You know how chatrooms are, right? - especially in these unprecedented times the World is currently living through. They are a diversion, a harmless and re-assuringly mundane alternative to the seemingly constant feed of bad news our media feeds us day after day. They also serve as a conduit for people at various times to air their lives’ frustrations and, for many, to assuage their loneliness too. They provide a free and easily accessible social service that caters for a wide spectrum of humankind and its various needs and conditions. And most people who inhabit these virtual global forums know the score. The more of them you imbibe, the more curious you get and the more you start to filter; often finding those favourites within them, those names on a screen you start to look for when you log on and develop a rapport with – that, after all, is human nature. And, as it goes, you start over time to build these virtual friendships. But there is safety in the anonymity of this medium and a comforting detachment – right? You are after all just typing to a computer screen and interacting with a series of typefaces. That’s why people can (and often do) say just what they want and can often be absolutely outrageous, while others are more circumspect. It’s almost as if you detach yourself from the notion that there is actually a real person behind that typeface you’re reading. I have done all of the above, returning to the “fold” after a long absence because of the recent breakdown of a long-term relationship. I was wary of doing so, boy was I wary! Because I know only too well from past experience the dangers that lurk within them. But I returned because they were re-assuringly familiar, a source of amusement, a diversion from boredom, even a chance to exercise my alter-ego (SO different to the man I actually am by the way, the polar opposite in fact). I also returned because, even though I think I’m an introvert by nature, I find people fascinating. Like nearly everyone, I need social contact, even if only in “bite-size” chunks. And, maybe most importantly, I need the humour that just occasionally has me weeping with mirth, even almost laughing out loud (virtually unheard of for me!). That really is the best medicine there is, especially right now. There are just a few hilarious people in those Chatrooms. You know who you are btw! That’s the way the cookie crumbles I suppose. So, all of the above being considered, surely there couldn’t be any harm in dipping my toes in Chatrooms again could there? (especially if I exercised care and restraint) Well actually, maybe yes. And how does this happen you may ask? It happens when someone you have built a rapport with suddenly moves the goalposts….not to intentionally unsettle you but just to show you a little more of themselves – and no, I don’t mean a nude photo. (really NOT interested in those!) This happened to me last night. I received a PM (Personal Message btw, not the Prime Minister – he’s too ill to see me right now!). It unsettled me. It did so because for the first time almost, the typeface I had been building a rapport with over a week or so became a real person. The virtual person had in a single button press become a real one. I even saw what they looked like – I think THAT’S what made it real for me. And in case you’re wondering, I very much liked what I saw. And so the cloak of their anonymity had been cast off in one fell swoop. They had trusted ME with a piece of themselves, more than they would ever volunteer in the very public domain of a chatroom – and that meant an awful lot to me. But that really brings me back nicely to the start of this rambling post. She killed me with her kindness last night, and I now feel vulnerable. She killed me because it has sown the seed for feelings that I’m not comfortable with right now, feelings I haven’t had for ages, feelings I don’t really know how to deal with, feelings I don't think I even have any right to have - at the very least, I now have to confront the challenges of maintaining a proper friendship with a woman I have developed a real fondness for, and my track record of being able to keep my feelings at just the level of friendship is pretty lousy! All she was doing was being kind, being a friend, being normal. But for me, it opened up a hornet’s nest in my head! And I very much fear being stung. But the journey has started now and I’m not sure where it will end or how to get off…in fact, I’m not sure I even want to! Anyhow, I’ve packed my passport just in case.