In the first two weeks of March it was over 30C degrees every day in Melbourne and I was on my own again, in suspended animation, transported back to the start of summer when I was post-break up, in a heat wave, and still getting used to all the upheaval. I obsessively imagined myself as Tony Soprano, or Buffy, or any of your favourite reluctant television heroes, saving the world all on their own again. The unseasonal and persistent heat was throwing out my sense of time. Everything had become still, all static. I thought about my problems and I thought about climate change.
By April, I was huddling under a heater at the pub, pulling a woolen jumper down over my hands. I thought about the possum fur gloves I lost in a karaoke bar in Transnistria this time last year. I thought about singing Let it Go beneath the endless missile tests popping overhead and whether Australian cold is different to northern hemisphere cold or do we just not understand housing insulation here?
Our snap streak became a record of the time spent away, to reset when we abandon the app for everyday skin, for waking up together when we are in the same country, the same house. We broke the streak early, after about 25 days, and a little ripple appeared in my vision, like when the image of him freezes in Skype and I’m talking at a still frame.
Now I can’t stop watching videos about vantablack. Paint my walls with it, I want to meet the void. I want oblivion at all times, I want it without having to leave my bed.
I have a bad habit of wanting everything at its most extreme all the time, like, if everything is bad let’s make it worse, because if you’re going to do something you may as well do it right. (This also works—happily, dangerously—in reverse: take pleasure as far as it can go.) It’s perfectionism, a death drive, or garden-variety competitiveness.
But I want you to know what I mean when I say that distance feels like space. Like zero, like the illusion of vertically aligned carbon nanotube arrays, there is no light left. And time doesn’t exist. A week is a year, an hour is whatever. What is object permanence, what is physics.
We access sophisticated simulations to reach each other that are so powerful, so compelling at bridging time/space but as long as we’re these hopeless meat sacks they’re only building on what you can organically produce, you know? Like, how much can I remember without prompting. How much am I misinterpreting, how much through text am I absolutely butchering. We fill the gaps, typing and talking about our days and tiny tantrums and desires, filling the missing sequences of each other with the remembered and imagined. By the time we reach other’s devices, we are only partially ourselves. We’re dinosaurs recreated with fucking frog DNA.
In three days we will rediscover each other’s bodies in 3D and shave off all this weird temporal baggage. I think ahead, I take this line of thinking as far as it can go. Paint my phone screen with vantablack, I want to fall in.
Jessica Alice is a poet and editor. Her writing and reviews have been published in The Guardian Australia, Metro Magazine, Overland, Junkee, VICE, The Lifted Brow, Spook Magazine, and Cordite Poetry Review, among others. She tweets @jessica_alice_.