365 Days of Radio Silence

Submitted into Contest #184 in response to: Write about someone who has chosen to disconnect and live an analog life.... view prompt

4 comments

Fiction

My eyes can't take it anymore!

I've stared at Tik Tok for hours and feel like an adulterer. I'm not trying to be, but their algorithm keeps showing me videos of half-naked women! Also, what happened to the "My money don't jiggle" dance montages?

And that's just the start.

Twitter is a hellstorm, and I've strayed away from that. I still keep Facebook around for my movie news or to catch up on the occasional family life update.

But here's the problem.

The anxiety I let this stuff give me is unhealthy. It's the fact that I can't, nor will I ever, keep up with every TV show or next-gen fad that promises me the world.

I love seeing family members grow up, but what happened to a good old-fashioned letter? Or even better, going over to somebody's house unannounced?

This is it. This is Jake's defining moment! I'm done using my phone as a scapegoat when I don't want to make that I-don't-know-if-they-wanna-say-hello eye contact with people.

The phone is just the start; emails, YouTube, even television, I'm going cold turkey!

Day 1

I cut the Wi-Fi at the house and read a book for the first time in two years. I'd seen The Notebook countless times, but reading the book truly transported me back to 1950s North Carolina. I'd forgotten that reading, at least for me, was just as good as watching a movie.

Day 3

So far, so good! No electronic devices have touched my fingertips, nor have I stared at any unforgiving screen.

Day 7

I'm heading out to the library; I forgot how much I enjoy reading. I'm not going to drive because it's only a few blocks away.

Day 9

There's a snag with this experiment. I've been encapsulated with reading that I forgot to socialize with people. So I'm heading to the park to change that!

Day 10

I forgot how to talk to people. The park was a disaster. I stumbled over every word and couldn't hold a conversation for more than a few sentences. What happened to me? I used to be a social butterfly. I've got work to do.

Day 12

Much better. I successfully held two conversations, each lasting more than five minutes! One with Rita, a sweet grandmother who couldn't believe I wasn't her grandson, and the other with Gretchen, a fiery redhead who has had enough of these rising gas prices. Right here with ya, sister!

Day 15

I hadn't checked my bank account in two weeks and wondered if my bills were paid. Thankfully I had overdraft protection, and the bank pulled money from my savings when it got low.

Day 24

Work sucks. Nearly a month has passed, and my coworkers don't believe this "little experiment" is doing any good. How could they know? They're all stuck in their phones.

Day 32

I made it one whole month! I want to be more excited, but it feels weird, like an itch I can't scratch. I don't even know where my phone is. I can't remember where I put it...

Day 54

I had the best day ever! Gretchen spotted me in the store and struck up a conversation with me. Thanks to this experiment, I'm miles ahead of where I used to be.

Day 68

My experience without digital media has made me a routine creature. I find myself going to the grocery store at the same time on the same day each week. I don't mind seeing Gretchen come in as I leave. We've spoken to each other every Saturday for the past two months.

Day 79

I had a crazy thought: I should ask Gretchen out.

Day 89

I did it! I asked her out, and she said yes! However, a slight problem occurred; she asked for my phone number. Who memorizes phone numbers nowadays? Besides, I seriously forgot where mine was, so I explained the whole situation to her, and she was intrigued. She asked, "So, I can't call or text you. How will I be able to reach you?"

I keenly replied, "Well, I don't know if you've noticed, but we speak weekly at the grocery store. Our conversations are never boring, and we've always got something new to say. If the date goes well, how about we make every grocery visit a "date" and sit at that picnic table and talk?"

Day 93

Tonight is the date. I'm nervous, but I can do this... I can do this, right?

Day 94

I CAN DO IT!!!!!

Day 96

Date number two: commencing momentarily.

Day 124

Gretchen is officially my girlfriend. What a wild four months it's been. I have to say, putting down the electronics has turned me into a better man. I feel better; my eyes aren't straining due to hours of web browsing. In a way, I'm healthier than I have ever been.

Day 133

Gretchen came to my house for dinner for the first time. I prepared an entrée of the most delectable provisions I knew how to make: Spaghetti.

The sauce stains at the corner of our lips didn't stop the kissing.

Day 160

A picnic in the park. Gretchen and I tossed the frisbee around. She wore a low-cut top and daisy dukes. How was I supposed to keep my hands off her? God, give me strength.

Day 180

Another lunch at the grocery store was well spent. Gretchen and I admired my feat of nearly six months without a phone. She couldn't believe it! Then she got a call and had to leave suddenly.

Day 194

Gretchen wasn't at the grocery store.

Day 195

I hadn't felt this anxious in a long time. I wanted to know where Gretchen was, what she was doing, and who she was with. And it was all wrong! I shouldn't be this way, but I'm still human. I picked up my Bible and read Philippians 4: 6-7 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

It'd been a while since I'd been to church.

