Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2019  Vol. 18 No. 2
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Women in Tech

In August of 2005, on the same day that Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans and parts of Mississippi, an unconscious woman dangled sideways in her car in Northern California. Her Jeep had swerved and then flipped twice before landing on its side in a ditch. Glass from the shattered windows and mirrors left glimmers on the road, but no one saw the accident happen, and for a long while after the sudden crash and commotion, everything was perfectly still again.

Katrina dominated the news that day. It was hard to read about anything else, even thirteen years later. Eventually, though, I gained access to a private crime database and discovered a police blotter from Grass Valley, California that had the story. The article said a farmer working in a field was the first responder to the crash. He was on his tractor when he saw something beautiful appear on the road nearby—there must have been millions of glass shards on the asphalt reflecting the sunlight like a sheet of ice. He said he stopped, flipped off the engine, and considered the display. Then he saw the overturned car and he waited, listening for sounds of life. He heard nothing, only the silence of inertia—no movement at all. And that nothingness was what had prompted him to dial 911 on his cell phone. When he finally approached the car, he saw a woman in the driver’s seat, suspended sideways in her seat belt. Long hair covered her face. He couldn’t tell how long she’d been hanging there like that, and he knew the risks of handling an unresponsive body without professional experience—if she’d injured her spine or neck in the crash any intervention could paralyze her forever—but she was so flaccid and helpless, he said he didn’t think too much about the consequences of his actions; he acted on impulse, opened the door, cut her loose, and pulled her out of the car to see if she was alive. She wasn’t awake, but he was able to find a pulse at her neck, faint yet steady. And when I think of him now, placing Teal delicately on the grass near the road, I imagine him moving her hair aside so he could get a better look. I imagine his expression, a grimace of surprise, when he saw that most of her injuries—the ones he could see—were on her face. Her forehead was bleeding from a deep gash, her cheeks and jaw were already bruised and severely swollen, likely due to her prolonged sideways suspension, and a viscous fluid dripped from her left eye socket.

When the officers and paramedics finally arrived, the entire country was probably watching television. The National Hurricane Center had just described Katrina as “catastrophic,” the most powerful hurricane ever to form in the Atlantic. The paramedics in California gave the woman oxygen, placed her on a stretcher, and lifted her into the ambulance around the same time that helicopters in New Orleans aired footage of people escaping to rooftops as seawater surged just inches below. Those videos, still archived on news sites across the country, were the most disturbing. I watched, again and again, senior citizens on the roof of a retirement home in the Lower Ninth Ward reaching to the sky, hoping those helicopters up there filming them would instead try to save them.

Later the police found the woman’s purse in the car—thirty-year-old Teal Johnson was from San Francisco—and they discovered possible clues to the cause of the accident and her destination—she must have been heading to Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert. They found a tent and some sort of canvas structure for shade in the back of her Jeep. They found steampunk, Mad Max–style goggles, an old bicycle, jugs of water, and a half-empty quart of whiskey lodged under the driver’s seat. That bottle of whiskey, although an insignificant discovery in the greater order of things, was powerful enough to reverse the compassion on everyone’s faces, and abandon this article forever to the annals of a crime database, although a crime would never be investigated.

I accepted the “eye Teal” story, as it would later be known at the technology magazine where I worked in San Francisco, almost thirteen years after her accident. My editor, Mel, told me about the assignment at her own retirement party. We were leaning into the neon-lit hotel bar in SoMa, our faces close so we could hear one another over the roars of laughter and celebration.

“Get this,” she said. “A local performance artist has implanted a video camera into her prosthetic eye . . . one she can control through an app . . . on her phone.”

I was intrigued. I watched Mel closely, waiting for her to explain more, and noticed then that there was something dramatically different about her appearance that night. It was her makeup. The foundation on her chin and jawbone showed layers. I saw shimmers of bronze on her cheeks like tiny shavings of glass, and noticed for the first time that, perhaps, her long eyelashes weren’t real. I wondered then if she had been nervous about the party, about retiring. Maybe sixty was too young for her to go. And then, for the first time since she had announced her plans to leave, I wondered if sixty was precisely the problem.

“It’s a response project,” she said. She ate the olive from her drink. “Exposing sexual assault.”

In my periphery, an elderly man I recognized, a board member with a swollen face, approached Mel and placed a hand on her back. We both turned to him and I watched his fingers contain Mel’s entire shoulder. “Congratulations, Melissa,” he said. “We hate to see you go,” he said, reaching for her wrist with his other hand. Mel dodged his grasp by instead touching the breast of his suit jacket gently with her open palm.

