Confessions Of a Beautiful Little Fool

Saturday night I lose my phone while exiting a taxi on Sixth Avenue. I am full of Mexican food, apple cake, and ice cream, intoxicated by spring, by the intensity of the feeling of being full. The slice of IPhone slips off my lap as I swipe my credit card. The cabbie is a real artifact, a grumpy American with a mouthful of gravel and a bad attitude. I get almost to the door of my building before I realize he has my phone. Or his backseat, or the street. I don’t know. But I am suddenly unhooked, lost. Without my phone. For a moment I bury my face, hear myself not cry.

I don’t sleep. From my friend’s phone, I call the Apple Store, Flagship, 24-Hour angels of mercy and the man on the other end of the ‘line’ tells me they can begin activating at 7:00 AM. To the Flagship, I arrive, still dry-eyed, at 7:15. I’ve reported the missing phone, called the missing phone. It never occurs to me once that someone will return it. I cry a little in the cab I grab on 50th street when I realize I have 12 blocks to walk. No sleep, cold hands. The cab driver is so sweet. He tells me, “it’s all going to be okay.” He calls me darling. I pull myself together as I enter the giant glass cube and descend the stairs. Men in suits guard the door. They don’t even look at me.

I approach Sharmeen, one of the specialists standing at the ready to rescue self pitying iPhone losers like me. In this moment, I have no idea what I am about to share with her, the fight for my life that is about to ensue, the insane weather of fear that is about to swallow me in a violent eddy of tearful insanity. It is not something to play with, this name calling of insane. But that’s what I am. Insane. Repeating the same behavior and expecting a different result. In my case, it’s called living life without a pause button. I have been trying to install this apparatus, but the wiring is tricky. Even when I think I am waiting, I am not waiting. I am usually just calculating my next willful act. How can I explain I am not crying about the phone, but near the phone and in its absence, only. The ocean, I am thinking about the poor massive ocean slicked by the thick indulgence of my obscure wit. One nation under God. Something bad is happening to me. I have to call Shane for his social security number. The last four digits. They are on the old phone. I am convinced someone is stealing his identity. It will be all my fault. And the random inappropriate text messages from my high-school flame, all jokes, but taken out of context—very wrong, indeed. I think. I am one fragmented fried chicken wing of a hanging thing. This dread. A pervasive something I can’t name. And the ocean. The autocrats, the lame-ass democrats. Sharmeen tells me no one is really that interested in me. She tells me this, and recoils for a minute, expecting I will rage. Instead, I change. And the self I was breaks.

One day in Vermont a few years ago I told my poem school professor that I didn’t go in for confessional poetry. I was an abstract enthusiast, I told her. Now the arrogance of that discussion stings me in certain moments when I realize that in my former dislike for confession, I was confessing my disapproval of my own humanity. What I was saying is that I didn’t care for the truth or that I preferred an abstract version of it where square pegs fit round holes and where there is only grey. I didn’t know it then, but I thought my will was my will and willed it, so foolishly, to be done. Now don’t get me wrong, in grey I trust, no black and white world for me, please, and no this or that, but to truth, I also say yes, and I can admit to the plain, undeniable fact that I am addicted to a certain version of myself that keeps me in a cycle of garden variety madness. It is to money, to fossil fuels, to the exchange of soulless energy. The clothes on my back. The food in my refrigerator. It’s not enough. But so much more than enough.

Here is a confession: I lost my fucking mind this weekend, and it was the best and worst feeling I have ever had. Once the storm had passed and the nasty bits of awareness had undressed themselves to shine inside the sheer light of self-obsession, it made me kind of high to lose this mind inhabiting the self who is so concerned with perfection and people pleasing that she suffered a psychic breakthrough of non-attachment to her own identity in an Apple Store. She bought a new phone, but I carry it and we both love it. Something new. Less than twelve hours after my initial slip down the rabbit hole, a Danish woman who lives in Queens, called around to find my friend (she’d found the phone!) who drove my car (gas-guzzling shit-box-of-a-machine) to pick it up just as I was finally laughing with Sharmeen about how the world doesn’t always work but how it feels so good to live, even in the broken moments. She loves computers. She is also pretty with dark eyes the shape of almonds and thick black hair. Born in Bangladesh. When I ask how she got here, what she wants to do, she tells me she went through nine rounds of interviews before Apple hired her. Maybe to make me feel better she tells me a lot of people trip over technology, “lose their marbles.” “You saw it here,” I say, pointing to myself. We both laugh. She is hooked and wired and I am full of desire for so much from one single life. I tell her I will like to buy a new Mac in the fall and be trained on it by her. I am suddenly all business, you know. I have the audacity to hand her my card. Ha. After all the tears. She’s taking me seriously, though. I laugh, say, “how can you?” She smiles as she cleans the keyboard of my computer with the nail of her forefinger, digging for dirt like it’s gold. I say, “I mean, I can do this.” “No, I like cleaning. And we’ll wait for this phone to sync.”

As she makes my computer look like new, we chatter about nothing; my eyes are puffy and my lips are dry. My mouth is a figure made as minor sounds come out. The store is getting crowded now and people are ringing cow bells to celebrate participants in an AIDS Walk. I would usually be thrilled by the mass bliss unfolding, but my nerves, grown at least a foot longer than my body, are singed by the electricity of so much clanging through the Plexiglas atmosphere.

After the meltdown I walk the three long blocks to Central Park South, in time to make my facial appointment with Stella. One of the pleasures of my petroleum world. It’s been five years since I’ve seen her and nothing about my life is the same. But when she sees me, she remembers my skin. She tells me it’s all okay, “Not going to be okay. Is.” Her hands are twin feathers that dance across my face plucking and pealing all these winters and their swollen outer layers, as she seals this new skin, still addicted to the pure pleasure of sensation, against future perpetrations by the wind.