A Thursday evening, and I forget my phone. This happens with an erratic frequency these days; I have no idea why. Part of it, I’m sure, is down to the incandescent levels of mental energy I expend trying to get my eight year-old out the door (in this instance, for Brownies –– and in uniform, no less). But that sort of thinking excuses me from the very be-responsible-for-your-own-shit fiction I mean ethic that I wave around like some kind of photocopied, suburban version of Lenin, so I won’t use that. All haranguing should be directed inward. I forget things. My brain works imperfectly. I am getting older. If consciousness is a vast, emerald-green ocean, then evenings, especially, are all about floating beyond the safety buoys, beyond any reasonable depths of planning and coherence, into darker waters. In fact, often I’m so tired that I can’t think what I’m supposed to do next.
The moment I realize that I’ve forgotten my phone is one of both rising and falling panic –– I want my phone but I know I don’t need it. I am meeting a friend for coffee and that friend is not here. Instead, that friend is probably texting the phone I left on the kitchen counter, texting things like I’m running late and doesn’t look like I’m going to make it. Oh well. The phone and texts are beside the point. The plans had been set, a little window of kid-at-Brownies time set aside, in much the same way that I used to make plans in that lifetime –– and yes, it was an entire lifetime, unbathed by iPhone light –– before I was tethered to constant access. Remember that lifetime? Remember that time and then ask yourself: constant access to what?
This is a nice place. I go a little crazy and buy a five-dollar latte. Then I read a newspaper that hasn’t been touched all day. When not serving customers, the baristas are texting furiously.
In the newspaper there are many stories about terrible things and several about very angry people and more than a few about the Winter Olympics (the Frankenstein monster of money and meaninglessness that just won’t die) but the article I read at length is about an anniversary: one hundred years ago approximately one hundred million people died from the Spanish Flu, the viral equivalent of the biggest, blackest monsoon in history, raging mindlessly around the planet. It probably came from China and proliferated with troopships (the Chinese did not fight in the ‘great’ war but we let them dig our trenches). It went everywhere, killing heavily in the middle of the age bracket; in some places, like many villages in Alaska, everyone died.
The coffee house is full of young women. Most of them are obviously students but they look more affluent than any student I remember; they dress like they’re going to an expensive slumber party. They have iPhones and iPads and Macbooks. Some have real notebooks as well, with pencils and everything, but they drift back to the screens pretty quickly.
The latte was delicious, and it was rather pleasant to sit and read the paper. I hope my friend is okay. Time to go get the kid.
I hope everyone is having a good week,
p.s. Don’t forget that it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow.