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This Modern Love

 George Aitch 

George Aitch is a medical student who writes in his spare time. In addition to Jotters United, you may find other examples of my work with Litro, Storgy, Bunbury Magazine and Penniless Press.

He tweets at


Dial tone. He picks up. That's a good sign; on a good day I'd say that there's a 50/50 chance I go straight through to his answerphone. Phil never changes his message; I could recite it from memory. The words 'Hi this is Phil's phone, please leave a message after the tone' could be a tattoo for me, I should get it etched on my skin. But that isn't necessary this time; he has picked up. I'm in luck. No one-sided dial tone chatter for me today.


“Hey” I say, it's all I can think of. Honestly, I‘m terrible at thinking this kind of thing ahead. There is no preparation at all. The noise made by somebody answering the telephone tends to leave me speechless. By the time they've dialled, I suppose most people have some idea of what they what to say, what message they're going to leave. Not me; I dread phone calls. When I was a kid I used to ignore the ringing telephone if I was home alone, just because of this stupid fear of talking to a stranger down the line. There's something so self-conscious and ridiculous about it. No wonder mum would yell at me when she got back from wherever she had been.


“Hey” It's so good to hear his voice, even if he isn't here. I wonder what is happening where he is, who has he met in the week, where did he go after work, what thoughts has he been thinking. The gap from where he is to where I am can feel so great that sometimes we could be in different time zones or even on separate planets instead of an eight hour drive.


I want to crawl right up inside that head and never leave, just be lodged there as a part of it forever. Then finally on the morgue table they cut open the coronal suture or whatever it is and they discover that I was there all along, that we took everything life shared together. But I don't articulate these things; all I can think to say is:

“How’re you?”

“Yeah, I’m ok,” he sighs, it sounds crackly on this end. “How’re you?” Oh you know, university life sucks all right. My housemates keep going home at the weekend or going out to shitty clubs and dives that I won't follow them into. I barely see them. My course is much less structured than I'm used to so I have no idea what it is that I'm supposed to do. The pilot light has failed in the oven and our landlady is trying to get away with charging three figures to fix it. And I miss you. So much. So much that I cannot express the longing I feel in words, they just aren't enough.


“I’m all right.” I say. The line crackles again, laughter this time.

“Your fault for moving so far away.” Phil says. He is right, the blame lies squarely with me. The summer before I left, we spent so much time together it felt as thought we'd never truly be apart, that some shard of each of us would stay lodged each breast forever. I suppose it did; it's what pangs so much when I wake up alone. I just wanted to keep things exactly as they were. To preserve and seal the feelings somehow. That we could cuddle up together in front of the television forever or spend each Saturday doing exactly the same thing the same way. That was enough. It was more than enough; it was better than heaven. We had both hoped that nothing could change. We both knew that at some point it must.


“What did you do today?” I ask. I have to know, there's a picture there that I'm not seeing. Sure, I can hear your voice, but I cannot feel your breath, your hair, your socks against my socks. The telephone cannot bring me the whole picture, cannot bring the two of us together.

“Same old, boring ward round, the matron hates me, everything is my fault,” he replies “an old man yelled at me because he didn't remember where he was. That was my fault too. You know it is. When are you next home, its lonely here by myself?”

“Erm, I don't know. I think we have a reading week sometime in April.” How is my hand supposed to go three months without holding his? I don't complain; then we might have a fight.

“April? But that's ages away!”

“I'm sorry, but it takes so long to go down there and I need to be here at the moment.” I don't; where I need to be is back home with him. The lie is more for my benefit than his. Still, it doesn't dampen that yearning I have for the one on the other end of the line.

“Well if you are sure.” I'm not. “I mean, it’s probably for the best. Y'know I'm finding it hard to get away from the hospital for more than a day. Recovery is so understaffed at the moment and they know I live nearby.”

“Yeah, I guess. Still-” Pause. How can I put it?


I miss you. Why on earth did I leave to study when all I wanted was right there at home? I need you to sit beside me and slip your arm over my shoulders. When you're making dinner, I should be there with you, leaning over you and chattering whilst you slice the fish and boil us some rice. It should be me in that room, hearing about the difficult relatives of that poor old lady who you're concerned about, reassuring you that just because they shouted at you doesn't mean that you're bad at your job; everyone dumps shit on nurses. And later on I'm craving the way you stroke the curve of my belly then the curled hairs on my chest. How you kiss me with your eyes open. When we're fucking, the feelings you awake inside me and how it makes me truly come alive. Afterwards how we lay next to each other looking at the stars from your window and your breathing brushes the nape of my neck. I need that. I need you.


Come out and say it.

“I miss you.”

“Aww, Nick I miss you too.”

“No, I miss you, too much,” I am crying now, surely he can tell. “This sucks, I can't stand it. Us being apart. The distance is unbearable.”

“Oh,” and I can hear a choking noise, I've upset him. “I don't know. I hate to know that you're feeling so, so down. If I could reach through all of the wires that separate us I would. I'd be right there, but Nick you know that's not possible.” Then I get the impression that he's summing up, that he is going. Make time for me. Please stay, talk for longer. I'll do anything. I'll stop playing those eighties hair bands that you hate, I promise. I won't listen to Radio One in the car. We don't have to go out; I know you hate that. To be there standing next you, wherever you are, is all I ask.


“I just want you to be here so I can hug you.” I say.

And then he comes out with it. “I love you. I miss you so much. We'll see each other soon.” And that's it, that's enough. The sensation explodes in my heart, the satisfaction of sufficiency or near enough. The time and the space between us is an obstacle and it is tough. But hearing his voice in my ear saying I love you goes a long way towards solving the problem. We could spent hours talking but those are the words that I have called to hear.

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