My Favorite Robot

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“I’m very sorry, Mr. Clark, but you’re dying.”

Brett swallowed. “Dying?”

The doctor adjusted his glasses. “It’s a neurological disorder. Degenerative. The longest you might live is up to ten years, but I wouldn’t get optimistic. Most people don’t even make it to three.”

Brett looked at his hands in his lap. He was clammy all over. He’d felt it in his head, in his brain, only slightly. There hadn’t been any real symptoms, just a feeling of uneasiness. He’d also been feeling dreadfully lonely, which the doctor had assured him was a classic symptom. “Is there no cure? No operation? Nothing?”

“There… is a cure,” the doctor said, as hesitant as can be. “But it is extremely difficult to, er, administer.”

“But of course I’ll do it!” Brett said. “Why shouldn’t I? Tell me what the cure is. Is it a matter of cost? I’ll pay everything I’ve got!”

The doctor was shaking his head the moment Brett had started talking. “The cure isn’t something that I can give you. It’s not medical, precisely.”

Brett wasn’t following. “Not medical,” he repeated numbly.

“Not medical.” The doctor took a breath, and then finally dropped his clipboard on the desk in front of him with defeat. “The only cure is true love.”

Brett assumed that he’d misheard. “True love?” It was silly to say it aloud. Obviously he’d misheard. Brett didn’t know much about neuroscience, but it was clearly ridiculous.

“That’s right,” the doctor said. “The only way to treat this disorder is to find true love. Of the reported cases, only five percent, maybe less, have been able to treat themselves. Despite appearances in the modern world, true love is extremely rare.”

“True love!” Brett found himself laughing. He must’ve been dreaming. “The only thing I have to do is find true love? I’ll go on some dating websites! Do some speed dating! Whatever! You said I had years to pull it off!”

The doctor coughed into his fist. “Erm, yes, I did say that you had years. Many patients with this disorder make it at least two years after being diagnosed. But you see… true love is a chemical thing. Your brain is changed by it. A very small percentage of the population actually experiences it, even if they think that they can.”

But Brett had stopped listening. There was a commercial running through his head, he’d seen it on TV a hundred times, with that stupid little jingle. “Ladybot,” Brett said. “Ladybot. You’ve seen the ads, haven’t you? Manbots and Ladybots? They’re a couple thousand bucks, but hey, that’s cheaper than cancer treatment!” He was laughing again, uncontrollably. “That’s all I have to do! I’ll buy myself a Ladybot and program her with the exact settings that I need!”

The doctor leaned forward. “It’s a possibility, but you might find—”

“It’ll work fine! You’ve seen how realistic they look these days! A good Ladybot is practically indistinguishable from a human!” Brett paused. “Maybe it’ll cost more than a couple thousand if I want the best on the market. Ah, but don’t you see?” He was grinning like a crazy person.

The doctor spread his arms. “As I’ve already told you, the treatment is not medical. I can give you recommendations, but this is out of my hands.”

Brett stood and felt compelled to shake the man’s hand. “Thanks a ton, doc. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine! I’ll be great! I’ll be cured in a month!”

Brett was not cured in a month.

“Sweetie?” he asked his Ladybot. “Can you fetch me something to eat?”

“Yes, Mr. Clark,” she said, her smile unfading.

“No, no,” Brett said, his hand over his face. “Stop calling me Mr. Clark. Brett will do just fine.”

“Reconfiguring programming,” Ladybot told him. “Yes, Brett. I will get you food right away.”

Moments later, she returned with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, his favorite lunch. “Again?” he said, his shoulders slouching as he took the plate. “You gave me PB&J yesterday for lunch.”

“Of course!” Ladybot said. “You had told me that it was your favorite lunchtime meal! I can show you my data logs if you’d like.”

“No, no, no, that’s fine. It’s just… Three PB&Js in a row is a little much. Can you spice things up a bit?”

“Reconfiguring programming,” Ladybot told him. “Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches will be served no more than two lunches in a row. They will also feature spices.”

“No! No spices!” Brett shouted.

“Reconfiguring programming,” Ladybot told him.

He set the sandwich aside. “Now, please, sweetie, have a seat.”

Her strangely cold flesh sat down in his lap. “Yes, Brett? How can I help you?”

“Well, ah, hm, the trouble is, you’re being a little too helpful. Do you know what I mean?”

“Reconfiguring programming,” Ladybot told him.

“It’s like, you know, you do everything I ask. It’s like you’re a slave, not a person. If you really want me to love you, you need to show some personality, maybe have some opinions that differ from mine.”

“Reconfiguring programming,” Ladybot told him. “Brett, I do not like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They are incompatible with my software.”

“See! There we go!” Brett said, trying to make himself sound cheery. “Perfect. Just wonderful. What would you like to watch on the TV this afternoon?”

Ladybot’s head hung to its side. “It is not my opinion to watch TV, Brett. What do you want to watch?”

“Well the game’s on, you see. I’d like to watch that.” He went for the remote.

“Brett, I do not like sports,” Ladybot said. “It is not my opinion to watch this game.”

“Hm, ah, well, alright,” Brett said, his arm still halfway to the remote. “Now I feel like you’re just disagreeing with everything that I say. That isn’t quite what I meant. I think that you need to find a middle ground.”

