In Marina Tinone’s lyrical essay HMU (2020), they produce an intimate portrait of the narrator’s relationship with a phone. Using allegory and repetition, Tinone portrays a post-internet world in which a user’s experience of the digital world is indistinguishable from their physical space.
I need an answer. I need an answer now. I need to just see it. So I text myself.
hey, it’s me.
And then immediately, a reply sent just now:
(hey, it’s me.)
I just wanted to say that I love you and that I
need you close.
I think about holding myself. Holding myself accountable. Someone on the other side of this camera facing me knows. The other person knows who I am. What I want. What I look like when I stare at my phone thinking of someone else. I wonder. How many hours will I spend staring through this glass, looking at these words (default font, size, coloring) and believe that you’re actually there. That you’re saying these things to me. For me. You mean it.
I don’t want to forget, so I’m texting you.
(I don’t want to forget, so I’m texting you.)
Me. Here. I lock my phone. I look out. I try to kick the habit but I can’t. The blue light in my hands. I reach for it in the middle of the night. I think of you so I grab my phone. Listen to me. On silent. Do not disturb. Still. Therapists on Instagram tell me that I am only deserving of the love I give myself. A quick Google search tells me that the substantive form of ‘deserve’ is ‘desert’. What if I deserve all of this nothing. What if I deserve desertion. A call and no response.
I lie in bed. Listening to the traffic. Watching the ceiling of my room glow red, glow yellow, and then the cars pass by and the room is dark again. I’m alone. Silenced. Then I check my phone.
And then a second thought, a worse one: it’s you watching me through the front camera of my phone. It’s you who has my back camera, who sees everything through it. Who sees right through me. You’re playing with me.
I clear the notification easily. I clear my mind. I try to clear my mind. I try to clear my mind again. I press down on my eyes with my palms. If only it were so easy for me to lock down. Turn off. Let go.
Marina Tinone is an undergraduate at Yale University who writes creative nonfiction. Their work primarily focuses on language, identity, voice, and genre. They create the things they wish they could have held when they were growing up.