The Right to Be Forgotten: Twenty-Five
“Tell us, Mrs. Lancaster, about the video we’ve all watched, Sad Boy is Sad.” The interviewer rims her voice with false empathy.
“My son, Jacob, had been practicing his French horn immediately before the clip you have. What you don’t see in the clip, is, of course, the French horn, but also the police officer who enters our home and tells us that my husband, Jacob’s father, is dead.”
“So, Jacob was reacting to news of his father?”
“Yes. He forgot the recording and simply responded to tragic news the way any young person might.”
“How did the infamous video come to light? Do you hold any person accountable?”
“Jacob had been streaming his horn practice. It began a life of its own out in the cloud. Someone, somewhere, truncated the video to show nothing but Jacob’s emotional response.”
“Where he was screaming and hitting a sofa, the sofa you sit on now, is that right?”
“Yes.” Evelyn holds back from punching the interviewer, and I would gladly do it for her, but that’s not my part.
“Mrs. Lancaster, Evelyn, can you tell our viewers why Jacob is not here on the sofa today?”
Evelyn stares at her hands in her lap before looking up at the camera. “Jacob is not here because he died.”
The interviewer passes Evelyn a tissue. I want to throw up.
“And how did Jacob die, Evelyn?”
“He committed suicide.”
“Do you have any idea why he would do such a thing?”
Evelyn’s restraint impresses me. I wonder if it translates on-screen.
“Jacob loved his dad. They did everything together. In addition to that terrible loss, Jacob faced his image used over and over to make fun. It was more than he could bear.”
“So you hold the Internet responsible for his death?”
“There is no one to hold responsible. That is the great injustice of situations like Jacob’s. We cannot know what he might have done without the added burden of that recording and all its iterations.”
“There’s someone else here with you today. Can you tell us a bit about how the two of you came together?”
“I sought her. I’ve been a longtime fan of her book, but when I read her words regarding Jacob and the video, I simply melted. She understood the damage being done. I found her and asked her to come here, which she so graciously did.” Evelyn takes my hand in hers. She smiles through tears. She sells us well.
“Did you think Sad Boy’s parents would read what you wrote on social media about him?”
“No,” I say. “I never dreamed of meeting anyone involved. But I knew a bad situation when I saw one. What the Internet did to Jacob is inexcusable.”
“Mrs. Lancaster,” the interviewer says, swiveling back to Evelyn, “you have granted us this interview, but you have stated, and I quote the press release sent by your attorney yesterday, “I have selected a young, talented, social activist and writer to tell the world our story. All requests will flow through her.” End quote. Is it fair to say you’ve worked out a monetary agreement with this woman?”
“Well, of course I have. She will tell our story beautifully.” Evelyn and I lock eyes and smiles, just as we rehearsed.
“Has anyone warned you of the dangers of entering such exclusive dealings?”
Evelyn nods knowingly. “Some people close to me have made their concerns known.”
So goes the interview for another five minutes. Evelyn remains the essence of calm, even when the interviewer makes her sound like a fool for trusting the likes of me.
My phone, which I left in the kitchen, explodes. I hear it buzzing with notifications. Evelyn may be a genius.
The bright lights switch off and Evelyn sees the interviewer out the back door for privacy. I sit until the crew evacuates completely. Then we each check our phones.
Fifteen text messages just from my editor. Ignored. That decision was made days ago. My life with an editor no longer exists. Or, it won’t shortly. I cannot write the book I promised. All I can do now is make as splashy an exit as possible, for all of us.
We scour social and traditional media sites for signs of expected controversy over me and my plot against poor Evelyn. Sad Boy is trending. But so am I. By name. The vilification has commenced.