“Reconfiguring programming,” Ladybot told him. “Please enter a percentage value for future disagreements.”

“Ah, hm, well, sweetie, if I tell you a percentage value, I feel like you’re still choosing your opinions at random. I mean, I’m no expert with computers, but—”

“Reconfiguring programming,” Ladybot told him. “My opinions can be determined via a random number generator. Does this mode suit your desires?”

Brett shifted in his seat. Her skin felt a little too clammy. “Er, yes. I suppose it will do. We can work out the specifics later. But if I tell you how to act, it doesn’t make you feel all that… human?” He shifted again. “Your skin is very cold.”

“Reconfiguring programming,” Ladybot told him. “Body temperature increasing. Body temperature settings will remain at near-human temperatures indefinitely.”

“Anyway, as I was saying,” Brett went on, feeling her slowly warming, “I was thinking that maybe we should have some arguments, or something. It’s normal for couples, isn’t it? We can’t be perfect. It feels too weird. So the percentage of future disagreements settings… Well, I feel—”

“Reconfiguring programming,” Ladybot told him. “I hate you. I am breaking up with you.”

“Oh! Ah! Hm. Well, that’s not quite what I meant. And you know I told you about using contractions more often.”

“Contraction frequency is set to 10%. 10% of possible contractions in the English language will be applied to my vernacular. If you wish to reconfigure the programming—”

“Ah! Hm! Oh. I think you’re missing my point. And please, can you make me something else to eat? I don’t think I’m in the mood for PB&J right this moment.”

Ladybot stood. “Yes, Brett. I will make you some tuna sandwiches instead.”

Brett drummed his fingers on his leg. “Hm! Oh! Ah. Well, I don’t quite like tuna sandwiches. I thought we’d discussed this.”

“We have,” Ladybot said. “We are having an argument.”

“That’s not, er, quite how it’s supposed to go.” Brett leapt to his feet, suddenly in a panic. “You’re supposed to make the tuna sandwich anyway, without even asking me! And then I’d get it from you and tell you I don’t like it, and you’re supposed to get offended! And then, THEN we fight! And you’ll tell me to eat it anyway, and complain about how much you do for me without anything in return, and I’ll try to defend myself, and… and…!”

“Reconfiguring programming,” Ladybot told him. “I will be in the kitchen, preparing our argument.”

Brett sunk into his chair. Just a little more tweaking was all she needed. Just a little more.

 

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R1

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(This is Part 4 of the story. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

 

She tells me that her and her boyfriend are in an open relationship.

Turns out that one was a lie.

So I guess I accidentally stole this guy’s girlfriend, but he doesn’t even go to my college (yet), which means that he isn’t going to be a problem (yet). It’s November of my freshman year at college, and no matter what happens to me, I’m just kind of going along with it. Helpless flailing is one of my specialties.

But it turns out that this girl is kind of… clingy. I keep trying to do homework in my dorm, and she just goes ahead and invites herself over. She seems to think that she’s doing something wrong if I don’t hang out with her at least once a day, which is odd, because I feel like I’m doing something wrong if I hang out with the same person every day.

And then winter break rolls in, and despite going back home to the other side of the state, this girl is texting me nonstop. So I get tired of that rather quickly, and I call her up. I tell her, “We’re not very compatible, so I think that we should break up.”

She says, “That’s a silly reason to break up. I think that we’re still dating.”

That response wasn’t really a possibility that I had considered in my script, so I’m at a loss for words. I fumble and babble until I manage to hang up, and then she acts as if the conversation had never happened. On the rare occasion that this event is mentioned in the future, she refers to it as the time that I “tried” to break up with her.

Well now I’m grumpy. Now I’m all grumpied up. So I resolve to put absolutely no effort into the relationship whatsoever. If she thinks that she’s dating me, fine. But I’m not dating her.

During winter quarter, I finished writing a book, and I needed somebody to read it and give me their opinion. Turns out that college students don’t have time to read books, which means that I have to do some coercion. I seemed to have this “girlfriend”, and she seemed to be appearing in my dorm uninvited a lot. Since she’s still somehow dating me, despite me not putting any effort into the relationship, maybe she’ll feel obligated to read the book that I’ve written. That sounds means, but I figured that she deserved it for not letting me break up with her, for constantly following me uninvited, and making me overall unhappy.

She read the book. She thought it was pretty good, but seeing as she was a girlfriend, I couldn’t really trust her review anyway.

By the time spring quarter starts, I’m actually avoiding her. I’m hiding off campus, in places so out of the way that she would never suspect to look there. I swear, she could be an excellent stalker if she put her mind to it.

Spring quarter, she’s in my chemistry class. She definitely planned that. She’s kind of struggling in the class, so I give her a couple tips, and she comes up with a great idea. She wants to convince her mom to pay me to tutor her in chemistry. Pay me? What is this?

Here’s the thing. The Wii U was about to be released, and that meant that Pikmin 3 was coming out. Seeing as Pikmin 2 was the greatest game ever made, I need to get a Wii U. How will I pay for a Wii U? By tutoring the girl that won’t let me stop dating her.

