After a long bout of freewriting (which included trees exploding into instant bloom, a computer coducting a therapy session with a teenager, and all manner of peculiarities), this scene emerged. I don’t think there will be a second part, but who knows?
“Hey, you remember when we all had phones?” Clary asked.
Ben popped his head up from behind the sofa. God only knew what he was doing back there. Looking for change? Scraps of food? His dignity? “You mean landlines?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Clary said. “Those were good days.”
“How?” I asked. I didn’t want Ben in this, or any, conversation. In fact, it would have been nice if Ben had found a discarded piece of pizza crust, popped it in his mouth, and then choked on it. Such are my fantasies.
“Because you had to answer the phone if it rang,” Clary said. “You couldn’t just ignore it.”
“Well, there were answering machines,” I pointed out.
“Okay, Beth, before answering machines. Those were the days.”
“I think I’m stuck,” Ben muttered from behind the sofa.
Clary and I ignored him. “The good old days were never actually good,” I said. “At least, not as good as we remember.”
Clary shrugged. “I think they were objectively better than now,” she said. “People were more connected. We weren’t all stuck on our phones and Facebook and Instagram and all that shit.”
“A little help here?” Ben said, a little more loudly.
“Yeah,” I went on, “but we still had problems. People may have been more connected, but as long as we’re all big, walking bundles of neuroses, there are issues. I think things are better now. We can segment our craziness and choose to not inflict it on others. That’s why I don’t have any friends. Present company excluded, of course.”
“You’re such a cynic.”
“I’m literally stuck behind the couch!” Ben wailed. “Will one of you get off your asses and move it so I can get out?”
“Fine,” I sighed. Clary hopped off the sofa and she and I moved it forward a few inches. Ben, sweat dripping into his excuse of a beard, crawled free. “Jesus, that was awful,” he panted.
“You’re such an idiot,” I said, shaking my head.
“Hey!” Ben protested. “Why are you being so mean tonight?”
“It’s my talent,” I said and walked toward the door. My people meter was full, and it was time to make myself scarce.