In January, his email rejected her. Replies she sent to group messages didn’t come through, and he reminded her of the etiquette of Reply All, but she insisted that everyone else received them just fine. Then he stopped receiving emails sent directly from her too. And not just new emails; by mid-month, he couldn’t locate a single email from her, not through search, not even in the junk mail or the trash. Their entire email history together was gone, but his first tremor of true alarm came when he found that he couldn’t send any emails to her either.
They dealt with it. They’d weathered far worse in ten years of marriage, and there were plenty of other ways to share information.
But in February, his phone rejected her too. Calls from her showed up as missed days later. Voicemails appeared but didn’t load, then didn’t come through at all. Her text messages went awry then, coming out of order at first, then never at all. When she arrived home late, he complained that he’d been worried. She showed him the messages, the timestamp, the proof.
“I guess your phone’s breaking up with me,” she said.
They laughed, but he was worried, and could see she was too.
“Don’t joke,” he said. He loved her; he didn’t understand.
They tried various other apps, but it was as if there was no connection between their devices. They were cursed, she said, glancing around for an idol, a charm, some sympathetic object out of place. He blamed their cellphone provider. But it was neither. Just a slow rotting of their dying appendages, nothing they could find any reason for at all. It wasn’t the end of the world. They were home together most nights, most weekends. It’d be like before cellphones, she said. Intimate. Firesides and couches and mealtimes and pillows. It’d be good for them. They hugged, tentatively enthused.
March was his voice, and his hearing. He could form the words, and speak them, but they had no volume, produced just a dry scratch in his throat as if exhausted from shouting. His friends and coworkers heard him fine. All she had to do was leave the room at first, but his voice learned that trick and refused to work until it was sure she was out of earshot, and by then her words likewise produced nothing for him but unintelligible shapes by a twitching mouth. His ears, lazily, permitted the rattling of her dishes, the shuffling of her feet, her car horn, for just a couple weeks, and then not even that. But still his body accepted her, and took her, and for a handful of elongated moments each night they could ignore everything else. Of course he still loved her, he thought, and he could see that she thought it too. Their love was more passionate than ever in its silence. They celebrated with desserts of flan.
It was the first of April when his body rejected her. They thrashed around their bed, naked and confused. She gripped his shoulders, dug her nails in, and he prayed for sensation, for pain, even for his skin to start sweating from the heat and friction, but all he felt was a throbbing numbness, and even his memory of her fingers against his back seemed like the phantom sensations of lost limbs. It was the same everywhere she touched him. His penis, his tongue, the entirety of his skin—all refused her. Her kisses did nothing but graze a dry and lipless skull, and when at last her tongue found his, it felt like choking. He gasped for breath. She pulled away, frightened and ashamed.
It was over.
He stood on one side of the unmade bed. She sat on the opposite edge, pulled the pillow between her thighs, and sobbed. He wished his eyes would reject her next, so he didn’t have to see her like this. But when the aching in his heart had stopped, there was not a shred of her left there to compel him towards her.
Scott Lambridis has appeared in The Chicago Review, Slice, Memorious, Cafe Irreal, and other journals. His first novel received the 2012 Dana Award, and is represented by Katherine Boyle of Veritas Literary Agency. He completed his MFA from San Francisco State where he received the Miriam Ylvisaker Fellowship and three literary awards. Before that, he earned a degree in neurobiology and co-founded Omnibucket.com, through which he co-hosted the Action Fiction! performance series. Read more at scottlambridis.com.
Photograph by Steve Johnson