I know this much is true

I've decided that the best way to handle such a deeply bizarre situation as this one is to treat it like the ludicrous thing it is; something so dumbfounding and jaw-dropping that, well, all you can do is just laugh, because there isn't a rule in the rule book for this sort of special circumstance.

Everyone over the age of twelve likes to fancy themselves the keenest, most astute judge of human nature to walk this earth, myself included. Luckily enough, most of the time, the fact that you're deluding yourself only sends you out on a couple of bad dates or leads you to bet on the wrong sports team in the Super Bowl.

But there's a flip side to those illusions, a deadly serious, ugly flip side that can sink you deep in trouble before you've even had the chance to realize that you might be wandering somewhere near trouble. Only occasionally does that end up getting you dead, maimed, raped, or robbed. Most of the time it ends up getting your feelings hurt, maybe pisses off a co-worker or two; stings a bit, but nothing permanent.

In the past few months I've watched that flip side happen to some people that I know; watched that flip side flip up and land very, very close to my own feet.

I know this much is true: his name is Aaron Lowe, although Aaron is actually his middle name, and he is now a convicted felon. His court records are available online; I can show you where they are.

(Kinda ruins the suspense, doesn't it? Hey, I never went to screenwriting school; if you want better writing, you can underwrite my second bachelor's degree.)

I don't really know where to start, other than a bald statement of the ending and a delicate tracing-back of what few facts I know. About a year ago, Geof suggested that I get in touch with this Aaron fellow, as we seemed to have interests in common and would probably enjoy talking to each other.

We did.

I know this much is true: he was better-versed on movies than most people I know. Film buff? Very likely so.

We ended up talking on a wide range of subjects—centering mostly around code and movies. He was a complete novice at PHP, and wanted my help, which I provided. We chatted. I found him interesting and amusing - and, as a bonus, he lived less than an hour from one of my oldest and closest friends.

When I made plans to drive up to stay with Andrew and Joy, he offered couch space at his house. It meant that I could do more exploring on my own, and give Andrew more time to write the paper he was working on. I took Aaron up on the offer.

Through various and bizarre events that are multiple entries unto themselves, for most of the time I was supposed to crash at Aaron's house, I actually ended up in Chicago. Afterwards, I packed up my bag (singular!) and headed to Andrew and Joy's.

At this point, things got weird. Aaron flaked out in an impressively spectacular way. Why do I not explain fully? Call it a sense of dignity on my part; strange, considering how unnerving the flake-out was, and my lack of feeling any obligation toward Aaron whatsoever. But - Andrew and Joy will undoubtedly remember the repeated phone calls I made during the time I stayed with them, trying to determine if Aaron was actually still alive, and Geof will remember the worry/anger/upset in my voice when I called as Aaron basically barricaded himself in his house.

I hustled home, where my friends had thoroughly decked the walls of my house for a very nice Christmas dinner.

After the trip, I started paying more attention to details, questioning things, and came away…disquieted. I realized that the person that I had shared a few meals with was a person attempting to scrub away his past as quickly as it was created, something that I couldn't understand and couldn't trust.

I realized, later than I should have, that he was probably not trustworthy. Took me a while to forgive myself for that one; my policy in life is to give everyone, no matter how deserving or undeserving, a chance to earn my trust. Once earned, it's almost impossible to shake.

Once broken, wrath comes.

Then….the bottom fell out. Late January 2002, my father was diagnosed with cancer.

I know this much is true: Aaron's father died several years ago. (I have confirmed this with another person who knows his past.)

After his conduct in December, the mathematics of Aaron never added up right again. Little things began to manifest. I base a large part of my opinion of a person on the sum of their everyday actions. As the reasoning goes, if they cannot be counted upon to follow through on the small things, how can they be counted on to follow through on the big things?

So, as my family life was flying apart at the seams nearest you, I discovered that one of the best people for me to talk to about Dad's illness was someone I didn't feel I could trust any further than I could throw him.

Given the more pressing issues in my life, I put that one aside for a while.

Then he disappeared. Not without warning - with about twelve hours of warning. Aaron popped online one night to say that he was packing up and moving, and that it would be a while before I'd hear from him again.

Geof and I compared notes, compared logs, and it didn't take long for either of us to come up with an idea of where he might have gone. There was a woman, married, out in Vegas, whose conversations with both Geof and I had provided very broad and un-subtle hints that Aaron might be headed her way.

(Did they have an affair? I don't know, can't prove it, rather suspect they probably did, but in the end, find myself not terribly interested in knowing full details.)

I know this much is true (but I didn't know it at the time): Aaron fled west to avoid being arrested. According to court records, a warrant was issued for his arrest on February 8.

When he began to reappear online, he reappeared under screen names that, while not his old names, were plainly his. (Names of his cats were frequent nominees.) Shortly thereafter, I began to be contacted by women I didn't know.

