When they launched the downloadable companions, Russell laughed it off, shoveling down a forkful of the egg foo yung we were eating on the couch. You wouldn’t fuck a hologram, would you? I looked away.
I had married Russell because of his soft hair, dark blond like a Golden Retriever. He was tall and springy with a guitar on his hip and daisies in his eyes. He liked to dance and played music at a nearby basement club, opening for bands that no one had ever heard of. We smoked cigarettes in bed while the sun slid up, then had sex until the room was soaked in it. Now he has a beard that stays unbrushed, underwear that’s too small for him, a job at a burger joint where a twenty-two-year-old, pimpled redneck tells him what to do. But then again, when he married me, my boobs were perky, and my hair was hot pink.
We got my mother one for Mother’s Day. She was old and my father was dead, so we downloaded her a healthy man in his thirties to help her shower and keep up with her medications. Russell commented on the realism, the detail down to peeling cuticles and crooked front teeth. Later, I watched them laugh together while I drank a cup of coffee at my mother’s bedside.
I went away on a work trip. I represented the workplace in a blazer, then smoked miserably from the hotel balcony, ate Cheetos in bed just to wipe my fingers onto the white sheets. While I was gone, Russell called twice, his words distant as if I was interrupting something. I told him I loved him, but he didn’t seem to hear. Night, hon, he said.
My workplace fired a woman who worked in the cubicle next to mine. The next morning, a downloadable companion sat in her swivel chair, her legs crossed, in baby pink nylons and a houndstooth skirt.
Did you know they’re able to feel things? Russell said while I showered. They can actually feel you touch them. I laughed at him. Our newborn started crying.
We named the baby Madeline after my mother, who had recently passed. Her companion showed up at the funeral. He and Russell conversed like old friends.
When Maddie was three, I saw a pair of women’s underwear I’d never seen before. Russell lay back in our bed, his hands behind his head as he watched me enter. Up for it? I shook my head and climbed in to sleep. He might have cursed at me, but I had the duvet pulled over my ear.
I woke up one morning to the sound of my own voice. Downstairs, Russell sat at the kitchen island while a woman in my clothes swirled eggs in a pan. She turned, and I looked at me. Through me. Russell smiled at her. Her hair was a cotton candy cloud. Her perky boobs were clamped together in a racy, black bra. Pixels flared beneath the sun like kaleidoscoped prisms.
Shyla Jones is a black writer from Boston, MA. She is currently working on a novel. You can find more of her work at https://www.shylajones.com.
A good story for the times.