A loose definition of progress

My robot doesn’t like me. Not yet.

To build a great robot, you have to have time for it. It isn’t like building model airplanes or collecting stamps, you have to really want it bad. There will always be other things competing for your time, things whose sense of self-importance would put a tumor to shame, things like work, health, things like love. And that is not to say that you have to completely neglect these things, but you need a better understanding of them than say, an accountant. It’s perfectly acceptable to have relationship problems when you’re balancing checkbooks, but if you want to create life, then invention is your lover, and god help you if you are unfaithful. You must dream of your creation and reach for it in the aching ether of your night or early morning. Take to your sketchbooks and schematics like love letters addressed to some foreign land that holds your beauty and for all practical purposes seems almost unattainable. I have a theory that when God created the earth and its inhabitants, He must have been nursing a broken heart.

In the last few years, I have become unsure of my hands. I won’t go into it here, but I’ve begun to think I have reason to doubt them. I have a neighbor who was born to gypsies and she has recently accused me of witchcraft. I am not inclined to disagree with her. My robot is a testament to my secret desire to be saved. He is piled in the corner of my room and though I have not left my apartment in days, I am disturbed to know that he doesn’t yet have eyes. He is disappointed for this fact. He stares at me when I sleep and says nothing, as if I have forgotten his birthday. I haven’t. The truth is I have just wanted to sleep more. I have needed it. All of my dreams lately are about destruction, and though I have tried in them to force my hands to do good, they’ve lost respect for me also. I don’t have control over them. I barely have control of them when I wake.

Seems like lately all I do is make minor adjustments. I tinker with a hand or a kneecap and I make it a point to ignore the insides. For a while I used the excuse that I’d already mastered the circuitry, so why not turn my attention to the details and finish it when the time comes? That’s a lie. I know it and he knows it. And it isn’t for a lack of trying, really. Over night, the workings of life have become a mystery again. I’d always thought that when that happened, I would be able to make my greatest leap, because that is what my teacher told me. That was three years ago. Now, I spend more of my time than anything perched on the stool by the window, chainsmoking through the screen, staring at my work-in-progress and wondering what to do with myself. My teacher is dead, my robot has no eyes, and I’m all alone.

I finish off the bourbon in the cabinet and tell myself that the answer will come when my eyes close. This is how it has worked in the past. I throw a threadbare blanket over the robot who does not love me and settle down on my cot for a rest. I tell myself I’ll give it a heart tomorrow, that I’ll dream up an answer today. I close my eyes and reach through the fog, and when my hands come into focus, I find they’re just hammers. I open them again and have another cigarette, telling myself that I’ll try again in a few minutes.

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