One of them asked, "Are you in love with him?" —A question which, unfortunately, caused me to howl with laughter for a few minutes. At the time, it was the most ludicrous question in the world.

But, as time went on, I heard from a few more women, with similar questions, and my laughter melted into unease, then only a slight case of incredulity, back to gut-busting laughter again. I began to hear stories that were as sad as they were similar—women far away, lulled by the power of word and promise, who were all in love and promised love in return.

…one of whom said, "Yeah, he said you were a pain in the ass, always trying to muscle in on his code projects."

At this point, I was laughing incredulously on two points.

1) Muscling in on his code. I promptly sent her a vat of chat logs, plus original designs and code snippets, that made it rather devastatingly clear that not only did Aaron not know how to code his way out of a paper bag using PHP, that most of the things he claimed to have written were, in fact, actually my code or designs.

(Or, as I said to her…'I keep copies of everything. Source code, original graphics, ideas, everything. I'm a lousy person to try to steal from, because I document heavily, keep all my notes, keep plenty of backups, and have no problems whatsoever with showing them to others to prove my ownership.' Add to that, 'Ask yourself this question - which of us is coding a CMS in PHP? Chances are, the person that's doing that is the real person behind the code…')

2) All those years I spent wishing I were beautiful, lovely, fun to look at, generally desirable—hell, even anything above rather motherly and plain-looking? Guess it's a good thing I've never been good at getting wishes granted. He was either intimidated (which I highly doubt, as I'm more dotty-aunt-ish than intimidating) or thoroughly uninterested. Never thought that my lack of physical attractiveness would ever save the day…can you imagine trying to tell that to teenagers? ("No, honey, be glad you're not pretty. The felons aren't interested in the plain ones…")

So, anyway. There's not really a moral to this story, unless you count "the felons are only interested in the pretty girls," but somehow I don't think that's really the point here. To avoid making this longer and more drawn-out than what it is, the women in question started comparing stories and swapping barbs and anger and hurt like trading cards, and that's where I bowed out of the story.

Why? That evil flip side I mentioned at the beginning of this piece? It flipped, and it landed near me, but didn't land on me. In the end, I was a bystander, really; they were the ones who got hurt. I drove home, had a lovely Christmas dinner with a lot of people I care tons about, and went on with my life.

He, on the other hand, ended up pleading guilty to forgery and burglary, both felonies.

I haven't heard from him since.
Nor do I expect to.
Nor do I want to.

But sometimes, I can't help throwing a bit of a metaphorical glance over my metaphorical shoulder, and saying to myself, "That was close." I fit his pattern well, and yet it appears that I'm the only person in that pattern to emerge the whole sordid mess untouched, unhurt.

Part of me is grateful. Part of me is sad for the people he hurt.

I've spent a lot of years online, with a tiny opening salvo in 1990, then followed up by full-time access, starting in 1994. Jeff reminds me that, in those eight years, I've gotten to know some truly wonderful people. John. Brad. Andy. Gareth. Dan. Stephanie. Noah. Geof. Will.

Most importantly, Jeff.

Despite all the ugliness in this situation, I know that I cannot allow it to limit my ability to trust others. What was true then is still true now: the overwhelming majority of people, given half a chance, bloom under a bit of trust and love. Trust cannot be given blindly, but to go about life unwilling to extend it virtually guarantees that I'll miss out on knowing someone worthwhile.

In the end, I know this much is true.


Amy, you said this better than I could have ever hoped to have done. The other day, I found the entry from the day I found Aaron's site for the first time. It made me physically ill. You caught on much faster than I did ... I guess I just kept wanting to believe. And, reading this through to the end, I know that I'm right in keeping on trusting.

I was wondering when you'd write about this. And... amen, absolutely. I've been online in one form or the other since the 80's, and I was a friend of the now-infamous Kaycee Nicole, and I've had my own identity doubted before (all of which, with detours to Aaron and all the other 'kaycees' before & after her [of whom I've certainly met my share], I mean to write a nice long entry of my own about someday) - but my bottom line is the same: I do believe that, in the end, we have much more to gain from trust than we have to lose by it. Even despite whatever nastiness and heartbreak have come from it - I know I've come out far, far richer in the overall bargain.

I wish I had trusted my instincts earlier, but I didn't. I think I said this to you right after getting back from Illinois - Aaron can be devastatingly charming. I'd read of people supposedly having such charm, but had never been able to convince myself that such creatures really existed anywhere except in the imagination of the writer. They do. It's hard to know what lesson, if any, to take away from events such as this. I extended trust to someone who turned out to not be worthy of that trust. I came out unscathed, but it's impossible to celebrate that fact. Funny, the only quote I can come up with is from Jane Austen: "But nothing can be done; I know very well that nothing can be done. How is such a man to be worked on?" Pride and Prejudice, chapter 46

OMG! What a story! I can only imagine the stories all of those women had to tell!!! Di

If you think these women have interesting stories, well, they do. But realize that I link to that with great, great trepidation ... there's a lot of hurt and anger there. And Amy, if you delete this, it's okay...

