Tag Archives: communication

The Other Inbox

You log in and log off multiple times a day, which doesn’t even count how many times you check your phone when you’re waiting for something in reality to happen or go away.  You check so often that you have honed your skimming skills, knowing when to gloss over stupid things that were “shared” to spread questionable or obvious information, photos of sick kids farming for likes, and yet another Grumpy Cat pic.  (OK, you look at some of the Grumpy Cat pics.)

But somehow you hadn’t realized the other inbox until that co-worker made a joke about it.  Plenty of messages came in and got read; some replied to, some ignored.  Some conversations left.  But that extra inbox hadn’t occurred to you.  Actually, you tell yourself, maybe you had seen it, and just assumed it was a spam folder.  Or did you tell yourself that because you like to think you know how all this stuff works?  Anyway, you chuckled at the joke, and waited until you got back to your desk to look.

A lot of it was actually spam.  Bands you didn’t really know, events you hadn’t agreed to attend. All easily and quickly deleted.  But there was also a series of messages from him.  They didn’t even merge together into a single thread, since you had never replied.  So you had to click through each of them, a series of notes that fill in holes of conversations you hadn’t taken part in.  From the first message all the way to the one from last week, you read all of them.  

You went through them again before logging out and switching back to a work window.  Even on the way home, you thought about whether to reply.  The other inbox offered a clear explanation, a reason.  A chance.

A Cunning Plan

An hour before dusk really set in, but twenty minutes after the sun had bowed behind the buildings for the day, James headed out to rehearsal. He waited for a string of six cars to roll by before he jogged across the street and down the dusty alley. The grit and crunch of the dirty pavement marked the time of each step. He had almost come out the other side when he realized that he had left his stupid bass at home again.

Turning to head back, he saw a group of five people had trailed him down the city canyon. They chatted with each other in well-projected Spanish, a multi-generational bunch, a family in practice if not necessarily blood. As James approached them, he wondered if they were out for a leisure stroll or moving with a purpose. People who say nobody walks in this town only know the people who don’t have to. Crossing next to them, he saw that one of the younger men, maybe in his early 20s, was wearing a dark shirt with a line drawing of Lord Edmund Blackadder on it. An Atkinson quote ran underneath it, but James would have had to gawk rudely to discern which one it was.

He kept his eye on the Latino man, hoping to catch his attention and give him a nod. He hoped that would do enough to convey his shared appreciation for classic British comedy. To clearly show that the advertising on his wardrobe had made a connection, had some resonance with someone else in the world.

The man never looked James’ way. The group walked on, still chatting and laughing, still making sure the young child didn’t run off too far. James thought about looking back to see if there was something on the back, but he thought that might be intrusive. He was halfway back up the swirling alley before the sound of their voices stopped echoing around behind him.