Mr. Roboto

Sometimes, when reading profiles, I come across one that really catches my eye and when my curiosity is piqued, I will definitely drop an email with some small comment on something they’ve written. So, I was actually the one who first made contact with D. His profile was intelligent and written with some depth, he had intriguing interests, and in his pictures his eyes looked beautiful.

He messaged me back, asking if he could call me. When we talked on the phone the conversation was a bit stilted and he had some odd inflections in his tone, but I didn’t intend to judge him by one phone call. We made tentative plans to get together and I was excited about the possibilities.

When it came time to make definite plans for the date, he caught me on chat. While trying to arrange a place that would be convenient for both of us, he spotted a sub shop that he was familiar with from the city he lived in before. He says we should meet there. Now, I try to not be pretentious and snobby. Still…really? I could picture a sub shop for a first date when we were sixteen, but not necessarily when we’re in our thirties. However, he said that he was nostalgic for it and that they had good subs, so I agreed.

So that evening I drive to the sub shop and somewhat nervously go in. There isn’t anyone there, so I make little jokes with the teenage boys at the counter and ask them what is good to pass the time. After about ten minutes he arrives.

He sits down at the table with me and we exchange greetings and pleasantries. About five minutes into the conversation, I begin to notice something unusual. He doesn’t appear to blink. Nor does the odd half-smile, which I initially assumed was from nerves, ever leave his face. I find myself half fascinated and half-repulsed by the almost reptilian stillness with which he holds himself. Suddenly feeling even more nervous from his unflinching, unblinking stare, I ask if he would like to order.

“No. I’m not really very hungry. I had a big snack earlier.” He replies. My stomach rumbles in animal-like fury at him and I try to send it soothing thoughts. Sadly, I had not gotten the memo about having a large snack before dinner and I was ravenous,

“Okay.” I reply nonchalantly.

“I do believe that I shall get something to drink, though.” He says in a perfectly measured and even voice. “Would you like something?”

I say that I would and we both step up to the counter to order. After we’ve placed our orders, the cashier rings them up together and announces the total. There is an awkward silence. Finally I pull out my card and hand it over to pay for our drinks.

 Unblinkingly and with the same half-smile he says, “Thank you, ****.”

I am a bit taken aback by the oddness of him allowing me to pay for his drink without even an offer of money, yet I acknowledge mentally that women have been doing the same to men for years. So I head to the table, drink in hand, still trying to not judge.

As we begin to converse, I find out that D doesn’t believe in swimming in the shallow waters. No, he is an emotional diver, willing to scour the murky emotional depths even on a first date. I also find out that he is an engineer and works all day building tiny robots. This information will come in handy later, as I begin to sort through the evening to find some meaning.

Unblinkingly, half-smile firmly lodged in place and his body encased in stillness, he launches question after question at me with almost no expression.

“What would you do if you won the lottery?”

“Have you ever done anything in life that you regretted? Would you change it if you could? What did you learn from it?”

“Are you happy with your life the way it is? What would you change?”

As is my introspective way, I felt the need to ponder each question and answer from the heart. After my soul-searching and giving him a final answer, I would always ask him the same question. To which he unfailingly replied: “I’m not sure. I don’t know how I feel about that yet.”

Finally, as I was trying to take a break from plumbing the depths of my psyche, he asks, “Is there anything you’d like to know about me?”

I think for a moment, and then respond: “No. I’m fairly content to just let the conversation evolve organically.”

 His half-smile turns into a three-quarter smile. “Good. I can’t stand it when a date turns into a game of twenty questions.”

Really? Huh? I begin to wonder if I have entered an alternate dimension. Looking down at the time (and hearing the roar of my still angry stomach), I suggest that we order some dinner.

“You know, I don’t really like the food here. I think I’m going to pass.”

