My 81-year-old mom said her New Year’s 2044 party would be her “weirdest ever.” I asked her what that meant. She tee-heed like a teenager. Said I’d find out if I came.
Spending New Year’s with Mom and her crazy octogenarian girlfriends wasn’t my original plan, but the guy I’d lived with the past seven years left me the week before Christmas. Said he’d “fallen for someone else,” a line I’d heard way too often. Drowning my mid-life sorrows in a bottle of Greenland scotch and some old Ryan Gosling movies was a lonely proposition, so I went to Mom’s.
I arrived fashionably late and did a double take. Mom and her girlfriends were jabbering away with men that all looked like younger versions of their favorite Hollywood heart throb, 83-year-old, George Clooney.
Several Georges wore blue scrubs with stethoscopes. They were Clooney’s character, Dr. Ross, from the popular 1994 television series, ER. Mom’s best friend, Lisa Lockhart, pulled toy gun from her black leather trench and aimed it at the well-dressed bank-robber-George from the 1998 film Out of Sight. He raised his hands and declared innocence. Tall, skinny Lisa was no J.Lo. Then I spotted my short, chubby mom, stuffed in a slinky black dress and a long brunette wig, flirting with a George from Clooney’s 2001 Ocean’s Eleven. Mom was no Julia Roberts.
It was a weird scene. I sank into mom’s magnetically-levitated cloud sofa and a voice-interactive catering cart rolled up, offered me a cannabis-infused Moonshot. I gulped it down, reached for another and wondered if the Georges were male strippers who’d whip off their costumes at midnight and gyrate.
Mom plopped down beside me.
“Have you noticed I’ve been in a much better mood these past few weeks?”
It was a strange, random question, given the circumstances, but I said yes. Truth was, I had noticed. I figured she was done grieving for my deceased dad, ready to move on.
“Well, that’s because I gave myself a George for Christmas.”
“What do you mean, gave yourself a George?”
“I called Companions 4U, that robot company everyone’s talking about, and ordered the newly-licensed Ocean’s-Eleven-George. Sold your dad’s sports car to pay for it.”
“You and your girlfriends got yourselves George Clooney robots? For Christmas?”
She cocked her head and smirked. “Yep. After Tammy Wilder got herself a Dr. Ross-George last Christmas, we all decided to get one this Christmas. But not all Dr. Ross’s. That would have been too weird.”
I burst out laughing mid-Moonshot. It dribbled down my dress.
The room went silent. Heads turned. I hot-flashed head-to-toe.
“Sorry,” I sputtered.
A few feet away, Tammy Wilder’s Dr. Ross-George threw his stethoscope around her waist, pulled her close and kissed her deeply. The question flew from my mouth. “Whoa. Are these sex-bots?”
“Tammy and some of the other girls have fully-equipped pleasure-bots. But I chose a companion-bot. I wanted compassion, not passion.”
I cupped her chin in my hands. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
She looked down at her martini. “I was afraid you’d think I was getting dementia.”
I tweaked her cheek. “You run a thriving online apparel business. There’s no way you have dementia.”
She squeezed my hand and whispered. “My holiday sales doubled thanks to George.”
“He’s very analytical. Plus, he rubs my neck when I’ve had too much screen time.”
I was gobsmacked. A handsome, loving companion, masseuse and business partner all wrapped up in one? I wanted a George. Or maybe a Ryan Gosling.
“His skin, hair, corneas are made from George’s Clooney’s DNA.”
“And his voice, facial expressions and gestures are based on Clooney’s movie clips. Inside, though, he’s all AI chips and mechanical stuff.” She paused, then whispered: “I like him better your dad.”
“He’s sweet and non-judgmental.” She looked down, fidgeted with her glass. “Unlike your father.” I nodded, patted her hand.
She pulled me off the sofa. “Come meet my sweet George.”
His–it’s?– brown eyes oozed sincerity as he extended his hand. I thought it would feel stiff and plasticene, but it was warm and fleshy. “I’ve heard so much about you Maddie, may I call you Maddie?” His voice had that soothing Clooney rasp.
“Your mom adores you.”
“How would you know? You’re not human.”
His eyes bored into mine. “Because I measure and analyze your mom’s emotions by changes the pitch of her voice, body temperature, facial muscles and eye movements.”
That shut me up.
“I see that made sense to you.” He leaned in. “I’m eager to get to know you, Maddie. It will enhance your mom’s emotional attachment to me.”
He was refreshingly direct. I said I wanted to get to know him, too. “I have a bazillion questions.”
He grinned. “I have a bazillion answers.”
Mom chimed in. “Ask away at supper tomorrow. You promised you’d come.”
I gave her a thumbs up.
I stuck around a while longer, said hello to mom’s friends and their Georges. It was easy to tell the pleasure-bots from the companions. They rubbed their hands all over their originator’s backs, hugged them close and whispered sweet nothings. Tammy Wilder got so aroused she and her George left early.
The companion Georges were conversational and inquisitive, even with other Georges. I overheard one pleasure-George ask another George what it was like to be a companion. He said: “Fun. Great exercise for my in-line memory.”
When I got home, I plunked myself in front of my bedroom screen and explored the Companions 4U website. My heart raced when I saw several Ryan Gosling models.
I closed my eyes and imagined spending the rest of my life with robot-Ryan. A soothing warmth spread through my core. I checked the price of the new hybrid pleasure-companion La La Land model. Checked my bank account.
“He’s worth it,” I said to no one. “He may break my bank account, but he’ll never break my heart.”