Recently, I dropped my phone on the elevator floor. I’d been trying to switch my coffee from one hand to the other, and I’d forgotten the phone was already in the hand where the cup was heading. It’s easy to do things like that these days, since my phone feels as much a part of me as my finger or my eyebrow. I rarely even worry about losing it anymore — I know I will feel strange the minute I leave a room without it, as if I’ve stepped out onto the sidewalk with no shoes, and I’ll be compelled to go back for it right away.
And since I’d forgotten the phone was not a part of my hand, it slipped from my palm and landed, with a sickening thwack, face down on the tiled floor.
My phone has taken plenty of falls in its fourteen-month life. I’ve flung it across the room a few times when gesticulating widely. It’s escaped the band of my shorts during several runs, where it dangled from my headphones for a second before pulling them from my ears and skittering to the pavement. Once, it fell into a bowl of low-fat yogurt as I tried to read an article while eating lunch. But it’s held up heroically, and so I wasn’t worried when I picked it up from the elevator floor.
But the screen was badly cracked, and shards had already begun to flake off the upper right corner. I stood for a moment in quiet disbelief, but by the time the elevator reached my floor, I had arrived at acceptance. It was bound to happen, I thought. You didn’t even bother to buy a case.
Over the next several days, I adjusted well to the change. A chip on the screen obscured the battery icon, making it hard to see I how long I had before it died, so I never left without a charging cord in my bag. The front-facing camera was cloudy, so I bought a small mirror with which I checked my hair before walking into a room of people. Otherwise, the functionality was largely unaffected. Soon, the cracks and clouds were no longer signs of damage. Rather, they were simply the parameters within which I posted to instagram, and called my college roommate, and pointed myself east.
It was really just the influence of my coworkers that drove me to order a new one. They said, “You can’t go on like that, you really shouldn’t.” And, ‘You can upgrade for less that what you’d pay for a nice dinner.” I nodded and say things like, “Yes, I’ll look into it after lunch.” But I wouldn’t, and their suggestions eventually turned a bit sour. “How have you not ordered a new phone yet? It’s crazy, just crazy, that you haven’t.” I knew what they were really saying: you should be embarrassed.
I wasn’t, but within a week, the cracks had deepened and spread until it was difficult to read my small-print emails. Since the phone is a work phone and the bill is paid by my employer, it would be irresponsible to continue in this way, so I ordered a new one. I paid a hundred and twenty four dollars, and chose the silver.
The phone arrived a few days later, and I was excited when picked it up from the office mailroom. It’s hard not to be excited by a package, even at twenty-three years old, and even when it’s not a surprise. I opened the package in my apartment while sitting on my bed. The smaller box inside was all sharp edges and shades of white and gray, shouting its reputation. The phone was bigger and rounder than the one in my pocket. My thumb couldn’t reach from the bottom button to the top of the screen. I put it back in the box and put the box next to my pillow, where it has stayed for a week. I awake each morning to the logo — that renown fruit — printed on the side.
I’m not sure why I haven’t made the switch.
The cracks and chips on the old phone have widened so much that a glow from the backlight leaks through and shines out, like the sun when it rises behind the stained glass windows in a church. Tiny water droplets have formed patterns behind the screen where rain has seeped through. The glass has flaked off at the top so you can see a small square of the phone’s insides — bits of chips and different kinds of metals, and a sequence of miniscule numbers printed in white. The screen has texture and friction, and the cracks form a frame around the people in the the picture I’ve had as my background for over a year — three friends and I standing on the summit of a mountain in Montana, tired and dirty, with our arms around each other’s shoulders.
I tried, just now, to make the switch. I told myself that if I did it, I would be excused from folding my laundry tonight. The first step, the instructions said, was to “power down the old phone completely.” I did as it said, but as the broken screen went dark, my breath caught and it felt like I was falling. I had to turn it back on right away. After a beat, The phone resurrected with a white and pixely glow, and the light that shone through the cracks was effervescent.
“I am, I am,” it said. “There is life left in me yet.”
For another night, the new phone sits in its box next to my pillow. I’ll get to it in time.
Originally published at joannakenney.tumblr.com.