Please Stop Me From Texting
By Garrett McDonnell
Twenty two app updates. Six Facebook notifications. One email. My phone gently buzzes to life. The screen is cluttered with numbers, which look like pimples inside of their angry red circles. Gently rubbing my face, I can’t help but smile at puberty’s absence.
I slide out of bed as the city beyond my window churns awake. The sun’s light is weak. It barely illuminates the paths of those brave enough to hunt for espresso and croissants at this hour.
Two and a half months into my big European escape and I’ve eaten enough pastries to satisfy a lifetime’s craving. One more day left at this hostel. Twenty three years old in Spain and no closer to unlocking the secret.
I pick up my phone. Twenty two app updates seems excessive, even to me.
What’s important enough to keep? Venmo gets to stay, Wells Fargo does not. Tumblr? Definitely keep. And I need Skype to call home. Well, I need Skype to call my mom. Adiós Skyscanner, I can find better flight prices on Google.
Tap. Delete. Upgrade. Finally the clutter was gone.
All of it had to go. I remember crying on my apartment floor as I tried to squeeze more clothes into my backpack. There wasn’t enough space to carry everything I thought I would need. Time was not on my side either, my flight left in six hours. The tears ran hot. Couldn’t I plan anything right?
At this point it didn’t matter. I had to go to Spain, even if just getting on that plane was the last thing I ever did. Why was I leaving again? Eight months ago I got drunk on my couch. I hated my job and felt miserable. I bought myself a $600 roundtrip ticket to Europe for five months. I’ve always been a bit rash.
I zipped up my backpack and it looked like it was going to explode.
Later that day at an airport in Iceland, a man and his wife bought me a chocolate muffin. They said I reminded them of their daughter. I watched the planes overhead and grinned. I took out my phone to take a picture, but immediately slipped it into my back pocket instead.
Back to my Spanish morning. My phone felt fast again, but it could be faster. I took a nose dive into a sea of old text messages. Maybe deleting those would give me the speed I needed to retweet Anderson Cooper without interruption.
Who was Anthony G.? And why does he have an explosion emoji next to his name? Oh yeah, he was the cute guy from Starbucks. Why did we stop talking again? I wander through the strands of messages for clarity.
A maniac has gotten ahold of my phone!
Whoever wrote these messages, it surely wasn’t me. This person is aggressive, unconfident, and clueless. “Why won’t you let me take you out haha?” “Let’s do something this week maybe!” “Hey man not sure if you got my last message.”
Anthony G. is just the tip of the iceberg. I pour over hundreds of messages just like the ones he received. What the hell was I thinking sending these? Couldn’t I see how crazy I sounded? Who wants to go out with someone who puts their insecurity on full display accompanied by endless hahas?
I’m not laughing. I see:
Someone who doesn’t value himself
and I want to say to him, others do not give you value. You give yourself value when you do things that make you happy and when you act unselfishly.
Someone desperate to receive love
and I want to say to him, love is not a prize and it is not something that can be gotten. It is a connection that’s earned, and it feels just as good to give love as it does to receive it.
Someone whose confidence betrays them
and I want to say to him, confidence ebbs and flows. Just because you have it one day doesn’t mean you’ll have it forever. Practice confidence and do not let others dictate how you feel about yourself.
It was one in the morning and I was crying in a New Mexican Walmart. If I could just rewrite this text message five more times maybe I’d find the perfect combination of words that would make him stay. My thumbs failed me.
We had met at a house party. He was playing beer pong shirtless while I, the designated driver, sat in the corner petting his dog. I didn’t know it was his dog at the time. He smiled at me while his girlfriend hugged him tight. My friend gave me his number.
When you see someone drowning you’re not supposed to touch them. In their panicked state, they will instinctively push you under the water to save themselves. Texting him felt like that.
Four months into my trip.
He liked five of my Instagram pictures, four of which were just selfies. We chatted for a little bit. He was a photographer. He commented on my travels and I apologized for the “obnoxious” amount of photos from Rome.
I put down my phone and smiled. The light coming through the window was blinding. I hate London, but it’s hard to not be entertained by the playful dance between the clouds and the sun.
I’m tired of the gloom — I want to shine.
I promised not to apologize for myself anymore. I don’t want to read these messages with regret seven months later. In fact, I don’t want to live with regret at all. Maybe that’s the secret.
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