Sunday, October 29, 2017

Synthetic Spencer Tracy

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Spencer Tracy

We saw Blade-Runner last night.

It occurrs to me that I haven't seen any movies that focus on a male robot/replicant/AI character as a companion to a human woman. 

Clearly, the female AI robot-types are like Geishas in their essence; what would their male counterpart be like in relation to human women?  

The brief narrative below explores that question.

Because my son was so embarrassed to have left his wife for one of those things, (like so many other men, like his father, who left me for a synthetic as soon as my son turned 18), he somehow persuaded me to have one in my house.

I told my son I didn't want one, that I deplored them on principal: They were sycophantic dolls contrived to appeal to our most base and narcissistic tendencies.

But my son said it was entirely up to me how I chose to define the terms of the relationship, and  I could use the synthetic either as a companion, a house-keeper, or an errand boy. It would be safer to have one with me when I went out at night in public.  

Finally, I was persuaded. Or maybe, just curious.

"Okay, okay.  But I don't want to be seen with a Russell Crowe or a Colin Firth.  And for pity's sake, do not send me Ryan Gosling."

"Alright," he said. "Don't worry."

They sent me Spencer Tracy in his forties, with dirty-blonde hair instead of strawberry-blonde. Very clever. He looked enough like an every-man that I let him in the door, thinking, if I send him back now, they'll just send Ryan Gosling.

"I'm sorry I'm late," he said, rushing in, holding a bottle of champagne out as though he were late for a party. It was only 7 pm. He went straight to the cupboard where I kept the glasses.

"Here you go, Darling," he said, handing me a fluted glass of pink and bubbly champagne.  His movement and gestures were breezy and confident, as if this were a thing that we did; as if I had been waiting for him to hand me a glass of champagne.

He gazed into my eyes with those baby-blues.  I thought of Katherine Hepburn, her quick reposts and one-liners, her self-possessed laugh and sparkling eyes, as bright and arresting as Spencer's.

"I thought you could use some champagne," he said, adroitly filling in the space where I didn't say anything cunning.

After a few sips, I began to feel lighter and brighter. He topped off  my glass and declared that he had loads of energy, so, if I didn't mind, he'd cook tonight.

I didn't mind.

While he cooked, he talked about his day at the office. He was an editor at a big newspaper.  He knew everything that was going on in the city, in the country, in the world.  Even the office gossip was interesting, perfect little stories about human folly, scandal, and betrayal.

I knew it was a fiction, composed for me. But it was good.

He set down plates of boeuf bourguignon, garlic mashed potatoes, asparagus, and a warm loaf of crusty bread.  Where did it come from, I wondered.

I lifted the fork to my lips and glanced across at him, tucking a napkin in under his chin.  I caught his eye. He winked and smiled, ruddy, full of appetite.

"You eat?" I said. The females do not eat. No one seems to mind.

"You betcha!" he said.  I was glad, because I would find it uncomfortable to be the only one eating. He kept pace with me, and ate every last bite.

I wondered if he used the bathroom.  The females didn't.

"I know what you're thinking," he said. "It's not quite the same, but it's efficient and tidy. I don't leave a mess. I take it out right away with the garbage."

Huh, I thought. Really, what could I say? Even Katherine Hepburn might have found herself tongue-tied.

"More champagne?" He topped me off.

We didn't talk very much while we ate, which I appreciated. Delightful as I admit he was, I couldn't see carrying on at that level of intensity and volume all evening. It would get to be exhausting.

"Do you mind if I clean up the kitchen?" he said. "It helps me decompress."

"I don't mind. Would you like me to help dry?"

"I would sure enjoy the company!" His eyes twinkled.

The kitchen sparkled.

Spence pulled a small slim volume of poetry out of a pocket, and turned to a dog-eared page.  It was thankfully brief and mildly thrilling, both the words and the sound of him reading it. It got me thinking in a way that I had not done since I was younger and more open to new ideas.

It had been an unexpectedly fine evening, but I began to worry about what would happen when I wanted to go to bed. Was he supposed to sleep in the bed beside me?  I wasn't ready for that yet. I still hadn't figured out exactly how I was going to define this relationship....He certainly wasn't going to be the delivery boy.

Spence glanced at his watch.  (The watch, a nice touch.) "I'm sorry! I have to go. I have to get back to the office. We're working on a big story and--well, you know how it is."

I nodded, sympathetic.

He pulled on his coat and fished something else out of yet another pocket.

"Well, what do ya know! How did that get in there?" He pressed two gold cellophane-wrapped chocolate truffles tied with silver ribbon into my hands.

His skin felt warm and real.

He kissed my cupped hands and looked deep into my eyes. I was unnerved.

"I'll be back as soon as I can," he said. "Don't wait up. And don't let the bed-bugs bite!"

When the door closed behind him, I felt relieved.  I knew that he would come back. There could be no question about that.

So, before I could change my mind, I went right on-line and cancelled the subscription. It was surprisingly easy, because no one ever did it.

Then I knew that he definitely would not come back.

And yet, for weeks after leaving me with chocolate truffles melting in my hands, I secretly hoped that Spencer Tracy would come back of his own volition, that there had been some mistake and he was in fact human, and not synthetic.  I made up stories to explain his delay, which became more and more elaborate as time went by.

Finally, I made myself watch Spencer Tracy in "Captain's Courageous," in which his truncated body sinks beneath the fearsome waves to Davy Jones' locker.  I cried like a baby and said good-bye, and then I got on with my life.

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