Illustrated by Caldwell Tanner.
By Will Stephen
A: Hey! Exclamation point! It's my name. From that social gathering where we met within the past week. Third draft of a flirty joke relating to our brief and awkward conversation. Haha.
B: Yo! Exclamation point! Watered down response to flirty joke that simply repeats its initial humorous element without even remotely elaborating, thereby entirely undercutting humor of said joke. Haha.
A: Lol totally. Anyways. Vague invitation to noncommittal social gathering where others will be present, but you and I making out and/or engaging in fumbly and unsatisfying drunken sexual activity wouldn't be completely off the table?
Six hours pass.
B: Hey! Exclamation point! Sorry, an excuse happened. Question about time and location that walks the line between showing interest and buying time for another excuse to materialize?
A: It's at a place at a time. Supposed to be pretty cool. Should be mediocre musical entertainment as well as other elements to dampen social and sexual anxiety. Poorly thought out Hail Mary joke about lighthearted uncertainty regarding said event, however. Lol not laughing.
B: Oh cool yeah, no response to joke because it wasn't funny, my friend told me about that, which is not true. I've got a thing which I don't have, but I'll be in touch.
A: One-word response simultaneously hiding and expressing frustrations over an unfulfilled desire for human connection and intimacy.
Later that night.
B: Hey no exclamation point, is that thing which I know the name of still happening which I know it is because you told me it would be in writing?
Fifteen minutes of pretending he didn't take out his phone as soon as it vibrated and show his friends pass.
A: Heyyo backspace Hey backspace Sup backspace yo with unearned exclamation point and lowercase first letter due to starting and deleting this text so many times! Yeah, yeah, repetition for sake of informality. You comin, no "g" to imply alcohol consumption?
B: Name of friend who I know you don't know wants me to go to this bar in a location which I am fully aware is geographically inconvenient for you, insincere ugh. Would that work for you though I know that it wouldn't?
A: Oh cool I know exactly where that is, where is it exactly?
B: I think somewhere near an exact location which is factually correct and easily accessible given the wealth of information available through the very device I'm holding question mark?
A: Oh riiiiiiiiight I also just Google Maps'd it to double check, because my friends went home twenty minutes ago and I have been standing alone outside this bar playing Temple Run just in case I'd hear from you.
A: Second text to downplay eagerness of one long paragraph, but hmm I don't know, this thing I am basically not at anymore is pretty bumpin' haha, which it is certainly not. You going to be there for a while since I am banking my night on you saying yes?
B: Yeah, I think so for purpose of coming across as aloof and having the interpersonal upper hand here, but definitely will.
A: Laidback contraction of "alright" to counteract boost of adrenaline. Depends on what my friends who are home and going to sleep or having sex with their girlfriends are doing. Will let you know, am literally stepping into a 20+ dollar cab to come see you now no period at end of sentence because am informal and cool and sexually viable
B: OK sounds good, am now talking with friends and scrolling through Facebook photos of you while shrugging, panicking about whether to hook up with you or not and feeling sort of guilty for making you come here, but not really because I never promised you anything, and it's your problem if you think I did, carefree exclamation point!
A: My friends are being lame and are not involved in this decision, so Ima be there soon in five minutes in moderate traffic according to Google Maps, which I just checked for the second time. Just imagined if you were my girlfriend then farted in the cab just to get it out!
B: K cool, nervously drafting the following text.
B: Oh shit no wait ahhhhh there is a thing I am about to say which is not surprising to me because I've been planning it for ten minutes and ran it by each of my friends for approval!
A: Huh? What's up, fireball of fear churning in pit of sad stomach?
B: Ugh, sorry I can't actually hang, I'm dating my ex-boyfriend.
A: Oh haha k no big, informality upon informality to muffle fury and punch-to-the-gut sadness. I'm crashing anyway, which I am actually not and in all probability won't be able to sleep for hours, drunken teary-eyed lol.
B: Sorry sorry sorry repetition to blunt impact of genuine thoughts and emotions which we are both petrified of expressing and acknowledging ahhhh, frowny face masking huge wave of relief!
A: Well, big bucks no whammies, maybe making out is still on the table at some other informal social gathering next week please don't hit me when I'm down please I beg you?
B: Next week is CRAZY busy, I literally have no plans except for a thing Tuesday that I could definitely change but won't, but maybe definitely not the following week or ever?
A: K cool will be in touch, as I am going to swallow my anger and willingly fall down the rabbit hole of taking your word for it because I never learn!
B: Great, forgetting about you starting now! Have a not-very-good night anymore!
A: You too! I would say I love you right now!
B: Smiley face! Fuck you!
A: Smiley face! Yep, fuck me!