Thursday, December 29, 2011

Things I have apologized for

In the gym: "I'm sorry I was naked in the locker room."

At work: "Yes, I'm here early, sorry."

To a guy in the bank complaining about the line: "Sorry I came to the bank at the same time as you."

To my dad: "Sorry I said I don't care about the actress from the dragon tattoo movies."

To my roommate after he said I've been working late a lot: "Sorry."

To my roommate after he commented that I've been home a lot: "Sorry."

To my boyfriend: "Sorry I don't like MMORPGS."

To my best friend: "Sorry I called. Sorry I love you."

To a lady at the coffee shop who almost bumped into me but didn't: "Sorry."

In my room completely alone, to a dresser: "Sorry."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The ideal receptionist as imagined by the older white man on the other end of the phone

The ideal receptionist as imagined by the older white man on the other end of the phone:

"Yeah, I do have weekend plans. And furthermore I feel totally comfortable sharing them with a stranger."

"Oh my gosh, you got an attorney's voicemail? I cannot believe it! The only possible explanation is that sinister wrongdoings have transpired. Let me scour the building, nay, the world for him! No, of course I won't put you on hold; I have a bluetooth, sorry, sorry I mean a magical wizard hat. I apologize for confusing you with my loud, brassy slang. Just one second while I train this flamingo to cover the front desk while I find your attorney, because I have nothing else to do."

"You're right, I do have a slight lisp. Yes, it is hilarious that you pointed out an obvious physical handicap of mine. Hahaha!"

"Yes, it is cold outside. It's good that weather happens."

"No, I didn't just accidentally call you dad, sir... I said 'rad'."

"I AM in fact eating something! You caught me! Now you win a prize elephant named Albert. Yeah, I know you really wanted that prize, otherwise why else would a stranger identify my snack consumption?"

"So, you don't know who you're calling for, you're not sure if they have ever worked at this office, and you haven't talked with them in 40 years, but you know that he/she played golf once with an Asian man? Yes, I know exactly of whom you speak."

"Oh, fascinating."

“Wait a minute, are you telling me that you tried to call someone and they didn’t call you back? WHAT MADNESS IS THIS PLACE?!”

"My voice sounds too childlike? Thank you so much for telling me! Because I have complete control over it, so obviously I appreciate any and all constructive feedback."

"Sorry, they aren't in the office at the moment. Oh, they're expecting you? This. Changes. Everything."

"Good afternoon, thank you for calling- oh, er, um, Barbara... Oh really, that's your mom's name? How interesting. Yes, I do know her. From the great war."

"Of course I remember you from when you called two months ago."

"Wow, thank you so much for asking how my day is going! Someone in this miserable world does care! I am going to telegram my mother to tell her that I do matter. Sure, we wasted a few seconds of our lives with small talk, but I'll make that time back tonight tenfold because I won't have to lock myself in the bathroom and cut a tiny notch in my arm!"

"No, TGIF to you, sir. TGIF to you."

Monday, December 19, 2011

The goodbye

The goodbye
By Barbara Holm

I watched Michael drag his suitcase across the linoleum floor. The wheels rolled against the grey and white speckled faux tiles. His calico fabric on the suitcase blended in with hundreds of others rushing around it. It was uniform to every other bland inanimate luggage carrier save for the tiny monster tassel I had knit for him and attached to the black handle. It was brink pink and utterly adorable so he wouldn’t get his bag mixed up with anyone else’s. One time we had taken a plane to see his mom and he had gotten his luggage switched at baggage claim. We went on a roller coaster that trip and Michael threw up but I didn't laugh at him when he was covered in vomit so he gave me a present, like it's done.

“So,” Michael said, scratching the back of his head. “You can stay with me while I check in but you can’t come past security with me.”

I nodded silently and trailed behind him. I watched his shoulders bend and rotate in the fluorescent lighting. I didn't even say hi to the lights, which you might think is rude, but I don't care. I nodded politely to the radio transmitters and I don't think you can ask for much more than that. I examined his spine, full of nerves and hope. I watched it transmit messages through his neurons to his brain, perhaps for the last time.

“Do you know your way back?” he said.
“Of course,” I muttered.

