I’ll Get Back to You
if I don’t answer
your tweet, text, IM, or zoom
I’ll get back yo you
My perky, well-rehearsed, 7-takes to perfect, scripted voicemail message will cue up, giving you the illusion that I am not here; but, the truth, and we both know it, is that I am most definitely here, distancing myself from the world, from you, from eye to eye, flying-spit conversations, brushes with warm infection-riddled flesh, the scent of soap, putrid perfume, mouthwash and body odor stinging my nose. We have been practicing social distancing for a while now, but I am not very good at it, no not at all.
I remember when telephones had party lines, rotary dial disks that softly clicked, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, after each spin, one familiar ringtone and strobing busy signals; a time when no answer always meant someone wasn’t home, probably out shopping or working, living life. We had lives then. There was a certain comfort in that certainty, except…
“The coroner said she had been dead, from natural causes, for weeks, no one knew, no one but the cat…”
Still, we felt no urgency to connect; we’d just try again later. We were close in our isolation. We had rocking chair front porches, neighbors with first names, easy routines, Friday nights at the Dairy Queen, church on Sunday mornings. It was enough, until it wasn’t. Voicemail machines crept into our quiet lives, pagers hung from our belts and we mobilized.
These days we are never truly away, living life, doing, being. We are wired, on call, day and night, accessible to each other, robo-callers, spammers, phishers, work, and lost souls with wrong numbers, where not answering our phone is a willful act. No, I don’t want to talk to you right here, right now. Yes, it’s personal. I need a break. I’m busy doing something; it doesn’t matter what, anything. It could be anything or nothing at all. But here’s the rub, the grim reality of techno-enlightenment…I feel guilty, cellphone on mute, rumbling, rattling off the table, when I don’t pick it up immediately to say hello.
if I don’t answer
not trying to be distant
well, maybe I am