Loud and Clear

Loud and Clear
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Photo by Peter van Aller (copied from Flickr)
Photo by Peter van Aller (copied from Flickr)

The last text was sent over a week ago, at 07:50 on the 8th of March. It contained just three letters:

Xxx

One uppercase letter followed by two lowercase. Nothing more, nothing less. The auto-capitalisation function in the message settings most likely accounts for the initial ‘X’, it being the beginning of the sentence. It’s not much of a sentence, but these functions don’t precursor what’s going to be typed; they’re democratic that way. The setting comes as standard, turned on at the factory and most people don’t change it. Why would they? It’s an easy semblance to a basic knowledge of the English language. [private]

This function, in keeping with the traditional rules, then demotes the following characters to lowercase. Two thirds of the message adheres to this rule. If there was a second sentence, we could glean further whether the auto-capitalisation function was turned on.

Can we assume then that this hegemonic setting does not denote a greater emphasis put upon the first character by the author? Is this a safe assumption? The otherwise may promote a theory that each character, although huddled close together, make distinct reference to something particular and separate from the others, something known only between the sender and recipient, and the preferential case size treatment of ‘X’ over ‘xx’, in both height and meaning, makes specific referral to whatever it has come to mean for both parties. Though this metaphorical route has too many unknown variables to be convincing in any useful way and must therefore be considered a dead end of sorts.

With the limited amount of data available it becomes even more quotient to evaluate the territory around the message. All possibilities, within reason, must be considered. Conjecture and deduction become necessary evils in the attempt to ascertain why specific decisions were made over other ones. There are obvious difficulties with this task: where to start, when to stop, and what to determine useful among these parameters.

The message is not composed entirely of capital letters, though this must surely be considered as having been an option. It would have taken greater effort, meaning more movement of the fingers or thumbs, regardless of the auto-capitalisation setting being activated or deactivated, at least two out of the three characters needing double the amount of keys touched to achieve the result. But the finished message is striking in its shortness. Surely it would hardly have pained even the most unwilling of authors to strike the large upturned arrow key at the edge of the screen in order to manually capitalise each following letter and increase the amount of gestural swipes from at the very least three to a maximum of six before the send button was pressed? This is not an inordinate amount of effort in the wider scope of instant messaging.

One of the possibilities here is a rejection of a text consisting of three capital ‘X’’s. A triple ‘X’ message. X-rated. A bold tag-line of sexual lasciviousness. It hints at this with its lofty beginnings, but veers away in the execution. It lacks conviction as a single-minded raunchy declaration.

Another possibility is that the author simply wasn’t concerned with capital and non-capital letters and the subsequent meanings that might be read into them.

There could be any number of unintentional reasons for either of the above, including (but not exclusively limited to): laziness, habit, inebriation or hurriedness. As previously stated, speculation about the unknown could continue indefinitely, and at some point we must reign in our suppositions before they become too fanciful.

What can be discerned from the numerical amount of ‘x’s? Does three really make twice the statement of one? Can the effect be considered proportionally representative? Or to be increased exponentially? Or would more than three encourage a sardonic effect on the reader, it’s meaning then becoming emphatically surplus? Would this disguise a genuine affection with a deflecting irony? Would a lone ‘X’, or ‘x’, simply not be enough? When dealing with particulars, the amount used surely cannot be arbitrary. If so, all is lost.

The content. Its meaning. A written ‘X’ is akin to a kiss. It holds romantic notions within its crosshairs. Possibly once it meant love. Now it’s used freely, distributed between friends as a sign of affection and placed so often its meaning has been sullied over time.

The message does not end in punctuation. There is no full stop. No exclamation or question mark. If there were, they would present, respectively, an unnatural adherence to the formalities of structure belied by the colloquial content, a jovial exasperation, a pitied flounder left hanging.

As such the whole text becomes a full stop. A coda to a presumed back and forth of correspondence. How and in what fashion these correspondence may have taken place, over instant messaging, perhaps in real life too, is information we are not privy to at this juncture, and as such it is impossible to know and difficult to guess at present.

The message is stark in its reluctance to verify any previous statements within its own textual limits. It has an absence of any reference to specificity. The three characters huddle alone, isolated. They lie in a void unknowing of what more to say, or how to say whatever that might have been.

And what of the hour of the message received? 07:50 is morning, certainly, but who can say if it is early? Again supposition abounds. Is it a response to the previous evening? Has it been ‘slept on’? Does the sender sleep if not with then within reaching distance of their mobile device? Has it been considered throughout the night and dreamt about in waking hours? Is this short message instinctual for such hazy mornings, all that could be mustered at this time? Does this increase its sincerity, being too early to be sent with a forecasted agenda?

Either way, the message has the elegance of futility, possibly even desperation. A declaration of existence and nothing more. Not that anything more doesn’t want to be said, but, exasperated at the feelings beneath this moment, the sender is unable to express them over these brittle, limited characters pressed into keys by fingers wishing to talk. They say, “I am here, please don’t forget me.” [/private]

Thomas Darby

About Thomas Darby

Thomas Darby is a male writer based in the UK. Since graduating in 2010 from Nottingham Trent with a BA (hons) in Fine Art his work has been seen across exhibitions and journals of both literary and artistic platforms, including, Ambit, Missorts, a-n, and Dead Ink. He was awarded a bursary from Nottingham Writers’ Studio in 2012 for emerging writers, and in 2013 he was writer-in-residence for both Lincoln Art Programme and Surface Gallery. More work and other musings can be found on his website - www.thomasdarby.co.uk

Thomas Darby is a male writer based in the UK. Since graduating in 2010 from Nottingham Trent with a BA (hons) in Fine Art his work has been seen across exhibitions and journals of both literary and artistic platforms, including, Ambit, Missorts, a-n, and Dead Ink. He was awarded a bursary from Nottingham Writers’ Studio in 2012 for emerging writers, and in 2013 he was writer-in-residence for both Lincoln Art Programme and Surface Gallery. More work and other musings can be found on his website - www.thomasdarby.co.uk

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