Burning Home


He’s thinking of breaking up with Angel1na. For one thing, there’s her name. The contrived insistence on the stupid numeral. He can’t even shorten it and call her “Angie” because it’s “Ang1e” and even though they are meant to sound the same, he can’t say her name without thinking, “Angle” or “Ang-one-ee”. Which, fine, whatever it’s just a name, right?

But it’s a terrible name. It’s a splinter of a name. You’d be surprised how often you have to think a name. You don’t notice it if you are just there and the name is beautiful or at least innocuous, but Ang1e insists on having an irritating name. It’s — he’s coming to think — symbolic of her whole deal.

Her deal is that she’s an artist. “Cyborg performance artiste.” She insists on “artiste”. It’s absurd, but it’s meant to be absurd, she’ll explain. By taking a wholly 1980s art form and mixing it with the wholly 80s conception of what a cyborg could be, she juxtaposes (she says that word a lot) the old imagination of the cyborg with the new reality of them.

She’s saying that now, in fact; luminous at the front of a lecture hall full of fawning students and professors, while he sulks in the back, swiping through status updates and following links.

“‘We’re all cyborgs’ – they were saying that back in the 80s,” she’s saying, “Haraway, with her notions of the hybridization of the human as a lever to get at her fears about the essentializing of, well, anything in feminism. So there’s this worship of the manmachine.”

Behind her, on the projection screen, Arnold is naked and fetal post teleport, then he’s standing and then cut to the iconic Terminator with damaged face metal skull. The crowd laughs.

For another thing, there are the prosthetics. State of the art but made up to look retro-cyber. All of them but one strictly elective. Millions of dollars of chrome nostalgia for an alternate future, the one imagined by a particular vision from a particular decade.

“This is a 24 hour gig,” she’d warned him, years ago when she was just getting started. When everything but her left leg below the knee was still real. When the look was primarily costume.

“I’m post fashion. I’m not going to be flitting from look to look, I’m going to be staying right here and deepening.”

He thought he could take that and he told her so. But since then, more and more of her has been given over to science or art or the academy or wherever she’s getting her money these days. Sex is awkward and clanking. She refuses to switch to normal limbs because “it takes too long and I like myself this way.” She’s always busy and so’s he and he can’t even remember what things were like when they started.

He catches up with her backstage after the lecture. Or show. Whatever it is, she’s got throngs of undergrads trying to reach her, to ask a question or take a picture or try to exchange emails. He stays in the back, letting her talk and thank and bask. This was a big deal for her, she’s been trying to get in for a long while.

He passes the time by trying to guess which of these kids isn’t going to be here next semester, once their parent’s accounts are frozen. There’s three guys over to the side. They look like extremely new money, all high fives and designer hemp tuxedos. Conspicuously rich, which means highly liquid assets, which means massive devaluation and bank accounts turning into IOUs which in turn are evaporating. The one in the middle seems glum, maybe he sees the writing on the wall. Or maybe his girlfriend is the shimmery blonde who’s clearly attempting to achieve carnal relations with Ang1e.

Bakir finds that he doesn’t especially care whether Ms. Blonde succeeds. He suspects that Ang1e’s had many affaires. Probably on very excellent theoretical grounds. Very culturally authentic ones. For his part, he’s remained faithful, but that’s had more to do with lack of motivation and a high degree of engagement at work, rather than any particular moral code.

Eventually the crowd thins and Ms. Blonde leaves. With, he notes, the three new money guys. Ang1e notices him and comes over.

“Why hello, Dr. Jones,” she says, “How was your adventure?”

“What’s with your voice?”

“You didn’t notice during the lecture?”

“I figured it was a PA thing.”

“I had my ripperdocs take a look at it.”

Ripperdocs. She is attended by some of the most highly qualified and surgeons in the world but she insists on calling them ripperdocs.

“Check this out,” and then she opens her mouth wide and without moving her lips says, “Pretty cool, huh?”

“Jesus.”

“I’m still getting used to it,” she’s moving her lips again, “and it’s easier to talk normally, but I’m vocal chord free now. No more sore throats. Wanna grab a bite?”

They drive to a quiet place a little out of town, where she’s less likely to attract admirers. Dinner is uneventful and pleasant. She asks him about the trip to Floatopia and he is vague about the details. She tells him about upcoming broadcast deals and her globetrotting schedule for the coming months. They agree to a calendar sync to find time within the next few weeks for a full weekend together, and when they leave the restaurant, he can’t recall exactly why he was ready to leave.

But when they are back at her place and she starts whispering dirty things unimpeded by being in the middle of a long deep kiss, it’s too much. He sleeps alone.