My husband is away at the moment, visiting his family abroad. So naturally, I took this opportunity to do copious amounts of online shopping he can bring back. It’s the longest we have been away from one another so I thought I’d fill the husband-shaped void with online shopping, seeing (very few) friends and a trip to my parent’s house. Things are always better when I’m busy, so I have thrown myself into the online shopping with gusto and enthusiasm. Having said all that, I don’t miss him. Not really. Controversial?
To miss someone you have to feel their absence in relation to their presence. Or their presence in relation to their absence. But what if one isn’t absent in the first place? Despite his physical absence, I never really think of him as “not there”. It isn’t just that we can still communicate via text and instant messaging applications, he’s just never missing, removed or distant. Or any other suitable synonym. And therein lies the crux of it: someone can be present, even in their absence, and that’s the mark of a friendship. Friendship, not marriage.
The digital age has done much to help people keep in touch: touch a few buttons, hit send, instant contact. Yes, it’s not the same as being physically present, but it’s better than waiting for a crackling phone call over an unstable line where we both spend the whole time asking if one another is “alright”. As if this phrase will bring us closer together.
“Are you alright?”
“Yes, I’m fine, how are you?”
“Yes, I’m alright.”
But despite being able to see one another on a screen, click buttons a thousand times a day, exchanging millions of words instantly, we still indulge in this clichéd phone call. Like a comforting blanket, wrapping itself, creating a presence in the face of absence; we ask about the “alrightness” in each others’ lives, habitually and without apology. Somehow by saying it, everything actually is alright. Even if it’s not.