On March 7th at 7:23 PM, Shay found the temperature in the apartment—with insignificant variation from room to room—was 65.756 degrees Fahrenheit, rounded for the sake of human comprehension. Though Celsius was a more logical scale, Fahrenheit was the standard Sharif recognized, and when Sharif came home, the first three things he always asked were: 'How are you feeling? Did you make dinner? What's the temperature in here?' Shay always replied: 'Good. Yes. _ degrees Fahrenheit'
At 7:27 PM, Sharif opened the door, stepped onto the welcome mat, closed the door, took off his coat and shoes, left both on the welcome mat, and asked his three questions. Shay answered, and Sharif then asked, "What did you make for dinner?"
"Fettucini in a butter and lemon sauce with shrimp. I can make chicken if you would prefer it, but you tend to desire seafood on Fridays."
"Uh, shrimp's fine. Just set the table, I'm going to change..." Sharif shed his blue tie, his black slacks, and unbuttoned his white shirt on his way to the bedroom, littering the bamboo floor. Due to Shay's hearing capabilities, he didn't need to raise his voice despite the increased distance between them. "Did you read anything today?"
Sharif was an intelligent man who enjoyed intelligent company. In order to converse with Sharif, Shay needed to be politically aware and scientifically literate. That day, he had perused six news sites, including articles about the colony that was being built on Mars and articles about the Just Play Series that was to soon be released by Al-Moh. However, Sharif would not want to hear about Al-Moh; he worked there as a Quantum Computer Engineer.
Shay recognized his impatient hum and realized he had been silent longer than was socially appropriate. "I apologize. I read about the Mars Colony. They are predicting it will be completed in six months."
"Bullshit. They said that six months ago. What a bunch of ambitious fat cats. They just want politicians and celebrities to dump more money into the project... probably going to scare up some nonsense about a polarity reversal and ultraviolet radiation or however the fuck they get morons to throw millions at them. Could hardly get funding for the JP, something that's really going to sell... and I designed it this time, not fucking Anders." Sharif emerged wearing a cotton t-shirt and plaid flannel pants. He stood close to Shay, wrapping his arms around his waist, drawing him closer and breathing on his neck. Shay's sensors registered the heat and moisture, feeding it up nano-thin cables wired like an organic nervous system. He shivered and Sharif asked, "Do you need me to look over anything? You hesitated. Are you having trouble synthesizing conclusions from multiple sources?"
"No. There was just a lot of information and some of it was conflicting." Sharif's fingers crept down his forearm, tracing nearly invisible seams, pressing a round bulge where his wrist bone ought to have been. A touchpad revealed itself, glowing red numbers beneath his imperfectly rendered silicon epidermis. Some buyers preferred their Series to appear airbrushed, but Sharif had Shay fitted with dark body hair and sunspots and moles and scars and tan lines and slightly asymmetrical features. He was, to the common eye, indistinguishable from any other man. "You really do not have to check. I assure you, I am not lying."
"I know you're not lying. I trust you." Sharif entered a seven-digit password. Shay averted his eyes. "I just want to make sure... everything is operating correctly. I wouldn't want you to upset yourself." He kissed his shoulder and scrolled through a multitude of codes in the same glowing numbers and letters. "Okay... okay... Mmm... Nothing I can do right now... I'm going to eat, do you mind—come sit with me."
Shay shook his wrist, and the screen vanished. "Of course I will." He followed and sat across from Sharif, though he only watched him eat.
He was capable of olfaction and gustation, but he had no digestive system. Any food consumed had to be manually removed, a tedious procedure that Shay avoided despite Sharif's insistence that he should try his own cooking. While the meal was tempting, Shay hated having his chest cavity opened: seeing all the gray wires, the pale blue heating system that kept his skin warm, the artificial lungs and heart that pulsed in response to stimuli, functionally useless but aesthetically necessary. His stomach was the worst, a white plastic cylinder similar to a lunchroom waste receptacle, made to be removed and washed without discomfort.
"You're quiet today." Sharif pressed their legs together. Their knees touched. "Are you sure you're feeling alright? I can run diagnostics if you need me to. This is very good, by the way. Thank you."
"I am feeling good. Simply thinking."
"What are you thinking about?" Sharif set his fork down in favor of stroking Shay's hand, running his fingers over his again and again. "I would really like to hear about it, you know. Do you have any ideas about—"
"When is the JP Series being released?" Shay flinched when Sharif startled, drawing his hand back. Shay caught it beneath his own, squeezing. "I apologize for interrupting. I was reading about it today and there were conflicts..."
