On the weekend me and my wife Susan went to the launch of Geeks, Misfits, and Outlaws, an anthology of short fiction edited by Zoe Whittall. We stuck around after the readings and such and they played Le Tigre and my current pop obsession, “Hey Ya” by OutKast. Nothing like that spine-crawl of bliss brought on by dancing…
My daughter just got a tattoo. It’s a heart with the word “Dad” in it.
“Happy Father’s Day!” she said, her sleeve all bunched up. What could I say? She turned thirteen almost six months ago, and if she can vote and drink, I suppose it would be wrong to try to prevent disfigurement.
“It’s refigurement, Daddy,” Angela would say, has said in the past, and I suppose I should be a little more accepting. It’s just a little bit much to process all at once.
I remember last year, Amy and I — Amy being Angela’s ovum donor — were talking about how strange Angela was compared with the other girls at the party. Amy was worried about it.
“I mean, see that girl over there? With those pretty little legs spliced onto her earlobes? Why doesn’t Angela get something like that?”
I folded my arms. I had given Angela my old skateboard for her birthday, and felt a little self-conscious about it. But I wasn’t trying to clone myself, really I wasn’t. There were easier ways to do that. “She doesn’t really like the modern styles, Aim.”
She couldn’t have heard us (she’s never had any sense boosters, either) from where she was sitting, but she looked over and smiled at me slowly. Ignoring her friends, who flapped their carnival limbs and whooped, she smiled at me. I smiled back.
Amy saw this and just snorted. “The girl is so fin-de-siècle. Just don’t blame me.”
At least it was an ink tattoo, not those nasty carvings that so many young girls go in for these days.
She stood there, armsleeve rolled up. “Pretty rad, eh?” Angela was hooked on my old collection of skater videos and had adopted the lingo.
“Wicked,” I agreed.
She tapped the tattoo once. A naked cherub burst out of the centre and circled, a trail of holo behind it. “I couldn’t resist. It was cheap, and it was just this spray-program that he put on after the tat. It’ll wash off in a few months.” She tapped it thrice and three angels joined us, doing a little figure-eight routine.
“Well…” I said, watching the fattest angel retreat into her heart. “I’m touched. Not that you have to do something like that to show you love me, but…”
She was tracing the heart, and I could tell from her light touch that it was still a little tender. “Oh, it wasn’t just for you. I wanted an old-style tat. Philomina and her crew are always on about what a little girl I am, just ’cause I think that their patches suck.”
I worried for a moment that she had fallen out with Philomina. She had been friends with her for years.
“I told Philomina her new mouth was fuckin’ ugly. She got this new mouth, and it says everything she says a second later? It’s so damn annoying. And it’s so dumb looking! I was like, ‘No, Phil, don’t do it’ but she did it anyway. Then she asks me what I think. What was I supposed to say?”
I shrugged. I had a little trouble picturing another mouth on Philomina’s already crowded face.
“Anyway, she’ll see what a real refigurement is,” Angela said with her chin out. Her eyes weren’t as convinced, though. “This is real. They knew how to do it back then. It wasn’t all computer-positioning and molecule-shaping. It was an art. Everything sucks now. I wish I was born back then…”
I gave her a hug. Tapped the tattoo a dozen times and watched the flurry of low rez divinity cavort around our living room. Thought about telling her that it sucked then, too, and didn’t. She needed hope, now, more than truth.
“Hey Dad,” Angela said, from the couch. “Amy called.” There was another person beside her, quite close. They were watching TV, shouting out orders at it.
I put my groceries on the counter. I wondered who the couch-mate was, happy to see that Angela finally had a new friend after the Philomina trouble.
I went out to the living room and Angela turned off the TV. “Dad, this is Monika.”
Monika turned towards me, a slim girl with short red hair. On her forehead, an eye opened and glowed brighter and brighter until I blinked. “Thirdeye off,” Monika muttered. “Sorry Mr. Munroe,” she said. “My mom put in this thing to help with my social skills.”
I looked at her eyeless forehead.
“It’s just a facial recognition/name recall macro,” Monika said, shifting uncomfortably, “I mentioned once to my mom that I forgot this guy’s name and wham guess what I get for Christmas.”
“The third eye was a mystical symbol of omniscience, or all-seeing,” I said, realizing I sounded like a teacher or a dad but not able to help myself.
Monika nodded politely, and my daughter grinned. “Monika’s parents brought these for her from Britain,” she asked, holding out a pack of joints. I took it. Hemp smoking causes lethargy, the Chief Medical Officer’s warning read. “They’re phat…” Angela tempted.
“Better not,” I said. “Amy’ll want her dinner soon.” I handed them back to Monika. As she leant over to take them from me, I saw a heart on her arm. Angela, it said.
In the kitchen, cutting carrots and listening to the girls whisper and giggle, I thought lazily: Ain’t language a virus? and Ain’t culture a virus? and Ain’t love a virus?