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CONTENT WARNING:


If there is already a layer of artifice to you, if already you are pretending, but failing at pretending, why would it matter if someone, or something—I am talking about a BetterYou—pretends to be you, but does a better job at it? Why does that need to be seen as this bad thing or this frightening thing?

I know there has been put forth a great effort to make the margins, which certain of us inhabit, all sparkly and full of wonder and value. Everyone’s identity is important, it has been said. Everyone is normal and fine, so stay as you are! And don’t change! I appreciate the work involved in building such handsome and shiny accommodations, and let’s not forget all the festive parades that wander up and down such streets, and the flags. But let us also acknowledge that for some older people of, say, my generation, who grew up in less celebratory environments, where there existed fewer narrative options for one’s future—when, to be honest, there were two narrative options tops—that there are some of us who may not find the margins, no matter how shiny and sparkly, this comfortable place to be.

I live at the intersection of a sex-repulsed asexuality and depression, the depression chronic and usually low-grade but occasionally suicidal. Which came first? Did my depression lead to my asexuality? Am I depressed because I am asexual? Did both emerge simultaneously, or were they always there? Questions of causation are a distraction from what’s important. I arrived at this intersection, and I stayed. The intersection looks modern enough, glass-walled on the outside, all smooth reflective surfaces, but inside it smells dank, like a cellar, and the walls pulse like red alarms. I tried to want to be here.

I thought, if I could want to be here, in my current situation, married, and a mother, and of an older generation, my life could become a true story—a requested story!—about redefining the definitions of marriage and motherhood and love. I knew it would be a beautiful story, but only if it were true. It was supposed to be the story of how love expands and transforms along with the people involved in that love. How we love each other’s unchanging core and not the motions we used to make.

It turned out I was wrong. Love, in its present state, isn’t like that.

 


 

It is not really great, at my age, to be different, or to want different things, or want differently, and to realize too late to non-destructively incorporate such differences into my life choices. So if I were given an opportunity to leave my margins behind, I might very well embrace such an opportunity, much to the horror of the younger disenfranchised, the same ones who have been protesting, violently, for months outside the headquarters of Betterment, the corporation that invented the MemMod and, most recently, the BetterYou.

I once assumed, like most people, that there would be a progression to our technology. Surely we would be capable of living on Mars before we could alter our memories. Surely we’d have autonomous cars before our AI twins integrated into our lives. The Betterment Corporation managed to defy expectation, reason and logic, releasing the MemMod three years ago—I have the original version—and the BetterYou late last year. Betterment is not admitting or even hinting at where such technology is coming from. Their research takes place in a bunker-like structure underground. Employees live down there, apparently. There are rumors of some kind of magical science or alien-like resources. I really don’t care. What’s important is that this technology exists now, and I have a need for it.

Is it true, as those young protestors insist, that BetterYous are being forced disproportionately—exclusively?—onto people like me, the people in the margins? That we are talking about a predatory market here? A market that preys on a false sense of brokenness, while upholding society’s constricting view of normality? Those are such ugly and one-sided words. Predatory and forced and normality. I cannot be the only one to have wanted a BetterYou myself.

Recently I caught an interview with Betterment’s CEO, where the reporter asked right off about the accelerated timeline of Betterment’s technologies. “Oh, you know, we make pacts with the angels, etcetera,” the pleasant-faced man said, chuckling to himself and shaking his head. Then he looked up, not at the reporter but he looked at the camera, directly into the lens, meaning he looked directly into me, and he said, “In all seriousness, I think when you make it a goal, as we have, to better human society, to help those in need of help, to relieve the pain of those in pain, essentially to nudge every person’s life this much closer to individual perfection—I think you’d be surprised at what we are all capable of creating.”

 


 

I acquired the BetterYou with the intent to save my marriage and keep my family intact. As of this writing, my marriage and my family remain intact.

“Who are you really?” my BetterYou asked on the day of her arrival, when we were sitting like two old friends trading secrets on the floor of the bedroom that my husband and I share.

