The Snark is always a Boojum
In the middle of the word he was trying to say,
In the middle of his laughter and glee,
He had softly and suddenly vanished away—
The Snark was a Boojum, you see.
The Hunting of the Snark, Lewis Carroll
There is a magpie-robin singing in the mango tree in the backyard. A koel is calling from across the street, in the trees that surround the lake. It is a strange juxtaposition. The magpie-robin's song — a freely offered gift, a long, complicated phrase. The koel's call— piercing, reaching across the lake. The magpie-robin contemplates its song, tinkers with the phrase, adds some trills, and makes another offering. The koel calls again and again, the same notes repeating, getting sharper and insistent. Its call gets mocked and parodied, driving it to frenzied repetitions, growing more strident.
I hear them both as I sit here staring at your mail.
You want my life to be all sunshine and laughter, picture postcard perfection and impossible happiness. Why should I disabuse you of that imagined life? You want me to be chirpy, all glib retorts and smart comebacks, placing your allusions and capping them. I do.
We connect online and we play. How does it matter then, that the picture postcard depicts a chamber of horrors? On the evenings we while away in banter, discussions and serious dialogue, I am as much a disembodied spirit as you are, I am as anonymous as you are, as smitten by the notion of us, as much revelling in our relationship.
You want me to be sunshine and I am sunshine.
Online relationships are a bit like hunting the Snark. They work only online. The enchantment will never carry over to real life. In real life, instead of instant wit, one might find measured speech. The caustic critic could turn out to be a silent observer. The charmer one imagines will never be the actual person.
It is easier to let go of online relationships too. Sometimes one loses interest, learning as much of the person as one can stand; then the intensity cloys, suffocates and finally, bores. One lets days pass between connecting again, the conversations become shorter, and one lets it all slide and we talk no more.
The opposite can happen too. The initial wonder of discovery keeps growing and attachment deepens. So now you've changed your tune, now you say you want more, now you say want to, have to, need to meet the wonderful me I project.
I thought our nightly dalliances were where we met mind to mind. For me you are the last star that shines defiantly against arriving dawn. Now you want to be more than a chance wanderer swum into my ken. We are ships that pass in night. True, we have regular ports of call, so pass each other regularly, perhaps. Now you want us to dock side by side.
I thought what we had was the magpie-robin's song. It's the koel calling, instead.