COVID-19 introduced new norms and terms to our global society, including “social distancing.” Yet, as the young-at-heart octogenarian lovers in the photo show, love can’t be deterred (photo credit to Emile Ducke for The New York Times 2020). Throughout the ages, history, and mythology, humans have grappled with barriers to love.
Writers delved into what it is to date at a distance. They were free to chase down a story from any angle, genre, and area of influence, and the outcomes are not necessarily happily-ever-after endings.
The following are based on the April 23, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about distance dating.
PART I (10-minute read)
Star-Crossed Lovers by T. Marie Bertineau
He craned his neck, shaded his eyes. Like Rapunzel, she was up there. Somewhere. “I’m right here, darling!” he called, loafers planted. “Don’t be frightened!”
This identical scene transpired at precisely 2:15 p.m. each Tuesday. Rain or shine he appeared at the foot of the eighteen-story apartment building where he waited expectantly for his online love’s exit.
“Deep breaths,” he encouraged.
“Oh, but dearest, I cannot!” Her sweet voice, like honey, poured down upon him. “I simply can’t.”
If only they’d known at first ping: A claustrophobic and an acrophobic could never overcome an elevator’s menace.
Long Distance Longing by Janet Guy
1989. If I mail my letter priority mail, it’ll take, let’s see, 8 days to get to Adelaide. Then he’s got to read it and write back. Let’s say that takes him 4 days the earliest, then another 8 days back to me in New York. That’s 20 days. Almost three. Whole. Weeks! I am totally going to DIE! When are they inventing video phones so we can, like, see each other? Or those transporters in Star Trek so we can visit? It’s so unfair! I’m totally moving to Australia when I’m 18. My life is the. Worst. Ever!
Distance Dating by Di @ pensitivity101
It had all started with an advert in the local paper.
After several months of written correspondence and phone calls, they ascertained they had sufficient in common to meet and a rendez vous was arranged.
It was a seedy pub, but a popular one and easy to find.
Neither were impressed, one sitting outside chain smoking plucking up the courage to go in, the other inside wondering whether to stay and wait.
He decided to leave just as she chose to go in.
Embarrassed smiles and apologies, a couple of halves of lager, and the rest became history.
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18: “… summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” by Saifun Hassam
Jena had been a graduate student in Seattle that delightful summer. Sam was finishing his thesis in literature history and would leave for Boston in fall. Jena’s expert knowledge of the digital archives gave his thesis the depth he had in mind.
Time passed swiftly. They both loved outdoor concerts and Shakespeare festivals on the Quay. Their warm summer relationship turned into a lifelong friendship.
“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”
The pandemic’s shadow would soon pass. They would meet again.
Sometimes Close is Too Far by Susan Sleggs
Tessa’s cell-phone woke her at 3 am. Frightened, she got out of bed to retrieve it. Not one of the kids, Michael.
“Michael. You frightened me.”
“I’m sorry. You’re too far away.”
“What? I’m only across town.”
“Might as well be the moon.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Memories. Painful ones of the rehab room in D.C., wonderful ones of sharing a room with you. The bad ones are winning. I’m admitting I didn’t want you to go home. You belong here.”
“If we close this distance, it’s permanent.”
“How soon can you get here?”
Remote Connection by D. Avery
The zoom host had been transferred so many times that neither could say how they were connected, just that they were. By the time they slowly closed their laptops, finally ending that first meeting, these friends of friends of friends were more than friends.
There were more zoom times, just the two of them. Both wanting to make a good impression, they started wearing underwear again, wore clothes that required buttoning. Tabletops were cleared and neatly arranged with flowers and stemware for simulcast dinners.
They both had been working from home, isolated, for weeks.
“Let’s quarantine together.”
Invitation to a Rave by Liz Husebye Hartmann
“Wake me up, when September ends?”
“It won’t be that long.”
“See you in September?”
“Surely, they’ll lift restrictions before then.”
“You’re the one who keeps saying no.”
“Just for now, Romeo. I won’t risk Nurse’s health.”
“Tybalt’s been talking to you.”
“My brother offers good council. I trust him, on my life!”
“Out out damned pox!! Live now, for tomorrow we die!”
“We’ll wear masks, sanitize with donkey water, maintain a distance the height of two clowns, one atop the other. Mercutio and I are going–last chance, Juliet.”
“Wake me up when it’s all over.”
Where We Go by Michelle Wright
Maybe I was ten; you were thirteen
From different neighborhoods, passing by in between
Perhaps I saw you there, in downtown Detroit
I would not know you until the time was right
You graduated in 2003
While I was in 7th grade learning poetry
You took off for new endeavors, feeling free
I was trying to learn who I’d want to be
Fifteen years later in Houghton’s coffee shop
After many a challenge and stop
We said hello
We learned of where we’d like to go
It didn’t take long to know
That we wanted to go there together
Publisher’s note: Congratulations to local writers, Michelle Wright and Zachary Blessing who got engaged this week, mid-Pandemic. Talk about going where the prompt leads. Many happy years to the couple!
