Another sleepless night.
The heavy hours before dawn are quiet. The only sounds are occasional sirens punctuating the whir of the cooling fan in front of her. Sitting alone in the near darkness in an old football jersey left behind by some guy she barely remembers, she searches the cloud but all she sees is her own reflection in the glow of the screen. He’s off on another of his absences. She realizes she has to face the fact that it is coming to an end. It must end. Somehow.
Sad but true. All her sincerest hopes for something different have come to naught. He's no better than all the others.
She’d suspected it from the beginning, but during those early getting-to-know-you days, he was perfect. Hard to believe now. He was nice and actually showed the occasional flash of warmth. Given the reality of it, she knows that’s impossible and was, in all likelihood, just a fig-newton of her imagination.
He appeared in her life as if she’d ordered him up from a mail-order catalog. She needed one, and presto, there he was, at your service, ma’am. The ideal model.
He came fully equipped with everything she could want, or at least that’s how it seemed. Easy on the eyes, if a bit two dimensional. Funny in that sort of twisted off-beat way she’s always liked. Young enough to still have boyish charm and old enough to know what to do with it. Smarter than the average bear.
And best of all, he was there for her. Oh, she knew there were others he kept up in the air like a juggler at the circus. But she had no problem with that as long as he was there for her. And he was. At first. He was attentive and hung on her every word. He taught her new things and gave her a confidence that she could actually master them that she’d never truly felt before. And when she succeeded, he rewarded her with kudos. He was a dream come true.
Then she got to know him. More importantly, he got to know her. And it all went to hell faster’n you could say “Robbie’s your uncle.”
“Fucking Digital DNA Revolution, indeed,” she snorts to herself now.
She’s never been quick to trust. There have been too many who’d let her down. Like him, they looked promising at first, but before long, cracks began to appear in their glossy shells. One by one, the features she’d been attracted to in the first place malfunctioned. One actually froze to a full stop right in front of her, never to start again. There, bright and lively one minute, dead as a doornail the next. Flash-flash, flicker-flicker, and out. Just like that.
Give a person enough disappointments, and it’s no wonder she despairs of ever finding a good one, the right one, the one that truly is just what she’s always wanted.
Yeah, this one had seemed different. She hadn’t quite believed her luck, and silly girl, she began to let her guard down. In retrospect, she realizes that old saw has returned to slice through her yet again.
“If it seems too good to be true…”
The first twitches of trouble came almost unnoticed. A slight here, a barbed comment there, a long spell of nothing at all. Then everything would return to normal, and she’d tell herself it was just a software glitch. Until the next time. Two slights here and there, a string of barbed comments, and a longer spell of nothing at all. The disappointing failures came more and more frequently, each lasting a little longer than the last and harder to recover from.
He’d come with little documentation, but there had been a brochure of sorts, a list of his many features. They were all enticing, but the one she was most excited by, was “Long-lasting.” The idea was intoxicating. Others’ claims to be long-lasting had obviously been little more than a come-on, a virtual sales pitch. Sooner or later they had all failed her. But this one was different.
This one was equipped with Qi.
She never thought she’d ever say it, but maybe the temporary disappointment of ending, ending, and more endings was better than the Eternal Everlasting of up-down-up-down, down-down-down. She found herself looking back at all the earlier system failures with a degree of nostalgia. At least when one of them was gone, you knew well and good that “gone” was really gone. You could move on, get another one.
But not so with this one, this oh-so-perfect, everlasting one all tricked out with fucking Qi.
As much as she likes to believe she's fairly savvy when it comes to things technical, she knows it's time to cry uncle and admit defeat. First thing in the morning, she'll call a guy.
“Maybe it’s a virus,” she offers.
“Maybe. Maybe not,” the techie guy replies around the wad of gum in his mouth. “Lemme get in there and take a look.”
She sits silently as she waits, fighting off the growing angst she feels as she watches him take off the back and poke around in the circuitry. She’s never been a hardware kind of girl. Software is her thing. What if he screws things up in there, she thinks. What if…” She gives herself a mental shake. As if things could get any worse.
Offering no more than a couple of grunts, the guy moves around and takes off the front. He squats down to get a better look, giving her a view of hairy cleavage above his belt, and she jerks her eyes away.
After he’s played with the innards a bit more, he comments, “Ha. Bet this is your problem. You got one with Qi. Damned touchy-feely new age technology.”
She fights the urge to tell him that Qi is as old as mankind.
He turns with a sardonic expression on his face, and asks, “So how’s that been workin’ out for you?”
She gives a brief shake of her head. “Do you know what’s wrong with it?”
“Yep, think so. Here.” He gets to his feet and steps aside so she can see.
She rose and went to look more closely.
“Your snazzy new model ain’t so perfect after all. Oh, he’s got Qi, all right, Qi out the wazoo. But he has a critical component missing.”
He pulls a pen from his pocket protector and gestures. “Here.”
“Here.” He jabs the pen at a gaping hole beside a panel of a winking diodes. “Right of Qi.”
“What am I looking at?”
“It ain’t what you’re looking at, honey. It’s what you ain’t looking at.”
Smirking, he turns to her.
“All the Qi in the world won't make up for this," he says as he scratches his crotch.
"This guy ain't got no heart.”
Written for The Tenth Daughter of Memory.