Referer (Sic) Logs
© 2005 by John H. Doe

So the way to start things is in the middle, like you’re planted down in the middle of a conversation, or so I’ve heard. It would be me, though, that conversations would be a poor sample of my daily existence, and really, the story is mostly me alone in my room, where I spend most of my time — that’s a much better sample, crouched in front of a monitor, checking the referer (sic) logs of my websites. I misspell it on purpose, by the way; it’s actually misspelled in the specification, something that slipped through the digital cracks by way of all too human butterfingers, and now everyone has to use it. We make do, I suppose. But I digress, even if it’s a necessary digression — yes, the implications of the thing, something is meant by it, which we’ll probably find out at some point — back to the middle, it’s a lot like the beginning and the end: me in front of my computer, clicking behind the scenes of the internet, though not so very far. Seeing how many people visited my sites, and where they’re supposedly from (both the website where they located the link that led there, and the location physically where their internet service provider say they’re operating from). Yes, I know. I have no life.

Despite my romance with solitude, however, there is a girl involved in all this. Yes, yes, I know — I should say “woman,” but it’s still boyfriend/girlfriend isn’t it? Or, who cares? She and I dated for the better part of a year, something like a year ago, and I thought that she was a real keeper, that one; never really figured out why it petered out like it did. So for that year, I was not by myself all the time, like I had been before, and like I became after. We would walk through the city streets, all around, holding hands — and she was not all alone, too, like maybe she sometimes was. And I introduced her to my websites some time in the middle of that year, and I don’t know why it was just then when I did — things happen when they want to happen, I guess, and some things are like they’re merely passing through us to get where they’re going. And when she went to those places, I checked in my referer logs to see the trail she made from one to another, like watching her from really high up as she walked through streets I had laid out. And I was happy, because even when I was here, alone, I was not alone.

Really, if I stop to think about it, I don’t know what happened with that, the girl and all that. After eight months of going out — seeing a lot of movies and walking around the city a bunch, among your other things — one day, she tells me that she’s in a bad mood. Then she stays in that bad mood for the next two months. Then, after having quit smoking and drinking for two years, she starts them both up again. But that’s not why it fizzled; I tried to see her, tried to set up the next date, and she gave me a list of things she needed to do and places she needed to go, all of which didn’t involve me in the picture; and I guess that was just too much for me to deal with. Yeah, it was probably her pushing me away so I’d be the one to break it off, but if it was, whatever — I said goodbye. (And I remember when I said it, felt maybe I’d get some kind of reaction, and getting none, I said it again, whereupon she told me I didn’t have to repeat myself.) There would be more to this picture later, but this set of scenes faded to black, one chapter closed, if not really a sense of closure was imparted by the closing words. It confuses me to this day when I wonder why it all had to go away.

I kept looking at my referer logs. I mean, I do that anyway, even now, but after the break-up, I’m saying that I could still see her digital footprints walking through my sites. I’ll tell you how. Firstly, she was the only one in this country that visited my site (my blog, to be more specific) at 5am in the morning, being something of a (very) early riser. My blog, of necessity to describe it a little, consists of the page pointed to by just the domain name (“”) which tells a little about me, and there is a picture of me you click to see the blog entries (“”). Also you need to know that I have a separate “home page”, which is basically a mini-portal to a bunch of the websites I’ve constructed. Well, even if she didn’t visit me at that ungodly hour in the morning, she was the only one to consistently click to my blog from my home page. I mean, no one visits my home page. Besides her, I get maybe one click every 6 months from my home page to my blog. Referer logs don’t lie; I could spot her from a mile away down the bitstream.

