Matthew Turner is a writer living in London. He studied at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL where he graduated with distinction in thesis and design, as well as winning The Bartlett School of Architecture writing prize. He currently teaches at Chelsea College of Arts and is assistant editor of LOBBY magazine while also writing for various other publications.

NEMO, Part 1
by Matthew Turner

The dating app ‘A.N.Other’ had been well received in London but no one could have predicted the raging success of its new manifestation: ‘Nemo’. It was the loss adjuster of dating apps, and people weren’t even aware that it was Latin for 'Nobody'.

The application worked like any other dating website. Users swiped through a series of profiles  and their associated portraits, eventually selecting someone for further interaction based on shared interests and attraction to inanimate objects

We now know that ‘Nemo’ differed slightly in that it asked users to enter their current address —which would remain confidential until the point of a match being made between two people— and more curiously, and this is what marked it out from its competitors, the user’s dream address and location. The app essentially sexually matched people based on whether they could afford their dream flat or house together. In later versions of ‘Nemo’ this free market matchmaking was not confined to two people; three or four partners could be introduced in order to pool enough wealth, initiating a new bohemian promiscuity— a free love based on a love of the free market.

By doing this, ‘Nemo’ partly bypassed the initial courtship by basing the users’ matchability on their current economic and presumed future economic standing. It was convenience which made ‘Nemo’ so popular, and using conveniently matched people under a smoke screen of dating, love and sex it started to ameliorate London’s mountainous rent and mortgage prices.

I glance to my right. Reflected in my periphery he nearly takes the end seat but some kind of animal intuition takes hold, and suddenly, he moves to squash between two people. Closing Pevsner’s guide to the buildings of London, I notice grease from a recently sleeping head has left an oval patch on the window that separates the carriages; the fat from the scalp is wormed in rough broken circles with threads and impressions of hair, all of which have been smeared slightly. It makes me think about the geography above and similar geometries form in my head.

Something about him fascinated me. Glances are often considered insubstantial footnotes to concentrated vision, but often, the most important moments of our lives are triggered by something that takes place in the time of the glance. When we’re in the glance we are outside of ourselves, we are barely even conscious of what we are seeing, and our bodies react to things before we are conscious of that reaction. Our body and vision, for a brief moment, are outside of the usual circular feedback loop of cause and effect; we react before really being aware of the cause. We become an island within the time of the glance, autonomous from our usual modes of perception.

The underground from White City sweeps clockwise to Great Portland Street after which it continues its circular trajectory around London, finishing its perambulation at Edgware Road. After Latimer Road the line roughly follows the curve of the Westway that eventually merges with other roads that encircle London— like forms developing in a petri dish.

I look over to catch his eye. Instead of waiting for a response, I look immediately at his reflection in the glass to see if he had moved his eyes in the direction of mine. I can’t  see; the tube map at the top of the window had cut out his reflected face, and the rest of his body had been warped and stretched as it was pushed into the convex curve of the window. We match on ‘Nemo’ as the train leaves White City, and the filigree network of his well-cut nylon suit trousers lock together slightly, before disengaging and scraping against each other as he crosses his legs to turn away from me; making it clear that the encroachment of my reflected eyes into his personal space is not appreciated.

As the train stops at Ladbroke Grove the pressure shifts in the carriage and the fabric on the empty seat rises and falls; inhaling and exhaling like lungs. There is a similar pressure change at Baker Street when the carriage becomes full. The heat and pressure of the bodies starts to rise, but then the train slows as it approaches the next station and the breaking creates a weightless inertia, freeing me from the surrounding bodies. In a reversal of the usual gravitational laws, the wall of the carriage becomes more supportive than the floor and I inhabit a weightless space— a bodily glance— for a fraction of a second, before the crowds are brought back with a powerful jolt, and the train doors release.

I catch a few glimpses of him through the bodies that flood onto the platform outside, frozen fragments of his different gestures, like seeing a body in flashing strobe lights. He has a faint white birthmark behind his ear, which is reflected over a vein like an Inkblot test. I had seen other people with such birthmarks that were devoid of pigment, it struck me as odd that the body could contain such a visible foreign element within its flesh; something intimate, yet so genetically distant from it.

To be continued...

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