At first they felt zippy and free, his bird-night summer e-mails. One e-mail would say just a few warm words, trail off, be gone it seemed— but then, surprise! An hour later, ten more, like bugs over water. And it was never one hi. It was Hi, hi, hi! For months, she’d ignore the stabbing feeling of her recent divorce, would call the cat over to her desk. She liked the solidity of the large cat’s moon-like presence while she read his words carefully, one at a time.
His e-mails were funny, but also a bit sad. There was often an anecdote about his old, limping dog, or his wife’s unfriendly new cat.
Eventually, she asked him to describe what came next.
Well, hey, I’ll be alone at the river cottage next weekend by myself (maybe) so then I might actually talk on the phone! he wrote. Along with this e-mail was a photo of himself in an undershirt, sitting on a bed.
So, yeah, I’m muddling through these days, reading, and, well, yeah, drinking, he said. But life, life goes on… sigh… How are you? he wrote, and asked her for a topless photo before they spoke on the phone, if they actually did. It might be good for her self-esteem, he suggested. “I’m not wonderful on the phone, just warning you,” he said.
Anyway, they would have to settle for photos. One time he said it straight out. Because it was all there was, at least for now. “But photos can really perk things up,” he said.
She didn’t agree, and felt that sending him some dumb-looking naked photos of herself wouldn’t help. Because once, he had sent her unasked-for photos of himself wearing only a lopsided camping hat, the lower part of his body shadowy and strange.
And once he sent her something she wanted too much and she thought for days and then weeks and probably a whole year about why it moved her, a very short video of him singing off-key with his guitar, and how close she felt to his air, how close they would feel in one warm place on one scented night under purple stars, a deep-ruby moon, because they could do that with her color adjuster, and she would pull off her shoes he would see how small and right her feet were for his true life but only when it was dark, and she would slurp him up inside the warm lake. He would sigh, the water would be moving and something might bite or sting, and even then, they would kiss for hours, would push their millions of written words together.
And they never really stopped. Even years later, well into her new marriage, his occasional e-mails zipped into her life, sadder and funnier and stranger. A photo of him looking a bit deflated, like someone’s grandfather waving from a bed— chirping, Hi, hi, hi.
Meg Pokrass has published stories and poetry in Electric Lit, Tin House, Rattle, PANK, 3AM, Wigleaf, Matchbook, NANO Fiction, 100-Word-Story, Smokelong, and many other literary magazines both online and in print. Her flash has been included in Best Small Fictions 2018 and two Norton anthologies: Flash Fiction International (W. W. Norton & Co., 2015) and New Micro (W.W. Norton & Co., 2018). She received the Blue Light Book Award for her collection of prose poetry, Cellulose Pajamas (Blue Light Press, 2016). Her newest flash fiction collection is Alligators At Night (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2018). Previous collections include Damn Sure Right, My Very End of the Universe, Bird Envy and The Dog Looks Happy Upside Down. Meg’s flash has been included in the Wigleaf Top 50. She currently serves as Festival Curator for Flash Fiction Festival, UK, Flash Challenge Editor for Mslexia Magazine, Managing Co-Editor, Best Small Fictions, 2019, Managing Editor of New Flash Fiction Review.