The Answer by Wallie and Friend
The note was carefully written, the bottle was firmly corked, and Andrea looked out over the blue water. The water was still and so clear that she felt she could see the bottom.
Whispering a prayer, she let the bottle go.
It sank, the little weight at its base carrying it straight to the sea floor.
Andrea was turning to go when she heard a soft ripple. She saw no one, but reached out and took the small box in her hand. It, too, was carefully sealed.
She opened it and couldn’t help smiling when she saw her answer.
Distance Dating by Miriam Hurdle
Felix went from London to Hong Kong for a summer vocal recital. His mom took him to London when he was thirteen after his dad passed away. A friend connected him with Shirley to be his accompanist. He had one week to practice. They practiced every day at her house and had lunch afterward.
Felix was excited about the success of the performance and signed up to return the next year. The two corresponded after Felix returned to London. The engagement took place in spring the following year and the wedding bell rang in summer instead of singing performance.
Terminal by Joanne Fisher
“I don’t feel like we’re really communicating at the moment.” I said to her, as we lay beside one another.
“There’s nothing to say.” She replied.
“We need to talk this out.” I insisted. I felt her shrug her shoulders.
“We’re fine.” She said, though the tone of her voice suggested otherwise.
“No we’re not, yet you refuse to talk to me about it.” I told her. She sighed loudly and turned over in bed so she was facing away from me.
We both lay in the same bed together, but I had never felt more distant from her.
Online Eros by Paula Puolakka
Lucretia and Bob had been dating for three years online. Then the pandemic hit, flying became impossible, and everything turned awkward.
“What is love?” Bob began to ask and started avoiding eye contact during their chats, which made Lucretia give him the evil eye.
Soon, Bob started helping out an acquaintance who had lost her job, and Lucretia started mending her heart by reading Giovanni Guareschi’s Don Camillo books.
Everyone’s world was microscopic, Lucretia had to digest the truth from the books, and as she observed her neighbor Sergio mending a fence, she understood, that “online eros” was boring.
Distance Dating by Priorhouse
Still don’t understand your commitment to Pedro – he’s 3,000 miles away.
You see each other twice a year?
Listen Lisa, you might never understand how I approach love. Just thinking of Pedro is like the feeling of when a tooth stops aching. There’s more to love than physical connecting. We discuss art. Stories. We laugh at lines from shows. Tolstoy said, “everything is, everything exists, only because I love”- and Pedro can be here without being here.
Okay, I won’t challenge the love you experience – but speaking of toothaches, think I need to see the dentist about this molar.
Agony of Unsurety by Kerry E.B. Black
It came with a ping that set my heart to giddy bouncing – a text message. From him. My fingers fumbled to push ‘read,’ but I hesitated. For an eternity of minutes, I pondered what he might have written, simultaneously imagining in this new beginning a lifetime – and an abrupt end.
With a shake of my head, I pushed aside foolishness. “A coward dies a thousand deaths.” I would be brave. Brazen even, perhaps?
Create a fresco homage to a beauty I no longer felt from the wet plaster of my being.
After all, he wrote.
Fog, Unbreachable by Anne Goodwin
Through the fog, he reached for me. Fingertips inches from my nose. My hands, crossed against my chest, couldn’t answer his. Fossilized, locking me in.
The tea he brought turned cold on the bedside table. The kitsch mug that held it, gifted from my dearest friend. My mind snagged on riddles: Are jokes funny? Why is the present she gave me present when she is past?
I pondered keys, bolts and doorknobs. I thought of prisons, cages, bars. Of hermits, bricked-in anchoresses. Of how I didn’t want to hurt my husband, yet hurt him a million times a day.
Adjustments by JulesPaige
Was it doomed to fail? A romance made of convenience. That blind date set up to ease the pangs of a break up on both sides of the fence? He went into service. So she became a letter writer. But they were distant in more ways than just miles. Their politics and philosophies didn’t mesh either. Experience is a learning tool. No one really is the outright fool, as long as they see the light.
He ended up going back to the gal he left, once stateside. She found someone new to love too. Who says love is blind?
PART II (10-minute read)
Better with Distance by Michelle Wright
Victoria and John’s romantic relationship began at a distance. John had moved to Florida after graduating high school. He and Victoria reconnected via Facebook after Victoria’s divorce. Victoria confided in John. They had video chats after every long work day. It wasn’t a difficult decision for Victoria to move to Florida. She got a job she loved and started taking a dance class.