“Bill,” was all I heard her say.

There was a tapping, fork to wine glass, that silenced the room. I watched two colleagues, awkward younger men who worked on the website, say something then snicker before I heard the deep voice of our boss, the editor in chief, from a location I couldn’t identify. “Excuse me,” he said into a microphone. “A toast.”

Bill continued talking to Mel, only now he was whispering, and I watched her mirror him, widening a smile, pressing her lips together dramatically in a gesture of flattery. Mel had been my direct boss and mentor for the last five years, and during that time, we’d been the only two women on our “culture” team of eighteen journalists—she’d hired me out of graduate school to report for the magazine’s newest category, Women in Tech. And as I watched her move and gesture with such grace and accommodation, I was suddenly terrified that she was leaving me.

“To Mel,” said the editor in chief, whom I still couldn’t see.

Bill winked at Mel then walked away. She turned to me. “Look,” she whispered quickly. “Take the story, it’s yours,” just before we turned around to hear the rest of the farewell speeches.


Teal Johnson asked me to meet her at an unexpected venue—a small Mexican restaurant in the Mission popular for its nameless obscurity. I had arrived early intentionally; I was always looking for an opportunity to observe without participating. What exactly I was looking for, I couldn’t ever say. I knew only that I’d learned to anticipate the edits from Mel so innately my “reporter eyes” almost never felt like my own. More description, she always requested. Describe the motive.

So I was already seated at the booth when Teal arrived. She opened the door wearing jeans and a black T-shirt, and scanned the room. I waved to introduce myself. She didn’t know me the way I already knew her; of course she wouldn’t. I had no visible media presence. There were no photos of me online, just an unmemorable byline attached to a long list of articles about inclusivity and gender-biases and a few female CEO profiles I’d written.

When she saw me wave, she approached me with the confident swagger of a regular.

“This place has fabulous margaritas,” she said, sliding into the booth beside me. She readjusted the top of her jeans at her waist and picked up the menu, using her index finger to guide her eye across the words on the page like a child learning to read. The waiter appeared immediately, as though he’d been waiting for her. Teal pointed to a picture of a margarita. “Two please—with extra salt and extra tequila.”

I knew right away that she’d be an excellent subject. Her demeanor was different than it had been when we spoke on the phone. When I’d called her on the phone last week, she’d been hesitant, distracted, and too busy. But today she was all business. I also noticed in her an artistic sensibility that I hadn’t anticipated. She really did seem like an artist—an observation that revealed itself in the way she squinted, with almost seductive curiosity, at the patrons around her. There was something vulnerable and touching about the way she watched other people so closely, and how, before bringing her attention back to me, she’d confidently adjust her bangs to cover her scar.

“Do you mind that I just ordered for you?” she said, laughing. “Are journalists allowed to drink on the job?”

I smiled. “I normally don’t drink tequila but, for some reason, I’m going to trust you on this.”

She smiled awkwardly as though she were suspicious of me. As a reporter, I was used to this initial encounter with the women I interviewed. Her story was about to become my story, and there was usually an awkward moment in which we both seemed aware that she’d agreed to give me something I hadn’t yet earned.

I reached into my bag and pulled out my phone. “Do you mind if I use this to record our conversation?” I asked.

“Not at all,” she said, reaching into her bag to fiddle with her own phone. She closed her eyes, opened them as if to reset a program, and I froze, watching her fake eye for signs of life. I had wanted to set a boundary, to come right out and tell her that I wasn’t comfortable with the possibility of her filming me, but I was recording her too, and somehow didn’t feel I had the right to object. In truth, I also wasn’t ready for that type of confrontation. We didn’t know each other and we still had to be careful of the volatility that often follows the realization that we needed each other. Almost urgently did we need each other in that moment.


“Wait, back up,” Mel had asked when she saw my first draft. “What did she look like?”


