I sat in the Big Red Garage on Fremont Street in the dark. My chat program was set to “available.”

Outside in the hot Vegas night, the light show began. Men and women carrying beer footballs stopped in their tracks. They looked up at the seventy-million-dollar vault of lights. Animated submarines battled overhead. On the promenade, Japanese tourists whipped out video cameras.

I was working on storyboards for an upcoming show while the smell of propane whirled heavily into the room. Next door, forklifts filled their tanks. I felt lightheaded.

Suddenly there was Julie. Her words had wrapped halfway around the planet to reach me in cyberspace. “I’m on an island,” she said. Paradise.

That was eleven years ago. She was in her early twenties.

Julie still lives on the island. She usually only steps off-island to go sailing, dive with great whites, or go on secret missions. That’s my perception anyway.

She never tells me about the secret missions.

She works for a government. She’s good looking. She once found out someone following her at a dignitary function was snapping photos of her ass. I think she had soldiers confiscate the film. She sent me one of the snapshots. I felt lucky.

Julie speaks dozens of languages.

She often comments on TheNervousBreakdown.com and on its Facebook page.

A soldier’s guard dog once rescued her from a would-be rapist. I’m almost certain the accused was executed. Julie doesn’t talk about it. She kept the dog until it became blind and crippled.

Around the time the dog died another ran to her home, jumped on her, and licked her face as if to say, “It’s OK,” then left.

A shaman once gave her a shell shaped like a heart. He disappeared down a long strip of sandy beach.

Recently she watched a wild dog come out of nowhere and bite off a young man’s nose.

She once got swept out to sea in a storm flood. She was discovered by Swedish sailors. She knows a lot of good looking Swedish men. I often wonder if it’s because she was hardly wearing anything when she was spotted bobbing in the ocean.

A guy she knew got chopped to bits with an ax. That had nothing to do with the government coup on the island, which she helped solve. As she did, one of the conspirators sat in a jail cell talking to her. He offered her fifty cows if she would be his bride. She declined. She has a thing for Swedes.

Julie once jumped out of a helicopter onto tangled tree roots and shattered her knee. I wrote her a long letter about overcoming obstacles and pain. I actually don’t remember what I wrote. But Julie does. She tells me about the letter when I’ve forgotten it. I act like it was no big deal, like it’s always on the tip of my tongue.

We spoke on the phone once, maybe twice since we met in cyberspace. Sometimes we chat everyday. Sometimes weeks go by.

We miss each other. We often trade stories.

Julie [4:22 PM]:
hummm  Did I tell you about the naked man?
novelboy2 [4:23 PM]:
No. Do tell.
Julie [4:24 PM]:
I woke up at 1:39 to go to the bathroom. I never turn on a light because it wakes me up. So I come out and there under the skylight was a naked man just finishing taking off his clothes.

novelboy2 [4:25 PM]:
What the heck? I thought you had soldiers guarding your casa?

Julie [4:26 PM]:
Me too. But some guy went into my room, thought it was the guest rooms and got naked.
novelboy2 [4:26 PM]:
Who was the guy?
Julie [4:27 PM]:
Some guest of another person living here. He was a bit drunk. I screamed so loud I woke everyone up  ahah

When Julie is online, her name flashes from red to blue. Soon a little yellow note appears. It’s a little treasure.

She doesn’t say much. When she says hello it’s often in threes: “Hi hi hi.”

Our goodbyes are usually longer. In between we always find a way to say we care. Often, that’s by worrying about each other.

Julie [4:13 PM]:
How are you? I was worried. Haven’t seen you in a few.
novelboy2 [4:13 PM]:
I was at the library today.
Julie [4:14 PM]:
novelboy2 [4:14 PM]:
Yeah. Why would you be worried? Think I was floating away somewhere?
Julie [4:15 PM]:
God, I hope not!
novelboy2 [4:16 PM]:
I could use a boat ride.
Julie [4:17 PM]:
What’s wrong?
novelboy2 [4:18 PM]:
You ride boats all the time. Are boats bad?
Julie [4:18 PM]:
Noooo. I love boats. But you never said that to me in 11 years ahah.
novelboy2 [4:19 PM]:
We talked once not long ago. You said you would take me on a boat. And it’s raining here. Makes me think of boats.
Julie [4:19 PM]:
I would love to sail with you.
Julie [4:19 PM]:
And you can stand right next to me.

