The smartphone moved with him from room to room as a torch in a dark and threatening castle, everything outside its light potentially harmful. And in public places where people otherwise had the chance to connect now they didn’t, they interacted instead with what or whomever else they chose, the opportunity for non-curated moments negated. The same at bars: how men bent into their screens in an almost sexual manner, thumbing the surface with the same blank-faced look as actors in pornographic films with no dialogue. He saw it in the kids, too. How they slipped out when they slipped in. But how much easier it was to parent them, it freed him up to do other things. And you could always threaten to take it away.
The smartphone got put back in his pocket for good measure and he was good about keeping it charged. In the car he took it out so it wouldn’t bend and put it between his legs, anchored by the inside of his thigh for quick access at stop lights and backups, to keep on top of things. He pre-scripted haiku-length notes he could crack off via SMS when stopped at intersections. No delays, every moment realized. He knew it wasn’t right and told himself to look away, but the scenes outside his car window would always be there and weren’t as interesting frankly as the news on his phone. Anything could happen out there, but rarely did.
The phone was like that magical portal in The Lord of the Rings the evil sorcerer Saruman used to communicate with the even more evil sorcerer Sauron, the portal that looked like a birdbath with a queer, greenish light that spun in sickly strands when Sauron came into view and barked orders. The kids looked like that too, the same eerie glow, awaiting commands. There was no resistance or self-consciousness in their absorption, how they held their phones at arm’s length and preened, vanity now made commercial, no longer private, cultural, in fact: the possibility anyone could be anything without much effort and it was all right there, in your hand. Self-made stars, reality TV. He sucked it in like an IV drip, it got faster and sweeter, made him feel illustrious, ebullient, insensate (but how queer and calming the sensation, how detached he seemed when finally, willfully, he put it down and silenced it).
How much like a king he could rule in small bursts by remote control.
How many followers he had, to listen.
They let you say whatever you want, take it right down the throat.
It would always be this way, only a matter of time. God favored the successful man. It was their charge now to lead, with cell phones and torches.
Image of Sauron the Necromancer, from One Wiki To Rule Them All.