Ah yes, describe the problem. When Teal had approached the booth, I knew I was blushing. She was—there was no other way to say it—seductive. It was her stance, her figure watching as she approached me in the dark restaurant. All of that, combined with the boldness of her project, was immediately overpowering. I stood up and we hugged limply as strangers do, then she slid into the booth next to me. She tugged at her shirt where the cleavage of her breasts was enhanced, somewhat dramatically, under the V-neck of her shirt. She was smaller, more petite than I’d expected. She looked older too, like maybe the thirteen years since the accident had been hard ones. Her long hair was still wet from a shower—I could smell her shampoo. She wore stiletto heels that helped her height substantially, but I still had to bend down to hug her—she couldn’t have been much taller than five feet. Her face, which showed the natural lines of her age, was attractive. Even the scar that sliced through her forehead and right eyebrow was striking. It seemed almost intentionally artful. And then I noticed, with a rush of shame, my difficulty in facing her left eye, the fake one. I pretended to make eye contact like I would with anyone else, but my glances weren’t authentic and for that, I didn’t know how to be. I understood that her prosthetic was drawing attention to something we weren’t going to talk about, not yet, which was a confusing thing to navigate in a first connection . . . because in this case, her disability was the very thing I’d been taught to focus on when meeting someone new—never be the one to break eye contact. I tried to make myself look directly at her eyes, but there was something deceiving about the glare of her prosthetic that made this challenging, as if its gaze was still alive, just stuck there, frozen in the headlights of a past trauma.

I ate a tortilla chip from the basket, then checked my phone to make sure the voice recorder was working, and started the interview with the crisis—punch it right in the center, Mel always said.

“You previously stated that your project, like so much art, is motived by trauma, but that you have no memory of the car accident. Can you say more about this?”

Teal looked amused, ready to play. She leaned forward as if she were about to tell me a secret. “I’m not sure I remember any of the trauma I’ve experienced. Do you? And I certainly don’t remember the crash. Our brains are built to forget stuff like that. Sometimes when I’m simply retelling the stories that I’ve been told about my life, I feel like I’m making them up.”


The waiter returned with our drinks and placed them on the table. It was true that I hadn’t planned on drinking—we were always advised against it—but I also hadn’t realized how nervous I’d been until that very moment, so paralyzed by the threat of her camera, so I leaned in and took a long sip from the straw. Teal watched me closely.

“They’re good, right? The margaritas here,” she said.

They were strong. I felt the alcohol warm my throat and soften my stomach. I waited for Teal to finish her sip and then said, “Tell me about your recovery from the crash.”

She was quiet for a long time before she said, “At first, after the accident, I was just completely euphoric and invigorated that I’d survived. I had barely escaped death and felt so enthusiastic for my second shot at life.”

“You were just happy to be alive,” I said.

“I was thrilled to be alive. But I’d lost an eye. I also suffered a serious neck injury and even some brain damage.”


Before the accident, Teal had been a dancer, a community theater stage actress, and a member of the Fire Conclave, a fire dance group that performed at Burning Man every year. She was interested in fashion and had always been considered a “suggestive” or experimental dresser—corsets, fishnets, leather pants, and leather bras, stuff like that—and people loved her style, they loved her for her style. But this all changed when she started using theater props to hide herself after the accident. She wore large glasses, vintage hats, veils, masks, and eye patches to cover her wounds, her stiches and scars. And when her neck didn’t heal like the doctors had hoped, she wore neck braces she designed as elaborate dog collars with extra “frill.” Most people didn’t know she was hiding such traumatic injuries, but they knew something was different about her new “styles.” They saw her as an exhibitionist, a show-off. Everyone thought she was in costume, trying too hard for attention as a fembot or a superhero. Men harassed her on the streets. Women rolled their eyes. The masks and patches made her unsteady too; she constantly bumped into things. When pouring herself a glass of water, she’d miss the glass. When she collected change from someone at a cash register, her palm was always just a half inch too far to the left or right. And as her infections healed, the head and upper spine injuries she’d suffered in the crash grew worse. She started getting migraines so severe she’d lose her short-term memory for hours at a time.

She finished her drink and waved at the waiter. “Another for you too?”

Eventually she lost her job. She had to move in with her parents. She became depressed. Her drinking got worse, and so did her memory. She’d go out to bars at night and wake up, nearly every weekend, with men she didn’t remember meeting.

I stopped writing and looked at her. She adjusted her bangs. I waited for more, and when I realized she wasn’t willing to take it further, I asked her carefully, “How often did this happen?”

Her eyes angled upward and to the left as though she were counting. “Five or six years?”


