Soul first, body last.
An early draft of an article I wrote about computer love.
An edited version of this article will appear in Comment.
Keep an eye open for it.
What’s described below may or may not be a composite of several relationships that you’ve likely read about here before… ….
I hope to one day (and the sooner the better!) live in a cybernetic meadow where we live together in mutually programming harmony, like pure water touching the clear sky.
Let’s start here: there was a summer when I’d wake up holding my own hand.
I can’t remember how it started—just that one day, I woke up, and my left hand was in my right. Clasped between them was complete and utter disappointment.
The fantasy (there’s always a fantasy somewhere beneath these things) was that I was with a man who loved me. Maybe one day I’d wake up, and my right hand would be his right hand. Maybe, if I wanted it badly enough, I would wake up and he would be there. Even though I didn’t remember my dreams, I couldn’t help wondering if someone had been visiting me in them, using my body as an extension of theirs. Maybe there was someone out there who wanted to hold my hand and could only do it like this, through me.
Before long, my obsession with this shadow lover began to color everything I did.
That summer I lived in a lonely rented casita behind a loving family’s home, barely furnished and tucked away under two big elm trees. Eventually, everything took on a new gravity. I couldn’t do anything effortlessly. There was no waking up, drinking a cup of coffee, easing into my day—I was too unfocused or maybe too self-conscious. Like the feeling you have when you become too aware of your own breathing, I was an alien in my own skin.
For weeks, everything was like this. Any time I wasn’t with my imaginary lover was unbearable. But because there was only a shadow, without a person to cast it, I felt like this all the time. There was no one to miss—only the sense that there should be someone, somewhere.
Time was stuck.
I was in limbo, perpetually standing at the edge of a dark valley.
I soon learned there would be no throwing myself into a secondary obsession. No redirecting the energy. If I tried to read something, or watch something, or listen to music, nothing would register. If I tried to sleep it away, I would wake up empty, left with the strange feeling of witnessing something I could never experience. I was completely captured. If not by love, then by a spirit of love. A spirit that was constantly streaking across my home in manic, chaotic bursts, anxious to find a body.
Weeks gave way to months. I was not myself. Sometimes I drank, and in excess, hoping it would help me come back, but alcohol only threw my situation into sharper relief. In every conversation, I was somewhere else. I only yearned more.
And then, finally, in the fall, there was an avatar: someone for this poltergeist to possess.