Julie is often in secret government meetings. The government she works for monitors her chats. Sometimes she gets really bored and leaves her chat on. No one can see her computer. I try to cause trouble. My goal is to try to get her to spit out her strawberry tea.

novelboy2 [4:28 PM]:
What’s new with you?
Julie [4:28 PM]:
I’m in a meeting.
novelboy2 [4:29 PM]:
Can’t they see your computer screen? Is George there?
novelboy2 [4:29 PM]:
Hi George!!!
Julie [4:29 PM]:
ahahaha No one can see the screen. But he is here.
novelboy2 [4:30 PM]:
Hehehe. Shhh…
novelboy2 [4:30 PM]:
Blow me a kiss. Hurry. Before they all look!
Julie [4:30 PM]:
ahahahahaha spritz one coming. 
novelboy2 [4:31 PM]:
A spritz kiss? What they heck is that? Sounds 7-Uppy.
Julie [4:32 PM]:
Well, you kiss your fingertip and then pretend that you are pumping a spray bottle. 
novelboy2 [4:32 PM]:
Never heard of it. That’s badass. I want two.
Julie [4:32 PM]:
Okay. spritz spritz.
novelboy2 [4:36 PM]:
What’s on the meeting agenda?
1. Julie: your turn to make the coffee.
2. Julie: Your turn to clean the bathroom.
3. Julie: Your turn to host the February “All-Island Chili Leaf Eat-Off.”
4. Julie: You need to take over on TPS reports.
Julie [4:37 PM]:
“Julie. You are brilliant!”
novelboy2 [4:39 PM]:
Julie: you did a bang up job on that cow poop dispute over on the Janga Janga farm.
Julie: brilliant conducting of the sea serpent shadow box festival.
Julie: fine job with your statistical analysis of the intra-island fungus disaster.
Julie [4:39 PM]:
funny funny funny ahaha 
Julie [4:42 PM]:
ahahahahahah Not so far from the truth ahah
novelboy2 [4:44 PM]:
Julie: Chief Wonawango said the constellations to the east aren’t fixed correctly in the sky for late January. You’re going to have to get with NASA and see if they can hurry on that level 7 Earth axis-shifting experiment. Wonawango has put in three requests and one curse.
novelboy2 [4:47 PM]:
Julie: Chief Wonawango said he would have all 7 of his wives surround my car and push their breasts against it if this isn’t done. Julie: My wife might not like to see that kind of de-civilization taking place on my new Honda. And, we’re having the Russians here on the 1st for a tour of the local worm farm. Can you lead that? And, Julie. Dress up for once? You’re acting like this is some kind of vacation. You know the code. Pea coats in January. P-E-A  C-O-A-T-S.
Julie [4:49 PM]:
You are decidedly the best most imaginative man I have ever known.

TAGS: , , , , , , ,

NICK BELARDES is illustrator of NYT Best-Selling Novel by Jonathan Evison West of Here (2011), author of Random Obsessions (2009), Lords (2005), and the first literary Twitter novel: Small Places (2010). An author, poet, and screenwriter for Hectic Films, Belardes turned TV/online journalist overnight after blogging his way to success. His articles and essays have appeared on the homepage of CNN.com and other news sites across America. You can find Nick on Facebook and Twitter.

76 responses to “I Miss You, Julie”

  1. Connie says:

    Thank goodness you didn’t sneeze on her sarong.

  2. Connie says:

    For heaven sakes, don’t knock over the gas can and set the boat on fire.

  3. Anon says:

    I know what it’s like to have someone like that in your pseudo-life. And I know, um, some of “those people”. The ache I now feel tells me you did an excellent job up there.

  4. Greg Olear says:

    She comments at TNB?

    Does Josie work for a foreign government now?


  5. Erika Rae says:

    I thought of Josie, too!

    Nick, I feel like we got a chance to spy on you a bit with this one. It was lovely – poetic and witty. If we all had a Julie in our lives, think how wonderful!

    • Spying. Julie has been spying on you all for some time. Have you been to my archive page? You’ll get a glimpse of her. Didn’t think to look there, did you? But seriously, thanks Erika. I was worried that this post wasn’t interesting to anyone other than myself.

      • Erika Rae says:

        Whoa! I totally have that same swimsuit. Weird.

        Julie sounds amazing. I think I’ve heard you talk about her before. It was the whole island girl thing that caught my ear. I second degree bonded with her.

        I wanna be an island girl again.

        I also wanna be a spy.

        I think I’m getting a bit jealous.

        She even looks better in that suit.

        • She’s a queen of the ball type. I’m ghetto. It makes for an interesting friendship.

          If I made you jealous on any level, even by posting a photo, then I succeeded.

          I had to pass a bunch of permissions to post this. I felt like I was going through the gates of Homeland Security just to bring this story to you all. And then, of course, I worried about my storytelling ability.

