It shows up on no Google search. Those who ask Jeeves and throw a bone to Lycos find their inquiries unanswered, the site unfetched.
But they say it’s out there, somewhere on the web, and if you can just find the right link or conjure up the proper search terms or—miracle of miracles—guess the domain name, there is a website that, once found, absolves everything. I or you or anybody else could find it through any browser, on tablet, phone, or laptop, and upon arrival have the sum of our trespasses unto self and others wiped away. All we have done that has brought forth hurt would be cleansed of us. Simply by arriving at this site, we will be made whole again.
It’s a tall order. Believe me, I know that. I’ve hurt plenty of people, some of them in tiny little thoughtless ways, ways they probably barely registered themselves or at least lost no sleep over—you know, like when I took in a movie and the kid in the box office gave me ten bucks more in change than he should have and I said nothing and he probably got chewed out later for his register count being ten dollars short. I was a shit to not correct him, to be thrilled at getting ten extra bucks back, being a man of modest comfort myself.
Other people I’ve hurt in the sort of mid-tier range of assholery. In junior high, for instance, there was this kid I won’t name (he’s a middle-aged insurance agent family man now and it’d hurt him all over again if it got back to him). He never liked me and I never liked him and he was giving me a hard time in the locker room after P.E., so, well, I called him “Pencil Dick,” because, as it happened, it was an apt description in a way. All the boys cackled like animals—I didn’t foresee it at the time but they’d be calling him that on into high school—and in that moment he should have gone ahead and hit me but he was so stunned with humiliation, because, like I said, it was pretty apt, and he just died a bit in front of all of us. Hell, maybe that blow is what put him on a career path in the insurance industry, providing security for others who’ve suffered hardships.
Or, another example, when a certain unmarried coworker had a miscarriage and confided in me because I found her bawling in the break room and she asked me not to tell anybody and I said I wouldn’t tell a soul but then told the head of HR later that day and the head of HR approached her about it and no one even knew she’d been pregnant because she was kind of bigger and it kind of, I guess, hid the pregnancy a bit, even though she wouldn’t have shown much because she wasn’t all that far into carrying the baby or fetus or whatever it’s called—and then she knew I’d told? That was insensitive. I should have kept my trap shut on that one.
One person, though …
One person I betrayed.
And of course betrayal is the worst hurt because in order for it to occur there has to exist trust. Betrayal relies in its most destructive aspect upon solid interdependence.
We depended on one another. One another can be two together. And that’s what we were. We were together.
Until my betrayal.
I’ve said I’m sorry—not to the box office kid (who even knows where he is now?) or the classmate I regrettably called “Pencil Dick”—but the others, sure.
Especially to the one I hurt the most.
I said sorry so much the courts had to get involved and it was ordered I see a counselor, who told me in his little office, decorated with sepia-era photos of American Indians and boasting a corporate park view through wood slat blinds, that the person I had to forgive most was me.
So I’ve told myself I’m sorry, every morning, every night, lots of times between those times in the course of a day, every given day.
And I still don’t feel forgiven.
Not for any of it.
But this domain name, there’s something numinous in the possibility of it. You know, because Gott ist tot and has been since at least 1882. I mean, that’s long enough now that we ought to realize our world is vastly different from what it used to be. A good few generations living there without a living God. And if God is that which transcends all thought, and that’s dead, and what we’ve got leftover is thought, then why shouldn’t we be able to find salvation in that new landscape we’ve collectively thought into the ether? The internet is itself a path, a way, an information superhighway with more sites to see than those found on any outworn pilgrimage you might make on land, in the world, alongside a miller, a cook, a physician, a statistician, an Ameri-Mart clerk, soldier, adult entertainer—anybody. So many virtual rest stops on the way and, one should hope, that final elusive destination where all of all opens up. Like in cyberspace there could be this divine potential for unburdening all the shame and all the guilt lugged out of the wrongs you’ve committed.
Atonement could be the best guarded secret online, as secret as the tetragrammaton’s pronunciation, sought by many but arrived at by few.
