Tragedy struck: I lost my phone.
This worst of all possible disasters hit me at a terrible time–directly after my first class on a Friday morning. Too late to catch anyone for help in a desperate phone-hunt, since everyone else was in chapel at that point. Too early to just go to bed and cry myself to sleep. After class is a critical moment–I need to send a text immediately after my first class to coordinate lunch. Not that my friend and I don’t meet in the same place at the same time every day, but sending that message is inexplicably reassuring.
You can’t file a missing person report for 24 hours, so I did the next best thing: I searched everywhere. My room. The sidewalk between my room and my class. The car. My jacket pocket. My bag. The fridge. Even the hay piles in the barn. I prayed that it hadn’t been stepped on, run over, or dropped in the toilet. I sent a panicked-mum-style email to the school announcements, describing it in fond detail and promising chocolate as a reward to anyone with information leading to its recovery. When they ran the ad, they forgot to include my statement of affection: “It’s a little damaged, but I love it, and I want it back.”
My life was a veritable hell all day. Anxiety ate at me, reduced my appetite, and impaired my cognitive abilities. I couldn’t focus. I suffered periodic emotional episodes. Without my phone, I was forced to interact. With humans. Face to face.
At lunch, without my phone to occupy me, I was forced to make conversation with the lady cooking my pasta and catch up on life events with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. Walking between classes, even fixing my eyes on a point in the distance didn’t provide the shield my phone would have, and I could not escape waving to friends, smiling at strangers, and greeting acquaintances. To top that off, three times I was actually forced to make eye contact. In class, no welcome buzzing called my attention away from the horrors at hand (the intricacies of compounded interest rates, to be precise). When I noticed a particularly pretty tree, I had no way to snapshot it to appreciate later and instead accepted the sad necessity of pausing then and there to enjoy its beauty in the moment.
I grieved, but I kept on a brave face. I even smiled and acted carefree when people asked whether I’d found my phone yet.
To escape the pain, I engaged in conversations. I listened to people’s stories. I laughed. I noticed for the first time that the squirrels are already hiding acorns under the golden trees, and that the big oak in the swamp is already bare, and that all the wildflowers I waded through a month ago are dead now. Nothing felt as safe without that lump of plastic in my hand; nothing felt as trivial without the glowing screen to compete with it. Without constant updates to pass the dead time between lunch and class, I found myself sitting on the last summer grass and concentrating desperately on the dappled sunlight and the sharp autumn taste of the wind.
All things must end, and I eventually found my phone.
It was in my room, hiding like a pouting child behind a box on my shelf.
A few thrills of relief and delight may have run through me, but I didn’t have time for extensive rejoicing over its return. Life was calling.