“You got a Twitter?” she asked.
I looked up from the menu. We’d only just sat down after spending a few awkward minutes in the restaurant’s entranceway waiting to be served. Her profile had said her name was Jessie, and she’d introduced herself as such with a limp handshake. I was keen to talk with her, but I was also hungry. Her question caught me off guard.
“Uh, sure,” I said with a little uncertainty, and told her my username. A mobile phone appeared in one of her slender hands and she started tapping away. “What, you’re looking it up now?”
“You hadn’t put it on your profile,” she said without looking up. “I find that a bit suspicious, but then again you never can be too careful these days. Too easy to pick up a stalker by giving away too much, right?” Her thumb started swiping downward on the screen and I knew she was scrolling through my timeline.
“Sure, if that’s the kind of thing you worry about. I hadn’t listed it because I didn’t think it mattered when getting to know someone.”
She snorted. “Didn’t think it mattered? Jack, darling, it’s a veritable window into the soul. That used to be the eyes, or so they said, but nowadays it’s the frequency and quality of your status updates. The things you choose to share. The selfies you deign to publish to the world at large. Like this one, for example.” She held the phone out at me, and I was staring at myself in the driver’s seat of a car. It wasn’t mine; that was the weekend Josh and I had gone to the motor show, and I’d sat in the plush interior of some Italian supercar. “I know that’s not yours,” she said. “Bit of a misrepresentation, don’t you think?”
I put the menu down. “Misrepresentation? It’s a fun picture of me sitting in a car I’ll never be able to afford. Look at the caption.”
“‘Vroom vroom, hashtag da life’. Pithy.” She scrolled on.
“Now hang on a minute,” I started, but the waiter decided that was the best time to interrupt.
“Would sir and madam care for drinks?” he asked.
“Double scotch and soda, plenty of rocks,” Jessie said, still flipping through the last few months of my life tweet by tweet.
“I’m fine with water,” I said, thinking I might have to cut the whole experience short. The waiter nodded and moved on.
“Do you actually believe the things you’ve tweeted?” Jessie asked, looking up from her phone to nail me to the wall with one arched eyebrow.
“This bit here about ‘euthanizing slow-walkers’. That’s a pretty radical response, don’t you think?”
“It’s a joke. I’m not actually going to go around murdering people who walk slow, but you’ve got to admit they’re damn annoying.”
She frowned and considered it. “I don’t know. I enjoy walking slowly sometimes, and when fast-walking assholes huff past me I don’t think much of it. Certainly not enough to spark a pogrom or anything.”
“It was a joke,” I repeated, and noticed I was raising my voice.
“Right, you said that. What about this one, ‘I hate people who don’t wipe their gym machines after sweating all over them’.”
“What about it?” I asked. “I think that’s a fair complaint, especially when you see it happening in front of you.”
“Is it that much of a hassle for you to wipe your own machine before you use it? Kinda kills two birds with one stone, don’t you think?”
“How does that…? I’m still wiping up after the previous user.”
“Sure, but you might as well be doing that anyway, since you have no idea if the previous user wiped or not, unless you were taking the time to observe them, which seems to me like a waste of energy. Quit caring so much about what other people are doing and focus on your own discipline, and you’ll spend a lot less time hating on strangers.”
“Hating? I didn’t—”
“But you did. You specifically chose the word ‘hate’. Or was it just convenient for you? Made communicating your feelings easier? Didn’t feel like stretching the remaining characters in the tweet to really delve deep into the nuances of your feelings toward gym machine non-wipers?” She chuckled and finally put the mobile away.
“This is hardly fair,” I said, reaching for my own phone. “What’s your Twitter handle, then?”
She laughed. “Me? I don’t have one. I’ve a million other things to better spend my time on.”
First draft: 141002