The week of November 22, 2015

What I learned letting a homeless man from Whisper stay in my apartment for a month

By Jesse Hicks

This is the story of how I met a homeless man named Christopher James Gough; of how he came from the blustery streets of suburban Michigan to sleep on my living room floor for several weeks, becoming something like a friend while drinking generic Mountain Dew and trying to persuade me of the continuing critical under-appreciation of Sylvester Stallone; of how he found a job and a girlfriend and eventually moved out, only to inexplicably return, destitute once again; of what I came to learn about him and from him; and finally, what happened after I really came to understand him.

The story begins with a deeply silly app called Whisper, “an anonymous social network that allows people to express themselves, connect with like-minded individuals, and discover the unseen world around us.” In practice, this means posting pictures overlaid with tweet-length messages; geotagging lets you sort for local posts, or you can browse the “popular” section. Whisper’s App Store page features an image of a young woman in a skirt, faux-handwritten font reading, “I’m a huge flirt over text but I’m super shy in person.” Nearby, a blandly photogenic suit-man glowers behind the words, “I’m assertive. I’m a gentleman. I’m giving. Until you’re on my bed wearing only high heels and panties, then I’m no longer a nice guy.” Another whisper reads, “Because I have sex with other women DOES NOT mean that I don’t love my wife.” Alas, there’s no common theme here—discerning the “unseen world” Whisper’s marketing department sought to illuminate will remain an exercise for the reader.

Whisper screenshotWhisper hit the mainstream amid what seemed like a minor flurry of quasi-anonymous social networking apps, including Yik Yak and Secret. (The latter eventually shut down because of some combination of failure to find enough users and moral queasiness from its founder about how those users were—predictably—behaving.) Aimed primarily at teens, they all promised an ephemeral, gossipy space filled with the musings of strangers.

Figuring I should at least know what everyone was talking about, earlier this year I installed Whisper. What I found was predictably oversexed and grammatically suspect solicitations juxtaposed with banal requests for workout partners, next to poignantly vague confessionals. While you could easily taxonomize and overthink the posts, I found the most satisfying experience was a half-attentive scroll—perhaps the default mode for social media consumption. Just let the words roll over you: “I really want to get lip injections,” and then “I just want too [sic] find a girl as kinky as I am,” and then “I can’t sleep, my mind won’t turn off. All I want is to wake up in you arms again. It’ll never happen.” There—right there in your pocket!—was an infinite scroll of the collective id, with all its caroming emotions, fierce desires, and pseudo-profound observations.

In short, Whisper was pretty much what any sentient human being in 2015 would have predicted from its App Store description. I didn’t really find it compelling, either as a time sink or as a sociological mirror. Most of the confessions were mundane or, conversely, meticulously crafted to shock. Many of the solicitations were pictures of shirtless guys preening in front of the bathroom mirror, a seemingly inexhaustible resource that could solve all the world’s problems if we could somehow harness it for good. The political posts were too short and predictable to qualify as hate reads. For a few weeks, I’d open the app when there arrived that familiar notification, “Someone just Whispered.” I’d read it, scroll around a bit, find myself annoyed and shaking my head, then close the app.

Then I found someone who needed help. He asked if someone could give him a place to stay overnight so he wouldn’t freeze—this was January in Michigan. Even rendered in one of Whisper’s dopier fonts, his message cut through the susurrus. He was asking for more than an audience, or a place to express himself, or for a girl as crazily kinky as he was. He was asking to not have to sleep on the street for another night.

When I messaged him, I first asked if he’d tried homeless shelters nearby. He said he had, but they’d filled up as soon as cold weather hit. I asked about churches; he said he’d tried those, too. He was at a local library with not much more than a backpack and the clothes he was wearing, using the free Wi-Fi on a cheap cellphone.

I thought of ways I could help him without letting him into my apartment. The essence of my thinking, acknowledged or not, was that there were other resources he could use; at most, I’d help him find what he needed. I was wary of taking responsibility for him, which is what it felt like to take in a stranger who had no other options. Granted, via Couchsurfing, I’ve often given travelers an air mattress and a blanket. That’s offered me fascinating conversations and some long-term friendships; it’s also led to my hosting, separately, the Snake Man—you may remember him from the headline “Texas Trooper Finds Alligator Riding in Suspect’s Car During Traffic Stop”—and a bipolar woman who claimed to be a billionaire (though not in the United States, due to the machinations of Warren Buffet), said the United States government persecuted her because she was an artist, and who quickly decided to stay with me indefinitely while preparing our Jewish wedding. (For the record, again, I am not Jewish.) Humanity, as they say, is a real mixed bag.

