Love on the Line, by Julia Davis – Nosko

The mosaic pattern of faces was full today. She counted twenty. Twenty people she would never really meet.

She would play the game for now and agree to be put in “meeting room two” with four participants.

“I hope I get …” She studied the pattern of faces. ”I hope I get “him” in my room”.

The image on screen struck her forcibly; the young man appeared to be looking out wistfully somewhere else. It seemed he had black hair and a thick set neck.

She tussled with her hair clip. Her fine hair was now down to the small of her back, a tousled, hazy mixture of silver and remaining auburn. A mess. Not that she, or indeed anyone, cared now. It was twisted up into a practical knot, ready for all the dancing, yoga, gardening, crying, cooking, cleaning, more crying, bleaching, more cleaning, keeping safe. She had considered chopping it all off but it would only grow again in this unknown expanse of time; it was not worth the effort.

In Meeting room 2, there was no dark haired, wistful looking young man. They all discussed strategies, diaries and routines. Her mind drifted to Vitebsk. To the snow in the radioactive zone and the eggs her host Vitaly had rescued for them all to eat. That seemed relevant. The “to do” list; no, that seemed irrelevant. The participatory, engaged look she adopted for the screen was probably ineffective. A blue warning box appeared “You will now be taken into the main meeting”. The four faces disappeared.

Time to get a coffee. She stumbled into the kitchen and fixed a strong cup noting that her stash was running low. Panic swelled as she considered how many hours she would expend on finding another delivery slot.

“Maybe do without caffeine”, she whispered to herself.

There had been a lot of that lately; the whispering. By the time she sat down this line of thought had drained all concentration from her. The mosaic was back. “He” was there. Did he “see” her? And what was meant by that? Would he notice? If he did, what would that mean?

She was tired even though it was only 10am. The group were discussing how to reach people who did not have internet access. The snow in Vitebsk filled her mind’s eye again – she could feel the sharpness of the cold inside her nostrils and it hurt. It came to her that people not online were finding ways to be near each other offline. Doorsteps and signing. Windows and smiles.

It was what was left. She wrote a short note in the chat box. “people on doorsteps signing”. Glancing at the screen she smiled; “he” was reading what she had written. “He” looked into the screen, at everybody, but really at her. “He” smiled. “She” smiled.

It was the same as the moment in the old-time party room when one captured the eyes. The eyes.

A conversation began in the chat box “privately”.

“That’s interesting, I’d like to follow that up”, “He” wrote.

“She” replied, just to him, certainly not the “Everyone” on default;

“Here’s my email…”

It did not take long for them to “meet” again. Just the two of them in each other’s “spaces”. It had begun. Their virtual love affair AC.

The first meeting they watched each other intently. That move of looking out the window, his neck twisted, his youth. Her neck lined with the lines of babies, adult children, more babies of the grown-up babies forbidden to her touch.

Her feelings were clear…the affair mattered not. It wasn’t real. It was simply here on screen.

They moved around their inner most states of mind, feeling out where each other’s heartfelt secrets lay, and into the large, lonely places which were all being laid bare now. It felt like being snowed in. Everyone was snowed in despite the intense sunshine outside. The rear admirals spreading their wings on unused garage rooftops and deserted climbing frames. At the end of the first two hours they left each other hand to hand on screen. Then “he” woke up with cold feet. “She” realized this when he texted her and cancelled their next meeting. It was too intense, too like the chill of waking up in a strange bed to see the mound of discarded clothes piled up on the floor.

“He” changed his mind; online was safe; safe to delve in this cold, untouching world. Safe because the clothes will never make it to the floor, safe because the skin will never nestle against the skin. Skin on skin. No. “He” realised this and rescheduled. On the next call there were many silences as they spoke without words. The glances, ah, the glances; a kind of charade to bring the blood to the cheeks.

Dear Reader, Dear Listener, we only have a short time, a very short time, in this endless time. You know how it goes. More calls. More looks. More…

But “she” was old, and “he” was young. How does it end? Let’s go quick now as our attention spans become forever smaller in this time of ours.

A vaccine comes.

They meet, as in: real meet. Their fingertips become the ecstasy of desire. Talking, they sit together in this new way. All fingertips touching all fingertips.

They live in AC. The robots rule. Biotechnology is God. Babies are “made”. They decide to make one. “Her” eggs do not travel down the fallopian tubes anymore but the scientists have discovered what women knew all along: that they nestle there in the ovaries after their monthly cycle ceases. The material is there. “He” and “she” sit together fingertip to fingertip, watching the scan in the reorganised hospital. The heart beats inside the foetus with only four weeks to go and they see the ten tiny digits on screen. The nurse smiles radiantly as this is the job everyone wants now, using screens for new life. “He” and “she” stare together and watch the right hand, the five digits, and laugh as the thumb goes in the mouth and then they see a swirl of fluid and the form turns. The hand is clear. The thumb exits the mouth and dangles for a second. Five digits touch the screen as “she” touches her tickling belly and “he” kisses the pulsating dome of skin with his lips.

Love on the Line.

April 8, 2020

Working in text, clay and textiles discovering poetry and narratives. Dichter; (poet/researcher, researcher/poet) Julia Davis-Nosko has published exhibited and performed internationally, including Nottingham Contemporay (Lodz Tapes) the Edinburgh Fringe (Demarco European Institute), Vitebsk (Belarus State Theatre).

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