Johanna Robinson’s flash fiction, ‘The Composition of Us’, celebrates friendship between women – the joy, tears, late night talks and parties experienced before the pandemic and now in lockdown, online.
The Composition of Us
Before death, before divorce, before babies and dream-babies, before upsizing, before career changes, before careers, before these four walls; when duvet days are a treat, not a necessity, we are the girls. The gang. The ladies. We are songs and music and cameras on timers, red-eyed from the flash. Might is strength, not possibility. We are post-late-night-party brunches and post-work drinks. We are seaside pints and sunset gins, quick cuppas and refilled mugs. We share jokes, looks, beds, wavelengths, clothes. We cannot answer how do you know each other, because we’re friends, not scientists, and there’s no time to stop and study the science of friendship – the magnetic field that draws us to us, the change in chemistry, only felt from the inside. We string together our backstories until we cannot be untangled; we’re an opera, an anthem, a ballad, a story, a home with no walls.
Today, watching TV with the kids between breaking news, broken news, I learn that the chemical composition of sad tears is not the same as that of tears of laughter; and the scientists show too where the differences lie in the structure of tears of pain, and I think we knew this all along.
We stayed, we gathered; we moved, we scattered.
Today, we pick out faces in pixels, send care through the post. We regroup, apart. Today, our stretched-out lives surely prove the strength and reach of the magnetic field.
We tell ourselves a new story, try hard to believe: we will link arms and sing, red-eyed; there will be an after.
About Johanna Robinson
Johanna Robinson is based near Liverpool, UK, and has been writing short fiction for around five years. Her work has been featured in various magazines and anthologies, including SmokeLong, Reflex Press and Mslexia. In 2020, she won the TSS Cambridge Prize for Flash Fiction and the Bath Flash Fiction Award, and in 2019 Ad Hoc Fiction published her novella-in-flash Homing, which follows a Norwegian Resistance family in the Second World War. More of her work can be found at www.johanna-robinson.com and on Twitter @JohannaWordpool
This piece was commissioned for Disembodied Voices: Friendship during COVID-19
How we think of friendship, intimacy and closeness has radically altered during this period, perhaps irrevocably. Lockdown and quarantine has left us relishing time with friends and family, or dealing with feelings of isolation, anxiety and abandonment. WhatsApp, Zoom and social media are our new lifelines, changing the tone, register and channels through which we communicate. We’ve reached out to old friends and been turned away by new ones; rekindled old bonds and discarded others. There are friends who inspire and those who infuriate; there are relations we’ve failed and some who’ve come through for us, and shown love in a way we’ve never experienced before.
We want to curate a series of essays, interviews and stories on friendship, experienced during the time of COVID-19. We are keen to hear from marginalised perspectives, underrepresented voices and communities significantly impacted by the virus.
We are also open to submissions and pitches on the representation and concept of friendship more generally. How friendship is represented on television, film, and social media; in books, music and videos, before and during the pandemic, is also important. Are there representations of friendships that have given you hope (such as I May Destroy You or Broad City) or those that have appeared toxic to you (such as that recounted by Natalie Beach about Caroline Calloway). If so, we want to hear from you too.
For the full Call Out and details of how to apply, click here.
Submissions are open until the end of February 2021.
We look forward to hearing from you,
Aysha Abdulrazak and Samaya Kassim, Guest Editors of Disembodied Voices.