Sigfrid’s office is of course under the Bubble, like anybody else’s. It can’t be too hot or too cold. But sometimes it feels that way. I say to him, “Christ, it’s hot in here. Your air conditioner is malfunctioning.”
“I don’t have an air conditioner, Robbie,” he says patiently. “Getting back to your mother—”
“Screw my mother,” I say. “Screw yours, too.”
There is a pause. I know what his circuits are thinking, and I feel I will regret that impetuous remark. So I add quickly, “I mean, I’m really uncomfortable, Sigfrid. It’s hot in here.”
“You are hot in here,” he corrects me.
“My sensors indicate that your temperature goes up almost a degree whenever we talk about certain subjects: your mother, the woman Gelle-Klara Moynlin, your first trip, your third trip, Dane Metchnikov and excretion.”
“Well, that’s great,” I yell, suddenly angry. “You’re telling me you spy on me?”
“You know that I monitor your external signs, Robbie,” he says reprovingly. “There is no harm in that. It is no more significant than a friend observing that you blush or stammer, or drum your fingers.”
“So you say.”
“I do say that, Rob. I tell you this because I think you should know that these subjects are charged with some emotional overload for you. Would you like to talk about why that might be?”
“No! What I’d like to talk about is you, Sigfrid! What other little secrets are you holding out on me? Do you count my erections? Bug my bed? Tap my phone?”
“No, Rob. I don’t do any of those things.”
“I certainly hope that’s the truth, Sigfrid. I have my ways of knowing when you lie.”
Pause. “I don’t think I understand what you are saying, Rob.”
“You don’t have to,” I sneer. “You’re just a machine.” It’s enough that I understand. It is very important to me to have that little secret from Sigfrid. In my pocket is the slip of paper that S. Ya. Lavorovna gave me one night, full of pot, wine, and great sex. One day soon I will take it out of my pocket, and then we will see which of us is the boss. I really enjoy this contest with Sigfrid. It gets me angry. When I am angry I forget that very large place where I hurt, and go on hurting, and don’t know how to stop.