I study your face on my screen. Not that I can actually see much. There’s a window behind you, and you look more like a paper silhouette than a three dimensional person. As you shift your head, the light flickers, sometimes, and I can make out more - the pixelated bridge of your nose, your lips moving, I think I can even make out your teeth. Your eyes are cast in darkness, but their shade of deep brown, I don’t need to see it to remember.
You ask me how I am and as I answer fine, you know I mean exhausted.
As you tell me about your last months, my eyes trail to your virtual surroundings - behind your video image, I can see the edge of a painting from a medieval manuscript, ornamental tendrils growing several types of flowers and fruit at once. I can also see, on your right, a blown up image of a hand held mirror, its handle lining up with the edge of the table in your frame, a strange coincidence.
There’s a pause in the conversation and I feel the urge to fill the gap with words before it grows too large. I’ve developed close relationships to the objects populating my living room, I throw in. Can you imagine, the cactus is growing a paw. The vase looks out the window with its bird face. The orchid blooms three times a year and when the blossoms wither, I catch the petals with my hands, their skin as dry as mine from all the hand washing. The dark roots of my bleached hair provide me with a calendar to track the passage of time. You laugh, you might try that out, too.
You talk about a book you’ve read recently, about a nameless female narrator who finds herself completely alone on earth, the last woman standing, the most depressing combination of loneliness and empowerment, I carefully zoom into the image behind you, my fingers touching the trackpad surface as if it was your face I caress. After our conversation, I will remember your voice, deeper than I’d last heard it, linked to slowly enlarging the scanned page of a book about representational sculptures.
The recent past feels more distant than ancient history, you sigh, and I agree. My eyes refocus on your face that has become an abstract pattern in the changing light around you. The small image of myself next to you has also turned a dark shade of purple, and as I watch myself not looking at you I stammer about the column in the city center. I watch my mouth move and I can hear how I fail to make this story interesting, about the monument that has been erected over three hundred years ago, an object that looks like a pile of foam has been dumped down from the skies, until you get close enough to see long arms and legs protruding from the amorphous form.
It’s not as soft as foam, of course, or as ephemeral as the clouds it’s mimicking, the whole form is carved out of hard, lasting limestone. The permanence of the thing has drawn people back to it in this recent crisis, I tell your face, now flickering in and out of focus. After decades of being a landmark, a sight for tourists, devoid of all meaning, it has been rediscovered as a source of comfort. People laid down flowers at the base of this baroque colossus, lit candles, stuck letters in the netting protecting its surface from vandalism and pigeons.
My sentence ends in nothingness and I’m not sure if I’ve made my point clear. I try to make out your expression, you remain an unmoving shadow. I open my mouth to say something else, to end my ramblings with a joke, if possible, but instantly your face is covered up by a turning dial and my screen tells me the connection is bad.
My screen turns black abruptly. I finally look myself in the eyes, surrounded by the blurry reflection of a tired face.