So, with that much both in the mix and out of the way, I guess we better get started with the story. There has to be some sort of conflict, right? There’s really not that much to all of it, however — maybe you could say I was conflicted with myself for a while. That there is not so much, as far as challenge goes, is that not the constant dilemma of twenty-first century man? No dizzying highs, no terrifying lows, just a kind of numb gnawing at the soul if there ever is any pain? And since it is by conflict that we discover who we really are, in its absence, we never do find our true selves, we the people of the future. Of course, thinking like this, so existential it being — you could say of it that it is so twentieth century. No, no one philosophizes about anything anymore. There is too much to do, too much to see — most of it basically amounting to nothing. It may be that something like nihilism is only out of fashion because no one wants to go to the trouble of looking up just what the word means; we don’t even have that much. With all that’s possible in this wide world, no one wants to bother. If the last century was famous for going nowhere fast, this one will be for having reached it, and meandering there.

But I’m not bitter, not so much. Perhaps a little disappointed. Maybe, now, I should get back to the middle, since we’re at the middle at this point, where I supposedly started from (did you understand that?). I was disappointed that it didn’t work out between me and her. I thought at times that she might be, you know, the one; in fact, what I thought after our first date was that this was the girl I was going to marry. No joke. And there was this weird premonition kind of dream I had had a few years back, where I saw the face of my wife to be; and I didn’t see it for a few months, but when my ex this one time looked up at me from a certain angle — it was her. And then there was this time when I sent her a link to a song (in MP3 form, of course) I uploaded to one of my websites, just for her: “Wild Thing,” by the Troggs. In the text message, I wrote to her, “Wild thing, you make my heart sing,” whereupon she wrote back to me a few minutes later, “You make everything groovy.” Stuff like that gets you, you know? Right there.

It may be she still had a little bit of a spell on me after we broke off. There were indications of that. At my domain name (once again, at the top level of the site at “”), the picture of me is one that has an accidental, very cool effect, of sunlight streaming down, so that I am bathed in light. And when I saw her in my referer logs, coming as she always did from my home page, always to the top of my domain before clicking on the picture to enter my blog, I marked in my head how long she stayed on that page with the picture. I wondered about the number of seconds she spent there. Usually it was on the order of 2 to 4, but sometimes it was longer — and I wondered if she was lingering there, looking at that freeze frame portrait, me captured with the light all pouring down, and she was wondering things about me, like I was about her — or was it merely that she had been distracted, doing something else, and happened to come back to it later? I would never ask her; I would never know.

And so it went, time passed. I would check my site statistics, I would look at my referer logs, and there would come a time when she started going directly to my site, not coming from my home page. At least, I was pretty sure it was her. The IP address looked familiar, anyway, the numerical location where her machine was situated in cyberspace. Especially when (do I remember correctly about this?) I saw hits coming in at 5am in the morning. My best guess is that she was doing something or other on the ’net, and started to type in the domain name of another site, and entered “m” then “e”, and the site “” appeared the a little pull-down menu as one of the choices that had previously been visited by her browser, and so she figured out that this was a shortcut to getting to my blog. The best things come by accident, ain’t it so? And yes, I know: I think far too much about these kinds of things. The imagining of scenarios as involved as that show in me the propensity for obsession. But to my credit, I never called her. I never let her have any clue that I did any of this.

Days and days and days passed by, and I will admit that I thought of her from time to time. And sometimes, it was hard to wrench my mind from wondering about that killer pout she had, sort of like Catholic school girl meets Parisian model on a rainy day. (I never told her about that, either, because that would have wrecked the whole thing if she had been self-conscious about it; and that would have been a shame.) Days and days and days. She still showed up in my referer logs, months after, though the frequency did drop some. But she never let a whole week go by without visiting, and I was still pretty sure it was her, even if she didn’t come from my home page anymore, with the telltale trail. Months. And I tried to move on, as best as I could, being set up on one date after another by “the elders” (that’s what I call my mom, dad, aunts, etc. collectively), never a good match, seeing as how they took no consideration with whom they were setting me up with, except that they were single and looking. Not really desirable traits, ironically. The whole time, I worked on it: I tried to let go.