        • Erika Rae says:

          You were worried about your storytelling ability? You are crazy. You’re a storytelling god! Go drink some of that fancy pear cider you love so much and give yourself a hug.

        • Sure, confidence is hard to come by at times. I write with confidence but don’t always post with confidence! lol.

  6. Richard Cox says:

    If she’s a fan of Swedish men, I think you need to ask Julie if she sometimes goes by Veronika. Ask about her sister, Elin. Or how her mother is doing in heaven.

  7. chingpea says:

    you and julie sound like you have a wonderful relationship. 11 years? that’s a freakin’ long time to love someone you’ve never met, but i know it’s possible. i have a “julie” and she knows how i feel about her.

    such a treasure… beautiful post.

    • We’ve had our battles. I mean, doesn’t any relationship?

      Do you think people in such distant friendships fade away or stay a lifetime? I’m thinking after this post, Julie is going to feel like a rock star and want a whole novel about her, and new wardrobe, and stay friends just because of TNB. heh.

      BTW, you sounded gay. hahahahaha.

      • chingpea says:

        every relationship has its battles that’s for sure. julie is beautiful inside & out so it’s not hard to fall in love with her.

        oh and she me makes question myself…hahaha… i love her that much.

        • josie says:

          I think that’s why I enjoyed this piece so much – this is a genuine relationship. (Which is why I couldn’t tolerate any Freyed action here.) When I first ventured into the cyber-realm I had a hard time wrapping my head around what type of human interaction this was. But it didn’t take me long to learn these aren’t just personas and avatars on my screen. There are real people on the other end of this thing.

          Some of my most profound relationships have occurred through satellite transmissions. Oddly, the internet seems to promote facades and yet it links people in the most intimate ways. Taking out the physical realm seems to sharpen the senses of the intellectual and spiritual realms.

        • You’re so right. Connectedness happens through electricity. Messages traveling at almost the speed of light. That’s how fast they go. That means around the world in the blink of an eye. We can connect and we do. But even so, online friendships rarely last very long.

          It’s interesting, this Age of Chat. We’re in a transition. When it first started, people were seeking. Now I don’t, people don’t, in the same way. Now it’s through like-mindedness on Twitter or Facebook or here on TNB. I mean, I could be off, but I definitely see an evolution where people like me and Julie would never meet today, but could so easily through the open-minded trends of people vs. technology utilizing chat in the late 1990s.

          No Frey here. So read with real joy.

          Julie and I also connect because strange things happen to both of us. And those are long stories, to possibly be told another day.

          Yes, “intellectual and spiritual realms” these are…

  8. jmblaine says:


    I really liked the subtle tone of this
    Might be my favorite thing you’ve posted here.

  9. The shifting forms of narrative… It’s strange but in the last twenty years technology has changed communication so much that we’re seeing literature shift to compensate for it. It would be weird, for example, to read a novel about people talking online without trying to represent the layout of a messaging system. There’s also e-mail, text message and now Twitter. Yet, for centuries before that all we had were letters to incorporate into our text.

    I guess I’m trying to say that you succeeded in making a readable, interesting story that looks and feels different from ones which otherwise would have been similar to it.

    Er, that sounded more complimentary in my head…

    Maybe I should learn emoticons and become more eloquent. 🙂

    • josie says:

      I think you just need to snack more while you drink

    • Cut and paste is such a beauty.

      Imagine if our literary forefathers could do it. I cheat. I present history — the chat letter equivalent — from the simplicity of Control C, Control V. A little weaving around it, and there is movement and action in a new way. A lazy mirror of sorts. Capturing reality. Lightly edited.

      Your words are far more eloquent than mine. Thanks so much, David.

      I should add that I have included Twitter and texts and emails into news stories I’ve written. Just seems natural, as you pointed out…

      • Excellent. I was reading “Generation A” by Douglas Coupland a while ago. He’s been interested in varying narrative formats for a long time. Look at “Generation X” and “Microserfs.” They totally reflected the growth of computers in the way they told a story. Fascinating.

        • I’ve heard about them, but never read them. I wrote a novel in the mid 1990s and use letters and emails throughout it. The 90s Gen X counterculture, like the beats, lacks conflict, so I never tried to get it published. Too bashful. I’m afraid of my own Gen X counterculture novel I suppose. I’m guessing a lot of writers feel that way when they know they are experimenting.

        • I think it’s when people get carried away with their big revolutionary ideas that things change. You need more confidence!

  10. But… what happened with Chief Wonowango? I need closure to this anecdote!

  11. matildakay says:

    What a beautiful story about a beautiful island girl. I’ve been allowed to say hello to Julie via chat on occasion whilest you put on your shoes or some other thing. And I’ve been priviledged to hear wonderful stories about her over the years. I believe that yours and Julie’s relationship evolved way beyond chat years ago.

    I’d love to have a “Julie” in my life…

    And I want to be an island girl with a preference for Sweedish men. 🙂

  12. Eulalio says:

    Great work. It really tells of how a long distance online relationship in the our ether can be great, but can be a sweet tragedy. I think your work, is a universal story for most online chatters.

    You want to be with them, you role play of what you would do when you visit. “When you come visit I’ll take you dancing.” They might ask you, “Please come visit.” And when you tell them you can’t. They ask, “But, why not?”. Most people can not travel to visit their online bff or crushes. They might as well be on a different planet.

    I like how you say it is your perception that Julie has secret missions. We all have perceptions of our online psuedo-significant others, and we always think of them having such a great time and that spending time with them in real life would be real perfection not only a our shared perception.

    I like you put in text in chat form to show how you and Julie had the closest thing to natural dialogue. When we type our voices don’t crack, we don’t mumble, we don’t stumble over words, and our compliments aren’t silenced by our own insicurities.

    I like how you ended your article with Julie typing, “You are decidedly the best most imaginative man I have ever known.” That last sentence difines what hurts and feels greatest about online only long distant relationships; Compliments that you don’t even believe about yourself.
    Julie, you, and many online pals many times feel the other person is the greatest person they’ve met. What hurts is that claim is true and we miss even seeing their status as ‘Not at my desk.’

    • You summed this up far better than me, Eulalio. This piece is very much about the ‘Not at my desk’ part and the truths surrounding closeness at long distance. Thanks for your words.

  13. Irene Zion says:

    Wow, NL!
    I want a friend like this.
    You are one lucky guy!

  14. Lee says:

    The style is bizarre (compliment…it steps away from convention creatively…wow) and ENGAGING and nicely blurs the threshold of creative writing and non-fiction! I’m studying it to distill the craft.

  15. Maura says:

    Nick !!!!!!!!!! What a masterpiece ! I know “Julie ” was amazed and humbled by your words and deep emotions . I know her very well and she cried when she read it . I know she was overwhelmed by the sweetness and purity of this piece. What a friendship you have ! Treasure it ,Nickadoodle I know she does …….

    • I wouldn’t call this a masterpiece. But thank you. I’m not brilliant enough to be a genius. But I do love that my friend thinks I am imaginative. I heard she cried. But then I hear she does that when she’s cutting onions or watching Pinocchio.

  16. Ducky Wilson says:

    I would like to read the novel when you write it.

    • Let’s see, I’d probably have the two meet in Haiti. It would be an adventure of the human spirit and serving others. The two would save some lives, then melt back into their former lives, eventually just becoming chat ghosts of sorts once again.

  17. Spicey J says:

    What a lovely thing the internet is.. and what a nice relationship you two have!

    /One spicey J

  18. AXS says:

    Sensory, sensual, love this piece. Thank you.


  19. Connie says:

    I have kicked this around in my head for a few hours. What is it about this piece that makes me uncomfortable.. I finally figured it out. I feel like I am eavesdropping on a private conversation.

  20. Connie says:

    I try NOT to eavesdrop on truly private matters, but I can only read stuff that is upside down and sideways, so don’t leave any private papers laying around.. lol

  21. Connie says:

    oop.. i should proof before i hit send.. I can also .. not only duh..

  22. Connie says:

    if you are an eavesdropper by nature I am sure reading upside, typing upside down and reading someone else’s computer screen is NO problem.

  23. Slymie says:

    I am intrigued and despondent at the same time….so weird to eavesdrop on your relationship….and so sad to reflect on the first on line friendship I had…you captured my heart/mind/soul….Nick, you are ummm…. awesome

  24. D.R. Haney says:

    Very mysterious. It’s enough to make me want to go through every comment left on TNB, hoping to stumble on a gravatar image of J.

  25. Love in cyberspace.. oh so tricky, fragile, sticky, exciting! Your story does justice to the event, Nick. You’ve honored that special bind and thrill which this age of fools and romantics have certainly experienced: A heart-thumping connection–so tiny–floating in an immense net of possibilities. And you’ve done so without cheapening it, apologizing for it or making it anything less than “real”. Sweet read.

  26. Gloria says:

    Nick, I love this. It’s tender and very sweet.

    I get it, too. I have many incredibly important relationships with people I only know in the written word. I feel similarly tender and loving (and longing) toward them, as well.

  27. […] He’s talked to a woman named Julie. […]

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