Straightening up and bracing for an impact that I knew would never really come, I held my iPhone lightly with the tips of my fingers on both hands and counterbalanced it with my thumbs towards its home button.
The left part of my face was cleanly cut off in the reflection, and the rest of its geometry was compressed into its surface, overlaid and blurred through with an abstract cartography of smeared fingerprints and scratches. Over my right shoulder I could see the reflection of more screens as my colleagues worked; the scene seemed to glitch as the phone amplified my slight movements of hand. It reminded me of a Claude glass, a small mirror, slightly convex in shape and tinted black which was used in the 18th century by picturesque artists to help them capture and displace a scene from its surrounding landscape and smooth out its tonal gradations. This had already happened in the office though, there wasn’t any need for a device to subdue and average out all its colour tones further; it rendered the reflection down into nothing.
I pressed the home button and screen slowly lit up, the fingerprints and scratches evaporated and everything was clean again. With a sleight of hand I swiped left with my thumb and tapped the screens left, then right, left again and centre to unlock it.
The message was already written, I just needed to send it, so I read it again and performed a downward arch with my thumb to send. I locked the phone immediately — wanting to detach myself from it — and light iridescently reflected off the screen and different colours rippled through the greasy tracing of my thumb’s radial movement.
She had her back to me — and even this was scattered and diffused through the leaves of a large pot plant —so I looked at her phone instead and waited for it to vibrate on her desk. Her head twitched instinctively towards it when it did, but she went back her computer, before directing her head back to the phone again, as if she was conjuring some banal montage. She skimmed the phone’s surface rapidly right, mirroring my own movements only moments earlier, and she started to stare at the screen with her index finger hovering over the point it had last touched, shaking in the hum of the air conditioning. Her head tilted forward as she continued to read and her index finger violently flexed away from the screen a moment later. She fanned her hand with curled fingers over the whole screen and paused.
The shirt she wore was a tight sports type, which was ribbed on the arms —her right arm and hand were the only parts of her I could see clearly— to delineate her muscle structure. This allowed me to see her muscles clench as thoughts, no doubt, skimmed through her mind. It was strange, I speculated, that our obsession with bringing the insides of the body to the outside — good bacteria, bad bacteria, healthy guts, lean muscles — would also betray the infinitesimal muscles reactions of thoughts. It added an extra layer of detail and resolution to her emotions, as if I was watching a high definition television screen.
All I could see of the rest of her body was the faint pixelated shadow her head cast on the computer screen. Her hand then rotated left over the screen with stiff muscles as, I think, her whole body turned to face someone on the other side of office. I looked to the same direction and, as I already knew, there were just empty desks.
She put her hand flat on the phone’s face and fanned it up and down slowly. Then turned it over. Turned it back again. Then she picked it up with her right hand and slid its right edge across the desk to pick it up, it slipped from her grasp, she reached down to pick it up and held it tightly the middle of her chest and brought up her left hand to support it. She got up and with her back still towards me and went through the door on the far side of the office.
I looked back at the phone screen in front of me and saw the empty trigonometry of my actions played out in the residue left on its surface. It read like braille as I tilted it in the lights above —balanced on thumb and forefinger and pivoted with my little finger — to reveal different signs: dot, gap, dot, diagonal sweep, dot, arch, swipe left. I ran my finger up and down the screen to wipe them off, along with some foreign identifying whorls, and then turned the screen back on so the light could completely bleach them out.
I went to the toilet to take a piss and I threw the phone out of the window. It stuck in the earth and I could see the surrounding landscape displaced and fragmented in its reflection. The clouds moved and it seemed to disappear in the glare of the sun.
Removing my own phone from my pocket and checking the time, I decided to go for lunch. Holding it in the palm of my hand I dropped it back into the loose folds of my coat pocket, as I let go I allowed my index and middle fingers to slowly traverse its right-hand edge and, pausing on the pockets outer rim, I withdrew them gently from the fabric cleft.
MATTHEW TURNER is a writer living in London. He studied at University College London and is now working as writer and assistant editor for LOBBY magazine. Matthew also teaches at Chelsea College of Art and has lectured at various institutions in and around London.