The Electronic Lover

an audio opera by Lisa Mezzacappa & Beth Lisick

Episode 2:  So Long, Quiet Lady

The members of the women-only chatroom begin to open up to each other about their lives, desires, and fears. Frankie is fed up with being undervalued by her male colleagues at work. We learn more about Joan’s personal journey as she emerges to become the group’s leader, confessor, and confidant. Even outside the women’s forum, everyone is buzzing with the energy Joan has brought to the online community.

It’s 1984 and Margot has hitchhiked across the country to become the online manager of a new internet community. A women’s only chatroom is formed and user Joan, going by the handle Quiet Lady, becomes its leader and de facto moderator. The women’s forum has been growing steadily, and now has 32 approved members.

Frankie: I just got called ‘honey’ again when I asked for a raise.

Joan: I guess it’s better than Sugartits.

Frankie: So funny I forgot to laugh. They shut me down. Even though I’m the only one who can reboot DOS.

Joan: You’ve got to laugh, you’ve got to smile.

Frankie: I’m tired of smiling…but maybe I should change my handle to Sugartits

Joan: Your wish is my command. Hey, GoGo!

Frankie: Haha, Quiet Lady. Maybe you should be… Funny Girl.

Joan: Is that a crack about my nose?

Margot: Hello! Hello!

Frankie: GoGo! We’re talking about handles.

Joan: We’re talking about handles.

Frankie: Jinx!

Joan: Jinx!

BigMac, SodaJerk, TroutMask, DimSum. Sapphire, ClimberJoe, Bagel Broad, Queen B. PolterGuy52, Innervision, Foxhound. BeastMaster36, TheRealSpicoli. TapCat, CaffeineQueen, 3DFrank, TheJuice. RockCity, WunderBarb, TigerEye, StrikerTen, Zoom02134, Pepper9, RomaRoma. StanByMe, Abacab, HighLife, TrickyRick.

Margot: GoGo was my nickname as a kid. We had a CB radio.
MarGO, Mar GO-GO. Breaker, breaker, this is GoGo.

Joan: 10-4, good buddy!

Frankie: I think there’s a bear in the air!

TheGambler, ByGeorge, GypsyG, HotTomato, Wilder16, SpanielBoy, StarBird, OpieAndy.

Joan: And you MizStacks, so mysterious!

Susan: You didn’t know that I am a vampire?

69Vette, CardShark, QuakerP, Durango, Catamaran6, TexasRosie, CedarSpruce, CardShark.

Margot: Why are you Friday, Friday? Favorite day of the week?

Frankie: It’s what they call me at the cafe. I work a double on Fridays. Seven to seven.

Theresa: I go by T-Rex. I don’t really know why, except for the T is for Theresa. My name. I couldn’t think of a better one.

Joan: Friday, you work in a cafe? I thought you worked at a printing press.

Frankie: I do both. Sixty hours a week. My only day off is Saturday.

Margot: Thank God it’s Friday!

Joan: TGI Friday!

Theresa: I like the loaded potato skins there.

Wanting to dream
I’m forever awake
I’m tethered

I stay on the ground
Trek straight through the sludge
No time to wander

Top of my class in high school
Calculus, chemistry, computer club
But we had no money

I got pregnant
Had a baby
My mother was sick
I took care of her

I got a job
And another job
My mom watched the baby
I brought home the bacon

I see the students from the university
At the tables of the cafe
I see them
There in the print shop
Watching them
I wonder

My daughter will have more chances
My mother will have what she needs
Still I try to imagine

Longing to dream
But forever awake
I’m tethered

Margot: Oh, Friday. You’ve built a great life.

Theresa: You work so hard.

Frankie: The men think they know more than me.
When the Commodore crashes, I am the Fix-It Guy!
And still the they explain things to me they don’t even understand.

Theresa: There should be a word for when men explain things to you that you already know!

Frankie: I’m the only woman there,
The only one with no degree.

Narrator: Quiet Lady private to Friday

Joan: I need to talk privately with you.

Frankie: Sweet, My first private message!

Joan: I feel a little shy sometimes.

Frankie: You don’t seem shy.

Joan: I think I understand you, I think I can help you.

Frankie: I just needed to vent, to let off some steam.

Joan: You meant to go to college.

Frankie: Well…

Joan: You long for an education.

Frankie: I suppose…

Joan: You wish the men at work didn’t treat you as an inferior. An object. Lesser than. Stupid. Clueless.

Frankie: I get your drift!

Joan: Uneducated. You need to let go of your hang-ups!

Frankie: I’m not sure this is a “hangup”–

Joan: You can go back to school.

Frankie: I don’t have the time. I don’t have the money.

Joan: It’s not too late to start again.

Frankie: I have too much work. I don’t have the cash.

Joan: It’s never too late…

Joan: What if I paid for it?

Frankie: What? How?

Joan: Keep this to yourself, but I am an heiress.

