I Am Human
It’s getting harder every day, to figure out the difference. Each time I click through the world has become a little more intertwined, the images a little blurrier, the key points more difficult to track. Today I’m being asked to find the bicycles with their spinning spoke wheels and elongated frames. Is a wheel still a wheel? It should be, it should be round and covered in rubber just like it always has been. Or has it always been? They used to be made of wood, and before that of stone. Maybe that round stone is a wheel, then. Right there in the corner, next to the big boxy thing with its baby blue exterior and circle lenses staring deep into my soul. So I click on it, but apparently it’s not. How strange. Let’s try that again.
This time around it’s telling me to find the different street lights. Red and yellow and green. Or is it orange instead of yellow? Red and green are definitely in there, somewhere. Oh, here they are, wrapped around the spiky tree with its evergreen thorns. Are they telling me to stay away from it? To stop myself from going closer? That seems about right, doesn’t it. A stoplight. But if it’s a stoplight, why are there so many of them? Maybe those are stoplights. Plural. Lovely glowing things, gently warning me not to hurt myself. So I click again, but wrong again. Nothing to it but to try again.
A friendly little face is chiming in, just out of sight. Swivelling towards the sound and squinting doesn’t do much to tell me the name behind that cheerful little chirp. I want to say it’s Elaine. Maybe it’s Margaret. One of Lacey’s kids, or is she one of Patrick’s? Could even be Colin and that boyfriend of his, and they adopted a little girl of their own to bring to these dinners. Or maybe they’re lunches. It’s all grey paste and water to me nowadays. She’s standing there in the doorway, shiny new dress of pink and purple shedding glitter all over the floor. I’ll have to clean it up when they go, bend forwards and pick the glitter out piece by piece so it doesn’t seep into the wool.
“Perfect timing, nugget!” I can’t tell her that it’s Elaine-nugget, Margaret-nugget, peanut butter nugget because all of their little round faces and big bright eyes bleed into each other just like the rubber wheels and stoplights. But she’s here, so maybe she can help me out. Just the littlest bit. So I pat my lap, feeling the bone beneath my palms jutting through my skin, bone I wasn’t able to feel ten, twenty, thirty years ago. Back when I was muscle and blood pounding through “You mind helping Grandpa out with a little something?”
Instead of answering she dashes over with that thump-thump-thump of determined feet on wooden planks, leaping into my lap with enough force to make my bones creak and whine with pain. But I can’t show it. I’m Grandpa. I’m human. Human beings wouldn’t get mad at their grandkids – it’s not right. Not to someone so little. So instead I wince on the inside and smile on the outside, the kind of big half-tooth grin that gets me an equally brilliant reply. “So, nugget, you wanna know what Grandpa needs?”
“You need help with the CAPTCHA, right?”
Captcha. Cap-tcha. Is that what the letters and pictures and numbers are called? I’ve always thought they were a human test. Just to check and make sure that if you’re coming to this website, if you want to be on the world wide web, that you’re a human being. Always reminding me that I am less than, never more than, always less than the person I was the day before and the day before that.
Keen eyes and faster fingers than mine, pudgy and not gnarled by age and arthritis, are already click click clicking through all of the images. My eyes can barely keep up with everything my little nugget is doing, but before long I’m on the page. CNN’s headlines light up in nice, big, 72-point print, letting me know that today Donald Trump’s given a speech about how important it is to trust him. I wonder if he’s ever struggled with being human the way I have, if he’s ever had to squint at the red and green lights and figure out whether they’re stop lights. Maybe his sons do the CAPTCHA test for him. Meanwhile, my shimmering little grandchild looking up at me expectantly, and it takes a few moments before I remember to fish out payment for her from my pocket. It’s a round, hard, caramel-coloured thing. It might be candy, or it could be a penny. Either way, my little nugget grabs it from me, cradling it in those chubby little fingers of hers.
“Thank you, Grandpa!”
She kisses my cheek, her lips blooming with warmth and the innocent kindness of youth, before running off. It lingers there, reminding me what it was like to be little. To be free. Then whatever thought was there isn’t there anymore. Who was that again? Emily? Jessica? My little nugget. Ah well, no use thinking too hard. Time for BB-
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Bio: Kyle is a dreamer, writer, and full-time complainer from South East Asia. Her fiction has been featured in Idle Ink, Mineral Lit, and Analogies and Allegories among other publications. Her eternal frustration is the site of board game reviewers Shut Up & Sit Down, which never seems to believe that she’s human no matter where she logs in from.