This is a True Story. I’m not sure of the exact day when the event transpired, but it wouldn’t be hard to pinpoint, as it clashed with a series of real life events that are well documented. It was before the Summer Holidays, that I can be certain of, so happened at least in recent memory. No names will be used either, except mine.
The reason why I’m mentioning it now will become apparent in due course.
I’m about to go to bed one night, and see someone on my Twitter feed post a quote from a Movie I really like, so (as often happens) I send a suitable response. This prompts me to go and take a look at their profile website, and discover they’ve moved quite a distance to start a new life. I remember being younger and wishing I had the balls to do this, but never did. I lied about the possibility to impress someone though, pretended an elaborate falsehood, and this exchange highlighted that moment. Then it prompted the desire to ensure I’m never that person again.
A couple of days later, whilst I’m prepping at breakfast to make a longer than usual car trip, the same person posts, clearly either drunk or in genuine distress. I’ve seen a lot of Twitter ‘attention’ posts in my time, and you get a sense after a while whether the person trying to attract sympathy or understanding is in genuine trouble, or angling to get someone to just talk. In this case, the alarm bells wouldn’t stop ringing, and so I pushed for more. This person was obviously unhappy, compromised and (it appeared) trapped by their own volition. I suggested that this could easily corrected, but this person wouldn’t budge.
Enter another Twitter ‘friend’ who is, it has to be said, a total heroine. She is kind, caring and understands the mindset of this individual, because it transpires they have already spoken. It then becomes apparent that the truth behind the wider narrative is not something they want to share (with very good reason) but their distress is genuine and now, at least for me several thousand miles away, increasingly alarming. Once it becomes apparent that there could be a firearm involved, I realise I am totally out of my depth.
I can still taste the fear and confusion from the car trip I made that morning, phone by my side as I followed this situation playing out, thousands of miles away, with nothing more that I could do except hope my reassurance had been enough to help the individual find a way forward. Then, I get a message: the person is safe, with someone else who has, simply out of the kindness of their heart, offered to help and offer shelter. Shortly afterwards, a single Tweet told the story, and a few days afterwards another appeared as a quiet and unassuming postscript. After that, there was nothing. I’d check, and wonder, and assume that if I heard nothing, that was enough.
Fast forward to this morning: for the first time in months I see a message from this person. I want to ask them how they are, if they struggled after what happened, but part of me knows I don’t want to post that Tweet.
Sometimes, that’s not how life works.
When you ‘live’ with people in large virtual communities, often it isn’t just about the good stuff. I’ve watched some genuinely frightening abuse in the time I’ve used Twitter, and in some cases that has escalated to real life over spill which isn’t just mortifying, but frankly unbelievable. That old adage that ‘it always happens to someone else’ is true right up to the point when you’re the one in the spotlight: then, it becomes a case of putting money where mouth is and being the decent person, not just pretending you are. With the exception of two close friends and the other person involved in this? Nobody else knew about that morning until now. Having seen this person moving on with their life, I just want to wish them well, but if I contact them again what could easily happen is that I’ll just drag up all the hurt and bad feelings from that point, and that just wouldn’t be fair.
If it were me, I’d just pretend that nothing ever happened and move on.
So, here I am, feeling the need to remind the World that you can be strong enough. Life does go on, you do cope, and things will get better. Often the way that happens is through the random kindness of strangers, who it doesn’t matter that you’ll never know. That’s what makes Life worth living, and why if you’re ever in a position to help someone stuck in a corner, you should absolutely and totally do everything you can to do just that.
One day, that person might be you.