So I try tutoring my girlfriend. She’s going along with it for awhile, but as the quarter goes on, she basically stop trying. I start to suspect that she only set this deal up so I would feel obligated to continue dating her. Well that plan sure worked. I want my goddamn Pikmin. I’m still able to hide from her whenever she becomes too much of a nuisance, and she’s apparently fine with that, so we’re all good.

Since I’m double majoring in two majors that have nothing to do with each other, I realized that it was necessary to take summer classes if I wanted to graduate in four years. My girlfriend finds out and immediately signs up for summer classes. Stop. Please. Stop.

Early into summer quarter I try to break up with her again. Here’s how little I cared about this breakup: That night was movie night in my dorm, and my girlfriend was living a ten minute walk away. But I couldn’t go to her place and talk to her, because I would miss the start of the movie. So, get this, I write her an email. She’s pushed me too far. I’ve gone to the dark side. This is what I’ve become.

To my surprise, she allows this breakup. She gets very sad. But she continues inviting herself over to my dorm. I break up with her again (not strictly a breakup, as this time I was basically just telling her to go away), and finally, finally, she is gone.

Let’s take a detour.

Right around the time that I broke up with this girl for the third time, my friend Tom meets a girl named Nicole, who goes to the community college in town. She’s a wannabe computer hacker, but I entirely doubted that she had hacked anything in her life, because contrary to my desires, I do not live in a sci-fi action movie. Tom pops over to my dorm every once in awhile with Nicole, and ridiculous antics ensue. You see, Nicole might be the worst person that I’ve ever met. Her sole purpose in life is to make those around her miserable. I think that’s hilarious. So I play along.

During the summer, Nicole and I made a lot of bets with each other, each escalating in monetary value to make up for the previous losses. I bet her that I could run across campus and back within fifteen minutes (I lost that one), she bet me that I would lose at the scavenger hunt that Justin had set up for me and Jamie that summer (I lost that one as well), and I bet her that I could trick my ex-girlfriend into having a lesbian experience (I won that one). Once the summer was over, I was up ten dollars. Neato!

Near the beginning of sophomore year, Nicole and Tom start dating. I think that’s pretty funny, but now I can’t really hang out with Tom without dealing with Nicole, and Nicole is getting more and more annoying with every encounter. I don’t like her. My friends don’t like her. Tom seems very passive about her. This relationship looks very familiar to me, but I don’t say anything.

As sophomore year goes on, I hang out with Tom less and less. The few times that I do see him, I basically just pester him to break up with Nicole. And in response he says, “Well, uh, it’s kind of, you know,” which doesn’t mean anything, so they kept dating.

During the spring, I finally made him see reason, and he broke up with her. Cool. Very cool. Now I probably won’t have to see her again.

About a week later, my ex-girlfriend sends me a text message. It said something like, “I saw you walking across campus, and I wanted to say hi, so I tried to follow you. But I lost track of you and you got away :(”. I had probably crossed paths with her three times throughout sophomore year, and each encounter seemed hysterically awkward for her. But this is new. I don’t like this. I don’t respond to the text.

She texts me again the next day, asking me to hang out with her. I still don’t respond. She texts me again the next day, saying that she’s going to come over to my dorm to hang out. I lock the door and don’t respond.

Hold on. Why would my ex by stalking me suddenly? That doesn’t make any sense. I broke up with her nearly a year ago. I do a quick Facebook check, and she’s had a new boyfriend for several months. Something doesn’t add up.

If anybody was going to be stalking me for sinister reasons, it would be Nicole, because I had recently convinced her boyfriend to break up with her. If it were Nicole stalking me, that would make way more sense!

And… didn’t I say that Nicole was a wannabe hacker?

So I call up Nicole. I ask her, “Did you hack my ex-girlfriend’s phone and start sending me creepy messages with it?”

And Nicole says no.

The next day, my ex texts me again. This time she says that she’s found an app that lets her track my phone. She can find me any time that she wants no matter where I am <3. I call Nicole back, and I ask her, “Are you sure that you didn’t hack my ex’s phone?”

Nicole says no.

The next day, my ex texts me again. Apparently she’d tried to follow me across campus again, and I hadn’t noticed. Whenever I leave the dorm, I start taking the battery out of my phone. That’ll stop her from tracking me.

I call Nicole again, and I ask her, “Are you super sure that you didn’t hack my ex’s phone?”

This time Nicole says, “Okay, you got me. I hacked her phone, and I’ve been using it to scare you.”

Aha.

Fortunately I had yet to respond to any of my ex’s text messages, and if I had, it might have been very interesting. She would start getting replies from me having no idea that she’d been sending me any texts at all. So I start doing just that. I start responding. Every response I get seems to be the voice of Nicole. That’s kind of strange. Why can’t my ex see any of these text messages? Furthermore, why didn’t Nicole just stop pestering me when I called her out?

At the end of sophomore year, the text messages did eventually stop. I guess Nicole finally got bored, or she had finished her stupid vendetta against me. Finally I could rest easy without fears that my ex-girlfriend was going to come hunt me down and kill me in my sleep.

During the summer, I crossed paths with a mutual friend of mine and my ex-girlfriends. I figure that now would be a good time to warn my ex that somebody had hacked her phone. But I don’t want to actually speak to my ex, so talking to our mutual friend was the next best thing.

