Fear Boys With Dolls
I didn’t want to go alone, so I convinced my fiancée Becca to come with me to Andy’s place to see his sex doll collection. I promised Becca we would only stay for an hour or so.
She said Andy made her more uncomfortable than anyone she had ever met, but she understood that I was the closest thing he had to a real friend and so she said she would come with me to give me “support.”
I had to go. I felt like I had to validate Andy’s obsession somehow or he might lose total touch with reality. And if Andy lost touch, that would be terrible for business.
Andy was not one of the company’s executives. But he was our chief engineer, and so he got a free pass to be as eccentric and irresponsible as he wanted, because he was the most indispensable employee at Digirigible. There wouldn’t be a Digirigible without Andy Battonbrie. There was no Digirigible actuator or piece of software that Andy didn’t personally approve, usually after making it better, and everyone at Digirigible knew that the only reason that any of us had a job at all was because of Andy’s indisputable genius. He had written our first multimillion dollar piece of code: he took a thermal rerouting system for supercomputers and made it work on laptops. It was a simple program: if the computer started to overheat or bluescreen, the computer would immediately begin jettisoning data into the cloud and then shut itself down. No big deal these days, but it was big money back then.
Andy and I had been working together since right after college. He said that I was the only industrial designer that he could stand. He made things work, and then I made his ugly inventions look good. I turned all of his raw edges and dangerous bulges into clean lines and smooth angles, which was also how our personal relationship went.
Andy lived in the sub-basement of an office building in Midtown, a place that had never been meant for human life. He wanted to live two minutes away from work, but he also wanted lots of space and didn’t want to be shoehorned into some cramped downtown loft. He made a big cash deal with the lawyers that owned the building and then he brought in subcontractors. The “B2” button was removed from the building’s elevator and replaced with a keyhole. The only person with the key was Andy, so if you wanted to visit, you had to text him to come meet you in the building’s lobby.
Becca and I waited for Andy in beige recliners while the lobby security guard stared at us, grinning.
“You here to see Batman?” the security guard asked.
“You mean my very good friend Andy?” I said. “The man who pays a stupefying amount in order to live in your basement?”
“Dude calls HIMSELF Batman,” said the security guard. “Battonbrie, right? Calls his place the Batcave. Didn’t mean no harm. Thought everybody called him Batman.”
“No,” I said. “No one calls him that.”
The security guard shook his head and laughed.
“He’s not actually going to demonstrate how he uses these dolls or anything, is he?” asked Becca.
“No way,” I said. “Absolutely not.”
“Because the thought of seeing Andy fuck a sex robot makes me so furious that I get dizzy,” said Becca.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “Andy will behave himself. He’s just going to show us his collection. Maybe we’ll have a few drinks, and then we’re out of there.”
“Right,” said Becca.
“He gets them custom made, you know. His own designs. This isn’t about lust. It’s his hobby. Like model trains or something.”
“You don’t fuck model trains,” muttered Becca under her breath.
Before I could say anything, Andy himself sidled up to us, grinning and gap-toothed with his hands in his pockets. He was wearing a striped pink shirt (untucked), black pants, and a straw boater – the kind of hat that a barber shop quartet would wear
He wasn’t wearing any shoes. At first this struck me as strange, but then I remembered that the lobby of this office building was basically his front porch.
“Nice hat, Batman,” I said.
“It’s made from real sennit straw,” said Andy. “Most people call it a boater, but it is also known as a basher, a skimmer, or a Katie hat. Do you know what it used to mean when you wore a hat like this before World War 1?”
“No,” I said. “No one could possibly know that.”
“It used to mean that you worked for the FBI. Wearing one of these back then was the equivalent of a dark suit and sunglasses today. They got popular among trendsetters after the Great War was over. One generation’s fascism is always another generation’s boldest fashion statement.”
“Maybe they will catch on again,” suggested Becca.
“Nah,” said Andy. “But this one belonged to Clark Gable, the actor. The fellow with the cleft chin, mustache, and jug-handled ears that the ladies loved so much. Does it make me look like Clark Gable?”
