I pretended the alarm clock woke me and loudly groaned, covering my head with the unwarmed blanket. Did I dream of sheep? No, if I could dream, it would have been of Damian Jackson. In gym, I watched him play basketball, taking the ball up and down the court in self-assured dribbles. He would always attempt to dunk - and was successful one out of seven times. But with hands like that, solid hands that could adjust a basketball just so… I had some ideas for him. Maybe on the third date I’d take him home, show him the transformer, and ask him to break open the lubrication oil reservoir. The oil would be a little dirty from use, sure, but -
“Elena, it is time to get up. You’re going to make me late. Again.” She left the door open and I could sense her coffee and toast.
I sprung out of bed with a smile that was OK because I was alone. The pajamas were removed, a t-shirt was selected, and I put on yesterday’s jeans. The nightlight’s glow from the bathroom mocked me. Yesterday, I tried to brush my teeth. Based on my research, minty fresh breath was the best way to seduce Damian. Kisses were important: they had the power to wake a sleeping princess. Unfortunately, at the distraction from this thought, the water slipped into my faux-larynx, shorting the upper fuse (why was there only one fuse for the head?). It took hermana thirty minutes to reboot me. No room with the dangers of water today. Maybe my breath would smell or maybe I didn’t even have breath. I’d have to ask hermana about that.
“Elena, I’m ready. You look ready - time to go.”
While I wished to have more redundancy in circuitry, it was also obvious that I didn’t have the technical inspiration to design a more elegant solution. Walking through our living room, hermana’s circuits and inspiration were strewn about everywhere. She spent most evenings soldering and muttering to herself, launching the circuit against the wall with a curse when they didn’t comply with her desires. The subsequent gray stains were beginning to form a wallpaper of sorts. Me, I’d sit beside her on the plaid sofa, watching television until she decided it was time for bed. After asking her “how you doing” one too many times after a circuit-wall situation, hermana banned old sitcoms. What I had learned from the ‘age-appropriate’ shows she selected was that love was important and the ultimate sign of success, or popularity, or royalty. I wasn’t quite sure what the difference was between success, popularity, and royalty.
As soon as I was buckled, hermana called, “What are the rules?”
“A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” I could still picture Will Smith in the sinking car. He was handsome but no Damian.
She threw her arm across my chest to halt my joke. I think this was the ‘stop-short’ gesture that Seinfeld spoke of! My eyebrows creased; George’s mother giggled after the experience, but I understood that hermana really wanted me to shut up.
“Elena, we are nearly at your school. The rules.”
“Rule 1: no one can know I am an automaton. Rule 2: I must recharge over lunch or else I’ll end up breaking Rule 1 by losing battery in class. Rule 3: a good automaton will get good grades. Pay attention!”
Hermana looked at the road at my exclamation, but let out a sigh when the street was clear. “I said, ‘pay attention’ the other day after your report card, didn’t I?” Shaking her head, she reached the school, pushing a brown paper sack in my hand containing an auxiliary battery, “in case of emergencies,” and pushed me out of the car. She drove away, I assume, to an office. After watching a few superhero movies, I was beginning to test the theory that hermana was a supervillain and I her agent of destruction. When I voiced this concern, she asked me to ‘decrease this milk carton in size so that it’ll fit in the full trash can’ and tossed the gallon container to me. I quickly broke my hand on the carton: residual milk seeped beneath my skin and caused a bad relay. With a sigh, she spent the next forty minutes fixing me. She said I should see this as proof that my theory was wrong, but wouldn’t a supervillain say that?
I sat behind Damian in fourth period freshman science and spent the time memorizing his head shape. The class was part of STEM, and his head shape was geometry, so I was probably still learning and therefore paying attention. I thought through all the hairstyles I’d seen on him: he currently had a fade. Hairstyles are art and art is important, but maybe an antithesis to science?