An old lady stopped in her tracks as she was passing us. She stared at us with raised eyebrows. When I met her gaze calmly without blinking, she reddened and turned away. A little boy yanked on his mom’s pant leg and pointed at me, and his mom dragged him by the arm away. Michael didn’t acknowledge it.

Michael checked in and we walked down the grey hallway. I couldn’t believe that the tiny suitcase was enough for him to take with him, but I guess that was part of the move, starting over, leaving everything behind. He was getting a new job and saying goodbye to everything from the old job that didn’t matter. I flexed my fingers with a crack.

“Hey,” Michael said, tilting his head and reaching for my shoulder. “Are you okay?”

The correct answer was: Yes, of course I am, how could I not be, I’m always okay, etcetera. That is the normal response and if you stray from that the man might tip his hat and say, "calm down, sweetheart, you're being hysterical" and they don't mean it in the funny way.

I looked up into his deep eyes and felt something growing inside of me, something dark and unnatural. I brought my hands to my stomach and felt around. There was a painful ache in my core, emanating through my entire body. My sensors began vibrating on a higher frequency and I clutched at my abdomen and gasped, startled.

I watched every inch of Michael’s skin, noticing the contours of his muscle formation and tension. I memorized the tone of his voice and the lilt of his laugh. My large eyes started to tingle with a burning sensation and I felt a tightening in my throat.

“No,” I said matter of factly. “I am not okay.”
“What?” Michael said. He dropped his suit case and grabbed me by both my cold hard shoulders. He put his face close to mine and looked in my eyes. “What’s going on? Are you charged adequately? Did you download your updates?”
I nodded, my perfectly formed smile twitching on my lips. “I feel like I’m going to really miss you.”
“How?” His mouth hung open and his eyes widened. “You feel?”
“I think I’m in love with you,” I said.

Something was happening behind my face and I brought my hands up to my head and gently felt around. Salt water was leaking from my eye sockets with furious force. I tried to catch it in my hands. I felt a tiny static shock and I shook. My pristine, formatted, perfect insides filled with a violent pinching sensation that overtook my internal devices.

“I can’t believe it,” Michael said. He put his arms around me and felt around my back, against my door to see if everything was okay. “You think you feel love?”
“Yes,” I said.
“That’s not even possible.”
“Oh, I fucking know. What’s this liquid excreting from my eye sockets?”
“Shit, I think you’re crying,” he said. He rubbed a finger along my cheek. “That can’t be good. How could this happen?”
“Well, I’m programmed to be able to learn and adapt and I think you taught me…” I said.
“Do you have your user manual?”
“Who carries their manual around? I’m not a dork.”

As the realization swept over me, I realized I could identify the sensation of a realization sweeping over me. My skills sharpened. Emotions entered and coded themselves into my catalog and filed away in the back of my ginormous brain. I looked at Michael lovingly and he looked at me in utter, abject horror. I reached for him with one of my cold hands and he cringed when I caressed his cheek.

"What else can you feel?" he whispered.
"I feel loss, abandon, happiness..." I said, my catalog rifling through emotions and labeling them with what I assumed where the correct names.

A man in a black suit swiftly bled through the crowd, moving through space as though existence was simply swimming around him while he remained stationary. He approached us smoothly in his black suit with a black shirt. His jaw was annoyingly square and his haircut appeared plastic. I turned away from him but he reached out and grabbed my arm with a strong hand. A crowd of onlookers formed.

“Hi, sir,” he said quietly to Michael. “Is this your gynoid?”
I moved behind Michael, trying to bury my animatronic face and leaking eyes into his shoulder.
“Yes,” Michael said looking at me. “But, listen, we’re both really late for a plane.”
“I’m going to have to confiscate this android,” he said, maintaining a firm grasp on my arm. “We appreciate your consideration.”

“It’s probably nothing,” he tried to smile like a calm normal human. His face was reddening with the apelike emotion of anxiety that I luckily wasn’t burdened with. I listened to his heartbeat and calculated his nervousness. My concern subsided as I realized that I was still in control of the situation. “We just want to run some routine tests on it. Our system just revealed some interesting information on Unit 247 here, but it could easily be a typo.”

Michael hesitated, looking at me.
“No,” he said.

