What happens on ’Listen’ before you realise it
Christmas break is the official moment for students to catch their breath, recharge, and ignore their homework incredibly hard. It was this time of the year that Famke decided to download a new app, a new app which only used your voice, completely anonymity, and endless possibilities. She hit play and began listening to the voices from all over the world with stories funny, sad, nice, and also kind of weird and awkward. It was a lovely way to waste her break; holding a cup of tea and wrapped in a blanket, listening to the stories of everyday people all over the world. No need to put on decent clothes or care about make-up and hair, she could be social in the comfort of her small room.
Then one evening she found a voice; a guy with a fun question.
It was a warm morning outside, but he finally had the day off and he was determined to not move from the couch unless it was utmost necessary. Ethan sat on his couch and recorded a message. Quicker than he had thought, a reply came. Not just any reply; a witty remark against the question he had thrown into the world. He smirked and replied, cause if it was a game she wanted to play, a game she would get!
And so, Ethan and Famke found each other. If it was morning at her place, he would talk to her from his bed. When she got home after a day of school, she would wake him with a message. He would send her a picture of the sunny hills of the States and she would send him the rainy sight of Europe. There were about 4200 miles between them, but their messages kept finding each other within seconds.
Huddled up in her blanket, she would ask him about the stars. Making his lunch, he would ask her about her favourite book. Cycling to her work, she told him her opinion about politics. While playing a game, he explained his view on death to her. Sitting on the tip of her chair, she made her point about Marvel vs DC, while he laid in bed and tried to oppose her.
“Hey! How are you?” Ethan asked her a week later. He had just woken up and saw her last message.
“Hey! Hope you slept well! Ok, I guess, I got fired, but…you know…” was Famke’s reply. He sat up in bed and replied to make sure her bad mood would go away. To hear her laugh was his mission for the moment.
Going for a walk, she flashed her teeth and sent him a picture. Waking up, he smiled as he saw her face.
“You’re so cute!” Ethan typed and rolled onto his back. In his head, he could hear her giggle and see her smile.
“I wish you were here,” she wrote underneath the next picture of herself. She was wearing a thick scarf, a beanie, and mittens, her cheeks were flushed by the cold and her eyes were bright and sparkly. Peeking through the window, Ethan could already see the first people in their t-shirt where he was.
God, he wished he was there with her.
“Hey handsome,” Famke sent.
“Hey baby,” Ethan replied, “You look good…wish I could hold you.”
4200 miles was nothing. Ethan could listen to her stories for hours and Famke could spend her entire day rereading his adventures. Days and weeks passed by and it was lovely. She floated on pink clouds as he felt like he could take on the entire world. It was great, real great.
“What?!” Ethan said, smirking as he looked at the load of emojis she had sent him.
“You told your roommate?” Famke could not stop laughing and blushing as she read that the American had told his friend about her.
“Yeah, you know… yes, I did,” was Ethan’s reply, typing with a smirk, “He was as enthusiastic as your friends.”
“Ah at least we’re giving them something to talk about!” Famke replied and added some festive emojis.
“Your beard looks real good on you,” Famke said as Ethan replied with a smiley, biting her lip, “Bet your kisses would be even better now.”
Ethan looked at his phone. He had to tell her, he had to get this out. Not that he wanted, he’d rather rob a bank and catch a plane to Europe. But it wasn’t possible; not in any realistic kind of way.
“I can’t do this anymore,” he typed and needed a deep breath before he hit send.
“…what do you mean?” Famke asked. Her eyes were big and she bit her lips as she looked at his words on the screen. What was his face like, what was his voice like, why wasn’t he just on this side of the ocean?
“We're 9 hours apart. I cannot touch you, I cannot hold you, I can’t…” send. Not knowing what else to type, but knowing he had to go on.
“So, what do you want?” she asked, afraid to even type the words.
“I don’t know,” was his reply. She sighed and threw her phone on her bed, mumbling swear words in her own tongue.
In the meantime, he sat on his couch and looked at her avatar, God she was pretty. He cared for her, he liked her, he really did. But she was four thousand two hundred miles away. Ethan looked at her smile, her eyes, and how he had never seen her in real life, had never smelled her, never touched her skin. And who knows how much longer he would have to wait for the slightest possibility.
“It’s been really upsetting me that you’re on the other side of the world,” Ethan typed and could almost feel the pain in his fingers as he typed the words, “I don’t know how wise this is. We might end up missing out on someone, or hurting each other.”
Famke read the message and bit her lip. She had been afraid of this happening, as it had also crossed her mind. “So, what are you saying?”
“I’m just afraid of getting too attached to you,” Ethan sent it and twisted the phone in his hand, while Famke threw hers beside her.
“What do you mean?” she typed, angry, upset, and mostly afraid to lose him, “When you couldn’t sleep last week you messaged me, when you were sad you messaged me, when you were happy you messaged me. Don’t give me shit about not wanting to get too attached, cause, babe, you already are!”
With big paces, Famke got off her couch and turned down her radio. Not now, Ed, she thought and went back to read the next message from Ethan.
“You’re more than 4200 miles away, Famke,” was his reply, “And it’s not like we’re going to make a difference in that any day soon, simply because we’re not able to.”
“Oh my goodness,” Famke mumbled and just looked at the screen for a moment. It made sense, which was the worse thing. He was right and she knew it and hated it.
Ethan looked at the screen, hands slightly shaking and a heavy hollow feeling in his chest.
“So….what are you saying?” Famke asked again. Her fingers were trembling, because she already knew. Yet she kept a firm grip on her phone, as if she was holding on to Ethan himself.
Ethan shook his head and bit his lip, he didn’t want this, that was for sure. But it was the only thing he could think of as right, for her.
“I cannot do this,” he told her. Not telling her how much he liked her laugh, how he liked her mind, how he would miss her voice, how he would miss her smile, and how jealous he would be on whoever would be after him, the guy who could touch her and hold her and call her his.
“Please, Ethan…” Famke tried. She needed him, much more than he knew. He made her day a good day, he made her laugh, he calmed her mind, he made her think and ponder, and even when he teased her he still made her smile.
“Sorry, I can’t. Goodbye.”
These last words were enough for Famke to crawl into her bed, holding her phone close to her chest as she couldn’t help but reread their messages every now and then. He was gone; he had decided and now he was gone. Without ever touching him, she could feel him leave and a coldness wrapped around her.
Ethan leant back on his couch and laid his hand on his eyes for a moment. He was definitely skipping class today. Laying a few inches to his right, the phone almost seemed to echo her voice, her laugh, her high pitched voice when she was annoyed – her.
Boundaries serve no right to divide, but the ocean is a strong force that is to be obeyed. No matter the cost.
Now she would be better off, or so Ethan told himself as he strolled back to his bedroom.