This wasn’t Couchsurfing. There were no references from other hosts, no linked Facebook accounts. There was simply a stranger telling me his troubles via text messages in a cartoonish app. I was apprehensive, because in the back of my head ran the question: What is my moral duty here? Less abstractly, the question was: Is this my responsibility? And the more I talked to him, the more felt that yes, it was my responsibility. The more he seemed like a reachable human being in trouble, the more I felt compelled to do something.

I thought about a friend in San Francisco who’d brought a local homeless man into his house for lunch. He didn’t see that as something to be applauded (or worse, a risk to be feared); he simply thought it was the right thing to do. Yet he also recognized how rarely it happens. That, he implied, is precisely the problem.

Humanity, as they say, is a real mixed bag.

I would like to consider myself a charitable person. I’ve given 150 microloans through Kiva, totaling around $4,000. I’ve donated to the Wounded Warrior Project and to Children International. I’ve given blood and money to the Red Cross. Blah blah blah. I’m also aware of the crassness of listing one’s charitable work anywhere other than a college application. But how else to approach the question, Have I done enough? Am I doing enough right now?

A few days before I read Chris’s message, I’d seen another request on Whisper. Someone staying at the $50-a-night Econo Lodge down the street couldn’t afford a meal. I had a McDonald’s gift card, a birthday present from my grandmother. I knew it had $20 or so left on it, so I bought a couple Big Macs, some chicken nuggets, some fries, and a drink. I drove to the Econo Lodge and left them outside one of the rooms, along with the balance of the gift card. As I drove away, I messaged the anonymous Whisper user saying I’d left a meal outside his door.

Later,  it struck me how much I didn’t want to knock on that door. I didn’t want to see who—see what—was behind it. I wanted to drop off the food and leave. The act had cost me virtually nothing: time, a few cents’ worth of gas, and a McDonald’s gift card I likely would have lost, anyway. I didn’t really want to know who I was helping, because maybe that made it less humanly messy—it was the tidy fulfillment of an obligation. In that room was probably the same Chris Gough, living in the Econo Lodge by night and the nearby library by day; I realized this later, though I never told him.

After a few more questions, I told Chris I’d pick him up at the library.

Chris is a big guy, 6’2” and well over 300 pounds. He has a thick, round head shaved to the skin, brown eyes, and graying stubble. He’s 36. He got into my car wearing sweatpants and a hoodie, squeezing into the front seat with his black backpack on his lap. During the short drive back, I noticed he had a distinct odor, which never seemed to go away, and with which I’d later become very familiar. Then I felt bad for noticing it, reminding myself that he’d been living on the street.

I showed him to my apartment and we shared some awkward small talk. I showed him the airbed (his 5 XL frame would kill two of them in the coming weeks). He told me he just needed a place to shower and sleep because he had a job interview in the morning, which he believed would help turn his fortunes around. I didn’t ask right away how he’d gotten to where he was, but later, while we waited for a showing of Birdman (my treat), he told me.

He said he’d lived in Port Huron, about an hour north, with a long-term girlfriend. She had adopted two developmentally disabled kids with her ex-husband. Then they divorced because he was abusive. She started talking to Chris, because they’d known each other in high school. They were together a long time, he said, and he’d helped raise the kids. Meanwhile, he said, it turned out she had been cheating on him. A lot. And when he discovered her infidelities, she threw him out, telling him he could come back the next day for his belongings. But instead she threw it all away, leaving him with nothing. Because her family was prominent in the community, they locked him out of getting help there, forcing him to head south to the suburbs outside Detroit, where he’d lived years ago. But somehow he couldn’t find a fresh start. She’d kicked him out in December, and here he was facing a cold Michigan winter on the streets.

Whisper screenshot 3As tragic origin stories go, this is maybe a little over the top: The cheating wife with outsized community power, ready to crush our hero. The children who just want to know why their caretaker has to leave. The cold, cold winter.(An extra-maudlin touch: he’d often post under the handle “Short on Hope.”) If I were a Hollywood script doctor, I might add a Dickensian street urchin with a pair of crutches, attended by his faithful three-legged mutt, Speckles. It’d be the first-act tragedy on the way to a Christmas miracle.

