“Someone from Beirut searched for you on Google.”I receive this alert from Academia.edu in my inbox at least once a month. I usually click on the green button at the bottom of the email to view analytics; I’m always curious: what did he look at or download this time?

You see, I know it’s my ex-husband. He moved to Beirut a number of years ago to teach and to direct theater at a university there.

We’ve been divorced since the early 90s and have only made efforts to talk twice. In 1998, we ran into each other on line at Starbucks in LaGuardia airport; both of us were waiting for the same plane to Toronto, heading for the same academic conference, and as it ended up, staying in the same hotel. We drank coffee (he also ate a plain bagel with butter), sitting across from each other outside the gate. We chatted for an hour about Dino, our Siamese cat. The second time, we communicated by email. I wrote to let him know my father passed away. That was in April, 2006; “Give your mom and sisters my condolences,” he wrote back.

These days, we don’t have to talk to talk. We can just search and lurk, which is creepy, yet oddly comforting. He’s taken to Googling me, checking out my LinkedIn page, and clicking around my Academia.edu website. Both social media have analytics to collect data on visitors, so I know the location of the computer he uses to Google me, an office at the Beirut university where he works, and the name, not surprisingly his, associated with the searching computer’s IP address. He’s probably still somewhat tech illiterate, and thinks he’s being sneaky checking me out like this. But he’s not anonymous. LinkedIn lets me know he’s visited by adding a post under the Who’s Viewed Your Profile tab, prompting me to invite him to join my network (I have never done that). Academic.edu sends email alerts.

I enjoy knowing it’s him behind the Beirut alerts when he doesn’t know I know.

I search him, too, only every once in a while, definitely not once a month. He can’t track me, though, because he hasn’t joined any social media and hasn’t yet installed analytics on his website. I know this because I track who tracks me. From my searches, I’ve learned that, in 2011, Second City produced one of his plays. He wrote an article for an academic journal about Edward Said and theater in the Middle East. After we split, he moved a Brazilian woman into our apartment; they now have a child. I found a picture of her on Google images holding what looks like a white, overstuffed, goose down ski jacket, coddling a baby. He’s part of a panel discussion on the topic of Islamic and Western culture posted to YouTube in 2012: he wears glasses now, wire-rimmed readers with rectangular lenses that rest on the end of his nose; colors his hair medium brown, I’m sure to cover the gray overtaking his natural dirty blonde; and speaks like he’s stuffed cotton in his cheeks, a puffed-up affectation that, back in the 90s, he only adopted when he was nervous. From an update posted to the Beirut university’s Facebook page, I learned that he received a 50K MacArthur Foundation grant last year to translate a play from Arabic into English.

Yesterday, I received an alert from Academia.edu: “Someone from South Africa searched for you on Google.” And the day before that: “Someone from Australia searched for you on Google.” I don’t know these visitors or the others who’ve searched me from Hungary, Israel, Canada, Russia, and Japan. But I track their paths around my Academia.edu website, anyway. For a while there, the majority of visitors downloaded my essay on The Wizard of Oz. These days, though, visitors tend to click on my profile, and then, many also download an article I wrote on teaching research papers.

That article ranks among my least favorite. And yet someone from Russia who searched for me on Google downloaded it just last week. My ex-husband has never downloaded that article.


Carra Leah Hood teaches writing and, also, writes about the teaching of writing, composes poetry and creative nonfiction, and creates mixed-media experiences. Her writing tends to focus on the things women do and see and the ways women live. She has published poetry in Nebula and Montucky Review, creative nonfiction and academic essays in a variety of journals, and a personal essay introducing her dad’s posthumously published memoir. In addition, she has presented essays and mixed-media work at local conferences in Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, and Maine. Carra Leah Hood currently lives in southern New Jersey, 5 miles outside Atlantic City, and works at Stockton University. You can connect with her on LinkedIn, Academic.edu, and by visiting her website (http://carraleahhood.wix.com/clh).