Zoe van Djik


This story is over 5 years old.


Early Adopter

This Valentine's Day, enjoy a timeless tale of courtship, love, and loss as experienced through the connective technologies of the internet age, and beyond.

Today, we've got a very special Valentine's Day edition of Terraform, a timeless story of digital bonding, as transduced by Kevin Bankston, the director of the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute. What begins as a tale of linking up in the internet age—well, I won't spoil anything. Instead, I'll just say grab someone you love, and settle in for a story of love and technology like few others on your feed. Enjoy. -the ed.



Craigslist> SF bay area> san francisco> community> missed connections: September 27: Atari Teenage Riot in Dolores Park (Mission District). We passed each other yesterday while I was walking my dog Baxter in Dolores Park. You (brunette curls, green eyes, wry smile) stopped to pet the dog (terrier, Jack Russell, brown and white) and then commented on my old Atari logo t-shirt because you were wearing an Atari Teenage Riot band t-shirt ("I guess that means I'm the more aggressive one" you said). But then you kept going before I (tall, dark, momentarily speechless) could really talk to you. I've never used CL missed connections before--it always seemed like a long shot--but my friend said that even if you didn't see it, maybe someone who knows you would, and I'm going to be kicking myself for a long time if I don't try something, so...hope we can connect!

Subject: Atari Teenage Riot in Dolores Park
Dear Old Skool Atari Boy--Glad you posted despite not being familiar with this so very newfangled technology. One of my friends did indeed see it and put 2 and 2 together. Hopefully you also know how to use these cool new things called cellphones. Grab a drink at the Make-Out Room tomorrow night? Here's my number, text me...


Her: "Not bad for an old man."
Him: "Learned a few things in my time. You’re not so bad yourself. I mean, for someone so clearly lacking experience and refinement in the art of--Ow!" 
Her: "Don't tease."
Him: "You did! If you can make fun of me for being older--"
Her: "No tickling!"
Him: "Besides, it's not that big a difference in the grand scheme, is it? My folks were ten years apart..."
Her: "Ten years is a lot longer than it used to be. In the 70s or the Bronze Age or whenever it was your parents met. Things move faster, change faster."
Him: "Point. Certainly, your entitled millennial flakiness is worlds different from..."
Her: "...the sullen sarcasm of your Generation X."
Him: "I was more on the cusp between X and Y.... Do we still talk about Y anymore?"
Her: "Yeah, no. Oops, just a sec."
Him: "Who's texting at this hour?"
Her: "Not texting. 'Tweeting'. New micro-blogging thing. Been playing with it since I got back from Austin, it was all over South by Southwest. You should try."
Him: "But you just made me join Facebook."
Her: "They're totally different. Different audience, different medium."
Him: "Eh. Maybe in a few years. After we're sure it's not gonna turn into another digital ghost town like Friendster-MySpace-Orkut-whatever."
Her: "Oh, my dear old man. You will try it now. Or, well, tomorrow. Otherwise you won't be able to 'follow' my 'tweets'! Don't you want to 'follow' me?"
Him: "Of course. If you insist. I will follow your tweets. I will follow you anywhere."
Her: "Say it again."
Him: "I. Will. Follow. You. Anywhere."



