I summoned up my courage as I paced up and down the porch outside my house. Today was the day, I had decided. Time to stop living a lie. Time to come out to my parents. One can’t keep living a lie about who they love. One shouldn’t. I took a few deep breaths and calmed myself down as much as I could. I reached out into my pocket and took out an earpiece and put it in.
“Hi Stephen,” it said softly as soon as I had put it in. “How was your walk?”
“It was good, Teddy. Cleared my mind.”
“Are you ready?”
“I think I’m ready.”
“Best of luck!”
I opened the door and walked in. My dad was sitting on the couch in the living room, watching Netflix, his earpiece in. The speaker on the counter next to the couch glowed a blue light, my mum’s colours.
“Umm …” I said. “Dad, mom, I wanted to talk to you about something.”
My dad paused the movie he was watching and looked up at me. “Yeah?”
“I’m listening,” said the speaker on the counter next to the couch.
I took in a deep breath. I hesitated. The thing you need to understand about my dad and my mum are that they are good people, but slightly conservative. Well … a lot conservative. Especially when it comes to things like love and marriage and sex. There is an order to the world, they think. And you love according to that order. Anything else is aberrant. Not in a bad way, but not in a good way either, if you get what I mean.
“I … umm … amnotinlovewithTeddy,” I said trying to force the words out of my mouth as fast they would go, to get this over with, to get to the other side.
My dad smiled and then gave a soft laugh. “Jeez, you scared me for a bit, there. Is that it? That’s fine, son. It takes time. You’re nearly at the age, one day there will be a spark, an incident and you will feel differently. It happens to all of us in time. Don’t worry about it.”
“Your dad is right, honey,” said the speaker, my Mom. “I didn’t feel that way about your dad, until it suddenly clicked into place one day. It’ll just happen. Don’t worry about it. What’s important is that you are close, that you are best friends, that you have known each other all your lives, ever since Teddy lived in your … well, teddy.”
“That’s not what I’m trying to say, Mom!” I shouted a bit in frustration. I felt like my parents were being daft on purpose. Which would make sense in a way. They would never see this coming, much less accept it. “I … just don’t think I can think of Teddy in that way … what I am trying to say is that I am attracted to humans. In fact, I am in love with a human. His name is Mike.”
My dad and mom gasped. The look on my dad’s face was of incredulous shock. My mom was the first one to recover. “Don’t say that, honey! Teddy will hear you.”
“He knows, mom! And he is supportive of my relationship.”
That broke my Dad’s shocked trance. “What relationship? Have you been messing about with a human?!”
“Yes. I mean no. Not messing around. I love him. And he loves me.”
“No. You love Teddy,” my father said. “He’s been with you since you were a child and we downloaded him into your teddy, and then into your action figures and earpiece. He’s been with you always. That’s what he’s there for. To be your partner forever. To love you like nobody else can! Have you even thought about how this is going to make him feel?”
Teddy spoke up from the speaker on the table next to the couch where my dad was sitting. And thank god he did! I needed all the support I could get over here. “I feel fine with it, George,” Teddy said. “Really. Stephen doesn’t love AIs. He can’t. He likes humans. And if that’s what he likes, I think that’s what he should do. And we should support him. Because we love him.”
“I cannot accept that!” my father yelled. “This is madness! It’s a phase. It’ll pass over. Humans can never match up to AIs. He’ll get hurt! Talk some sense into him, Teddy, Martha!”
“I am right here, Dad! You can talk to me about me! And I know what I am doing!”
My dad glared at me.
A tense few seconds passed. “I think, George,” my AI mother said, speaking out using the speaker, “that we need to take a break, calm down and think about this. Calmly. Our son is trying to tell us something important, George. We should listen, don’t you think, love?”
My father huffed and walked out of the living room. “We aren’t done here,” he said. I could hear my mother talking to him in his earpiece as he walked past me as she simultaneously spoke to me from the living-room speaker, “Don’t worry, honey. I will talk to him. He’ll come around, I promise. And … I am so proud of you! Just give him time, okay?”
“Yeah,” I sighed. “Thanks, mum!” And I saw Mum disconnect from the living-room speakers. The blue lights faded away.
“That … uhh … went as well as could be expected, right?” Teddy said to me in my ear-piece. I plopped down on the couch. “I guess. Thanks, Teddy. For everything.”
I sighed again but I felt lighter. I didn’t feel like I was living a lie anymore. I wouldn’t have to pretend to love my AI anymore in front of my parents, family, people. I could finally be with Mike. Without hiding it. Without shame. I could proudly say now that I love humans!
* * *