“Everyone has guides,” the old man told Phoebe. “I see three standing behind you; a man and two women. Can you tell me the man’s name?”
Phoebe was not sure why she always attracted these types. Perhaps she had a face that begged to be talked to, if you were living on the ragged edge of reality. She tried to ignore him as she waited for her pizza. He had to be in his eighties, with dyed black hair and food stains on his shirt.
“The name?” he persisted.
“Bart,” she blurted out, recalling the famous phrase, “I’m Bart Simpson, who the Hell are you?”
Maybe that would satisfy him. She turned slightly away from him. She hoped he could read body language as well as he did the ethers. He shook his inky hair.
“Nope. It’s longer than that.”
Where is my pizza? she thought.
“Bartholomew,” she said in exasperation.
“Yes! That’s it! You must Google him.”
With that, he turned and walked out the door—no pizza, no food, nothing.
Phoebe arrived home with her pizza and set it on the counter. She no longer felt like eating. The fluttering in her stomach had become a regular thing since turning in her last robot, Troy. It was her third. She’d hoped that Troy would be “The One.”
The government, in all their wisdom, had decided there were too many single women. And they were not good for the economy—they didn’t spend enough money. Two years had passed since the deadline for all women over the age of 28 to be paired with a mate. If they were not in a committed relationship they would be required to enroll in the Synco-Pal program, or pay a penalty.
Trillions of tax dollars were used to develop the perfect male companion robot for single women. Over the probationary four months he would learn and synchronize with all her likes and dislikes. Together, as a couple “in love,” they would spend more and help the economy. Since the Synco-Pals had no visible means of support, the women had to support them. One of the Synco-Pal’s key features was that he demanded expensive gifts to promote “happiness.” If gift demands were ignored, a report would be transmitted via the Synco-Pal to the agency overseeing the Synco-Pal program. The woman would be fined in the amount of the gift not purchased.
Phoebe’s Synco-Pals kept malfunctioning. They were fun and complimentary, attentive and sweet…up until they moved in with her. Quickly, they would become critical, intimidating, messy, demanding and argumentative. He would start to devalue her with insults about her physical appearance, intelligence and capabilities. His demand for expensive gifts would go well beyond extravagant. Once the gift was purchased and given, he would quickly become dissatisfied with it, thereby requiring a new gift. After six months all traces of love, compassion and empathy had vanished. They became just plain mean and sullen. All three had been exactly the same; Troy was the last. She had nicknamed him Syco-Pal.
Having lost faith, she opted to take advantage of the grace period of two months after a “Turn In.” Phoebe decided she was going to do some research. Certainly she couldn’t be the only one experiencing devastating software glitches.
Phoebe interviewed other women, including one who actually worked for Synco-Pal. Her findings were disturbing. One in twenty five Synco-Pals had the all-encompassing software glitch she had experienced. It was a factory defect, with no upgrade. One in five had a glitch that made them difficult and annoying to be around, also no upgrade. There were millions of them out there. She was emotionally exhausted, financially devastated, and felt she had tried to be “a patriot.”
She found the odds as bad as the human relationships. They ended in divorce 50% of the time. Was being “in love”—and fitting into what society and the economy marketed to—worth it?
She felt manipulated. Why wasn’t her contribution to the economy and society good enough? Perhaps the government spent too much? They certainly had on Synco-Pal. If they didn’t waste so much, they would not need so much from her.
With two weeks of grace left, Phoebe was surfing the web, continuing her research. She remembered the old man from the pizza place and decided to Google “Bartholomew, guide.” She had no idea what a guide was—some woo-woo thing most certainly. A woman in New Mexico claimed to channel this Bartholomew character. Phoebe was entering the twilight zone. She ordered the book. She read the book only to discover it was full of thoughts and concepts familiar to her on some level. Yet she had never seen or heard them anywhere in her life. There was a shift in her consciousness as the information made complete sense to her. There was love, and there was love.
The “love” that society embraced, encouraged, and marketed to was actually nothing more than attraction. It was conditional—not all abiding. Behave a certain way, and you will be loved. Quit, and you will no longer be loved. Attraction/repulsion. Like magnets. The thoughts are not always loving. Phoebe was quite familiar with that emotional roller coaster. It comes with lessons to learn. About love. What you believe you lack, you find in the other person. You are attracted, fall “in love” with what you believe you lack—and what you believe will make you whole. Then you act certain ways, hoping to prevent a loss of that “love” or that sense of wholeness. It was that whole, “You complete me” thing. Phoebe thought many would deny this is true, protesting theirs is “true love.” But there are always conditions to being with another person.
Hmm…That’s a lot of power and responsibility I give to someone, Phoebe thought. So if I look to them for my happiness, and they are not happy…I will have to wait for them to be happy before I can be happy. Well, that’s messed up.
The other “love” was all-abiding. Unconditional. All your “good” traits and all your “undesirable” traits would be loved equally, as what makes you whole. They complete you. A perfect specimen of humanity. And here’s the kicker: this love is attained by you loving and accepting yourself, exactly as you are. No conditions. Ever. You just agree to love yourself, always, as a part of everything and everyone. As a result, you feel love and compassion for everyone else. Love yourself for wanting to change and grow—all the time, with no restrictions. It never goes stale.
The fluttering in Phoebe’s stomach stirred as she realized she’d been sold a bill of goods about life that was not in her best interest for a long and happy life. She also noticed Syco-Pals were not included in this ticket to nirvana—it was an inside job. They function by sucking stimuli from the outside world; they’re empty inside. If everything and everyone has a purpose, why Synco-Pals? She concluded that who better to force you to love yourself than someone who makes you feel bad and inferior about being you? Someone who fills your life with chaos and stress, lies, fear and manipulation? Yes, that must be their purpose. That said, they’re mean and she was through.
As she sorted her thoughts, her stomach fluttered something fierce. She mentally surveyed her life like a hawk flying over her personal landscape. Life was pretty much the same as it had always been. But she had changed, seeing it all from a different perspective.
Phoebe grabbed her car keys, hoping some fresh air would settle the now unbearable fluttering. After driving for a while, she pulled into a parking garage. She got out to stretch her legs and climbed up on the ledge, breathing in deeply. Little by little, all the seeds of change she had planted was each in itself a metamorphosis. Each growing stronger on its own, watered with her commitment and love. As the cocoons were shed, she burst forth in flight.
Phoebe flew away to a beautiful new life. She decided paying the “single woman penalty” was a better deal.
Hey everyone, go to Dan’s site and play “Add a line.” Hurry, I have a feeling it’s going to get way out of hand…
I added: As Gina’s anxiety and fear mounted withing her chest, everything in her told her to get as far away as she can, and NOW! She turned and ran for the stairs, but they were nowhere to be found…