Day 201

No Gretchen at the store.

Day 202

I found my way to church. The pastor, a middle-aged man with a Virginian mountain drawl, welcomed me, "Howdy, welcome to our church."

All of my work to communicate regressed at that moment as I broke down, sobbing. The pastor patted me on the back and brought me in for a hug. He whispered, "It's alright, son. You're home."

Day 216

There's a word for how I'm feeling, and it's this: PISSED! Gretchen didn't respond to any letter I wrote, and I even started driving by the grocery store to see if her car was there.

This isn't the way I want to live.

Day 236

Something was missing from my life. It wasn't the chorizo I used to make my breakfast wraps, nor was it the fiery redhead I once cherished.

The cashier rang me up in record time when I felt a tap on my shoulder.

I turned, and there she was. And I wasn't mad. I wasn't even sad. Hurt maybe? But above all, I wanted to know why she left me out to dry.

I pushed my cart of groceries out the double doors and into the entranceway, with Gretchen following along. I asked her, "What happened to you?"

She replied, "I couldn't do it."

"Do what?"

"I couldn't fully understand why you went radio silent."

I scoffed, "I didn't go radio silent. You did."

She spoke in choppy terms, "Okay, well, the whole experiment thingy- Look, I wanted more of you, and I felt like I would never get that without being able to connect with you anytime I wanted."

I opened my mouth and paused; I wanted to speak from the heart and do it in a way that wasn't malicious. "Gretchen, I was, I am, and will always be willing to connect with you. I apologize. I don't have a phone where you can call me every night, but you could've answered my letters. You could've kept coming to the store on our dates. But you didn't; you made a choice. I respect that. I thought you respected my choice not to live attached to digital constraints."

She gaped at my words, and yeah, sometimes the truth hurts. But it was never my intention; I was the one in turmoil.

Day 252

The books piled high in my studio apartment; it looked like a scene out of Hoarders.

I still enjoyed reading, though I found myself sticking to one in particular.

Day 314

The pastor spoke about love. It's a tricky subject. The message focused on 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." There is an age-old exercise where one takes the verses and replaces the word "love" with their name. I meditated on this because I missed Gretchen, and I had a multitude of feelings toward her.

Day 333

One month to go with this experiment. I should probably look for my phone.

Day 348

I went to the store. Gretchen handed me a note and asked me to read it at home. So I did.

Jake,

I'm sorry about everything. You taught me about authenticity. So I must tell you how I truly feel; here goes. I loved every moment with you; it felt like a dream. You made me see the world differently, and yeah, we had lunch dates at the grocery store for months! It was romantic, and I'm sorry I walked away. I couldn't process everything, but I now realize what I did was wrong. If you're willing to give me another chance, I'd love to see you at the picnic table in front of the grocery store.

Day 355

Our "first" date in a while. Gretchen looked beautiful as she always did. We talked for hours, and I even got a sunburn! We made plans for next week, but I asked her if she would come to church with me.

Day 356

The church welcomed Gretchen and I; we ate donuts afterward and felt silly.

Day 362

Not our actual "second" date but a date nonetheless. It went very well. We're planning a celebration for the BIG 365.

Day 365

Gretchen and I ordered a pizza at her house. Then, we watched The Notebook, and I was blown away that she had never seen it!

We both cried, as suspected.

Day 366

I turned on my phone for the first time; surprisingly, it didn't explode from the 4,863 notifications I received.

Day 367

I finally cleared every notification. I joked with Gretchen during our pizza celebration that once this ended, I would blow up her notifications with a bunch of pointless memes about a guy who gives up his phone for a whole year. Instead, I called her because I missed her voice, and I might as well use this $800 phone.

No answer.

Day 369

The first thing I asked her at our lunch date was, "Why didn't you answer my call?"

"How could I? I gave up my phone for a year."

February 03, 2023 22:01

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4 comments

Jack Kimball
16:01 Feb 11, 2023

Hi Joel. I'm glad they got back together. The best part was the spike in curiosity I had with the line 'Then she got a call and had to leave suddenly.' That's the line in reading the story that made me intrigued. The conflict arose and I wanted to see how it would turn out. I thought it was unfair on the MC's part to be angry so it made me lose empathy for him, which took me a little out of the story.

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Joel Wilson
19:33 Feb 11, 2023

Hey Jack, thank you for taking the time to read my story! Looking back, the better route would've been to have the MC express more of those defeated emotions instead of manifested anger. I appreciate your feedback!

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Rabab Zaidi
13:53 Feb 11, 2023

Really enjoyed it !

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Joel Wilson
19:34 Feb 11, 2023

Thank you!

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