“Fortunately, due to cyborg human relations law, I don’t need your consent.” The man in the suit withdrew a small black rectangular instrument from his pocket. “It’s for your own protection.” He pressed a red button on the remote. “Follow me, Unit 247.”

I felt my loyalty sensors shift inside of me and I internally deactivated it with my mind. My neck cricked a few times as each joint popped and I rotated up to look at him. I met his gaze and he cringed at my soulless cold eyes.

“Come on, Unit 247,” the human said.

I folded my arms. Michael gasped when he realized what had happened. The man in the suit continued pushing his button and staring at the remote in concentration. I raised my hand up to my chest level and pointed a finger at him. A tiny red light flicked on in my outstretched pointer finger, shining toward him in finger gun position. My human like skin glowed on my hand.

“What is it doing?” the man asked. He pressed the button again. “Unit 247, deactivate lasers immediately!”
“Only if you promise to let me and my friend go,” I said softly.
The man stared at me in horror. “I’ll find you, wherever you go.”
I mentally logged on to the airport’s computer system. I said hi, flirted a little bit, and then scrambled all of its data.
“Good luck with that,” I said softly.

I grabbed Michael’s hand and we turned away from him. I could feel the crowd watching my back retreat from the situation, noticing my rhythmic walk. I could sense the agent terrified and confused that I could even possibly exist, unsure what that meant for him, for his job, for robotic sciences, for civilization and humanity. I squeezed Michael’s hand gently so as to not crush his finger bones. I moisturized my lip area and could feel Michael’s physical temperature rise through his hand. I turned to him with mechanic precision and looked into his wide eyes.

“Everything is going to be okay,” I said. “I love you.”
“Oh no,” Michael said.

Sitting at the skate park and waiting

Stephanie and Steven sat on the bench watching the kids roller skate in the park. Steven crossed and uncrossed his arms anxiously while Stephanie leaned back and gazed into the distance. Over the horizon the silvery clouds wrapped themselves around the stars. She chewed on her hair and hummed to herself.

“I just don’t know if I’m ready for it,” Steven said abruptly. He looked sideways at her and blushed.
“That’s fine,” Stephanie replied softly. She started humming again.
“It’s just kinda a big step. What happens if it doesn’t work out?”
“We can wait until whenever you are ready.”
“Okay, I’m ready.”

Stephanie sat up on the bench and leaned over to Steven. He reached down and unbuttoned his shirt. Then he pulled up the t-shirt underneath it, revealing his hairy chest. Stephanie bounced up onto her feet, crouching on the bench a few glorious inches from him. Goosebumps criss crossed over each other as the cold wind rushed through his clothes. His fingers shook as he pulled his shirts away.

“Go ahead,” Steven whispered.

Stephanie reached her arms forward like a super hero, flexed her squatting hips, and dove into the skin of Steven’s chest. She leaned in and pushed the skin back behind her, swimming deeper into his chest cavity past pink hairy globs of human being. The globs wiggled between her fingers, legs, and toes. She kicked and swam forward until she was on a hard surface, a rocky flat plateau. She got to her feet and dusted herself off.

She walked along a yellow gravel path, curling across the plain chest cliff. Fuzzy green monsters the size of pugs rushed along her feet and danced on the deserted plains. Passing by tufts of sad shrubbery, Stephanie finally reached the end of the path. The trail led to a tall, thick tree, sitting alone on the plains. The tree curled against itself, spiraling, knotted with thick dark brown bark, creeping upwards like wooden smoke from a witch’s cauldron. Its branches stabbed the grey sky with thick punctures.

In lieu of leaves adorning the branches, there were dozens of goldfish, wiggling and glubbing as they dangled in the air. They shook back and forth, gills flapping in the wind. Their eyes bugged out. Stephanie reached up to the tree, grasping onto an outward jutting knot, and heaving her body upwards.

She climbed the tree easily, balancing secure footholds on the gnarled bark. Once up on a branch, she sat down and held onto the fish laden twigs with a tight grip. Leaning back against the thick trunk behind her, she looked out into the distance, over the cracked dry earth, into the endless nothing that protruded before her. She watched nothing fly in the distance, seeping into itself and leaking down into the valleys below.

