Your Connection Is Unstable

A short story about online dating, or something like it, with a broken webcam

Abstract glitch colored in pink, yellow and blue background.
Abstract glitch colored in pink, yellow and blue background.
Image: oxygen/Getty Images

Yui twisted her webcam. “Can you see me?”

Osamu tapped his microphone. “Can you hear me?”

That was how they began each online rendezvous. It was funny — since they could clearly see and hear each other. Perhaps they just wanted to acknowledge each other’s existence, make sure they were physically there.

These internet meetings were virtually the same every time.

Until one day.

“What’s wrong?” Yui asked, leaning toward the webcam.

Osamu lifted his mouse. “I think this is broken.”

“The batteries died?”

“It’s not wireless.”

“Maybe try unplugging and replugging it?”

Osamu did as he was told. That didn’t do it.

“No worries, I’ll use the keyboard instead.”

“Will that be okay?”

“Yeah, you can do all the basic stuff with a keyboard.”

Yui believed that — especially since Osamu was dexterous with his fingers. True, they were thick and rough, but they could touch her with the care and skill of a mechanic, which would make her sing with pleasure. That was once upon a time, when they were physically together.

“Can you hear me?” Yui asked. This time she was serious.

Osamu didn’t reply — at least not with his voice. My microphone isn’t working.

“Did you try unplugging and replugging it?”

No luck. I’ll just type.

“Okay,” Yui said without really being okay with it. She loved Osamu’s robotic but masculine voice. Its low, continuous pitch reverberated through her head. Her bones. Her heart. At least he could hear her.

“You can’t hear me?” Yui asked.

Osamu pointed to his ear, shaking his head. Then he typed, My speakers are dead — either that or I went deaf.

With a scowl, Yui wrote, Are you sure the volume is up?

To the maximum.

The volume of your computer?

To the maximum too.

Yui leaned back with a groan. Anyhow, she didn’t like her voice. It was high-pitched like cartoons on fast-forward. Osamu had once told her that it was cute. But he was probably just being nice.

I can’t see you, Yui typed, squinting at the black square in front of her.

There’s something wrong with my webcam, Osamu wrote. It’s okay. I can still type.

Yui sighed. She was really looking forward to seeing Osamu’s face. He not only was handsome — he looked like a Japanese version of Keanu Reeves — but also had eyes, a nose, and a mouth that faced in her direction every night. Or rather, to the her on the screen.

Those days were gone.

Yui perched on the chair and launched the chatting software. Then she asked, “Can you see me? Can you hear me?”

But only a dark screen stared back at her, replying with silence.

Writer of fictional words. Admirer of Haruki Murakami. To be notified of his upcoming novel, click here:

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