The waiter came back with another round of margaritas. I sat back in the booth and looked around the restaurant like a swimmer coming up for air. The place had gotten crowded; all the tables were full. I hoped they wouldn’t encourage us to finish and give up our table. For five or six years, she woke up with men she didn’t remember meeting? I scribbled the question in my notebook, beginning to understand something about its enormity. Mel was always telling us that you find the underbelly of your story when you start getting answers to questions you’re not asking. This story wasn’t like the others I’d written, and I knew it then. It was layered and complicated, the trauma far-reaching and universal. Although I’d never been as traumatically injured as Teal, and although I’d never woken up with a man I didn’t know or remember, I knew what she was talking about, and I imagined most women would recognize this too. It was an old story, one we’d lifted and looked under again and again, never pulling back.

I leaned in to her and made myself look directly into her fake eye for the first time. The desire to see it, to really examine its realness, was suddenly so strong. The deep blue “iris” resembled an exquisite toy marble, laced with yellow specks on a white canvas of sclera. And although its movements were somewhat rigid, it did look fantastically real. Feeling as though we’d moved through all the initial pettiness, the circling of two rivals in the ring, I moved closer to her face to get a better look at her eye. “It’s a very beautiful prosthesis,” I said. “There’s so much going on in there.”

“Thank you,” she said, not minding my closeness, the proximity of my face. “When I realized this was my new eye and that it was completely hollow on the inside, this emptiness occurred to me immediately as an opportunity.”

Yes, I wanted to say, but my enthusiasm felt too open and messy, so I pulled back from her again and turned the page in my notebook, as if I were following a script. “How did this project come to fruition?” I asked. “Can you walk me through how you arrived here?”

“I guess you could say I’m a sci-fi geek.” She took another sip of the margarita and licked the salt from the rim of the glass. “I love the idea that people can actually invent a new reality by simply reflecting it. We can show people what’s true by allowing them to see themselves. We’re all so sanctimonious, just so fucking blind to ourselves.”

“In a sense, this camera is your memory too,” I said. “Like a backup device for moments you may not remember.”

“Sure, sometimes. And also . . . I learned the hard way that if you don’t take control of your life, and your body, someone else will.”

I nodded slowly, thinking again of Mel. She’s handing it to you. Take it.

“Let’s talk about the feminist label of your project. You said you’re hoping to . . .” I read the rest from my notes, “exploit the objectification and nuance of consent, the pervasive disempowerment of women to accommodate sexual desires. Can you talk about this?”

She sighed and her faced tightened; quickly she turned hard. She was annoyed. “Let’s make one thing clear,” she said. “Just because I’m a woman putting a camera in my eye doesn’t mean the project is only about sex.”

I felt myself flush with embarrassment. I hadn’t been expecting her to be defensive. “But isn’t this how you’ve described this project yourself?”

She dodged the question, ready to argue about something else entirely. “Look, I don’t blame all the women who have jumped on the chance to write about this, or to offer me their endless unsolicited opinions—do it this way, or it only works if you do it like this. I realize we need this so much . . . but it’s still so impossible to manage everyone else’s needs around my own work.”

I somehow understood this was a jab directed at me, but I didn’t break; I was too intrigued.

“That’s interesting,” I said. “And what do you think other women need from a project like this?”

She raised an eyebrow. “Shit. God. I mean, everything.” Then she laughed awkwardly. “Just think about the last private conversation you had with your boss, your entire twenties, college. Wouldn’t you like to have a hidden camera documenting some of those moments? No one believes the subtleties but we’re living them . . .”

Her phone vibrated on the table and she paused to read a text message. I waited, wanting her to finish that thought, a perfect pull quote. She typed a response in quick, tinking taps, and although she was looking down at her phone, I could have sworn her left eye stayed focused directly on me.


And this is where everything shifts.

“But a camera won’t save you,” I said softly. I thought of New Orleans, the senior citizens, the cameramen in their helicopters.

Teal was still texting. “What?” she said loudly.

This is where the story shifts because the retelling, particularly the retelling of details within the gaps and silences, starts to feel like fiction. Because during this part of the interview a large group of people had entered the restaurant, someone had turned up the music, and the noise around us amplified. I was also feeling the disorienting effects of the tequila. I looked through my notes. There were technicalities in my role as journalist and advocate that weren’t adding up. I wrote myself a note that I’d later read with confusion and then great distress: reconsider publishing. the more people who know about Teal’s project, the less effective she’ll be at uncovering violations of consent.

I was also growing more concerned about the noise and my recording device. By now the evidence of our words would be impossible to prove, but I continued nonetheless.

