It is the feel of your breath, the sound of it. That sixth sense, the feeling that is on the verge of reality and the imagined. The feel of someone’s spirit. Perhaps, scientifically, there is truth in this feeling; perhaps our bodies are more sensitive than we know, being able to feel the other person’s body heat even though they’re at the end of the table. Perhaps our bodies can feel the minute vibrations of the ground when they shift in their seat, our skins sense the movement of the air when they flick their fringes. Perhaps our inner eats detect their heartbeats, while we remain unaware.
Presence is touch, too, the feeling of your warm hands against my cold fingers, the counting of layers between us; air, shirt skin. The sturdiness of your shoulders. The warmth of your hugs. It is the scent of you that lingers, personal perfume, orange scented body foam.
Presence is not flaky wifi connections, seeing you through screens, wires, deep sea cables. Your voice slightly distorted, accented as you are literally in a different country, a different space, a different people and cultures. The layers between us; air, glass, camera, radiowaves, satellites, seas, screens. Presence is not being unable to tell when the other is going to speak, our lilted conversations, our constant unintentional interruptions, even though we can technically hear and see each other (will perhaps technology one day be able to mitigate this? will I be able to hear you breathe?). It is not the amplification of the sounds of my fan, nor the highway, the awkwardness of speaking when I am out, trying not to be conscious, not having a face to focus on, talk to, as we share intimate conversations and I imagine that everyone else is listening in (a spot light effect? But in truth I have eavesdropped on other conversations. Why is it ok to have intimate conversations in public spaces with a friend but no ok to do it mediated via technology? Isn’t it better actually; since the public would only have half the conversation and will not know all the details?).
Presence is not multitasking, because I don’t have your entire being to focus on. There are no awkward silences with presence around. There is no distraction, no feeling of jadedness and not wanting to talk. Presence is precious. It is equally tiring to have you, presence, around, and also not. Presence, your absence and hereness is equally nice and not.
‘Sometimes I’m happy when (you’re) gone, but I’m always happy when (you) return’ – Audrey Niffenegger