Megan didn’t sound pleased when I explained the situation. Some mean girl had hacked my ex’s phone for no good reason other than to spook me. Megan didn’t seem to think that it made much sense, and the more I explained, the less sense it made to me as well, but Megan did agree that she would talk to my ex and have her change her… passwords or something. What are you supposed to do to keep a hacker out?

Honestly, I didn’t care about what came next. My ex could figure things out on her own, because I wanted nothing to do with her, and nothing to do with Nicole. For an entire evening, I am home free at last.

The evening ended. Everything went downhill from there, starting the next morning.

Megan texts me back. She kept herself very brief. “It definitely wasn’t Nicole who was sending you those text messages.”

Alright. I hate everything.

So for some reason, my ex actually was trying to stalk me, despite us having been out of communication with each other for nearly a year and despite the fact that she has a new boyfriend. To make matters even worse, Nicole threw in a random curveball by falsely admitting to something that in hindsight was actually ridiculous. My ex is stalking me, while Nicole hates me and is intentionally confusing the hell out of me. I hate this. None of this makes any sense to me. This is some Agatha Christie trickery. This is some conspiracy theory nonsense. This is some VFD bullshit. And I won’t have it.

But my ex had said that she was tracking my phone which would involve phone hacking. The phone hacking was the Nicole issue, and it turns out that that never happened. Now, hold on. That means that the phone hacking was technically my idea in the first place, because I had been accusing Nicole of it. That was before my ex claimed that she was tracking my phone. What are the odds that two types of phone hacking would take place, or pretend to take place, if they’re completely independent of each other? Something isn’t right here. Nicole couldn’t be in contact with my ex, could she? How would that happen?

Do you remember how at the very beginning of this insane story I told you that I had accidentally stolen this girl from another guy? Junior year, that guy lived up the street from me. He was on my block. I was freaking out. And my roommates were friends with his roommates. A couple of times I ended up going to his house, and we had some crazy stare downs. I was afraid. This guy is twice my size, and he could pop my head right off of my neck if he wanted to.

Turns out he had no idea who I was, and still has no idea who I am. So that’s something nice for a change. I went to his house all the time to watch Game of Thrones, and it was like nothing. Sweet.

NaNoWriMo started, and the NaNo community at my college is surprisingly large. This year I actually met up with some of the people during November, and we would hang out, chat, have a good time, and on Tuesday’s we would go to a coffee shop that it just so happened had employed my ex-girlfriend.

The first Tuesday of November, I walk into the coffee shop, order my drink, hand her my money with trembling hands, and I watch to make sure that she hasn’t poisoned my drink. That’s silly. Why would she just have poison on hand? If anybody would just happen to have poison on them at all times, it would probably be Nicole, and I hadn’t seen her in person since Tom had broken up with her.

So my ex-girlfriend makes me some coffee, and I spend the rest of my time there avoiding eye contact. That went okay. Let’s see how that goes next week.

I go back the next Tuesday. She looked pissed. I feel unsafe. I order my coffee and avoid eye contact. Why would I feel unsafe? She didn’t do anything crazy last week. Why would she do something now?

I’m there for about half an hour before a cop walks up to me. “Are you Joe Fleck?” he asks.

I reply, “Huh?”

The cop tells me to chat with him outside. So I chat with him outside. He tells me that my ex-girlfriend works here, and I’ve been making her feel very unsafe.

I reply, “Huh?”

So the nice cop explains to me, “I don’t really understand your situation, but she called in a few minutes ago, and she wants you to leave and never come back. So I’m going to have to ask you to leave. And never come back.”

Now, this is extra flabbergasting. This girl has been stalking me, yet she does everything in her power to keep me away when I happen to cross paths with her by pure chance. Except I don’t think she actually was stalking me. She was just sending me creepy text messages claiming that she was stalking me, while not actually ever showing her face. So either she’s a really bad stalker, or she’s just trying to freak me out.

I’m pretty freaked out.

I lie low for awhile, trying to make sure that nobody slits my throat in my sleep. I’m jumpy. I’m overly observant. I carry sugar-free gummy bears on me at all times, because that’s the closest I can legally get to poison. I wait for her next move, and pray that she doesn’t make a move at all.

In February, I cross paths with her four days in a row, each time in closer proximity than the last. I don’t like this. I don’t like this at all. The only way that she could do that is if she’s tracking my phone. But that doesn’t make sense! I’d recently gotten a new phone. My old phone wasn’t even a smart phone, so how the shit would she have been tracking that anyway, if she was at all?

One of my roommates shows me an app called Find My Friends. You and a friend can exchange contact information and set it up so that you can locate each other’s phones. I spent a solid two weeks drilling into this app, trying to figure out how it could be used to track without the other person’s permission. My search was fruitless. I try other apps with similar titles. Still nothing.

None of it makes sense. A guy who craves to make sense of everything has now been thrown into a pit of insanity.

I do still have that app, as do several of my friends. Turns out that it can be pretty useful if your friends get into any sort of jam, bind, or pickle.

I start rigging my bedroom door to check if anybody has been in my room while I’m not home. I consider ways to put Find My Friends on people’s phones without them knowing. I text friends of my ex to see if they have any intel. Nothing is working. Any minute now I’m going to just curl up and die, possibly due to poisoning.

