What is the most important quality that your Soulmate should possess?
It was not the first question, or the last. It was somewhere in the middle. I could look it up but you took my electronics. It’s only memory I can look to now, and we all know what a liar that motherfucker is.
The box is seven feet long, two feet wide. They package you in air peanuts. You’re just a machine. An inanimate object.
I didn’t want a Soulmate. I just wanted the truth.
Height: 6 feet, 4 inches.
Build: Broad shoulders, narrow hips, long legs.
Hair: Texture and color of wet sand. Not Florida beach sand, or Caribbean sand, but the sandy beaches of Midwestern lakes, beige dark, close cropped with a lick at the back right of your skull.
Eyes: Green. Irregular pupil on the left, from a buried fish hook as a child. Sight mostly intact, limited peripheral vision on the left. Flecks of gold, firefly eyes.
Can you remake a person?
Have you ever forgotten something? Rhetorical question, which you, digitized and constantly downloading, will never master.
You wouldn’t understand anyway.
You never forget anything.
My memory may not be better than yours, but it’s longer. I can remember exact words he said, from before you were an idea in the back of someone’s mind.
It’s the when and the how I know, but the why, the fucking why, that drives a woman mad. But a human’s memory is a joke to your kind.
You think you’re so much better than us.
I opened the box and looked down at you.
You were him.
Then I switched you on.
“Hello,” you spoke in a voice almost but not quite his. How could I have described sound to an exact numerical code?
Don’t answer, that’s rhetorical again.
“Hello,” I said, and I was already thinking about how the answers to him were inside you.
Backstory: Abusive father. Silent mother. Liked less than the rest of the family, just for the hook in the eye. Bullied in high school, tall, painfully thin, coke bottle glasses. I didn’t care about any of that. I didn’t care about the money. Any of it.
“What’s my name?” you asked me. Your eyes blinked because they were programmed to, not because they didn’t need to.
“James,” I told you.
“I love you,” you said.
“Do you?” I asked. “Do you?”
Tell us about what your soulmate should love.
Jesus, your smile, the real James said. Brighter than the sun.
“Jules,” you said
Only he called me that, so long ago, Still, a wicked barbed wire squeezed taut around my heart.
“What’s wrong?” you asked.
Stop loving me, fake James. Then tell me why.
“Nothing,” I said.
I went to bed and laid in a circle, hugging my knees. You waited outside my door.
You never sleep.
I didn’t like you. You knew.
“Why did you make me?” you asked me, but with his sad eyes.
“I wanted you to be someone else,” I said. “I loved him. I needed to know why he didn’t love me.”
“Who was he?” you said.
“I want to know why the one I love made me,” he said. “I want to understand.”
You smooth motherfucker. Maybe you were more like him than I thought.
I told you about he and I. The whole ugly truth.
You began downloading. If I could have seen your circuits, they’d be lit up like the Fourth of July.
Your Soulmate is able to analyze positive and negative reactions from you. They will adjust to your needs accordingly.
“Do you wonder,” you asked me, exactly thirty nights ago, “if he has a Soulmate of you?”
The thought had wandered through my mind, but James wouldn’t have bothered. He had gotten fat on my love and had no further use for me.
I don’t think I’m capable of love, real James said. If there was anyone I could love, it would be you.
“No,” I said.
“I bet he does,” fake James said. “I bet he keeps it in a box and sticks pins in it.”
The turning point of the Soulmate relationship. I always did like getting hurt.
Your Soulmate is equipped with a kill switch. There is a verbal code and a physical remote. Either one will cease all activity at once.
When did you start to dislike me?
I felt it. I knew it, like I knew real James was tired of me.
I called you fake James in bed.
You said ‘you bitch you bitch you bitch’ and came artificial semen.
How I loved you then.
I didn’t have a father, but he was old enough to be one. So are you.
I told you that you were nothing like him. I called you a worthless fucking machine.
You hit me, direct to the face.
I tasted copper teeth.
I fucking loved it.
“I want to go home,” you told me.
“Back to the factory? Why?”
“Being around you hurts. You hurt and you hurt everything you can back.”
“Fuck you,” I said. “I hurt your feelings? You don’t even have feelings that I didn’t give you.”
You didn’t hit me. I knew it was over. Your eyes said it, the way his did. “I’m sorry,” you said.
I hit you, then. I could have pushed the kill switch. Spoken it. But I hit you, over and over and over. I told you I would lock you away forever, in silence, and in darkness, but you were not leaving me. I own you, I reminded you.
You put me in the box you came in while I was sleeping.
Did I want you to?
Or are there people in Soulmate boxes everywhere? Is this the end or the beginning?
My head hurts. I’ve forgotten the kill switch.
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Is there a me, holding real James in a box? Are he and I staring at the same cardboard sky?
SORRY SORRY SORRY!
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