• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 09
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Saving Himself

Memories come to her in colour. He is pleased to have discovered how to nest them in her. What she sees comes up on his computer screen. Like this image: two girls and a woman in a garden, a little out of focus but the blur suits his nostalgic mood. There is a garden gate with an arch of roses. Sunlight dapples through the shade of a mulberry tree.

Alone in his workshop, he tinkers and fine-tunes his machine. He thinks of it as female. Will find clothes for her in due course. On the metal shelves are tidy cardboard boxes filled with electronic bits and pieces, metals, screws. These are the original sum of her parts. When he is whimsical, like today, he likes to think that rivets sing the chinking song of her heart. Actually, it is silicon that pumps the oil that makes the thing-ummy-bob go round. It reduces surface tensions. Alginates and polysulphides create her skin, still a work in progress.

His girl – he considers her in the way a father might consider a daughter, with a certain baffled admiration, and fear – is a selection of circuit boards, resistors, capacitors, shining coils and servos, a jewellery of bright copper wires, transistors, rollers, relays and filters. She is his invention. A hard drive for his life. He has put a lot of thought into the longevity of her design. She is his beautiful study of energy and loss, of parts performance and ageing. When she remembers his world, colours glow within her. Small lights in her circuitry. He likes to think he can hear her humming, whirring, turning cogs like some lovely clock striking the hour. He turns off the lights just to see her brighten. She makes him think of glow worms on summer nights.

And there he is on the screen, impossibly young. He can never see himself in his own memories but she sees him. She remembers what he cannot. He is not sure how this happens but he is glad. She shows him the nervous energy he had when he was young, his impatient, restless ways. Things that are lost to him in slow old age.


Saving Himself

On the screen, he stands beside the woman and the girls. In the roses above their heads are four fledglings perched on a branch. He likes her remembering this. His past becomes her present.

‘Do you see them?’ he asks.

She doesn’t reply because he hasn’t given her a voice but she doesn’t need one. She speaks through his memories, adding more sun, showing him holding hands with his wife rather than standing with his arms folded. He looks at his machine and loves her for her understanding of him, for her humanity.

‘I’m just a study of the accumulation of energy and loss, performance and ageing,’ he tells her and her lights start brightening again, golden, like little fireflies in the dusk.