I remember turning to The Terminator and noticing how confused he seemed when Mom gave me my first-ever computer.
I didn’t even know that his CPU was capable of permitting or even experiencing the sensation of confusion. But there he was, confused and staring at the desktop IBM assembled on my blue-trimmed, white shelf. There were the 60-some-odd Troll dolls with their trademark rainbow hair colors and variegated sizes on the three shelves above said new computer.
This must have been around 1990, and my mom had told me that if she was going to get me a computer, I’d have to make sure to never get “frustrated with it” or “bang on it angrily.” I’d had some trouble with that sort of thing in the past. I was also known around the neighborhood as a crude disassembler of various machines and toys – a remote control hovercraft Dad had gotten for me for a certain Christmahanukkah, a small radio I’d found in the cluttered one-car garage, the 7.62mm GE M134 Mini Gun The Terminator had come home with, blood-splattered and bedraggled one particularly memorable evening.
But this wasn’t a 7.62mm GE M134 Mini Gun. No, this was my first-ever computer, and I couldn’t help but wonder if The Terminator was feeling rivaled for my affection.
I was maybe nine-years-old here, but still I felt a sophisticated empathy toward the cybernetic organism who allowed me to reach out and childishly clasp his cold, uncannily hard “bony” fingers sheathed in black motorcycle gloves.
“It’s only a computer,” I told him as he proudly stood in my quaint bedroom with a four-way folded TMNT Mad Magazine parody poster sloppily Scotch Taped to the wall next to a poster of Orel Hershiser (despite my total disinterest in sports).
The Terminator said nothing in his black leather biker jacket, black jeans, scuffed combat boots and customary Gargoyles that obscured any semblance of expression in his eyes I could not see for the opaque lenses.
“Look,” I said, still holding his hand and gazing up to him towering over me. “I need a computer.”
He did not respond.
“It’s for school,” I reasoned. “All the other kids have one.”
“Mathew,” The Terminator said in his understated voice tinged by a harsh Austrian accent. “I do not understand why this inferior machine now resides in your domicile.”
I rolled my eyes, sighed and said, “I told you. All the other kids in class have one and they’ve all had one for a while.”
An impregnable silence subsumed us both.
I took a deep breath, adding, “It’s weird I didn’t get one until now.”
The truth was that all my buddies at school had a lot more money than I did, especially since mine was the only set of parents smart enough to divorce before drifting into a depressingly dysfunctional-family routine. My single mother – too headstrong to take the bountiful child support or any financial aid from my dad – might have struggled throughout my otherwise randy upbringing, but at least she didn’t live in a hateful relationship with my dad, sleeping in separate bedrooms in the same house, as was the case for the desperately religious parents of most of my classmates burdened by the rigorous strictures of fundamental Christianity.
Money was tight for us, though. There had been the time that, for her thirty-eighth birthday, The Terminator had screeched up to our condo’s narrow driveway in a flashy red sports car whose model I can’t recall, and Mom had told him she was sorry but couldn’t in good conscience accept the charming gift.
The Terminator had appeared somewhat confused then, too – now that I look back at it – regardless of his eyes being guarded at that point by lensed BluBlockers. His befuddlement meant little in light of his nevertheless needing to bring the car back to its rightful owner or, as it would turn out in this unfortunate situation, the owner’s next of kin.
“Mathew,” The Terminator told me, back in my bedroom and glaring through his Gargoyles at the infernal computer. “There is no need for additional computations to be processed besides those that can be executed by me.”
It was truly heartwarming that The Terminator was clearly envious of this silly new PC on display before us underneath my scads of Troll dolls smiling foolishly out to nowhere. There the computer sat satisfied, there with its 17-inch screen, wide ivory-colored QWERTY keyboard, dual external keyboard and three free games in their original colorful boxes next to it.
The Terminator’s palpable insecurity aside, the fact remained that I did require a computer, and I was a little worried that he might be less than trustworthy around the device that Mom had told me to be extra-careful with for fear of costly repairs.
I looked up to him, through the onyx barriers of his glasses, and mustered up as best I could, “It’s not going to replace you.”
In my memory, a moment passed. In reality, a longer period of silence flitted by before The Terminator craned his neck to the left and stared down at my hand still clutching his. My eyes all the while burning through his shielding glasses.
He turned his attention back to the computer and without looking at me, reported plainly, “This machine fills a void in the negative space of your shelf, and in so doing does satisfy numerous aesthetic qualities of this area of your bedroom.”
There was a somber standoff before my mom called me down to dinner downstairs.
Still allowing me to hold his hand, I stood out of my rolling chair and The Terminator escorted me through the bedroom door he opened. Out we went into the blue-carpeted hallway that in turn led us to the right and down the stairs for some much-needed grub.