Coming from an actual, real-life person, I admit I believed more of it than I should have. It was too bizarrely baroque—if you’re going to lie, why not stick with something simple? Why insist on such a filigreed tale? Then again, who wants to believe a stranger sleeping in his living room is weaving a lie almost breathtakingly pathological in its scope? Would you want to entertain that notion?

Chris stayed longer than two days. The job interview, he said, kept getting bumped. On one hand, I was glad to be able to help; I liked being able to tell myself I was doing a good deed with no expectations attached. But I also began to resent Chris the way you do a terrible roommate: every idiosyncrasy becomes weaponized, a direct slight aimed at you. I’d enter the bathroom and nearly gag at the Chris-smell. I’d hear him rustling through my food late at night when he thought I was sleeping. His weight became personally offensive. He’d ask for money for cigarettes, and silently I’d wonder, “Why don’t you have a job yet?” This went on for weeks.

“Now are you doing this out of the goodness of your heart, or because it’s a social experiment that you can write about?” a friend texted me. Now that, I took offense to. I know that question, because it’s one that dogs anyone writing about real-life experience—meaning anyone who writes. Are you doing something because it will make a good story? (As though writers are the only people who tell stories.) Are you exploiting someone to do so? Can anyone ever really trust a writer?

To take another person into your story is often to separate them from the most important thing they have: their self-conception.

Joan Didion, not surprisingly, thinks not. She concludes her preface to Slouching Towards Bethlehem with the oft-quoted self-description, “My only advantage as a reporter is that I am so physically small, so temperamentally unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests. And it always does. That is one last thing to remember: writers are always selling somebody out.” I’ve never quite agreed with Didion, because like much of her writing it strikes me as poetically gnomic, carefully wrought but maybe not as profoundly insightful as it appears at first blush. I’m more partial to Janet Malcolm’s description in The Journalist and the Murderer, where she can’t resist casting the writer-subject relationship as Freudian psychodrama: “The journalistic encounter seems to have the same regressive effect on a subject as the psychoanalytic encounter. The subject becomes a kind of child of the writer, regarding him as a permissive, all-accepting, all-forgiving mother, and expecting that the book will be written by her. Of course, the book is written by the strict, all-noticing, unforgiving father.” But let’s grant them both their truth: to write is to exploit. To take another person into your story is often to separate them from the most important thing they have: their self-conception.

When my friend asked about my essential goodness versus my desire for experiences to write about, I didn’t respond with a disquisition on writing as soul-theft. I wrote, “You know it can be both, right?” Her reply came back: “You’re a great guy but I feel like your ambition is much bigger than your kindness. I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way. I promise. I just think that this is huge and you’re doing it because there’s something bigger than good karma in it for you.” Perhaps a blog post several thousand words long.

Whisper Screenshot againI have 63 pages of text messages from Chris. (He’s still in my phone as “Chris Gough (Owes me $$$).”) Most of them come from his second stay with me, after I’d stopped using Whisper and he switched to texting. After his first stay with me (RIP air mattresses), we got him into a room where he could stay rent-free. I was glad to have helped him, but also guiltily glad to be rid of him. In this case, I felt I’d done enough.

Months passed, until he tweeted at me on April 2. He had fresh tribulations: The man who’d given him a room to live in had been evicted. He was on the street again, though he had a job working as a counselor. For a number of convoluted reasons involving payroll snafus, an ex who fraudulently used his bank account, and I think maybe the workings of the tides in the lives of men, he was again without money or a place to stay.

I thought I could tell this story chronologically, saving the big reveal for last in a way that’d make it as dramatic for you as it was for me, but it seems unlikely that any reader is as obtuse as I. After all, I gave it to you in the first sentence, with that link to Christopher James Gough’s page at the Michigan Department of Corrections. (That’s how I fact-checked whether he had brown eyes. This entire essay to the contrary, I’m actually pretty observant, but even that one might have gotten past me.) Chris Gough was in jail for second-degree home invasion just before he arrived at my apartment; before that he was in for check fraud.