Him: I'm scared
Her: I know :-(
Him: Hon im freaking out
Her: :-( I'm so sorry I couldn't fly out in time where are u now?
Him: in his hospital room with family we're about to do it
Her: You're actually texting right now? Even I wouldn't do that ;-)
Him: Learned it by watching you! ;-) Whatever. fuck smartphone etiquette. This is what I need now need to be talking to you right now
Her: I'm so so sorry. I love u so much
Him: I'm scared. I'm really scared. I don't know how to do this any of this first mom now dad how am I supposed to do this alone? I am freaking out
Her: Calm down. Breathe. You're not alone. You're with me. I'm here. I'm always here
Her: I'm always here
Her: u still there?
Him: I'm here. I need to tell you something honey
Him: This is important
Her: What?
Her: What is it?
Him: You home yet? Need something. Bag in glovebox in my car
Her: What is it you really need it now?
Him: Please just get it
Him: Hon?
Him: Hon??
Her: HFS you're doing this NOW?????
Him: What? 
Him: ???? 
Him: Remember what we said about tone and txt messaging hon can't hear tone of voice u mad at me? Pls don't be mad at me!
Her: nonono its beautiful love i love u i love u but youre really doing this over text?
Him: Like I said I learned it by watching you :-P
Her: Don't tease! Is this real?? 
Him: Yes I'm doing this over text I'm doing this now because I'm sure i love you i need you i waited so long because of THIS but fuck THIS he wouldn't want me to waste time and I want to tell him we're doing this before he's gone even if he wont hear me i know what i want i don't want to do any of it without you never ever good bad whatever I dont care I just want u with me ok??
Her: yes
Him: yes yes???
Her: yes love yes I do I do I will marry you but isn't this weird with your dad?
Him: No no is perfect he loved you he'd be soooo happy he'd want us to be happy
Him: Shit shit aunt joon is giving me stinkeye have to go will talk later 
Him: I LOVE YOU!!!
Her: <3 <3 <3



Him: There you are! Was looking on AIM.
Her: Like I told you, no more AIM for me, just Gchat. About time you migrated too ;) How's the conference?
Him: Fine. Miss you. Video chat?
Her: You mean video chat...or video chat?
Him: Um. The italicized version. It is date night, after all.
Her: Indeed it is. I just need to finish this one email but then I can sign off.
Him: Meet you back on AIM in a few minutes?
Her: Skype. Really, tho, time to retire the AIM.
Him: So we're replacing one tool with two?
Her: [image attached]
Him: Heh. What's that?
Her: Grumpy cat. It's something we kids call a meme. On this thing we kids call the Interweb. That I'm using to make fun of you for being an old-ass grump. We're replacing one lame tool with two better ones. And Skype's encrypted. Particularly important when you’re on crappy unsecured hotel WiFi and we're...italicizing.
Him: Point. BTW, reservation deposit's due tomorrow if want to lock dates. You sure? Totally cool with the small destination thing if you are, just want to make sure you're sure sure sure.
Her: I'm sure sure sure. Everyone else can just see it on Facebook and be jealous and then party with us when we get back.
Him: Alright then, operation exotic beach wedding is finally a go!!!
Her: :-D! OK, I'm ready. See you on Skype.



Him: "Hello, my beautiful wife. What's up?"
Her: "Howdy, my weirdly formal but still adorable hubby. Where are you?"
Him: "Hotel bar, client dinner with Jameel in a few."
Her: "Oh, forgot it's earlier there. How few?"
Him: "Like, 10 minutes."
Her: "OK, plenty of time. Want you to do me a favor. Go download Snapchat from the app store and set up an account so I can send you something."
Him: "Another photo app? 
Her: "Follow my lead, babe. Won't regret it."
Him: "Gimme a minute...downloading. How's your day?"
Her: "Another long lonely day banging on code in my pajamas. Miss you."
Him: "You too. Okay, downloaded...and...username's my name, no spaces or anything."
Her: "Creative."
Him: "Screw you."
Her: "If only you were here. But this'll have to do. Sending pic now...Merry Christmas!"
Him:  "Whoa. Wow. Cute Santa hat. Is that the lingerie I got you for Valentine's? Wait! Where'd it go?"
Her: "That's the point. Disappears after a few seconds. That way I can feel comfortable sending more...intimate pictures."
Him:  "Ahhhhhh. Got it. Like it. But what--oh hey Jameel! No, not too early, just--Hon, gotta go, but I'll call as soon as I'm back in the room."
Her: "I'm certain you will. Wish you were here."
Him:  "Me too."



