Right after his phone broke up with him Mark recalled all the signs he had missed. He had felt it distant, lately, as if every notification came with a sigh, every calendar input with an extra turn of the little circle, every reaction to the ON button a little off. He had looked down for his magazine to check if it was time for bed, but all the phone had said was “It’s over between us.” And in his futile search for explanations he realized he should’ve seen it. He remembered that day when it had refused to be unlocked. Or the morning he woke up uncharged, completely disregarding its plugged battery. Oh he should’ve seen it.
Was there anything he could do to fix this? He acknowledged it. He had been distant. No surprise there. Roaming while camping, keeping it in his pocket while having dinner, reading a book in the bathroom -a fucking book! Always with the perfect excuse. Zero photos of the Steely Dan tribute concert: he had low battery. Zero emojis in a two-hour span: He was driving. He could’ve taken a couple snaps on airplane mode, he could’ve at least checked it for notifications during the boring stretches of the highway, but no, he chose to keep it in his back pocket like another cheap leather wallet. He was not going to blame this one on the manufacturer. It was not another LG 5S story. This one was on him.
“Please don’t do this to me…” he said, watching his own reflection on its dark screen. “I’m sorry!” Had he really changed that much since they first met at the Verizon store months ago? He was there looking for another LG, hell, even a Samsung, something casual he could use for a couple of months. He just wanted to have fun. But as he browsed, the clerk (his name was Dan, as he would learn later when they had returned weeks later to thank him again) pointed it out from the other corner of the store. “That one would be perfect for you.” The first thing Mark noticed was its cute silver-coated power button, curiously placed in its back, and not at the side like the ordinary 5S. He greeted it with a gentle swipe and with its first start screen animation he was taken. Oh it was so beautiful, with its perfect color display with popping reds and that graceful silver chrome finish at the bottom of the screen. He felt like a boy watching his prom date descending the stairs. The rest was a formality. Mark asked some follow-up questions, tried to keep casual when his heart was racing. He had it unpackaged and on in minutes. They didn’t even reach the car. Hell, they almost didn’t make it to the parking lot! He had thrown the packaging with the receipt in the ashtray, right outside the store, the ultimate promise of a serious commitment. They spent an hour just getting to know each other right there, in the parking lot of a Verizon store. Their first date.
Could he try to be that person again? He pleaded and cried, he tried to restart it, but it kept repeating and repeating the same black home screen with those words. No chance to argue. No chance to talk. At least tell me why, burn my pocket, give me the stuck-at-home-screen treatment, anything else but that horrible matrix-green Courier font bullshit of “It’s over between us.” Fuck you. Fuck! You! At least have the decency of lying to me. At least give me the “it’s not you it’s my operating system” shit. It would be at least something, a lie as a mantra he could have repeated to himself that night to try to get some sleep.
The darkness of his screenless night kept bringing back memories of their displays of intimacy. Like when he changed the PIN lock to a thumb recognition. The phone enjoyed that intensely, shaking mildly after the three seconds of contact, opening up its home screen like a flower, giving in to that same thumb now slowly exploring the pages of the apps menu, going back, fidgeting with its widgets until it would let him know with a gentle vibration exactly how far he could go. As the screen would gradually warm up he would slide down the notification panel, gently revealing its bare settings, and it would vigorously close its idle apps, and it would dim its brightness, and…
He didn’t sleep at all that night.
Early morning he got out of bed with a fake sense of hope and promised it he’d do anything. He started by asking his buddies in the customer support forum. At first he went into general discussion, easing back in, quoting the good old times. They greeted him kindly and posted fun memes. They knew he only came when there were problems in paradise, so their enthusiasm was a little hurtful. He described it carefully, quoted the words, noted the black screen, even gave them some intimate details of things they had done on their last day together. XxcrushbushxX asked for pictures, fucking creep.
“Have you tried a reset?” he had asked. Of course he had tried a reset. “I meant a hard reset”. Just like that, in italics. A hard reset, was he crazy? Erase what they had built these last eight months together? No. Replace the mother board?! No, he was not about to give it the digital equivalent of a lobotomy (also, it would cost like $280). None of them understood, they never did. He logged out without saying goodbye. He needed professional advice. The phone had no answers for him, and the forums didn’t either. But there was someone who may.
He called the place and set an appointment. They drove to the west side with the radio off, the phone on the passenger seat, its black screen weakened but persistent. He started crying. A few tears first, uncontrollable gasps of air shortly after. “Is this what you want?” he asked. “It’s over between us,” it insisted in a font as small as a whisper. He rolled slowly into the parking lot, trying to gain his composure, parking in the same spot. It had taken him a long time to get to Verizon. Had he prolonged the drive, taking extra turns knowing the chances were slim? Why was he been lost? Was it his sadness? His teary eyes? His lack of access to Google Maps? Probably the latter, but also the sadness.
Dan remembered them, and he was kind, and empathetic, and listened carefully. He listened to him first, and then took it to the back of the room, see what he could do. Mark stood by the door, with his back to all other phones, as if they were also somehow responsible for his pain. After several minutes Dan called him with a sad nod. He didn’t even need to hear it. Dan’s words came with the empathetic meaninglessness of a cancer doctor. “I’ve been trying to get a sense of its issue, and it seems clear to me that it’s best if you both move on.” He was right, and he knew it, and he just needed to hear it from him to realize it was over. Mark asked to see it one more time. “I just want to pick up my SIM and SD cards,” he said. Dan put it on the table and gave them a moment. The phone waited in silence while he carefully reached in and removed them. He held his battery in his hands, feeling its heat one last time. The phone was all dark now, no text. Just the resigned sadness of a mirror that reflects what could have been.
Mark knew what would happen next: they were going to reset it, clean it up, place it back on display. Someone would find it, and it would be good. As he exited the store he turned around one last time to see Dan starting the reset, the phone’s screen lighting up again, fading in his colorful light. He was thankful at their times together, and he smiled at the prospect of his phone’s future happiness.
He got on his car, wiped down his tears, and started the radio. Maybe he’d go home and take a bath. Call the boys, grab a beer. First he could take the long way back, eat at the Chinese place near the Apple store. “What is Apple up to?” he wondered. Maybe he would drop in to take a look. Maybe he could find something he could use for just a couple of months. Something casual, something fun.