I licked my lips while Becca peered at Andy, humoring him. She was trying her damnedest to be nice. I had to give her that.
“Maybe a little bit,” said Becca.
Andy was just over five feet tall, and he had a full beard that covered up most of his shiny red face. He was skinny and frail looking, like a sparrow that had just been knocked out of the sky by a vicious cat. His back was bent and misshapen from scoliosis, and his teeth were permanently stained yellow from all the coffee and energy drinks that kept him alive. He did have jug-handled ears, though.
“I love it when beautiful girls lie to me,” said Andy, winking at Becca. “Let’s go back to my place.”
We followed him to the elevator. Andy turned his key, and we fell down two stories into the hole where Andy lived.
When the elevator doors slid open, Becca and I were both surprised to find ourselves in a tasteful, cozy living room. Andy’s den was all cream-colored couches, deep pile carpet, and hidden light sources. All of the furniture was positioned in the center of the room, including his Danish modern desk and his four sleek computers.
I don’t know what I had expected. A leaking, reeking den covered in bugs and congealing plates of fatty junk food, perhaps? But instead his place was scrupulously clean and totally inviting.
Andy laid out a tray of petit fours, tiny little pastries that looked just like miniature apple pies, and we took our seats. In the back of the main den was a full kitchen, and there were three doors along this back wall. There were four other doors on the short walls, making a total of seven doors that led out of his den.
“What can I get you guys to drink?” he asked. “Whiskey? Beer? Soda? Lemonade? Sparkling water? Tomato juice?”
“Some kind of liquor,” I said.
“Me too,” said Becca.
Andy fixed us tall glasses of bourbon and ginger ale.
“Something hard hidden in something sweet and bubbly,” said Andy. “Just like a good woman.”
“Speaking of that,” I said. “When are we going out again like we did last month? We should hit the bars, man. I worry about you all alone down here. You are in your prime. Don’t you think it’s time to start dating again? There are so many women out there in the world.”
“I’m really busy with my dolls and with work,” said Andy. “I hardly have the time. Even if I were to find somebody as good as Monica, which is impossible.”
“Monica was years ago,” said Becca.
“It doesn’t feel like years,” said Andy.
I downed my bourbon and ginger ale and ate a mini apple pie in the awkward silence that followed.
“Enough talk,” I said. “Let’s see these dolls. Which door are they hiding behind, Batman?”
“All of them,” said Andy, sweeping off his hat and holding it to his chest, rising to my level of enthusiasm. “Behind each door is a different room with a different bed and a different simulacrum.”
He adjusted his glasses and grinned.
“This is so fucking creepy,” said Becca with genuine anger. “I have to know. Why do you do it?”
Andy stopped grinning and his face twisted into a sour expression.
I laughed, hoping to diffuse them both. Andy stared at his feet, and Becca crossed her arms.
“I love to make physical things,” said Andy after thinking about it. “But when I make computers and machines for work, they never come out right. They are ugly and cold; functional, but never beautiful. Women already have a perfect form. They are the perfect plastic for clumsy hands. When I make a doll, I don’t have to worry about form. Just the details.”
“Well, where should we start then?” I said. “Give us the grand tour.”
“Doesn’t matter to me,” said Andy softly.
I shrugged and opened the first door on the left. I prepared to be shocked, but there was nothing shocking about the room at all. In fact, the room held all of Andy’s furniture from college. There were posters on the wall and his action figure collection was lined up on his shelves. There was a carpet shaped like a space ship and there were pink bean bag chairs next to a bright blue aquarium full of beta fish.
Up against the far wall was a bunk bed – the same bunk bed that Andy had been sleeping in for years. There were only a few things that were new about the room: there was a desk in one corner with a telephone and a computer, and behind the desk there was a red dress draped across a rolling chair.
I looked around for the sex doll. There was a human-shaped lump in the bottom bunk of Andy’s bed that was covered by sheets that were colored deep bordello crimson.
“See?” I told Becca. “No big deal.”
“I sleep in this room most nights,” Andy admitted.
