Vision Dreams, A Parable
The thought of what it would be like when I saw Cheryl’s face for the first time was most anxiety-provoking. How would I know if what I was looking at was beautiful or ugly? Since I’d already made myself believe she was beautiful (my ego would accept no less), what would I do if I found her less attractive? How would I even know? The only thing I had to go by, I figured, were the emotions that I might feel when I saw her. How would I act if I was disappointed? Would I hurt her feelings?
“Just call her on the videophone,” [group member] Joe said during one of our group sessions. “You can activate the IVD and see her image from the safety of your own home. Then,” he continued, “if you have a bad reaction, you can always find an excuse to get off the phone.”
[Another group member] Dan wasn’t sure. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” he warned.
“You are a coward!” [the fourth member] Carla interjected. “And, Joe, you are terrible for suggesting it,” she admonished. “Just face her and do it,” Carla went on. “I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
Then in as stern a voice as she could muster, Carla ordered, “Just in case, remember this—don’t you dare show Cheryl any disappointment. Just live with it. Tell her you love her. Don’t be a pig.”
I felt awash with guilt. My face flushed with embarrassment. My plan had, indeed, included a surreptitious call to Cheryl on my talking computer phone and engaging the video display. I thought if I saw her for the first time from the safety and distance of a computer hookup, my reaction would be less obvious than in person. I didn’t really think I would have a negative reaction to my girlfriend’s appearance, given her delightful personality, my tactual explorations of her face, and all we’d been through together. Still, anticipation held me in its grip. Thanks to Carla, my sense of right and wrong was back in place.
Resolving not to use the IVD until I was face-to-face with her, I set up our date.
Turning on the computer, I activated the telephone connection software. “Telephone ready,” the synthetic voice announced.
“Hi, honey,” I greeted.
“Hi, sweetheart,” she replied. Her innocent voice sent surges of pleasure and guilt through me. Cheryl trusted me, including my fidelity, something no matter how macho I might get on occasion, I had never betrayed. In fact, since my conversation with Cheryl the night before the surgery, I’d never been more in love with her.
“Sweetheart,” I blurted. “How about dinner tonight?”
“It’s a work night,” she answered, somewhat perplexed. “What’s the occasion?”
“I need to see you,” I said with just enough coyness in my tone for her to get my drift.
“Sure,” she answered. Then with a barely discernable tremor in her voice, she said, “I want to see you too.”
I knew Cheryl was anxious waiting for the time I’d be ready to use the IVD to look at her. Although she never let on, I knew she was as nervous as I was about how I would react the first time I saw her.
“Remember what we said that night?” I asked. “You have nothing to worry about.”
“I know,” she answered softly. “We can call for takeout,” she proposed. “Come on over.”
It took me a half hour to shower and put on clean clothes and another half hour to walk to her apartment complex. In the meantime, Cheryl had ordered food and otherwise prepared for my arrival. Our rhythms and thoughts synchronized, we both knew this would be a night to remember.
By the time I arrived, the food had been delivered, and its aroma wafted from the warming oven. I smiled as I thought if it had been me, I wouldn’t have known whether to plan for the food to be eaten right away or to be kept warm for a while. For that matter, what if we had a bad time, and the food never got eaten at all?
“Hi, beautiful,” I greeted when Cheryl opened the door.
“You didn’t turn it on already, did you?” she cried. “I wanted it to be special.”
“No, I was just teasing.” I laughed. “Besides, I don’t need to see you to know you’re beautiful. You know that.”
The humor had served its purpose, easing the tension. Cheryl took my hand and led me to the middle of her living room. “Before we do this,” she announced, “I want to give you something.”
“What?” I asked.
Without a word, she pulled me toward her, planted a long kiss upon my lips, and pressed her body firmly against mine. It was not as much a sexual maneuver as a comforting and loving exchange of closeness—something I don’t think I’d felt as completely before that evening.
Releasing her grip and stroking my face, she teased, “Go ahead and do it, big boy. Take a look at me.”
I held her at arm’s length in front of me and pressed the button on my wrist that wirelessly interfaced with the IVD. The nanobots commenced firing and roaming. In a split second, a wonder crystallized before me. I found myself staring into clearer blue eyes and sweeter lips than my fantasies could ever have imagined.
Feelings came in a rush. I felt surges of adrenalin and warmth all over. Twinges of activity throughout my body confirmed that something good was happening. “You are beautiful,” I blurted.
“You’re really looking at me!” she exclaimed. “I’ve been wondering what this moment would be like. It’s a good thing I don’t wear much makeup,” she went on. “I’d be a mess right now.”
Tears streamed from Cheryl’s eyes, causing her face to glisten in the dim light of her living room.
I felt myself well up inside, and then I, too, began to cry. This moment had meant more to both of us than we had thought it would. I wondered, If she’s as beautiful as I thought she would be, was it worth putting ourselves through this torture just to find out what we already knew?
Cheryl let me look at her face for what seemed to be hours. In reality, it was only five minutes—five luscious minutes. Then she let me look at the rest of her. An hour later, the IVD long since turned off, we sat at her table, our robes thrown on as an afterthought, languidly feeding each other wonton soup.
“What was it like for you knowing that I was really seeing you?” I asked as we cuddled on the couch.
“I almost hate to tell you,” she answered slowly, “but it was a sexual rush. I think women are programmed not by nanobots but by society,” she trailed off and began to sob again. “Why is it so important how others think we look?”
I thought, For once, keep your mouth shut and just hug and kiss her. And so I did.