Right To Be Forgotten
Had I never loved you
Maybe I’d be free
Had I never loved you
Maybe I’d be me
Imogen stared outside. The world had moved on. She still sat in her personal tragedy wrapped in a bubble. The motel room was dirty but it had a roof. There was a seventeen year old girl carrying pamphlets that held Imogen’s attention.
Early in the morning at seven, the thin, brown haired girl with a purposeful chin had stood on the corner of the road with a belligerent expression, hounding passers by who yelled at her for disturbing their peace before the morning coffee. She didn’t care.
For the week, the sun rose brightly looming over it’s subjects much like the teenage girl who found new quarries for her cause. What was her cause? Imogen wondered. She looked fascinated at the animated expressions, the bravado of the girl who stood there day after day.
The sun would take refuge behind the moon but the girl remained glittering under the moonlight.
Imogen’s brain registered all this for it was too numb to think about her own life. She had been a teenager once, had fallen in love with the most handsome boy in school. Married him. Had his children. She hadn’t gone to college, never felt the need for it. She had her little kids, home, and husband to take care of.
Where were they now? Her husband had left her for a co-worker. He felt he could not connect with Imogen, who did not understand his life. Her children were in college. They called sometimes, but they didn’t have much to talk about.
With the remnants of her self-esteem, she’d refused alimony. She did not want pity. With the little money she’d inherited from her mother, she set forth to someplace far away from all of them. She’d never had any talents, so she did not know what work she could do. In a movie, she would have been a writer, an artist or a singer. But she was just a lost forty year old woman hiding in a motel.
They used to call her, trying to gauge where she was. Physically and mentally. She found the dutiful calls cumbersome. Why couldn’t they just forget about her?
On the ninth day of her vigil, she went outside. The girl quickly pounced on the newcomer.
“Ma’am do you believe in the Right to be Forgotten?”
Imogen was taken aback. But she answered instantly, “I want to be remembered.”
The girl waved aside the philosophical answer. “Ma’am, I mean forgotten on the internet. Imagine that you did something when you were a dumb seventeen year old, wouldn’t you want the world to forget it and move on?”
Again, Imogen answered immediately. “I did something dumb when I was seventeen. I lost myself.”
The girl was looking at her funny. As if she was crazy.
“I’m sorry, I’m just rambling. So you want erase a trace of something embarrassing you did?”
The girl turned pink. “Not me, this is a legal right every human should have. Do you want to come to our group meeting today?”
She must not get many people to those meetings otherwise she wouldn’t have asked a woman whom she thought was crazy.
“Sure.” Imogen said.
Kathy looked at the middle-aged woman who’d just left. She wondered under what rock the woman lived. To be so untouched by technology that she didn’t care. Kathy looked at her phone, it only had the texting app and nothing else. She would never go near social media again. It was a make believe world for real people distracting themselves from a crumbling world.
She messaged her friend that a middle-aged woman might join them so that they didn’t take flight thinking it’s someone’s mom.
Imogen went back and read about the Right to be Forgotten. Her technology skills were non-existent. Being a part of the tech boom, she’d completely missed it. The terms made no sense to her. But she kept on digging. She wanted to talk the language of the people, the world that had changed while she was lost.
She put on some clean clothes and went to the place where the group met. There were fifteen people, mostly teenagers assembled there. They thought somebody’s mom had shown up and started walking in the other direction. The girl she had met told them about Imogen.
They marched the street and Imogen felt a warmth due to her borrowed purpose. When they went for pizza and were discussing the cause passionately, Imogen just observed.
“How does one go about learning computers?” She asked hesitantly.
Kathy broke the embarrassed silence and told her about the evening classes.
Imogen started going to the classes and also got a job as a maid servant for a cleaning company. It was the thing she was good at, she thought ruefully. But slowly, she learned to smile. She still did not know who Imogen Green was but she was making an effort.
She also moved in with Kathy in a small room that the latter rented out. She looked at the dismal room with peeling wallpaper and took it to hand. Even making curtains for the solitary window.
Kathy blinked in surprise but was not displeased.
“How did you get into this cause?” Imogen asked her.
Kathy paused wavering on the verge of telling her. She took a deep breath.
“I was fourteen, met this girl I really liked. I thought she loved me but she was scared of telling anyone. When it eventually came out, she denied the whole thing and said that I used to drug her. She’d taken a video of us high and spread it around as proof. My parents threw me out. When I walked into school, everyone started talking about me, laughing to my face. I was used to the homophobic slurs but not rapist. Not a single person believed me. This started happening everywhere I went, supermarkets, malls, even my doctor. The video was the only thing that defined me. I made it my life’s mission that nobody should be subject to their privacy being invaded without an explanation. Their life destroyed by carelessness. Losing their dignity.”
Imogen did not reach out to hug her. She just told Kathy her story. Kathy listened but made no remark except, “What are you going to do now?”
“I don’t know, maybe have a maid service of my own someday.”
“Why are you learning programming?”
Imogen faltered, “It is the language of people now. I want to keep up.”
Kathy smiled. The first smile Imogen had seen on a young face ravaged by the insensitivities of the world.