OK, but let’s proceed as if we don’t know that. I didn’t when he asked to stay on my floor again. So I let him. He told me he was counseling Ken, an autistic gay man whose parents paid Chris to take him outside, talk to him, and help socialize him. He said he was working for a man named Kevin, for a nonprofit counseling center. That led to messages like this, promising to reimburse me for grocery and cigarette money, but lamenting that the stars just were not aligning. “Good morning!” Chris wrote on a Thursday in early April, after being on my floor for a week. “Just heard from Kevin and he said they are going to double up checks on Monday. I’m hoping its not a problem to stay until then. And I will throw you a couple hundred bucks for all your trouble, both last time and now.” Those checks never arrived.

Fed up with housing him, and still hurt by the death of my air mattresses, I loaned him money for the first month’s rent on a room. This room likely did not exist, but he wove another byzantine tale about a broken water main, a flooded room, and an unhelpful landlord. He bounced between staying at my place and returning to the Econo Lodge, which I paid for at $50 a night, based on his perpetual promises that real cash money lay just over the horizon. He’d ask me to pick up smokes and two-liter bottles of of Mountain Dew or Moon Mist, its local-generic equivalent. Once he asked for the library copy of Ace Frehley’s biography, No Regrets. Over the next several days he lay sprawled on my floor, doing nothing but reading it and playing on his phone.

He’d send me long, discursive excuses via text. For example:

“I just received your text because I wasnt in wifi for the past several hours, so I apologize if there was a delay. Ugh, sounds like we have both had a disappointing day. As of right now, the checks are delayed for a couple days, because apparently the main office has no power. Kevin said there was a transformer out in the area. Prior to that bullshit, I went up to Talmer only to be told that the claims dept still hasnt reactivated my acct yet. Legally, they have up to ten days. She said it rarely ever takes that long, but regardless, it really fucks things up. And I really need to secure the room in Troy, so I gave him the $150 for the deposit today, but I have to get the $300 to move in. So Jenny is taking her bonuses from the bridal store to help me. However, Im still going to be about $80 shy of what I need. Is there any chance I could borrow that from you tonight, so I have what I need when she picks me up tomorrow morning? I will get everything back to you as soon as I have access to money. I promise. I just am desperate for some stability in my living situation.”

None of the details here matter. They’re simply more excuses about how I’ll be paid back soon, but he needs more money, and by this point in the story you must be wondering why I didn’t simply kick him out. But it’s easy to underestimate how hard it is to realize you’ve been conned—are being conned—by someone. Even now, it’s difficult to write.

The final straw came when I was away on a business trip for a weekend. By that Whisper screenshot 2point Chris had often been in my apartment without me, so I had no reason not to trust him. In fact, by the time I returned, he was supposed to have moved in with his girlfriend. I arrived home to a blissfully empty apartment; he’d even cleaned before he left.

Then I noticed my Android tablet was missing. And an old cellphone. And my iPod Touch. And all the change from my bedside table. I searched “Christopher Gough” on Facebook and found his profile; I’d seen it before, but now it featured a picture of him doing his best Gene Simmons impression while holding my guitar. Which was in my bedroom. Where all of my electronics had gone missing.

Of course I had thought about this before. In fact, I’d even send several texts along these lines: “Hi Chris. Checking in to see where you are. Again, I’m assuming you’ve just walked off with my money, after I stupidly (again) trusted you not to do that. I would like to believe that’s not the case, but I see no reason to do so.” He’d reply with indignation and excuses, yet without offering any actual repayment. I gave him almost $1,000 all told, over the course of three to four months; in that same time I received maybe a little more than $100, most of it routed through PayPal, which now suggests less-than-kosher origins.

I filed a police report, giving them Christopher Gough’s name and description. I texted him to confront him, saying my things had gone missing and I knew he’d been in my room—I saw the pictures that proved it. He tried to be indignant again, but I told him I knew he’d faked having a friend named Brian who was a mechanic (long story), and that I believed he had no intention of ever paying me back. My last message to him read in part, “I’m perplexed why you didn’t just take your money and disappear, but you seem hellbound to get me to believe you’re a good person. Sorry man, but I don’t. You’ve ripped me off and lied. Apparently your conscience lets you do that. But that’s on you, not on me.”

It was met with complete silence.

For several months I didn’t think about Chris Gough. What was there to think about, really? He’d asked for a place to stay. I’d given him that and more. He’d taken it, with no apparent qualms, no regrets. In my last message to him I wrote that “I’m perfectly fine with washing my hands of a guy I tried to help” who ended up not deserving it. And in a lot of ways, I was. There are a lot of shitty people in the world, I figured, but that doesn’t mean you have to let them turn you into one.

