By Julie Harris

All Rights Reserved.

He likes to feel it vibrate: two quick bursts for a text, one for an email—a lov­ers’ code— throbbing against his thigh through the thin pocket fabric. He likes to hear the ring, too, the cheerful, synthetic marimba that reassures him that he isn’t alone, that he is cared about. Using it, though—that is what he really likes. He slides his fingers across the smooth face, gliding effortlessly between the civil war in Syria and his Candy Crush game. A few taps and he can look at Instagram pictures of his friends’ trendy vegan food and of their cats sleeping in boxes, on tables, and in piles of laundry, a few more and he can send an iMessage, a tingle running up his arms when the dots appear below it, signaling a reply in progress.

At night, they stay up for hours while he tweets and updates and stays in­formed. But when it finally becomes drained from his finger work, he slides the charger inside gently until it makes a little satiated chirp or a pulse of satisfaction. Sometimes, when he wakes up in the night, he crawls over to its side of the bed to gently click the home button and slide his finger over the screen for a quick check on his Facebook updates. His chest flutters when he sees a white number against a red circle on the right corner of the app. People are thinking about him.

Frequently, the vibrations that send shivers down his leg signal chat bubbles titled “Veronica.” He sends back frequent Snapchats: pictures of him at work or at home, pictures in the gym restroom (so that he can use the mirror for the photo). In return, he receives selfies from home or at bars, the camera held in front and above her head, which is always turned to the left. The flash glints off her shiny black hair. The pictures fade after ten seconds, and after a while he decides that the fleeting images are not quite good enough. Tapping his thumbs lightly and rapidly on the screen, he asks her about a restaurant.

Over dinner, he holds it in his lap, glancing occasionally down to check the time or any new messages or emails. Veronica smiles at him from across the table. She likes his Facebook profile. She thinks it’s funny that for “religious views” he wrote “I look at it.” He has three new Facebook notifications. The left side of Veronica’s face is just as nice as the right side, which is featured in her Snapchats.

Someone has just sent him a Snapchat of an open beer bought during happy hour somewhere. While they wait for dessert she shyly takes his left hand. He absently slides a finger of the right hand over the screen on his thigh, circling the bubble beneath the screen protector delicately. He wonders what dinner his vegan friends have posted pictures of on Instagram today. Has anyone “liked” his sunset pictures on Facebook yet? His legs tremble with anticipation, waiting for Veronica’s next trip to the bathroom so that he can look at it again.

Back at his apartment, he watches Veronica let her dress fall to the floor, the low light like a bad Instagram filter. She starts to unbuckle his pants but he stops her, takes it out of his pocket first, sets it on the night stand carefully. As she pulls him on top of her it vibrates. She doesn’t pay it any attention, just wraps her legs around him. He strains—he can’t quite make out the screen. Was it just an email? An update? Did someone message him? He has to know if someone cares. Veronica moans, her hands on his back now. When she closes her eyes, he lunges for it. He shudders with pleasure—a Facebook invitation. He sets it near Veronica’s head while her eyes are still closed so he can read the event details: This Saturday…

A bar downtown…

A birthday party…

He sighs and rolls off of Veronica, picking it back up from the side of the pil­low. He caresses the screen and smiles. Someone out there is thinking of him.

Julie Harris is a writer and artist originally from New Mexico and currently a student in the MFA Creative Writing program at San Diego State University.