Junior year ends. Intel informs me that my ex has graduated, a year early, and she is probably leaving town.

Why do all of these stories have such anticlimactic endings?

 

(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

N2

Standard

(This is Part 3 of the story. Part 1, Part 2, Part 4)

Phil had my Facebook account for a whole summer, and it was bad.

I didn’t check Facebook for probably two months, and when I saw what he had done, I was rather displeased. He had told me that he was just going to crunch some numbers, find some averages, draw some bell curves, you’re usual human analysis business. Turns out that he was pestering some of our mutual friends, making me look like a huge asshole. That simply would not do.

For the past two years, we’d been chatting on Skype almost every Thursday night. I should’ve noticed that that had stopped happening. I could never really get the hang of Thursdays.

11th grade started with chaos. It was a sort of fun chaos, but overall not the most ideal of circumstances. A lot of people were mad at me for things that I hadn’t done. My optimal girl had transferred schools. I was lost.

My friend Helena went out for lunch with me, and we went to that place near the school that makes excellent grilled cheese sandwiches. Ooh, they were delicious. And Helena had come with me to lunch for a reason. She had some gossip for me.

“I know what girl you’re into,” she said slyly.

“Oh, okay,” I nodded, playing along. I don’t get “into” girls, physically or mentally. If it ever seems like I’m into a girl, it’s because I’ve been spending too much time in Excel. But sure, I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Helena grinned, and she told me the name. At first, I didn’t even recognize the person. Her? I’ve barely spoken to her. She’s attractive, sure. I think she’s intelligent, but it’s hard to tell based off of the little amount of time we’ve spent interacting with each other.

Now, why would Helena think that? She was friends with this girl, or at least acquaintances. I smelled a ruse. There were only a few possibilities for why Helena would tell me that I was into this girl. One, it was a simple misunderstanding. That happened to Helena pretty often, so sure. That’s plausible. The second option was that this girl was into me, and she wanted Helena to tell me that I was into her so it would stir up some sort of weird psychological complex to make me more attracted to her.

I like the second option better, because that meant a hot girl was into me.

So I started hanging out with this girl some more. She seemed eager to get to know me. Not too eager, but there was something. She certainly wasn’t as eager as I was expecting. I started overanalyzing some more, and that was where I spotted the conundrum.

She has a boyfriend already. So she’s probably not into me.

Another facet of the conundrum: Her boyfriend lived in Philadelphia, across the country. Oh, so now I’m stealing this guy’s long distance girlfriend. I wasn’t really game for that. I would honestly only do that if it were an accident.

And yet, this girl kept hanging out with me, more and more frequently. We would talk on Skype every Thursday night, as well as just about every other night of the week. Tensions rose. Everybody in our social group assumed that we were going to start dating soon. I developed all sorts of bizarre plots to get the ball rolling, such as developing a mathematical formula dictating how to behave around her, or drinking an obscene amount of soda until she felt obligated to kiss me. And as crazy as it sounds, that last one would have worked if I hadn’t been so sleep deprived.

I had developed something called The Cake Formula, named after a concept described in a song by the band Cake. Using this mathematical formula, which utilized all sorts of variables that I’m pretty sure I had made up off the top of my head, I decided that in order to get her to like me, I had to stop being friends with her and act slightly mean, but not too mean. There was some sort of balance between negative one and zero in terms of how nice I was to her, and the best possible position was either just a touch above negative one or just a touch below zero, because those two numbers were the asymptotes.

Again, I made up this formula off the top of my head.

Naturally, that didn’t work at all. So I developed The Light Switch Method. You spend some time being nice to her, and then you spend some time avoiding her, and then you switch back and forth. On and off, on and off. I did this for a decent amount of time, eventually optimizing it based on empirical data, showing that for this girl in particular, it was best to stay off for approximately 26% of the time and stay on for the other 74%. Note that this could mean a quarter of a day off and then the rest of the time on, or it could mean a quarter of a month off and the rest of the month on. I never did get around to optimizing that facet of it.

For once the stupid plots and ploys were actually getting somewhere. Her long distance relationship with the Philadelphia guy was getting more strained. No longer would I be her Number Two. Soon I would be up at Number One.

Now, get this: There was a pattern to it. The first girl that I asked out in 8th grade had Listed me at Number Three. Then the next girl had no List, in 10th grade. This girl, the following year, had put me at Number Two. So even if things didn’t work out this time, the pattern would follow that next time I’ll get a girl without a List, and then finally the fifth girl would have me at Number One. 3 then X then 2 then X then 1, with X being a Listless girl. Right?

No. Fuck you. You can’t extrapolate a pattern from only three data points. Who do you think you are?

The girl broke up with Philadelphia guy in February.

She asked me out shortly after.

Phil finds out, and he tells me that he had already asked her out over the summer using my Facebook account.

Hold on. Stop everything.

If Phil had asked her out using my Facebook account, then that was why she had thought that I was into her at the beginning of the year! And I was only into her because I thought that she was into me! In reality, neither of us were into each other, but everybody thought that we were! This was insanity! This was one small event causing a preposterous chain reaction, and every part of that chain reaction was entirely, one hundred percent pointless!

Welcome to my life.

