A clean, white void
I have four conversations with a friend on four different social platforms concurrently. We are agile, the movement fluid and instinctive. We know without saying, for instance, that some things are too undressed for the static, garish rooms of text or messenger, and that some things are best held for a moment and then forgotten.
I sit on the train with a book open on my way to work and try to recount a conversation I had on snapchat. There were accidental confessions, a range of my various vulnerabilities upturned in an avalanche of trying not to look like I cared too much but obviously fucking did, though I can’t remember what I actually said. We were trying to arrange a place to meet and there were some mildly complicating factors. I know that immediately after sending I was embarrassed by the speed, length and frequency of my chats, but they kept avalanching out. I hoped that without the conversation’s record or transcript, perhaps I got away with it. Maybe it was still plausible that I didn’t care.
Walking back through a conversation that has disappeared is to rebuild a memory without any of its environmental cues. I don’t know where I was when I typed those things, if I was eating or out drinking or walking along a street; I only see the clean white room of the app, the blue icons and a generic san serif script – a typeface so unobtrusive it could carry any admission. I do recall, however, anticipation at the blinking yellow notification light on my phone and the weight of his name.
A snap is a little bomb, I think. It requires a profound sense of trust – or a belief that trust is a reasonable expectation in this space. I am under no illusion as to the fallibility of this belief. In submitting to this form, like everywhere else, I submit to the agency of my partner, but there is comfort in rules that set parameters in unpredictable, volatile landscapes, even if they are arbitrary and flimsy at best. Screenshot notifications and a time-limited viewing window, for instance, are superfluous features around what remains the same: at every exposure we are laid naked at the altar of our own desires. If writing is inscribing onto god’s skin – I can’t remember who said that – snapping is burning your secrets in a public bonfire.
There’s this thing I do when I’m flirting, and I think most people do it, when you write something provocative and wait until your partner’s seen-icon pops up to close the app. Like lighting cloth in a bottle and throwing it into a room and closing the door. Like sending a tweet that would ruin your life before stepping on a plane. Afterwards, it’s carving into your thigh, but like a mutant or an angel, the wounds instantaneously heal and you remain unscarred to the world.
Now I have bruises on my ankle a week old that have lasted a week longer than the trace of these conversations. When I press my fingers into the light yellow of it I can bring back those waves when he held me there. These are the only physical traces. There is no paper trail except our metadata in some vast San Franciscan server warehouse.
Bruises clear, and each time I open the app the field is cleared once more. We can start again, and try out new emotional configurations. I wonder about the depth of this void, whose endless white holds the possibility of so many future exchanges that will devastate and disappear into vapor. Little bombs, I think.
Bio: Jessica Alice is a poet and editor. Her writing and reviews have been published in The Guardian Australia, Metro Magazine, Overland, Junkee, VICE, The Lifted Brow, Spook Magazine, and Cordite Poetry Review, among others. She tweets @jessica_alice_.