The sudden snap of loneliness seems to leech the very warmth out of the air. With a silence louder than the genial laughter and chatter that blasted through my laptop speakers mere seconds ago, it creeps back in, reacquints itself with the corners of my living room and settles. I make a mental note to call a friend later, chase it away again albeit only for a short while. Sighing heavily, I sink into the cushions of my sofa, the overly familiar feel of foam squares yielding to my weight. The laptop still rests precariously on my crossed legs -my ever attentive ally against confinement-induced insanity. My faithful assistant in study and work, my communication portal to the world outside my little apartment. A lifeline and a curse. For months now, all I've had to show for a life once lived has been stretched across thirteen inches of pixelated nothingness. Technology is a wonderful thing but even this apex of modern human endeavour cannot replicate the hug of a relative, the playful shove of a friend or the kiss of a lover. And for me, an island to myself without a house full of people who would turn out to be strangers after months of finally learning about one another, the absence is so sharp it cuts me to the quick. Yet . . . It's not enough. A call, a Zoom date, letters flitting across a screen. If anything, the much-lauded tool for connection only serves to amplify the distance it supposedly breaches. Phone calls ring hollow, video ones glitch and shudder, always leaving the participants a beat out of sync with each other and messages require the use of emojis to feel any shade less impersonal. And still, despite this, each attempt at communication only delivers the shadow of company. Only now, in the midst of a nationwide lockdown do I realise the wraith-like quality of our modern communication forms. Only now that I have no human contact do I distinguish between the virtual and the real and just how precious the latter is. How, in our fast-paced lives we take for granted the ability to co-exist in shared time and space. A tad melodramatic? Perhaps. Quarantine has not been kind to my penchant for overthinking. But the longer I sit here, smothered in my couch and eager to head out for food supplies if only to be within greeting range of another human being, I find myself coming to the same conclusion. When did we merge the personal with the artificial? When did the organic mesh with the mechanical to such an extent that pre-Pandemic us, us ungrateful techno-abusers would feed our addiction even in the presence of other living, breathing, feeling people. Phones had become a fixture, perhaps even a third party participant in every interaction. And now they take center stage, fully commanding the space they once peripherally occupied. I place the device aside, getting up to stretch my limbs and pace about the little space for the umpteenth time. I've never been a particularly outdoors-y person. But the urge to frolic amongst variable shades of green or to sleep beneath an open, star-flecked sky has been gnawing at my conscience for weeks now. I wonder why it took a dramatic roll of fate's dice to bring out such strange longing. Why it took the world to shut down for the true appreciation of such simple wonders to be appreciated once more. When did we become content with so little? When did once-in-a-lifetime moments become opportunities for snap shots and videos, archiving the occurence at the expense of full experience? How did squares of metal manage to enchant us so to maintain our undivided attention for hours at a time? I mentally chide myself, stern resolve determing a course of life that will actually be living once I'm set free from this box. I know it will not last. Once the calamity is lifted and earth's rotation reset again, things will go back to how they were before, within a more broken world. After all . . . We've become accustomed to our glass boxes and technological self-quarantine. The former most do not even notice. The latter is one I doubt most would mind maintaining. Sighing, I retrieve my phone from my pocket and head back to the sofa.
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