“I know you lie…’cause your lips are movin’…talking circles with your tongue…”
“I love you, Amelia. I have always loved you and I will always love you.”
“I wish I could believe that, Nick.”
“But, why can’t you?”
All of her friends thought Amelia was being totally unfair to Nick. They’d been seeing each other only for a couple of months, but he seemed like the perfect man. He was handsome, charming, successful, and very romantic, but not so much that he seemed creepy.
However, Amelia knew a lot more about Nicholas Tucker than any of them could possibly imagine.
“Because I know everything there is to know about you, Nick. I know what makes…” She couldn’t believe she was going to say something so awkward. “…I know what makes Nick tick.”
“Cute. Rhymes. So am I really that predictable? Your friends always compliment me on how spontaneous I am.”
“Look, Nick. Maybe we should just call it a night. It was a terrific Friday after Valentine’s Day date, but I’m really tired and I’ve got to be up early again for work.”
“Honey, you should take better care of yourself. Your boss must be a slave driver to make you work the weekends.”
“You know perfectly well that I’m the boss, Nick. It’s a project I’m working on.”
“That hush-hush one you won’t tell even me about.”
“Yes, that one, Nick. I’m having a few problems with it and I need to keep at them until I’ve ironed out the wrinkles, if I ever do.”
“Never doubt yourself, Amelia. You can do anything.”
“Almost anything, Nick. After all, I’m only human.”
He leaned toward her and she tilted her head up. He was a terrific kisser, but that hardly surprised her. Nothing Nick ever said or did surprised her and that was the problem.
“Now you get back in your car and go home, okay?” She hugged him feeling just as disingenuous as she thought he was.
“Okay, Baby. Like you said. You’re the boss.”
They’d been standing in the living room of her spacious home in Los Gatos, a far cry from the rundown studio apartment she shared with her first serious boyfriend when they were undergrads at Berkeley.
“When will I see you again?”
“I’m not sure, Nick. I’ll call.”
“I already miss you, Amelia.”
“Good night, Nick.”
He smiled as if he hadn’t noticed the sour look on her face or heard the annoyance in her voice. Then he turned and let himself out. She couldn’t relax until she heard the engine of his Audi fire up and then fade as he drove away.
She went into the kitchen and got out a half empty bottle of Cabernet, one that she’d bought with Nick along with a case of mixed varieties on their trip to Napa a few weekends ago. Amelia got out the biggest tumbler she could find in the cupboard and filled it to the brim. Then she drank down almost half of it. She took the glass to the living room, sat it on the coffee table, and then collapsed onto the sofa waiting for the buzz to kick in.
He was such a liar. No, that wasn’t fair. He believed every word he told her, however it was impossible for any of it to be true. He didn’t love her. He hasn’t always loved her. He wasn’t spontaneous. He was just programmable.
Most people didn’t ask why she was thirty-five and never married. After all, she was a successful business owner and one of the top ten programmers and robotics experts in Silicon Valley. She owned a multi-million dollar home that would accommodate a dozen people and she lived alone. Her friends were right in a sense. Nick was the perfect man for her. He didn’t ask for a thing and gave her everything she wanted and needed.
But that was the problem.
When Amelia was twenty-two, she had been severely beaten by her first boyfriend, the one she shared that shitty little studio with. She thought she was in love. She thought he’d change, be kinder, less hostile if she just loved him enough. She gave up those illusions when she woke up in the Emergency room with three broken bones and a concussion. Even after she filled out the police report and he was arrested, it didn’t get better. Part of her felt guilty, but the harassment from his family and his total refusal to take responsibility for what he did to her made her feel like she was being attacked and abused all over again.
Who knows how long it would have lasted if he hadn’t died of a brain embolism a month before the trial. His family tried to sue her, tried to sue the police department and the city, but it was thrown out of court. With nothing left to gain and their only son lost forever, they moved back to Fresno and thank God she never heard from them again.