About eight months later, I made up my mind to try my hand at finding women myself in this great big city in which I lived. Of course, letting you know now that I lived in one goes with the fact that I’m such a homebody that now would really be the first relevant time that you’d know that there was a city involved. Starbucks was a good target, I decided, the one across the street from my favorite bookstore. So I started hanging out there, keeping an eye out for that foxy little thang which whom would turn my head around and round. Being still the geek, I brought my work there, some projects in computer science I was working on — and as a matter of happenstance, I never did go up to anyone. At one point, I had this intuition that if the right girl were to walk in, I would know it. I wouldn’t have to be guessing if this one were the one for me: it would overtake me, the moment, and I would be one with it. So I relaxed, and I kept going there, scribbling away in my little notebook. But here’s what happened: one evening came when she walked in. Her. The ex, whose digital trail I had been so scrupulously tracing. She was with a group of adult students for some class she was taking at a little school nearby, which I had not known of at all. She was surprised to see me; I was more like stunned, expressionless. Barely able to talk, completely blank in my head.

She asked me what I was doing there, and I mumbled something about doing some work, then blankly offered her a seat. She pointed to the people she was with, that she was going to sit with them. Then, before she left me so that I might try to come back to my senses, she said something, almost as an aside: “I visited your website.” At this point, as I watched her walk away, I was thinking that this was what my intuition had been looking for, almost precognitive, the thing that when it happened, I would know it. And that goes to show you how much it knew…. So I sat there stunned, until the class got up to go, and then she waved to me as she was about to leave the place, a simple goodbye. But I stopped her clean getaway, asked her for her number, and I couldn’t tell you how I was able to stand up without falling over as this happened, as she said she would text it to me the next day. Which at this point made me realize, she still had my number somewhere. Strange the parts of the brain that work when you’re in a state of shock.

Over the next week or so, it all started to make sense. Why I had seen her face in a dream those years back, and why I had thought that this was the girl I was going to marry after the very first date. I began to glimpse the workings of the grand design, how all things had some higher purpose in their happening, what it was that it was when one said something was meant to be. And then it would turn out that I was completely wrong, about all these things. How are we to tell what the signs are, I wonder? I asked her, “So, you visited my website?” And she answered, “Yes. A million years ago.” What are we to make of such things, that cut in a thousand ways, none of them so very well defined, which leave you wondering why you feel so wounded when no seeming damage has been done? But for a while there, my hopes were up there, as they had been the last time we had been together. It wasn’t to fly quite so high, this sort of dream-state, but at least the ether was not so inundating this time, my dreaming not so deep — and I would awake not so lost as I have been known to get.

Because a few weeks later, I finally got it into my head that it would never be again what it had been. Too much had happened, things thought about one another when the other was away that kept us, now, at distance — the things that one says about someone when they try to forget them. You know, though, I still have a little page in my scrapbook of the movie tickets of the night of our first real kiss, and the stubs of the last one we saw together, and a picture of us they took at the local TGI Friday’s. And I put in there a receipt for a brunch I had with her this second time, when I thought so very much that it was a second chance. You might think that I’d have put a match to those things after breaking up the first time, and again, the second — but you know what? I know for a fact that it was a good thing for a good while there, and this fool learned somewhere that you don’t let go of the good things. And you know what else? I still looked in my referer logs for her visits to my site, because I knew she still came by to see how I’d been. Silently to watch me live my life. Just like I silently watched her watching me.

So, I guess with everything said, now, this would be a good place to apologize. I began at the beginning, and not really in medias res. The middle has no conflict, so you never get to know the nature of the characters involved. (And the ex-girlfriend character was not nearly as well developed as she could have been.) The ending is just an ending, with nothing fancy, no great realization that has never been realized before. So, sorry. But I take a lesson in noting how the word “referer” is now a standard: it is in the nature of the world that we work with imperfect things, even if sometimes, it’s less obvious that we do — because that’s all we have, these imperfect implements with which to build a life. And maybe you knew this was coming, too: the meanings that we make of all that is around us, all that happens to us, and all we do: these, too, are imperfect. That doesn’t say, however, that we were never truly moved. Nor of these imperfect lives, because they experienced imperfectly, that we never truly lived. And me, who went from being in my room, looking at referer logs, to being in my room, looking at referer logs: don’t tell me I haven’t gone anywhere. Often the roughest paths are the ones that wind their way back home.