This place has always been like a haven for me, which is a strange thing to say about a pizza place. It’s quiet but not abandoned, and pastel pink and blue are my favourite colours. When you walk by from the outside, it looks like you’re in a movie theatre, looking at a bright screen displaying a feelbetter-than film. A good meal and peace of mind seems to only happen in the movies nowadays. And the owner’s great, too! Falstaff is the only other person on the block who pays extra for the REALLY OLD THEATRICALS AND SUPER DEAD AUTHORS channel. I know because the first thing I did when I signed my lease was tap into his TV reception. (He also has this channel called REALLY OLD THEATRICALS AND SUPER DEAD AUTHORS (SEXY) but I don’t really want to look at that.) After I’d moved in, Falstaff visited me in person and gave me a free pizza. I think he said something among the lines of, “Welcome to the neighbourhood! I pray you soon feel at home, most comparative, rascalliest, sweet young prince.”
And I did! Him being a cyborg certainly had something to do with it. His metal face was surprisingly warm and gentle despite having two vertical yellow bars for eyes and one oval for a mouth. It’s, like, not a race thing, but humans make me uncomfortable. Anyway, I ate at his place whenever my schedule allowed it, and he always made sure I was doing okay. He told me once, “I am little better than one of the wicked, for my pizzas are loved by all! The freshest ingredients, enjoyed by crook or cop! I do not care, as long as it supplies me with the monies, so I can keep buying the freshest ingredients!” and he kissed his own fingers and rollerskated back into the kitchen.
“Mm, you’re a cyborg, right? Shouldn’t you have like, ordered a pizza with, I don’t know, gears and thermal paste?” The slice I was about to eat slides out of my hand. It falls face-up on my lap, covering about the same distance as my jaw unhinging in pure disbelief. I don’t even think my emo-visor is displaying anything, or maybe it’s incapable of transcribing the stupefaction I’m feeling right now into any known ASCII. “Oh my god. You have no idea what a cyborg even is.” The shirtless diletante opposite me, clearly unversed in the ways of basic respect or empathy, is looking not quite as confused but an honest approximation of how confused as I am feeling. “You’re like robots, yeah?” I gently scoop up the fallen slice and almost drop it again at his continued, casual blunt assault. I can feel the sloshing of hydraulic fluids in my arm so vividly and clearly, it feels like I Was born with my hardware. Like I Was born to punch Orlando really hard in the face. I take a deep breath.
“This is. Not something we chose.” “I’d have loved a robot arm, honestly.” I take a really deep breath. “Listen closely, morlock. They don’t tell you this in Bigotry 101, but notice how this is not a clean place? No sunlight, no real garbage disposal services, not to mention the industrial waste and occasional radiation hazards. Children are born with problems. Becoming a cyborg makes sure they get to live. Apparently, live into a life where nobody wants them.” I wipe the tragic remnants of a pizza slice from my hand with a napkin. For once, they don’t have a witty comeback and I sure as data hope they aren’t trying to come up with one.
“Just. Call a cab. We’re going someplace.” They do so, regret in their hazel eyes, shimmering like the aftermath of a boot mercilessly stomping on a puddle.
I wave Falstaff goodbye. Orlando and I step out into the rain and into a cab. I hurry out of the cab to pay Falstaff for our pizzas and get back in. We sit in silence until the car stops at our destination.