Well, she wrote me a letter
Said she couldn’t live without me no more
Listen, mister, can’t you see I got to get back
To my baby once-a more
In all of human history, it has only been possible to have a relationship exactly like ours, within the last few years. Jersey girl and I are artefacts of a very specific time. The internet in some form has existed since the early seventies and the personal computer since the eighties but, in a format in any way useful to lovers such as we, only really this past couple of decades. Skype and Facebook are very much the new kids on the block both having only been around for a handful of years.
Jersey and I were only able to become aware of each other’s existences because the High-Speed Internet also existed and we both lived in countries where people have ready access to it. We were only able to get to know each other because of the sudden prevalence of social media and, again because we lived in countries where such media is not yet heavily censored.
Skype has allowed us to maintain a ‘gaze into your eyes’ relationship over the many long months of physical separation. This, more than anything, has enabled our love to flourish. And none of it, not even the original internet, existed in the year I was born (men were still wearing hats the year I was born).
We literally owe our existence as a couple to digital technology (and jet engine technology of course). I’m writing this on my way to my job here in Melbourne but I can take my phone out of my pocket and call Jersey girl from this train just like any other commuter. It’s just that Jersey is on the other side of the world rather than back at the place where I actually, you know, live. I remember what it was like as recently as the early eighties to make an overseas call. Conversations were stilted as hell due to the three-second delay along the cables. And the cost per minute was astronomical.
Today I regularly call Jersey girl just to let her know I’m thinking of her. How quickly we have all assimilated the miracles of the past few decades; adapted to this new normal. I recall I used to hear about people marrying partners they’d met online and think, oh my god that’s so weird. Now I am one of those weirdos, but I’m far from alone. Millions of people now fall in love this way. It has almost become a cliché. I still get that look occasionally when I tell our story to someone new but nowhere near as often as you might think.
And, though, it may seem crazy to some to even contemplate such an obstacle-strewn life, there are historical precedents of even less convenient long distance loves than ours. Not including the obvious, Abelard and Heloise, I can think of at least two written accounts (though, frustratingly I can now find no trace of either online*) of long distance love carried out entirely by letter at a time when the horse or sailing ship were the preferred (indeed only) methods of delivery. Think about that.
And in at least one case, the lovers involved had not met before falling in love (like Jersey girl and me) and indeed, never did meet (thankfully, unlike us). My mind reels at the thought of the interminable wait between each communication. Literally, months would pass between perfumed missives (I’m simply assuming the perfume part).
There’s a discipline and a commitment to such a love that just wouldn’t flourish in this faster pace, shorter attention span world. I doubt anybody in these modern times has that sort of patience.
And in those earlier days, people were frequently struck down by deadly illnesses that seemed to come out of nowhere (but which in fact arose from appalling hygiene and dreadful civil engineering – shit in the streets, blood on the sheets). So the next letter you received could be the one telling you that your beloved had died of diphtheria four months earlier.
I cannot imagine the courage and fortitude required to endure such a life. And people are amazed by our story!
*Has anyone else noticed that google seems to be dumbing down lately?
Oh, and you probably won’t be surprised to hear that we both love the Griffin and Sabine books.
Words and image are my own.