Vacation

A day before Lola’s father died in October 2007, he took her to get her first cell phone. This sweet receptacle of plastic, glass, and wires would signify the ability — Independence! Freedom! — to be a person without her father, without her mother, disparate from the world of adults, propelled into tweenhood.

Before purchasing a flip phone and basic plan for his daughter, he contemplated buying an iPhone — an Apple invention that had only been on the market in the U.S. for four months. “I wouldn’t need to take my laptop on vacation! Wouldn’t that be wonderful? I could write word documents on this little devise, send emails… Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”

Wouldn’t that be the same as you bringing your computer on vacation? Can’t you take a week off ever? She snarked in her mind.

“Sure dad, that would be great.”

•••

She couldn’t stop looking at the flip phone he had bought her. She had three numbers saved in the “Contacts” : Mom, Dad, Home. Deleting his phone number seemed like the wrong mode of action; but keeping it was even stranger.

He hadn’t bought the iPhone, deciding he would stick with his Blackberry and ruminate on the possibility of purchasing the most expensive phone on the market, something that would fuel his workaholic personality, marked by hyperactive knees that never stopped bobbing up and down with anxiety while sitting down for dinner or a TV show or a moment of tenderness.

What if he had bought the iPhone? What would we have done with this new invention post-mortem? Something of an iPod touch, but with the ability to do much, much more — the FUTURE in a handheld device. A perceived escape from the constraints of ancient technology: laptops and blackberries and flip phones. A holiday from this perception, but not from death.

•••

Lola places the needle gently on the record and listens to the crackling noise it makes before any profound sound is released from the speakers. She read somewhere that millennials are bringing vinyl records back in popularity.

Billie Holiday’s voice blares through her apartment, a tone strong and hearty. She decides she’ll name her child Billie if she has a girl –– which she’s not sure she’ll do, since having a child of her own would directly contrast with her climate change activist persona.

It’s in the Jewish tradition to name children after dead relatives.[1] Her father’s name was William, but people called him Bill. Ahh, to name her hypothetical child after her father — how nice it would be to tell her living relatives this! She already knew: She would proudly tell her aunts and uncles and mother this, but in her heart she would hear “God bless the child who’s got his own,”[2] every time she looked at her baby, knowing she had succeeded in naming her child after a musical legend.

•••

A woman Lola works with tells her that she used an electric typewriter to write her school assignments until she was 15.

“We couldn’t afford a computer.”

Lola considers that statement: It seems buying an electric typewriter in the 2000s would outprice buying a cheap laptop.

“Aren’t you only 26?”

The woman who allegedly used the electric typewriter until she was 15 seems embarrassed and curls into herself, as if wishing she had kept this fragment of her past internalized.

Lola regrets this question, and swallows her tongue so she can ask no more.

•••

When she returned home after an awkward interaction with her coworker — the one who had insisted she had used an electric typewriter until 2008 — she began to laugh at the arbitrariness of it all: Of the typewriter, of the first generation iPhone her father had considered purchasing, of the freedom she wanted so desperately to obtain from a flip phone, of the family vacations, which completely ceased to exist after her father died.

Did any of this matter now? She roared and cackled as she lay on her bed; her abdominals tightened and released and became sore. Her chest convulsed as she cracked up: How meaningless it all was! To think just 24 hours before her father died he had been considering VACATION! To think he had considered buying a tiny electronic device for $499 in 2007! So he could work! On VACATION! It was all just too hilarious.

Finally she restrained herself, repressed the horrid hilarity of the moment; she calmed down, opened her computer, and turned on Netflix. She lay under the covers with the lights off scrolling through her Instagram and Twitter feeds until she fell asleep.


[1] It’s also in the Jewish tradition to have at least three children per family: “one to replace each parent, and one to perpetuate the Jewish race.”

[2] A Billie Holiday song, “God Bless The Child.”