All and nothing at once

Gingerly Yours

By Chandrima S. Bhattacharya
  • Published 23.03.18

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the one WhatsApp message that you badly want will not come. In the meantime, life will happen.

You were having what you thought was a real, meaningful conversation after a long time with someone. But as you wait for that one, ultimate ping from your interlocutor which is taking its time, making life suddenly seem uncertain, everyone that you do not want to hear from will descend on you. I will not even mention the senders of the lurid good morning roses, to which you can only say "boo", but you will also definitely hear from your child's abacus class.

Then you get to see your life. You are nervous and intense, with every fibre of your body straining towards that one message not coming, but since you are constantly looking at the phone you somehow read all the other messages and with an enhanced consciousness. You see that these bits and pieces of stuff, this heap of square images, which you thought made up your life, is not your life at all. This is non-life. Delete. You only live in one spot, the message that will not arrive. Your entire being is concentrated in it. You mute all the groups that you belong to.

Ping. It is a message that says: "Thank you Didi."

The message that has not arrived slowly assumes the proportions of the world. What holds it back? You do not feel right about it, but you check the profile of the person you were talking to again. Flaky and superficial? Like everyone? Last seen only five minutes ago. The last message to you arrived 24 hours ago. A forward, or even a smiley, would be reassuring. Should you just let go?

But no message. You keep glancing at your phone. Now the phone becomes your object of desire. This is ugly.

You switch off the phone. But you switch it on again. Pulling petals off a flower was a simpler, easier game, belonging to a more innocent time, gender-specific, age-specific, graceful. You wouldn't be expected to go through this at a later age.

Ping. It is a message from an old friend. It is about Steve Jobs's last words, how the loving person holds on to the other at any cost, though you have to provide the punctuation.

But what did you not do when the conversation lasted? You knew that in real life when two are talking, there are at least four persons, the two, and their projections of themselves. Therefore, in a virtual conversation, the projections will be multiple. Even your own agency is more suspect. Yet, you did not only add inflection and tone to the text sent to you, you also interpreted forwards, and even emoticons. Was a particular smiley bigger than the previous one?

You check your phone. No message. You go back to the conversation. You analyse the sequence and the length of exchanges, who speaks more, who signs off easier. You know that desire demands inequality, but you would like to keep yourself informed about who is doing what. But while talking, you generously overlooked errors of grammar and punctuation, and laughed about them. You can no longer recognize yourself.

Still no message. This is e-torment.

Ping. It is your sister.

You know you will wait till the evening and forward a smart joke to the person who did not send the message. If there is still no answer, it's over. Yet again.