He glanced at his phone again. It dimly lit up displaying the time, today’s date, tomorrow’s alarms and nothing else.
'Really? No calls or texts? No notifications? Nothing??'
Daniel contemplated his reality. It was summer break, but it may as well have been his retirement. He lay on his bed doing nothing and going nowhere. He’d literally spent the past two weeks watching TV and watching his family live an undeniably more desirable summer:
His sister was out climbing mountains in South America with some friends she’d made at university.
'I can climb stuff.'
His brother was out helping disadvantaged kids in India.
'That’s just Mum and Dad punishing him for crap grades!'
His Mum and Dad were out working their day jobs.
'Someone has to put food on the table!'
Why couldn’t that be him?
'Why can’t that be me?'
It dwelled on Daniel that he had been wasting his entire summer, maybe even his entire life. But that epiphany lasted only a second as he gave his phone another look.
You see, Daniel was consumed by his phone. It was his most prized possession. So when he saw that no one had bothered messaging him for a while, it irritated him. He spent time on his bed, wondering why this was happening. Naturally, he assumed the blame belonged elsewhere and not with him, namely WhatsApp - the home to all of his chats. He thought that perhaps it was broken, or at the least, the notifications on his phone were. So, he called WhatsApp to find out what was going on.
“Hi Daniel, you’re through to WhatsApp Customer Services. How can I help you?”
“Yeah I just wanted to see if you were broken?”
“Okay, let me just load up our status checker... sorry, it takes a while. Any minute - oh, there we go! Okay, checking, checking... nope, everything looks good on our end. Were you experiencing any problems with our services today Daniel?”
“Well, I haven’t received any messages from anybody for like, the last two weeks.”
“Oh, you should have said! Yeah, that’s because you have no friends.”
“You have no friends. In fact, looking through your records now... yup I can see... Hello, Daniel? Are you still there?”
“Yes, as I was saying, looking through your records now, you’ve been removed from every single group chat you were ever a part of. That’s why you haven’t been getting any messages. And also, it says here that, yeah, that no one really cares about you. Alright then, was there anything else you needed from us today Daniel?”
“Okay, well have a lovely rest of your day!”
Daniel hung up in a haste.
He proceeded to check his group chats. In doing so, he was presented with a stream of “… has removed you from this chat” messages. Everything else was littered with blue ticks meaning, no replies…
This was a depressing find for Daniel.
'How could they remove me from the group chats?'
He was sat up on his bed now, scratching his right eyebrow in anxiety. The thing bothering him the most was no longer his lack of notifications, but rather, the sorry state of his friendships. However, this shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise to him. The thing about Daniel is that, he’s an observer - both online and in real life. Online, he never added anything meaningful to the group chat, his responses mostly amounting to "LOL" or a laughing face emoji (three if he thought the thing was actually funny). In real life, he mastered small talk. And that was it. Daniel was always careful - maybe too careful - to not get into any deep conversations with anybody. He didn’t have the capacity to take a real interest in anyone else’s life anyway. He had spent the first 16 years of his, coasting, managing to not befriend a single person.
He went through his list of classmates in his mind:
'There’s Adam from science, Rachel from English, Matthew from science, Ahmed from maths…'
But they were just people who sat next to him in various classes at school and talked to him for the sake of making conversation. They were not his friends.
Allow me to emphasise: in real life, Daniel is neither socially awkward or ugly - both common reasons in this shallow world for someone not having so many friends - he’s just very, very good at small talk. But when Adam broke up with Jessica last Christmas, he didn’t want small talk with Daniel. When Rachel’s brother moved away to Australia devastating their whole family, she didn’t want small talk with Daniel. When Matthew fractured his arm playing football, he didn’t want small talk with Daniel. And when Ahmed was diagnosed with cancer last year, the last thing he wanted was small talk with Daniel. And now that school was over and they’d never have to talk to him again, they all decided to make their relations with Daniel end, permanently.
'Damn. That WhatsApp guy was right. I really have no friends.'
He called his Mum for sympathy.
“Hi Mum, I have no friends.”
“Hi Daniel, yes I was already aware, thanks for letting me know. How’s your day going, dear?”
“Well dear, you’re not the most interesting person to talk to.”
“How can you say that?”
“Well dear, I live with you.”
“Does anybody like me?”
“Well dear, no. Actually, maybe your sister at a push…”
“What about you!?”
“Well dear, I don’t really have a choice. And neither does your father.”
“Any more questions, dear?”
“No Mum, that’s it.”
“Okay, I’ll see you tonight. Love you!”
Another phone conversation, another mention of a sad, yet indisputable truth.
Daniel sunk back into his bed, defeated, deflated and definitely depressed. He thought that he had been hard done by - as if his ‘sentence’ given to him by the universe was unfair.
'I’ve always been polite to people.'
This was true.
'I’ve never gossiped behind anyone’s back.'
That wasn’t a lie.
"So why does no one like me?"
He said that one out loud. In fact, he really let it shout from his mouth. His words had such a volume, that he couldn’t help but become aware of what he was saying. Daniel quickly became enraged with himself and let out a scream: this one louder than the previous shout. In fact, this one was ferocious! The scream came back to him again, at which point he bellowed from the depths of his throat, letting out a roar so obnoxiously loud, anyone within a five-mile radius would have surely heard him. At least so he thought. In reality, his screams were feeble - like a little sissy.
Having been so consumed by his own personal meltdown, he’d failed to see his phone light up with a notification. Upon looking down and glancing at the screen he read, 1 missed call - unknown number. Quickly, he reached for the device, letting it slip a few times in his hands. Once he had a firm grip, he unlocked the phone, viewed the notification (with copious amounts of glee) and returned the call.
It was unbeknownst to him who could have dialled his number. Conversely, it was unbeknownst to whoever did dial his number, the life they had just saved.
“Yes, yes, I’m Daniel! Hello! Hello?”
It’s not important who it was.
What matters is how much this shouldn’t have mattered to Daniel. For the first time, in a long time, he had finally received some form of notification on his phone. That little white box coloured with details, filled him with complete happiness. It didn’t even matter to him anymore that he had no friends. But of course, this joy was only temporary. It wasn’t long after the call ended that Daniel again contemplated his perpetual loneliness. Despite his undeniable obsession with himself and his phone, the thing he really craved was friendship. Which is sad because, friendship, alongside everything else he could have ever asked for or hoped for, existed on the other side of the 5.8 inch backlit screen firmly nestled in his hand.
Daniel was in no position to realise this.
What a waste.