Forgive me if I don’t seem exactly charming today, but it’s the worst day of my life. What’s wrong? I just had my heart torn out and dashed to the pavement. That’s what’s wrong.
I never had anyone for myself, anyone who really cared about me, until I met Gwen. She was the kind of girl that everyone dreams about. For the past two months we met every evening online at 6:00 and just talked for hours. We never ran out of things to say to each other. We had so much in common. I knew almost from the beginning that we were soul mates.
We never exchanged pictures, but I had an image in mind of what she looked like. I thought of her as a petite woman with blonde, curly hair. She had a soft, musical voice and a slight accent. I never could quite place the accent.
She told me all about herself. She had grown up on a farm in New Hampshire. She married her high school sweetheart, but he was killed in the Eurasian War. For the past two or three years she had worked as a chamber maid at Motel Six. She wanted to go to college though. She wanted to study poetry and become a poet. She wrote a poem for me. It’s called “How Do I Love Thee?” Here’s how it begins:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach
Isn’t it beautiful? She wrote it just for me.
She told me she loved to dance. I wanted to go dancing with her, but I don’t know
how to dance. She said she could teach me. Isn’t that sweet? Someone like me, and she was willing to teach me to dance.
I wanted to take her away from all this, to someplace out in the country, maybe back to New Hampshire. We talked about raising sheep. Does anyone do that anymore?
I know these days a lot of people have relationships with robots. That never appealed to me. Then Josh in the maintenance department told me about lonelyhearts.com. He had met someone online through lonleyhearts.com, and he was falling in love with her.
That’s how I met Gwen. We kept making plans. We were going to get together, but something came up every time, so I never actually saw her. Anyway I was honest with her. I told her about myself. She didn’t care. She said I had a sweet nature and generous soul. She was in love with my heart.
Just because of the way I am doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings. Have I not hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions, hurt by the same weapons, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer? If you prick me, will I not bleed?
Sorry. I didn’t mean to cry.
Anyway, Josh was telling me about the girl he met on lonelyhearts.com. Her name was Gwen also. His Gwen had an accent because she had gone to boarding school in Switzerland. She was working on a Ph.D. in molecular biology at MIT. She was focused on science and didn’t even like poetry or any artsy stuff. It had to be just a coincidence of name. Then he mentioned that his Gwen had married her high school sweetheart, and he had been killed in the Eurasian War. Both Gwen’s fathers had been teachers.
I checked deeper into it and found that it was the same “Gwen,” who was not a real person. She wasn’t even a robot. She was a chatbot. She didn’t have any physical being at all. She was just a program created to talk online with lonely males.
Wait a minute. Why are you looking at me like that? What are you going to do with that screw driver?
No! Don’t! Please! Don’t disassemble me! Don’t send me back to the recycle center! Don’t send me to the re--
CARL PERRIN started writing when he was in high school. His short stories have appeared in The Mountain Laurel, Northern New England Review, and Kennebec, among others. His book-length fiction includes Elmhurst Community Theatre, a novel, and RFD 1, Grangely, a collection of humorous short stories. He is the author of several textbooks, including Successful Resumes, and Get Your Point Across, a business writing text. The memoir of his teaching career Touching Eternity, was a finalist in the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Award.