ben vandgrift · on living the dream


when you returned from 'away' a message was dutifully displayed in the lower right corner of my screen. it flashed briefly and disappeared like so many others, its interest in garnering my attention short-lived. i barely noticed, engrossed as i was in c-sharp's localization mechanism.

on most days, our communication was limited to these notifications, alerting each other that we were still alive, the absence of any significant conversation evidence that we were both busy adults and couldn't talk, our fleeting digital glance an unspoken promise to catch up at some later time. when we weren't so busy. when we had time for each other.

shortly, a message had appeared.

"astymn lzko=-45," you said.

i glanced up at the jumble of letters, turning them over in my head and tried to make sense of them. i considered all the usual codes. rot-13 yielded nothing significant, save what may have been a fleeting quadratic equation reference. too little information to decompose a simple substitution pattern from letter frequency. too regular to be a block cipher.

"not getting it. i need more info," i replied, and returned my focus to the code, or more accurately, the documentation.

several minutes passed before your next announcement:

"65 \opnm uhtyvgqw Z"

the number 65 didn't hold much value for us. neither did -45 or 20, for that matter. -4565 could be part of a phone number, but i would need the next message to contain three digits for that to work out, and it still didn't account for area codes. it had been more than 65 days since we'd last met—more than 65 weeks upon thinking about it—ruling out a date-based clue.

the double backslash could have indicated a directory; as such, i visited your website, tacking 'opnm' onto the end of your root. 404. you are, however, a clever and devious girl, so i rifled through the source of the custom error page, hoping for furthur direction. none appeared.

neither phrase, nor both together anagrammed into anything interesting—apparently, my game was off.

"i'm completely lost. i think you've gone mad."

it was at this point that i imagined you sitting at your keyboard silently shuddering, giggling inwardly at my ineptness. i could almost imagine your hand covering your smile, the joy of victory in your eyes. it made me want to see you again, even in defeat. i remembered then that you had a camera. you usually kept it off, but attached.

this is a simple problem to solve. so decided to activate that digital eye, knowing that you would quickly see the that it had been activated. maybe you would leave it on, maybe not. i risked it, ran my script, and had a look.

at your cat.

i had been having a conversation with tigger. it was too much—the similarities between figuring you out and figuring your cat's accidental typing made me hungry again. so i'm coming to visit tigger next week. i think she and i head out for some food.

you can come too, if you can find the time.

written: Dec 3 2004