Henry’s cell, his first ever, gave rise to a new breed of anxiety and impatience.
Fretfully awaiting Anais’s text, he stared at the dark electronic device cradled in his palm, and keenly felt pangs of nostalgia.
He recalled the days, not so long ago, when he and Anais would exchange letters by post—it was a correspondence raveled in longing, anticipation, and slow burn.
Now, with their exchanges rooted in rapid-fire immediacy, the virtue in waiting, the dramatic tension in extended pauses, had been lost. Still the past was past and Henry had never been one to wander wistfully in the shadowlands of Nostalgia. What was it Rimbaud had said? One must always be modern. Yes, a sound creed, even if smart-phones were not what he had in mind.
Plus, Henry had to admit, he had grown accustomed to the cyber-volley of texts between he and Anais. It was, at times, a game of erotic ping-pong, a fevered tit for tat, and the frenzied thumb-pressing of buttons to get the words down and out to her, often made him feel as if he had drunk punch spiked with vertigo.
Henry picked up his pencil, pinched it between thumb and forefinger, set the pencil down. How long had it been since he had sent the text? He was sure it had been at least ten minutes, but when he checked the phone, no, almost two minutes.
Almost two minutes now felt like ten in this new world, and as Henry reflected on the collapsible and elastic nature of time, his phone began vibrating an epileptic dance on the desk.
Henry’s heart quickened. It was Anais. He knew it. He picked up the phone, scanned the number. It was June.
Fuck, Henry cursed aloud, June hated texting. Why is she texting me?
Henry adjusted his glasses and read the tiny words on the screen:
received invitation from anais STOP will arrive in paris Tuesday STOP girltime henry something you know nothing about STOP hows the novel going STOP make me real not one of your cutouts STOP my heart against yours STOP
June’s ungrammatical run of words, and her idiosyncratic use of STOP, as if she were dispatching a telegram, always irked Henry, but the implication of today’s text raised his annoyance to fury. He was on the verge of flinging his phone against the wall, but controlled himself, and instead gave it a hard squeeze.
Why the hell had Anais invited her? Didn’t she know June would ruin everything? What were these two playing at?
Henry’s phone buzzed. He checked the screen. It was Anais.
Henry, my love, your text brought tears to my eyes. Female tears. Mother tears. Human tears. I need to see you immediately. And by need I mean I NEED you inside me. Please come. Smileyface, wink-wink. All my love, Anais
Putting on his hat and coat, Henry mused to himself how in the old days he wouldn’t have received that message so quickly, wouldn’t have benefited from such an expedient form of Mercy.
In the click of a button, his anger had been displaced by lust.
To hell with letters and telegrams, Henry said, as he texted Anais that he was on his way.