That’s a lie. It wasn’t an actual conversation. I’ve never understood what one of those would look like. Instead of that, it’s the juxtaposition of two pods, like the ones Jeff Goldbum built in The Fly, side by side in some lab.
In my pod I’m sitting, a bit cramped, at an IBM PC, logged into CompuServe at 2400 baud, clacking away on the keyboard, wild eyed with dreams of writing computer programs, having sex with girls or smoking drugs. It’s 1988 in my pod. The words I’m typing are gibberish to anyone outside, but inside they make perfect sense, they emit hope and love, and there is nothing I would rather be doing than clacking away on that keyboard. I lived in that pod for a very long time, sending my caffeinated rants out into the, what was it? I never knew where they went. I always assumed they were delivered somewhere.
My friend is in the other pod, sitting on his swivel chair that creaks as his thin frame teeters a bit back and forward in a tight loop, like a metronome with the weight set very low. Occasionally he emits a discrete parcel of saliva just inside the stained lip of a coffee mug that he holds tightly in front of his Adam’s Apple. The plug of Copenhagen chewing tobacco appears to help his pod thinking. Sometimes I can see him lower the mug and mouth a few words to someone just out of view, flash them a sincere but brief smile with his big eyes, and return to his thinking and rocking. I know this activity makes a sound (and the tobacco aroma is almost pleasant), but I can’t quite grasp it from my pod because he’s not in 1988 and he’s not on CompuServe. His pod is in some other year, in some other state, on some other track.
I found the transcript for my pod life in old files of letters full of random nonsense that I wrote to my friend in my early twenties. I found his as I followed a few breadcrumbs from my brightly lit memories, and then I caught the trail that he, and we all, leave behind on the Internet. I visited his blog from a VPN connection in Copenhagen, maybe because I’m sentimental, maybe because I still don’t know how to have a proper conversation. The server logs are probably dated 1988.
Across the boundaries of time and distance in our separate pods, I loved my friend, and I always assumed he loved me. I’m happy to know that, if anything, our pods are still sitting in the same lab somewhere, their consoles sitting at a DOS prompt.