At what point does one cross the Rubicon? Or, more precisely, when does a Facebook friend request lead to the Great Unravelling? Is it that moment of middle age discontent when the river of life seems to reach a dead pool. When the momentum of youth is replaced by the knowledge that from now on you will need to make it under your own steam powered by fading strength, diminished abilities and failing eyesight. The road ahead is not filled with the thrill of discovery but the dread of it. Those endless horizons are now peopled by monsters and the other unfriendly beasts of irrelevance and vulnerability. One thing leads to another and I am drawn to the great Oracle Pool and gaze into its murky waters. One by one I stalk old friends and foes to see where they have ended up and gaze enviously at the gleaming pixels of their success and silently reconstruct my own resume of existence and wonder, where did it all go wrong? At some point my restless searching fits the profile and that all seeing eye correctly identifies middle-age ennui and offers up a seductive solution. Why not visit the time when you were at your best, when life seemed full of endless potential, and when you believed, and even practised passion without the slightest irony? And so that marvellous electronic brain patiently parses those strands of my digital past and the drivel of long forgotten communications to unearth the identity of my first love. That perfect storm of discontent and nostalgia is delivered like a poisoned arrow as the ping of a friend request appears. All those emotions I believed long exhausted are suddenly inflamed. I knew that it was merely the result of pre-programmed instructions and that this go between was up to well-meaning mischief but knowing that did not lessen its irresistible pull.
I gazed at that portal to the past. The profile picture was an enticing breadcrumb and I glimpsed a face which suggested much but which revealed little. My mind, naturally, filled in the rest. I paused and pondered whether it was like the film you enjoyed enormously as an adolescent but upon rewatching it discover that it is nothing more than an embarrassing artefact. There are so few true classics which stand the test of time and perhaps the great love of my life with its urgent needs and desires was nothing more than a bunch of hormones and primitive drives that ignited at the appointed time and once satisfied were gone forever. Who knows what lay behind that door. This was no horror movie, but like those films it exerted an irresistible pull. The key had been handed to me and all I had to do is step across the threshold. I hesitated for a long moment as the less palatable fragments of the past drifted to the surface. It hadn’t all been fun and games I reminded myself. The computer went into sleep mode and by a trick of the light the blackened face of the computer screen was replaced by a different picture, that of my own face. It was not unpleasant, but it reminded me that despite my best efforts there was no concealing the ruinous effects of time and experience. Open that door and that golden age frozen in time and burnished by the passing years would fade to grey. The computer jolted back to life and the invitation now looked menacing and a little tawdry. Like the salesperson who having exhausted their well of charm with the indecisive shopper the algorithm was now losing its patience and getting pushy. A steady stream of new images were starting to appear and fragments of posts bearing captions such as ‘Living my best life’ or ‘I should have loved myself with the love I gave to you’ crawled across my screen. Those breadcrumbs now seemed a little mouldy and far from enticing. My mouse pointer which a moment ago was poised to accept the invitation now withdrew slowly. That door would remain locked for the time being. Better to let sleeping dogs lie. I closed down my computer, drew a deep breath and plunged back into the river of life.