While my co-passenger ate a white-bread sandwich, watched a movie on his phone, went on to play tennis on said phone, took a nap, read the instructions on the flight’s barf-bag, and performed an act of purification by vigorously rubbing his phone on either side of his chest, I sat staring into the existential paleness of my laptop. In between his very active life, he’d look at me, my (blank) laptop screen, me, and my still very blank, very snowed-on screen. Concerned.
Welcome to my version of airsickness.
I wasn’t so much bothered about being unable to write, a commonplace ceremony now—or seeing the look of concern, which I deftly dealt with through my highly sociable nature: typing in my first sentence, “stop staring at my fucking screen”—but what really bothered me was how much I needed that screen in front of me. We weren’t very different, he and I. We were both judging each other through the same lens of eternity. I, petrified with his lack of time, and he, with the abundance of mine.
The proverbial emperor with no clothes in the 21st century is the man without a screen to stare into.
Yet another dick diatribeing about how our devices are turning us into unlovable mutations spawned in the dilemma between drugs and drudgery?
Just a different creep dedicating his life to point out how most of us carry a screen with us all the time only because we can’t actually carry around a sex toy.
We have all had that feeling of checking WhatsApp after several hours, not seeing a single notification, and wondering, “shit, did I send out a dick pic?”
Your days ricochet between the screen and you, the screen and you. What we have come to call loneliness is the abyss in between. What we once used to know as silence. And that’s really what screens did. They didn’t take away anything as much as substitute one feeling for with another. Self-improvement with self-consciousness. Sense with statistics. Silence with swiping.
Here’s what I used to dread most about flights: throwing up. Now, not having downloaded enough podcasts to last the entire flight is what scares the shit out of me. And, in a way, that makes me want to throw up.
And yet here we are. Partaking in the miracle of the screen. Transferring my hours of agony trying to fill my silence, into the minute you can use to fill yours. I don’t think any of that is going to change. We are too deep into this.
But, still, every time I write—put up this elaborate charade I call writing—I can’t help but hope, partake in the fraught desire, to transfer what I felt as I stared into the blank screen when I began: The silence, the basal fear, the abundance. It’s why I can’t escape the screen. I need it to show you you don’t. To show you that the end of silence can be the beginning of a deeper silence.