From: Chelsea <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, Mar 10, 2011 at 2:35 PM
Subject: Re: easy to love
To: Kris <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I have to tell you something: I am interested in robots in a sexual way. I’m not just saying that to be an adorable oddball. You sent me that monkey/prosthetics article and I got so turned on thinking about robot sex that I had to masturbate twice in the library bathroom and I’m not kidding. I was supposed to be studying for a physical anthropology mid-term and that made it extra inappropriate.
Context: remember that geminoid robot video we watched a couple weeks ago? I was thinking about the potential merger of those two technologies, the monkey-prosthetics and the geminoid. Like a quadriplegic man being able to get kinetic with his wife by puppeteering his own personalized robot version of himself! There is something creepy and romantic there, but not creepy in a perv way, creepy in an otherworldly, astonishing and thrilling and still very very sad but beautiful way. I honestly cannot think of anything hotter than Christopher Reeve sitting in his electrochair and watching his robot brainpuppet go to town on his wife.
I just realized that Christopher Reeve and his wife are both dead and I’m a collosal asshole. Forget Christopher Reeve. No, don’t forget him – never forget. Fuck it, let’s use him. Christopher Reeve, our actor, able to control the handsome, robust, fully functional Superman-era robot version of himself with his thoughts, to make and watch it do all the things he used to love to do when he had feeling. He can ravage his wife with his mind, just go bananas on her body, and even though he still can’t feel a thing, he can know he is making her feel something. The frustration and the longing there, it’s beautiful. And it’s fucking hot. And I am such a bad person. Is it sadistic to get turned on by this? I don’t think I’m a sadist. It’s romantic, right? Isn’t it? I can’t help it, I really can’t help but think it is the most sensual, sad, romantic scenario I’ve stumbled upon in weeks- it’s so beautiful!
I think I must be a really messed up asshole though, actually. Because when I really stop to consider what I just wrote, I realize that if I were the paralysed person and you were the object of my brainpuppet’s lust, I would become jealous of my brainpuppet eventually for getting to touch you. I really would. And I’d get so frustrated that I would make my puppet punch itself in the face. So I’m not a sadist or a masochist, I’m just an asshole.
What if you got so mad at your puppet that you made it pour boiling water over its head? Then you would watch its face melt and its circuitboard fry, and it would be like watching your own face melting and the frying circuitboard would be your soul frying and you would be overcome with sadness, pity and regret. No. I’m done with this whole fantasy now.
We’re still skiing this weekend? I need to borrow a snowsuit from someone. I’m excited!
Wish me luck, I’m heading into an exam in less than an hour and I’ve spent more time masturbating and writing to you than studying! A+ for effort!
I just got back from this trip to Calgary. It was a good trip, really good, but it was my first big drive road trip with the kids and without Kris. I was a nightmare of a human being, but what else is new. I was sour and resentful and I didn’t even try to rein in my irritability.
Eli screamed a lot in the car. Screamed. Purple-face screaming with the tears flying off his face like a funny crybaby in the funny papers. There was nothing I could do to help him. I tried to sing and it enraged him more. I gave him snacks and he threw them at the back of my head. When I’d stop at a park for a breather and a play, he’d be instantly happy, but the inevitable planking and screaming would begin again as soon as he knew he had to get back in the car. No amount of bribery worked. There was nothing I could do but keep on driving.
You know babies can sense it when their mothers are anxious, my mother chimed in during one of my mini-breaks in a fast food parking lot, vibrating with anxiety, craving a cigarette that I knew I couldn’t have, swigging scalding black coffee like my life depended on it. That’s why he’s screaming, you know. What a shame. He senses your anxiety and sadness, poor kid. Have you ever noticed how disorganized you are? Why did you pack all your clothes in garbage bags? I would have had everything neatly folded in suitcases and I would have made sure to bring along some Raffi tapes at the very least. You should really consider taking a parenting course.