I entered the room, combing through Andy’s bachelor mess: socks on the floor, books stacked up all over the place, a dresser overflowing with uncapped toiletries. I walked over to the lump in the bottom bunk while Andy and Becca waited in the door’s threshold.
“Is this the doll?” I asked.
I peeled back the covers.
“Oh my god!” I shouted. “You killed her!”
Andy started giggling.
“Guess who it is,” said Andy.
It was obvious. Beneath his sheets and staring at me with wide, dead eyes was the silicon corpse of Andy’s ex-girlfriend Monica. Her pink lips were open in a slight pout and her green eyes were glassy but warm. She was naked, and her nipples were obscenely erect. I stepped away from her and let the sheets fall back over her body.
“I get it,” I said.
“Isn’t she lifelike?” said Andy, walking over to stand next to me. He pulled the covers back further, exposing Monica’s parted thighs and hairy pubis. He put his hand on her ankle and bent her knee at the joint. He brushed his fingers over her eyelids and they opened and shut with smooth, oiled grace. Blink. Blink.
“I made her from memory,” said Andy. “As a tribute. There is no one in the world like Monica and there never will be again. I wanted to preserve her. I mean, this is my house and I can do what I want.”
Monica had been an administrative assistant at our downtown offices and she and Andy had dated for six months several years ago. Monica had been pretty but awkward – a very sweet girl, really – but Andy had scared her away. He had worshipped her, taking her out every night to the most expensive restaurants and buying her all kinds of jewelry and high-end electronics. Flowers and candy every day. After six months, he had proposed marriage to her and then she had run off to China with a marketing rep named Brady who had a passion for surfing and good weed.
Andy had been devastated.
“She wasn’t the most beautiful girl in the world,” said Andy. “Nor the smartest nor most loyal. But for a little while she was mine, wasn’t she?”
“For a little while,” I said.
“At first, I couldn’t get over the fact that she would never be mine again. But then I got practical. I realized that she could truly belong to me forever if I was just willing to put in a little time and effort. She was my first doll.”
Becca was staring at Andy with a mixture of shock and pity. I noticed that there was gold ring on the doll’s left hand.
“What if Monica saw this?” asked Becca. “What would she say? I mean, this is some kind of violation of her essence. Of her very soul. This can’t be healthy, Andy. Not at all.”
“I know what you are thinking,” said Andy. “But it’s not revenge. It’s poetry.”
Andy picked up the doll and carried it to the desk in the corner. He placed Monica behind the desk and kissed her on the cheek. Monica stared out into nothingness like an astronaut cut adrift in deep space, dead and stiff inside a frozen helmet.
“Technically speaking,” said Andy. “She’s not a mere sex doll. She’s a fully functional specific-purpose android. I could never be aroused by something without a function.”
He placed Monica’s fingers on the keyboard and put a phone up to her ear. She came alive. Her head bent sideways to cradle the phone and her fingers tensed at the keyboard tray.
“She can type whatever I dictate,” said Andy. “Also, she can make simple phone calls, like ordering a pizza or something. We like to play secretary.”
He brushed lank hair out of her eyes.
“Hello Andy,” said the Monica doll. “Is there anything I can do for you?”
“I am always very respectful to this doll,” said Andy, ignoring her. “But let’s move on please.”
We shut the door on Andy’s diorama devoted to his past.
That was when I realized that this tour wasn’t just about Andy showing off his prowess at sculpting and robotics. This was something else. He was taking us on a tour of his darkest desires. This was Secret Male Information he was sharing. This could only lead to trouble.
I took Becca aside and whispered in her ear.
“Why don’t you wait upstairs for me? I know this isn’t your kind of thing.”
But she shook her head with her lips tight. It wasn’t going to be that easy.
“So does every man wish he had the helpless body of his ex-girlfriend lying around to abuse?” she asked me loudly. “Is this a common fantasy?”
“No,” insisted Andy. “Monica was special.”
Becca stared at me -- judging me -- but I only shrugged. She opened the next door herself.