I can’t die without this expiation. I dread my sorry life ending without reparation.
I’ve seen the messageboard claims made by some, the tweets, that they found the site, that it’s so obvious, that they should have figured it out sooner, that the heart of the labyrinth was there all along. But these braggarts are not in league with Sirs Galahad, Percival, and Bors, those gallant three who achieved the Grail. Would anybody who’s found it, who’s regained both vessel and ground, turn around and announce it?
If I ever find it, if I ever finally find myself forgiven, I’ll simply hold that.
Until then, I’ll keep cross referencing search terms, combing domain directories, typing my blind, wild goose, Rumpelstiltskin guesses in the address bar. Until then, I’ll keep saying I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry.
Steve Gronert Ellerhoff is an Iowan and the author of Time’s Laughingstocks, a novel. A graduate of the Creative Writing M.A. at Lancaster University in England, he recently completed a Ph.D. in the School of English at Trinity College, Dublin, focusing on myth in short stories by Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut. This story opens a new collection, Tales from the Internet, forthcoming in 2015.
French born in Monte-Carlo, Nicolas Horvath began his musical studies at Monaco’s Académie de Musique Prince Rainier III, where he got a great gold medal in piano and the Prince Rainier III Prize. He first began the study of music theories in the Académie de Musique Rainier III de Monte-Carlo in M. Lusignan’s class for Harmony and piano reduction; it was the music history class of M. Goldobine that was the first engine of his curiosity about any kind of music. When in Paris, he registered in a high number of music classes–first in Musicology at the Sorbonne University (DEUG diploma) and in the Ecole Normale in Music History (Brevet Diploma with the highest grades), Analysis (Superior Diploma with highest grade), and Composition (M. Delplace class). Also in the Paris Conservatory: Middle Age and Renaissance Counterpoint (M. Trachier class) and Superior Music History (Mme. Schneider class) … The meeting with Mme. Schneider was the starting point of the high interest he has in the music of our time. He brilliantly succeeded in the entrance exam for the Electroacoustic Composition class of the Paris Conservatory. His composition teachers were M. Favotti and Mme. Groult.
In 2008, he graduated with mention and had the honor to play his own pieces during the 80th anniversary of M. Parmegiani. As a pianist, he has won 11 international competitions (with 7 great prizes), like: Fukuoka, New-York, Yokohama, Lyon, Luigi Nono, Franz Liszt (Japan), Scriabin … And his debut recording has been acclaimed by the critics (Fanfare: “this recording is a musical triumph”).
Extremely involved in contemporary music, Nicolas has performed in national- or world-premiere pieces of more than 150 composers, like: Carter, Boulez, Glass, Satie, Liszt, Carl Vine, Hersant, Curran, Uematsu, Duckworth, Tanguy, Sorabji, Greif … He is the dedicator of works in forms of Etudes, Sonatas, Concertos by Leslie Howard, Regis Campo, Jeroen van Veen, Denis Levaillant, Paul Wehage, Kazuo Missé, Carlos Peron Cano, Frederick Martin, Osamu Kawakami, Fulvio Caldini, Andrew Chubb, Arnaud Desvignes, Frederic Serrano …
He is the first pianist to perform, in one marathon recital, the complete music of Erik Satie, including a non-stop version of the famous Vexations and the complete piano solo works and piano concertos of Philip Glass.
Interested in art in all its forms, his compositions have also been part of happenings or exhibits. He has worked with many artists (Marc Alain Dahan, Andrea Clanetti Santarossa, Laurent Fiévet, Shantidas Riedacker, Tara Cobolet, Den Sohra, Kenji Siratori, Sire Cedric, Lyzane Potvin, Benjamin Spark … ). He’s also had the honor to follow master classes with M. Bayle, M. Zanesi and M. Renouard-Larivière. His compositions have been included in festivals in Praha, Speyer, Tokyo, Palm-Beach, Poitier, Monte-Carlo, Paris, Lille and Marseille. Nicolas Horvath is a Steinway Artist.
The Flexible Persona was founded in 2013. We are an independent home for emerging and established writers and poets.