Frankie: A what?

Joan: I’m loaded. Flush with the Franklins. A real rich bitch. My chambermaids are here to help me dress for afternoon tea. Wink wink—Ta ta for now.… Think about it, Friday dear.

How would it feel?
To let my guard down
Accept the help offered
It would be nothing to her and
everything for me

To hold a degree
To climb the ladder
I can become so much more

If Joan is serious
I could untie my tether
Drop this weight
How would that feel
To change my scene
To float
To dream

Narrator: Back in the chat, Quiet Lady shows an interest in helping others as well.

Joan: Take a good hard look at your priorities!

Voice: I worry too much about other people’s opinions of me.

Joan: What do you think is holding you back?

Susan: Fear of failure? Fear of success? Fear of….fear?

Joan: How does that make you feel?

Voice: I worry too much.

Voice: I lose my patience too easily.

Joan: Locate your erroneous zones!

Susan: Fear of what else?

Voice: My mother’s voice is always in my head.

Susan: Fear that I’m a fraud!

Joan: Let go of useless emotions like guilt and worry !

Voice: I probably worry too much.

Joan: Break free from your past. Start living!

Voice: I could be more patient.

Frankie: Will I ever be good enough?

Joan: Heal your inner child. Get in touch with the real you.
You need to realize it’s time to self-actualize

Narrator: It seems this forum is really helping her come into her own.

The view from my window
Eighteen thousand trees
The star magnolia knows my story
The sycamore weeps leaves for me
My oxygen, my memory

There’s a man behind the wheel
in a blackout
tires squeal, brakes skid
Look out
I am folding in on myself
Ready to disappear

I sat alone while I healed
Alone at my desk
Watched green letters flicker on a black screen

I called myself Quiet Lady
I logged in as Quiet Lady
My handle was Quiet Lady

Fingers silent, fingers stiff
Damaged inside and out
How could I let them know me?

But I came out of the woods
I began to breathe
I could be alive here
I could be of help here

I found friends
Women worse off than me
Without hope
Without my optimistic streak
Without my thirst for life

Alone in their rooms, alone at work, alone in their beds
{Feeling like they have no one }
I am growing out of myself

I remember who I am
A young woman
With desires. With drive. With a taste for adventure and thrills.

I was brought to the brink
But I am not destroyed
I can build myself back up
By reaching out, by looking out
My new calling is to heal

I have a new handle
I’m Talkin’ Lady
I’ve got your back
I’m Talkin’ Lady
Talk to me, and I will hear you

Narrator: And when Joan came out of her shell, everyone was paying attention.

I’m looking for
I was just chatting with
I would like to talk to
I sent a message to
I got a message from
Talkin’ Lady

Susan: Has anybody seen Joan?

Joan, Joan

Voice: You call her Joan?

Theresa: I call her Joan.

Margot: She used to call herself

Quiet Lady

Susan: I heard Talkin’ Lady has a trust fund worth millions.

Theresa: Yup, It’s textile mill money.

Susan: I thought it was shipping?

Frankie: I heard Texas oil.

What do we know
What do we know about
What do we know
What do we know

Narrator: Oh! Looks like we have a rare appearance by founder Garrison Litchfield.
Handle: Buck.  Buck goes private to GoGo.

Garrison: How’s it hanging, kiddo?

Margot: Hanging high and tight, boss!

Garrison: Seventeen new users this morning. Word is getting out.

Margot: I noticed that. One from Helsinki!

Garrison: Margot, how is your women’s forum? I don’t go in there. I never peek!

Margot: It’s going strong, Buck. So energized. Bubbling over.

Garrison: You should be proud.

Margot: But I can’t take all the credit. I have so many places to be. Hats off to Talkin’ Lady. She’s taking the reins.

Garrison: Yes, I’ve noticed that. She…seems…to be the moderator now….?

Margot: With my blessing. Is that a problem? She’s a natural leader. A powerful ally!

Garrison: Okey dokey. Just stay alert. Keep your eyes open.

Frankie: I heard she was top of her class at Princeton.

Susan: I thought it was Yale?

Frankie: Word is, she built her own motherboard!

Voice: She’s a psychologist.

Voice: Psychiatrist!

Garrison: Does she have an M.D.?

Susan: The youngest female Ph.D. in US history!

Voice: She speaks French, Italian and Russian.

Frankie: Also Chinese!

Margot: She spends summers in the Basque country.

Voice: Her cat is named Paprika.

Garrison: She lives in New York City.

Frankie: On the Upper West Side.

Susan: A redhead with eyes of emerald green…

Voice: I believe she’s in a wheelchair.

Margot: Starting to take steps again.

Voice: Do we know if she is single?

Voices: Divorced?

Voices: Vegetarian?

What do we know
What do we know about
What do we know
What do we know about Joan!

Joan Van Horn, PhD. AKA Talkin’ Lady. Queen of the Chatroom. For Now.


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