My hangnail was throbbing. I’d been kicked off my desk once more by two children who needed to play the Wii U, either Super Mario or Just Dance. I don’t remember. I am basically a wandering member of the lost tribe in the desert of our apartment, seeking a thoughtful oasis where I might set my computer and my thoughts. Impossible. A room of one’s own? Will settle for desk. It’s a miracle I get any writing done.
So I balanced the laptop on my thighs at the kitchen table to write an assignment for the creative course I follow online. I might have been trying to adjust the weight of the machine. I don’t remember what was happening with my hardware, but damn, that hangnail. Pulsing like a galactic phenomenon. Had I tried to trim my own cuticle left-handed? Is that what happened?
Somehow, I still don’t understand how, the laptop slipped from my grasp while I was typing. Cold hands, throbbing fingers, odd angles, poor support. My husband was at the end of the galley kitchen. He saw everything happen. We both watched it travel in slow-motion to the terra cotta floor. Bonk.
Yowch! he yelled.
It bounced and took another hop down the stone step. Ponk.
Ooooh! he called like a cinema voiceover.
We both stared at the laptop. Shit, I muttered. But this stuff happened all the time, right? It would be fine. My phones, for example, had taken more than one hard spill, and once a brand-new phone skated all the way down the C concourse in Sea-Tac, no worse for the wear. I was blessed with good tech luck. It would be fine. I gently lifted the laptop up by its base.
A greenish-gray butterfly with yellow wings bloomed in the top left corner and continued to spread downward like a weeping Etch-a-Sketch.
It’s done, I pronounced sadly. Just a tad over two years with me and that’s it. I wanted to cry.
Looks like it’s time someone got a new laptop! he crowed from his corner beyond the dishwasher.
Just let me grieve! I yelled. You never let me just be sad about stuff! It’s broken.
He pulled a serious face. Maybe you can get it fixed. He thought for a moment. We bought the kid a new laptop and it’s still under our bed. It’s just like yours. Unbox it.
He was right. Our son had fried his pandemic laptop with excessive gaming on a deep sofa covered in a mound of blankets. What IS he doing in that techgloo? We both wondered. Some game. But his obsession got the better of him and that laptop had the last laugh, frying down entirely.
I don’t want that laptop, I said. Anyway, it’s his laptop. I want mine to be not broken.
Logic! he accused joyfully.
I put on my pajamas. A sick pit yawned in my stomach. I had deleted my laptop. I had been careless and plagued by a throbbing hangnail and somehow had failed to hold onto my lifeline, letting it fall slackly onto the waxed bricks. I dreamed all night that the LCD crystals drained to black and then a swarm of green and yellow butterflies flew up and out of the case, leaving the hollow hive for a new home.
The next day I took it to a repair shop. Shaking heads, husband and wife together, and their six-year-old daughter to boot as she chewed lazily on a croissant. Too hard, they said. Touch screen. Carbon ThinkPad. Need expert. Supply chain expensive. Delay. We’ll message you. Or not. It will cost a lot. Maybe no good news. We’ll let you know.
Reader, I prayed for the suffering body of that laptop to cease, for its sclerotic eye, as I trudged across town with its dark slim self tucked into a backpack. Maybe I shook the Etch-a-Sketch? Perhaps the walk was good for it? Maybe it could tell I did not want the it to die. I hissed through clenched teeth in the cold, YOU WILL NOT DIE ON MY TODAY CARBON THINKPAD! YOU ARE MY LIFELINE.
Once home I opened it up and carefully placed it on the contested desk space. I turned it on. Reader, I am not kidding, that laptop screen was healing itself. The Etch-a-Sketch grains were now flowing up and to the left like landfill, like that island in Dubai or a Richard Serra sculpture, until the vacant corner was a fraction of the original injury.
I didn’t need to open that spare laptop after all, depreciating in its factory box under my bed! I had faith-healed my Carbon ThinkPad. I didn’t even mind the subtle Doppler shadow that remained, looking like a severe storm system on the Doppler 5000. Yes, it’s missing the equivalent of a button eye now, and its fur is coming untufted a bit. But I have the Velveteen Laptop, proving again that love makes you real. Can make even a laptop heal.