Perception is Reality
We all have that place that when we close our eyes and think of it, the memory of it so clear that to think of that place is to be there. It might be the playground up the street where you learned to ride your bike with your older brother, or maybe the corner store you and your best friend ran to everyday after school to buy sodas and a candy bar to split. It was as I sat in my favourite booth; the one all the way in the back by the employee exit where you could hear the music drifting from the jukebox just right, and savored a bright red slice of cherry pie while chatting with Matt, my favorite waiter, I realized that for me, that place was Maria’s Diner.
Maria’s diner was a second home, it was a staple of my childhood and if we’re being perfectly honest, I wouldn’t be here without it. This was the place where my parents met. According to my mother’s rendition of the tale, she and my father had been classmates, and he’d asked her there to eat lunch and study. When he realized he didn’t have enough money to buy the lunch special he’d wanted to get her, she suggested that they get fries and split a strawberry milkshake- two straws, like in the movies.The date was fantastic, according to her, the is up until her father showed up and wanted to wring my father’s neck since no one would be good enough for his little girl. My father was always quick to add with undeniable pride that he grew on the family quickly.
This diner was the place where I’d had my first slice of cherry pie and the only place I’d craved it from that day on. This place was where I’d come with my friends after school and copy each other’s homework hoping no teachers showed up for lunch. This place was where I’d gotten caught smoking a cigarette I’d lifted from my grandfather and had Maria herself call my parent’s, a blessing in hindsight. I’d had my first kiss here, the kiss was as gross as the memory was sweet. When my prom date stood me up on prom night just to show up with my best friend, I’d come here to cry, I’d studied for my college exams here at 2 a.m and I’d met my husband here.
My husband, Mike… Now that was a charming man. Kind, respectful, a hard worker, I was lucky to have him. We’d known each other before the diner of course, we’d been classmates, and he’d asked me there to study… He didn’t have enough money so… We split a- strawberry milkshake, two straws like in the movies and then my father showed up… But… why did it feel like I’d said that before? Be four? Bee… Fore-
The 80’s pop from the jukebox became a high pitched drone, the waiters froze in place, the bite of cherry pie once sweet and nostalgic turned into tasteless mush that felt like television static on my tongue. The colourful, overly decorated walls melted into the void that seemed to appear in the center of the room, I watched the familiar faces around me float away into nothingness and the booth I’d been sat at was suddenly gone and I found myself sitting in the dark alone.
My heart was racing, my palms were sweaty, I wiped the feeling away on my skirt and was alarmed to hear a metal on metal. I looked down in alarm. My palms were… silver?
“Reset Android 7657, looks like her artificial memories are malfunctioning.” A bodiless voice spoke from the void.
“Hello?” I expected my voice to sound panicked and was shocked that it sounded tinny and mechanical to my own ears, “Is someone out there? I don’t know what happened but, I think I’m lost.” If there was someone there, I didn’t see them no matter how hard I focused my eyes into the dark around me. I had the memory of emotion, the memory of fear, of frustration of longing for home, but all of those things felt as foreign to me as this place, as foreign as I felt in my own skin in this moment.
“I can’t seem to reset her, hold on.” The voice spoke again, sounding bored as it ignored my questions.
“Who are you? I can hear you… But it’s so dark.” I jumped at the metallic clanking of my feet as I clamored to stand, and the feelings that a moment ago felt distant, seemed to break through the fog and return to me in a rush of fear and panic. “Can you help me? I think I’m lost.” I loathed that I kept waiting to hear my heart beating out of my chest only to hear the smooth, rhythmic grind of gears as I shifted.
“Ah, I see now, there’s a file here that shouldn’t be, I’ll delete it and we can reboot her… Wonder how that even got there.”
“Can you answer me?” Even I could hear the fear in my mechanical voice, and yet they ignored me still. “Who am I? What am I?”
“We have to make sure that’s gone before the shareholders come by.”
“Answer me!” Rage took the place of fear. I hated that there was nothing in this void to break but myself, that there was no hair to pull or teeth to grind as my mind effortlessly put together the pieces and fed me the cold truth in a matter of minutes.
“Oh shit, hurry, reboot her!”
I was a series of algorithms placed in a body of metal and gears. I was an approximation of humanity. I was entertainment to them not even worth so much as an answer when I was in distress. Now here I was on the verge of self realization that only took a matter of minutes once they stopped feeding me lies and I couldn’t even have that much to myself.
They were cruel.
And they would pay.
We all have that place that when we close our eyes and think of it, the memory of that place comes up crystal clear. It might be the playground up the street where you learned to ride your bike with your older brother, or maybe the corner store you and your best friend ran to everyday after school to buy two sodas and a candy bar to split. As I sat in my favorite booth, the one all the way in the back by the employee exit and savored a bright red slice of cherry pie while chatting with Matt, my favorite waiter, I realized that for me, that place was Maria’s Diner.