It was when the world went dark,
silent, but not still,
like the holding of a breath
during a home invasion,
seven something years ago,
that I was on my way to work,
listening to Dave talk about debt.
It was a day like any other,
but aren’t they always?
I listened to dead air
for thousands of seconds
before I turned it off,
so used to the voices was I—
the voices that made me feel
like I was a part of something more
than just my own life.
I was sharing in the joy of another young couple
paying off more debt than I could make in ten years.
It was August in Florida,
and when I got out of the car,
I felt like I was walking through a steam bath.
I used my cell phone to call my husband,
but there was no signal.
I picked up our landline,
but there was no dial tone.
I turned on the television.
I turned on my computer,
Communication was lost.
It was like The Birds,
this absence of technology—
like some kind of fog had flown over our town,
creating this quiet chaos.
Without constant communication,
it was like we were asleep,
like in The Village of the Damned.
The world as I knew it,
died that day,
but I wouldn’t know it for hours.
I suddenly felt very afraid,
for always before, anyone I loved
was just a phone call away.
When you came home,
you told me there would be no more
electronic communication for a long time,
I thought of all my friends on Facebook—
some I couldn’t even remember where they lived,
and I felt they were lost to me forever.
It had been a long time since I’d ever really had to remember anything—
a phone number,
the meaning of a word.
The newspapers still managed to run,
but gone were the talking heads,
telling me how to think about what I heard.
I think I saw things as they really were for the first time.
Like the veil that we pass through when we’re born,
so that we forget from whence we came,
the veil of instant communication was parted that day,
and then disappeared like the mist.
Neighbors began to meet for coffee,
and there was a resurgence of books and poetry.
I saw teenagers playing outside,
and I rushed inside to grab my camera
to capture that perfect moment.
We began to relearn things we thought we had forgotten:
counting back change, cursive writing,
reaching out first in person without the screen-to-screen icebreaker.
The information superhighway was a pile of virtual rubble.
The news sites were replaced with newspapers,
the e-mail, with a handwritten letter,
for it seemed pointless to sit at a computer,
talking to no one.
I had to ask my husband where to put the addresses,
where to find the stamps.
I spent time looking across to the neighbor’s yard,
and saw children playing—
teenagers, no less.
Suddenly, the world which had seemed so small,
seemed so very large.
The other side of the world was like a dream
I could no longer imagine.
My children have never known a world like the one I had,
and I’m not sure they ever will.
Communication with a text,
We speak now with our eyes,
not in memes,
or in 140 characters or less.
It means what it used to mean.
I write a letter now,
the imprint of third-grade cursive
still engraved in my memory;
then I go to dust off the dictionary
to look up a word,
and I see not just the word I searched,
but the next word,
and the next,
until I have gone through all the C’s.
Somehow, a friend of mine found me,
and we managed to locate some of the rest.
Not all of us exchanged letters,
and even those that did began to feel so very far away.
The world I once knew is gone,
but this other world,
where the old has become new again,
I try to think when it was I stopped waiting,
hoping for the old way of life to return,
but I can’t remember;
I only know that it isn’t as bad as I would have thought,
for we humans are resilient.