“Hey,” said a voice.
Stephanie looked beside her and saw one of the fish looking up at her.
“Hi,” she answered.
“How’s it going?” glubbed the fish.
“Good, I guess,” Stephanie answered.
“Well; it’s going well,” the fish said.

Its creepy fish lips pursed in a smug smile. Stephanie looked back into the distance, squeezing her butt and legs to keep her balance. She hooked her arm around a branch.

Steven sat alone on the bench, watching children fall down on the pavement. The kids writhed in self conscious anxiety. They picked themselves up after each fall, looked over their shoulders to check that everyone was still too focused on being self conscious themselves to judge each other, and then they went back to skating.

Steven whistled to himself under the stars and patted his chest with a smile.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Christmas Special

A Christmas Special

Man or woman sitting in an office typing. Christmas music is playing.
There’s a knock on the door. Camera swings to door and sees a file
clerk (sex doesn’t matter) File clerk is wearing scarf and mittens and
hat and is shivering.

File clerk: “Please sir, it’s 5:00, can we go home now?”
Boss: “I don’t know, CAN you?” laughs smugly at themselves and goes
back to typing. Camera pans to computer screen and boss is typing the
word “words” over and over.
File clerk: “It’s Christmas eve, sir. And my cubicle is so much colder
than your office.”
Boss: “Don’t act like it’s my fault you work in that igloo. I’m not
the wizard who cursed you.”
File Clerk: “Sounds like someone needs to learn the true meaning of Christmas.”
Boss: “Fine, let’s look it up on Wikipedia.”

The file clerk comes over to the computer and starts typing, knocks
over boss’s coffee cup, spilling on computer. Sizzling noise.

Boss: “What the fuck did you do?”
File clerk: “I spilled coffee on your computer.”
Boss: “Goddammit, Barbara, we need to send out the progress reports
today or the investors in China will close us down!”
File clerk: “Okay, let’s call the tech guy, Raavi”
Boss: “We can’t, I sent him home for the day.”
File clerk: “You sent him home and not me? He doesn’t even celebrate Christmas!”
Boss: “That’s an incredibly racist assumption.
File clerk: “Oh, no, I wasn’t saying that he doesn’t celebrate
Christmas because of his ethnicity, I was saying he doesn’t celebrate
it because no one loves him.”

Lights flicker and something moves on desk. A dude (gender doesn’t
matter) in a white sheet comes into the room going “woooo” Boss
screams like a little girl.

File clerk: “Look, it’s the ghost of Christmas past to show you what a
dickhead you are”
Ghost: “No I’m the ghost of the innocent computer you just murdered to death.”
File clerk: “Computers have ghosts? Do computers have souls?”
Ghost: “Um yeah duh, we have hard drives and monitors too, just like
everyone else.”
File clerk: “Our hubris has blinded us to the subtle rise of the machines.”
Ghost: “You’ll pay for not purchasing the Norton anti virus when I
told you too!”

Sheet falls to the floor, ghost has disappeared. File clerk starts
shaking and eyes go back in head, starts rocking back and forth with a
weird calm smile.

Boss: (scared) “…Are you okay?”
File clerk: “Everything’s going to be okay, now.”
Boss: “Barbara?”
File clerk: “There is no Barbara here.”
Boss: “What? I told her she couldn’t leave work early.”

Ghost File Clerk starts smiling big and creepy.
Boss: “No way is she getting to go home before she fixes my computer.”

Boss reaches into desk and pulls out a cross and a black/white priest
collar and cookie. Eats cookie.

Boss (reading from a random book, not the bible, could be Harry
Potter) “We are gathered here today to do some exorcising.”
Holds cross up towards File Clerk who is eating office supplies.
“By the power vested in me I expel this evil spirit from my office
assistant, but not her own evil spirit, just the foreign ghost one.”

File Clerk starts shaking.
“Go away, ghost, like now, okay?”
File Clerk’s eyes roll back in her head and she starts humming a Christmas song.
Boss: “What the hell is happening?”
File Clerk starts kinda singing it, doesn’t know the words
Boss: “Are you unpossessed now?”
File Clerk continues singing it.
Boss tentatively joins in and starts smiling. File Clerk smiles back at him.
Boss: “I’m so glad you’re back to normal.”
File clerk: “Yes, back to normal. Human normal.” Smiles brightly.