Victoria playfully messaged John, “Do you want to video chat?”
John rolled his eyes, annoyed with her as she sat next to him on the couch.
Moving to a new Florida residence was much more difficult.
I Can’t See You, Love by Ritu Bhathal
“But I miss you, Boo Boo. I can’t help it.” Hari could hear Jeena’s pout down the phone.
“I know, baby, but what can we do? This lockdown is hard on everyone.”
“Yes, but they weren’t meant to be getting married in June and had to cancel. It’s not fair. My beautiful outfit, the reception, the cake… all cancelled!”
He was glad she couldn’t see him rolling his eyes. The wedding plans had been off the scale… maybe it was a good thing, this lockdown. He’d definitely had more time to think.
Maybe Jeena wasn’t the one for him…
Can Love Perish Between the First and Second Slice of Toast? by Anne Goodwin
If she’d noticed him drifting, she would’ve dismissed it. Put it down to the miles of motorway between them, the phone calls snatched between her assignments, lectures and placements; his grappling with ironing white shirts for his first grown-up job. Soon, if she got the job, they’d share a house together: a slate-roofed cottage on a dirt track, a couple of Labradors to fill the gap before babies. On summer evenings they’d walk the dogs after work, up to the fells or down to the shore. She’d overlooked his politics, but couldn’t discount his disparagement of her interview attire.
Long Distance Dating by Floridaborne
Stereotypes: The scourge of human assumption. Once, “assumption” saved a cave dweller’s life. No one cared if that rustling in the trees turned out to be the wind. You were still alive.
A naïve young woman of eighteen married an American using a mail-order dating service, believing it led to a better life. He thought “Oriental” women would follow a man’s orders.
After a year of marriage, and a child, she understood the truth. He wanted a slave, not a wife.
She said, “It was like having two children. Never again!”
She now has a black belt in Karate.
The Pitfalls of “Love” by John Lane
After thirty years of her husband impersonating a couch potato, Mabel wanted something different. She logged onto the *Single Seniors* dating site as a new member, and within minutes, she met *Chad*.
She fell in love with his words, “fate” and “destiny”.
*Chad* asked for her personal email for “privacy”.
Within three weeks, *Chad* claimed he wanted to see her. Then, he claimed his wallet fell overboard as he was going to visit her. Mabel sent her life savings. $50,000.
*Chad* never contacted her again. Months later, the Ugandan police called. *Chad* was a teenage scammer named Aziz Mbire.
The Conscientious Waiter and the Nasty Customers by Papershots
“Are you two together?” the waiter asked, determined to screen Him from Her with his portable transparent plastic wall.
“We’ll see after tonight.” She winked.
Impassive, the waiter inserted the freshly sanitized wall to split the table in two, then joked, “Everybody has the right to date. Still, I’m thinking this plastic wall won’t be the only thing separating the two of you tonight.”
He reacted, but then sat down. She pulled down her mask to get a sip of wine. They had nothing in common, true; except for the unpleasant remarks they left on the portable plastic wall.
A Punch to the Heart by Dave Madden
“I can’t express how important this is for me,” Chuck told his girlfriend of over a year for the hundredth time, but it wasn’t getting through.
Tiffany repeated the same questions, “But why all the way to Thailand? And why does it have to be for an entire year?”
Explaining that it was the best training in the world and they don’t allow outsiders in for less than a year was futile.
“We can FaceTime every day,” Chuck reminded her.
After several months of being an ocean apart, Tiffany’s feelings couldn’t be validated virtually, and she broke things off.
The Great Divide by Keith Burdon
“This is goodbye…”
Alex read the same three words again, was it for the fiftieth time? The hundredth? He couldn’t remember.
Dumped by email, he was alternating between sadness and anger, and sometimes what felt like a combination of the two. Sanger perhaps?
Emma had convinced him that they could make their relationship work, Alex hadn’t been so sure, he was going to be away for some time. Six months later and she was gone.
Furthermore, there was no chance of a rebound here either, as it was just him on the space station. Sometimes, being an astronaut sucked.
Distance by Joanne Fisher
Lena had decided to work in the new colony in Proxima Centauri b, but she had to leave her girlfriend behind. The new Quantum Drive had got Lena there surprisingly quickly: she was now 4.244 light years away. Thanks to the Pulse Generator, which sent communications through an artificially constructed wormhole, messages to Earth only took a few days rather than four years, which made it possible for Ani and her to still talk. Whenever Ani messaged, she looked so much older now. Lena was never going back to Earth. She wondered how long it could now last between them.
How Much is That Love in the Window? Chelsea Owens
One inch of glass was all that stood between them. She’d measured, knuckling her finger and squinting with her face against the cold, cold window. Still, one inch between her and her Tomàs meant little.
