I'm still mad at M. Twenty-three years ago he promised to build me an android and I ain't seen it yet.
M moved to my neighbourhood in Grade Six. Gangly Indian kid, he bopped as he walked. I'm not sure how I became his first new friend, probably 'cause his desk was seated next to mine, but man, he hooked me in real hard.
"I can build you a friend," he said.
What the fuck are you talking about? I said, but I didn't say "fuck" 'cause I didn't swear until high school.
"Yeah, a man, but not a real man. Mostly machine."
"Yeah, I can build you a robot."
FUCK YEAH LET'S BE FRIENDS.
I wanted Wolverine. Done. M didn't refuse a single item on my detailed checklist. Life-sized, no problem, but not too tall 'cause Wolverine ain't too tall. No problem. Brown suit, not yellow suit. Skin real to the touch, I dunno if plastic or rubber or felt or whatever, but M said yes. Retractable claws, no question. My own Wolverine.
So he'll be able to walk up and down my block?
"He can walk anywhere."
Will I have to be next to him with a joystick?
So I can control him with a remote control?
But how will I know where he's going if he's walking around without me?
Can you give him eyes that see but I can also see what he sees like I can watch from home on my TV screen and there are no wires and I see exactly what he's seeing when he's walking and seeing?
FUCK YEAH, M.
But wait... I wasn't stupid. I wiped the spittle off my lip, calmed my breath, narrowed my eyes at this fellow ten-year-old:
How do you know how to build an android?
He shrugged his shoulders, "I'm smart."
FUCK YEAH, M.
He said he'd done it before, wherever and whatever before meant. He had an older brother in high school, a dad, and I don't know about his mom. I don't recall where he was living before my part of East Van, I think not near. At least not walking distance for an elementary schooler, so whatever neighbourhood he came from, I never heard of it. He dropped in from nowhere and didn't become popular. He was liked, yeah, like I remember that daytime party at Matt's where I was trapped in the closet with David and Stacy and they started making out to B.B.D.'s "Poison", and I kept interjecting with "What does it feel like?" but they were too busy to answer, and when the three of us emerged into sunlight wincing, there was M, having just arrived wearing his cap to the side. He didn't get kicked out so I guess he was welcome, I guess he was liked. Still, I was the only kid at our school who would hang out with him. M was always smiling and enthusiastic, never seemed to have problems. He was indeed a smart kid, cheerful, articulate. We both got published in a poetry anthology that year; his poem was about a wizard and my poem was about saving the environment: "A Slowly Burning Pain".
I called him every day, asked him at school every day, how's my android?
"Good. I'm working on it."
After a few months of not being able to take a walk along Victoria Drive through the perspective of Wolverine, I called again.
"M can't come to the phone," said the brother's three-years-deeper voice.
Okay, I'll wait.
"You'll wai...? Hold on... M! [muffled shouting] He said he'll wai-- I dunno why! [muffled shouting] He said he'll call you back."
No, I'll wait.
"He doesn't want to talk to you about the robot."
I never brought up the issue of Wolverine again. For the rest of the school year I remained the only friend who would hang out with him. Other kids were nice to him but didn't care to spend time with him, something about him lying. He didn't go to Grade Seven with us, he moved away in the summer, something about him stealing. I understand, it's hard being the new kid, but I got suckered hardcore. Gimme my fucking android, M.