So I wasn’t actually into this girl, and this girl wasn’t actually into me, and we had spent half a year feeling obligated to flirt with each other and inevitably date. We were going out for about a week. Then we mutually broke up. It was all good fun.

Thanks, Phillip.

 

(Part 1, Part 2, Part 4)

BX

Standard

(This is Part 2 of the story. Part 1, Part 3, Part 4)

“I hate coincidences,” I grumbled to Jacob, shortly after history had repeated itself.

I don’t think I had ever played such a heated card game. It was called Mini Pickles, for absolutely no reason at all. I find that most insane card games have names that don’t make any sense, like Egyptian Ratscrew, or Scum. Mini Pickles requires each player to bring their own deck of cards, preferably with a different design so they can be told apart at the end of each round. You lay out your cards like a solitaire game, but any ace that you find goes into the middle of the table. You want to get rid of cards, and that means that you can put a two on any similar-suited ace out on the table, and then stack them as intuition dictates. But people steal your aces. They always, always, always steal your aces. And that’s when people get pissed off.

I don’t think this is a card game that ever left my high school. I’ve googled it. It isn’t real.

“As you said, statistics don’t lie,” Jacob told me after we’d finished a round. I was having a bad game. Jacob had played his eight of clubs half a second before I could play mine.

The statistics that always catch me are the ones that I’m right about, but I assume are wrong anyway. Take coincidences, for example. Statistically, coincidences are going to happen every once in awhile, such as running the same experiment twice in two different places and having the same thing go wrong. Suppose you do an analysis of every girl in your middle school, and after choosing one, your closest friend happens to pick the same girl. That’s statistically plausible, because this girl is optimal. Suppose you do an analysis of every girl in your high school two years later. After choosing one, your new closest friend happens to pick the same girl.

I hate coincidences.

Step one: Compile a list. A nefarious list. Call it The Scheme. No, that’s been done already. Let’s call this one The Plot. The Plan? The Ploy? Does it really matter what it’s called? It’s just a list. Who are the biggest threats? First threat: Jacob. What Number is he? Hm… We’ll have to assess the other threats first.

High school is a lot harder to keep track of than middle school. Who knows who the threats are? So Jacob is… Number One? It certainly would be nice if there were only one person that I was competing with. And the fact that he’s a good friend means that I can sabotage him in any way imaginable and he’ll still get over it, right? That’s what friends are for. Sabotaging and forgiving.

Sonali has a thing for Jacob. That’s useful. I can use this against him/for him. Because if I can divert him to Sonali, then I get the optimal girl for myself. Everybody wins, except Jacob gets his second choice and I get my first. So for Sonali’s List, she’s Number Two, and the optimal girl is Number One. Are you supposed to put yourself on a List? Do there need to be strict rules for Plots/Ploys/Plans/Schemes/Ruses? Seeing as I’ve been talking out of my ass this entire time, I don’t think that consistency in naming and listing procedures should be a concern.

After the first semester of 10th grade ended, I found out that the optimal girl was transferring to a different high school at the end of the year. At about the same time that I learned about this, another girl transferred into the school, and she might have been a good replacement. I put this new girl through the Excel spreadsheet. She ranked high on attractiveness and intelligence, with adequate personality, but further analysis was required. Besides, I was already kind of set on this other optimal girl.

Jacob is kind of moving towards Sonali, but they haven’t locked it in on their Facebook or anything, whatever that’s supposed to mean. It turns out that secretly coercing people into doing your will is harder than it looks on TV, so I sat down with Jacob and told him the situation over a nice game of Mini Pickles.

Don’t play Mini Pickles with only two people. It’s really lame.

I explain to Jacob that he should go for Sonali instead of the optimal girl, because the optimal girl is leaving soon, and I basically only want a girlfriend because I feel like I should have gotten a girlfriend by this point in my life. Welcome to high school, where you can openly tell your friends that you don’t actually have any romantic feelings for the girl that you’re pursuing, and nobody really gives a damn.

At this age, I was still one of the weird kids. My friend had made me a Facebook account because I refused to make one myself, and I just didn’t care, I gave out the password for the account to anybody who asked for it. My friend Phillip even used my account to collect data from all of my friends. Ah, I love to see someone collecting data.

Jacob was bizarrely on board with my plan. He would go for Sonali, and I would be free to ask out the optimal girl without any known competition. Why did it work out so easily? Apparently I hadn’t been paying a bit of attention, and Jacob and Sonali had already made out on, like, three separate occasions. They weren’t “locked in” necessarily, but they were getting there.

Spoilers: They never did really get locked in. Turns out that was all irrelevant, just like every other aspect of any of my girlfriend pursuits.

So off I go to ask out the optimal girl. And I do so. And she says no. Hey, at least it only took me one semester this time instead of all year. I guess that means that I’m improving. Next time it will only take three months, right?

Jacob was the only person on my List of threats, but it turns out that there was no List at all. This girl knew that she was transferring schools soon, so she simply could not be bothered with any boy drama. I wasn’t Number Three. I wasn’t Number Two, or Number One, or even Number Fifty. There were no Numbers. No Lists at all. So much for the freakin’ analysis.

And then she transferred schools. And that was that.

