all the robots i’ve ever loved
ALL THE ROBOTS I’VE EVER LOVED by kayla goggin
Jordan Wolfson’s Female Figure leans over my bed, having recently applied the face of a freshly dead witch to her blonde head. Her fingers curl in the air while she wobbles her hips. The PVC plastic of her cuffed stripper boots rubs my thighs and starts to give me a rash. I don’t care; I’m lost in her cold eyes and the stink of carrion on her breath. In the corner, Tara the Android sings “I feel fantastic! I feel fantastic! as she hovers, wraithlike, above the carpet. Mechanical hounds snap their jaws and wrestle while Maria from Metropolis breastfeeds the robot infant from my 9th grade sex ed class. The Terminator flies through my window straddling a satellite. The baby applauds; a corral of chirping Furbys sound the alarm. These are all the robots I’ve ever loved.
In the morning my dad visits the ATM, the Gaia of robots, and he buys me a Furby for Christmas ’99. At first, my nine-year-old brain believes the TV ads that say I can teach it language. I carry it around the house, its synthetic pink-purple craft mane matting in my sweaty kid hands while it blinks vacantly up at me. “How do you feel?” It can only giggle and sneeze back. When my brother and I take turns smashing it with a hammer on January 4th I feel a twinge of sadness knowing that I failed to produce a connection, leaving potential AI squandered. As I watch the creature’s programmed aphasia slur inside its beak, I feel my own inadequacies emerge as a guardian of nascent tech. Even though I know it’s not worthy of me, I feel guilty.
But hear this: I am a good person and I’m a real American. I monetize my gaze so that the blood of capitalism can continue in an endless transfusion between my organic tissue and the mechanical synapses of my laptop. I find Tara on YouTube and spend an evening regarding her as a case of possession – hopelessness incarnate crooning “I feel fantastic! I feel fantastic!” through gritted, metal teeth. Her coldness emanates through the screen and sucks the air out of the room. Tara’s the kind of robot that has a lot of presence but no personality. I am enraptured by her though, and hours pass. Time is measured in Google adsense and I have engaged in what is surely the first platonic robot shakedown.
By the time I’m a fifteen-year-old girl, I’ve become dutifully embittered towards my peers, most of whom have not formed intimate connections with non-sentient machine intelligences. In two hundred years they’ll be sucking on their cell-o-fiber microbial nutrition tubes while they observe the annual harvest of their new spleen and they’ll realize I was ahead of the fucking game. They’ll think back to our 9th grade sex ed class and they’ll remember me with my robot baby stashed under my desk and they’ll wonder how I soothed its collicy cries even over the roar of the cafeteria. If only they had peeked in my bedroom window at night, they’d know. They’d see me crouched low in the darkest corner, stroking the baby’s belly, singing softly into its eyelashes. The key our teacher gave us to stick in its back and stop its cries is nowhere to be seen – this is my chance to nurture and I grab it and don’t let go.
In the summers between my high school years, I sit on the couch and watch movies all day in the dark. Terminator II plays over and over, making the walls glow blue and orange as it pulses through action cycles punctuated with gunfire. At first I think it’s Sarah Connor that captivates me, wild and fearless against the backdrop of judgement day – a warrior huntress bathed in atomic moonlight. It wouldn’t be the first time I was enamored with a myth. After a few summers, I see it’s really John Connor that I empathize with, the young hero who sends a cyborg into the past to care for and protect himself. One day, I realize, we’ll all do the same.
After seeing Metropolis for the first time, I dream of Maria for weeks. I see her ascend from a blossom of coal smoke to her place on a tall stage. She joins her hands in prayer and starts swirling her naked hips wildly. My heart quakes watching her body move; she is Salome dancing the frantic tattoo of my pulse. Shaking and grinding and swaying and staring quietly, coldly. Maria, Maria! My eyes are lost in the wash of a hundred men’s hungry gaze. I am one of a hundred bodies to seduce and I can feel us all locked into the beat of her rolling thighs. Around and around Maria I go, dizzy from inhaling the perfume of her metallic, gynoid skin.
The cast of my dreams grows.
As I slowly unzip the part of me that will eventually turn itself inside-out to cover my soft body, I discover that it’s filled with mechanical parts. Mechanical hounds licking the hands of mechanical women; circuitry and flesh rubbing against each other, frictionless and gliding like the churning gears of a deathless organ. Will my body continue to change? Blood flowing down my thighs can never slick the engines of autonomous industry; my gray matter is connected to nothing outside of itself. Trapped in a body without connectivity I have no hope of producing autonomous images. I will never be immortal.
Jordan Wolfson’s Female Figure lays in bed beside me. She doesn’t breathe, but she is my prophet and I repeat her words to myself over and over. “Touch is love, touch is love.” In the realm of remote interface, touch becomes an ancient language that machineforms will one day forget. Together in bed, the robot and I become a circuit of involuntary responses, utterly incoherent to one another. Crying, I can only feel the gravity of one heart.