It behooves me to remember that the purpose of this exercise is just that, exercise. As much as I desire every word to appear in its proper place, contextualized by other beautiful words from which one may exegete meaning, it is becoming clear that I must write, daily, in spite of this aversion to imperfection. With that said, my goals this evening are as follows:
- Finish the brandy
- Finish the bourbon
- Finish the story
My phone has been off for more than a week. The Battery will not hold a charge, not that it matters. No one calls me. Like, no one. It took two days for me to get used to not having that seven inch brick in my bag. Every day I get up and go to work. Immediately after, I come home to sip red wine over a book, most often on my balcony with Miss Mar purring in my lap. Before bed I wash my face with tea tree extract and peppermint, rinse, repeat. As long as I pay my bills on time I don’t have to worry about missed phone calls. There are other things to worry about, though, other reasons to suffer from nomophobia. What if I drive down the coast to visit an old girlfriend and her husband, doze off on the 1 and end up in a ditch? What if I am home alone and hear the front door forced open? What if I wake up and realize it is my mother’s birthday? I spend a lot of time thinking about all the things that could go wrong, enough so that after a week of cellular free living I ordered a new battery online.
I’m at work yesterday and the battery arrives. My anticipation of the numerous electronic expressions of friendship which I just knew would overwhelm my phone was such that I did not bother to turn it on until it was time to leave. Expectedly, there was no evidence of missed calls or voice mail. The sixteen identical text messages were also expected. Daily I receive, within minutes of each other, two texts that read, “Good Morning.” I am so glad that my grandparents are hip. Making the hard left that moves me right onto the 5 North, the monotony of my mergence with a million other misanthropes was magnified by the malleation of my mobile device’s message notifications upon my middle ear.
And then, moments later, there was this: Hey you. If you have received a text, instant, or otherwise electronic message similar in nature then you already know that the closest approximation to a literal translation reads: “I want something from you.” I am not trying to say that wanting something from someone is always wrong, or bad, just that in this case I knew what to expect. Past experience has proven that anyone who picks up a conversation thread that expired eight months ago with a trite, “Hey, you,” is looking for sex, drugs, or a ride to ______. So which was it?
Can I come over, Are you busy, Know where I can get some jack are the three best contenders in my mind for what his next text will read. Instead, the screen lights up with: I’m in town visiting. Oh, are you? What the fuck am I supposed to do with that information? I still don’t know, but I’ll tell you what I did. I invited him over.
When he arrives there is a fog in his eyes. How are you. Well, I’ve been. An awkward silence permeates the chill December air. We both shrug our shoulders and I invite him inside. Around my roommates he is more relaxed, the company a buffer between us and the past. Introductions made, not knowing what to do with our mouths or our hands, we step outside for a cigarette. Somehow, we chance upon the topic of obsessions. Happiness is a choice, I say. He differs. Happiness is the conscious mind focusing energy into positive outcomes. An hour of discussion brings us to the conclusion that, in essence, we mean the same thing, but, in reality, we are both hungry for Mexican food. He pays. There is no offer, no empty exchange of plastic gestures, it just happens that way.
Back at the house, I offer him a syrah. Again he chooses to be contrary: I don’t drink anymore. As that has never been a place worth exploring for me, I pour myself a third glass. The conversation reels around a muddied if not distant past while he reaches into his backpack and pulls out an aluminum sheet. Ok, so my original premise was far from naive. My room fills with a sweet and subtle aroma through which our eyes refuse to meet. We continue to unravel the secrets of the universe while pointedly avoiding the elephant in the room. The hour grows late, but I am still talking. His previous garrulousness has been replaced with a sullen set to the brow. Increasingly it feels as if the pressure is on me. With baited breath the world waits while my mind races to discover the words which will allow me to break this spell. Inhale, I have said nothing. Exhale, there is nothing to be said.
Again the mild chill of a California winter writhes its way between my bones as I find myself standing on a curb to say goodbye. We Angelinos have always known that when it comes to bidding farewell, you take the high-ground any way you can.