“A camera will only protect you if everyone you meet knows they’re being recorded. And if they all know, they’ll be performing. Does this really solve the problem?” She still didn’t hear me so I spoke louder: “Will you tell people when you’re filming them? Will you get consent?”

“I’m not breaking the law,” she said.

I took another sip and must have moved closer again so she could hear me because I remember our knees were touching under the table and her voice on the recording was somehow easier to hear the next day.

“What are you planning to do with all this footage?” I asked as casually as I could muster.

“The same thing you’re doing with that,” she said, glancing down at my phone recording her voice. “Eventually I’m going to edit and publish it—maybe as part of my film. Right now, I’m just planning to upload new videos on my website every day.”

“Won’t you need consent from the people you film?” I asked again, wondering if she had a waiver or something official for me to sign.

“Like I said, I’m not breaking the law,” she said. “Believe me.”


I realized, many months later, that as I observed Teal that evening, she was watching me too. She had studied my posture, my figure, my clothes. I remembered that her gaze was disorienting; I felt an uncomfortable pressure as I watched her. Our faces were close, which meant that her camera was too. I thought of my dishwater-colored hair, the Lebanese eyebrows I’d inherited from my mother and grandmother and how I could never keep them properly tamed. I smoothed my skirt and tightened my ponytail, wishing I’d worn my hair differently, wishing I’d worn more makeup.


“Go back and take yourself out,” Mel had suggested when she saw the first draft. “You represent the eyes of everyone, not yourself.” But I always knew this wasn’t entirely true. I represented the eyes of a very specific demographic, a group I was always trying to please, not a single person. And in order to understand the entire truth of what happened with Teal and this story, you’d have to know how it felt to have your subject watching you watch her like that.


The waiter came back with another basket of chips, and since I wasn’t satisfied with Teal’s response to my question of consent, I took the opportunity to evaluate her for signs of drunkenness. It’s true that she was looser in the limbs, her eyes slightly heavier and narrower, but it was also getting late. Maybe she was tired. Then I remembered the whiskey the paramedics had found in her car after the crash, and suddenly I felt anxious, flooded with accusations and questions of reliability: How serious is her drinking problem? What if she’s drunk now? Will she remember this conversation?

“But you’re hiding the camera,” I said. “How do you respond to critics who say this project is exploitative?”

“I say, we’re all concealing our desires for something.”

“What do you say to critics who are concerned you’ll be compelled to manipulate, or even provoke people to get the material you’re looking for?”

She was prepared for this question. She looked down at my notebook and nodded at it. “I say, maybe that’s possible, but isn’t this already happening? Aren’t we all already twisted up in authenticity like that, provoking each other to get the outcomes we want?”

I took another sip and licked the salt off the rim of my glass like she had done, and flinched at the bitterness. I wasn’t sure if she’d just hit me with another jab, so I paused for an uncomfortable few seconds to consider my next question.

“Are you filming me?” I asked.

She was amused and offered me a kind, almost compassionate smile. “Does it matter?”

An unexplained rage rose inside of me then, like an urge to fight, and whether my next question came from the tequila or from the embarrassment, I’ll never know. But it surprised me nonetheless. It was a question I would have never asked if I’d known it would be my last.

“Were you drinking when you crashed your car?”

She watched me carefully, unflinching. I thought I saw her smirk, a condescending smile that disappeared instantly when she said again, very seriously this time, “Does it matter?”


After that, my recording device failed. The background noise had become too loud, distorting my thoughts and memories, but also our voices. I had only to rely on my notes, an illegible mess of excitement, and my memory. But I did remember this: Shortly thereafter, we left the bar together. We shared the sidewalk with strangers, now unknowing subjects and actors being recorded by her camera. We huddled close to shield ourselves from the wind; our boots clamored on the wet sidewalk. I remember seeing our breath and a fantastic wide shot ahead—the fading taillights of a taxi in the fog.

I remember opening the doors to a dance club, and I remember this: with Teal, the world was so alive with meaning. Everyone was a subject; every object had a purpose. There was meaning in the suffering too; the shame of the late-night hangers-on, the waiters and bartenders averting eye contact but still flirting for tips. The people around us carried so many answers to our questions, to all the events coming toward us that we couldn’t yet see. But we didn’t engage in any of that. Concerned only with all the ways we might be perceived, we ignored everything else and recorded each other. Then we were two friends on the dance floor. I remember lights and the bass on that vibrating floor. I remember close-ups of unfamiliar faces, misty with sweat, but mostly I remember the face of Teal and that I couldn’t get away from her gaze, whether I’d wanted to or not. We had come too far together, and suddenly, I was dancing with only her camera in mind, an entire world of invisible eyes now owning me.


