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Virtually Romance A Discourse on Love in the Information Age Wendy Rawlings In the Atharvaveda time is regarded as the generator ofall things, including Brahman, and will be the source of their destruction. —Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion The key points of Netiquette serve a useful purpose: they keep the informationflow efficient, civil, and comprehensible. —Navigating the Internet with your Macintosh Women take a haptic, holistic view ofmen. -John Updike In a computer store, out-of-season greeting cards tilting in their rickety racks, in a depressed Utah town east ofSalt Lake City I observe my companion , a writer visiting the university here for a week. I know him about as weU as I know this depressed town. And yet akeady to look at him is as unbearable as it is to look away. The handsjammed injeans pockets. Quizzical tilt of the head, this almost constant, the way dogs' heads cock when receiving sounds far out of human range. Listening, Ups pressed together, a smile barely suppressed. Not "good features." Not "handsome." Only gesture, a premonition of touch. It's no longer bearable. I look up at the ceiling. I can stiU hear him gently barraging the man behind the counter: "What's the economy Uke in this place?" "How do Anglos and Native Americans get along?" "What do people around here do for work?" The cefling. Quite unexpectedly in a shop so rundown that generations ofblack flies are living and dying in the front window, the cefling is magnificent , ornate as an antebeUum baUroom's. There should be a chandeUer hanging from it. "Look," I teU him. Up his head tilts. 78 Wendy Rawlings79 At Marion's Five and Dime Luncheonette we both order griUed cheese on white as everything else on the menu starts with Spam. Spam and beans. Spam and mashed potatoes. Spam on toast. It is at once understood that neither ofus trusts meat byproduct shaped Uke the can it's packaged in, though as a child of a dual-career couple Spam and Mary Kitchen Hash were my dual-career dinner, a marriage made in aluminum. Looking elsewhere so as to observe something other than my companion sitting across the Formicatopped table from me, my eyes catch Elvis clocks, hips swinging with each tick: spam-spam-spam. At the Protestant church on the Indian Reservation more generations of black flies live by stained glass and die on the carpet. "This time of day is the worst, with the sun," says the pastor, a man with denim shorts and braids to his waist. Cheapie pictures on the waUs depict Jesus lugging the cross aU over the place. My companion, head cocked, is pointing out the window. "What's with that little model of the church?" Out behind the church is a child-size facsimile of a church, ramshackle and littered with trash. The pastor shrugs. "We built that a few years ago for the kids. I keep meaning to repair it." Later, in the Indian burying ground, my companion teUs me, "That's how they are about time." I find an unexpired state identification card on the ground. He shows me relics left at the gravestones: a Budweiser can, dirty one-eared porcelain bunnies, a tiny pile offading green M&M's, a hank ofhair tied to a stick. "You looked up. That's great. I never look up," he says. I've knocked him a Uttle sideways. I too am out of my groove. Bad had been brewing between my live-in boyfriend and me, but now I've upped the ante. We are driving back from the Reservation to the city and I'm two hours later than I told my boyfriend I would be. "When you're forty I'U be sixty. When you're fifty I'U be seventy. When you're seventy-five FU be ninety-five." AU this math and we haven't even touched each other yet. He of the gloomy algebra and moss growing on his antlers thinks he knows the kind of woman I am. The kind of woman he thinks I am: observant. Indeed I am observant; in fact, I am a deeply distracted and by the standards oflate...


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pp. 78-88
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