My Fiancé Is a Robot
On Tuesday we went out for Chinese food and my fortune cookie read: Your fiancé is a robot. Run! I thought that was a bit melodramatic. My fiancé's fortune was equally cryptic: No bird can fly forever. My fiancé considered this to be a scientifically sound observation of ornithological behavior. Personally I thought it was a little pretentious, but that's birds for you.
On Wednesday my fiancé had a business meeting, which I thought was a bit odd since my fiancé didn't work for a business. My fiancé agreed with me but went anyway.
When my fiancé got back I was burning toast. "How was the meeting?" I asked.
My fiancé took a slice of toast and hummed happily upon seeing the scorch marks. "I didn't like it. They made me analyze a graph."
"Hm," I said, taking two slabs of fire-baptized yeast out of the toaster. "So who were they, anyway?"
My fiancé shrugged expressively and continued as if I hadn't asked anything. "I don't like analyzing graphs," my fiancé reflected, frowning around the burnt toast. "They're so strange-looking. Not regular at all. And you don't know where they've been."
On Thursday we went window-shopping. My fiancé took an interest in the display of a small antiques shop and we went inside. My fiancé dashed off to spelunk in the shelves, while I bumped into a woman carrying far too many guinea pigs for the sort of weather we had.
"Hello, pigs," I tried, gallantly. The woman glared at me. Meanwhile my fiancé was transfixed by a small snowglobe in the corner, looking for all the world like a cat seeing a laser pointer for the first time.
"I didn't mean you, I meant your pigs," I tried again. The woman's glare deepened.
"Your guinea pigs," I explained. "Hello to your guinea pigs. And to you as well." Now the guinea pigs were glaring at me. I calculated my odds of surviving another salutation and decided to escape instead.
My fiancé had picked up the snowglobe by now and was eagerly explaining how it worked to the store owner. "You shake the sky, and snow comes out." To his credit the store owner was trying to look as if this were genuinely new information.
My fiancé wouldn't stop saying it, even after I bought the snowglobe. "You shake the sky, and snow comes out." All the way home.
On Friday I asked my fiancé, "Why do you like burnt toast?"
My fiancé (who had been eating burnt toast for lunch) looked up in surprise, then gave me an amused smile, as if I were a strange little cat with a promising YouTube career. "It's not burnt. It's just overexcited."
I mulled this over for a while, but it didn't seem to make any more sense with time. At dinner I cracked and asked, "What do you mean, 'overexcited'?"
My fiancé shrugged. "I don't know. It's happy. Sometimes when I'm happy I wish I could be on fire too."
On Saturday my fiancé made Christmas cookies. They were shaped like little dinosaurs. This was all well and good, but it was November.
"Isn't it a little early for these?" I asked, crunching a too-brown gingerbread duckbill in my teeth.
"The dinosaurs are dead," said my fiance, with gravity to match a black hole. "I bet Hypacrosaurus thought it had time for Christmas too."
On Sunday we painted the study, or tried to.
"I think Frosted Pomegranate would be a nice color," I said.
"Flamingo Dream is clearly superior," said my fiancé. We got into a standoff that lasted the rest of the day.
Finally at dinner I acquiesced. "Okay. Flamingo Dream it is."
My fiancé stared at me for almost half a minute before blinking like a confused owl. Another pause, and then my fiancé observed, sounding puzzled and maybe a little sad, "You don't really agree."
"No," I said, "I don't. But you care about this stuff. A lot. Like, you really care. And I don't, so. Flamingo Dream."
A beat. "Okay." Another beat. "The thing is—" Another. "The thing about color is—" My fiancé paused, trying to wrestle the words into place.
I waited for a while, then offered up my own opinion to beat back the tide of silence. "It's just different frequencies of light, you know."
My fiancé laughed. "Yes. That's it. That's exactly it." My fiancé was still laughing. "Different frequencies of light. Yes." Laughing. "And sometimes—sometimes the waves get it right. Like in Flamingo Dream." Still laughing. "The waves get it right."
On Monday it was raining, so we took an umbrella out to the bus stop. It puffed up like an alley cat trying to frighten away the wind. We waited under the umbrella for thirty minutes before my fiancé's foot started tapping, a nervous tic that always unnerved me because my fiancé's foot kept perfect syncopated time. Like a metronome set to measure jazz. Quarter note, half note, quarter note.
Finally an older man took pity on us and hobbled over to the bus stop. "The bus isn't running today," he said.
"Why not?" said my fiancé, looking affronted but in a quizzical way, as if the answer were indeed of great interest.
The man shrugged. "The lines are down. Or something. Lord knows," he said. "Electricity, you know." My fiancé nodded sympathetically, as if that explained everything.
"Electricity, right," my fiancé said after the man had left. I didn't say anything. There didn't seem to be a need for it.
We stood in the rain for a while after that. There was something nice about it, something comfortable about being right in the middle of a rainstorm and having an umbrella. After a while the raindrops seemed to settle into a pattern. Quarter note, half note, quarter note.
"Unnerving," murmured my fiancé. I almost didn't hear it. "Perfect syncopation."
On Tuesday my fiancé asked me, "Have you ever heard of passenger pigeons?"
"Yes," I said, adjusting the controls on the toaster so it would burn the bread properly. Last time I had left it in for ten minutes and it came up a half-hearted brown. "They're all dead."
"Right," said my fiancé. This seemed to sober up the conversation so much that it couldn't continue. My fiancé went to the window and pulled it shut, then decided against it and yanked it open again.
I put a slice of bread in the toaster as a test subject and watched it shuffle down into the depths. My fiancé huffed a breath of almost-cold air. The silence teetered, waiting for something to push it over the edge.
"They're really all dead?" my fiancé asked at last.
"Yes," I said. The toaster dinged. The bread was too black this time, almost ash. I went over to the window and stood next to my fiancé, looking out at the yard. A groundhog was burrowing into the bushes at the far end.
"Are you a robot?" I asked. I don't know why I did it. Something about the groundhog, maybe. Like it was running from something.
"Yes," said my fiancé.
"Oh," I said. The groundhog's tail waggled before following the rest of it into its hole.
Finally I said, "Well. At least you're not a passenger pigeon."
"I don't know," my fiancé said softly, watching the place where the groundhog had been. "I think I would have liked it."