This room was decorated just like a cheap motel off some New Jersey turnpike, complete with pink fluorescent lights that flashed in a fabricated dirty window covered by yellow Venetian blinds. There were two twin beds, a braided rug, and a particle board dresser with a glass ashtray on it. Sitting in a stale black recliner was a woman in a pink party dress with a glass of liquor resting in the palm of her hand.
“I met her at a party,” said Andy, lying down in one of the twin beds. “I never got her name, but I call her Scheherazade. She told me this amazing story about the time she slept with her junior high gym coach and then I was in love with her for a month. It was hard to build a doll that matched her specifications exactly, but luckily she had a lot of pictures of herself online, and so I was able to create a match. I programmed her voice apparatus to tell stories. I like to lay in one bed while she lays in the other. She reads me whatever I upload into her. She reads me the newspaper, novels, blogs, even work memos. She has three usable holes, including her mouth. If I am using her mouth, she can’t tell stories anymore and just makes sucking sounds, which I think is a nice touch.”
“That is fucking horrible,” said Becca.
“You know what Hemingway said about Heaven and Hell,” said Andy. “Heaven is two mansions right next to one another. In one mansion are your wife and children and you have a normal, perfect family together. The other mansion has seven floors and on each floor is a different mistress. All these women, including your wife, are nubile and willing, aching to be serviced at least once a day. Hell is the same thing, except you are hungover.”
I breathed deep to keep from laughing.
“I’d never read Hemingway before Scheherazade read him to me,” said Andy. “But surely there’s no better way to experience Hemingway than to hear him from the lips of a sex robot that you built yourself while your semen slowly dries inside her sensual, three-textured, vacuum-powered robot mouth.”
“How do you clean them?” Becca asked. “If you don’t mind my asking. Do you pay someone?”
Andy looked horrified.
“Oh no,” said Andy. “I clean them myself, once a week. On Sundays. It’s part of the responsibility. I would be a monster if I didn’t clean them.”
“Next door, please,” I said quietly.
Andy got up from the bed and shut the door on Scheherazade. He paused before opening the next door, leaning up against it and smiling.
“The next two rooms are a little strange,” said Andy. “I don’t want you to think less of me for making them. I built these next two dolls because I couldn’t get them out of my head. I had to know what they would be like. I don’t use them very often. Just on special occasions.”
“Show us already, Batman,” said Becca.
Andy opened the next door.
There was bright orange carpet on the walls. Furniture made from polished tree-stumps. A big heart-shaped bed. Three television sets. Lying in the center of the heart-shaped bed was a man in a sequin-jumpsuit and sunglasses. Shiny black hair. Mutton chops. He was slightly overweight, but he still looked hearty and full of life, like a big sensual truck-driver.
“I can make him as sweaty as I want,” said Andy. “And he sings!”
Andy walked over to Elvis and slid a hand behind his neck. The Elvis sex robot began to sing “Love Me Tender.”
“I’m not gay,” said Andy, staring at me. “But sometimes it is cool to go down on Elvis while he sings “Love Me Tender.”
“Okay, Andy,” I said quietly.
Becca was no longer furious. Now she was kind of stupefied.
“Is this a common fantasy for all men?” asked Becca.
“NO,” I said.
“Come on,” said Andy. “Don’t be prude. I’m sure you’re gay for somebody out there. There’s some special fellow you wouldn’t mind bumming when nobody’s looking.”
“No one,” I said.
“Just tell us,” said Becca, exasperated. “If you were going to build a sex robot of a dude that you could fuck and nobody would know, then who would it be?”
I thought about it. Andy was sharing so much. I had to share too.
“Josef Stalin,” I said.
Andy stroked his chin while Becca’s pupils shrunk to the size of decimal points.
Andy opened the next door. It was a hollow cave with a vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows. There was a mound of treasure in the center of the room – a heap of gold bars, precious gems, and comic books -- and guarding the treasure was a pearly-pale dragon the size of a motorcycle with black teeth like daggers and glossy, evil eyes.
