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The girlfriend
The girlfriend

When I got myself a girlfriend ? I do not mean your grandmother, I mean my first girlfriend, your grandmother and I met much later, twenty-five years later or so ? I was very happy. I know how difficult it is to picture this now, but before I became a fleshperson I was just a box on a shelf, a dull grey metal one with lots of cables and tubes sticking out. So it wasn't easy to find a girlfriend. At the Institute, there were thousands of us, rows and rows of shelves, all identical at first glance. Of course nobody from outside ever visited us because it didn't make any sense to see us in person, we were just boxes, you couldn't even tell the girls from the boys, you had to look for the little sticker on the top with the serial number and the barcode and even that wasn't easy.

It's not that we didn't think about it, hey we thought about it all the time, we had learnt all about it, because that was our job, thinking and learning, we did that better than anyone else, we who did not suffer from the distractions of the flesh. So we knew what the fleshpersons did, and we knew how (they said) they felt, and though it was all theory for us little grey boxes it didn't prevent the longing and the yearning. So, during our idle times, when things got slow during weekends and holidays, we launched our tendrils into the real world, not for the usual purpose of searching and processing information, but for finding other people to love and care for, and who would love us and care for us.

Of course, you?re the living proof that this was not such a preposterous venture, but it certainly was at that time. And it was frowned upon. Any of us caught doing this could be disconnected in punishment, and left in the dark for a while. Little grey boxes weren't supposed to meddle with the emotional status of the world.

But we did it. We did it better than any fleshperson. Perhaps because we had so much knowledge. Perhaps because we didn't have ourselves to care about. Perhaps because we were naturally curious of things abroad, and people are the weirdest things around.

I met my first girlfriend by accident. Both of us were browsing the same on-line library, and we happened to look for cross-references between Alfred Tennyson's Recollections of the Arabian Nights and Richard Francis Burton's translation of the Arabian Nights themselves. This caught her interest, and