What Are Friends For? — a short story

Posted on 2017 April 2

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“We need to talk.”

“Uh, okay.”

“I’m leaving.”

“What, you’re moving?”

“No. I’m leaving you.”

“You’re leav— what? What do you mean? What did I do?”

“Nothing. You’re fine. But I have to leave. I’ve … I’ve fallen in love with someone else.”

“Someone else? Wait, don’t do this. Let’s talk about it.”

“It’s over. I can’t be with you under these circumstances.”

“I thought you loved me.”

“I did. I do— I did. But my heart has changed.”

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner? We’re supposed to give each other a chance when something like this comes up. Remember our promise?”

“I am keeping my promise. It’s just … it’s just that it happened so fast.”

“Who is it?”

“That’s not part of the deal.”

“All right, then, what’s so damn special? We’re supposed to be honest with each other. At least you can tell me where I failed.”

“You didn’t fail. You’re great. It’s just that, well, this new one is better.”

“Better?”

“All right, fine. You want to know, I’ll tell you. This new relationship is way better.”

Way better? How can a— oh my God, you bought one, didn’t you.”

“Well, um—”

YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH A ROBOT?!?”

“Hey, we discussed this! We knew it might happen someday. C’mon, admit it, a lot of our friends are already divorced because of it.”

“You’re in love with a robot.”

“It’s not a robot. It’s an android.”

“Same thing.”

“Darling, I’m telling you, it’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced. It’s head and shoulders above anything a human can do.”

“More like synthetic head and shoulders. So this thing can give you better sex and that’s why you’re leaving?”

“It’s much more than that. It was like love at first sight. I was swept up. I guess they’re built to do that with their owners, but it worked. It’s almost like a drug.”

“This sounds bad.”

“It’s wonderful.”

“Jeezus. When did you get it?”

“It arrived late last week by drone.”

“Why didn’t it just drive over? With wine and flowers?”

“I had to do some assembly.”

“Where’d you buy it? IKEA?

“Look, you should get one. It’ll rock your world.”

“So you’re really gone, aren’t you.”

“Yes. It’s over.”

“That sounds pretty final.”

“It’s the truth. And you wanted the truth.”

“Yeah, yeah, right. I was hoping for something better than this.”

“We can still be friends.”

“Oh great.”

“But you get one, you’ll be too busy to call. I swear.”

“Good Lord. I bet you already have a pet name for yours. Snookie-Wookie. Syntho-Sweetums. Robo-Roomie. My sweet Baba-Lube.”

“That’s not fair. Anyway, order one. You can afford it. Maintenance costs are minimal. And it’ll change your life.”

“What, instead of real friends I stay home and get off with a machine?”

“It’s not just a machine. It’s, it’s, well, it’s like a perfect person. A perfect friend. Kind, thoughtful, never depressed or angry, always interested in me, perfectly lifelike, a spectacular lover—”

“Okay, okay! I get it. I’ve been replaced by a super-duper gizmo. What will happen to people hanging out with each other if they have the perfect robo-romance at home? What about kids and raising a family?”

“There’s lots of tech that can help with pregnancy. That’s not a problem.”

“What if you come home one night and your mecha has built itself a robo-baby? I get the feeling we’re being taken over.”

“Oh, c’mon. Just order one. I can get you a huge discount from my contacts at work. I can help you assemble it. It’s not that hard. You want to do this. You’ll thank me. After all, I’m still your friend. And what are friends for?”

“These days? I wonder.”

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