How many godly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t.
— William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act V, Scene I, ll.
Pandora had a box; Charlotte has a web; Facebook has an “Other” inbox. Here I was procrastinating in preternaturally good form, even for myself, when a friend’s Facebook status tipped me off on the fact that Facebook has a little-known subsidiary message folder inventively christened, “Other”. This dark side of the moon lives just to the right of one’s regular Messenger inbox and into this lunar space, all manner of randomness is triaged. As an intrepid explorer (and decedent of the goddess Chang’ 0), I had to go there and see it for myself. And my oh my, let me tell you, there are holes in the moon and these holes hold cans and these cans, once you open them, are crawling with worms aplenty. I truly was not expecting to have traversed into this
comedy of errors alternate reality— I am talking Interstellar levels of cosmic awe here—of messages from complete strangers. Some were years and years old; they ranged from heartfelt outreaches from long-lost relatives to laconic one liners, like “Hi.” In 1896, John Keats wrote about Facebook’s “Other” inbox, by the way. He really did. And, just as he opined, there is nothing quite like discovering a new realm for oneself. Like R Kelly trapped in a closet, the truth is out there.
In the span of 10 minutes it took me to perform a cursory orbit of satellite “Other”, I have experienced a range of reactions— from staccato chortles, to riotous, teary-eyed laughter, to pride, to nostalgia— all at the rate at which a hummingbird beats its wings . It is, indeed, a brave new world.
The atmosphere of “Other” is rife with overtures of love and admiration, personal biographies, gratuitous offers of phone numbers, and, as in the case below, suggestions that I send over my number. You know, just incase I broke my dialing finger (which, mind you, is not one of my typing fingers) and I cannot call him.
I can’t tell you how many tears I have dedicated to Range Rover Randy tonight. Random capitalization aside, there remain several wellsprings of confusion here for me. I’m not entirely sure what his dad is late for, or if that was some allusion to Lewis Caroll (I do love Alice and her Wonderland as much as a love an erudite stalker). If anyone is keen and wants his “num”, use the contact tab to reach me—I shall only charge a minimal finder’s fee. Range Rover Randy, all jokes aside, I do appreciate the compliment, but I have this insurmountable thing about the abuse of ellipses…
Upon sharing the news of my discovery of “Other” in my status, I began to receive screenshots from friends who had long ago Columbused “Other” and are acquainted with its denizens:
Ah, (said in my best Sir David Attenborough voice), it would appear the alien life forms have a thing for ellipses of varying lengths…and this one has read The Jabberwocky. Owing to an alphabet paucity and general disdain for profligacy, letters are used sparingly on “Other”.
From the planet of Benjamin Buttons who age in reverse, comes this gem of a lunar incantation. Nicely maneuvered, young sir. A solid half-year older and suddenly finding himself in kindergarten, this star gazer has found his eyesight (and yet his ego remains in hiding). There simply are not enough side-eyes left on my earth for Ptelomy over here…
So, uh, there was that…and many more of those where that came from. There were also messages in everything from Arabic to I think Russian (I cannot pretend my cyrillic game is way strong and it may have been an indigenous “Other” lingua franca). (P.S. to the Russian telemarketers who keep calling, for the umpteenth time, Natasha is a very common name beyond the Kremlin. I don’t speak Russian. I never will.). There was also a heartwarming message from a long lost relative who lived in my home in Ghana for a time. Imagine my surprise to read “Hello Auntie…” and the wave of memories that washed over me. Then there was the flood of pride engendered by affirmations about my writing. What! People read this shit? And it appears you like me best when I’m excoriating The Wall Street Journal and Delta Airlines, launching my high-pitched ire at those far above my station in life.
To think I almost never wrote that post because I thought it was a belaboured point; to think of all the things I never wrote because I find my thoughts hackneyed and my voice banal. Like. This. Very. Post. which I almost talked myself out of. Maybe I should have?
But, I digress and crawl into the lacunae of my mind, as I am wont to do. I excavated, as I mentioned earlier, a message in a cryptic tongue. Turns out it is Spanish. It also turns out it was sent by a lovelorn (ex-?) girlfriend of certain French doctor with whom I shared a tryst when I was traveling alone in the Andes. Oh it was not all that exciting. How much can one get up to after a 5am taxi from Urubamba to Ollantaytambo, followed swiftly by a train ride to Aguas Caliente (it was on this chemin de fer that I lasered in on the good doctor), a bus ride up to the gates of Machu Picchu and trudging up a 2720 meter mountain as rain battered a once laid weave into a nest of shame? I hadn’t an inkling then that he was otherwise entangled. In fact, it appears he didn’t know he was otherwise entangled either: it was not until a year later, after a dizzying cycle of Facebook un-friending and re-friending from him, that he mentioned that his girlfriend, who suspected him of dalliances, had found his password and was expunging his account of the enemy. “I never cheated,” he wrote to me.
“How long have you been dating?” I asked.
“4 years” he answered, sans aucune hesitation.
“Well, I hate to puncture the fragile membrane of your selective memory with my feeble maths but uh, cher docteur, unless a year ago was before 4 years ago, I have it on good authority that you did, in fact, cheat.”
You never know when it comes to me and calculations —many a waiter has had to bear the brunt or luck of my inability to efficiently calculate a 20 percent tip— but now you see why I was running short of expertly-curated side-eyes well before I found “Other.” I’m not sure when, in relation to my exchange with Docteur Dragueur, his girlfriend sent her message:
The gods of google translate tell me that his (I really hope ex-) girlfriend wrote to me because she was sad and figured I would understand her as a fellow woman:
Natasha Hello, how are you?
English habo not as well as I wanted.
I write because I am very sad and desepcionada, I hope you understand me because you’re a woman.
You know [Dr. Who]? well I’m his girlfriend four years ago and would like to know how you meet? Thank you
(Oy. The tense algorithm has gone awry again, Google)
Well, dear Heartbroken Hermosa, you are correct: I am a woman. And girlfriend, yes, I do understand you. How many times in my own season of heartache did I start to compose an email to (redacted)? But honey, I wrote a poem instead. Ok so I wrote 50. But because friends don’t let friends drive drunk through life, emailing random women they have never met (thanks, guys), I didn’t cross the line. What I did do was email him all 50 of my musings a year into the dank void of douleur. What? You’ve never sent someone a 51 page letter detailing the rotting of your psyche? Sheesh, live a little!
In any case, to answer your question Sad and Desepcionada, that’s the story of how I met our doctor friend. And I am sorry for your pain; I have known it well. But next time, girl, phone a friend.
And so, friends, the moral of the musing here is simply this: just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it does not exist. Expand your horizons. Boldly go where few men have gone before. Explore “Other” worlds. Oh, you think you’ve just read your share of platitudes for the week? Wait till you find your “Other” inbox. What better time than on this night of the Super Blood Moon?
Who knows, perhaps when I check again in six months, someone special will have finally found me through this portal to Pierrot Lunaire and his merry band of brothers-with-too-much-time-on-their-hands. Maybe it will be someone from outside my stratosphere from whom I actually want to hear. Perchance Daniel Sunjata? I hear he likes Rumi and the cosmos. Me too, Daniel. Me too. Meet me on the far side of the moon?
Please do share your experiences in “Other” in the comments, and feel free to send me screen captures. I’d love to start a gallery of them.