 

(Part 1, Part 3, Part 4)

C3

Standard

(This is Part 1 of the story. Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

It was somewhere around 7th or 8th grade that I decided I should probably get a girlfriend. It wasn’t really a lusting thing, or any sort of emotion-related thing at all. I simply saw my friends getting girlfriends, and I decided, yeah, I should probably get a girlfriend too. It seemed to be expected of me. I didn’t know what I would do once I had a girlfriend.

I didn’t know what kind of girlfriend I wanted. So I started doing a behavioral analysis of all of the girls in my middle school, gauging them on personality, attractiveness, and intelligence. That’s how you’re supposed to do it, right?

It turns out that my middle school really did not have a lot of girls worth going for. There was your typical normal distribution in terms of attractiveness, but personality and intelligence were both traits that often did not live up to my expectations. Intelligence implied insanity, good personality implied unattractiveness, and attractiveness implied neuroticism. If I hadn’t been in 8th grade, I probably would have done some sort of correlational analysis, but 8th graders don’t really know how to do that, so I saved that for high school.

I quickly realized that my methodology was very different from most other middle schoolers, so I talked to my friend Evan for a second opinion. He said that my analysis was one of the more rational things that he’d seen a person do. That didn’t necessarily make it effective, but seeing as I was simply getting a girlfriend for the sake of getting a girlfriend, effectiveness didn’t really matter to me all that much.

Evan started doing his own minor analysis. At this point I had basically narrowed it down to three girls, and Evan agreed with my research’s findings. His analysis was similar to mine, though I dare say it wasn’t quite as thorough. But it turns out that thoroughness mattered just as little as effectiveness.

Because, you see, when two people are both looking for the optimal girlfriend, it turns out that those two people are both going to select the same person.

Further analysis required.

So me and Evan met up one day, exchanged our data, and yup, goddammit, we had both narrowed it down to the same girl. So it was… a race? This doesn’t seem like how it’s supposed to work. Race wasn’t really the right word. It was more a matter of who had the balls to ask her out first, followed by the stroke of luck in her accepting your approach.

Now there’s the next problem. As an 8th grader, “asking a girl out” was a concept that didn’t really make sense to me. You just walk up, say, “Do you want to go out with me?” and then… go out? Go out where? I’m thirteen. I’m not going to take you out to a nice restaurant. Maybe instead I could just tell her that I was “into her”? But that was kind of a lie, wasn’t it? I guess I was sort of romantically interested, but the only reason that I was asking this girl out was because my Excel spreadsheet told me to.

I suppose that Evan was having a similar problem, because he didn’t ask her out either. Maybe he was just going to sit back, watch, and laugh. I’m sure it was funny to watch me fumble through my algebraic equations in an attempt to account for variables, probability of success, and other nonsense that no human should have to worry about when asking a girl out.

As time wore on, I suspected that other people in my school had performed their own statistical analyses. Peter was showing interest in this girl. Alex was showing interest in this girl. Even Greg was showing interest. I told Evan about what I was seeing, and he nodded and said, “Of course other guys will go for her. You said that she was the most optimal girl.”

We made a list. A nefarious list. We called it The Scheme.

The Scheme assessed all of the possible threats. Number One was the guy that the girl seemed most interested it. Alex. Number Two was the second biggest threat. Peter. Number Three, I soon realized, was Evan himself. On Evan’s list, I was Number Three. Number Four was Dallas, who wasn’t really a threat at all, because all he did was hide behind the school and smoke weed. I don’t think that I even knew what weed was back then, and I still could tell that he was botching his chances. Number Five was Greg. We didn’t have to worry about Greg.

Number One ranked high in terms of personality and intelligence. Meanwhile, Number Two really only had attractiveness going for him, because by all other measures he was a goddamn lunatic. Number Three was Evan, so there wasn’t really much left to assess about him. Number Four had attractiveness and literally no other positive qualities. Number Five was a joke. He wasn’t going anywhere.

Throughout 8th grade, the list kind of shifted around. I think Numbers Two and One switched places at one point. We considered moving Four up to Three, but Evan and I were so used to referring to each other as Number Three that it would kind of take some of the fun away.

There’s the problem. This was all about fun at this point. The Scheme was a meaningless analysis. Despite the fact that I had five other threats, none of them were making any sort of moves on this girl. I was just enjoying assessing all of these people in my middle school. Sure, I didn’t have the balls to ask this girl out, but I also didn’t want to let all of this analysis go to waste. Honestly, you can tell in how I write this story that the girl has been mentioned very infrequently, in exchange for stupid ranking systems.

It wasn’t until the very end of 8th grade that I actually got around to asking the girl out. In terms of the list, I was somehow the first person to do it. Not even Number Three got around to it. So I go up to the girl, in probably one of the last weeks of school, and I tell her that I’m “into her”, and she says that she’s into somebody else.

Soon after, we all graduated and went our separate ways. It could’ve been Number One. But it was probably Number Two. Or, I guess at that point he had shifted to Number One anyway. But whatever. It doesn’t matter.

None of it mattered.

 

(Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

STATMATCH

Standard

            Come one, come all, and find your soul mate using our multimillion dollar algorithm! We compare your qualities against every person on the planet, and we find the most suitable person for you! We have a 100% success rate!

            Yeah right.

