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About the Author
If you can remember the feeling when your adult teeth began to push out your milk teeth, and particularly the feeling when a tooth was on a hinge, and you could tongue it around and taste the flesh and new tooth underneath, and if you could expand that feeling, intellectually, emotionally, morally, spiritually, that's how Jow Lindsay feels, all the time. On a purely physical level, his hands are beginning to come off, being pushed away by a new set of hands growing underneath them. You can read more of what his weak obsolete fingers have written at Scissorfish.
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Carla's angle on me was that I was the opposite of her. She presented me on her site in terms of the fact that, because I wasn't wired at all, I was experiencing things that nobody else would ever experience. My sensations were trickling away, unshared and unrecorded. I was fading away, like a ghost fades.
And I had all the secrets of the dead. You could approach my mystery, apparently, through her, but that was all.
Carla wrote about our first night together, "Look at us! He's inscrutable! Every grunt, every gasp, every shudder, every twitch, is like an omen. These are signs wrought in the landscape of an alien universe. We can guess what he feels but we can't ever know. He manifests in riddles. My bed is haunted by someone as insubstantial as flesh."
I think Carla wasn't sure exactly what it was about me, apart from the sheet over my head, that reminded her of a ghost. I think she treated me like a mixed metaphor. But that's not what our first big fight was about.
The morning after Halloween, we swapped the sheets rumpled on the floor for the sheets crumpled on the bed. Somewhere, for a while, there was a bed in a cheap motel wearing eye-holes.
I wandered around the whole day in our stink, even though Halloween was yesterday. I even remember someone seeing us and shouting that. "Hey! Halloween was yesterday!"
Our first big fight was after Carla had gone home on our second date with the manager and one of the waiters, who were brothers and lived together. Her defence was that she wanted to have sex with them.
When I complained, she said, "Sex is part of my business."
"Why do you have to be a pornographic site? Why can't you be something more literary?"
I regretted it immediately. That look she gave me –
"I am fucking not," she said, "just a porn site."
"I'm sorry," I said.
She glared at me for a long time. I could tell what good camerawork it was. "Okay," she said eventually. "Okay. Exclusive sex is just often one of many ways of being in love. It is almost sufficient but not necessary. I think I want to do some of the other ones with you. Maybe even some of the better ones."
"I don't know. What do you think?"
"Like drugs? We're going to the hospital."
I'm old-fashioned, but on our third date, at the hospital, I let her persuade me to have tiny artificial glands implanted near my heart. They were just like hers.
"Is giving and taking money just often one of many ways of being in love?" I asked her.
Some of my happiest times with Carla were spent with the two us looking out of the same stranger's eyes, feeling our distant bodies fill up with the same blends of drugs.
Sometimes we'd program our factories to release chemicals according to the patterns of colours we both saw, or the kinds of noises we both heard. Sometimes we got high according to the events of the arcade games we played together.
I drifted for years with Carla.
For one of her birthdays, when we had been together for about ten years, she wanted me to buy her a memory.
"I want to remember this," she said. "I believe you've forgotten my birthday. I want to have not spoken to you properly for some time. I wake up, on my birthday, and I walk on a beach somewhere by myself. I walk along the beach, which is mostly just rocks, and I cut my foot. Okay? I go onto a grassy bit, and I wind my way upwards, until I'm at a place where two very similar cliffs look across at each other, over an inlet of violent water. The landscape must be harsh and uniform, like what I imagine Wales to look like, although it doesn't, probably. I want to see a lone figure in the distance. I want to breathe in the salt and feel like shit. Make me feel so bad, Fred. Okay? I want eventually to visit your site to see what you're looking at, even though I know I won't be able to feel or hear anything."
I had recently been wired for sight. They were old-fashioned removable contact-lenses. I had a lot of difficulty finding a place that still did them.
"I want to try to do it secretly, so that you won't be able to trace me as a visitor at your site. Then I'll start thinking you have some new security, because I keep flickering back to my own vision. Cliffs, oppressive sky, maybe light rain now. A tiny dark figure sitting on the cliff opposite. Crashing water. I try again and again. I try again. I notice that there is a difference in the way things look when I'm simply looking through my own eyes, and when I think I've been pushed back to my own site by your security. Fred, the landscape is not the same. I am looking through your eyes. I'm looking through your eyes at an awkward shadowed figure, across the water, me. Somehow you realise I've realised. You're looking at you through me, I'm looking at me through you, the two pictures are almost identical. You've followed me. You know. You understand. Then, do you know how I begin to feel?"
"I don't want to do that."
"Because you're too fucking cheap."
"Because it's not real."
"We arrange for it so that I don't know where the memory came from."
"You don't have to know."
"Fuck!" she said.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm old-fashioned," I said.
"Fuck! Only in that you're rational," she said. "I'm new-fashioned because I'm logical."
"Is there a difference between logical and rational?"
"The difference between rational and logical is the space that makes us interesting," she said.
"Interesting to who?" I said.
She didn't say anything.
I said, "I love you," awkwardly.
"Buy me my memory," she said.
"Describe it some more. What happens next?"
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