I started to type something funny,
but then I saw that she was typing something.
So I stopped to wait for her comment.
And then she stopped too.
I waited a few seconds.
Nothing happened.
So I resumed my typing.
And so did she.
So I stopped again and waited some more.
It was partly the chivalrous nature
which I’d like to imagine people would identify (if pressed)
as consistently characteristic of my conversational style.
It was also a fear that if my comment appeared
split seconds before hers
then she might not see it.
Because that would pose a dilemma.
Would I then reply straight away to her new comment,
sacrifice my humorous and well-composed contribution
for the good of the conversation
(because, if I did that,
she’d be even less likely to see what I’d just written)?
Or would I insert a pause: time for her to scan the text,
notice my witty observation and add the appropriate affirmation?
But if I did that then what I’d essentially be communicating
was that my comment was more deserving of attention than hers.
And that would be plain rude.
So I stopped again and waited some more.
And then she stopped.
I didn’t know if she was monitoring my typing like I was hers.
She might have been. Alternatively, she might have been thinking,
“Why hasn’t he said something by now?”
I should point out that hers was a multi-comment communication.
She was part-way through a news update
and it was clear that more was on the way.
The polite thing to do in such circumstances, I’ve always thought,
is to just let them get through to the end of it,
without interruption;
temporarily suspend the unspoken rule that text conversations
are a turn-taking affair.
But then there are those who need some sort of encouragement
and will view your silence as a lack of interest.
For them you have to think up some sort of response
for every god-damned line they write:
something interesting enough to show you’re actively listening,
but not so interesting that it disrupts their flow.
It takes a while to work out what someone new is expecting.
You have to attend to the time it takes them
between hitting the return key on comment A
and starting to type out comment B.
A few seconds is just composition time.
Anything longer is an expectant pause.
So anyway, we both waited a little longer in silence.
And I told myself that this wouldn’t do.
I had to at least let her know
I was still awake.
So I deleted what I’d typed so far
and prepared a shorter statement: something to show
I was still at least present in the conversation.
I decided to go for ‘lol.’
Good old ‘lol.’
After all,
she had just relayed a piece of mildly amusing information.
And if a ‘lol’ goes unseen, well then it’s hardly a tragedy.
A lol is a mere pawn in the chess game of conversation:
strategic, but ultimately expendable.
She started typing again.
I advanced my lol.
And she replied with a smiley face.
No way was it a smiley face she’d been spending all that time typing.
Now I wanted to know what it was she’d been going to say
and why she hadn’t said it.
But of course I couldn’t ask.
If I did then she might have denied she’d been going to say anything.
And I wasn’t about to list all her stops and starts as evidence.
That would have been just weird.
Might my lol, I wondered, have been a disappointment?
After all, a lol after a long pause
can look like you only just read the comment,
like you were doing other things and just checking back in
every now and again.
Lols should really be instant, involuntary.
Perhaps that smiley face had been one of those smiley faces
that’s in actual fact a sad one.
a long-pause-lol can still be saved
if it’s followed with a more insightful comment.
That way, the lol can be inferred to belong to
that which follows, rather than that which preceded.
An anticipatory chuckle, if you will.
So I got back to my original comment.

Meanwhile, she started typing.


2 thoughts on “Texture

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