A few years ago I met this woman on the internet. She lived in the Bay Area, in San Francisco. She said she liked talking to people on the phone and asked me if she could call me. I said hell, why not, so I gave her my phone number.

She called me right away. As I recall she was sort of young . . . maybe 21 or 22. I figured you call someone right away when you’re 21 or 22 years old because what the hell else are you going to do.

Anyway: As far as I could tell she was real cool. We talked for a long time. I remember it was nighttime and I was sort of drunk. I was outside chopping firewood in the dark and drinking this awful bottle of wine, and she was just sort of telling me about her life. I liked talking to her. For some reason she liked talking to me too.

She called me every single day for two weeks. Again, I just figured maybe she was young and didn’t have a whole lot going on. I mean if I’m going to be honest I didn’t have a whole lot going on either. All I did back then was get drunk and chop firewood. So it was nice to talk to someone every now and then. We were only eight miles away from each other but the idea of hanging out never even came up. I don’t know, I thought that was sort of cool.

In June I was sent down to Los Angeles on a writing assignment. It didn’t go well. I did way too many drugs and slept in the trunk of my car. I didn’t even get into the LA Convention Center to write the story. The story ended up being me not being able to get the story and doing way too many drugs and sleeping in the trunk of my car.

One night I got a call from the woman in San Francisco. I was brooding and walking down Sunset Boulevard when she called. It had been three or four days since I’d spoken to her. I had been busy, you see, with drugs and insomnia and hack writing. Now on the phone she sounded very upset, like maybe she’d been crying even. She told me that because we hadn’t talked to each other in a few days, she was concerned about our “relationship.” When she used that word my blood began flowing in reverse. There was a sort of noisy scramble in my brain, like when a spoon is grinding in a garbage disposal. I felt like throwing up on any one of the ten guys around me who looked like Jared Leto.

I said the only thing a human can say in a situation like that, which was: “Um.”

“I thought you liked me. . . .”

“I’ve been so lonely. . . .”

“It’s like you hate me. . . .”

“I’ve met someone in New York and he said he loves me and I’m seriously considering telling him I love him too. . . .”

Good lord! I’d known this person for half a god dang month! Man oh man, I thought. I listened to her talk. I had absolutely no idea what she was saying. I was terrified. I was waiting for her to tell me that she’d killed my roommates in Oakland and had taken my cat hostage.

And the thing is: nothing we talked about ever even remotely dipped into that godforsaken “romantic” territory. For God’s sake, I didn’t even know this person. She’d asked for my phone number to talk to me, I gave it to her, and we talked sometimes. Now I felt like I had a stalker on my hands. I’d had one before in Austin (which, hell, maybe I will write about tomorrow), who had been truly insane and scary, so I didn’t rule that the heck out just then.

She started screaming at me. She said her heart was broken and that she would never love again. I didn’t really say anything. I just listened to this bad craziness. It probably didn’t help that I was stoned as hell too.

Somehow I was able to fall backwards out of the conversation (“I’m doing very important work right now, yes, for the New York Times. . . .”), and managed to never talked to her again. She would occasionally send me pictures of herself in New York. She’d be wearing a dress and standing next to some twerp. I didn’t trust that she was in New York. It seemed like a good diversion tactic, so I would get up and make sure all the doors and windows were locked.

To this day, maybe once every five or six months, I get a message from her that says: “Miss our talks.”

And I scream a little, and I dart my eyes around nervously, and I wonder what object I could use to defend myself if she rocketed down the chimney or burst through the window. And I wonder if I’ll ever know for sure if my entire life is actually just one of those hidden-camera shows where they fuck with some idiot who doesn’t know any better.