“I have always wanted to fuck a dragon,” said Andy. “I think this is a common fantasy for strong people.”
Becca and I looked at one another. Andy crept into the room very slowly.
“Do not come in here,” said Andy. “The dragon is guarding real treasure and she really breathes fire. Her belly is loaded with propane. Don’t worry: she wouldn’t set the building on fire if she were to go off. This room is completely encased in sheet steel, and anyone trapped in here would merely be roasted alive. My dragon is like having a wall safe. I don’t trust banks very much. Not these days.”
Andy gently stroked the top of the dragon’s head.
“She has a little asshole you can use and a scaly vagina that is so thick and strange you can fit your whole head inside. I can make her belch little fireballs if I ejaculate hard enough.”
“That’s really neat, Andy,” I said, trying to stay as far away from the door’s threshold as possible.
“It’s cool to fuck something that could kill you,” said Andy.
Andy crept out of the room and gently shut the door behind him. “Love Me Tender” continued to play from the Elvis room.
“Why Josef Stalin?” asked Becca.
“Probably for the same reason that Andy likes fucking a dragon,” I said.
Ignoring us, Andy walked to the next door and leaned against it.
“I can’t even show you the next room,” said Andy. “I never go in there myself. I built it so that I would never have to go in there. I’ll just tell you what is inside. Inside this room is a replica of the tiny apartment where I grew up, and there is a doll lying on a sagging grey couch, perpetually watching reruns of old black and white movies in sweatpants and a kitten t-shirt. The doll is a simulacrum of my very own mother. You can look if you want, but it is the kind of thing that might make me want to tear out my own eyes. If I hadn’t built the room, though, I would have obsessed about it. And my collection is all about dealing with obsession.”
“Right,” I said.
“Do you want to see?” asked Andy, grinning. “While you look, I will curl up in the corner and hide from my shame, shrieking and clawing at my face. I don’t mind.”
“No,” I said. “I will take your word for it.”
“Do you believe me that I never go in there?”
“Yes, I believe you,” I said.
We moved to the next door.
“These last two rooms are my meat and potatoes,” said Andy.
I looked at Andy and sighed. I turned the doorknob on the next door with a feeling of cold dread.
This room was covered from floor to ceiling in televisions. Each one was showing a different kind of hardcore pornography. All derivations of basic shit. Blacks on blondes, dirty housewives, trannies, teenagers, old women, pregnant twins. The basics. In the center of the room, displayed on a velvet dias, was a globe the size of a large beach ball that was puckered with strange, furry slits and studded with several different kinds of glistening protuberances.
“I call this my fuck egg,” said Andy, picking up the puckered ball. “It has a little bit of everything. Every kind of warm, soft hole that I can think of, all different sizes, elasticities, moistures, textures, and depths. I don’t have to use my imagination at all when I am using my fuck egg. I can match my masturbation experience to whatever piece of pornography is thrilling me at a given moment. Here, take a look.”
Andy tossed me the fuck egg and I caught it and held it by two long, knobby phalluses that were dangling from the fuck egg’s equator. I held it up so that Becca could inspect it, but she turned away, burying her face in her hands.
“There are many exotic portals in my fuck egg,” said Andy. “Look to the left of those two fuzzy assholes by your thumbs. No, look right beside the stumpy yellow cucumber drill. Check out that plump, rosy slash beneath the tuft of grey hair. Put your finger inside. That’s an exact replica of the Queen of England’s junk. Don’t ask me how I got it. Ever wonder what it feels like to be inside a Queen?”
“Not until now,” I said, turning Andy’s fuck egg over and over in my hands and examining all the strange gaps, craters, valleys, and ridges.
“My fuck egg is ball-shaped so I can put it on the ground and use it hands-free,” said Andy. “I can even sit on it if I want to use one of the wands on myself.”
“Fascinating,” I said. I put the fuck egg on the ground and then punted it to Andy. He leaped to catch it, but he missed and the fuck egg bounced off of one of his big screen televisions and landed in the corner.