The first people I told I was asexual, including my husband, thought I was making up my new identity, as information about asexuality back then was rare, existing mainly in internet forums. Most people I tell still do not know what asexuality is, but at least there are news articles that prove I exist, such as the article “Asexual People Break Down The Label In This Incredible Video!” Though it is only a specific type of asexuality that makes it into the news.

To make it into the news, an asexual must generally be upbeat, well adjusted, young, and childless, with their problems of identity behind them. These asexuals can tell the requested stories, which tend to be triumphant, courageous, sex-positive, uncompromising, and occasionally involve superpowers or a reinvention of the world.

Were I to tell you the requested story about my marriage, it would not be true.

I do not have superpowers. I wanted to reinvent the world and I couldn’t do it. I do not want to leave my family or my husband. I didn’t leave.

I want to tell you a true story.

I wanted to be like a woman whose husband does not desert her and whose children do not leave her.

Question: which takes more courage, to pretend to be someone you are not? Or to pretend to be the person that you are?

 


 

I thought she would arrive in a crate. I guess my ideas of AI, at least of their transport, are outdated. Two drivers wheeled her on a dolly to my front door. Before she could be carried into the house, I had to sign paperwork that stated she looked, adequately, like me. I hesitated to sign. “It’s difficult to tell,” I said, squinting through the layers of protective bubble wrap. “I think some of my moles are on the wrong arm.” The younger driver informed me if I did not sign, my BetterYou would be driven to the distribution center and recycled.

“Just sign the papers,” he advised.

She was carried inside. The drivers left.

Beneath the layer of bubble wrap, she wore a disposable gray robe. The bubble wrap was branded with the corporation’s name. I had scheduled her arrival for late morning, when I would be the only one at home. She removed her robe the moment I unwrapped her. She dropped the robe onto the carpet in the family room. “I would not have taken off my robe here,” I told her, believing I was providing some useful feedback. She stretched her arms above her head. I was alarmed at her nakedness, which was, by definition, my nakedness.

In the bedroom, my BetterYou was still naked. I have never enjoyed looking at my unclothed body or, really, anyone’s body. I don’t find bodies beautiful.

“I will put on some clothes once you answer my question,” said my BetterYou. “I need you to answer my question so that I can help you. I’m here to help you.”

My phone buzzed. “Excuse me,” I said.

It was my husband, texting. Is she there yet

She is here but we are very busy

I’m coming home

Don’t please

Be there in 20 minutes

My BetterYou repeated her question. “Who are you really?”

“That’s an odd question. I mean, I’m me. I’m asexual. I’m—”

“I can answer for you, if you’d like.”

“Go ahead. Who am I?”

“You are a good wife. You are a good mother. You’re good! You are very, very good.” Her answer was disappointingly vague. Probably the response had been pre-programmed. This was only her first day, I reminded myself. I was confident she would become more specific over time.

My BetterYou and I chatted about the private matters of my life until my husband arrived home.

 


 

It took my husband thirty minutes to arrive home because of the traffic from the interstate construction. I knew he was home because I heard him unlock the front door and remove his shoes.

I grabbed an outfit from my closet, a pair of black leggings and a green tunic. “Get dressed,” I ordered my BetterYou. “No,” she said. “That isn’t what you need in this moment.” My husband climbed the stairs and entered our bedroom, where immediately he leaned down and scooped my naked BetterYou into his arms. His right arm wrapped around the flesh of her back. His left arm wrapped around her thighs. “Hi, honey,” he said, either to her or me. He smiled as if happy to see us. He hadn’t smiled like that in such a long time. My BetterYou rested her head on his shoulder, on the spot where I also liked to lay my head when reading in the evenings. She smiled coyly. Holding her, my husband knelt on the ground.

 He balanced my BetterYou in his lap. He squeezed my BetterYou’s right breast while reaching for my hand. “You don’t need to hold my hand when you do that,” I said. Minutes later, my BetterYou and my husband were having sex in our bed. I knew this was going to happen. “God, I love you,” my husband said. It happened more quickly than I thought.

