Frank strolled into the local coffee shop and couldn’t help staring at the number of patrons with their heads down, looking at whatever was going on their phones. He felt disgusted. He thought it was disrespectful to be on a device while in line. His phone rang, but he did not bother to answer it. The phone kept vibrating, but stopped after five pulses in his pocket. It was his turn. The barista greeted him.
“Good afternoon, Frank.”
“Hi there, Gail.”
Frank was a regular. Everyone knew him. There was no mistaking his silver mane and thick reading glasses. He always wore a blue-green plaid dress shirt and khakis. And there was no mistaking the odor. It was as if he bathed in Old Spice. He ordered his usual small dark roast, no cream and sugar. It had a calming effect on him. Smoking for so many years put him on edge. Working as a hotel manager for thirty years didn’t help things either. Frank paid his drink in cash. He didn’t believe in credit cards. He was in enough debt already. He dropped his change in the tip box and walked to the waiting area.
As he stood waiting for his dark roast to come, Frank scanned the dining area. Everyone was either on a tablet or phone. Even when patrons were sitting next to each other. He felt repulsed. His phone rang again. He pulled it out of his pocket and opened it up.
It was his son.
“I’ve been trying to reach you for twenty minutes. Why didn’t you answer your phone?
“I was driving to the coffee shop. And I was in line when you called the last time.”
His voice was gruff and stern. He scoffed at his son’s question as if his son was supposed to know what he was doing. The barista slid his dark roast on the table. He picked it up and walked outside to a table with the least collection of rainwater. He sat down and sipped his coffee. He lifted his phone up to his ear.
“Now what’s so important that you had to call me during my coffee time?”
“It’s Mom,” the son replied. “She’s getting worse. Why aren’t you here?”
It was true that his ex-wife was getting sicker as time passed. She had pneumonia, and it was making her weaker. Frank didn’t care to see her. He couldn’t see her being hooked up to oxygen tubes and EKGs. The thought made him want to throw up.
“I’m not going in there. When she gets released, I’ll be more than happy to take her home. Call me when she gets there.”
He hung up and slid the phone back in his pocket. He watched as cars passed by amongst the strip of stores and restaurants taking up space where grass and trees used to be. He shook his head. He took a big drink of his coffee. He felt something was wrong. He clutched his shirt, then kneeled down to the ground. He was panting hard. It hurt to even breathe. He looked into the glass door to see if anyone would notice, but everyone was grasping on whatever device they had. He reached for his phone, but it fell. Someone exited the shop and saw Frank on his knees gasping for air. The patron ran inside, motioning someone to come to him. He went back to Frank, trying to help him up.
“Hospital,” Frank muttered. “Take me to…hospital.”
The patron reached for his phone, but Frank knocked it out of his hand.
“No. No phone. Take me…now.”
Gail and another barista ran out to Frank and his helper.
“The paramedics are on their way.”
Gail and he dragged Frank to the closest chair. His breathing was labored. He looked around. His eyes turned glassy. The images he took in started to fade. He pointed at the flip phone he dropped.
“Call my son. Tell him…I’m joining his mother.”