A few weeks later I finished the article—a simple profile piece introducing Teal and her project. Though I couldn’t exactly articulate my concerns and hesitations about publishing the piece, I expressed them to Mel. She dismissed me immediately, said I was being too passive, too timid. Plus, she said the editor in chief had slated it to be a centerfold story. This story is going to sell, she’d said.

I asked the art department to use one of the images Teal had sent me herself to accompany the story. It was a compelling black-and-white close-up of her face without makeup. The image showed her swollen scar, her wrinkles, her frustration, and the tiny, weakened muscles around her fake eye that wilted slightly by the end of each day. But my requests were ignored, and all the art that came back from the photo editor a few days later had been manipulated into near animation. Every photo had been retouched to conceal everything interesting about her face and overemphasized the laser blue of her acrylic eye. In the end, we’d made Teal Johnson look more like an illustrious comic book cyborg than a woman reaching middle age.


I printed the final photo then knocked on Mel’s office door as my heart pounded fiercely against my chest. I approached her, stepping over moving boxes filled with files and old issues of the magazine. I put the photo on her desk. She looked up from her computer.

“I can’t let this happen,” I said shakily.

Mel lowered her glasses calmly and picked up the photo of Teal squinting with outright anger and seduction, poising her eye like a weapon. Mel raised an eyebrow, which somehow indicated she hadn’t really seen the photo, or this version of it, until now.

“It isn’t so bad,” she mumbled.

“This is a story about using technology to protect women, to enlighten us all on issues of consent, and to prevent assaults. She’s not the goddamn Terminator.”

Her response came slowly. “We’re showing her anger. Anger is important.”

“She’s not angry, Mel. We’re making her look that way. What we’re doing is worse than that.”

Mel dropped the photo, no longer interested in it, and looked at me hard with an expression I could only understand at the time as annoyed sympathy. “Look. Your job is to find the story, to write it, and to write it well.”

“I don’t want my name on this story,” I said.

“Yes, you do.” Her voice was firmer now. “I did a lot of work for you on this one, and there’s a lot you don’t know. This story is still alive because of the art. The editor in chief wanted to cut it, thought it wasn’t right for our readers. The art direction was my idea, and it was the only thing that saved—us.”

I thought I heard her hesitate on us . . . and it surprised me, her use of that pronoun. I sat down and closed my eyes for a moment. I heard laughter in the hallway; the guys on our team were leaving the office for their weekly happy hour. One of them called out to me from the hall, Jenkins, join us for a drink, but I didn’t turn around. I watched Mel instead. She closed another file and tossed it into an open box on the floor then looked at me, waiting for me to say something. Outside her window, I watched a heavy afternoon fog from Marin County sneak over and under the Golden Gate Bridge and encompass the Bay. Alcatraz was out there somewhere, but hidden completely as it often was in the soggy underbelly of a San Francisco summer.

“What if she denies it?” I asked, breaking the heavy silence.

“Then it’s your word against hers.”


My story is out. The print issue has sold reasonably well, but traffic to the online version of the story is what has skyrocketed, reaching millions of nonsubscribers, accumulating more engagements and comments in a single week than our magazine has ever seen. My colleagues have been congratulating me all week even though it’s too soon to tell how this increase in readership will affect our bottom line. I’m not used to this kind of attention and praise, and it pleases me in unexpected ways. But by the time I’ve reached the enclosed space surrounding my desk, I feel uneven and anxious again. We’re told not to read the comments and the social media responses to our articles, but I can’t help myself. They are so pervasive this time, so vitriolic, threatening both Teal and me with such grotesque violence, they are impossible to avoid. I even saw a link to a post on a gamer blog titled, “TEAL JOHNSON IS THE ASSASSINATOR OF INNOCENT MEN,” with followers growing by the hundreds every day.

A few months have passed since our interview and I still haven’t heard from Teal. She hasn’t responded to any of my attempts to reach her. And most mornings I wake up earlier than usual with her in mind. I check my email, and when I see there’s no response from her, I check the videos on her website and social media channels to see if she’s uploaded new content, new images, new episodes, anything pertaining to our time together. And each morning after I realize—with great relief—that I’m not there yet, I relax. I make coffee, eat breakfast quietly, then walk to work, basking in the phony buoyancy of anonymity.  

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