Author : Thomas Desrochers

The crowds below were packed shoulder to shoulder, bathed in neon and the ceaseless murmur of advertisements. Ed watched, chewing his lip thoughtfully. “Doesn’t it feel like it should be louder?”

“Does it?”

“Yeah. I mean think about it, they all spend a dozen hours daily on the net talking and sharing and whatever else, interacting with people. Then they have to go somewhere, and look at their faces. They resent it, refuse to acknowledge each other! God forbid they spend ten minutes outside of their clique of Polynesian horse tickling enthusiasts!”

Yvette laughed, hooking one of Ed’s feet with her own. “You think they only care about talking about specific things?”

“Yeah,” Ed shook his head. “It’s the only thing I can figure that makes sense.”

“Well, smart guy, I think you’re missing the forest for the trees.”

Ed leaned back on his palms, looking up at the peak of the tower opposite. “Enlighten me then. Bestow upon me your supreme knowledge.”

Yvette turned toward him, arms crossed, expressionless. Only ten seconds in and Ed started to look uncomfortable.

“Hey, knock it off.”

Yvette grinned. “You see? Body language. When it’s text it’s all ham-fisted. There’s no subtlety to it. Tell me if you can spot the difference.” She paused, cleared her throat, and in a nasally monotone pretended to type: “Oh Ed, I’m just so aroused right now. You are a hunk of man the likes of which the world has never known, with a special gift that just warms my heart. Won’t you please come over?”

Ed’s composure broke, a terrible grin breaking out on his face.

“Shh!” Yvette put a finger to his lips. “I’m not done yet!” She straightened her posture, rolled her shoulders back, and then- she was a predator, whipping her legs around and pushing Ed back until she was straddling him. She leaned over, biting her lip, her brown hair brushing his face as her mouth crept to his ear, and she whispered: “Can you help me shampoo my cat?”

Ed started laughing, progressed to wheezing, and eventually didn’t have anything left. He sat up as Yvette rolled off of him. “OK.” He wiped tears from his eyes, still breathless. “I see where you’re going, but you haven’t made a convincing argument for why people prefer one to the other.”

Yvette rolled her eyes. “When I asked for help shampooing my cat, that wasn’t a metaphor.”

Ed spent a few seconds chewing on this new piece of information. “Oh,” he said. Again, with more feeling: “Ohh.”

“Get it?”

“Got it. You think that body language makes people uncomfortable because they’re not sure how to read it, or how to respond to it?”

“Sort of. And what if you get it wrong? How scary is that?” Yvette shrugged. “Compared to that maybe people think it’s fantastic to be able to take their time, get their t’s and i’s in a row, come up with the perfect response that says exactly what they want it to. Anybody can be funny and charming with twenty minutes to a sentence.”

“Hmm.” Ed rubbed his temples with his thumbs, watching the people below again. “But if that’s the case, wouldn’t the switch have been fast? The numbers show a steady increase decade to decade, over the last century.”

“I mean, Ed, come on.” Yvette flicked him on the forehead. “Kids raised on a little bit of it maybe understand body language a little less, their kids a little less. And so on, so forth.” She smiled brightly and gestured at the street: “And, well, here we are!”