‘Getting In Touch’

It was 2005. There was a friend who I had lost touch with since I moved cities and I decided to try and contact him. He had no mobile phone number or email address when I had seen him last, in 2000. How would I reach him?

I typed his name into Google one night and there he was - GreigBerry.co.uk.

There were no email contact details, the website was still under construction. There is a service called ‘Who Is?’ which can be used to find the name and address of whoever registered a website. When I saw the address on screen, I recognised it from long ago. There were no doubts.

I wrote a letter;

‘Hello! It’s me, Steve, from school, from the past. Do you remember the past? Do you ever sit there staring blank eyed at the existence before you and openly howl, crying about how much you preferred the past?'

Something along those lines, anyway.

I did not have a printer or any stamps or any desire to go outside. I found a website called ‘PC2PAPER’, which would print and post letters for you.

I’m really funny, right? So I thought what I'd do is, send a funny joke with the letter. I hadn’t seen my friend for five years but I believed that humour would easily bridge such a gap. What humour really comes in handy for, is disguising the fact that you don’t know what to say or what to do and are just weird.

I had, on my computer, a parody self-help guide that I had started writing then stopped at three pages and not spell checked. Perfect!

PC2PAPER could only post one file in each envelope. My letter would be sent separately to the funny and clever joke that I had written.

Since my joke was written under another name, I felt it may lead to confusion for Greig.

I amended my letter;

"I'm presently writing a self-help book. So far it is three pages long and will be sent without explanation to you. I hope this letter gets to you first or you will be very confused by it. I have written it under another name, for reasons too inane to go into here or anywhere else."

Weeks passed since sending the letters. There had been no response. I had included my phone number and email so he could reply. I wondered if sometimes maybe people don't care about their friends from school, five years ago.

Then I thought, however unlikely, that he may have been offended by the joke I had sent.

This, I should now say, was entitled;

'How To Not Be Such A Piece Of Shit: Shut Up And Go Away'

Properly read, the piece was not as threatening or abusive as it might seem on the surface.

I mean he couldn't be offended by that! Surely! He's not that kind of person. At least, the version of him I knew from five years ago wasn't.

Chrissy, my girlfriend, thought that this joke wasn't going to go down well and that I was being too familiar. But she didn’t know him like I did... five years earlier.

I did reconsider my actions. I worried. Chrissy, was such a downer sometimes. Could Greig really be sat somewhere, cursing me for sending him such a delightful treat? Why wasn’t he getting back to me?

Weeks later, I revisited PC2PAPER. It now revealed that only one letter had been posted to Greig.

Was it the letter from an old friend, reaching out to catch up? No, it was the one that said;

“It would be easy to not be such a piece of shit if you would just follow this guide:

1.Shut up

2.Go Away”

I was relieved! That was why he hadn’t responded to me. As far as Greig was concerned, he hadn’t had any contact from me at all.

His website now displayed an email address. Perfect. The email I sent him was the original, unsent letter, only, without the bit about a self-help guide.

He was quick to reply. We exchanged many messages and caught up. He really hadn’t changed. Eventually, it was time to explain the ‘How To’ letter and I was keen to hear his reaction to it.

I was a little worried about this reply so it was strange when the reply started off like this;

"Interested to hear about the self-help guide. I have never attempted to help someone else, though the idea of helping myself interests me greatly."

It was almost as if what I had written to him had failed to register. Had the guide not been sent at all?

Greig continued talking about what he'd been doing for five years, as was the theme for most of the emails we sent. Then he interrupted himself, mid-sentence, a stream of consciousness. The penny had dropped;

"…

I have only just realised, it was you!

For many weeks, myself, my woman, my entire family even, mused over the identity of the sender of the 'Piece Of Shit' letter! And now, having studied your e-mail writing style, being familiar with your prose from old, and your sudden reappearance at the scene of the crime, I realise that it was none other than you!

I enjoyed it very much actually...apart from the mystery element.”

I was delighted. I knew he would enjoy it.

I knew it.

The email continued;

“I have attached something for you. It is a video clip of me killing my own father. This I have done out of the kindness of my heart. I did this a year or so back, and still no-one has found the body. Please do not tell the police. I will be forever in your debt."

Kill Dad.avi started downloading, I was looking forward to seeing, what would surely be a joke. But somewhere in there, beyond my excitement, there was something else.

The video was ready.

“How well do I know this guy?”

Stephen Rooney