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Turning Into You

February 5, 2015

The alarm is buzzing and humming and dancing on my bedside table. I grab it and smother it under my body, snatching a few more moments of sleep from its incessant tune.

 

Blessed silence. My cold phone nestled against my skin begins to warm.

 

The alarm begins again in earnest 8 minutes later. I sigh at its bright face and turn down the light on the screen to a low setting so I can jump on Facebook. It’s how I start my day; I like to see what has happened, if anything has happened over night. It’s how I tell what the weather is like, if awards celebrating more rich white men have been announced, if a new Beyoncé record dropped, if a friend enjoyed another friend at dinner, if another friend unexpectedly died. Maybe a photo of what they ate for dinner, what their last words were, if my cousin is engaged.

 

I drag my body out of bed. My bones feel more and more like a prison every day.

I walk to the bathroom and as I sit on the toilet, I scroll through pictures on Instagram, the same pictures that I have just looked at on Facebook, but no matter. I drop the phone on the sink and slip into the shower. I would probably bring my little metal friend in with me, but I worry for her health.

 

I grab the phone as I get out of the shower and check the weather and dress accordingly. Walking out of the front door, my silver friend clutched in my palm, my earbuds inserted firmly with a preplanned playlist as I walk to work. This is how I begin. This is how I greet the day. I greet my little metal box, my window into the world. My curated recipe of friends and news and pages I like. If someone disagrees with me or makes me uncomfortable, I unfollow them. I don't unfriend. That would be mean.That might mean an explanation.

 

On the train to work, a tin can on tracks warmed by hundreds of bodies, I do not make eye contact. You do not want to make eye contact with the people who stand too close to you on the train, they may be inspired to speak to you and then you might have to find the words to speak back. It isn’t too much of a concern on my train ride into work. Everyone has their square friends cradled in their hands, videos playing, Facebooks scrolling, mind numbing embraced even more firmly when the trains stop and start and announcements let us know that a train door is stuck, someone is ill, someone has thrown themselves on the tracks, there will be a short delay and we apologize for this inconvenience. No one moves. No one acknowledges the announcement. Not even a sigh. Can we even hear it over the constant stream and nonsense being consumed from our glass and metal buddies? You could be sitting next to your best friend, your lover and not even know it.

 

The vertebrae in my back creak as I stand. One hundred pops and starts, like an unoiled machine. The hunched over position, the looking-at-our-phones-in-our-hands position, seems to be the one that feels the most protected. We hunch over and protect our soft spots, our necks, our stomachs, our hearts. Don’t think, don’t breathe; click another video before you have an original thought. Top Ten Lists! You'll Never Believe Lists! This May Be True Lists!

 

Walking to work, I have to dodge the people on the street texting and watching videos. My feet feel like lead, heavy and square; my toes feel fused together in a welding experiment gone awry.

 

My breath is shallow and short and I hold it when I dart around a large man in a suit, smirking into his phone, lifting it to his ear and sneering at the person on the other side. His online order has been delayed and it is a Tragedy. The crowd flows around him, eyes straight ahead or straight down below.  The smoke from a cigarette smoker standing at the edge of my office building envelopes the people walking in the revolving door and no one coughs. No one is breathing, or blinking, we push forward. We bump into each other, but stress is only contagious on social media and we do not see each other, we do not nod, we do not excuse ourselves and our bodies bumble together. We are not of our body. We are of our hive mind, our fingers as they type out short daily missives and hope for validation, our brains no longer examine thoughts in depth, we only have 180 characters, we only respond to likes.

 

I clutch my phone, it is the thing that means I am alive. You do not hear me when I stand before you, but you will read my message on your wall. And smile. Or think of a smile. Or maybe indulge me with an emoticon. My thumbs search and away and worry over the refresh button.

 

I scratch my head in the elevator and as I look at my hand as I pull it away from my skull. Little gray shavings, like dandruff, but hard. It scratches against my cold skin. The same color as my little smart phone. My eyes widen suddenly as I notice my cold finger tips. The same color gray is filling my hands like lead in a mold. People, square in their coats, blank faces, gray faces, push out of the elevator and onto the office floor. I'm left alone, frozen. The doors close.

 

(Inspiration: Gchat conversation with Pagel & I'm Slowly Turning Into You, White Stripes)

 

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