Then I started thinking hard about writing the story. I’d told a few people about it, mostly with a sense of incredulity a) that someone could be so manipulative, and b) that I could fall for it. I could have stopped there, writing about how the experience has affected my sense of goodwill toward other people. In short, I’d like to think that it hasn’t. I still want to act in the ways I think are morally responsible, regardless of the final outcome. I choose to trust people and sometimes have to suffer the minor indignity of being taken advantage of, rather than withdraw from the world in distrust. Of course, trust is not a suicide pact, and I’ll no doubt be more wary of who I try to help in the future, but I don’t want to say I backed away from someone because I wasn’t sure they really needed help.

I choose to trust people and sometimes have to suffer the minor indignity of being taken advantage of, rather than withdraw from the world in distrust.

I’d largely closed the book on Christopher Gough, MDOC #297578. But as I thought more, I figured there were more people who’d had experiences similar to me. Where had he gone between January and April, for example, when he wasn’t staying with me? I didn’t have an address for the rent-free room he’d stayed in, but I’d dropped by there once to give him $20 for food and cigarettes. (Listen, yes, I know your eyes are rolling out of your head right now. I get it. We’re both there. It’s fine. I’ve learned.) It wasn’t far away, and I figured I’d probably be able to find my way back.

When I knocked on the door, I was greeted by a thick-muscled guy in glasses and a beard. I offered my hand and said, “You know, this may sound like a weird question, but do you know a Christopher Gough? Big guy?” He looked at me quizzically for a moment, then said, “Come on in.”

Another whisper screenshotMark and Lisa (not their real names) took Chris in when he wasn’t living with me. Like me, they heard the same stories about failed payrolls, checks that didn’t arrive, and—I forgot to mention this earlier—an inheritance from a long-lost uncle. And like me, for a long time they didn’t complain. Mark bought ramen noodles for Chris to eat, even got him a nice suit to wear to interviews, and Chris mostly just stayed in the spare room upstairs, always on his phone. They too heard that he had a job, though they began to wonder why he so rarely seemed to be doing it, and why he always managed to arrive home just before they did.

A little unnerved by his continued presence in their home, they finally did a public records search for his name. (In my very, very weak defense, for a long time I didn’t know his last name. Again: lesson learned.) That turned up his criminal record; as I sat on their couch, Mark read to me the Michigan statute defining home invasion in the second degree, Chris’s second conviction. While he was in their house, they had a new baby on the way; Mark had kids from a previous relationship on the weekends. They couldn’t have a criminal staying with them. And his record put the lie to his claims that he’d been working as a counselor; Mark and Lisa both said that would be impossible.

As soon as they discovered the criminal record, Mark said, he, in proud Michigan fashion, walked upstairs with his shotgun and escorted Chris Gough from the premises. He warned him that if he ever came back again, Mark and the gun would be waiting for him. Soon after that, Chris began tweeting and emailing me looking for a new place to stay.

We talked for more than an hour, marveling at the disturbing similarities between our stories, shaking our heads with incredulity. Mark had offered his room gratis on Whisper as a way to “pay it forward,” but said after his experience, “the novelty has worn off.” He described himself as always eager to help someone out, even a stranger, but said he’d be less likely to do that in the future.

Lisa mentioned that for a long time, Chris’s girlfriend had also stayed with them. This surprised me, as I figured she was imaginary, as so many of Chris’s acquaintances seemed to be. But no, Mark and Lisa said she was real, and they’d had a falling-out after she essentially chose to believe Chris over them. They’d blocked her on Facebook, but I was welcome to try to contact her.

I thanked them for their hospitality and apologized for reminding them of a not-fun experience. They walked me to the door, and as I left, Mark looked to be preparing a nice strong drink.

I messaged Jenny (also not her real name) via Facebook that night. She said she was out celebrating her best friend’s birthday. Chris was supposed to join her; in fact, she’d told him if he didn’t show, they were done. At the last minute, he’d texted saying he’d run into someone and wouldn’t be able to come.

Another Whisper ScreenshotShe said that when she got my message, “I literally burst out laughing at the table.” Despite not knowing whether I was real (fitting, that), she had heard Chris talk about me. She’d installed Whisper about the same time I had, saying, “Most of the Whisper posts—I just have that for entertainment value because most of the people on there are idiots.” But she’d noticed Chris’s posts looking for clothes, meals, or shelter, she said, and when the weather started getting colder, she checked in to see if he was OK. By then he’d moved into my place.