Some days -well, nights, really- she’d leaned a sunken cheek against her side and felt those serious, warm lips from his side. Her weak heart fluttered.
“Come away, child,” they told her; dragged her.
Stretching, grasping; she used what little strength she could muster. To stay. To keep watching.
To keep loving Tomàs, the paper boy on the corner who never turned her way.
Last Flight by Ann Edall-Robson
Three years of contributing to the profit margins of the airlines while they juggled their time to be together. The plane was late. The waiting was always worth the butterflies in her stomach. He did that to her every time she saw him. Finally, he was here. Waiting for his luggage, he wrapped his arms around her. Savouring the moment, she smiled. Hand in hand they left the terminal. Catching up since their last telephone call. That’s how they started each day. How was she to know this would be the last flight of their long-distance love affair?
Letters from Gallipoli by Doug Jacquier
I’m writing this from the ship that’s taking us to some beach. The brass say it should be a walk in the park and that Johnny Turk will turn tail at the first sign of gunfire.
Every day I think about when we went to the beach with our picnic and the cordial bottle leaked and soaked all through our sandwiches. We laughed all the way home and that was the day I knew I wanted to be with you forever.
I’ll be home soon, so start thinking about our wedding.
Love and kisses
1944 by Sascha Darlington
The pads of our fingers touch. Our eyes meet. “Moonlight Serenade” sounds behind us.
Every day since he’s been gone, I feel his fingertips on mine, the echo of music, the owls calling in the holler.
Letters come infrequently. Words scratched out by someone witnessing our awkward courting dance.
When I close my eyes, I can feel his warm breath on my cheek.
Roy, 4F on account of his hearing, pursues me. I try, kindly, to withdraw.
The winter’s harsh. Telegrams daily. I watch his house, praying none arrive.
“When bluebells bloom, I’ll be home to you.”
Retrospect by Colleen M. Chesebro
I have no tears left to shed. Yesterday, Pa and I’d buried Jeremy at the edge of the cemetery where the tallest trees grew.
After a month in country, an enemy bullet had found its mark. Now, all that remained of our love was the box of letters he’d written to me from Iraq.
Darkness hovers. Thunder growls, a storm ready to erupt. Yet, a feeling of warmth comforts me. I know he is near. Deep within, the first faint flutter of life stirs—Jeremy’s baby, a life reborn.
the sun plays
hide and seek between
the storm clouds
Captivity by Charli Mills
They captured her in the spring of 1904. Her long stride couldn’t save her, though she fled across the high desert basin, nostrils flared, mouth dry, making for a canyon where she could drink from the creek. What she didn’t know is that they set a trap, blocking her exit. Exhausted, she relented and followed the men into a captivity of fences.
He visited her often, staying back at a distance, the one true love of her life.
“Hey Cap, there’s that stallion again.” The young man who rode her back pointed.
She whinnied and pranced, thirsting for love.
Separated By A Common Confection by Geoff Le Pard
‘What was your first date, Logan?’
‘Karen Doubleknees. We met in holiday. She lived in Skegness. We were sixteen.’
‘500 miles from Chez Logan, yes.’
‘It’s not hard Morgan. We used the phone.’
‘That’s not a date. You have to stare into each other’s eyes, hold hands…’
‘We shared a bar of chocolate, we read our poetry and…’
‘How do you share chocolate over the phone?’
‘She sent me half in the post. We played the same single at the same time.’
‘I suppose. It didn’t last.’
‘The chocolate. It wasn’t Cadbury’s.’
Love in the Narrows by Bill Engleson
It was one of those bright summer days. You know the kind, sun blasting like a heat lamp, smacking you smartly with fire.
The ferry was entering the Pass, I remember that. Back then I travelled a ton, yoyoing between the Island and the Mainland.
I was soaking up rays on the bow of the deck when I glimpsed her; wind flipping her hair, wildly whipping her face.
She was one deck up, looking out over the water.
Wasn’t seeing me, I could tell.
Hadn’t seen her in twenty-five years.
Likely wouldn’t see her again.
I shoulda said hello.
Distance/Time = Speed by D. Avery
“Distance, okay, and dates, that’s time… this’s a classic rate problem.”
“Speedy reaction, Kid. Don’t think thet’s whut Shorty meant though. Dates, not rates.”
“Alright, but work with me Pal. Could be long ago an’ far way?”
“Thet could fit, I reckon.”
“So, could write a fairy tale?”
“Yep. Could. Long’s it’s ‘bout some sort a lovin’ situation, in 99 words.”
“Once upon a time… (that’s the date)”
“Still don’t think thet’s whut she meant, Kid…”
“In a land far away… (a distant land)… they lived happily ever after.”
“Who cares? They’re happy.”