pictures of ourselves. One day I opened up a letter with the postmark from La Jolla and I saw for the first time what this girl I had been talking to for weeks actually looked like. I was stunned. She was gorgeous. She was so much not what I thought a southern California girl would look like, which was blonde hair and a surfer vibe. She looked so much better. She had light eyes, and dark flowing black hair and she had an edge to her that manifested in every other girl I have been drawn to. She was the mold that created the standard of the type of girl I am attracted to. Mysterious, dark, and edgy. When I looked at the pictures of her for the first time, I knew I had to meet her.
Financially, I was well off back then and I was a good embellisher, therefore I could afford to tell my Mom and my friends that I was planning a trip to California to “look at colleges” when in reality, I was flying there to meet her. I hadn’t been to Cali since the summer of 1987 with my family, but I figured I could make my way around with a keen sense of direction, and a little help from strangers. I boarded a plane at Philadelphia International Airport that was headed for San Francisco, and I never looked back.
I spent the first two days in San Fran walking around the city, pretending to be someone famous while eating at the Hard Rock Cafe, and bumming a ride off of a 56 year old man who I sat next to on the plane ride out. I had never been this far away from home by myself, and I was loving every minute of it.
After a few days of hanging out and not checking out a single college in the Bay Area, I flew down to Los Angeles where I stayed in a motel in Burbank where the Americana shopping center now is. I took a cab to USC, and walked around the campus, but I couldn’t get very far because I wasn’t a student there, so I grabbed some pamphlets, and I had the cab driver take me down Hollywood boulevard to see the stars’ hand prints in the cement on the sidewalk that I live half from a block from now.
It was all kind of surreal for me. I was 18, all by myself in the third largest state in the nation and even though I looked at UCLA later that afternoon, I knew I didn’t have the grades to get into ANY of these schools at all. I didn’t really have a game plan as to what I was supposed to do, or what I was going to do once I got to San Diego where Kathryn lived, but when my flight left LAX for the short trip south, I felt this sudden rush of nervousness mixed with complete and total confidence.
I arrived in San Diego, and I had rented a car from a place that allowed 18 year olds to rent cars back then. I don’t know how that worked exactly, but for a few hundred dollars I jumped into a black Chrysler LeBaron convertible, and I found my way to La Jolla where I checked into my hotel room at the Holiday Inn.
I called Kathryn around 4pm and she answered and was really excited to hear from me. I told her I was in La Jolla and she told me that she had school tomorrow, but she couldn’t wait to see me. We devised a plan where I would show up at her high school the next morning (yes, she was in high school at the time) and she would sneak out during 2nd period and we could go anywhere as long as she was back by noon. I was going to meet her later that night at her parents house for dinner, but a secret rendezvous in the middle of the day where we would have some unadulterated time together was exactly what teenage boys and girls dream of doing if the situation ever arises, and that’s exactly what we did.
The next morning, I woke up bright and early, had some breakfast, and drove a few miles to Torrey Pines High School in San Diego, and I waited. About five minutes later, I see her. She’s a tall, attractive brunette wearing a jean jacket and she makes her way down the quad, onto the sidewalk, and into my convertible which was parked on a street right outside her school. It was the first time we had seen each other in person. I was enamoured at her smile, stunned that our plan was working, and overjoyed that we had the next few hours to ourselves. We took off and headed back to La Jolla via the I-5 freeway.
Some asshole cut me off at some point on the ride back to the hotel and I gave him the finger out the window.
“What are you doing? Don’t flip people off out here, they’ll shoot you.” Kathryn said to me as I changed lanes.
Apparently, it was true. A few months back someone was shot and killed on the freeway in California for doing exactly what I just did, giving someone the finger for doing something stupid while they were driving. Regardless, I kept my fingers to myself, turned off the freeway, and made our way back to my hotel room, which was the only place we could go to be alone.
We had talked about this a few weeks back. There was the obligatory sex conversation that occurred over the phone and in the private chat room we used to go to…….then back at the hotel room, the obligatory sex happened, for a full three seconds.
I wasn’t very good in bed that day, I realize this but it didn’t seem to matter. Kathryn was in high school, and I had just graduated, and neither one of us had a lot of sex beforehand to compare it to. Looking back now, I think the whole idea of this trip centered around the mystique of the two of us meeting each other in person, and not so much what happened when we met.
We put our clothes back on, talked for a little while, and then I dropped Kathryn back off at school, which DOES seem kind of weird now that I’m in my 30s and writing this. Still, I was going to see her later that night but I had some time to kill before dinner. So I did what anybody visiting Southern California would do in late 1994 when they had a few hours to kill would do. I drove to Mexico.
It was pretty easy getting across the border back then, it was slightly more difficult to get back, but still pretty easy. I remember driving into Tijuana, looking around at how impoverished the city was, and remarking at how every little Mexican person was trying to sell me a knock off Mighty Morphin Power Rangers doll. I wanted no part of it, because I hated the Power Rangers. They were campy, and I wasn’t into campy at that time. I was into flying across the country, lying to my Mom about my intentions, and aiding in the corruption of a sophomore in high school by coercing her to cut class and meet me for “lunch.”
