The New

My phone was stolen in Rome in December. I hadn't backed it up for years. Then I didn't know what time it was, at least not precisely,  or where I was, at least not as a coordinate, or what was happening in the distance, at least as far as I could not check the news. The far away became very, very far away and the nearby more intimate.  I had to trust other people that 11:17 am was 11:17 am and that taking a right at the corner would get me somewhere.

My memories became memories not only of events but memories of photos of events. If only we could visit the lost-photo afterworld, every errant and deleted selfie, every person's gone-forever images on every now-gone phone.  The day I lost the phone I had been unhappy in the Vatican, which feels like a pirate's cave, but less cool for all its imperiousness. But imagine a Vatican Museum of all technologically-mediated lost experience -- the loot of all the lost phones, broken computers, and dead tablets.  Add to these the texts we will never get, the calls redirected to nowhere, the notes that will never become poems, the accounts whose passwords we can never recall. Add to this the geo-location of no location at all, the google maps helpless at themselves, a little dot of a place full of everything that isn't anymore.  A profitable and ambivalent object, tethered to love and corporate control, a foxconn heart/ Steve Jobs' horcrux, all instinct to connect materialized through the condensed dematerialization of all we love and seek out -- anyway, farewell my cracked-screen rose gold iphone 6 .

I was always bad at answering that phone, bad at texting back, back at checking messages,  bad at keeping up with emails, resentful of its cost and how it bound me to interruption. Through the phone, the needs of others flattened into  one need, the phone's need, which felt either obscene or professional. I kind of hated that need, but I touched the phone a lot as you probably touch yours if you have one. I probably touched that phone more than any other person  in the years I had it, and no matter how much I swore to get better at contemporary life, the phone was always there announcing to me when I touched it all I had forgotten or ignored or couldn't do.

2018  had so much loss in it, so I guess it fits to lose my phone toward the end of it, and in this, there was a loss of even a moment to think about the loss for all that was gained, too, the perverse turn of the world into coins spilling into my hands, as in the fortune teller's deck in New Orleans this fall, completely just spilling out coins, all of them falling on grief’s dubious surface. It had been for me as a birth at a wake, or at least a year as a hinge. Everything that opened depended on everything I knew folding back.  Years of data disappeared with the phone, too evaporative even for the cloud. Then we all got a fresh calendar, and I got a fresh pay-as-you-go Nokia with a number that starts +44.

In 2014 I began a book.  It will be officially released in the fall: I made its final, final edits yesterday.  My life force, already dissipating or dissipated by cancer treatment, was almost entirely absorbed into this project. It is funny to me that the source of all my everything and object of my thoughts and the thorn in every side of every side came out such a small thing, each of the 42,000+ words representative of a 100 other words I wrote but didn't use, and even then, none of it perfect. It is still okay, I think. The North American cover, from FSG, is astonishing in that it grabs hold of the book’s ideas and turns them into one elegant image. The point of the book has something to do with snakes.