What the hell? As I have now gone without food for nearly eight hours, I have visions of grabbing his arm and biting down. Not because he looks particularly tasty, but simply because I feel that if I do not consume something within the next few moments, I actually may start viewing my date as prey. Not to mention the irrational fury that I feel at being forced to come to a sub shop for dinner because he wanted to, then having him refuse to eat because he DOESN’T LIKE THE FOOD!

“Uh huh.” I respond. I notice that after the draining emotional divulgence and the lack of sustenance physically, I am reduced to using single syllable words.

“In fact, I’m really cold and I would like to leave.” He states, his voice lacking any inflection at all.

I stare at him for a moment, speechless, until he clarifies: “However, I would simply like to go with you someplace that is less cold. I’m really enjoying myself.”

“Uh huh.” I reply. There is a moment of silence. “I’m going to order a Philly Cheese Steak.” I state firmly. While I’m waiting for my food, he approaches the teenage boys behind the counter and holds out his half-full drink cup.

“I believe that I’ve had about all of this I can drink.” He says solemnly. The teenage boys glance at each other in discomfort.

“Dude, you want something else?” One of them prompts.

D looks at him with a clear lack of comprehension. He again holds out his glass to them. “No, I simply have had all of this that I can take.”

Looking befuddled and nervous, the boys try again. “Is there something wrong with it? Do you want your money back?” (Uh…make that MY money back)

I sense D’s growing frustration. Seeing the problem, as well as having some experience speaking engineer, I step in.

“Everything is fine with the drink.” I tell them soothingly. “He’s trying to be considerate by not pouring the remains into the trash can or down your soda drain. While he enjoyed the drink, he’s hoping you can dispose of what is left in one of your sinks, to avoid making a mess.”

Comprehension dawns on their faces. D looks relieved. The time-space continuum is restored. Sadly, I don’t think Scotty is going to beam me up.

I order my sub to go; we decide to go to a coffee shop. I could really use a good stiff drink with my sub, but he doesn’t drink alcohol. Nor does he drink coffee. However, he decides upon hot chocolate.

You may be wondering: Why the hell didn’t I call it quits? What could possibly possess me to continue the date?

In the end I suppose it came down to wanting to be decent. He was clearly a man more used to dealing with machines than with humans. He didn’t seem like a bad man, simply one who hadn’t a clue how to interact on a social level. In the big scheme of things, one more hour wouldn’t make or break my evening (well, truthfully, it was pretty much already shot), but it might make a difference to his dignity.

We talked, more of the deeply intellectual stuff of which he seemed so fond. He indicated several times, in engineer speak, that he found my brain sexy. I took it for the compliment that it was. Finally I let him know that I needed to go.

He walked me to my car, then hugged me. He expressed how much he had enjoyed our date, then mentioned seeing me again. I replied, “Well, I know that we’re both busy people.”

“I’m sure we can make time for each other.” He said simply.

I sat in my car until he left, then went back into the coffee shop and ordered myself a hot chocolate as well. I needed comfort. As I drove home I contemplated the fact that if I were able to overlook the unblinking, reptilian, robot stillness; or the fact that he had incredibly limited social skills (after all, I’d had to translate his engineer speak for the sub shop humans), he actually was a pretty interesting and deep human being. A beautiful soul trapped behind the robotic and scientific cage that he had wrapped around himself. Not to mention the fact that he did, truly, have beautiful eyes.

Still, as the lyrics to a Styx song popped into my brain as I pulled in my driveway, I knew that this was a beautiful soul with whom I simply could not mesh.

You're wondering who I am 
Machine or mannequin 
With parts made in Japan 
I am the Modern Man.
I've got a secret
I've been hiding under my skin
My heart is human
my blood is boiling
my brain I.B.M.
So if you see me acting strangely
don't be surprised
Domo Arigato (thank you very much)
Mr. Roboto
Domo Arigato (thank you very much)
Mr. Roboto

2 Responses to “Mr. Roboto”

  1. I completely enjoyed reading this story. I know too well these robotic type men. Hope the next one is better!

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