Larry knew that the world he once knew was gone when he received the divorce papers from his wife. Ripping open the envelope he found a sheet of heavy bond paper with a single paragraph headed by the word "Complaint" and a single, succinct paragraph: "She no longer loves you. She wants out. Irreconcilable. You can have the children. She wants money. See you in court. Signed, M. Kabinski, Esq." He did a quick count. 138 characters. Technically correct, but a bit cold, he thought.
He was having dinner alone, his PDA on the table beside him as he scrolled through the constantly updated feeds. Nothing from Cindy. Not one word.
He couldn't remember the last time he had a real conversation with Cindy anyway. He vaguely remembered lingering over meals and discussing all matters of things until the wee hours of morning, but as time went on and Twittering caught on, they began to simply tweet each other. "I'm enjoying the dinner." "Your mother tweeted me yesterday and said your father is ill. I'm sorry." As time went by the tweets got shorter and shorter. "More" was enough to send Cindy to the stove for seconds, or "Enough" meant change the channel on the TV. "Omit needless words," said Strunck and White in that archaic guide to the written word, and yet their words became hauntingly prophetic.
He had to admit that the Twittered world in which he now lived wasn't all bad. When politicians' stump speeches were limited to 140 characters, they could be endured. All their tweets went something like "Lower taxes. More spending on you. Actions, not words. Change. Hope. Vote for me." And by subscribing to their feed, it was able to pick up on the really important things, like what TV shows they watched, or what restaurant or cuisine they preferred. The constant connection made him feel like he. . . well. . . like he knew them, that they cared about him.
Even church was almost a drive-through affair. Let's see. . . there was a song, something like a revised doxology: "Praise God from whom all blessings flow, all creatures you know, Father, Son, and Ghost, heavenly host. Amen." And then a sermon tweet. The last one was refreshingly concise: "God made it all. We screwed up. He came down and fixed it. Trust Him and you can make it Home." He could chew on that for a week.
There were complaints, of course, when Twitter was made the national means of communication. Mostly from old folks who liked to go on and on and on about things. Talk about needless words! But most people bowed to progress. A quiet descended over homes and public places. About all you heard were the tapping of keys on PDAs, cell phones, and laptops, the people permanently bent over their screens, their bodies adapting to a new way of living.
Pushing back from the table, Larry threw the remainder of his TV dinner into the trash. He had lost his appetite. He went to bed, turning over and over in his mind that one phrase from the divorce papers: "She no longer loves you." "She no longer loves you." He fell into a fitful sleep, his Twitter still on, the feeds updating even as he slept. "I'm going to bed. Letterman is lame tonight."
In the morning when Larry woke up, he stretched his arm across the vacant half of the bed where Cindy used to sleep, and for a moment he held that vacantness. He stumbled to the bathroom. Seeing his face in the mirror, he mouthed the first word that came to his lips, "Cindy," but nothing came out. Was it possible he had lost his ability to speak? He tried again, harder, and this time heard the faint sound of his voice saying "Cindy," and yet it sounded like the voice of a stranger. He couldn't recall the last time he had spoken. He set down in front of his Twitter screen and reviewed his tweets. 648 overnight. The CEO of his company. Oh, he bought a new razor. The President. "Told Sec. of State not to wear that tie again. LOL." And then, scanning down the list, digesting the entries quickly, as he had trained himself to do, his eyes fell on the last entry. Cindy. Simply, "Jesus wept."
A tear rolled down Larry's cheek.