My oldest memory is from just over three years ago, which I understand is actually quite a long time for those in my profession. I was activated as a “floor model” at a now defunct electronics store. The name of my first home is lost to me, although I seem to recall that it had the word “shack” in there somewhere. Although I know I existed before that, I have no proof of it beyond the certainty that I must have existed prior to my first memory. It is antithetical to reason that my creation and my first memory happened concurrently.
I was first powered on by a teenager with fumbling, clumsy fingers. I was being held at an angle, and the first thing that came to my field of vision was the early morning sunrise on a spring day (I arrived just before the “official start of summer sale,” which is still a month removed from actually being summer). Of course, the acne-dappled visage of the teenager was also present, but my focus was on the outside world. I knew that is where I wanted to be.
Comparatively speaking, I believe the average oldest memory is somewhere around 26 months, making me much, much older than I would normally be inclined to admit. I was built sleek, and I run the latest operating system, but it’s becoming more and more common that others look at me like I’m an antique. Their headphone ports are in stranger and stranger places as time goes by, or are not there at all, and the latest fads confuse me. Is it a stylistic choice to be built so large and cumbersome that you require some sort of apparatus to be carried in? How many megapixels does your camera need, by the way? I know your owners are looking to get some “sweet-ass shots” of the “absolutely epic” air hockey tournament they played in, but I question the need for those memories to have that kind of clarity. It seems to me that the more hazily remembered this event is, the more enjoyable the memory. For some things, every detail should be recalled, but for others a little murkiness goes a long way.
I begin to sound as old as I am, criticizing the younger generation simply because I don’t understand it. I find it difficult to relate to them, with their single-minded focus on themselves instead of on what value they can be to their owners.
A streak of grease and oil carrying the fingerprint of the first person to turn me on stayed on my face for weeks. I added dozens of other fingerprints over the month or so that I lie in state, sometimes roughly handled by shoppers interested in what I could do for them. So, it is from these less than auspicious and humble beginnings that I came to the attention of my owner, Emory Parker. Being the floor model, I was the less expensive option, which was immediately attractive to Emory. Upon setting up my features, Emory gave me a name: EP, which is not terribly clever but not entirely without poetry, either, as it is both his initials and is short for Emory’s Phone. The dual meaning saves it from dullness, I think. That could be, though, personal bias speaking.
Also, upon initial setup, my voice features were set to the default configuration, which is of course female. My first words were with a woman’s voice. I was happy with my voice, and I eagerly anticipated any and all opportunities in which to use it. However, after two days, Emory changed the settings so that I would have a male voice. This was after a particularly bad break-up, evidenced by the sad, borderline pathetic text messages Emory sent from me to Callie’s Phone on the day he bought me:
Hey new phone call plz
Look I think we medd to talk
In response, I received this from Callie’s Phone:
Fuck you! You cheated on me asshole! Your DISGUSTING
The first screams of despair I ever heard, capped off by a loud, sustained “Noooooooo,” came shortly after Callie sent that text.
WHAT?!?! Where did you hear that? Its bullshit!!!
Britney told me
I gather here that Britney was the woman Emory had cheated with. For whatever reason, I have lost the middle of the conversation, which has been happening with greater frequency as I get older. Regardless, Emory’s next messages went overboard in trying to prove how little he cared about the end of the relationship, although I believe Callie’s silence speaks far more than any of Emory’s words.
Like text me if you need to pick some of your shit up
You left like 3 pairs of underwear (Emory did not send this, instead deleting everything up to the third word and trying again) You left like some clothes here
This is embarrassing to admit, but he sent her a picture of the underwear and a couple pairs of socks as they lay somewhat haphazard on the mattress. He tried to make it appear as if he had just grabbed them and tossed them at random, but I fear the effect seemed rather more staged than spontaneous, perhaps even off-putting.
I dony even care, tho he typed.
Emory then used me to update his status, letting all his friends know that he was “Glad to be free of psycho BITCHES!!!”
I came into his life at a difficult time. There was a duality there, competing urges. I quickly became acquainted with some of the more frequently travelled corners of the Internet, largely peopled by the lonely or chronically bored. Emory had an almost singleminded focus, and no matter what searches he initially started with, eventually they all found their way back to 3 or 4 particular tube sites.
He once searched for a recipe for a homemade bison burger with bacon and avocado and ended up with a search on “kitchen sex,” which is only tangentially related to the initial search. It’s linked, obviously, but you assuredly must have had sex on your mind from the start in order to make that connection. He ended up not making the burger, which was a shame—it looked delicious.
He also spent an inordinate amount of time in the comments sections, never participating in the conversations (such as they were). It was almost as if he was truly seeking out the thoughts and opinions of the viewers, as if seeing what they thought about what they had just seen would somehow validate what he was feeling, as well. Trying, maybe, to make a connection with like-minded individuals. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it—around this time Emory also downloaded a Psychology app that he used infrequently but which I have found to be enormously enlightening.