As I made my way back to the United States, I gave a dollar to a little Mexican kid who cleaned my windshield, but in reality totally made it streaky and unable to see out of for the next 45 miles back to La Jolla. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any washer fluid in the car, but luckily, I had a convertible so I stuck my head out the side of the window and drove back to my hotel.
That night around 5pm I headed over to Kathryn’s house for dinner. She lived in a gated community somewhere on a hill in La Jolla. I drove up to the gate, hit a few buttons and made my way into the world of the white, rich and privileged.
I met her parents who were sweet enough to buy us some Chinese food for dinner, and then Kathryn and I went to the movies to see this new film every one was talking about called “Pulp Fiction.” I bought the tickets for me who was of legal age to see the movie and I handed one ticket off to Kathryn, who was NOT of legal age to see the movie. I was definitely racking up the unethical acts with her that day, but it didn’t seem to matter to either of us. I had to have her home by 10pm, which I did abide by. We went upstairs in her room and took a few pictures of me pretending to choke her which I now realize was a very strange thing to do, I know, but then we also took one of us making out while her cat laid on her bed in the background. I stared into her eyes, and I ran my fingers through her hair, and I hoped and prayed that this wasn’t going to be the only time in my life that I would see her face to face.
I was leaving the next morning, headed back to NJ because as much as I loved being in California for a week, it costs a lot of money to stay in a hotel and rent a car. I said goodbye to Kathyrn that night, and we promised each other we would keep in touch and maybe, hopefully, I would find a college out there I wanted to go to. After all, she still had two years of high school, and I still had plenty of time to figure out what I was going to do with my life.
When I got back home, we talked almost every day online and we chatted on the phone twice a week. It was going really well, I mean as well as a 3000 mile long distance relationship could go. We talked about me moving out to California at some point, and we were planning to see each other again in a few months when the summer started and she would be out of school.
About a week or so later I logged on to Prodigy to talk to her, but I couldn’t find her anywhere. People didn’t have e-mails back then, so all I could do was wait and see if she showed up in one of the chat rooms. A couple days after not seeing her online, I tried calling her and left a message. Then I tried calling her again, and left another message. I never got a phone call back. I didn’t know what to think.
I knew something must have happened, but I didn’t know what. Did she get a boyfriend? Did she change her phone number and not tell me? Did she move out of the country for legal reasons? We did break a lot of rules when I went out and saw her, but I don’t think we did anything unconstitutional that could have resulted in her being legally banned from talking to me. A week later, I got a letter from her in the mail.
I read the letter three times before I totally could comprehend what it said. As it turns out, Kathryn and her Mom went to the doctor for her yearly check up a week before. At the appointment, the doctor asked her if she had been sexually active in the last few months, and Kathryn just couldn’t lie. She told the doctor about the sex we had, and she told the doctor right in front of her mother who was absolutely livid…. at both of us.
Her parents took away her computer, told her to cut off all contact with me, and she was never allowed to talk to me again. In a way, I understood that, being that we undermined their trust and also the fact that she cut school, I took to an R-rated movie, and I was a little bit older than her and they probably saw me as a threat and as a bad influence on their teenage daughter.
I wrote a letter to her parents shortly thereafter and I apologized for what had happened and I begged them to let me talk to her again, but I never got a response back. In fact, I haven’t heard from Kathryn since that letter arrived at my house in the Spring of 1995.
I was depressed for a little bit. I really liked this girl, and not only was she beautiful and cool and witty, but she represented something bigger to me than just a girl from California that I met on the internet. She represented hope. She was a belief that maybe I could get out of NJ once and for all. Being that this was the mid 90s and meeting people off the internet wasn’t a popular or safe thing to do, it felt right and it made me feel like there was something special between us because I’ve always wondered about her and here I am writing a blog about her 21 years later.
There is a part of me that knows I didn’t do anything wrong, even though I knew some of what I did WAS wrong in the eyes of a parent. I really cared for her, and I took a chance and went for it. I wasn’t a scumbag or a kiddie corruptor, I was 18 years old, my heart was on my sleeve, and there I was sitting in the basement of my townhouse spending night after night becoming infatuated with the idea of love and how it brought me all the way from Marlton, NJ to Southern California. There is a part of me that forgives myself for being such a weirdo creep to her parents, and there is a part of me that still thinks about her as I write this from my one bedroom apartment 80 miles from where I picked her up that Wednesday afternoon in November of 1994.
My memory is pretty good, but 21 ago years is a long time to recall without the details becoming too cloudy. I remember she was the first girl I met off the internet, but she wouldn’t be the last. I remember how much fun we had for those few hours we were together, and I remember the weeks and months leading up to us meeting in person when I had so much confidence and never let a doubt creep into my mind about anything. But most of all, I remember that moment when I was able to combine the words she wrote me and the voice I heard on the phone to a picture she sent me that I stared at for hours. The first time I saw this picture, I couldn’t get a word out. I was speechless. Dark hair, light eyes, incredibly beautiful and edgy as fuck. It’s no wonder that every girl I’ve fallen for since then has looked somewhat if not at least a little like Kathryn did.
I wonder where she is today.