Hannah thinks I use my phone too much. For the first time since she left, I think she might be right. There’s a notification on my screen telling me that I used it for three hours yesterday.
Another notification appears, telling me the Prime Minister is about to give a press conference. I dismiss it.
Three hours is a long time. I open the calculator app. It’s 21 hours a week, 18 days a year. I could live another 60 years. If I make it that long, without reducing my usage, I’ll spend another three years of my life staring at this stupid four-inch screen.
Is it even four inches?
I open my web browser and type: ‘iPhone dimensions’
One day, I’ll be lying on my deathbed, and I’ll know where the time has gone. Three years sounds like a major health scare. Why does nobody know about this? How many years does smoking take off your life?
I look it up. The answer is 10.
I walk to the kitchen, open a drawer, and place my phone between the batteries and lightbulbs. I push the drawer shut. I put the kettle on.
It takes ages to boil.
I’m standing staring at it.
Does it normally take this long?
I reach into my pocket. Old habit.
I wonder if there are apps to help you break habits.
I drum my fingers on the counter.
The problem is that Hannah might ring. She didn’t ring yesterday, or the day before. But she did ring the day before that. I could tell her that she was right. I hadn’t been paying attention, and now I’ve worked out the reason why.
I go back to the drawer, pull it open, and am surprised when the phone lights up. I thought I’d put it face down. There’s a new email. I open the email. There’s 5% off at Argos.
I delete the email and flick the switch that turns the phone off silent. Now I’ll be able to hear the song Mambo No. 5 if Hannah calls. A stupid ringtone, but I haven’t heard it in years. My phone’s never been far enough away to need the sound on.
My phone pings. It’s a weather alert. I need to turn off the alerts.
The kettle boils and I put the phone away.
I pour myself a cup of tea and take it to the living room. The tea is too hot to drink. It needs time to cool.
What did people do, in the idle moments, before they had phones?
The old me would have Googled this question.
I decide to read a book, and head upstairs with my cup of tea.
I sit on the bed.
I can’t get comfortable.
I take my phone out of my pocket, and feel sick. How did it get there?
The phone lights up: Showtimes for the new Will Smith film have been released.
Frustrated, I dismiss the notification.
I toss the phone onto the bed and take a sip of tea. It’s still too hot.
Who is Will Smith married to? It’s someone famous. I look at my phone a moment, then pick it up and check. He’s been married twice. I didn’t know that. It was Jada Pinkett Smith I was thinking of. What films was she in? I look it up. She’s been in lots of things.
I wonder if she’s ever done a nude scene.
I look towards the bedroom door, as if expecting to see Hannah. Then, I Google ‘Jada Pinkett Smith nude scene’. I scroll through the images, already knowing what I’m going to do.
I take my phone to the bathroom.
I lock the door.
I pull my trousers and pants down around my legs, and sit on the toilet. I visit Pornhub.com.
I scroll for a while, then select a video. I become conscious of my phone’s camera, and cover it with my thumb. I feel guilty, but I know I won’t stop.
I balance the phone on my naked thigh and reach for the toilet roll, but it’s too late. My whole body convulses, and the phone slips through my legs and into the toilet bowl.
I stand up, covered in my own semen, and look down at the phone. It’s glowing up at me from the bottom of the toilet bowl. It’s horrible.
I flush the toilet.
I don’t really expect it to work, but the water rushes out of the cistern and in an instant the phone is gone.
I straighten, my skin hot. I’ve made a horrible mistake. I kneel on the bathroom floor and try to look up the toilet bowl. The angle’s all wrong. I roll up my sleeve, hold my breath, and reach up into the toilet. I gag and fall backwards, my chest heaving. There’s nothing there.
Maybe it’s OK.
Maybe it’s a good thing.
Maybe I’m free?
I undress and take a shower, scrubbing my arm ferociously before I’m satisfied that it’s clean. Then I dry myself, get dressed, and sit down on the bed. The tea is now the ideal temperature, and I drink it slowly, savouring the milky taste. I notice the sensation of it sliding down my throat, the warmth of the cup in my hands, and I think about going for a walk.
Then I hear a sound. A song. I jump up, spill the cup of tea across the bed. I lie face down on the floor with my ear pressed against the carpet. It’s under the floorboards, still there, haunting me.
Mambo No. 5.