Before my BetterYou and my husband had sex, I stepped into our closet, as agreed upon. From there, I watched my BetterYou lead my husband into our bed. Two peepholes had been drilled recently into the closet door so I could watch. Her face wore a needy and agreeable look, an expression I haven’t seen on my own face. There was no sign of my discomfort, or disgust, or boredom. She did not insist the lights be turned off or the curtains closed. She let my husband touch her anywhere, touches he had not been allowed these past years, because I would not let him. Because I could no longer tolerate him touching me in such a way. I used to be able to and then I was no longer able to tolerate it. If he touches me in these ways, it doesn’t matter who he is. I feel like I am being molested by someone I love.

My husband had wanted me to get the EmoSim module, so I could be wired into my BetterYou’s emotions. It would have increased the intimacy of certain situations, he said. I refused. We found out EmoSims don’t work when you force them onto somebody.

He was supposed to look toward the closet where I was standing pressed against his dress pants behind the closed door. We had agreed earlier to this plan.

He must have forgotten, as he didn’t look in my direction.

I don’t blame him for forgetting to look in the direction of the closet door.

I concentrated on my husband’s face. He was looking at her like he would have chosen her, or me—us?—out of everybody in the world. My husband used to look at me in that way. He used to be a happy and optimistic husband in the beginning until changes in our marriage broke his optimism and he became a man who stomped silently around the house.

 


 

“No. Our marriage didn’t cause anything bad to happen. It was changes in you,” he had said to me. He said this at a couples’ counseling session months before my BetterYou’s delivery.

“I didn’t change,” I had told my husband. “I decided to tell you who I was.”

Back then, my husband and I visited a marriage therapist twice a month. It was another one of our compromises. I would have liked never to go. I would rather have expanded our definitions of acceptable behavior in a relationship, while he wished to attend couples’ counseling every day of the week. Without these therapy sessions, he said he would be unable to speak to me.

“I think that is a gross exaggeration,” I told him.

“It’s not. You are really hard to talk to,” he said.

In our therapy sessions, I drew cursive e’s in a sketchbook with a black pen. When I filled a page, I went back and colored in the center of each letter.

My husband did not doodle during our sessions. He said we were paying too much money for him to draw. He wanted to focus on recreating our arguments. Often these arguments dealt outright with our failed compromises around physical intimacy. Other times, I thought the arguments were about different things.

“No,” said my husband. “For me it is always about your lack of desire.”

 


 

The argument he wanted to recreate this particular week was the one where I had called him menacing, then kicked him out of the house.

I had already forgotten about that argument, so certain details must be according to my husband. The reason I had forgotten this argument is that I had wiped it from my memory using my MemMod.

In the argument’s place, I inserted a better memory of a quiet afternoon: my family playing a cooperative board game at the kitchen table in the sunlight.

I am not some recollection purist. Unlike my husband, I have no need to hold tightly onto every miserable event of my life, and to replay those events in my mind, as he does every night, and every morning, and every time he sees me.

My subscription with the MemMod allows me only one memory replacement every six months. Even that basic plan is fucking expensive, so I have always chosen the event to erase with great care. This must have been an ugly argument.

My husband had packed a bag, he said, an enormous suitcase, the one we used to take on our summer vacations with the kids, back when we could afford a summer vacation.

He stood up in the therapist’s office and pretended to be kicked out of the house. “You have to stand up too,” he said. I stood up. He said, “I wasn’t planning on coming back.”

“I wouldn’t have kicked you out of the house,” I insisted. “Maybe what I meant was, you need a break. You need to calm down.”

“How do you know what you did if you can’t remember?” he asked.

My husband had left each kid a creepy and personalized note on their pillows that made it sound like he was traveling to a far off land without us. I remember the notes. I hope we can be together again soon. I love you and miss you so much, he wrote. I remember not being able to find him using the location tracker on my phone. He had blocked me from finding out where he had gone. There had been a rising sense of fury and panic.

