The Moment I Knew

I'm scribbling this on the back of a Thai food takeout menu I found in Priscilla's house of electrically powered horrors, even though I saw a perfectly good (and thanks to Nano-Priscilla, perfectly powered-up) laptop in one of the bedrooms. But using any of the technology in the house feels wrong, for some reason. Like I'd be somehow accepting or validating everything Priscilla and the nanotech are doing.

Being trapped in here with the woman who should be but isn't my wife, I keep coming back to the same question: when was the moment I knew that I loved her, couldn't live without her? Because whatever that moment was, it curved the arc of my life - if I'm being really honest, it changed the course of human history. Because without Priscilla, I never would have been inspired to write the software that now powers the nanotech. And without that software, maybe the Blackout never would have happened. None of this series of catastrophes and heartbreaks would have. Don't think the irony of that isn't fully noted and recognized - meeting Priscilla eventually and inexorably led to me losing Priscilla. The one thing I want back the most from my old life is the thing that caused my old life to cease to exist.

Some people talk about love at first sight, but that wasn't Priscilla and me. When I first saw her, she annoyed the crap out of me. My roommate at the time, Peter, brought her over to "study." By that, I mean he was trying to use his computer science prowess to woo and impress her - only, it turned out Priscilla was way smarter than Peter, and he needed her help more than she needed his. Anyway, she came over to our apartment while I was trying to get some important work done, and - well, I shouldn't lie to my own journal. I wasn't working, I was trying to watch "Futurama," and her entrance into my life was a rude interruption. I knew Peter liked her, and so according to the unspoken rules of men, she was off limits to me. So after he introduced us, I went back to my show, and put the whole thing out of my head. For about 30 seconds. And then I spent the rest of the night regretting I had been impolite to her, sure she'd forever think of me as "that dick watching the robot cartoon."

Only... I got a second chance. And, being me, I screwed that one up, too. I was working one night in the computer lab on a less-than-authorized project - a bit of software that could solve all of the lower-level computer science coursework (which, yes, I intended to sell to idiots; we all have to eat). Priscilla came in looking for Peter and she found me instead. She was sad about something, I never quite knew what. And I felt this urge to comfort her. To do whatever I could to make her feel better. As she was walking away I remember thinking that I should drop everything and follow her. Was that the moment I knew? May well have been, except I hesitated, and she left, and I wouldn't see her again for more than a year.

So maybe this is a story about third chances. About the morning when I was getting coffee after staying up all night working on code, and she was getting coffee because she's a normal person who sleeps at night and is awake during the day. We stood next to each other for two minutes in line before I built up the nerve to talk to her - and then before I could, she turned to me and asked if I was Peter's friend. The one who loves "Futurama." And just as I was starting to apologize for what an ass I'd been to her the night we met, she told me she loves "Futurama" too. And by the time we'd finished our coffee, we'd made plans for our first date.

But none of these were really the moment. There were a hundred more moments just like them, and each one holds special meaning for me - the night we first kissed, when I proposed, our wedding day and the day I got my deal at Google with her right by my side... all of those pale in comparison to the moment.

Three months after we started dating, I broke up with Priscilla. I wasn't mature enough to handle balancing my school life and my romantic life - simply because I'd never really had a romantic life before. I'd had girlfriends, but nothing serious. Nothing that couldn't be set aside at a moment's notice so I could play Diablo with my friends for six hours. As I was telling Priscilla how I felt, trying to let her down gently, I got a sour feeling in the pit of my stomach. I remember thinking she was remarkably composed for someone getting dumped by an obvious loser like me, but I also could tell that beneath the mask, she was genuinely hurt. And in that moment, all I could think about was her walking away from me the year before in the computer lab. How much I regretted not going after her, doing anything I could to make her feel better. Whether it was chemical signals in my brain or some unknowable, transcendent force of the universe, I loved her, and I cared more about her happiness than my own, and now I was putting myself in the position of making her unhappy. I was a lunatic. An idiot. A complete and total Every-Man-on-Earth. So I had to fix it. With a lot of work, I did fix it. I convinced her I was delirious from lack of sleep, which wasn't hard for her to believe, and I told her I loved her and asked her to please never do to me what I had just tried to do to her.

I probably made that seem like it was the moment. Sorry about that. It wasn't.

The moment was that night, at dinner, when I said something dumb that I've totally forgotten, and she laughed, and I loved her even more, and I already thought I loved her as much as I could. I realized that every day with her could be better than the one before. I knew I wanted to be with her forever. That was it. A perfect moment. The moment I knew.

Today, in this house, trapped with what's left of Priscilla... when I looked in her eyes and saw no trace of the woman I once loved... that was the moment I knew I had to kill her.

- Aaron Pittman

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