Author : Adena Brons
I didn’t know he was a robot when he asked me out. It wasn’t exactly first-date kind of news. As it turned out, it wasn’t so bad dating a robot. My friends accepted it with the careful approval reserved for choices you support in others but aren’t sure about for yourself.
Like I said, I didn’t know right away. One night, I introduced him to a couple of my friends. Going home, one whispered to me, “Is he a robot?”
Although I’d never thought about it before, as soon as the idea was mentioned, I realized I had no solid evidence either way. I decided quietly and subtly to research the issue. Surely there wasn’t a delicate way to ask your date if he was made of nuts and bolts instead of skin and tissue?
“Are you a robot?”
Not exactly subtle but it worked. He looked disconcerted and hesitated. “What should I say?”
“You are then?”
“I didn’t say that,” he protested.
“Yes but if you weren’t a robot, you would just say you weren’t a robot. It’d be simple.”
I couldn’t think of how to tell him that I didn’t mind, that I’d only asked out of curiosity, that I wasn’t trying to accuse him of anything. I should have thought beforehand of the consequences of my question, but a few things had been abandoned along with subtlety.
“Do I seem…robotic?” he asked uncertainly. I understood from his hesitation that he was asking if I thought he was not real, a program or machine, identity-less.
“No! It’s not that. I just wanted to know. It doesn’t matter – it doesn’t make a difference to me.” I hoped my meaning also bypassed words and he understood. I was still too shy to explain how I liked him deep in my stomach with that ache that we have no proper word for and call instinct. We weren’t anything serious then but I liked him in a straightforward way. He was a robot in the same way he had brown eyes, made bad jokes and hated inconsiderate actions.
To be honest, the pros and cons of having a robot boyfriend were similar in general, if not in particulars, to having a regular boyfriend. Sure, he had to recharge for a few hours periodically, but what was that compared to the hours of World of Warcraft played by other boyfriends? Sometimes a wire would fray and he would start to speak in code or binary but I never understood the conversations about cars and lasers and economics between other men either. He said what he thought; programming cannot lie. Awkward at times but when he said he loved me or wanted me or was happy, I knew he was telling the truth. He only slept a couple hours every night so I could call him anytime and we would go for a walk, leaning into each other and kissing by the reflective darkness of the ocean.
It didn’t last forever. Few relationships do. One day he said he thought we should stop seeing each other. He said he felt we were no longer compatible. I missed him for a while, in the same places I had once liked him, the ache in my stomach, the beat of blood in my chest, the quiet late-afternoon thoughts I didn’t share.
If I mention him now, my friends joke about programming errors, screws coming loose, malfunctioning equipment. I point out the questionable morals, dubious sanity and malfunctioning equipment of their exs. Robot or human, it’s just a matter of metaphor.