            Chris felt like he was slouching into his chair further and further as the wait wore on. The receptionist had been calling out names, but as the room emptied around him, he feared the worst. Nobody was his soul mate. STATMATCH had run his name through their computer, and not a person had come up.

            This was understandable. Chris was large, boring, and grumpy. Everywhere that he went, people avoided him. A combination of unpleasant facial features and unpleasant stenches warded everybody in the opposite direction when he walked into a room. While waiting here in the lobby, Chris had seen a number of other unpleasant looking people, but none of them could possibly top him.

            “Christopher Markets!” the receptionist called out.

            It wasn’t until after Chris had stood up that he realized how much his legs were shaking. He tried to pinch his shoulders together, hiding the sweat stains that had formed under his arms in his nervousness. Holding his breath, Chris shuffled into the office across the room.

            Two men in tuxedos were sitting behind the desk. There was a computer in front of them, a surprisingly small computer. One of the men looked nervous, but the other spread his arms wide with a smile. “Welcome to STATMATCH.” His unflinching grin showed that he was used to dealing with unattractive people.

            The other man looked up at Chris. His lips were pursed, and he seemed concerned. He didn’t say anything, and he kept glancing at the computer screen.

            “So,” Chris started. His voice sounded weak from stress. He had been waiting too long for this moment. “You found a match?”

            The grinning man stepped around the desk. “Call me Miles,” he said, extending a hand.

            In his nervousness, Chris took the hand and shook it like a floppy sausage. Still the man’s smile was unbroken.

            The other man merely looked up from the screen and blandly stated, “I’m Johnson.”

            Chris wasn’t sure if he should wave to him or not, so he didn’t.

           Miles moved back to the desk, scratching the scruff under his chin. “There was something of an odd circumstance here…” Miles told him cautiously.

            Chris felt like he was sinking into the floor. “Odd?”

            Johnson leaned back in his chair, staring up at the ceiling. “An odd circumstance can mean a lot of things at STATMATCH. Often it’s something inconvenient, like a match being found on the opposite side of the planet. That one comes up all the time. One time we had a match who turned out to be on his deathbed. But this problem… This is a new one.”

            Clenching his fists, Chris waited for him to go on. He knew that something like this would happen. But… they had said that they’d found somebody. That was better than no one.

            Johnson lifted a hand and rotated the computer monitor around. “Here is your match. Samantha Oliver.”

            And she was beautiful. Not beautiful in the way that a model is, or a movie star. She was beautiful in that she was so normal, so human. It was all that Chris could have asked for. A small smile. Calm, brown eyes. Just a touch of asymmetry. The most ordinary, believable person that Chris had ever seen. How could such a person be his match?

            With a dry throat, he asked, “What is the problem, exactly?” He couldn’t take his eyes off of her.

            “STATMATCH always finds a match,” Miles told him calmly. “And just to be sure that the match is perfect, we do a backwards check.”

            “Backwards check,” Chris echoed stupidly. The words meant nothing to him.

            Miles crossed his arms. “We ran Samantha Oliver through our algorithm, and she had a match. But the match was not you.”

            “Who?” Chris asked, before he had even managed to process what was being said to him.

            “A man named David Larson,” Johnson spoke up.

            “Now this is very unusual,” Miles went on hurriedly. “At STATMATCH, we always boast of out 100% success rate. But this is a first. Two people are always most compatible with each other. We don’t know what to do about this.”

            Chris clenched his fists so tightly that he could feel his hands shaking. “Where can I find her?”

           “Samantha?” Miles leaned forward. Hesitantly, he glanced at the computer screen. “She’s in New York. I can give you an address and phone number, if you’d like.”

            He had been waiting outside of the coffee shop for twenty minutes when he saw her for the first time. The human way that she walked, the ordinary way that she gave him that awkward smile, the simplicity of her movement as she took a seat across from him.

            “You’re Chris?” she asked. The awkward smile didn’t leave her face.

            “And you’re Samantha,” Chris nodded.

            She nodded back to him, very slowly. “Explain to me again who you are.”

            “I went to STATMATCH a few days ago. They matched me to you.” He couldn’t mention that other man, that David Larson. If everything went according to plan, she would never even find out that he existed.

            “STATMATCH,” Samantha frowned. “I had a friend who went to them. I haven’t seen her since.”

            “I’m sure that your friend is happy,” Chris told her. “They have a 100% success rate.”

            “I don’t care about the success rate,” Samantha said adamantly. She was still frowning, and as much as the frown hurt, Chris could see the beauty even in her sadness. “I can’t be with you, Chris.”

            He felt clammy. He felt nervous, he felt winded, he felt nauseous, and he felt like he was never going to see her after this conversation. “Why is that?” he asked her. It sounded like begging the way that he had said it.

            It took Samantha a moment to speak. “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know anything about you.”

            “It doesn’t matter that you don’t know me. The statistics say—”

            “Statistics!” Samantha cut him off. “I don’t care about statistics! I don’t want to be with somebody because a computer tells me to!”

            She used that word a lot. “Don’t”. It stung every time. “But STATMATCH thinks that you’ll be happiest with me,” he lied. “Our personalities are compatible. More than anybody else on the whole planet.”

            Abruptly, Samantha stood up. “I can’t be with you. I’m sorry.”

            It wasn’t until she had turned to walk away that Chris noticed her wedding ring.