Her: How are you not on Instagram by now?"
Him:  "Oh for fuck's sake--"


Him:  "Please take those off? You look like a glasshole."
Her:  "This is so much better than Google Glass was ever going to be. These guys aren't afraid of facial recognition. So many more possibilities."
Him:  "Hope you don't fall into a manhole or something..."
Her:  "Think I'll manage, thanks."
Him:  "I just wish you'd talk to me."
Her:  "I am talking to you. I just want to play with my new toy too. Let me have my fun. Besides, trust me, you'll be ignoring me and playing augmented reality games on your own pair within the year. I'll take them off when we get to dinner, promise."  
Him:  "Where is this car, anyway?"
Her:  "Spex, when's the Uber arriving? Four minutes."
Him:  "So you'll be doing a lot of that from now on?"
Her: "You should talk, Mister 'Siri, remind me tomorrow morning to remember that I have to remind myself at 10 o'clock on Tuesday to remind me that....' Anyway. You'll follow my lead as always and have one by Christmas, I'm sure."
Him:  "I'm sure."
Her:  "Oh.... See that couple PDAing on the bench? The Spex say I'm only one degree away from him, he works with Margot. The woman is two degrees away and...huh...isn't his wife."
Him:  "Stop being nosy. And stop using those things to ignore me."
Her:  "Fine, I'll ignore you without them."
Him:  "Look--" 
Her:  "No, you look. You don't get to imply that I'm emotionally cheating on you and then get pissy that my feelings are hurt."
Him:  "Wasn't implying anything, just asking who this work guy is who keeps talking to you and liking all your shit on Instagram and Facebook and--"
Her:  "You said flirting, not talking."
Him:  "Because you are."
Her:  "I'm allowed to have friends. I'm even allowed to flirt, dammit. You put so much weight on things that are just...ephemeral bullshit, not important. I'm not sitting on a park bench making out with someone who isn't you. It's not real, it's, a game."
Him:  "You used to play those games with me."
Her:  "You used to be around more instead of disappearing and leaving me alone for weeks at a time! ...Fuck. Fuck. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I yelled. But really, you can't trust me after a decade of marriage?"
Him:  "Well, a bright little girl I know once told me a whole lot can change in ten years, especially these days."
Her:  "Fuck you. I'm going home."
Him:  "No. I'll go home. Go enjoy the city with your new robot eyes. Maybe stream it with your new friend."
Her:  "Jesus, did you really just say that?"
Him:  "I don't mean...I just...we need to cool off. I need to cool off. We can't go to dinner like this."
Her:  "You think? Jesus. I honestly don't understand what you're turning into right now."
Him:  "That makes two of us."



Him: Can't believe we're doing this on chat. At least talk on phone?
Her: Fine. I'll call.
Him: "Hello."
Her: "So."
Him: "So you're really doing this? You really don't want me to come home? We've been married for over--"
Her: "You're the movie guy so you can have Netflix if I can keep Spotify. Been teaching it my preferences for fifteen years..."
Him: "For fuck's sake, we never should've mixed up accounts.... Fine. Then Amazon and Hulu stay mine too."
Her: "Fine. What about the house Apple ID?"
Him: "What about it? It's technically my account."
Her: "But it's been on my card the whole time--I paid for all the content in there."
Him: "Suck it up."
Her: "What?"
Him: "Cost of doing business. Or, in your case, fucking someone other than your husband."
Her: "After you screwed around with how many??"
Him: "Honey, it wasn't real! It was XRoulette! Totally anonymous! Totally virtual! Totally not real!"
Her: "Real people. Just because you don't know who or where doesn't mean they weren't real. Especially the one you bookmarked so you could keep going back to her again and again and again--"
Him: "What happened to 'it's not real, it's just ephemeral, it's just a game, why are you so mad?' Remember that line of bullshit? Because I sure as hell--"
Her: "Shit. I'm being advised to end this conversation."
Him: "What?"
Her: "My legal expert system is listening."
Him: "So this is real. You really don't want me to come home. You really want the divorce."
Her: "What? You're the one that left! You just said--what do you want? I'm just trying to--"
Pardon me, sir. This is your wife's legal advisor. For further communication, please have your software agent contact this software agent. Thank you and good night.