Ms. Morgan was doing an experiment at the front of the class about electricity and water. She had a beaker of distilled water (‘no ions!’ she proclaimed) and tap water (‘shocking what’s dissolved in the stuff’). She asked us what would happen to the light bulb if its circuit included each type of water. The class went silent.
But, eventually, Damian shot up his hand, “I think the ions are important to conducting electricity.” He leaned forward in his desk towards Ms. Morgan and away from me. It was a gift to hear his voice, but why did he have to go so far away?
Ms. Morgan beamed at him and began to demonstrate his correctness. The tap water allowed the light bulb to glow; the distilled water left a dead bulb.
Damian leaned back in his chair and turned around: “Hey Elena.”
I nearly died right there, but the bell rang.
Damian turned away from me and packed up his stuff. His hands made his notebooks look like a single sheet of paper. He turned back to me and I got the feeling he was ready to walk and maybe would talk to me on the way to the cafeteria.
So I popped up and grabbed my backpack. “Hey Damian, good answer.”
He smiled and then laughed, not like what I said was funny, but kind of a shifty laugh. “Yeah, sometimes you get lucky.”
We were at my locker outside the classroom and I was exchanging the science textbook for the brown paper sack. Damian leaned on the locker beside mine, on the side opposite the hinges, so he was very close to me. I could feel his breath condensing on my skin.
“So I was thinking,” he said and I turned to look at him and immediately realized I’d done him a disservice. I thought about his giant hands and the back of his head, but what I should’ve been thinking about was his eyes. They were the brown of tree-trunks and so soft. They really looked at you. Not sure if my eyes were the actual visualization area for my body, but I could feel that his were. “I was thinking about playing basketball over lunch, on the outside court. I’ve noticed I play my best when you’re around and I was hoping you’d come watch me.” He shrugged his shoulder, shifting his backpack strap closer to his neck.
“Of course. I love to watch you play.” I cuffed that same shoulder, giving us physical contact. My chest sputtered and I remembered: my battery.
Damian was blushing and looking at the locker instead of me. “Damn, Elena. You can’t just go around saying stuff like that.”
“But I did just say it. And it is accurate.” I tried to catch his eye again; maybe then I could ask about going to the bathroom for fifteen minutes before watching him play. There is nothing suspicious about being in the bathroom for fifteen minutes and then I’d be charged up.
He met my eyes. “You talk like that, it makes me think you could, I don’t know, have a crush on me.”
“I do have a crush on you.” Hermana had to explain what that meant the other week when I asked her why humans kept wanting to smush each other. Hermana said ‘a crush is when you have romantic feelings for a person’. The oil reservoir was definitely romantic.
Damian breathed out softly and took his eyes away for a second. While he looked away, he licked his lips and chewed on them a bit. “Elena, you are like no other girl in this school.” Then he turned towards me, his lips wet with his saliva. He placed his hand under my chin and pointed my face towards his.
I felt a spark on my lips.
I opened my eyes to me lying flat on my bed, my hermana straddling me as she screwed my throat plate shut. Closing my eyes, I processed. The last thing I remembered was the press of Damian’s soft lips against my own.
“Did you get enough beauty sleep?” Hermana finished the neck plate and got off the bed, brushing off her legs as she stood up. “You actually inspired an adolescent to give you a slobbery kiss. It must have been quite wet because he blew your upper fuse.” She shook her head. “I can feel my ex-boyfriend saying from the grave, ‘That’s what she said.’”
She tapped my belly port. “Your battery was also low, resulting in your full system shutdown.”
I jumped up. He’d probably be willing to kiss me again. Then go on dates, maybe I’d watch him play basketball with a candle-lit hoop or something. The reservoir would be mine! “We need to get that upper fuse design flaw fixed as soon as possible.” My eyes pierced hermana’s. “How can I help?”
“I’ll start teaching you tonight.” She held up a finger to slow my excitement, which was about to turn into a dance party. “New addendum to Rule 1: no more kissing.”