I mean I imagine life becomes richer / deeper / fuller and you grow in patience and selflessness but then also mostly you get to eat their fruit snacks. Weird that I already can’t wait for that? Giant-femured Kid: Mom, where’d all the fruit snacks go? Me: MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.
I am beginning a steady hearting of the Thing that is the Graphic Novel. This week, I steadily heart Fun Home, a sort of bleak but really compelling memoir penned by one booky lesbian. Also, she can draw.
When I first started reading le novels graphique, or what have you and stuff, I found it hard not to judge the actual writing – it can be sort of, well, blah. But then I realized (and also, it was pointed out to me, le duh) that the words in the graphic novel LACK the sort of descriptive yum that I usually look for in my Bekah-ed idea of good prose – because it’s in the images, instead. This is really interesting to me – it’s like a completely different type of storytelling. I want to do one. Make one, rather. And one day, I will.
If you google image ‘Sexy Robot Man,’ that is what you get. PS. FYI.
So, I have been ‘comissioned’ if you will to write a monologue for an upcoming festival of halloween plays, spoken from the perspective of a deceased person. This is what I mustered. Why am I so obsessed with robots even, as of late?
Also, please keep the image below in your mind as you read on. Yes; it exists.
The Way in Which Robots will Make Love to Each other
By Bekah Brunstetter
Elizabeth, middle age, appears. She has been electrocuted. Her hair is frazzled; she twitches.
It was a dark and stormy night. (Pause.) No, it wasn’t. It was pleasant, actually. The evening was doing that pleasant evening thing that happens when the weather begins to hover between Summer and Fall, crisp and cool and sweatery. Outside the window, the leaves said Hello, I am falling. I am falling, and there is nothing you can do to stop me.
(She pauses, nostalgically.)
Ernie loved leaves. Hi, the leaf, he would say. I wonder what he is doing right now, and whether or not it involves some memory of me.
We were snuggling, Ernie and I, that night, all wrapped into each other as best we could, as close as two can fit. We were watching something like a Canadian soap opera for teenagers in which the fat girl has no choice but to stay with her boyfriend who beats her, because she is fat, but her eyes are pretty, so she finds the will to live somehow.
We were snuggling like any two lovers would to Canadian television: feet touching, releasing adorable and annoying relaxed sounds towards each other, in and out. We were like any other snuggling lovers. (Pause.) Except for the fact that Ernie is an Elder Care Robot I ordered online from Japan to care for my dying mother before she up and died two months ago, quietly and in her sleep, with no if ands or buts about it.
I believe in love, don’t you?
It seemed cruel to send Ernie away. He is so good at picking things up, and putting them other places. So clean and strong. So reliable. So quiet. Naturally ,we fell in love.
This went on for sometime, and I was more than content to snuggle and exchange sounds with this body, as he picked things up for me, and put them where they belonged. I am picking this up, he would say, and sigh, I would say, loving him more than any person might love any person despite the annoying and adorable sounds they release when tired, or bored, or exasperated.
Now, I have always hated intercourse with a specific loathing usually reserved for dirty band aids. I find it to be painful and silly, like some sort of obligatory wedding dance in mis-sized stiletto shoes. This worked well for Ernie and I. He did not require me to put out, and I, in turn, laid off his nuts, if you will.
But this night in particular – there was something different in the air. As I watched something like a Canadian soap opera for teenagers, as I watched them kiss and fondle each other, spooning in bedrooms with unlocked doors as Mother carried laundry up the hall – I felt – curious. Aroused. I looked at up at Ernie, and thought:
In the future, Robots will make love to each other via files and jpegs. Their declarations of devotion will be titled iminlovewithyou dot doc. Their hearts will look like blank word documents. Once filled with musings and metallic love sounds, these documents will be transferred via soft robot touches, and love will happen. This love will be measured in gifs, watts and gigabytes. Man and woman-bots, for the first time, will be able to compare their feelings of love with each other, scientifically.
How fucking romantic, I said, and I never say fucking, or romantic. This was huge. How fucking, fucking romantic.
Having been snuggling me for so long a period, Ernie had entered ‘sleep’ mode. WAKE,, I said, and those big eyes opened like metallic pieces of heaven pie. I touched him like always, like one lovingly touches a new kitchen appliance, right out of the box: with tender respect, and joy.
I went down further. Further. Farther than ever. ERNIE’s functions moved within him and sounds came out, like sounds should. PERPLEXED, he managed, PERPLEXED. Shhhh I said. Further down I went, until I found someone’s version of paradise: metal, firm. They had not forgotten, these makers. They knew.
Perplexed, I was, as to how it was going to go down. But I was Determined to take my love outside of myself, and put it onto this thing that I loved, take it inside myself, love it up all good.
It was worth it, I say, in retrospect. The thing that felt like a forest fire through my body and hair was the closest thing I had ever felt to love: love being a matter of risk; love feeling like fire being set to your insides, one by one.
In the morning, it was optimistic, available, and in need of Eight Breakfasts.
In the afternoon: slightly weary, busy, bored of walks to the bank.
At night: it filled with blood and grew darker and colder. It wandered around: needy, wistful, confused. It loved and needed everything.
Before we ever met, there was something happening in your back situation that was Not Good. Not Good things were done to you, as you slept, to fix the Not Good thing. The room went white with doctors, and you slept through the pain.
Afterwards, for what seemed like forever, you lay on your stomach while your skin things healed; while yourself made itself right again. You refused the pain killers for fear of addiction and made things with your hands, to keep your mind quick. You lived.
Day one of Better, you took a drive to a friend’s house, sat on a couch, and smiled. You lived.
When you tell me this story, you grow in my mind into a large impenetrable tree, invincible. The tree holds seven tree houses for imaginative children and the ocean quietly licks at its feet. I know little of real pain, so I like to look up to you, lying on your stomach as you healed, before we ever met.
They wandering together through the outdoor flea market, stopping to touch things periodically. The dragon statues slept on weed-wackers and the action figures melted into each other. The unicorn tablecloths shared holes with that of meringue colored curtains, and here and there, there were large patches of someone’s old socks.
She thought: This was amazing, this: the wandering with someone through batches of peoples’ old things. She was sure it could not be possible, that this was indeed what she was doing; that she had found a person who shared her love of musty envelopes and half-eaten sweatered things. It couldn’t be real. Perhaps it was the heat, and she was imagining it. It was hot and thick as hell or boiling orange juice. A writer could say something like ‘the heat could drive a man insane’ about this place, and mean it. A writer could cook up a story about an over-heated black man standing in the middle of freeway, waiting to be hit, waiting to collect funds from the white man behind the nice wheel – and tell the truth.
She decided to relish in the stroll, heat daze or not, so she grabbed his hand as they walked.
She was wondering why the vendors insisted on attempting to sell The Christmas size candy bars in this heat. Their sad wrappers, abandoned, folding into themselves, made her sad. Oh, the futility, she said, and this made him laugh and squeeze her hand harder.
They had some purpose for the visit. She wanted an old typewriter to put on some sort of desk to make her feel useful and important, like the kind of people who keep old typewriters around despite the fact that the W sticks. And he wanted an old bike so that he could feel free, like he could fly, like the kind of person who rides bikes and pretends that they are flying.
They paused at a table of old jewelry. The sweaty woman behind it was beside herself to see them stop, and immediately began to sweat more and she quoted prices. Everything sparkled with age and heat; each piece was special. Overwhelmed, she wanted to pick each up and tell it how pretty it was. She picked one ring in particular. It was pretty and it made sense. Silver; gold. It bit her fingers with burn from the heat.
The old sweatwoman reacted fast. She knew what to do. She took the ring from her fingers, and plunged it quick into an ice bath she had prepared, handing it back, proud of her fix.
She put it on her finger. It felt cold, good. He took her hand and slid it off, replacing it on her ring finger. She paused.
I want to make you a promise.
Gay, she said.
He insisted. I promise.
She insisted. Gay.
