Not quite 10 years ago, I started exchanging emails with The Nymph after we met on a forum. When she finally decided to travel (a considerable distance!) so we could visit (me having a more inflexible job than her at the time) her sisters pitched a considerable fit because they thought that as “some man on the internet” I was probably going to dismember her and stow the parts in plastic trash bags; they’d seen it happen on some breathless television show, you understand.

Well, that’s not quite how it went, and we’re still happy together. So you’ll understand why I have considerable sympathy in me for this tale of a 19-year relationship that began on Prodigy and really got going with a first date that ended with a ride home to the folks in a police car:

My parents weren’t concerned that they never paid for my Prodigy usage nor did they understand why there never seemed to be any long-distance charges for calling the boy I’d met from New York City on the teen discussion message board.

Our parents didn’t mind us chatting online or talking on the phone, which we did for hours at a time thanks to a phone-phreaking acquaintance, and they didn’t object to us meeting in person. They just didn’t want to put much effort into making it happen.

I realized if I was ever going to hang out with the boy of my angsty, riot grrrl dreams, I’d have to do it on my own.

After yet another explosive fight with my parents, I told them I was going to the deli down the street to grab a sub, but instead, I called a taxi from a payphone. Before I left, I told my uncle where I was going and swore him to secrecy.

The taxi took me to the Trenton train station, which began my long trek to the wilderness of Staten Island—a place so backwards that it wasn’t totally wired for cable TV until the early 1990s. Even today, wild turkeys roam the streets.

From Trenton to Hoboken to the World Trade Center to the Whitehall ferry terminal to the Staten Island ferry terminal, where the boy was waiting for me in the arrivals hall decked out in his finest clothes of a Skinny Puppy T-shirt and Docs…

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