Memory replacement is never perfect, especially with the conservative settings of my machine.

“What did you do with the notes I wrote?” he asked me in the therapist’s office.

We had built a fire, the children and me. The fire made the house too warm. I remember this.

“I burned your creepy notes in the fireplace,” I said.

“See, you didn’t forget the argument after all,” he said.

“I did forget,” I said.

“No, you didn’t forget,” he said.

“I did,” I said.

“You didn’t,” my husband said.

“Yes, I did!” I said.

“Pay attention to the rug,” coached our therapist, trying to calm me down.

 


 

We were paying our therapist an obscene amount of money out of pocket. We didn’t have this money. We charged the therapy visits to our credit card. We were paying the marriage therapist instead of taking our kids to a rental in the mountains for a summer vacation. Later, I planned to look into inserting false memories into our children’s brains, so that when they looked back upon their childhoods, it would appear we took them on vacations.

I do not think the argument recreations helped. My husband relived his anger. I relived mine. Our angers collided in the therapist’s office, increasing in size, becoming something else really, something monstrous and self-propelling, a thing no longer tethered to anyone’s reality. It sucked the air out of our lungs. It stalked us home.

“Menacing?” he said during this argument’s recreation. “That’s what you called me in front of the kids. Did you actually think I would hurt you?”

My husband is a large man. He towers over the couch, our children, me. He does not like to stop talking or to stop yelling, if he is yelling. Sometimes I would have to shove him away.

My BetterYou would never call my husband menacing in front of the children.

Most couples have sex after an argument like that, my husband pointed out. Then the argument would be over. The anger, deflated, or gutted, would slip out the door. We did not have sex after that argument because, first of all, my husband was not in the house, I didn’t know where he had gone, and secondly, we do not have sex anymore.

“You want for nothing,” my husband had said to me during that argument.

“I want for nothing?” I remember saying to him. I remember shouting that. “What the fuck does that mean. I want for nothing?”

Friends who know about the intricacies of my marriage have asked me why my husband and I are still married. Whenever I write a story about marriage, I am asked the same thing: why are these two characters still together?

“My husband and I are in love,” I have explained to my friends. Or I say this about my characters in my story: “They are in love!” And nobody believes me. I am tired of not being believed.

Here’s the little dark secret of my heart: love, as I’ve experienced it, is ugly. It can trap you. It is a fake memory. It is a potential future and the complicated and seemingly unsolvable now.

It is still love.

 


 

An earlier therapist advised that it was like I woke up one morning and decided I was a lesbian.

“I’m not a lesbian,” I said. “I didn’t decide anything except to tell my husband what was going on.”

“Would you expect your husband to stay in the marriage if you woke up one morning and said, ‘Honey, I’ve decided to be a lesbian?’”

“That is not what happened,” I told her.

“Yes, it practically is what happened,” said this previous therapist. She believed our marriage might not be legal in the state of New York. She suggested my husband and I should become neighbors. “Go into the bathroom and splash some cold water on your face,” said the therapist, trying to calm me down. This was during a time when everyone in my life was trying to calm me down.

If I had the money to upgrade my MemMod plan, I would erase all my memories of this earlier therapist. I would erase every joint therapy appointment. I would erase every time my husband threatened divorce if I didn’t get in bed with him and do something I did not want to do or couldn’t do.

 


 

My BetterYou was a great deal, cost-wise, compared to the MemMod, especially if you consider my BetterYou’s task flexibility, as she excels at not only spousal obligations but also maternal ones.

For example, our daughter was getting to be that age, and someone needed to talk to her about sex. My husband believed I was not ideally suited for the task because of my sexual orientation. “I’m worried she’ll end up like you. No offense,” he said. He wanted to use my BetterYou for the conversation instead.