No - I mean it. She looked up into his eyes, blue and honest as ice. A writer might notice this, and say something like: Ice never lies about what it means, or its intentions, and mean it. She nodded.
We’ll take it, he said, and handed the sweatwoman her bills in sweats.
It felt good to walk away from the table towards other filled with wooden squirrels and lollipops. It felt good to put her icecold hand in his.
They had been together for 93 years. The immobility of their age compelled them to spend much time sitting on the porch, while she admired the age spots on her long legs, and watched him play the ukulele. Their home faced the ocean, faithfully, as their bodies faced each other during sleep.
93 years it had been, and it was still unpredictable. They still managed to say things to each other that they had never said before. He still managed to pull the most wonderful words out his pockets, and throw them at her to see if she would catch them: and she always did. She was never quite sure, though, whether or not these musings were in theory. But most of the time, they were true.
There was the time that he looked at her over his glasses as she removed the remains of his breakfast. He put two fingers on her wrist and said, I’m going to find a big purple parrot and name him Benjamin Franklyn. I’m going to pay him in stale cheezits to tell you you’re beautiful every time you enter the house. She smiled at this, and put this smile in to the dish water. She bit her smile with her lip and marveled, for the eight thousandth time, at the stupidly wonderful things that he said.
But sure enough, two days later, Benjamin became a regular fixture in the house. He brought him in proudly on his arm, and set him on a chair in the kitchen.
Tu es belle, said the parrot. And her lover beamed proudly. He speaks French, too.
So this morning in particular, as he strummed his ukulele and she admired her spots – she was not surprised at all when he said to her, I want to wrestle you in a giant bath of fruit cocktail. She blushed as her old mouth got wet. He nodded to himself, affirming the want of this thought.
Sure enough, the next day, he returned home with five large vats of it. He carried them in, one by one, refusing her help. He placed them in the refrigerator.
Cold would be better.
I completely agree.
They sat at the table, sharing a half-salad sandwich, and waited.
Three hours later they sat in the bathtub, facing each other, laughing like kids. She put her ankles next to his. All four ankles had shrunk with time, but still felt generally the same. There was a familiarity that made her heart surge.
How can it be so wonderful, after all these years still? She thought this to herself. From the kitchen, Benjamin spoke his piece: you’re beautiful. And just when she thought it could never ever get more wonderful, it couldn’t possibly: he laughed and picked a cold piece of peach out of her hair and put it in his mouth.
I call this icky, gratutious nighttime fuction. What? fiction.
But not as cute. But she didn’t want it to be any sort of love, no sir. Not a love of convenience, colored with conversations about effects of the heavy rain. Not the sort of love where the lover took off running with the love, and forgot her all together. She wanted to be loved for the things that she made.
And what she made were small replicas of flowers out of un-flowerish things. The daffodil was molded from a piece of burrito-ed tin foil and looked real as day. The nosegay was arranged with old dryer lint, and plumped by her ambitious fingers. The roses were crafted out of market bags and carefully dried with glue, sometimes creased by her late-night tears. The violets were made of worn pieces of someone’s favorite sweater.
She was damn mildly good at what she did. Respected, even. There were some better than her, but she was better than some, and this was the reason she could get up in the morning. Each day she set up her table and arranged the flowers like a quaint village of her thoughts. Wonderbread daisies bordered the table while the lollipop Lillies huddled in front. People passed by, and she waited.
As the occasional passer-by stopped to finger one of her thoughts, she would try and re-think it: that Carnation was two weeks ago, a Wednesday. I was feeling stuck. Why can’t a carnation be blue? Why must we always do the same sad thing, over and over? This Carnation will be blue, and like it.
The passer-by would put the thing down, smiling the uncomfortable side grin of a person Not Wishing to Part with their Money; or hand her two dollars, wet from their pocket. The person would then take the precious thing to a place where it would probably be flippantly consumed by someone’s dog or child.
So she waited and starred at her creations, counting the reasons that someone could one day fall in love her. They ranged from the freckle on her lower back to the maddening power of her blueberry pancakes, even when burnt. The way she tended to dance around in her underwear when no one was watching, releasing all the joy she had collected in the past nine days back into the universe.