There were still the panic attacks, the nightmares, and the fear of intimacy. Counseling helped, but she never learned to be completely at ease in any intimate situation a man again. She’d gone so far as to date another woman for a while. Yes, she felt safe, but she didn’t feel close. She was wired to be sexually attracted to men and at the same time she was terrified of what would happen if she gave in to those feelings.
So she designed Nick from the ground up. The perfect boyfriend, guaranteed to only treat you with kindness, consideration, and respect, and never, ever would he even raise his voice to you let alone his fist.
Amelia had gotten a bunch of graduate students to assemble his sub-components and write the various programming subroutines, but she was the one who made Nick a finished product. Only Amelia knew Nick was an android. He could never surprise her because she programmed everything about him. To be safe, he had to be predictable so even his “spontaneity” was an illusion.
Nick wasn’t a liar, but she was. She was pretending to her family, her friends, and especially to Nick that they were in a relationship and that he was a human being. Even making love, which was magnificent, in the aftermath seemed a little like masturbating with an extremely expensive and complex sex toy.
Being with Nick made her feel safe but with him, she’d never feel complete. Amelia finished the wine and decided to end the experiment tomorrow. When Nick went “home,” he was really reporting to her private lab and then putting himself in stand-by mode. He had absolutely no awareness that he wasn’t human.
Amelia would have to think of some excuse for Nick’s disappearance. Maybe a business opportunity abroad. She’d have to cancel the lease on the Audi and thankfully she had programmed him to be an excellent driver, so he’d never been pulled over. She’d never know now if that phony driver’s license he carried would really have fooled a cop.
“Amelia, you are such a liar. It’s time to stop and return to your regularly scheduled life. Back to the shrink for you until you can look a real man in the face and not feel afraid. No more plastic boy toys.”
I wrote this for the Lyrical Fiction Friday Reveal: “Circles With Your Tongue” #lyricalfictionfriday challenge hosted at The Next Chapter. The idea is to take the lyric posted on the blog and use it or some other element from the source to author a poem, short story, or other creative work. The lyric for February 15th is “I know you lie…’cause your lips are movin’…talking circles with your tongue…”.
Yes, people lie in relationships and I’m sure there are many songs that speak of how men lie to women, but I wanted to make this a little different. I’ve written stories before about men having relationships with robotic women, usually as a way of describing how isolated some men feel. Amelia has a very good reason to pathologically fear intimacy with a man and out of that, she created Nick, but in the end, she was the one lying and primarily to herself. The solution wasn’t creating the perfect man who was absolutely safe. Her answer was to recreate herself.
There were two influences for this story. The first is the Star Trek: Voyager story arc Fair Haven. Tom Paris creates a holodeck program replicating a small 19th century Irish village. Janeway assumes an identity in “Fair Haven” and begins a relationship with an innkeeper holographic character (she can’t date one of the crew because she’s the Captain). After a while, she starts adjusting her holographic lover’s parameters to make him more “perfect” for her until she realizes that in a real life relationship, no one is perfect.
The other influence is Isaac Asimov’s 1941 short story Liar. Robot psychologist Susan Calvin is absolutely brilliant but emotionally distant and not particularly attractive. Secretly, she is attracted to one of her co-workers but is terrified of expressing her emotions.
Due to a strange accident, a single robot has been granted telepathic abilities. Susan takes a chance and asks the robot to read the mind of the man she likes to see if he’s attracted to her as well. The robot is put in quite a bind. He reads he man’s mind and discovers he is not attracted to Calvin in the slightest, but he’s read Susan’s mind as well and to hear that would crush her emotionally. Since the first law of robotics says that a robot may not harm a human being or, through inaction, allow a human to come to harm, the robot lies to Susan saying the man loves her.
Later, after Susan has totally humiliated herself in finding out the man is not interested in her, she confronts the robot calling him a liar and telling him how much he hurt her. Having violated the first law (there was no way he could have avoided it really), he shuts down permanently.
I “borrowed” my title from the latter tale.