Mervin’s tubby, let’s be honest. In a nice, round way. Not obese by any means, just born in one of nature’s spherically-inclined body shapes.
Probably a nerd, or a geek, or both – a gerd? a neek? – he’s dressed entirely in black. – and black hair frames his tired, pale face. Unruly black hair, but not unkempt.
He’s the kind of person you imagine sitting up all night, alone, playing computer games. Drinking diet Coke and eating pizza.
Merv’s a salesman. He’s sitting with a customer, a woman, at a desk. In a shop that sells washing machines and televisions, refrigerators and computers. One knee is jigging up and down.
Waiting for paperwork to spew from a nearby printer the two start talking – and not about computers.
It’s the mention of blogs that does it. Seems the two of them have a blog in common, one that’s all about four wheel drives – like Land Rovers.
The Land Rover blogger follows the customer, the salesman follows the Land Rover blogger.
It’s odd how non-existent lines intersect in that ethereal universe. Odder still how they intersect on earth. In a shop. In the January sales.
He’s quite young, Mervin.
The words come tumbling out, somehow. Anyhow.
Does he know he’s doing it? Giving away his life story? Revealing it in bite-sized instalments, in between the talk of gigabytes and clouds, touch-screens, tiles and desktops?
Mervin’s split up from his partner, but sees his daughter now and again. She comes to stay. He sets her gadgets to squeal if she leaves them switched on – as, of course, she does.
He doesn’t seem bitter, or angry – not even resigned. Perhaps he’s gone beyond that – perhaps now’s the new normal. He’s just grateful to have a job, a place to live – and a four wheel drive.
Friends and relatives tell him it’s a waste of money. But as he talks about his four by four his face lights up. Animated at last, he looks the customer right in the eye, for the first time.
‘I don’t get on with my dad,’ he says, ‘never have. But now we spend a day a month together.’
They share a passion for the gas-guzzling beast. They drive on the green roads, tinker with the engine. They’re dad and son together, twelve days a year.
Twelve days more than they were before the four-by-four.
The paper’s spewed out of the printer, at last. The customer leaves for the sales desk and the two shake hands, glad to have met.
Knowing there’s a link there, in the ether.
Knowing they’d never have had a connection in ‘real’ life.
Both digital immigrants. Still learning how this brave new world does magic.