Oh, and Mr. Lowe was back in court yesterday on a civil claim. I wonder who sued him.

There isn't much that I can say to this one. Sounds like Aaron is someone that I would very much like to meet in a very dark and quiet alley so that I could extricate some revenge for all of the people who have been hurt/wronged/used. I have had the complete misfortune of knowing someone like him...and every time I think about it I just want to shower with Lava soap and bleach. I have read Amy's story and the stories of the rest of the people that Geof linked to and all I can say is I truly feel for those of you that were victims. Gah...now I want to break something.

Amy, I've been meaning to send you an email. See, I remember your trip to Decatur. I heard the worst of what he had to say about you. It was starting to get ME upset. We went to the party, and he talked about how much he disliked you. We had drinks at the party, and he said he wished you wouldn't be there when he got home. We went for breakfast and I had to hear all about that "She stole my truck" crap. It didn't end. I'll just say that a few good things did come from everything that happened. And when Darce and I are downing martinis in NYC for my monthlong birthday celebration, we'll remember his, uh, "shortcomings", and we'll laugh. (Sorry, Amy, not going to bring up the teeny peeny on your web site. :))

Jody ... you think you're pissed? You didn't bring Amy into all this mess. A couple days ago, on the random links on my site, I found the entry from the day where I first ran across Aaron's site. I wanted to hurl.

While I'm thinking about it, here are the details.

To view the court record in question, go here and search for "Lowe, Calvin." Some of his records are just under "Lowe, Calvin" and some are under "Lowe, Calvin A."

I'm surprised nobody's linked to those before.

Tiff -

That's pretty funny - "stole his truck"? I wonder what part of him telling me

a) where his keys were
b) where the truck was parked
c) what license plate to look for (because I couldn't remember it)
d) giving me suggestions on which highways to take to Chicago

constituted stealing? Besides, if it was really stolen, shouldn't he have called the police?

Now, most of the people who read this site are personal friends of mine. They know my home address, my phone number, how to get to my house, and several of them house-sit for Jeff and me when we travel. Dinner and socialization at my house is just how it is.

I'm not exactly an unknown quantity; these people know both my spouse and I very well. Those people know that I'm not the kind of person to say truly mean things.

But I'll say this. I'm cheering for Aaron to get jail time (that potential contempt of court bit that got filed yesterday looks like a tasty prospect). Normally I'd feel bad for saying that, but in this case I simply cannot. Thus my linking to his court records, and blatantly leaving his full name on this page for search engines to find...and index.

I have no guilt and no shame - because nowhere in my actions is there any cause for either emotion. Thus, it seems silly of me to be silent.

Not to accidentally repeat the theme of this entry, but...I know this much is true: truth is absolute defense against libel.

Yeah, I almost linked that, Amy. Decided not to do so ... why, I'm not sure. I would like for him to see jail time, if only because it has the potential to be rehabilitative for him.

I've been wondering if I would have mentioned Aaron at all if I were still writing online. I'm not sure I would have; or maybe, like you, I would have waited for some time to pass before I brought it up. What made me want to respond to you here, though, was one thing in particular: apart from the peculiar and unsettling feeling of discovering a friend had not deserved the trust I gave him, and was apparently not as good a friend as I had believed, I too found myself standing just outside the circle of hurt and disaster. Nothing happened to me, either. Looking back, I wonder about things that were said, lies that were told. But in the long run, no great emotional or physical or financial harm was done to me ... and like you just said, Amy, it's very hard to feel grateful for that, because it's very similar to feeling grateful for the misery of others. Point being, though, you're *not* the only one left unharmed. Me too.

As the person who has been most hurt by Aaron's actions (and if you want to argue that with me, i've got 4.5 wasted years and all told, approximately $15,000 worth of debt to show you) I just want to thank you for finally stating your opinion. See, I know what everyone thinks about it, I know all the players involved, but no one - myself included - ever really gets into the nitty-gritty. I know that for some, its far enough in the past that its not worth dragging up and reliving. Others chose simply to ignore that it ever happened. For myself, I'm still having a hard time putting into coherent words exactly what happened to me. How I could have been so stupid, so many times. How I could have thought that someone so fundamentally evil was my soul mate. Someday, I'll be able to tell my story. In the meantime, thank you for putting your small part in it out there, and for talking with me about it.

What a lovely day [Christmas] to bring up a crappy chapter in our lives, but ... 1. I find it interesting that the fling in Las Vegas now has a password-protected personal Web site for which you must register. That has to be the most ludicrous thing I've heard of in a month. 2. Our boy has /again/ been in trouble with the law. I should be unsurprised, really, but for some reason, I wonder ... why hasn't a 30-year-old man with obvious native intelligence not started to figure life out yet? :sigh: