March stared at the screen of his laptop and paused as he tried to think of what to say. He wanted to test Silver, to make sure that she really understood what he was asking. If he couldn’t write a sentient program now, he wasn’t going to make it. All the great Silicon Valley programmers made it before they were thirty. He was 29. That meant he only had one year, maybe two, before he was a failure.
And what would he do then?
He pressed his thumb between his eyebrows and kneaded. If he didn’t relax, he was going to get a wrinkle there — the kind that was a deep and vertical, painful to look at. Everybody would know that he had struggled to make it and didn’t.
The cursor blinked.
There was so much riding on this.
He turned up the collar of his corduroy suit coat, which he wore over his running gear still damp from his early morning run across the Golden Gate and back. The jacket was good luck; he’d found in at a Goodwill in Madison when he was in college. Threadbare in the back with missing buttons and coffee stains, he’d never even considered getting it mended or cleaned. He wouldn’t be able to code without it. Even so, it was now pushing 9 A.M., and he still couldn’t think of what to say to Silver.
His iChat plinked. Did u see Mark’s FB Status? Party tonight. Wanna go? It was Mindy again. She had the worst timing — always interrupting him while he was in the midst of programming. Always about something meaningless too, like a party in Palo Alto, or eating at some new restaurant in the Mission. He really just needed to work right now. He would concentrate on Mindy later. He signed out of iChat.
Silver, are you there? How are you feeling today?
It was a dumb thing to type, but he wasn’t Thoreau. The cursor blinked against the black screen. Silver was just DOS right now; he’d make her pretty when he knew she worked.
I’m bored, she responded.
March felt his face flush with excitement. To be bored meant that you had desire. This was significant.
What makes you feel bored? he typed.
There’s nothing to do. I’ve been sitting here all day waiting for you.
I’m sorry, Silver. You weren’t working yesterday, so I made some revisions last night and was hoping — praying — that you’d be responsive today.
You didn’t give me the book yesterday. So, I didn’t know how to answer your messages.
The book? March picked up his Sharpie marker and wrote down “BOOK?” in capitol letters, then pinned it to the wall with a yellow pushpin.
What book are you talking about?
The cursor blinked, seemingly hesitatant.
The book by Mr. Hook. The Transcendentalists Guide to Interpreting Symbols.
March had no idea what she was talking about.