“Right, so go to the home page … No, Ma. No … Ma, don’t tap that. No, I told you that’s just a text, probably from- No, I said don’t!”
“You tapped it, didn’t you? Jesus, Ma. I told you not to do that, now we gotta start all over again.” Lila fell back aggressively on her white duvet with a huff.
She rolled over on her side to look at me as she rolled her eyes.
I smiled slyly at her from behind my knees and went back to enjoying her tutoring session with her mother, scanning Facebook, putting the finishing touches on an essay, and eating a salad. And reminding myself how much I hate kale.
“Okay, you’re back at the start? Okay,” Lila sighed. “Open the app that says- the icon. The floating little square thing. Right, the grey one with the gear on it, it’s labelled ‘settings’. Then scroll down with your finger … I am not sassing you. What tone? There’s no tone. I’m not- I know. I know you did, it must have been very difficult. I know! Okay. Now scroll down to ‘general’. You see that? Okay, now go to ‘accessibility’. Like halfway down it should say ‘larger text’. Touch that. Okay, see the slider right there? Yeah, slide it all the way to the right. Yes, all the way. All the way. Ma. Ma, you’re blind as bat, go all the way to the right. Right. I know! Yes, it’s much bigger, I know. Yeah, so that should do you until you find those glasses. Okay. And if it’s not big enough, just call me, I’ll get you the secret font sizes that no one else knows about. Yes, I can do that. Do you doubt me, Mother? Are you testing me, Mother? To whom do you owe your next week of cellphone-ular interactions, Mother?”
I guffawed and Lila looked up at me, wryly blank.
“That’s what I thought. Uh huh. Okay. Love you, too, Ma. You’re welcome. Anytime. I know I’m the best. I know. Okay. Yeah. Love you. Bye.”
Lila hung up and knuckleballed her phone into her pillow. She gazed up at the cement ceiling of our dorm room, her hands pulling her hair.
I watched her for a moment. “How’s Deb?”
She let out a burst of wind, a pathetic excuse for a laugh. “Deb has two doctorate degrees, twenty-seventy vision, and still cannot master the apple.”
“Well. Making the font bigger? That’s pretty advanced stuff.”
“User-friendly my ass.”
“Hey. Come for my iPhone one more time today, I swear to god, fight me.”
“Don’t need to, your fucking Note 7 will burn your ass before I do.”
“No! Too fucking soon! Get out of my house!” Lila sat up and pointed at the door.
“Make me, you won’t. I’ll go to Deb’s house. She’ll be like, ‘well, at least, I have an adopted daughter who loves me and visits me’.”
Lila feigned gagging at my flawless imitation of Deb’s Jewish mother. I smiled into the next bite of salad, typing, ‘allows France to forget its violent colonial past, which consequently reinstitutes the ‘radical terrorist’ and, in the words of Fanon–’
“But, like, she’s so smart,” Lila reasoned. “She’s so educated and, like, worldly. And she can’t even figure out this little device. This little thing in her hand.”
“Well, yeah, but you grew up with it. It’s not fair to judge her ‘cuz she can’t figure out something that’s only existed for the last … what, seven years of her life, and you’ve had your entire adult life,” I said as I typed, ‘this forgetfulness revitalizes the settler’s racism in bouts of outrage regarding a conflict that is interlaced inextricably into the nation’s DNA, reappearing at every sinusoidal turn of the double-helix’. I stopped, disgusted with myself and jabbed at the delete button to get rid of that last piece of bull-
“Yeah. But she used to be a quick study.”
“With stuff that she knew about. Like ask her to play baseball or something and she’d be a trash can at it. But new scientific methods, she’s great at.”
“Yeah. I guess I just thought this would be close enough to what she does already that she’d be fine by now.”
“Old dog. New tech.”
“You calling my mother old?”
“Good. ‘Cuz, like, I’ll fight you.”
“So violent today.”
“I’m PMSing, you know that.”
“I fucking do. We had chips this morning. No fucking chips anywhere anymore.”
“Eat your fucking kale.”
“I will eat my fucking kale,” I said through a mouthful of fucking kale.
She watched me try to force the oversized leaf into my mouth, amused. I stared back at her, blank.
“It’s like eating a tree,” I mumbled.
She snorted. “I don’t touch the stuff.”
“No, Miss Susquehanna University eats Chipotle bowls only,” I announced into my fork. “That’s right, it’s the Burrito Bowl Diet for Miss Susquehanna University. Just look at those love handles. Irresistible.”
I dodged a pillow pet dog named Goat.
“Go fuck yourself, Miss I-Burst-Out-Of-My-Fucking-Yoga-Pants!”
“I was doing squats!”
“They’re very strenuous.”
“You look like you’re constipated whenever you do them.”
“Yeah, well, you are too fucking extra in zumba, so fight me. Like, honestly, who you tryna impress? There ain’t a single set of balls in the whole room, so like … why?”
“Just because I have fun doesn’t mean-”
“You are not having fun, you are trying to get some,” I said, clapping the last few syllables.
“Makes one of us, so.” She flopped back on her bed again.
“Whach’you know ‘bout me?” I grumbled, turning back to my essay.
Lila laid on her bed a moment longer, then sat up and grabbed her phone. “But actually. This is my mother. Like I depend on her for everything and always have for the past twenty years, but now she depends on me for something that is, like, at the center of being a human in twenty-seventeen.”
“At the center of being younger than thirty. Older people don’t use their phones like we do.”
“Yeah, but, being a professional, especially being a scientist … you kinda have to know how this stuff works.”
“Right, but our parents’ generation that doesn’t know how it works is being phased out. Eventually it’ll be just us.”
“So, like, why is no one hiring us?”
“Ooh. She said it.”
“But actually.” She slid off her bed and padded over to her closet.
“But actually.” I shoved another leaf of fucking kale into my mouth. ‘Although the film’s depiction of both French and Algerian violence would certainly strip a Frenchman bare of his present ‘innocent victim’ status, it would also do much to console that confused (and now indecent) Frenchman in that it provides a rational formula in which constructive violence is a variable.’
I closed my laptop, content with my progress. Lila, now pajamaed, leapt into her four-foot raised bed and turned off her light. I turned off mine.