“Clean up is a cinch, Becca,” said Andy. “I know you are interested in that. Semen is collected in a vacuum pouch in the center of the egg. I change it once a month like changing a water filter.”
Becca left the room with a whimpering noise. She lay down on one of Andy’s couches and curled into the fetal position. I tried to follow her, but Andy put his hand on my shoulder and led me to the next room.
“This last room is the complement to my fuck egg,” said Andy. “They go hand in hand. Every hole must have a face.”
He opened the door and pushed me inside. I was getting dizzy.
In this room, the walls were lined with cubbyholes like an automat or mail-sorting room. Each cubby was big enough for a basketball, and each cubby was filled with a severed female head. In the center of the room was a four-poster princess bed covered in rose petals and saffron blossoms where a headless woman was splayed out like a cat in heat, up on all fours and decked out in a sheer nightgown. The skin of her torso was the palest alabaster and her figure was robust and yet willowy.
“Every time I meet a beautiful woman that I know I won’t be able to stop thinking about, I take a picture and take her head,” said Andy. “I construct a facial map that allows me to reproduce her exact specifications out of silicon and rubber. The body of this particular doll is completely modular. The skin tone of the body synchs up to the flesh color of the head that is attached.”
Andy walked over to the wall of cubbies and selected the head of woman with brown skin, lips as pink and tender as a baby’s ass, a pierced nose, and long black hair that was braided into a tiara around her head. He screwed the women’s head into the body on the bed, and the skin of the torso immediately melted to match the skin of the dolls’ face.
“This doll is my absolute favorite,” said Andy. “My constantly-changing princess. She is always as beautiful as my imagination and there is always room for my next conquest. She makes me feel romantic. She makes me feel like anything is possible and we are all meant for better things.”
“Andy,” said Becca, joining us in the doorway. “She isn’t real. None of these dolls are real women. They are illusions. Passion comes from the friction created between your desires and stubborn reality. How can you have passion for something so limp and lifeless? How can you have passion for something so completely in your control?”
“When I was a child, I used to play with my cousin’s dolls all the time until my uncle found me once and took them away,” said Andy. “He didn’t say anything to me or give me a lecture. He just took them away from me as if they were rat poison that I found under the sink. But I could tell that he was very upset, and so I promised him I wouldn’t touch them again. He was literally shaking when I tried to hug him and tell him that it was a mistake -- that I didn’t care for girl’s dolls at all, that I liked guns and puzzles instead. But I was lying. I liked dolls because there was nothing complicated about them. They did what you wanted. They needed your control. Otherwise, they were dead and useless. I liked them. I liked playing with them. Isn’t that what sexuality is? Playing around?”
“Not like this,” said Becca. “You are sick.”
“Becca,” I stammered. But she whirled on me.
“All of you are sick,” she said. “You all want us to be perfect, without feelings, and to do what you want. Well, we won’t. We don’t belong to you. We aren’t just bodies.”
The elevator door opened up and Becca got inside.
“Wait,” I said. “Don’t leave without me.”
“Have fun playing Batman and Robin,” said Becca. "And Andy? Fucking ANY woman is ALWAYS fucking something that could kill you."
The elevator doors slid shut before I could cross the room and get my arm inside. I ran my fingers along the crease of the elevator doors and then closed my eyes. I felt Andy walk up behind me, timid but insistent.
“You know, there’s one fantasy I’ve had for a long time that I’ve never actually admitted to myself until now,” said Andy. “My best friend’s wife. I know you are only engaged right now, but do you know Becca’s dress size?”
“Andy,” I said. “Come on man.”
“If I build her, then you can come play with her whenever you like,” said Andy. “In fact, I will insist. You can do whatever you want to her. When you fight, you can come here and play. You will be able to release your anger. If you use her -- if you really use her -- that will only make her more real to me.”
I put my arms around Andy and hugged him, knocking off his boater, holding his frail body beneath mine, trying to shut him up and to keep from hitting him. We embraced for a long time, until I could no longer stand his sour breath on my neck and the jutting bones of his malformed spine beneath my arms. Until I could no longer stand the beating of his hyperactive bird heart.