Handheld Misery

I’m taking a Food and Life Writing class here in Florence and we get a different idea for a of piece every week. This week, the assignment was: pick something regarding food or table etiquette and write about it. This is what I came up with.

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There’s a flicker of light, an infinitesimal pulsating red dot amongst the chaos of the table. It beckons and keeps its steady rhythm until it gets what it wants. It will slowly keep reappearing, waiting for its chance to be noticed and when it is, the glimmer is silenced and the machine it belongs too sits quiet, still, and blank until it can be thrust into duty once more.

The girl’s shoulders drop as she clicks the Blackberry menu button to see the message that’s just popped up on the main screen. It was received ten minutes ago. She’s frustrated she didn’t notice it sooner – fearful that the sender will think she’s purposefully neglected to answer. Quickly she turns the vibrate setting on and sets it next to her wine glass that’s barely been touched. The boy sitting across from her has one hand resting on his jittery thigh, the other gripping a fork that twirls spaghetti on its four silver prongs, hopelessly.

Tonight was supposed to be better than this. She was supposed to be better than this.

He notices that she’s put the phone down and he relaxes a bit; asking her a few questions, he lets go of some of the initial annoyance to realize she’s potentially interesting. She gets up to take the usual mid-date bathroom run girls like her tend to take and he uses the time to survey the room. It’s a quaint restaurant – brick walls, dimmed lights, cramped tables, wine flowing. It’s so incredibly cozy he has to remind himself he’s not back home in just another Italian restaurant; as if the waiter’s broken English and the unreadable menus weren’t enough…

Each table varies in occupants – a family here, a father-son duet there, a smiling and giggling couple across the room. But despite all the variables, the one constant is that every other duo, trio, quartet, and group in the room lacks that hellish plastic and metal square table fixture that bores through this boy’s self-worth. That beeping, blinking, pulsing contraption that is more of a twenty-first century robotic appendage than a simple means of connecting one individual to another. For everyone else, there’s conversation and awkward pauses – seamless interaction.

Enraged, confused, and slightly heartbroken, the boy leaves money on the table and the girl to return to an empty chair. He leaves with venom coursing through his veins and no knowledge of whether or not that girl’s eyes were blue or green because the only picture of her he’ll ever see is one of her transfixed on that terrible little phone.

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