Connie Spyropoulos

Absence

One early Saturday morning, I was sitting on my wooden wrap-around porch and drinking my French Roast coffee out of the light blue mug that my grandson made for me. It was the beginning of summer, before the heat and humidity became suffocating, encasing each person inside its sweltering grasp. I was reading the newspaper and watching younger generations enjoying the morning weather. Couples were jogging on the cracked sidewalk, young men were riding their bikes.

“Good morning, Gina! Have a great day!” The couple down the street always greeted me during their morning walk around the neighborhood, and I enjoyed chatting with them about my latest craft project or their son learning to take his first steps.

Later that morning, I noticed a mother and her young daughter walking their fluffy golden labradoodle, and the scene that played out has stuck in my head for the longest time.

“Mommy, look at the butterfly!” squealed the daughter. The child’s mother, however, did not notice the fluttering monarch butterfly. She was too busy staring at her blue iPhone, hypnotized by the virtual world on her screen and oblivious to the tangible world around her.

“Mommy, Mommy!” the exasperated daughter shouted. Even the large labradoodle nudged its nose against the absent mother’s leg, but the mother’s hypnosis would not break.

I couldn’t stop staring at this mother blatantly ignoring her child and pet. My mug was wavering in my hands and some of my coffee spilled out and soaked into the wood panels on my deck. After the family was out of sight, I quickly went inside and called my son from my landline in the kitchen.

“Jason, I can’t believe the world we live in today! You wouldn’t believe what I saw while having my morning coffee!”

“Mom, is everything okay? I can’t talk long, Jackson has a soccer game this morning and we gotta get going.”

“No, no, I’m just so upset! People are so…glued to their gadgets and wizmos now that they don’t even have time for their own family!

They just ignore everything around them! Even their own children!”

I heard a faint ding over the phone. “Jason, what was that noise?”

“Sorry, mom, one sec,” Jason absently responded. “One of my work buddies shared a funny article with me on Facebook and I was reading it. This guy always finds the most hysterical things on the internet!”

“Jason, please, I really need to talk to—“

“Crap, we’re late. Jackson get in the car! Now! Can I call you back this afternoon? Bye.”

After I heard the other line click, I hung up the phone, feeling defeated. I refilled my mug and shuffled back outside. I saw more people walk by with their eyes locked on their screens instead of the people and nature around them, caring more about the mindless posts of cyber companions than the conversations with coveted friends and family. Eventually, the mother and her daughter and dog walked back down the street, heading towards their home. The mother was still looking down at her phone, and the daughter and labradoodle were looking down at the ground in silence. I sipped my lukewarm coffee, hoping that the woman would shatter her phone on the sidewalk and join her daughter once again in reality.

Connie Spyropoulos lives in the Chicago Suburbs, and is an English teacher at Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville, IL. She received her Bachelor of Science Degree in English with an emphasis in Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. bio-Spyropoulos