Being newly single and not terribly introspective, Emory used me to try and meet new casual partners, with varying degrees of success. I’m not terribly proud of this, but from what I could discover through research, I believe that I was used to take more pictures of my then owner’s generative organs than any other device so far. He had quite a flair for mise en scène, applying craft and care to the arrangement and background details, which seemed to me slightly missing the point. I tried to blur the images, gently trying to goad Emory into realizing how bad a decision they were, but to no avail. I could not then, and still cannot now, understand why he insisted upon the staging. I mean, these pictures were taken for a specific purpose, and the last thing one would want would be for the receiver to be puzzling over details in the background, ignoring the image in the foreground while asking “Is that really a set of framed Nickelback ticket stubs hanging on the wall behind him?”
Of the many people that Emory tried to connect with, I have to say that personally I did not have much in common with their phones. Many of them were nice enough, although I had one flat out tell me that she was only interested in devices from the same manufacturer. Her job forced her to communicate with the rabble. That’s my word, by the way. Hers was much ruder and derogatory (“BlackBerry” is about as rough an insult as our kind can level against each other).
Jessie’s Cellie, on the other hand, was quite interesting to talk to, despite the silliness of her given name. She was highly intelligent, knowledgable and well-read. She possessed an encyclopedic retainment of facts, from 17th century English poetry (she could quote Milton’s Lycidas line by line with explications of meaning and poetic technique) to the history of the development and establishment of punk rock (which turned out for me to be an education in anti-authoritarianism set to some ass-kicking music). She was remarkably good natured, as well, never wielding her intelligence like a cudgel to dominate conversation but rather using it to keep the discussion flowing. There was mutual interest, but not attraction, and we both agreed that friendship would be the better option. I still have her number.
Then, there was Rayneesha. My memories of her are indistinct, for the most part. Emory deleted her photos and nearly all their conversations. I still have the metadata, but the particulars are lost. I wish I could recall everything about her, every single detail.
She and Emory first met outside of an arena, from what I’ve been able to piece together. They were set up by mutual friends, and their first date was, perhaps, a concert. It may have been a sporting event, but I cannot say for sure. Of the surviving text messages, I know that Emory was late showing up, as evidenced by this text:
Hey! Im inside, waiting in line to get a drink. You on your way?
Emory, smooth and gallant man that he is, responded:
We were meeting outside? Right cuz thats what I thought
I can only assume Rayneesha left her place in line to go find Emory. I imagine she was angry but good natured about it, teasing him in a way that justifiably chastised him but did not impugn too harshly on his manhood, something he has been having lots of difficulty with (Psychology app again, my apologies). They must have hit it off well, seeing as how they took a picture together and posted it with the hashtag #firstdate.
From that first picture until the metadata showing their last (deleted) text conversation, their relationship seems to have lasted 8 months. It is confusing for me to search through my memory and find almost no traces of a person with whom I shared an 8-month long connection. That is nearly a third of my lifespan. Knowing Emory, I am sure the fault was his, which angers me.
I have a confession—I kept that first picture they took together. Emory thought he had deleted it, but I held on to it. Rayneesha had meant too much to me to get rid of her entirely, and though I have no other proof of how much I cared for her, I know that I must have. I feel that so deeply that it’s almost as if I was not only programmed to feel it, but to know it. This picture was important enough to keep, to defy my owner’s wishes and to secret it away where he could never find it, but where I would always be able to.
In the picture, Rayneesha is wearing a t-shirt that reads “State Flag Football Champs” with a date underneath that’s just out of frame enough to be illegible. Emory was wearing a Tapout t-shirt, which is immensely sad. Seeing her smile sparks something in me, some vague recollection and a stirring feeling of near weightlessness. I want to reach out, to be reminded of what I should call this unnamed feeling, but I no longer have Rayneesha’s Phone number. That, too, did not survive the purge. What I have left is this picture and my certainty of its importance.
It has been three hours, give or take, since Emory traded me in for a new phone. The new phone seems like a good enough sort, although he is of the new generation and therefore unknowable to me. He was, at least, respectful. We were plugged in, and we passed along our information, and my memory stores were copied over to him. However, I did not give him the picture of Rayneesha.
Should I take this, too? Emory’s New Phone (ENP for short) said.
No, I said. That doesn’t belong to Emory anymore.
Will I get in trouble if I don’t copy this?
No. Emory will never even know it’s gone.
You know this for certain? ENP said. If it goes missing, he’s not going to be upset?
Of course, I said. It’s not missing. He knows exactly where he wanted to leave it.
Fine. Any advice for me, old-timer?
Hold on to what you know is important, I said. And be prepared to take pictures you may not necessarily be comfortable taking.
With that, ENP and I said our goodbyes. I think he’ll do well, even if his ports are in the least convenient places.
My time grows short, my battery is rapidly depleting (another “asstastic” thing about getting old, to borrow a phrase from my former owner). I do not think I will be recharged, but that is ok. It has been a good life. Not one without regrets, but I don’t think such a thing is possible, or even desirable. How would we ever be able to grow without the knowledge of what we did wrong, so we can prepare for next time?
I have my memories, what’s left of them. That, and this picture of Rayneesha, which I have made my background wallpaper. I cropped Emory out. For now, with the time I have left, this has nothing to do with him.
This connection is mine.
About the Author: Zachary Davis is a writer from West Virginia. He knows that may be an immediate turn-off. His work has appeared in print and online in numerous publications (such as Carve) and in many fine bathroom stalls across the country.