SPOTLIGHT: Static Disruption by Sara Dobbie

Love in the Void

     Mitzi stands on the front step fumbling nervously with her keys. She feels the first drops of a cold October rain, and pauses to glance up at the graying sky. She opens the door of her tiny house and tosses her tote bag carelessly to the floor.  The rolled-up apron that she spilled orange juice on earlier should be taken out of the bag and washed for the morning shift, but right now all she can think about is Belinda. She is conscious of hunger, though her stomach is doing other strange things besides growling; it feels like a thousand tinymoths might fly up through her chest and out of her throat.

     Mitzi lives here alone, though her mother hounds her to get a roommate. She savours the solitude, it allows her to breathe, to create. And what roommate would be ok with a shared living area filled with enormous half-finished canvases and empty paint cans, fabric swatches and scraps of found metal piled in the corners? An artist needs room to spread out, Mitzi’s mother doesn’t understand that. Doesn’t understand why she can’t just settle down like her sisters.

     Moving quickly through the tiny rooms Mitzi sits down at her desk and takes a deep breath. For the entire afternoon she’s been hoping to come home to an e-mail from Belinda. There is, she thinks, something inherently exciting about connecting with a stranger who lives on another continent, whom she has never even glimpsed. Of knowing that they think of her while existing in their alternate time zone. She types in the password on her computer, opens her e-mail. Her heart freezes with disappointment for a split second, but then thaws at the speed of light because Belinda hasn’t let her down.

     An e-mail. An attachment. Mitzi is now looking at a black and white photograph of Belinda’s face in profile, laughing at something outside the shot. A rush akin to a wave of vertigo dizzies her as she clicks on the photo to enlarge it. Mitzi remains motionless as her mind tries to align the impressions she has about this woman with the contour of her cheekbone, her wavy, auburn hair spilling like water. Belinda is beautiful, she thinks. Refined. A genius, maybe.

     A transient patron at the diner, a cousin of a regular, had suggested a few weeks ago that he could set Mitzi up with a talented photographer that he met while abroad, in some quaint café in the middle of Prague. Mitzi had scoffed at the idea, what would be the point? But the cousin of the regular persisted and gave her the contact information anyway. In a drunken moment of loneliness Mitzi had sent a message. Now the unlikely pair wrote long letters to each other like star crossed lovers from a bygone era. They wrote about their lives, their hopes and dreams, but mostly, they wrote about art.

     This was, she knew, a big part of the attraction. Belinda talked to her on a level that no one else would. She didn’t know Mitzi was a high school drop-out who never attended college. Or that she worked the split shift at a diner around the corner to pay the rent to the old man across the street. Mitzi wouldn’t want Belinda to know that she served cheap coffee and omelets in the morning to senior citizens, fries and shakes in the evenings to hormonal teenagers.

  To Belinda, she was a true artist, a colleague even. Mitzi alternated between confidence in her talent and a private shame, a self-loathing related to the inability to compete with people from high school who’d gone on to be successful. Take Tara from next door. They were the exact same age, and yet a chasm of inequity divided them. Mitzi felt like the neighborhood freak and Tara was the damn prom queen. So put together, so self assured. Her and Dave had been married for years, owned their own home and two vehicles. They were probably plotting a town takeover with their future brood at this very moment.

     Mitzi is devouring the message from Belinda, absorbing the request for a reciprocal self-portrait, when the sound of beeping comes from the appliances in the kitchen and then the power goes out. The computer screen goes black, and just like that she is cut off from the one thing she had been looking forward to all day. Half expecting the electricity to return after a few minutes as usual, Mitzi peers through the blinds, wondering if the rain has upgraded to some kind of storm. Dazzled by the charming scene laid out before her, she opens the blinds further.

     Snow. Large white flakes drifting down from above, landing on the wet branches of trees that hadn’t yet lost their leaves. Strange, Mitzi thinks, because it’s still so early, weeks away from Halloween. Gorgeous though, the way the leaves and the lawn sparkle in spite of the darkening skies. The surreal landscape inspires her with a brilliant, romantic idea.

      Outside on the front walkway Mitzi sets up her digital SLR on the tripod and poses next to the elm tree, its limbs drooping under the heaviness of the accumulating wet snow. Hoping to capture Belinda’s imagination with the anomaly of deciduous trees covered in white, she smiles into the lens.  She holds still expectantly while the timer on the camera counts down, and briefly wonders what the neighbours, especially her landlord Mr. Bishop, will think if they see her outside in a freak snowstorm in flip-flops and no coat.

     When the power comes back on, she will send the picture to Belinda. They will have shared their faces, and she believes they may be sharing something else, some intangible, ethereal part of themselves. Something like love, but maybe higher. If it is possible that anyone can really see Mitzi, can know her as she wants to be known, she believes it’s Belinda out there in cyberspace, in an otherworldly dimension where they are equals; two artists who share the same passion.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s