The other day, my boyfriend and I were running errands when the bottom dropped out of my stomach. Or rather, my stomach began eating my spine because it was the nearest tasty morsel. You get the drift: I wasn't just hungry. I was flat out hangry, and if mama didn't get some food soon, there was going to be a scene on the sidewalks of NYC.
We found a table in the bright afternoon sun, and as we slurped our oysters and took turns people watching, I caught two very lovely ladies out of the corner of my eye sitting across from one another and enjoying what seemed, at first glance, to be each other's company.
Note about me: I never fail to take note of any women dining together in New York, because it unfailingly gives me a pang in my stomach and on a bad day, a sizable lump in my throat.
Since moving here nearly five years ago, each of my days has begun with a round of Good Morning! texts between me and my three best friends. We're scattered across the miles now: Becca in Denver, Rachel in northern Connecticut, Tara in central Connecticut and me here in the city. While we make a concerted effort to touch base daily and have upheld the promise of an annual getaway, the luxury of eating a meal with them is one that has become increasingly rare. So I notice women eating together. And I envy them.
The waitress brought my salad and between stabbing cherry tomatoes and crunching cucumbers, I snuck glances at the women to my right. Shimmering glasses of Rose sat on the table, but they were so engrossed the wine hadn't been touched. It wasn't hushed conversation that left them blind to the fact that their drinks had been delivered. It wasn't absently watching passers by (which counts, by the way, as an actual hobby in NYC). It was the smartphones in each of their respective hands that had them so rapt.
I turned back toward Hermann and commented on what I'd seen. He glanced over and shook his head. "They haven't spoken to each other since they both sat down." I feigned a stretch and peeked again. Still on their phones. "Tell me if you see them talk to each other," I whispered. "Why?" he asked. "Because I'm nosy and it's bugging the shit out of me that this is what has become of our society," I hissed, reaching over to pilfer his french fries.
As we wrapped up our lunch, I glanced at my watch. We'd been there close to an hour. The women were still on their phones. They did speak to each other, Hermann reported, when one of them showed the other her phone and they giggled. They then resumed their silence, each lost in scrolling up and down.
I thought of all the nights when I wished I could meet my friends for happy hour and the Sundays that had passed with me aching for a leisurely brunch in their company. Numerous Saturday nights, I had wanted more than anything to explore New York with them, to find a rooftop bar and just laugh our asses off about things only we found hilarious. Were we fortunate that we lived apart, so we didn't take each other for granted?
It hasn't felt like fortune when I've been locked away in a bathroom stall or a bedroom in the apartment of a friend of a friend, starting a group thread with Fuck! I miss you girls... my single lifeline out of anxiety or loneliness. It hasn't felt very lucky to have to plan a year in advance when we can all be together, where we should go, and how many nights we'll have to cram in a year's worth of memories.
I wanted to stop by the table where those two women sat and remind them how lucky they are to have the afternoon together. I wanted to tell them to put down their fucking phones, because life is too short, and in 30 years they won't remember who posted what on Instagram, but they'll be starving for a memory when they discovered something new about each other, or when they laughed until one of them peed a little, or when they drank too much Rose--again--and made complete asses out of themselves simply because they were so caught up in the energy they created when they were together.
A week and a half from now, my girls and I will embark on our annual weekend together, this time with our significant others joining us. I don't know what the weekend will bring. I do know it won't have anything to do with our phones.