I recently changed cellphones, for only the second time in my life. I held onto my first cellphone for five dented, dinged and battered years, and did not replace it until it vanished on me entirely -- possibly because it had at long last dissolved into its constituent atoms -- while I was traveling.
I bought my second phone on that trip, because I couldn't afford to be out of touch until I got home, and because on the last leg of the trip I was supposed to stop off for a brief visit with someone whom I was not dating exactly, but very tentatively exploring the possibility of dating. Standing said person up with the "lost my cell phone" excuse seemed like it would be an admission that I wasn't really an adult. So I got a new phone and programmed the tentatively-possibly-almost date's number into it.
It felt a bit odd to make such an iffy romantic prospect, if "romantic" was even the right word, the first number in my address book, especially because I temporarily entered her as one of the five close friends that I got to call for free. I wouldn't have anyone else's number until I got home, and there seemed to be no point in paying for cell minutes when I didn't have to. I certainly wasn't going to tell her that she was "in my five", even for a day, because that would have seemed creepy. And I was planning on switching her out when I got back and dug through my address book.
As it turned out, she stayed in the five for the rest of that phone's life. Five days ago, I married her.
Our marriage involves a lot of travel back and forth between the city where I work and the city where my spouse lives. I traded in that second phone, the one that I bought in order to keep our maybe/maybe-not coffee date, for a smartphone that helps make the weekly travel possible. A small part of what it takes to keep my specific marriage healthy is GPS capability, hardcore weather applications, and the ability to cope with my work e-mail (and open attachments) from highway rest areas and truck stops. The new phone also has a handy traffic widget that calculates the length of the commute back to my spouse, so that I can sit in my office late in the afternoon and watch the end of my weekly drive slip further and further away. In an odd way, I recommend it.
The phone I just replaced had one special feature: years of text messages, which I had left unerased, starting from shortly before we began our relationship until a few weeks before our wedding. They started with updates from the road the night before the coffee date, my side of the conversation full of oddities as I fumbled with a new autocorrect system, and then came weeks of flirtatious banter and jokes, gradually settling down into a snapshots from a maturing relationship. By the end, the text messages were mostly prosaic, bits of literal and figurative housekeeping between domestic partners coordinating their errands: picking up dinner, picking up cat litter, picking up the car from the shop. The messages told a story, and eventually that story got dull, because the happy ending had already come by.
I'll miss that little phone, and those hundreds of little messages, much as I occasionally miss our old apartments and our months of courtship. By that I mean: only a little bit, when I'm feeling wistful, with no sense that anything's really missing. The texts that I send these days tend to be simple and boring. Mostly they just say, I am coming home. That's all I want to say.
On the Road and In Your Backyard
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