Author : Ian Sweeney

We sat at the computer and accessed the System.

First, we needed to select the reason for our application. We scrolled through the options. Domestic violence. No. Infidelity. No. Incompatibility. Linda looked at me with sad eyes and I nodded.

Next, the System wanted examples of how this incompatibility manifested itself. Just a short statement. 250 words or less.

“Shall I do this?” Linda asked.

I watched her words appear on screen. She wrote so effortlessly, so fluidly. As if she’d put this case a thousand times to the imaginary jury in her head. Linda’s description of the situation was as thorough as you’d expect from a solicitor. She outlined our differing values and attitudes to work. This, quite rightly, formed the bulk of her argument and it all sounded very convincing.

I had never lied to her about my aspirations. I was content to remain a jobbing graphic designer. It wasn’t steady work, but it was fun and it left me with plenty of spare time. Time I mostly spent on my own, resenting Linda for putting her career before me.

Linda had always been ambitious. And I liked that. But things were different now that she was successful. She’d often tried to explain why she worked so hard, but the more she talked about her responsibilities, the more insignificant I felt.

Now, the System wanted to know about our sex life. There were two questionnaires in this section. One for each applicant.

“You go first,” I said. “I’ll make some coffee.”

In the kitchen, I tried to remember whom the coffee machine belonged to. Strange to say, but I couldn’t recall much about the week I’d moved in. The apartment, of course, was hers.

Before being partnered with Linda, I’d been renting a place with Sarah. I went straight from living in a damp ground floor flat, to Linda’s riverside penthouse.

“You’re good to go,” Linda called from the living-room.

I brought two cups of coffee over and she disappeared into the bedroom while I filled in my half of the sex-life questionnaire. I made it all sound worse than it was. The System doesn’t like couples that don’t get on in the bedroom. It knows that they are less likely to have children. Which is the only thing that really matters.

Linda wandered back in.

“All done?” she asked.

I nodded and she tapped the ‘send’ button.

We sat together in silence. There was nothing we could say to make the moment any easier.

As I thought back to the time we’d spent together I couldn’t help thinking that we’d been lucky. It was easy to end up with someone you liked and respected, but for the System to partner you with someone you fall in love with – even if that love is flawed – was rare.

The computer beeped and the words ‘Break-up Accepted’ appeared on screen. I looked at Linda. Her eyes were red and wet. She gave me a sad smile and wiped a tear away.

The System informed me that it was dispatching moving boxes and that I should vacate the premises within two days.

Then two profiles appeared: our new partners. The System had clearly diagnosed the cause of our break-up as a career mismatch.

Fran was a graphic designer and had recently been widowed. She was pretty, had red hair and a kind smile. Brett McNally was a solicitor. He was older than Linda, but was slim and good-looking. His suit looked expensive.

“Linda,” I said. “Are you sure we’re doing the right thing?”



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