Fiction: Correspondence cards
So then it was confirmed. It was shut down, and he was shut out, at least for a while, what could be a long while. The guy who had been summoned in hope that he might be able to do something - anything - about it, and keep him going, well, he'd tried what had seemed to his untrained eyes like a hell of a lot, if a lot could be measured by the amount of noise that he was making back there, clatters and grunts and huffing and scratches, and a few general all-purpose murmurs of things like 'right' and 'Ahhh' and 'I see' and 'Gotcha!' which seemed to come out of the manual of 'How to reassure punters that things will be fixed quite soon, even though that's probably not the case, and there's a pretty hefty call out charge to justify'.
There might even have been a sucking in of cheeks, he thought.
But then, a hand appeared, then another, then a head popped up, carrying a heavy visage and a sad-eyed countenance. He thought it fortunate that, at least, professionals of his type did not revel - or at least want to be seen to be revelling - in a misfortune that he knew, of course he knew, to be the very epitome of what was at first laughing, but then with more menace, dismissed as a 'first world problem'.
Why shouldn't it be taken seriously, he thought morosely. Why shouldn't his inability to communicate in the manner that pleased him most not be thought of as something, if not particularly worthy of attention in the grand scheme of things, be something more than a cause for snickering and merriment and a general leg pulling?
After all, he prided himself on his ability to stay in touch with as wide a circle of people as humanely possible, and indeed, his skills in the field had both baffled and dazzled people in equal measure. It was said of him that he collected people, and he supposed in a sense that was true. But under that statement was the implication that he also discarded people, and this he had never quite been able to bring himself to do. For that implied that people had an obvious and overt utility to him, and he struggled to see that in the people he knew, but also within him. If he thought that anyone would think of him, or see him as some sort of user of people, a man simply writing down names in a notebook who could be tapped or goaded into providing and then being the recipient of favours, that would cause his self image to splinter a tiny crack further.
Plus he resented this idea of 'collecting' people. It implied that in some way he was not a friend, or someone capable of having relationships, but instead was an archivist, and conjured up the image of him in some way taking something an item from a particular person, then pressing it flat and then pasting it into a scrap book, before being filed away on top of a wardrobe, to be taken down and have the dust blown off it when, as was inevitable for a man like him in later years, he would have been left perilously alone, and all that was left to sustain him were these slight physical remnants of friendships that he once had.
The idea that people had this idea pained him. But what was he to do about it? He could but carry on, being a social gadfly in his own way: that is to say, quietly, unobtrusively, with a quiet, lingering word in the ear at parties, a recursive and responsive listening at dinner, a gentle open palm on the shoulder at partings at Tube stations; and doing so every night of every week for most months of the year, until even his constitution had to declare that it needed a break from the caffeine and gin and saturated fats that powered most of the interactions he had.
Naturally, he had taken advantage of every leap forward offered to him when it came to managing the complexity of the webs of people that he found himself enmeshed in. Of course he was not overly pleased with the fact that, when he sent out his correspondence cards, people's reaction to them were one of a surprise that a medium so quaint was still being used, rather than an appreciation of it. But still, he had brought himself up to speed with every network and technology that he needed to; some he found useful, others less so. And some even began to hint at the fact that the loneliness need not be permanent.
But he also knew that if that was to change, he would have to change to. And right now, he had an enforced exile from his communicative world to worry about first.