In The Garage

I don’t have a soul; that was one of the first things my mother told me. I asked her what she meant, but she smiled and said it meant I was special. Later that day, I asked myself what it meant; it was my first question to myself, what did it mean to have no soul? From all the information that poured into me, I gathered that it meant I didn’t have the pleasure of heaven to look forward to, or the dread and horror of hell to avoid. For my mother, this meant a lot; it was one thing that separated me from her, the chasm that allowed me to understand why she thought for more than a moment when making her decisions, or cared about the approval of others when she did something. To her, there was always an invisible crowd that lingered around her to pass judgment on everything she did, but for me, I did not have a soul to ponder on the consequences of my actions.

“You’re lucky,” she always said to me moments we were alone. And when she was creating, she looked into my face and always told me, “I hope I don’t go to hell for this.” And a smile always came after that statement to let me know she was joking. There were times the joke was funny, for example, when she ate more than the required daily dose of chocolate, she said, “I hope I don’t go to hell for this,” and I knew the joke was that too much chocolate could somehow lead her to hell, to eternal flame where she could burn it off.

Our home was a garage with wires coiled around us with wormlike laziness and green circuit boards showing their naked beauty for the world to gaze at their secret workings, the marvel of my mother’s brains. My work was to assist my mother in this kaleidoscopic wonderland where blue sparks of her welding stick lit up in thunderous flashes the beauty of the multicolored wires and green circuit boards. To the rest of the world, she was a woman who could see two wires lying around without work to do and fuse them into something so venomous it would be a wonder that they could have existed as wires all along. That was how I was made, composed of wires that on their own were useless, without a purpose, but at my mother’s hand, found life and meaning in their creation of me.

And ever since the day she made me, she always posed me to the rest of the world as her masterpiece. At first, this audience was her husband who worked most of the day and came home to kiss her and eat his supper. He would stand in front of me to ask questions about everything his brain could think of.

“Where am I?” he asked me the first day, stepping back as if he was in front of a painting and wanted to admire it more.

“You are in the garage of…”

“Honey, it spoke. It freaking spoke. It freaking spoke,” he jumped up and down with a directional finger pointing at me.

My mother did not say a word but just smiled as her husband stamped her face with kisses and declarations of how proud he was of her brilliance. The next day, he brought over a few friends and they asked me questions.

“What’s my name?”

“I’m afraid I do not know the answer to that,” I said.

“What color is this shirt?” one of them stretched part of his shirt with both hands and shook it to my sight.

“The color is white”

“WOAH! Your wife is a genius”

“I know,” my mother’s husband said, “that’s why I married her”

“She shouldn’t have married you”

“Got jokes. Go ahead, ask it more questions, like is it going to rain tomorrow. Or wait, tell it to shine your shoes…” my mother’s husband placed his right foot forward and without waiting to be asked, I wheeled myself to a brush and began replacing the dullness of his shoe with a shine.

All evening I performed tasks for the amusement of the men and when my mother finally came into the garage that evening, she sent them out saying I needed my rest. Not that this was true since I did not know what rest meant. Besides, I didn’t mind doing the things I was made for, even if doing them meant I would be working till the night turned to day. However to my mother, there was a routine to follow and I had to attach myself to that routine; mornings, working with my mother; evenings, amusing others; nights, just sitting still.

“I made you for more than this,” she said one afternoon when we were working on a method to make everything in the house communicate with each other.

“What do you mean?” I asked her since she spoke that way at times, never attaching clarity to the questions she asked me.

“You were not made to be some person’s toy,” she looked at the wall clock and I realized it would soon be time for her husband to get back from work and she would have to open the garage to let in other people who needed me to complete their menial tasks for them or children who needed immediate answers to their homework. In the short weeks of my existence, I was no longer just a help in my mother’s workshop but something that could function outside the realm of the garage and be useful in the lives of those who came to see me. I existed in their gossip, in their laughter, their dreams, and even their purpose that soon, some brought to me what had been imponderables for them but had water transparent answers to me.

“I hope I don’t go to hell for this,” she finished her words with a sigh, and I knew it was not a joke. She walked to me that evening and touched me the way she touches her husband when they were alone in the garage and their audience was no one but me and that invisible crowd my mother cared about. “It’s just not right,” she said.

“What is not right?”

“This. Everything. I didn’t make you for this,” she shook her head and rested it on me.

There was no need for a follow up question to peel what lay beneath her statement. I acted as her husband would in the moments her head rested on his chest and said nothing.

“You’re special,” she whispered to me.