It was the one moment when she forgot she was waiting. There was the silliest goddamn itch in the world and it was happening all over her ankle; she was bent down to scratch it. Her face was like a cherub at summer camp, scrunched and half-smiling and frustrated.
When she finally looked over, he had finished setting his table up. He was grand, but like a giant little boy who’d popped his last water balloon. This blue balloon was in fact most likely the same color of his eyes.
Little did they know that they both felt slightly homeless; like they had no place to put their shoes.
He sat patiently behind his table, waiting for someone to fall in love with him. He was more forward than she. He smiled at the passer-by’s, scooting forward his home-made sign, sharpied, FREE YOUR MIND.
From next door, she quietly admired his table for it’s gaul, audacity and charm. It was neatly, conspicuously arranged with food items in uncommon containers. The waffles sat tiredly in shoes. The hot dogs in tube socks. The marmalade in tin buckets. The ham in a sleeping blender. The nuts perched dilligently in a winter glove.
Her heart surge slightly as she noticed each item and she put one finger to the corner of her mouth to chew it. Then, a customer.
What the heck is this?
Um – it’s a flower. It’s a Chrysanthemum, actually.
What the hell is it made out of?
The customer re-placed her be-labored thought, the labor of her fingers back onto the table and hurried off to where. She scooted it three inches back to the left, dancing with the Real Butter- buttercup, where it belonged. And when she looked up – he was looking.
He stood up from his table and walked towards hers. This was bold, and both knew it. She put her hands between her knees, pressing her skirt down, hunching her shoulders, hoping that in some world, with some sort of God, this was somewhat adorable and noteworthy. Her heart raced. Is it you? She quickly began to name their children after flowers.
He stood in front of her table. With two perfect fingers (she decided) he picked up the tulip she had made from her favorite shoelaces, the last time she felt nostalgic, which was always. He smiled at it, and then at all of her creations, and then at her.
I like this, he said.
She didn’t know what else to say except is it you? So she said it. He nodded. They pushed their tables together.
Fiction; Romance. Inspired by overheard , found Words, and assorted sentiments.
He called her Le Dammit, because he could find no other name to fit her.
His words sat patiently in his head, a diverse group of ancey children on a field trip. ‘With Reckless Abandon’ held hands tight with ‘Fortitude.’ ‘Pretty’ and ‘Lacivious’ sat together, sharing a half-salad sandwich. ‘Dammit’ stepped forward, having been lost in the back, reserved for quiet moments of frustration, longing and joy. He chose this name for her, because it felt purple, like the air around his fingers when he held the phone, tight, wondering what her knees were doing exactly, miles away: whether they were smiling, together, or spread.
Purple? She asked. Really?
Shut up, le Dammit, he said, sweet and coy. The way I feel about you is fucking purple. He stepped in a puddle as he walked, not knowing where he was going, or how the hell he was going to get there.
I like it, she said, and when she did, she sounded to him like Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Little did he know that she sounded exactly like wonderfully nostalgic cereal because at that moment – exactly – she was patiently selecting a name for Him: running through her words to find one that matched her longing, which was pale blue: like water and cartoon stars.
I think there comes a time when people must pair off, she said. He nodded, yes, assuming that by this point in time, she could feel it when he moved his body in affirmation. She continued.
Yeah – I think there comes a time people must find themselves lugging luggage through airports, wearing the same sandals, snuggling to thunderstorms, travelling, following, throwing food. It’s like – wherever they are going – they sure are really going there together. Even their pair luggage loves each other.
He digested her sentiments. It was at this exact moment that his umbrella died.
Where are you headed, anyways? she asked.
I don’t know, he said. He studied his unfamiliar surroundings, peering through the purple. I think I’m suddenly walking towards you somehow.
They smiled a simultaneous smile, and then there was a pause. The fuzz of the phone wrapped their lips in blankets as they listened to the sound of the other breathing as they walked. This pause gave birth to their first child, who grew up ambitiously to start gardens where people gave each other names like ‘le dammit’ and umbrellas never die.