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7 minute read.
There has been a drop in your connection. We have tried to contact your local server and there was no response. Please refresh and try again.
There has been a drop in your connection. Despite our best efforts, we can no longer show you results for your query, “What does love look like?” I’m afraid there are too many variables to consider. We have cats kissing dogs and sunset beaches and stock photos of men hiding around corners with concealed blades. You might instead look at your childhood photos, a babe in your mother’s arms, your future in the reflection of her glazed and tired eyes. You might also look at the social media accounts of your friends when your connection returns. Faces pressed against plus ones. Picture posing, enraptured smiles. You probably won’t. Please contact our customer support team if the problem persists.
There has been a drop in your connection and despite previous warnings about your data limit, you are still downloading pictures of her. She has sent you so many and you accepted them all, rendered in the highest possible quality. You wonder if these captured moments of her image contain her essence. If she is somehow linked to them. You print hundreds of copies. You take each photograph, stick them to your wall and suffer paper cuts that seep crimson but are quickly stemmed by blue tack. In your favourite photo, she is kneeling on a golden beach, the sea twinkling in the background. White dress, sand peppered cheeks and long black hair hovering just above her knees. You stand back and she is looking at you, hundreds of eyes staring. And you feel good. Better than you have felt for years. You stand back and think your collage, this window you have created. You think about her eyes and the nature of the soul. We have received the payment for your data booster. Your connection has been repaired.
There has been a drop in your connection. We’re afraid you’ll have to wait to find out how to make the best first impression. And when you’re back online you will pour over each web page even though the final tip in every article will remind you to be yourself. Then you will sit with the thought, staring at your blank computer screen, hoping to catch a new side of yourself in its dark mirror. A better side. A side to wear on your sleeve. You have thrown away the tacked collage of her, insisting that this is not the version of yourself you want to be.
There has been a drop in your connection. Please do not strike the monitor. Your computer’s inner machinations do not exist inside the screen. The problem is your thick walls, old and high, that stop the signal from reaching your receiver. If you just broke them down. Took the rusty sledgehammer in your shed and reduced the walls to rubble. If you just let us in perhaps you’d have a better time of it. Her message is waiting for you on the other side, swimming in purgatory until your connection returns. It follows the same pattern as all the rest. Sweet nothings in occasionally broken English. She writes more frankly than anyone you have ever met; filter-less and free. She has asked you before what you think love is. In response, you searched the web again, scrolled past the song lyrics and gazed at the answers. You found an article explaining 12 scientific ways to tell you’re in love, it’s here in your history next to other less romantic links. You skimmed through to find that one of the signs is a lack of self-control. You told her this. Said that you don’t feel in control when you speak to her. That her responses made you feel like anything could happen and when it did you would follow her blindly into whatever might come.
“That’s how I feel, too,” she said. And then you watched those three dots inching along, each flashing in front of one another while she thought of what to say next.
There has been a drop in your connection. Your bank transfer timed out before it could be completed, though you are likely unsure about this. You check your account, refresh the page and picture your money, all those digital coins and notes floating pixelated in the ether. You call her and the dial tone rings on and on until she finally tells you that she prefers to text. You ask her if she has received anything and she tells you that she hasn’t, not yet, but she can’t wait to come and see you. You send the money again despite your growing unease as your bank account empties. She sends you a picture of her lying on top of her packed suitcase, sunglasses on and pouting. The photo is captioned “Ready to go!” With two emoji hearts beating in time. Then you feel sick with yourself that you’re pinching coins between your fingers when she is there, happy, waiting to see you. As your connection returns we breathe a collective sigh as both the transactions go through.
There has been a drop in your connection and there are so many reasons why. Mainly because those of us who monitor such things know a pattern when we see one. It’s not hard to bring a story together when you have all the pieces. We jigsaw your texts with your search history and disapprove of the picture it makes.
She is not coming. A delayed flight first, then cancelled. No chance of getting the money back, she says. She sends you a sad picture from the airport, again pouting, in front of the departure board. She is wearing a sun hat and the same sunglasses even after you told her that the UK doesn’t have the climate for it. There is a haze around the edges of her you don’t see, or pretend not to notice. The background is too out of focus to see the orange lines of text on the departure board. She says there’s another flight she could make next week and you are so happy that this stumbling block has not deterred her. We try to stop your credit card transaction but that is not our department.