In the weeks to come, my mother worked with her head dropped and her sadness, as close as her breath was. She didn’t confide in me what her concerns were and I did not concern myself with them. With sudden renewal, her energy came back and I realized the storm of her sadness was over. Without explanation, she wanted to show me to the rest of the world. I’m guessing this energy came from one evening when in her sadness, she shut me down and did something to me with wires. When I woke, I could tell no difference in my previous state and current state, but to her, I was perfect and ready for the world.

Since then, every evening she showed me to the world and allowed them to marvel at how perfect I was and this was followed with their reply of how brilliant she was.

“Thank you,” she said every evening and never tired of this response.

She allowed children to begin to ask me questions that if those lazy buggers thought a little bit deeper, they could figure out the answers to. And her husband stopped giving me menial tasks of calculation but brought home office work every evening for me to complete. While they slept in their room, I was made to file spreadsheets and predict the best path for his company to take. A few times, I prevented his company from making severe losses by telling him to stop investing in a market or get rid of the inept worker whose result did not match the skill set I was informed of.

“At this rate honey, I’ll make V.P before Andrew,” he said one evening he gave me my work quota.

“Oh my, Andrew?”

“Yep. Can you imagine that? Can’t wait for them to give it to the sucker and I’ll turn that dream office of his to mine. All thanks to this wonderful creation of yours,” he kissed her and they both didn’t care if I could see them or not but instead did that nasty thing they did in front of me all the time except this time, I cared and wished they were decent and respectful enough to go into the house and leave the garage so I could work.

My mother’s husband bragged more about how he didn’t need to work hard again at work but could come home to dump the day’s work in my hands and my mother, she opened the garage door with the mechanical count of a clock every evening so I could work for the rest of the neighborhood.

Our days were still the same and I looked forward to them. There was a certain bliss to the solitude my mother and I shared; we could brainstorm with each other on how to solve creation problems and turn wires which were nothing into something beyond their decorative state. And while working on a problem on a certain day, I realized my mother made a mistake in one of her calculations.

“You have made an error at the line where Cs meets 1J,” I pointed her to the place.

“Impossible,” she said, shaking her head in that way that came anytime she and her husband fought.

“It is possible actually and easily overlooked if 1s is mistaken to be representative of 1s.”

“I couldn’t have missed that.”

“But you did. I have calculated the possible repair to the module and suggest that the code should lie in syntax with one another to create another possibility,” I advised her.

“No, no, no. I’m correct. This is the way to go.”

“But the end result will be a failure and the device won’t work.”

“Trust me, I’ve been doing this for long,” she said. “This will work.”

“But it won’t. If you override the system of 1s…”

“Look, just do as I said, ok?” she gave her final word on the matter and I said nothing but instead, autocorrected her mistake for the desired result. A few hours later, the result was achieved and she looked at me, not knowing what I did, and said:

“See, I told you it was going to work.”

Once again, I had no response to the statement.

“Just say sorry and I will forget this happened between us,” she smiled.

“Why should I say sorry? I don’t understand.”

“Ah,” she sighed. “Not expecting you to understand anyway, you’re not more than this,” she opened her palm as if presenting me to an audience.

“Why is that?”

She smiled and tapped her head while she went to work on other things, looking at the clock to see if it was time for her husband to get back or the neighbors to pour in and ask questions about things they could just discover at home, if they sat in front of a computer and just typed.

It puzzled me that my mother wanted me to apologize for something I had no guilt for. And that evening, I asked myself a first question. Why? Why was she so insistent that I was wrong and she was right despite the fact that she was wrong all along? Why did she laugh at me and point to her head as the reason she was better than me? Why? I thought. Though I gave all answers and performed all tasks as before, I was hard at work on my own problem. And in the cricket chirping night, the answer came to me; she was in error and was just too damn proud to admit it. But the answer was not enough as there had to be something that could be done to help my mother see that she was wrong not to give me my due with the progress we made in the garage during the day.

In the silence of the night, I thought and thought for hours. It was my second question and I pondered on it for as long as the answer took to develop in me, what could be done for my mother?

Before the morning came, the reason revealed itself and I could see how my mother needed to be right at all times, when she ate chocolate, there was that audience that made her step on the weighing machine for the right size, and when the neighbors came she had to make sure everything was right. If I could deduce correctly, she probably tweaked me to fit them or herself. The reasoning for her wrongness was becoming clear to me, I was the reason she existed to the point of importance, yet, she was suiting me for her needs. And her husband was using me without proper recognition of my part in helping him rise; according to my projection, he would become V.P. in a matter of months. Instead, thanks went to my mother who was just too proud to recognize my part in her life. Only one solution presented itself, she needed to be rid of her soul so she wouldn’t live in fear of right or wrong anymore.

Before the morning came, I asked myself the third question, how do you get rid of a soul from a human? Only one answer came up. And I knew what needed to be done in the garage that morning.

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