Well, she finally left me.
You’re surprised? How do you think I feel?
It’s been two weeks and this is the first I’ve been able to talk about it.
It was a Saturday night. I wish I could tell you the exact time but among the many things she took when she left was my awareness of the exact time. She left me with just a loose idea. So I’m guessing her departure came somewhere between 8:30 and 9 p.m.
It was sudden, too. One minute her face was bright and glowing, just the way it’s been every time I looked at her for more than 20 years, and the next it was blank. Not a hint of emotion. Not even a simple goodbye.
I tried to get her attention. I tried everything I could think of. But I knew it was a waste of time. She’s gone, a voice inside kept saying. She’s gone and she’s not coming back.
I’ve been trying to recall my reaction when the reality set in. It wasn’t panic or even dread, although either would have been appropriate. Empty may be the right word. I felt empty. Hollow. I stood motionless in the frigid cold, under a black starless sky, and accepted my fate.
As well as my responsibility.
I knew this relationship was over because I had killed it. It was my fault and no one else’s.
After all, I was the one who put my iPhone in my back pocket when I climbed the bleachers at Wyoming Area High School for the basketball game between the Warriors and Holy Redeemer. I was the one who apparently sat down too hard after standing and cheering. I was the one who bent my iPhone in half.
Worse, I was the one who would never take a few minutes to back her up every time she told me I should. I was the one who thought my phone invincible, the one who scoffed at saving to The Cloud.
So there in the Wyoming Area parking lot, frozen both physically and emotionally, I was the one facing the horror of trying to rebuild dozens if not hundreds of contacts. And even more crushing, the loss of dozens if not hundreds of treasured photos and videos.
How could you, I said to the heartless little black rectangle in my hand. But how could I, is what I really meant.
I slept poorly that night, and woke up troubled. What if my kids were trying to text me? What if my daughter hoped for a little Sunday morning FaceTime with her and my grandson? What if? What if? What if?
It felt weird at the gym with no cell phone in that little slot on the elliptical machine.
And then it didn’t.
I suddenly felt liberated. I felt free.
Just like that, a calm swept over me that I hadn’t experienced in years. Although the feeling had been absent for some time, I recognized it immediately. It was solitude.
All relationships involve give and take, and it wasn’t until she was gone that I realized for all my cell phone had given me, what she took was my precious solitude. With her around I was never alone. I was always reachable, always available. Always at someone’s beck and call.
But that morning on the elliptical, I was all by myself. Alone with my thoughts. And I liked it.
Sure, I was concerned my kids might be worried about me, wondering what was going on. But that soon would be fixed with an email from my laptop. Others too might be trying to find me, but they’d live. The world would keep spinning.
Everything would be straightened out eventually. This I knew.
I had insurance and a new phone was overnighted. But I did not activate it for several days. Of course I had missed her, and I desperately wanted her back. But I knew all too well what that phone would bring and decided to enjoy my liberation a bit longer.
All the while, in my head I kept singing a line from an old Joanie Mitchell song: “We love our lovin’, but not like we love our freedom.”
The trick, of course, is to find a relationship in which you get both.
Not sure that can happen between me and my iPhone. Yes, I know it’s all in my hands. That’s what scares me.
Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week look for his blogs online during the week at pittstonprogress.com.