They tell you to wait after you get the implant. At least six months before you should think about getting involved with anyone. But then, if they understand so well, why did they put us all in the same waiting room together at the first check-up?
The link isn’t up yet, but it’s there. You can feel it. And it’s probing all the time: creating little ad-hoc connections to any hotspots in the room. She was one of those hotspots. An 802.11i-2019 handshake may not seem like much of a chat up line, but there’s a lot of noise back and forth. And most of it comes out of your brain. Anybody who is linked up will tell you how much of yourself you transmit before you’re even authenticated.
It’s like a thousand conversations in a thousand milliseconds. We knew immediately that we needed to be together. I hadn’t even looked at her, not properly. But there it was. No doctor’s advice was going to keep us apart.
The first dates must have looked so awkward: the long silences, while the waitresses suppressed a smile at our doomed courtship. If only they could have heard the furious roar between us at 5 Ghz. Our implants were still latent, but pushing all the noise they could at each other.
It was like being naked in public. The slightest glance at her breasts, would flare up my sex drive, and she would flush with embarrassment. Everything was already on the table.
She developed first, of course. She had a talent for the link. After that, our relationship was a one way street. All I could do was send her noise. A feeble chaos that she quickly tuned out. But what she sent me back was a promise. A hint of what it was like.
She waited for me to develop, I don’t know why. When I finally did, there was no way back. We fell into each other completely. You might expect that it’s shocking to know all of somebody’s secrets. To have them know your own. But you also share their shame and their guilt. And the same thing happens that would happen if you told someone all your secrets now, out loud. They’d shrug, they’d tell you it’s not that bad, and you would suddenly feel as light as air. But you can’t. The effort of putting things into words is too great.
We tried to stick to the rules as best we could. At least 23 hours of shutdown for every 1 connected. We stayed apart for those periods. Talking to each other, even eye contact became unbearable without the link. Once it went down we were suddenly strangers.
The one hour we had together became two, then a day and then a week. We could not tell our memories apart. Simple things like touching, kissing, used to be exciting in the early days, with the noise of our latent implants tickling at the back of our brains. Now it reminded us of our separated bodies. It pulled us out of each other.
We lost our jobs, but there weren’t many people linked up in those days, and it was easy enough to find way to do a few hours work for a week or two of food and rent. We didn’t need much.
And then it all went to hell. I think we both believed, that people split up because of imperfect communication. Because of secrets and lies, and because people stopped letting each other in. But with the link, that was all over. Everything could be said and nothing could be hidden. So why would people, if they truly loved each other, ever have to break up?
I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t understand much of the neurodynamics, let alone the long term patterns that develop after linking up. I can only tell you what it felt like. It felt like a defense mechanism. Like our identities were re-asserting themselves. I guess it’s not that different from my old-fashioned relationship breakdowns. The signals we got from each other became boring. It’s not that I mind boring signals, I just couldn’t bear the contrast with how interesting they used to be. After just three months, we had both got to the end of it. We had learned the pattern of each other. And the parts of our brains that still remembered we had a body each, slowly became louder again.
And that’s what it all comes down to. Why I’m writing this. If I’ve conveyed something of the intensity of falling in love linked up, I hope you can get some sense of what it’s like to separate. We both gave up the link, almost immediately after. Even a simple diagnostic ping to the home router would flood me. I can’t quite say with what. They weren’t memories, or feelings. More like my mind was trying to grab hold of something that wasn’t there anymore.
And even with the link out, I feel like I’m walking around with a half-empty skull. Others have described it as the loss of a body part, as phantom pain. But that’s not quite it. I feel like I’m the part that’s lost. A bodypart in space.
The good news is they won’t put you in the same waiting room anymore. And they’ll keep the implant shielded for the first month. And they get people like me to tell you their stories. Listen to them. And when you do meet a person that makes your implant warm up the back of your neck, remember to take it slow.