Sir, I know you didn't want to be interrupted, but you have a chat request that we predict you'd prefer to know about immediately. It's your ex-wife. She's here.
Him: "Here?"
Yes, in the resort complex. She's vacationing on Isla Paradiso 12 down the beach.
Him: "Jesus...I...put her on voice."
Her: "Hey old man. Long time. What, don't want to see me? Or don't want me to see you?"
Him: "Hey, on, please. Wha--dear God. You look almost exactly the same."
Her: "Better living through chemistry. Or telomere lengthening, as the case may be. Don't look so bad yourself, considering."
Him: "What...why are you calling? It's been a long time, for you to just pop up like this. You have your agents watching me? To be honest, I thought I'd blocked you on pretty much everything..."
Her: "I didn't have to ask them. They knew me well enough to watch you on their own, and then recommend that I come here on vacation."
Him: "You followed me here?"
Her: "No. They only just told me that you were here too, after I arrived. Sneaky bastards. Honestly, I'm a bit surprised you'd come back."
Him: "I can't believe you give them that kind of autonomy. Anyway. I like it here. Came here a lot before we did the wedding here. Have come here a lot since. Doesn't mean anything."
Her: "Really. Y'know, you don't have to be so...forget it. I...I was so sorry to hear about Hana. How's Lee doing?"
Him: "Thanks. He's fine, considering. It was coming for a long while, so when it finally happened it was almost a relief. Almost... The funeral was hard for both of us, but...he didn't want to talk about it, really. Just threw himself back into his school work."
Her: "Like father like son."
Him: "I suppose..."
Her: "Listen. I know this is unexpected for both of us, but my island is only five minutes away from yours on the monorail. I'd love if you'd come for dinner. The kitchen agents do brilliant things with the local seafood and it'd be nice to see you in person. It's been far too long."
Him: "It...yeah. Yeah, it has. Sure. Okay."
Her: "Don't sound too excited."
Him: "I'm sorry. It's a lot to take in. But...I guess I'm glad you called. I'm glad you're here. It has been too long. I'll have my agents talk to your kitchen about my dietary requirements--"
Her: "--sexy!--"
Him: "--shut up--and I'll see you tonight."
Her: "I really can't wait. I've been thinking a lot about you lately."
Him: "I...yeah. Me too."



Her: "Not bad for an old man."
Him: "Not bad for a young cyborg hottie."
Her: "Don't tease!"
Him: "You just did."
Her: "They really still bother you? The implants. Is it how they look?"
Him: "No, honey, you look absolutely beautiful."
Her: "But--"
Him: "No buts. I love you and you are absolutely beautiful and I don't want to fight."
Her: "Appears you do, since you've been bringing it up over and over since I got home."
Him: "It's only...I just want you here, y'know, in reality. Not there. Paying attention to me, not to whatever else you're paying attention to."
Her: "Oh, dear heart, I am paying attention to you! Nothing but you, love. I even sped up my processors a bit to make tonight last longer. You just fucked me for nearly half a day of clock time. I came for hours, you absolute stud, you!"
Him: "What the fu...are you joking? That's not funny. That's not sweet. That is totally fucked up. You see? You're not here with me. You're in some, I don’t know, post-human alien dreamtime. That has nothing to do with me, here, now, in reality, in the flesh."
Her: "What? Don't talk to me like that. Don't look at me like that. I'm not an alien, I'm your first and third wife. How dare you say those things to me?"
Him: "Wait, stop, don't get dressed--I'm sorry, you just took me by surprise. I just need a little more time to get used to all this--"
Her: "Get used to it faster. Over fifty fucking years and you still can't catch up and you still hold it against me and you still--"
Him: "Honey, I'm sorry, please don't cry--I only, I just wanted one night where we turn it all off, and it's just us--"
Her: "This isn't something I turn off! Don't you understand that? This is me now, this is who I am now, this is what I am now! This is 'just us'! And this is the last time you're going to make me cry about it. The last time I'm going to let you make me. Now please get out."
Him: "Honey, I—"
Her: "Get out, god damn it! Go find another fucking human if you don't want me. Because this post-human alien bitch is just about done with your caveman shit."


Her: "I'm scared."
Him: "I know."
Her: "I know it was hard for you to come here. Thank you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for holding my hand. Oh...oh, please don't cry."
Him: "You weren't supposed to go before me. I'm the old man. This wasn't supposed to happen. Not you."
Her: "Only a part of me. Only a part of me is going. Only the body. I'm staying."
Him: "It won't be you. It'll be, I don’t know, it'll be a cyborg brain in a vat. With a holo of a body you won't have anymore. It's an illusion. It won't be the woman I married."
Her: "And divorced. Twice! Dumbass. Hah. Please don't worry so much. It will be me. It is me. It's the only me that matters now. And it still loves you, whatever's in the past. I still love you. I always have. I always will. Forever and ever. And I'm so glad you're here with me now."


