Once upon a time and long ago, I ventured into a land called Wattpad, as did other writers in search of the illusive character known as The Serious Reader: one who might buy your books or at least check out your fledgling blog. For several months or maybe a year or two, (I’m losing my mind, sense of time, going blind) I posted examples of my work and followed those who commented (you’d be surprised how many people comment without reading, but hey, its a step in the right direction). Some avatars I followed knew how to write; others were extremely nice and well-meaning but needed far more time and help than I could give.
Then one day a writer and poet named Paul Tristam up and deleted his account without warning (he was a self-identified drunk). His poems were not for everyone. Dark, often hopeless, guilt ridden and passion fueled – they made you feel as if you’d just spent the night listening to the blues with your cousin who broke his leg then ruined it by walking ten miles along the railroad tracks too drunk to feel any pain. Then he woke sans job, wife, and child, but with a permanent limp and no pension.
But Tristam never participated in the community-based forums which Wattpad promoted and only commented on the works of a couple of poets, probably the folks who’d lured him to Wattpad in the first place.
Some Wattpadians took his sudden departure as a personal affront. “Why did he do it? How could he abandon us?” He’d given them a gift but they wanted more. They wanted him. As if he were interested in their lives, their illnesses, their relationship and job woes. But apparently that was not his gig.
My buddy Duke has written about the dangers of being drawn into a internet community far better than I ever could in his book Handbook for the Hopeless, How to Get a Job in a War Zone and Hallucinations. For him, those dangers were brought home by an online suicide; for me it was Colin and His Cats in Canada.
Colin, who went by the name Epigramman on Wattpad, was an older gent who lived with his cats somewhere in Canada. Every time I posted something, he never ceased to stop by and leave a comment that would leave me sailing on clouds for hours. And I always looked forward to reading the naughty, sometimes ghoulish poems which he posted.
Here are a couple:
The Dirty Little Secrets of My Jack in the Box
Jack’s hiding inside
And he’s not ready to come out
So I wind it up again
It’s the most animated box I’ve ever seen.
There’s more but since I don’t have permission from Colin to print the rest, I won’t but I think you can guess where it’s going…
And from The Lights are Back on in the Rainbow of my Heart
… of course my new found angel of mercy didn’t believe,
any of the sordid stories about a heartless
killer who ripped the flesh
from a woman’s face,
For we are truly in love.
Other titles include “Who put her Pretty Feet into the Witches Brew?” and “The Heart is a Stranded Vessel.” He really had a gift for clever titles.
One night in February 2015, he posted the last comment he would leave on my page. It sounded like a goodbye.
“Tonight I’m heading into the subzero of a Canadian winter for it is my lot (the cats need to eat) to work the night shift at a warehouse down on the river where the kindness of your last comment will keep me warm. Colin and the Cats in Canada.” (this is a paraphrase as Wattpad has deleted all my comments – probably because I am rarely on their site these days.)
I often see him laying out food and water for the cats and then heading out into the night, the wind blowing snow and ice forming on the end of his nose. A red woolen scarf wrapped around his neck (for some reason.) And then I see darkness.
For months his fans have left messages on his page basically saying “Come back to us” and “Does anyone know his last name?” “Does anyone know where he lives?” Unlike Tristam whose act of abandonment was a statement, Epi just simply faded into the black. Or maybe he was a child molester now rotting in jail or a peeping Tom who got caught. It’s hard to know.
But I know where he lives. He lives in the poems still hanging in the ethers like boats adrift on the some vaporous sea. I do worry about the cats.