Flash Fiction: Screen Time

We are lying on the sofa in the den watching a movie. I selected the movie; he always wants me to. I sent him the trailer; he never watches it. This always works out fine because he never really watches the movie either.

He is on his phone texting Eric, browsing Facebook, texting Joel, browsing reddit, texting Johnny, browsing imgur, making memes to send to Cameron, Scottie, and Chris. The incessant clicking and the blue glow aren’t what bother me. What bothers me is that he just missed a portentous western sky, a meaningful glance between the protagonist and her sister, a book placed in a particular spot on a shelf, a close up of a dog as seen through a window. How will he understand why so-and-so does such-and-such if he didn’t see those clues? He’s mired in an artificial world constructed through images curated to reflect an ideal vision of the participants’ lives, enhanced by unnaturally witty dialogue that only be accomplished with the help of an edit button and he’s missing…

He’s missing…

What is it he’s missing, I ask myself? Aren’t I as equally engaged in an artificial world? Even more so. I care about these characters who exist not even in a world gone by but in a world that never was. I cringe when the villain is at the door. I cry when her lover is taken from her. I cry harder when they are reunited. I have given up two hours of my real life to step into lives that are nothing more than the vision of some strangers who have a bit of talent and a lot of good connections. Meanwhile, my partner has chosen to continue his real life during this same block of time, bonding with his friends in a way that men in their thirties in this digital era do.

The movie ends and he asks what I thought of it.

I give only a single word response because I’m still struggling to understand why his lack of attention bothers me and where I get this smugness for having immersed myself in an illusion so much more thoroughly than he did. I ask what he thought.

He begins his customary diatribe about plot holes and weak characterization, not because they exist but because he wasn’t paying attention. Yep, there it is. I roll my eyes, assured once again that my disdain for multitasking and unwillingness to participate in the virtual social media reality somehow makes me superior.

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