by H.E. Taylor
|Chapter 29||Table of Contents||Chapter 31|
Platonic Lust, December 12, 2055
Some women engineer their faces. They have studied celebrity, looked at the beautiful and followed the dictates of fashion. Their faces are uniformly flawless. Eyebrows are perfectly plucked to the prescribed trace. Their eyes are highlighted to take advantage of their natural colouration. Their skin is so smooth it could be plastic. In fact, they have turned themselves into living dolls.
The point of the exercise is to raise their market value in the ceaseless and unforgiving meat market that is the modern sexual playground. Understand I am not being judgemental; merely noting the operative dynamic. Men play their own games, usually with money and power.
Edie had the tousled naif look down to a tee. She had light eyebrows which I assumed were manufactured. It wasn’t until one morning when I noticed she didn’t shave her armpits that I questioned that assumption. In time, I saw she didn’t work on her appearance at all. More tellingly, no makeup appeared in the bathroom.
I was torn. On the one hand, I thought of Edie as Matt’s old girlfriend — a relationship on which I didn’t want to intrude or, weirder yet, a relationship in which, as an identical triplet, I didn’t want to substitute myself. On the other hand, she was nubile and so damned cute.
Edie wasn’t the woman of my dreams. I had always thought maybe another researcher, someone I could talk with about my work, but somehow it never happened. Then Olivia came along. She had awakened in me an appetite for passion I had never known. And now, living in the same house with Edie was a constant temptation. The impulse to spontaneous affection, a quick hug or an innocent bump could easily lead to misunderstanding.
The power relationship between us was clear. My family owned the house. Jon and I paid the taxes. I paid the bills. I was supporting her, but I couldn’t take advantage of her because of that.
I had no idea how Edie felt about any of this. Other than being grateful for not being in a camp or out on the street, I had not detected any other feeling in her toward me. Just raising the subject might be interpreted as importuning, and that I wanted to avoid. I resolved to be a dutiful brother-in-commonlaw.
In short order, I began to see other sides of Edie. I came home early one day and the house was literally shaking. It was some old blues singer moaning about his love lost in the graveyard. The music was loud enough that I could feel it in my diaphragm. I turned the music down to background level.
“Who is it?” Edie called from the back.
She came down the hall doing up her blouse and I surmised she had been feeding Anna.
“I didn’t know you liked the blues,” I said.
“Oh yeah,” was all she said.
After that, Edie was always getting me to listen to some old song. Robert Johnson, Leadbelly, Muddy Waters, W.C. Handy — the house rang with their sounds.
Once she surprised me by playing a remix of one of mom’s old recordings. It was a little odd hearing the operatic soarings cut through a low down dirty blues rift, but it worked.
Another time when I came home early, I found a gaggle of women sitting around the dining room table. I was flustered at the unexpected crowd and fumbled for words in saying hello. I retreated quickly to the basement for a shower and without intending to, was a bit of a party crasher. When I came back upstairs, the last of the women were just leaving.
I stood behind Edie at the door, adding my goodbyes. “Well that was a surprise,” I said. “Who were those women?”
“Just some Gaian friends who were worried that I was being taken advantage of.”
“Oh, I didn’t know you were Gaian.”
“I’m not, but some of my friends are.”
I had avoided the green religions which had sprung up after the Great Hunger, as I had avoided all religion and politics, so I was secretly glad to hear this.
“So what was the verdict?” I asked as I opened the fridge looking for something to munch. In the front room, Edie put on some music. “Moi, je n’regret rien!” a French woman sang in fragile and defiant tones. And that pretty well summed up the situation.
Shopping with Edie was curious. It was the way she acted in public with me. When I went downtown with Olivia, I never knew where she would end up. Olivia was a free spirit. She just followed her nose, no matter where it led. Sometimes I had to phone her to find out where she had gone.
Edie was completely different in this regard. When we went downtown, she was like my shadow. She always stuck right by my side. I am not psychologist enough to know what this means, but I intuit that it is significant.
One habit of hers did raise an issue. She voted. And that meant she needed a secure system, which meant I had to get her registered on the house system so the iris scanner would recognize her. It also meant, I recognized belatedly, that she still believed. She thought voting mattered.
One day when I went downstairs, I noticed Edie had set up a table in the southeast corner across from the rec room. A small fabricator was chugging away.
“What are you doing downstairs?” I asked when I took the canned beets back upstairs.
“Most of my friends are not all that comfortable with fabs, so I’m going to make a few items for them.”
“What did you do at the factory?”
“I was in testing. I got to play with all the new designs,” she declared with a proud swell.
“So, you know your way around those things then.”
“That one in the basement is old. One I have had for a long time. Some of the stuff I worked on at the factory was really exotic.”
“Yeah? Like what?”
“How about a 3 meter carriage with a bed large enough to make car door panels.”
“Yeah. Matt was rebuilding his car piece by piece.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“He made me promise not to tell anyone. He was sneaky about it.”
“Figures,” I said. “That’s one of his nicknames.”
“Anyway, first I am building a more recent model fab, then I am thinking about going into business.”
I goggled in surprise and Edie picked up on it.
“I can’t go out to work, because I have to watch over Anna and I don’t want to just mooch off you. So what can I do?” she said with a shrug.
I didn’t move to reply and she continued.
“I got to be pretty good with a fab working for your brother and there are a lot of potential customers — people who are uncomfortable with the technology. The Gaian women alone could keep me busy for some time and they will spread the word. Word of mouth is the best advertising, as Matt used to say.”
There it was again. Edie was Matt’s girl, but…
Excerpted from _The Bottleneck Years_ by H.E. Taylor
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Last modified March 5, 2013