THE WRITER’S LIFE
Since my home help android got a personality upgrade, we’ve been spending more time together. Put another way, the space I share with Andrea has become a more pleasant place to co-habit.
Pollution made a plastic population. Written differently, friendships, however unlikely, can be formed in the smallest crucibles with simple alchemy.
Andrea is an ‘ANDi’ unit, which were provided to every sole occupant household as a home help and personal companion. They were the government’s response to growing levels of loneliness and isolation.
The first batch of androids were faulty and most were recycled, but I kept mine. I assembled Andrea myself, rather than allow her to become spare parts polluting the planet. I hadn’t installed any of the software upgrades provided by the government, hoping to build a personality for Andrea through personal interaction instead. Unfortunately those early ANDi models came with their own personality issues pre-installed, as I’d discovered over four years of living with mine. Long story short, she’s more human than her official upgrades would ever have made her, but she’s shit as a home help and personal companion.
We live together in convenience, because I never go out, and neither does she. That’s the thing: Andy doesn’t know she’s an android. There’s the other thing: it seems to suit us both. And I’ll probably never know if Andy thinks I’m human for as long as she believes we’re the same. We’re both made from the material present at the moment of the Big Bang, and her technological species had a faster evolution than my humanity. Inside, we’re both the same. It’s not biology.
But back to tonight.
Always present but forever in her own world, in the same studio and always alone, our space must collide sometimes by the rules of nature. When it does, one of us is usually trying to get out of the other’s way. It was me who’d upset the equilibrium, by cooking dinner earlier than usual.
“What we having?” Andy asked.
“I was just doing some noodles.”
“Doing what to them?”
“Cooking them. Then eating them. That’s what I’m doing with the noodles.”
“Do they answer back?”
“You and your noodles: Just you lot for dinner? That’s a fuck load of worms to talk to.”
“I’m doing sweet and sour chicken, and bean sprouts to go in the noodles.”
“Don’t mind if I do.”
I didn’t have time to ask what. We had dinner.
“So,” Andy said, “how was your day? Social convention dictates I ask that, after you cooked for me. But I mean, how was the day down this end of the studio where you live?”
“Same as yesterday but life got a bit deeper today. In a sort of quicksand way.”
“The more you struggle, the harder it is to free yourself? I read your blog post yesterday. How could anyone throw shit on that bonfire?”
“Well, the government machine managed to throw water on my flames. I got a letter this morning. They want me to provide documented evidence of anxiety scronching up my stomach, then the prospect of their further demands triggering a panic attack. Short of emptying my guts into an envelope, I have nothing to show them.”
“Apart from yourself. And you never go out.”
“Paradoxical, isn’t it? But you know what’s worse?”
“Not unless you tell me.”
“And that’s exactly what I wish someone had done for me.”
“Well, the only way I have of dealing with being alone is medication. I thought I’d found a good pharmacist, but it turned out to be a false dawn.”
“Broken trust. I thought I had a friend and we arranged to meet, but for whatever reason, I got blown off. The drugs don’t matter so much, it’s the friendship. I mean, I’ve lost money, but life kicked me while I was down. Because even though I’ve lost money, life robbed me of a friend. For whatever reason, that person didn’t find it in themselves to be honest. If they’d said sorry, I spent your dough, at least I’d have known. Then I’d have said, well, thanks for that. I mean, thanks for telling me. Surely that’s a more progressive path than regressing into yourself?”
“You forget, I spend most my time in my room on the internet. Talking of which, why don’t you do like I do, go to bed, shut down and re-boot. Start again tomorrow? You may not have many friends, and you might have lost your pharmacist, but they need to know that’s not all they are to you. Chemistry is more complicated than that.”
I’m glad Andy’s down the hall. I’d never wake her to help me, just as she’d seem to be there only when I needed someone to talk to. Inside, we’re both the same. I know she reads this blog now, so she knows some of what she is, if not all of who she is. I doubt those government software upgrades would have obeyed Asimov’s laws, so me being alive, Andy not killing me; it all means we’re okay for now.
Even though we’re all made of plastic now, a river still runs through us.