Crush Ctrl: How Will I Love With Wires for Veins?
February 14, 2023 / Pebbles Moomau
Can a robot feel like a human can? Can a robot kiss like a human can? Can a robot love like a human can?
A crush is my favorite part about being human. It’s the physical embodiment of purity: intimacy, vulnerability, a flush. There’s a flutter and shiver within your body. There are risks and hesitations. Sometimes your crush reciprocates; sometimes they don’t. In other instances, they had a crush on you, but you didn’t know until much later. You were unaware of the feelings until they are later unearthed in the memories of an old self, and you laugh about it amidst a recollection:
“I admit I had a crush on you then.”
“What? No! You did? I had one on you!”
And then what? (You coexist knowing tenderness was once there, but it’s gone now, and it’s somehow still okay.)
As humans, we’re privileged to experience the depth of emotion. Not only do we feel it in our heads, but we get to feel with a palpable sense: touch. To be human is to feel. We get to cry and laugh and grieve and scream and blink and smile and wallow and swallow and regret and rejoice and forgive. We get to hold hands and scrape our knees and have our gums bleed if we don’t floss. We get to blush and we get butterflies. We get shaky hands and our pupils dilate.
Will love exist when we’re replaced by machines? When I have wires instead of veins? When my fingers are made of steel? Will there still be a bodily buzz? Will I feel the weight in my throat, the one where it feels like swallowing an anchor? When we lose our humanity, we lose the thrill of a crush, the sacredness that lies right below the skin of the feeler.
AI cannot understand or translate the simple beauties of love. There’s no way to accurately code glances in grocery stores or hands in hair. The post-human world loses love the moment we lose the physicalities of a crush because the tangible experiences are required for love to bloom. The nervous feeling before one’s confession of love is love itself.
Confessing your love to someone is the pinnacle of the human experience. There’s a rush; there’s fear. It’ll either end in devastation or ecstasy. Realistically, it’s unethical not to tell your crush that you like them because fearing the repercussions confines you into succumbing. You withhold the possibilities, and you waste your time.
It’s all silly. Someone, unbeknownst to them, can alter your bodily state. How can some person, in the blink of an eye, make ME nervous in MY world? Why is my heart beating faster around this person than anyone else? And why are my cheeks getting red? Why am I stumbling over my words? When did they become the only person in the room?
I was always so nervous about holding the hands of lovers because of how easily my hands sweat. (I know now I have hyperhidrosis.) But then I came across someone over the summer, this new being in my universe, and I spent a season learning about them. I realized that I wanted to hold their hand. For the first half of our time together, I had to pretend I wasn’t itching to touch them. It was simply friendly chats in the park and trips to the beach. But then there’s the secret build-up of hesitations. (Do they look at all of their friends like that? Do their knees always touch the person that they sit next to?) There’s a build-up until it crumbles. I’m exasperated on my knees: I like you. I’m sorry, but I’m not really sorry because why would I ever apologize for that? I didn’t mean to like you, and it’s okay if it isn’t reciprocated, but I can’t help it! If I'm honest I would really like to hold your hand.
(I then learned that they do not look at their friends like that.)
So, when this person left for school — as summer lovers do — I felt this indescribable, heavy turmoil in my body that I had never felt before. I merely wanted to grab and grasp every part of them. I wanted to be around them, not in a sensual, sexual, tongue-in-mouth way, but in a please let me touch your shoulder and let our fingers brush while we walk type of way.
I wanted to grasp at this person like my hand was sticking out of the car window and they were the wind. I wanted to hold and touch this person, and I was angry that I couldn’t. I was trapped wanting a person who was time zones away. The only thing I could do was yearn; they were not mine to have nor to hold. I was writing letters and licking the envelope, knowing that was the closest to touching them that I could get. I replayed the way our feet would kick under the table and the way our fingers brushed when handing over the chapstick. The mirage of our experiences together and the mutual fires we felt for the other became a memory in an instant.
Touch. There’s some innate human impulse to touch. It’s the ability to physically feel the crush that you have for another within you. There’s love in the sweat on my hands touching theirs, and there’s love in the red in my cheeks. There’s love in the way my words somersault, and there’s love when my heart skips a beat. Will love still exist when we extract our humanity? When I’m a machine, will the electrical current running through my body warm up my circuit board at the thought of a lover?
The love of a machine isn’t real. Sweaty hands are real. Racing hearts are real. Red cheeks are real. Questioning every word I say aloud is real. It’s beautiful that another person can be responsible for the butterflies in my stomach. The physicality of a crush is essential to the human experience. It’s all so bodily. It’s all so human.
Will love still exist when we’re all machines? I’m not sure. I do know, though, that my metal arteries will still rush blood for you a little faster than normal, and my metal fingers would love to clink against yours while we walk. You can tangle the wires in my body, and you can leave a rust spot on my neck. And if machines have eyes, imagine mine dilating when I see you. ■
By: Pebbles Moomau
Graphics: Ava Jiang
Graphics: Ava Jiang