Describe your relationship with your phone. Is it your lifeline, a buzzing nuisance, or something in between?
I was about thirteen then. I was grounded with no telephone privileges and with every phone call meant for me, the servants were ordered to say I wasn’t home. It didn’t matter who called. I was not allowed to use the telephone at all.
It was Sunday when I finally stepped out the door and walked the twenty steps that would take me to my grandmother’s house and I remember how my aunt looked up from the newspaper she was reading and said, “why weren’t you at the funeral?”
“Your friend Molly’s mother’s funeral,” my aunt said incredulously as she thrust the newspaper she had been reading towards me. “It’s all over the news. You mean you didn’t know?”
Molly was my best friend, and sometimes my only friend. Her parents were separated but they often still got together to talk about their five children, all living with her while her husband had moved on with his mistress.
It was during one of these meetings when it happened.
She’d been thrown off the motorcycle she rode as his passenger and right onto the path of an eighteen-wheeler. It was a closed casket, my aunt said. Isn’t that just horrible?
“When was the funeral?” I asked. I still remember how cold I felt, how empty it was to be inside of myself at that moment. Hollowed out.
That afternoon, with my telephone privileges back, I called Molly and apologized as profusely as I could.
“You were the only one who wasn’t there,” she said. “You’re supposed to be my best friend, and you weren’t there.”
When I told my mother what had happened, she simply shrugged and said it was my fault for being grounded. She had just awoken that afternoon after spending all night at the casino and all day the next day sleeping in. There must have been other things more important to her.
But what was done was done. You’re supposed to be my best friend, and you weren’t there.
At my grandmother’s house, on the patio, the aunts and uncles gathered, talking about what the woman’s remains must have looked like, how awful it must have been, and how, after all was said and done, she raised pigs for a living.
Looking back now, I often wonder whether my sometimes unhealthy obsession with my smart phone these days can be traced to that moment, when a simple phone call could have made all the difference to a friend.
It would have made a difference to me.