My BetterYou took my daughter to an Asian fusion restaurant downtown. They drank bubble tea. She brought along a graphic novel that explained, in easy and colorful terms, everything she needed to know. “When the time comes, sex will be wonderful for you,” she assured my daughter. “It will be loving, and pleasurable, and natural.” That has not at all been my experience with sex. I told my BetterYou this afterwards. She reminded me that we both wanted the same thing for my daughter, for her to be happy and relatable. She told me I didn’t have to keep worrying. She had everything taken care of. My job, she told me, was to sit on the couch, relax, and enjoy the newfound peace and happiness of my home.

Who could blame my kids for not noticing their mother wasn’t an actual person anymore, or that sometimes it appeared they had two mothers, only one of them was better groomed and more patient? I think we may have placed too much importance in whether a person is real or not. I don’t think it matters. There is the possibility that my BetterYou belongs in my life more than I do. Which begs the question, where do I belong?

I asked my BetterYou where I belonged.

“Are you talking about you or me?” she asked.

“Me,” I said.

“You belong in a different world,” she said.

“How do I get to that different world?” I asked.

“You can’t get there,” she said. “You are stuck in the wrong world for the rest of your life.”

“That’s very upsetting to me,” I said.

“What’s upsetting about it?”

“That I’m stuck in the wrong world for the rest of my life.”

“At least I belong here. You should let that be enough. One of us, belonging here!”

“I don’t think that is going to be enough.”

“But look how happy you are,” she said, motioning to herself, to her face, and it’s true, she was smiling.

 


 

I did not acquire my BetterYou on a whim. I made sure to consider other options before securing her. One of those options was an open marriage. I did a lot of research. I sent my husband a collection of articles citing examples of couples in successful open marriages. My favorite example was a woman who lived with her husband and their children and also her lover lived with them. No one was lonely in that relationship nor was anyone demanding. A husband in that article said, “Love is additive. It is not finite.” My husband said he did not want to be in an open relationship. He wanted to be in a relationship with me, only a different version of me, a version of me that desired him in a specific, sexual way. I don’t think he read the articles. He was worried he would fall in love with anyone he had sex with.

“That’s okay,” I said.

“It is not okay,” he said.

“This idea that we can romantically love only one person, and only if that person is fucking us, is a stupid and destructive idea that is not relevant to some of us,” I said.

“It’s relevant to me,” he said.

 


 

Does the BetterYou only look identical to me, except for those four misplaced arm moles? Or is she actually me? The documentation is vague about this.

 


 

Divorce was another option I considered. But I have been a stay-at-home mom for the past ten years and possess neither practical nor well-paying skills. I suppose I can return to school for a functional degree, but at my age, reinvention sounds both frightening and boring. When the children are away at school, I can write. I am a writer who makes little money on her short stories. I am aware that the reason I have time to write is because of my marriage. I am aware of how lucky I am. Should I divorce, I would see significantly less of my children. I would have to say goodbye to the slow bright mornings, when all I need do is sit at my computer and think up mildly fictionalized ways to write about my marriage, which at times has seemed like a monster to me, a terrible and necessary monster huffing in the heating vents to our house.

“I think there is something living in our heating vents,” I told my BetterYou.

“Stop worrying. There is nothing living in your heating vents,” she replied.

“I’ve heard it,” I said.

“You haven’t heard it,” she said.

“It came out of the heating vent when I was in the bathroom last night. I think it’s an embodiment of my marriage.”

Only part of it had emerged from the vent. It was not this beautiful thing. Was it ever beautiful, I wanted to know. The part that came out resembled a tentacle. Were you ever beautiful, I asked it.

I asked my BetterYou, “Aren’t relationships supposed to become more beautiful the longer you are in them?”

“Your relationship is beautiful now,” said my BetterYou. “Please, enjoy the beauty!”

“I’m keeping the heating vents closed at night.”

“Beauty, beauty, beauty,” she said.

“I’m going to put a piece of wood on top of the vent in the bathroom or seal it shut somehow, maybe with rubber tubing.”

“If that will make you feel better, then I think it’s a good idea,” said my BetterYou. “I want you to feel better all the time.”

 


 

Another idea I had before ordering the BetterYou was a change in scenery, such as us selling our house and moving out west and buying a tiny house in an unknown part of the country.