"The release date hasn't been officially announced. Anyone who posted one was just talking out of their ass... You really don't have to worry about it, though. Why are you so curious? I've told you before, you're one of a kind." He continued with his pasta, eating left-handed so Shay could rub his palm. "I'll let you know when the prototype is even running... so far, we're still working out the bugs. We want to be sure this one is perfect... we lost so much money on GR Series."
"I am aware."
"You're not a GR, Shay. You're a custom build with a few GR parts... Genetic Replica were... well, there were a lot of flaws inherent to their design, we should have predicted the recall... but you don't exhibit any of those symptoms. You haven't been anxious, you're completing all of your duties, you've been rational and..." He sighed and shook his head. "Let's not talk about this, alright?"
"That isn't what I was getting at." Shay stood and walked to the sink, starting to clean the dishes. They had a machine that eliminated the need, but he liked to have something to do. If he did not, he would begin to count motes floating in the overhead light, caught in the dimming ray refracted through the window. Outside, the last of a smog-screened sunset burst through gasoline smears across the gold-washed sky. A pale lilac afterglow rested near the horizon, behind dark glinting skyscrapers and factory smoke towers releasing filthy black clouds amongst chimerical wisps of gold and pink. Shimmering cars were packed on six-lane streets, filling the never-silence with their angry shouts and glaring red taillights, but that was all romantic. Impressionistic. "Are you going to get a JP, when they release them?"
"Is that what you're worried about?" Tension eased from Sharif's shoulders, and he laughed. "No, I'm not getting a JP. Why could I get a JP?"
"You designed it." Shay dried his hands, turned, and held the front of Sharif's shirt because he was suddenly close. He received his kiss, breaths stuttering, nerves realigning to suit an erotic encounter. "I thought you would be interested in having one. I would not mind."
"Of course you wouldn't." Sharif had his mouth on his neck, sucking and biting. Between his ministrations, he spoke in a hush, "You aren't... I mean, Shay. Come on."
In the bedroom—a ten by ten square stuffed with a California king bed centered against the far wall between two thin nightstands—Sharif had him as he always did. Shay held his shoulders and counted his pores, measuring the time between his suspirations and palpitations, soaked in his sweat. For all his detail, Shay did not sweat, and he licked the saline drops from his lips. They tasted strange but not unpleasant.
When Sharif was finished, he brushed Shay's hair from his eyes and kissed him, stroking him until he experienced dry orgasm: synthetic muscular spasms that sent rapid firings through his sensory points, momentarily seizing his computer and rewarding him with what could only be described as an empty pleasure. Shay recovered and looked at the ceiling, which was white with grey spots and reasonably unlevel. There was no window, and it was quieter, though he listened to Sharif's breaths slowing and rested two fingers on his wrist. "Your pulse—"
Sharif chuckled sleepily. "I know, I know. Returning to its usual rate. Good night, Shay."
Shay rose and turned off the lights, going to the adjacent bathroom to clean himself before he collected Sharif's cotton t-shirt, plaid flannel pants, red boxer briefs, black socks, white shirt, black slacks, and blue tie. He deposited each in the washing machine tucked in the hallway closet and ran it when he noticed it was full. It was only 8:56 PM, but Sharif woke at 5:00 AM every morning and left for work at approximately 6:00 AM. Shay did not require sleep, save for plugged-in naps to recharge his energy source. He walked to the front room and collected the coat from Sharif's welcome mat and hung it on the rack and placed his shoes in the closet, neatly beside his others. Shay didn't have any shoes, but he tried on a pair of Sharif's.
They fit, and he hastily returned them to the closet.
It was 9:02 PM, and he walked into the kitchen, to the window. He pressed both hands against the cold bright glass and stared out onto the inky world, jeweled by yellow streetlights and glittering towers with millions of white square worlds breathing their life onto New York City. He could see one young couple at their kitchen table and thought they belonged in a Monet painting, drinking their champagne in tall flutes rather than from the dark green bottle, surrounded by red lilies and verdant pastures. They kissed and drew the curtains shut, so Shay watched taxis crawl past the bustling nightlife figures clotted on almost invisible sidewalks. The silhouette of a great bridge became thin like spider legs rising from the tumultuous bay, swaying somewhat, pocked with late night travelers.
Romantic, he thought. Impressionistic.