Love in the Era of the Facebook Chat Window

But software, what light through yonder chat window breaks?

I thought we were just talking. The way all couples do, the chatter that begins and ends without much effort. A thought floats by: grab it, bend it slightly, angle it towards the light, arrange it well, present it to your partner, “Hon, I was thinking about how otters have to give birth at sea and I had a question...”

Then she presents an answer, he snorts happily, they amuse each other's sensibilities. Or do they amuse each other's conceits? Either way they tolerate the earnestness of the other and go back to their puttered apartment. I thought we were just talking.

We have, she and I, talked about talking a good number of times. We could leave a restaurant and say, “Oh the discourse during the soup was just amazing, but when the large plates came, well, I can't stand that kind of meaty, down-home talk.”

Regardless, we never talked about sea otters. We had busy things to talk about, very urban things. 

The whole point of the story is this, I wanted to know what an interview was so I asked her, being the smartest person I know, and she was inclined to answer. I knew she recorded everything that happened, as it was still the Season of the Liveblog. “Documentation,” she said, “was the difference between an interview and a conversation.”

I saw a vision clearly. I saw the buckled thread of our friendship come into focus. For years we had chatted on gmail, then facebook, now skype. The missing bit of information missing from the facebook -> skype trajectory is that she would mute the microphone.

Our postures transmitted on the screen we could fidget and fart in private silence, the only words that passed between us were written. It was carefully curated poetry, a theology of instant messaging. We had lived in more cities than you can count on one hand and not in that many years. Never together, but with enough words between us that we were both the closest and the farthest away, until this summer.

It was summer and she had left New York for time to breathe in Oakland and then was back home, here in Seattle, ready to start something. We connected like we had always meant to. We’d been too pained by adolescent mental illness before. Language flowed like candy, lube, sunshine, break up. It's always sudden isn’t it? Better to admit it soon, or that's what I'd say.

Before the end, in the tender summer within summer, was when she'd said it, “documentation.” I always knew something about history, something about “to the victor go the spoils,” something about who it is that gets to write the book. What I didn't know was that I had been on record the whole time. Tic-tak-tik-tak.