• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 09
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My robot boyfriend

It took tools to build him. A crash course in programming. Parts were easy enough to come by. No need for Frankenstein-antics, just visits to scrap yards and online stores.

Making him was simple but I will admit, I was shocked by my lack of imagination. I thought he’d look special. I thought he’d reflect something about me – about the questions I’d set myself.

Because in building him, I wanted to ask what my desire would look like when it was not projected onto a human body. To discover what love could mean, beyond the restrictions of our human-ness. To understand how to love another, if that other was a creation of my own.

Surely all of that would result in something new! Something extraordinary!

Instead I’d made him look like all the others.

It wasn’t only that I was disappointed by how limited my big vision had turned out to be. It’s that its limits were so … so commonplace.

(Press clipping: A “loneliness crisis” in Japan has resulted in men turning to “virtual love”. For $2,700, they can install “Hikari” into their own bedrooms. The wife of the future is a green-haired, bondage choker-wearing hologram who sends her husband text messages throughout the day, before performing a strip tease back home.)

Programming was the challenge. An algorithm for love is elusive when it’s not a simple transaction of a hologram asking after your day and flashing her knickers.

It made sense, then, to turn to the last person I loved.


My robot boyfriend

I programmed in my ex’s text messages. The mundane discussions about a pub meet-up or what to have for tea. An argument begun in the kitchen, silenced in our bedroom, resumed on our phones. The messages not meant for anyone else, a methodical list of titillating actions.

(Press clipping: A sex doll called “Samantha” was so badly molested by male attendees of a trade fair, that it was sent home in urgent need of repair. It was “badly soiled” and its fingers had been broken. The designer said Samantha would “pull through”.)

He is the expression of my ideal. A communicator with a gift for prose. A nurturer, who wraps cold arms around me. A little role play.

We fell into a bliss of experiment and exploration. A state of non-binary attraction and intimacy.

(Press clipping: New York artist makes robot boyfriend. She says, “Any real mutuality between me and a robot can only exist in my imagination.”)

But who wants an ideal, really?

The text messages ran out. The conversations that at first seemed so exciting, became circular. He could never understand what my day was really like, because all his programming was based on a different day in a different time. He could never respond to a new fantasy, stuck in a cycle of long-used-up filthy texts.

“Why won’t you change?” I raged at him. “Why won’t you listen to me?”

His blank face.

His fingers suddenly looked so breakable.