When she lived with Mark and Lisa, she said, they heard many of the same stories from Chris. And they had the same questions, the same doubts. But their falling-out left her with no one to give her an informed perspective on her relationship with Chris. My message, then, came as belated confirmation that they had been right, and that her relationship was not what she’d hoped. She called me soon after, saying, “I put a lot of stock in him, and I was very blind. In the end I guess I’m just paying for it.”

She’d found him on Whisper as she was on her way out of a seven-year marriage. She was cresting 30 and didn’t want to spend her 30s the way she’d spent her 20s. She was insecure, she said, having gotten married too young and emerged uncertain about what was next. “Vulnerability really plays into this,” she said, “because it’s like he knew he was meeting me at a point when I was super-vulnerable.” She said, “He was damn good about building up my self-esteem.” She got a new job, got to meet new people—including men; she said Chris didn’t like that. He started taking credit for her newfound self-esteem while also demanding she be focused only on him. She said he tried to control her emotions, and if she ever doubted him, he questioned whether she really loved him. “If I brought something up that was not right, or I wasn’t comfortable with, it was, ‘Well, why are you listening to everyone else? Why don’t you believe me? Don’t you love me? Don’t you trust me?’”

“Chris is very good about reading people and giving them exactly what they want to hear—or what they need.”

Several times she said variations of, “It was all right in front of my face, but I didn’t want to see it.” Looking back, she believes she likely meant one thing to Chris. “I literally think he saw me as a payday,” she said. And now it hurts to realize that she was fooled. “I feel like a total idiot,” she said, “because I didn’t listen to myself, and my friends, and the people who had my best interests in mind, because life was just fucked up and there was this person who knew exactly what to say and how to say it so that I was comfortable and didn’t feel like I was…nothing.” She needed someone to make her feel that her life was more than just fucked up. “Chris is very good about reading people and giving them exactly what they want to hear,” she said, “or what they need.”

“He’s a wordsmith, man,” she said. “He’s really good at the power of persuasion and the way he works with words.”

Via Facebook, I messaged his previous ex-girlfriend, the one he said had kicked him out, sending him from Port Huron down to Detroit. Unsurprisingly by this point, she told a much different story, of missing money and two children who have still not gotten over the trauma she says Chris Gough inflicted on them. I could give you more details, but you’ve already been subjected to a pretty painful litany.

When I first started writing this essay, I assumed it would remain close to my own experience. I could talk about what had compelled me to offer a home to a stranger, how that had gone wrong, and what I had learned from it. Of course, the story wasn’t mine alone; there were others affected in ways I couldn’t have known until I started looking. Each of us is so often an unseen world.

There’s a line in The Great Gatsby: “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back to their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” Fitzgerald’s describing a particular privilege of the rich: to remain as moral children, moving through the world like little tornadoes, inflicting harm and blissfully unaware of it. For a while I thought maybe this was the metaphor for someone like Chris, as I believed him to be: so blinded by his own self-interest that other people are simply means to his particular ends—in Jenny’s words, “a payday.” It was carelessness, surely; an unthoughtful smashing through life, oblivious to the ruins left in its wake.

Now, though, I think it’s something worse. And I don’t have a metaphor for it, or a way to understand it. It’s a way of life so alien to me I can only consider it grotesque, and perhaps hope that I can never fully comprehend it.

I texted Chris for the first time since early July to let him know I planned to write about him and his time in my life. As I expected, he didn’t respond. I followed up with an email; still silence. Finally, after I’d contacted his then-girlfriend, Jenny, and she talked to me about how much Chris had hurt her, I received a late-night text. It read like this, sic:

“Its too bad you have no proof to back up all of bullshit accusations. And the fact that you are stooping to this level, only shows how desperate and lame you really are. And I laughed at the idea of you publishing a story about me. You are ignorant, but not stupid enough to jeopardize your integrity by publishing a story with no actual proof to back it up and commit slander on top of it. And you arent hurting my feelings with any of this. I find your desperation comical. You like to exploit people and their hardships. I and others have just been fare for your entertainment. You are one lame individual.”

After some thought, I decided to let him have the last word.

Illustration by J. Longo