She just went on and on the way she always does. Usually I can ignore her, but this time I let her have it.
You don’t get to talk to me right now. You had a loving, helpful husband and parents who spoiled you well into your adulthood. Your biggest worry when you were my age was whether to spend the summer in Belgium or France, and you gave it all up to marry a bucktooth drycleaner from Dark Salt Mountain.
“Who are you talking to, mom?” asked Ava.
“Just your grandmother giving me unsolicited advice again. Drink your juicebox.”
Once upon a time, Grick Hawthorst was a self-made man. Yep, self-made, in the tradition of self-rising yeast. First of all, he had a mouth full of beautiful veneers, so pearly and bucky and able to chew that you wouldn’t even believe it. Second of all, he owned a drycleaner called AA 25HRS Plus!Klean that he started all by himself with the five thousand bucks he pilfered over many years of working the counter at the fourth busiest auto parts wholesaler in Surrey. $5000 was a lot of money for Grick, and he really felt he’d earned it. Grick had grown up accustomed to a level of poverty peculiar to people raised in a ramshackle cabin at the top of Dark Salt Mountain, so five thousand was a lot.
You probably haven’t heard of Dark Salt Mountain, and that’s because once upon another time it disappeared one January night in 1985. You won’t find it on any map from before then either, and I’m sorry but I don’t have any explanation for that and neither does anybody else. How does such a great mound of rock and earth flatten overnight? Sometimes things just disappear, that’s how.
Grick got the name Grick because he was the youngest of seventeen Hawthorst children. The parents had already used the names Rick, Dick, Click, Big Slick, Brick, Trick, Kick, Lick, Mick and Little Slick for his older brothers, so Grick was the best and most logical name to complete the rhyme scheme. Also, the names had to be easy enough for Grick’s mother to pronounce.
Grick’s mother, Mabel Hunter-Hawthorst, was the product of a love affair between a rooster and a milkmaid. Although she appeared to be fully human, her reproductive organs were those of a large chicken. She made a lot of clucking chicken sounds all day long, and despite the seventeen children, she never had a live birth. Instead, every ten months or so between 1958 and 1977, she would abruptly stop whatever she was doing, lift her skirt, squat, and lay a single egg. The first egg she ever produced was a big deal. She clucked merrily, wrapped it in a blanket and carried it around with her for nine months until it hatched. That was Grick’s oldest sister, Lucky, pride of the Hawthorst family, the only high school graduate and the only member who could fart the entire alphabet in the proper sequence of letters. I’m not making fun of these people, by the way, not at all. I’m writing about them with a teeny tiny bit of derision, but only because they were all truly bad people and only partially human. These were not salt of the earth people, okay? They were Dark Salt Mountain people, and those are the types of people that will see a run over dog, a dog who could probably survive with veterinary care, and run it over again for pleasure.
So about Grick’s mother. Mabel subsisted on compost scraps, worms and chicken feed washed down with beer. Half human, half fowl – not her fault, just the way she was made – and whenever Mabel would lay an egg, she would take it out to the broken toilet beside the shed, place it in the toilet bowl, and warm it several times a day with the contents of her bowels. That was her way of taking care of her pregnancies from her body the way 100% humans do.
Grick hatched early. It was a dark and salty mountain winter’s day. Like the rest of his siblings, Grick was born with a full set of rotten teeth and was able to walk, talk and be a bully immediately, so his mother wasn’t surprised when she saw naked newborn Grick, his downy hair matted with bits of shell, tromping through the dark salt brambles and spitting on the family hound as he made his way up to the cabin porch to meet his father and siblings.
The way Grick told it, he had a pretty rough childhood. One of his fondest childhood memories was of watching his mother in the kitchen kneading dough while being groped from behind by one his many “uncles from in town” while his father lay passed out on the porch as usual and his siblings fought over scraps of leftovers from the pub. He would never get used to the taste of store-bought bread, he told us once over dinner, because he was so used to the flavour of cigarette ashes in his sandwiches.