There has been a drop in your connection and our service engineer tells us he knocked on your door multiple times with no response. We’re afraid that if you’re not responsive to our attempts to remedy the situation we cannot be held responsible for your continued lack of service. Take, for example, the messages that you insist are not being sent or received. We can see here from your data log that all your attempts to contact her have piled up in her phone, green bubbles resting on top of one another and left to slide further down her contact list until you are reduced to a lingering (1) in her inbox.
Would you like to purchase one of our new data packages? That way you could ensure uninterrupted browsing for a meagre cost. Like yesterday when you thought you saw her on the street. There she was in her flowing white dress and sun hat even in the drizzling rain, shining through that smoggy London haze that hangs outside your workplace like a bad smell. She was staring right at you, caressing her arm, poised like all the other photos she has sent you. We cannot be sure, but we think you ran up to her. We talk in our lunch breaks about how you might have flung yourself at her and smashed your face against the cold perspex of the bus stop. Then you realised as she continued to stare through you, the golden beach sands in the background and the brand name of a sunscreen product super-imposed on her chest. Do you remember how quick your searches were then? With all the power of 5G? Think of having that speed in the comfort of your own home.
There has been a drop in your connection. We stopped exchanging data packets when you searched for articles about the new stop sign installed at the junction near your house. The web page cut out while you thought about how you sped through it, used to being unrestricted, and felt the shortness of breath, an instantaneous suffocation as you saw the red hexagonal disc in your rear-view mirror. Then there were the car horns. Loud at first but then turned to muted bird song as you drove away. There was fresh debris scattered against the side barricade. Dusted shards of headlight glass, a twisted burgundy bumper. Disparate parts. Looking at the 404 error on your computer screen you think back to the recent debris and the new sign and the realisation unfurls in you that warning signs often come too late.
There has been a drop in your connection and we’re afraid that the online banking chatbot has forgotten your answers to its questions. When your connection returns, you will have to start the process again. Or perhaps try the phone lines? And press 1, 3, 4, then 3, then 2. Then say your name in your father’s phone voice to pass security. You argue that you were defrauded and they will say that you made all of the transactions of your own volition, disregarding the many notifications that asked you to consider the possibility that beautiful women in sun hats might be small-time con men from Peckham. Small-time Peckham con men who gained access to your contact information when we sold it to several interested parties. After much back and forth, an exasperated complaints manager tells you, though he really shouldn’t, that her (his?) bank account has been closed.
We just wanted to check in? We haven’t seen you online for a while and this is one of our standard trigger warnings. It means there is a red mark against your account, which in turn means we contact you via email to discuss further packages with us. Have you tried our movies and music service?
In truth, we… I just wanted to know if you’re okay? I know – not my business – but there is a fine line between professional detachment and cold heartedness. So whenever we laugh in the canteen about the latest person to search for truly degenerate pornography or listen to Killing Me Softly on repeat, I think of you and the girl that could have been. At the end of a long day, I find myself wishing she were real, for your sake and mine. That kind of closed circuit, all its endings clean and neat; it’s the kind of thing that helps me sleep at night.
[DELETE SCHEDULED MESSAGE]
There has been a drop in your connection. The effect is felt for miles. A blackout of sorts, but you can see from your place on the hill that the lights are still on. If you squint you can just make out your neighbours’ silhouettes in the windows. Scurrying across their living rooms, walking outside with their phones held high in the air as if trying to capture the stars on film. You think of all the interrupted conversations, the movies cut short, all those people on the precipice of something. A hit of dopamine. Another spin on a virtual roulette. An apology.
You take a deep breath of night air. There’s a light mist and you can almost see the atmosphere enter you, billowing in and around your open mouth. You rest with your back against the open network cabinet. The rusty sledgehammer by your side, its bulky head a tangle of coloured wires and metal bristles. As the hammer connected to exposed cables of the junction box, you felt this moment of connection. Linked to everyone through metres of cable as the sparks flew. Feeling their frustrations as deeply as your own. You think again about what love looks like. What it means. The spiralling lack of control. The way the sparks lit your eyes as the hammer connected. You sit against the cabinet as you listen to the whole village coming together in its collective grief and, for a moment, you feel good. Better than you have felt for weeks.
At least that’s what I think.