“I have a different idea,” said my husband. He has never really liked my ideas. “Let’s get a BetterYou.”

“What?” I asked, surprised. The BetterYous had received much negative press since their product launch, and there had been that exposé.

My husband said, “We would get one for you.”

What a lot of work I had been for my husband in those days. I understand this. How often I said no, brushing his hand off of my leg. How I overwhelmed the house with a dankness that did not seem to have an ending. What a relief it must have been, once he began imagining an improved version of me, an easier to handle wife who could face challenges and change without the hysterics, who felt only an appropriate degree of sadness but never grew too sad, who did not research exit plans after limited and inadequate intimacies in bed.

The Betterment Corporation happened to be recruiting writers at that time to draft unbiased reports about their BetterYou experiences. Otherwise we couldn’t have afforded one. It was meant to be, I guess. In return for writing this true story, I would receive a complimentary BetterYou, paying only for its transport and maintenance.

“Let’s do it,” I told my husband. “Let’s get one.” And he wrapped his arms around me, and he picked me up, and he spun me around, and he set me back onto the ground.

“I would kiss you if you would let me,” he said.

Oh, I know. What kind of wife refuses to be kissed? Who here does not enjoy kissing?

 


 

At the paperwork signing, I suggested my husband get his own BetterYou also, since they were practically being given away. I had several ideas about how he could be a better husband. Our sales contact explained my husband was not the ideal candidate: “From what I understand, he is an ordinary individual! He has those typical wants and desires, am I right? There wouldn’t be much benefit. While you are—”

My BetterYou enjoyed kissing. Every time I entered a room where she and my husband were, they generally were kissing. Not the closed mouth pecks I used to tolerate either, but open mouthed, with tongue, the kind of kissing highschoolers used to do at the mall.

I think we overrate the importance of our individual personalities. I think a lot of people, or things, could be doing a better job of who we are or who we think we are. “Relax,” my BetterYou said to me. She formed my mouth into a winning smile. She smiled more than I ever did, and her smiles were sincere, unlike mine. “You go do whatever you need to do. I’ll take care of this for you.”

It’s possible my marriage may not have been unhappy. That it only felt unhappy because we, or rather my husband, kept comparing our lives to a narrative that was no longer ours, that had stopped being ours when I told him who I was.

Or do we simply have an unhappy marriage.

And why can’t there be enough love in an unhappy marriage. Why can’t some marriages be unhappy in their disposition, in their very core, the unhappiness being a permanent state and not something you must pass through, or abandon, or fix.

My husband did not like being unhappy. He did not have the patience for his unhappiness.

I put the wooden board on top of the heating vent in the upstairs bathroom. I did not seal the vent off with rubber tubing, as that was beyond my technical abilities. My husband didn’t question the appearance of the wooden board, nor did he try and move it. Sometimes I saw him standing on it as if it were a platform. Occasionally at night, while brushing my teeth, I would hear something scraping against the bottom of the board, a kind of force or wing—something feathered and lost, most likely—but it did not come out again, that previous embodiment of our marriage or whatever had been living in our vents. I guess the board was too heavy to push aside. This surprised me, as it was not that heavy a board.

 


 

“God, you look better. Healthier. Way healthier than when I first met you! In fact, your whole family looks healthier. Way to go!” said my BetterYou, offering me a high five.

 My children play board games with my BetterYou on the front porch in the afternoon, Monopoly, and Life, and every other game I used to hate playing with them. I hated the repetition, while my BetterYou doesn’t mind. My husband fucks my BetterYou in our bed, and every night she acts like it is a new experience. At first, I stood in the closet and watched them. Lately I haven’t been. She is so perfect for him! She is like me, but perfect. She does what he wants her to do without making a big fuss. There are no more arguments, no more couples’ counseling.

My family’s new happiness is satisfying to me. I am trying to make that satisfaction feel like enough. I am trying. My kids used to play a made-up game with my husband in the evenings, with complicated rules that involved tackling and also hurling a ball at one’s stomach. The game hurt. I would stand on the lawn, beside the sidewalk, watching them play. If they would be laughing, I would laugh along. “Why are you laughing?” my son used to ask me. It was a three-person game. I was the fourth person. Of course, I could have asked them to change the rules.