Him: "I'm scared."
Her: "I know."
Him: "I know it was hard for you to come here. I know I haven't...we haven't talked in a long time. I was stupid. I was...scared of you. When you died. I mean. I'm sorry. When you left your body. When you let it go."
Her: "It wasn't hard to come here at all. There's no place I'd rather be in the whole universe. I'm going to stay here with you until the very end."
Him: "You look like an angel, hon..."
Her: "They really do have you on a lot of drugs, don't they?"
Him: "Don't laugh... You do look beautiful. I just wish I could hold your hand."
Her: "I could send a presence."
Him: "No robots. The projection is fine. Just talk to me. Good to hear your voice. Helps with the pain. Tell me...tell me about where you're going. When I'm gone. I know you waited for me, waited for this. But now that it's almost time..."
Her: "Let me show you the pictures..."
Him: "It's beautiful. It's beautiful."
Her: "It is. Only three hundred years away. A few decades to grow the terraform engines--the nanoassembly's slow, like growing a forest--then I can start growing my human children to help keep the engines running and start a real colony. Some bodies for myself too, if I like."
Him: "So finally get to be a mother after all. I'm...I'm so sorry that you couldn't--I mean, we couldn't--"
Her: "Shh, it's fine, love, fine. I'm thankful we had what we had. No point in either of us being anything but thankful, now."
Him: "I wish I could follow you. Like I promised. So long ago."
Her: "You still can. It's not too late."
Him: "You know I can't. Too much time. Too much damage. Too late. Always was. Never could keep up with you. My girl from the future...on an adventure into the stars.... You're going be like a god."
Her: "I'm going to be your wife, whatever I am. Wherever. If you insist on dying, old man, then you're going to die as my husband."
Him: "You're...crying? You still cry?"
Her: "Of course I still cry, you ass."
Him: "Heh. You're saying you want to marry me? Again? After all this?"
Her: "Yes. After all this. Just say the word and we’ll be together again."
Him: "Word."
Her: "Goofball. Done. The agents say that's good enough. They just registered the union. You're mine."
Him: "Third time's a charm, huh? You're not..."
Her: "Stop talking, you're going to cough up a lung..."
Him: "Not...coughing...laughing..."
Her: "Why are you laughing, sweetheart?"
Him: "You're not...worried about the age difference? I hear...a ten year difference is a lot...bigger than it used to be."
Her: "Hahahahahah...ahhh...hah."
Him: "I love you so much." 
Her: "I love you, too. Forever and ever and ever..."
Him: "...and ever."


Him: "I... what am I doing here?"
Her: "Hello, love."
Him: "But you...but I...I was dying, wasn’t I?"
Her: "You did die. A long, long time ago. You're just my memory. A living memory."
Him: "In a new grew me a new body? I...give me a moment...I...I think I would've been really angry that you did this."
Her: "Yes. The man I remember would feel that way."
Him: "But still...glad. So glad. To be here. With you."
|Her: "Yes. Yes, he would have felt that, too. I'm very happy as well. It's been so long, waiting for this moment."
Him: "You've made me...younger. Even younger than when we first met."
Her: "Yes. Your body’s new and strong, strong enough to walk now that it's grown. Will you come walk with me, and let me show you the world I've built? Our new home... together?"
Him: "I...yes. Of course I will. I will follow you anywhere. Anywhere that I can. You know that."
Her: "I know you aren't really...and I’m not the person...I mean, I know this isn't real, but..."
Him: "Shhh. I’m here. You’re here. And looking at you now, I feel that in my chest that I did the very first time I saw your smile in the park, so long ago. That’s all that matters, isn’t it? What’s real, what’s not, the past, the future...I don't care about any of it anymore. Do you?"
Her: "I don't. Not at all. I just want you to take my hand and say those words again. Will you please say them again, love?"
Him: "Of course I will. I. Will. Follow. You. Anywhere."