She is on her phone again. Talking, listening to music, playing on apps. Not playing with me. Not talking to me. Not holding me. I’m twelve years old. I’m her only child. I don’t have a dad. Well that’s not true. I go to stay in his house one night every two weeks. He’s usually on his phone or watching TV too. Sometimes he and I go out for dinner. Somewhere kid-friendly. It’s supposed to be fun. It never is. He is always on his phone.
“Just a minute Lauren. I have to take this call”.
“One sec hon. Nearly done.”
He is never done.
When I’m at home with mom I sometimes play on my games console. I’m on it for a couple of hours every few days. Mostly I read, play Lego, or play with Choc, our Chocolate Lab, outside. When I am playing video games my mom likes to remind me “In my day kids played outside from morning to night. None of this video game stuff.” It’s so frustrating. Does she think I don’t know that in ‘her day’ there were no cell phones? She has told me the story of all her friends getting their first cell phones for their 21st birthdays. Over and over. She got hers last because her birthday was last. She’s told it to death. Doesn’t see how ridiculous it is for her to talk about her cell phone in one breath, and tell me to lay off the screen time in the next.
Today at school a few of the girls were talking about alcohol. About how they were going to booze this weekend. One of them would have an empty house. Her parents were going out to some picnic followed by a night out. She said they usually come back at two in the morning. Obviously she’s done this before. They were planning on drinking until 9 pm. Most people my age have a curfew of 9 pm. I don’t want to go, but at the same time I’m curious. I have no interest in getting drunk. Grown-ups act so dumb when they’re drunk. I am curious how it tastes. How it feels. Some people who’ve already drank said it feels like it burns when it goes down. The strong ones do anyway. They said it’s a good burn. I can’t imagine what a good burn would feel like. Is that even possible? I’m nervous and I don’t know what to do.
I’m at home. It’s evening. Mom and I are both on the couch. For once she’s not on her phone. She promised me we would hang out tonight. We’re gonna watch a movie I know she doesn’t like, but will tolerate for me. I debate whether I should compromise for a movie we’d both like. I really want to watch this one though. We manage to make it through the whole movie without mom pulling out her phone. We ended up snuggled together during the movie. She gets up the minute the credits started . Off to check her phone I suppose. She comes back into the room with her fingers furiously moving over the screen.
“Mom. I’d like to talk to you about something…”
“Just a minute sweetie,” she countered.
Her phone rings, and she answers. She wanders around the living room talking. I figure it is a friend. She is laughing and talking about typical mom stuff. She keeeps glancing over and smiling at me. I amn’t sure what that means. I weakly return each smile. She starts holding up her index finger at me and mouthing “just one minute” and smiling more. After fifteen minutes I quit and head upstairs to my bedroom. A further fifteen minutes later she knocks on my door and comes in. She sits on the edge of my bed. I really want to talk to her about drinking. She apologizes for being on the phone.
“Mom. It’s really important…”
“Okay honey. What is it?”
“It’s about something in school. With the girls. With. I just need to tell you something. Promise not to be mad. Just help me okay?”
“Sure honey. What’s this ab….”
I can hear the vibrate of her phone in her pocket.
“Just one sec. babe” pointing a finger up again.
She looks at her phone and gently giggles. It wasn’t serious. She starts typing at great speed again. She stands up, mouths her famous “just one minute” at me again. As she leaves the room, I turn on my side facing away from the door. I tear up but don’t cry. I am not going to let this get to me. I am tougher than this. If I ever had kids I will ban phones in the house. I turn of my bedside light.
Sometime later my mom comes into the room, talking as she does so.
“Honey. Sorry about that, I…”
I lie still and pretend to snore softly. I am not going to be dumped for her phone again tonight. I guess I’ll have to figure it out on my own. She pulls the covers up on me a little, plants a kiss on my head, and walks out the door.
The next day in school I talk to Amy. We aren’t best friends, but close enough to hang out now and again. She is one of the drinking girls. I tell her I want in. She gives me a huge grin, winks, and high-fives me. I feel scared, but also rebelious. A good kind of rebeliousness. Screw mom. I can’t even pinpoint why I feel mad at her. That’s not true. I know it’s the phone. I know she loves me though. How does me drinking change anything about her phone calls? Is it just that it gives me a sense of control? I don’t care. I am going to do it. Tonight is the night.
I call mom and tell her on her precious phone that I am going to Amy’s house and I might stay the night, or I will be back by curfew. I tell her I will call her later. We all start trying different drinks. The liquor is so hard to drink, but I feel light headed much faster. The wine is gross. It makes me want to puke. The beer is okay, but not as exciting as the liqour. It turns out bourbon is my favorite. I feel so grown up. I have a favorite liquor. I am drinking with my buddies. I don’t remember much else until the bathroom.
I am leaning over the toilet with my head over the bowl. My hair is hanging down past my face. It is stuck together in clumps, both from tangling and vomit. There is no mirror within reach, but I know I must look like crap. Amy is swaying on her knees beside me, laughing at how wasted I am, and how awful I look. I laugh back at her. Who would have thought leaning over the toilet puking could be so fun? Something slips out of Amy’s pocket and hits the tiles. It is face up. Her phone. Its screen is shattered. The two of us burst into peels of laughter, as if this is the funniest thing that could ever happen. I bet a few hours ago Amy would have been so mad if this had happened. As I looked down at the phone I think of my mom. I wish this was her phone. Broken on the cold tiles. Stopping her for a few hours. I am so mad at her. My laughter turns to tears, and then both. It makes me need to throw up more. As I vomit the alcoholic contents of my stomach into the toilet, I continue to stare at that stupid phone. It seems a poignant reminder of everything I hated about my relationship with my mother. I continue to vomit. I stare at the shattered screen. My life in art.