I remember refreshing the page once. Not sure why I did it, because the rational part of my brain, however limited, was screaming at me, calling me a fool. I knew there wasn’t going to be another tweet but I had to be sure anyway. The timeline had halted. The last six or seven tweets stared me in the face, one of them hopeful. Others were argumentative, some dismissive. But always inviting the possibility of discussion, rebuttal. That there was discussion or rebuttal was a foregone conclusion, but it won’t be appearing on this timeline anymore. That made me angrier. Damn this thing to hell. Why allow us to connect to each other for a short while, but interact at such a furious pace that it felt like a lifetime?
More anger. Because I wanted to say things to him. I wanted to argue and provoke him into revealing himself further; after all, the preceding pages of tweets had tantalizingly revealed his facets one by one. I still hadn’t met him, didn’t really know who he was but we “connected”. And now I wanted more.
I feared for those whom I seek out when I’m online. Those who delight me with what they have to say. Those I’ve come to love and befriend. Strangers who’ve stood by me unknowingly, because the comfort of my anonymity wouldn’t allow them to know anymore. And yet, I’ve forged bonds that are deeper than I’ve ever managed even in real life. I’ve tried to meet them but at some point, perhaps subconsciously, have chosen not to do so. To avoid shattering the image I have of them in my mind. I love them and I’d like it to stay that way. Like a thing of beauty perched precariously on a precipice. If I come too close, it might topple. Unfortunately, that means I’m addicted to every update as it flits across my screen. It adds to my mental picture of them. It builds empathy and a sense of one-ness with them. It’s unfortunate because now I’m vulnerable. They’re real people with real lives I have no control over. I can only wish they’re careful, that they stay safe. That luck and good health favor them. But I know I’ll still feel betrayed when they’re gone.
I wonder, what kind of a footprint would I leave? Leave. To go away. To not have that page flickering away in one corner of your screen, illuminated with banalities, argumentative jibes, praise, foolishness, fun – that part of the iceberg that rests below the calm surface of our happy selves. Where would my unfinished story fit in? I wonder if there’ll be someone like me, staring at my timeline, willing it to manifest just one more update or tweet so they could hope to finally complete a puzzle I had strewn over the lives of those who connected with me.
I hope not. It’s too unfair.
(Rest in peace Atul.)