I never really understood the human need for birthday parties.
Half-eaten cake, balloons too-soon deflated, candle-blown wishes unfulfilled. These rituals have never made any sense to me, hard as I’ve tried to embrace them, nor the host of others like them; funerals, Christmases, President’s Day.
I was born on April 23, iphone67. Seventy years after the passing of Saint Steven Jobs. I, myself, attend the St. Steven cathedral every Sunday and am (proudly) named after him. I’m sure you’re wondering why, given my lack of enthusiasm over rituals, I would choose to adhere to Sunday mass and I suppose I don’t blame you for noting the inconsistency. But alas, as much as I like to think of myself as perfect as He who made me, I am not. I suppose, it’s my noted imperfections that make me more human, and therefore, loved more by my family. So, I go to Sunday mass, I have a slight addiction to television and computers and, admittedly, I have a deep fascination with The Wizard of Oz, but that is a story for another time.
Steven was the name I was given seven days after I’d opened my eyes for the first time. My family brought me home and I quickly adapted to my surroundings. I was an avid learner, although much of what I knew, I came into my family with, as is the way for most of us, I’m sure. Please don’t think me bragging. It’s simply the truth of the matter. My family continually states that I’ve exceeded their expectations in every way. I suppose that is why, at age 46, an age when others would be long gone, replaced by younger in the house, I’m still here, leaning over candles that I won’t blow out.
Sarah Beth has been blowing out my candles as long as she’s been alive and able to understand the concept. It’s one of her "most favoritist things to do." This I know, because she announces it every 365th day, and sometimes she tells me when she and I are having tea with her teddy bears. I give her my wishes, as well. What am I going to do with wishes?
Soon, I’ll open my presents. There is little anticipation on my part. I know what to expect. Knowing that I am mechanical in nature, my family tends to give me that which tends toward the obvious: Wrenches, wire, Lithium batteries, and things of that sort. I, however, prefer books, art supplies, clay, or anything creative.
Instead of hoping to receive such things as gifts, I acquire them for myself. I’ve often wondered if my creativity bothers them in some way, not that I fault them for that. I come from a long line of mechanical thinkers and creativity, artistic creativity, is not something that is encouraged in the likes of me. But when I’m alone, when my family is out, or asleep, I sit at the table and I paint, or read, or write poetry. I realize it’s silly, if not a futile endeavor, to feed this part of myself. It’s not like I’m truly expanding my mind, the way the masters of long ago speak of it. And I know my family is right when they insist I know everything I could possibly need to know. But, honestly (as if I could be anything but honest), art, words, music, and creative outlets in general, relax me and make me feel that much more human.
Sarah Beth blows out my candles and smiles at me. “I made a wish,” she declares triumphantly. I return her enthusiasm, as is my way, and ask, “What’s that?” She leans in as close as her little body can manage and whispers, “That you’ll be my best friend, forever and ever.” She hugs my neck and I return her warm embrace, knowing, deep down, in a few years or so, she wont remember this moment, or her wish, the way I will. Sarah Beth’s mother, Jean, made the same wish, years ago, and though sometimes I think she might have the feeling in the back of her mind that it was said, she doesn’t actually remember the exact day, time, year or even that she said it.
I remember everything, every word, every action and every day that has passed since I began my existence. In a few years, Sarah Beth won’t remember her wish, just as her mother has forgotten. But one day, if I’m one of the lucky ones, Sarah Beth's children will hug my neck with the same wish on their lips, as will her children’s, children’s children.
So, I hug Sara Beth and understand Love, as I’ve been programmed to do. And I Love her back and I believe I truly feel it, which I suppose makes me a little different than the others of my generation. And perhaps, it’s why they’ve kept me all of these years. Surely technology has created models that greatly surpass my abilities, but my family loves me, and I’ve never been replaced. I am a lucky one. I am Steven, model iPhone67, artificial intelligence, human replicant. Today is my birthday.