The man looked fairly nervous as he gazed back at the metal man in either awe or incredulity. Either way his eye’s were a little too wide as he stared rather impolitely at the robot. I mean, one doesn’t see a robot every day but one ought to show a bit of respect to anyone who said something along the lines of: “Boy what a day I’ve had.” It was a loaded question that was full of hints of wanting. Wanting to be sympathized with. Wanting to be listened to. But certainly did not contain a hint of wanting to be screamed at throatily and run away from as the man previously sitting next to the robot had just done.
I watched from the bench across the walking path as the robot gave a long, drawn out sigh and hung his head. This robot was clearly in need of some desperate psychological attention. I had never heard of a robot with feelings but this one seemed to be absorbed in some kind of clinical depression. A family therapist on his lunch break, I decided that I was just the kind of person to give it to him. Plus I was the only one left in the park that hadn’t gone running screaming.
I folded up my newspaper and walked across the concrete path to where the robot was sitting. My loafers made a distinct clicking sound on the hard surface that caused the robot’s head to raise. He really isn’t in very good shape for a robot I thought to myself as I approached. Covered in mud on his hands and feet, the rest of his body was piddled with small dents and dings. As robots go, this one didn’t look at all impressive.
I stood awkwardly in front of him for a moment. How does one introduce oneself to a robot? Fuck it.
“Hello.” I said in what I hoped was a good natured voice.
The robot looked me up and down as if sizing me up before stating matter of factly, “You look like a crazy person… would you like to hear my story?”
Gaping slightly at this jab at my insanity by a dirty, old looking robot, I was at a loss for words. However, I did want to hear what kind of story this rude hunk of metal might produce so I nodded briefly before sitting down and repeating a line which often produced good results with my patients: “Why don’t you start from the beginning.”
If a robot could smile this one certainly would have done so at that. Due to his mouth being little more than a slit in a plate of metal, he didn’t really have the ability to do so. Although he did laugh. A derisive sound of screeching metal and rust, it sounded more akin to two skyscrapers humping then the laughter we humans are accustomed to.
“The beginning!!” He snorted out loud with a fresh round of that horrible sounding laughter. When he had collected himself the robot looked at me and sarcastically stated: “Were I to start at the beginning I would have to try to convey to your simple mind about how much more complex my own is. I’ve been on all sorts of dreadfully exciting adventures and equally dreadful hundreds of millions of years I’ve stood in one spot, waiting for my master to return after he said he would. I am the first and only robot that I know of with emotions in the entire history of the universe. My creators thought it would endow me to be a better servant by enabling me to understand the emotions of your kind. All it made me do is loathe life.” He finished with a spit if he would have had any saliva. He settled himself with producing a disgusted sounding, “Bahhh.”
I watched this dilapidated metal creature trace a dent in his navel region with a long metal finger. I had always been able to muster some kind of response to a patient to reassure them that there predicament wasn’t that bad. There was always someone who had it worse out there, so be thankful for what you have right? But never in my wildest dreams had I experienced someone so solidly justified in their depression. How could I in any sense tell this robot that there was someone who had it worse out there. As far as I know, he was the most unfortunate and depressing creature I had ever met and quite possibly in the entire universe.
I looked him straight in the eyes. Is it eyes? What do you call what a robot sees out of? Optical processors? But that is technically an eye. Or at least it functions exactly the same as an eye but it’s just that an eye develops organically. I looked at him intensely in the place where a human would have eyes, straight into his eyeball like optical processors and told him: “I’m sorry.”
Sometimes people just needed to be told that simple statement. Even if none of what had happened to him was my fault, I felt it necessary to tell him that I sympathized with his plight. He looked up from the tracing of his dents in surprise. I would bet good money that I had just surprised an ancient sentient being which had been very rarely surprised before.
He gave a slight nod of thanks as if appreciation wasn’t apart of his vocal programming. He looked down at his metal, dinged up knees before stating in a quick, uneven voice, “in my billions of years in the universe no-one has ever said that to me and meant it.”
I smiled slightly at this, it always felt good to help a being in need. “Well I am and I do. All of that sounds exceedingly awful and I’m sorry you had to experience that. My name’s Erik Erikson, and yours?” I finished kindly with an extension of my hand.
The robot grasped my hand with his own which was still covered in the filth accumulated over the history of the universe and stated simply: “Marvin.”