Yes, Grick’s childhood was truly horrific, worse than the worst Dickensian tale of poverty, abuse and neglect. His next older brother had been struck by meningitis, and because Mabel and the father were drunk as usual, Grick and his brothers put Little Slick on a sleigh and took him down the mountain to the hospital. By the time they arrived, Little Slick had stopped breathing. He was revived, but was basically a vegetable from that point on, which meant that Mabel couldn’t help but eye him hungrily and peck at his face compulsively. She didn’t have a beak, of course, but she would peck with her nose as if it was a beak, her arms folded at her sides like the wings of her father. It was Grick’s job to defend his brother from Mabel’s pecks, and he took that job seriously. Little Slick was tied to a kitchen chair for most of his life, and Grick would sleep by his side some nights, beating Mabel away with a broom when he had to.
The point is that Grick had a very hard life. But because it was so hard, he was hard too. Hardened, conniving, cynical. And his greatest talent, aside from petty theft from trusting employers, was seduction. He could seduce any woman with his Clooney hair and chicklet veneers, but his favourite kind of women to seduce were women like my mother – bored, indulged, educated middle-class women with savior complexes. He would have been such an amazing man if he’d only had a better life, they told themselves. My mother was so enchanted by the idea that she and she alone could be the One True Heroine of Grick’s life that she sold her home and all of her earthly possessions to invest in AA 25HRS Plus!Klean and married Grick within two months of meeting him and three weeks of being diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer. Yes, she told herself, she would educate him, take him to Europe and show him original Van Goghs, lift him, lift him, lift him out of the broken toilet bowl from whence he hatched. At night, recovering from chemo, she would swaddle him like a newborn, stroke his hair and coo at him, read him poetry, feed him boneless chicken wings likes grapes.
The questions I asked the Oracle were dumb. I should have thought of better questions, but I was scared and I didn’t understand what was happening so I asked the wrong things. Now that I’ve had some time to think things over, I feel like I should get another chance. I’ve been reading a lot about M Theory lately, and time travel and antimatter and fractal awareness. If by some miracle I get to the underground lake again, I know exactly what I’m going to say.
From: Chelsea <email@example.com>
Date: Fri, Mar 12, 2011 at 1:17 AM
Subject: Re: easy to love
To: Kris <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Hey, I’m glad you told me about your fear of going back to school. I think the fear is a healthy fear, very healthy. I don’t know anything about anything, but I think fear might be a healthy thing to feel when you consider doing something big and bold and scary. Because it is scary to jump into the waters you’re describing, I can see that. But a bit of fear never hurt anyone, right? I think it means you will be more thoughtful, sensitive and nuanced in the work that you do. So… maybe hold onto that fear a little? Because maybe it can be transformed into something formidable. I think we – the general we as in We, The Sentient Beings of Planet Earth – get the biggest hits of fear when we are on the right track. With you, for instance, I was completely immersed in fear, as if I might burn to death if I let you get too close. It was a different kind of fear, but it was also the same in that it was about having to confront myself and my deficiencies, the ones I know intimately from having failed at marriage, and the ones I don’t even know yet that could fuck everything up. I was crippled by self-doubt and full of fright, and I almost shut it all down, and I’m so glad I didn’t.
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you will succeed and do something fucking amazing in the artificial intelligence world. Sure, you’re brilliant, blah blah blah – lots of people are brilliant. You’ll use those beautiful brains, but really you’ll do it because you want to do it so badly that you’re terrified. And these intellectual giants you’ve mentioned, they must have all been terrified at some point starting out.
I shouldn’t be doing the pep talk thing. I don’t mean to minimize your fear or speak in platitudes. It is scary. Maybe just give up.
I love you, you know. I really do. And thanks for agreeing about the romanticness of robot sex. One day when I’m quadriplegic I will love you so good and I won’t even get jealous of my brain puppet. Gah, it’s late. See you tomorrow.