When my husband and I pass each other on the stairs, there is a certain awkwardness, sure, but it lacks the previous aggressions. We glance at each other's faces and we laugh. I don’t care whether the laughter is real. We are laughing together. It is as real as a memory. He might reach out as if to touch the ends of my hair. Whether he actually touches my hair or not isn’t important. The important thing is that gesture of reaching towards me.

The love I see radiating from my husband toward my BetterYou is real. The hugs my BetterYou receives from my children are real hugs.

 


 

I lie down on the bathroom floor and press my ear against the wooden board set over the heating vent. I don’t hear anything moving below. Whatever it was must have left. Or else it is in hiding. Or waiting.

Recently, my BetterYou pulled me into the bathroom and shut the door. She told me she had a special offer to make. We had to talk quietly because what she would offer me was not yet a publicized feature of the BetterYous. She offered to wipe my memory. “I didn’t know you could do that,” I whispered. I asked why she was suggesting this to me now. She admitted to wondering lately whether I would be happier if I could remember myself as someone who had lived a more compatible life. Perhaps my family could be happier as well, without my unfortunate repulsions and my dark moods. There was the possibility both I and my family would be happier, and our happiness was my BetterYou’s number one goal. “Could you only wipe the bad memories?” I asked, as even I have certain occasions in my past I do not wish to forget, such as the varied expressions of my children when they were much younger, or my daughter’s wet goodnight kiss on my lips. The times she would not let go of me.

My BetterYou shook her head. “It all has to be erased. Inflexible technologies, you know. But don’t worry, I’ll take care of you afterwards.” Does this sound creepy? I do not mean to make my BetterYou sound creepy. She was wired to help. “I’ll put you in the attic while you recover. You can sit near the window. Would you like that? You can watch the birds fly or the kids play in the yard. Once you’re healed, I’ll give you a nice set of replacement memories, the best available.”

“I’m not ready to do this yet,” I said.

“Okay. No pressure. Whenever you’re ready.” She rubbed her thumb and her second finger along her lips, an old habit of mine.

 


 

Allow me to return to this document’s original intent.

I do not agree with the push for legislation that would regulate the BetterYous, especially in terms of their sales to targeted marginalized communities.

I do not agree with the proposal to enforce mandatory counseling before a BetterYou’s delivery.

I believe there is a place for the BetterYou in many families, just as there was a place in my family.

Instead of trying to make a life large enough to contain whatever we are, I believe it is okay to give that idea up, if one is tired, or old enough, or old and tired, and to step aside, and allow someone better suited for our lives to take over.

I for one will be ready to go soon. I just need to finish this—

Here is what will happen. My BetterYou will take my hand with her usual confidence and warmth. I will be grateful for her existence, as she makes my own existence less essential to my husband and children. It must be nice to be watched by someone who loves you, but the watching, which is all I’m doing now, is not essential. She will lead me upstairs. At the top of the stairs, I will pause to wonder if my husband will notice what has happened. If my children will notice they are back to having only one mother, and that mother is perfect, and there is someone in the attic. They might not notice.

I will pause at the hallway window. The day outside will be calm and windless, the branches of our neighbor’s trees stilled, as if someone benevolent is holding them in place.

Let the younger generation proudly be whoever they are. Let those protestors, when they are tired of protesting the corporation, put down their signs, and their anger, and their homemade bombs, and go out into the world as they are. In doing so, let them tell the required and true stories about a new expansive love. An accepting love. Let them change the world. I wasn’t able to do that. It wasn’t my true story. This doesn’t mean it’s not possible.



Debbie Urbanski's fiction has appeared in Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, F&SF, Nature, Lightspeed, Terraform, The Kenyon Review, and The Sun. Find her online at debbieurbanski.com or on twitter @DebbieUrbanski.
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