Sharp, witty and poignant, Jess Moody’s short fiction imagines the encounters and relationships that could have been enjoyed and nurtured were it not for lockdown.
- She would have shared an eye-roll with you on the Tube, at the man-boys talking in the way that they do. They alight at Leicester square and you both burst out laughing. She comments on your tote from that indie bookshop. You rise together up the escalator, delight in shared anticipation for the new Evie Wyld. You would have said hi the next day, trapped in the Exit by a deluge. (But it is the week Before – for you, for your City – and you spend the commute doom-scrolling, watching single fingers creep upwards. A backwards countdown to unknown fears).
- Ze would have sat next to you at the conference dinner. A polite prompt from him and of course, oh yes, didn’t we meet that time when? Yes, when. And how is – oh good for them. And I always wanted to travel to –yeah, because of the – yes! Exactly! (But the wine never reaches your glass, your liver, the laughing spillage on the white table-tops. The chairs lie in the echo of the auditorium, waiting to be unpacked by an un-furloughed man. Who wipes and wipes and wipes, and places them far apart, sets up a slalom of a one-way queue for testing.)
- They would have pitched their tent next to yours. You pick up the familiar vowel sounds in the clean hours after dawn. You laugh. So rare to meet someone else from; what are the chances etc. Then queuing together for croissants. You, nervously mind-rehearsing your French; them, chatting about that bar that everyone used to go to near the Woolworths – Smirnoff ice! – and you love them, just a little, for remembering the years that made you. (But you walk around the roped-off playground. Again. And again. The corner shop no longer puts out bouquets in green buckets. The space in front is dank concrete, crosshatched in rushed yellow paint. Do not approach.)
- You may have lost one. In the restaurant you’d researched so carefully to impress them, you drink too much and allow yourself to cry a little at all that was being taken from you and ones you loved. And they frown, and tut, and said really, you remoaners, you have to get over it. And you feel the lurch at the sudden sinking. Down to foundations of a friendship far below your reckoning; an understanding that the decades have taken you far apart. There is a choice of silent politeness, or a Scene. A choice to keep, or leave behind. You choose – (But you do not meet up. You send each other WhatsApps every few months, a focus on family, and Tiers, and a different kind of mourning. The emoticons laugh-cry their hysteria.)
- You would have found them in the front room, rifling through the hosts’ double-stacking with the awe-greed you know well. You hold their G&T while they open the blue-white volume, and test your rote-memory. A crowd of guests gather as you reach the woman wailing for her demon lover! And you hand the glass back, and you toast Slainte! and for the first time you find someone who enjoyed the film Pandaemonium. (But you smile faintly at bookshelf-porn hashtags in black-blue glow. You have not crossed another threshold in 11 months, and there is no crucible, yet, for such dual dreamings).
About Jess Moody
Jess Moody is a Wulfrunian in London. She likes her words and worlds a little weird. Nominated for the Pushcart ‘19, Best of the Net ‘20, & listed in the BIFFY 50 (Best British & Irish Flash Fiction Awards). For more information see Jess’ website: www.jmoodywriter.com or follow her on Twitter @jessmoodhe
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 wanted to curate a series of essays, interviews and stories on friendship, experienced during the time of COVID-19. We were keen to hear from marginalised perspectives, underrepresented voices and communities significantly impacted by the virus.
We were 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 and features in some of the work in Disembodied Voices.
For the full series, click here here.
Submissions are now closed for this series.
Aysha Abdulrazak and Samaya Kassim,
Guest Editors of Disembodied Voices.