An Open Letter To Friends Who Can't Look Up From Their Phones

My Friends,

I hope this old-fashioned message finds you all well. I hope you’re not reading this while ignoring something far more important taking place in your reality. I doubt you are; my words aren’t worthy of such an honor. Or perhaps you actually are, in which case let me urge you to look away and come back to this epistle when your attentions are no longer required in the true world, lest you find yourself the victim of utmost irony. Yes, you’ve guessed what troubles me, haven’t you?

Let me remind you of our last meeting. We went out for breakfast or lunch or dinner or coffee, it’s not important what. You are many people and yet you are all the same single entity and so I don’t remember our encounter that well. Not that your company was particularly memorable, if you will excuse my rudeness. I’m sure you’re an excellent conversationalist when you want to be, but all I remember is the top of your head as it bent over a glowing screen. The heads changed with every occasion. Some were black and brown and blonde while others were streaked with dye. Some of you had dry scalp. Others had literal oil beds up there. 

Once again, I’m sorry to be crude. I’m a little upset, you see; I cracked a joke that day. Just before the punchline, the phone next to your hand came to life with a notification and you snapped your neck down to check as I spoke. When I ended my piece, your smile wasn’t for me, but for the unseen intruder. (You might argue that my joke was pathetic. But I still think I’m far funnier than that goddamn emoji or LINE sticker you’ve already seen five hundred million times).

Your replies dropped down the evolutionary ladder as the meeting stretched on. “What do you think?” and “I can’t say I agree” and “That’s certainly something to think about” became “huh” and “okay” and “right”. I felt disgusted at myself for being so monotonous, so insignificant, so undeserving of your gaze for anything more than mere seconds.

With time, the anger I directed at myself came to settle on you. 

“You should have told me if you were busy,” I remarked during our last meeting, long after I’d forgotten the color of your eyes. “We could have rescheduled.”

“Oh, no, don’t worry,” you assured me, looking up to flash a quick smile (no, I didn’t get the eye color before you bowed your head again). “This isn’t anything important."

I let silence serve as my answer but you were so busy tapping out a rapid essay to respond to something unimportant that you completely missed the meaning of those words. 

I retreated. We spent the meal in mostly silence after that; you tickling that black screen with your fingers while it shuddered in pleasure and spat light and me swirling a fork around in my food but without an appetite. Why don’t you touch me like that? I could imagine my own silenced phone wailing from the depths of my bag. 

The next time you asked to meet, I refused. A while later, you tried again. I said no once more. Time passed and now, we don’t really speak anymore. I somehow don’t feel as if I’ve experienced a loss. In fact, I found it pleasant to actually be able to complete my sentences without throwing fearful glances at the tiny thing you can’t wait to devour with your hands yet again. 

But I can’t live forever like this. What if I become just as self-centered as you?

I write my letter to search for a friend. I look for someone who might value my presence enough to slip away their phone when I sit before them, gaze into my face with expectance, and for a few short minutes await no one’s answers but my own. I promise, I’ll do my best to not disappoint. And of course, I’ll always do the same for you. 

I will sign off this letter before I become too tedious.  I am far too expectant, I know. I am avaricious, I know. I am an anachronism, I know. Even so, I plead with you to listen, to look at me, to acknowledge that I live, and deserve better and desire your company more than that twisted contraption of metal and glass ever could.

What do you even have to give? you might scoff. I answer you now:

All of myself.

With that, I end this letter and eagerly look forward to your answer.

I remain to be…

Always Yours. 

 

Via the author's collection     

21, INFJ, and called Hani for short, Sahana is an aspiring investigative journalist and writer studying at Waseda University. She's Indian and always happy to have a long conversation in English, Tamil and Japanese, or a short chat in Hindi. Apart from overshooting the word count on any piece of writing she's assigned and causing readers to fight through the paragraph-long sentences in her articles, Sahana loves reading, film photography, martial arts, writing fiction, debating, randomly vanishing on unplanned hikes, listening to music and planning day trips. When she's not scribbling away, you'll find her searching Tokyo for the perfect cup of coffee, haunting the darkest part of a misted forest removed from humanity, or lost on the University campus and imploring seniors to decipher kanji for her. The average person has a 9/10 chance of getting into an argument with her.

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