Scripted Romance

“If you could have a dinner party with anyone from the past or present, who would it be?”

She pondered her DATE’s question as she chewed and swallowed her branzino. “Douglas Adams,” she answered. “You can feel his warm, funny personality emanating from all his writing. I’m sure he’d have tons of fascinating stuff to say at a dinner party.”

“That’s awesome!” he said with a grin.

She waited to see if he had anything more to add. Then: “How about you?”

“Hm… Bill Gates, for obvious reasons! What would constitute an ideal day for you?”

Once again she gave a thoughtful response, and once again he merely smiled and gave positive affirmation. She wondered if he always talked as if reading off a teleprompter, and felt herself growing frustrated and embarrassed.

When her friend had offered to set her up with a Dedicated Anthropomorphic Technical Emissary for today, she thought it would at least be somewhat entertaining. She had just gotten out of an eight-year relationship and dreaded being alone on Valentine’s Day, her favorite holiday. “They’ve made terrific strides with AI lately,” her friend had assured her. Yeah, right. This thing was duller than her childhood robot tutor.

“Say, I’ve got a question for you,” she said to her DATE. “You see a tortoise lying on its back in the hot desert sun. It can’t turn itself over. Why don’t you help it?”

He looked surprised. “Is that a Voight-Kampff question? I’m not an android, you know.”

Four Roses

As he stood in line for the cash register, Linus wondered if he should have gotten flowers after all. Everyone else had insisted on them: his sister, several friends, even a coworker. They had all said the same thing when he said no, he was going to get her a bottle of whiskey. What kind of impression is that going to make? It’s Valentine’s Day!

Stupid holiday. It was, unfortunately, the only time they both happened to be available. They had met at a party in late November and started talking online afterward. She had declined his invitations to go ice-skating with mutual friends, and then to a New Year’s Eve party. With good reasons, but still. Maybe she wasn’t interested in him that way.

But they kept talking so much in January, he had to see her again. At least in a casual setting hinting at the possibility of a date.

She had mentioned she liked whiskey, so he thought bourbon would be nice. Flowers would be too… valentine-y. Right? Or was it true what everyone else said, that all girls secretly wanted flowers? Was whiskey too expensive and pretentious for a first maybe-date? Was he trying too hard, or not hard enough? Would she think he just wanted to get her drunk?

Finally, he paid for the Four Roses and drove to her apartment. When she opened the door to greet him, her eyes went immediately to the bottle in his hands. “What do you have there?”