A young woman was having a relationship with her hair dryer. Her roommate, an office secretary, sometimes stopped at her door and listened to what was going on. She confronted her in the kitchen one morning before work.
“You know, using your hairdryer that much could seriously damage your hair,” she said indirectly.
The woman’s hair looked fine, though. The young woman suspected that the secretary knew something, however, and she was embarrassed. She couldn't bring herself to speak about her passion. She had repressive parents and was not very adroit at managing such conversations. She had been careful to do her washing at odd times and often bought new underclothes to conceal the old, scorched ones – but still, she had a sinking feeling that everyone knew whatever was on her mind anyway.
Once her hair dryer broke and she called a repair man to ask about getting it fixed. She cleverly tried to smooth over the possible suspicions of her roommate by asking her if there weren’t any household items she needed to have repaired.
“That old iron of yours,” the young woman said with practiced casualness, “maybe it needs some new parts?” The secretary agreed, surprisingly.
The repairman arrived. He wore the usual clothes, but his hands were immaculate. He glanced over to the roommate. The secretary nodded and they grabbed the young woman.
They drove for hours in a van, the young woman bound.
The young woman was put to work in a shop with other women repairing appliances. The shop was lit with low fluorescent lamps and appeared to be underground. The repairman came and went, bringing appliances that needed repair. The secretary brought food. The ladies worked meticulously, chained to their workstations. The young woman wondered about her secret, if it was a part of this nightmare. She went through cycles of guilt and indignation. She had silent, frustrating fantasies.
The team became quite professional. Occasionally a new woman would appear. The older ones just disappeared in the night. The repairman was seldom seen, and fears of any unwanted advances faded in the shadows of their harsh life. It became known that all the women in the shop had had their illicit love affairs. Without much conversation, the women understood each other. One would weep silently repairing a vacuum; another would steal glances at can openers. Their work was vital, like surgery to sustain the life of a distantly remembered existence.
The women clandestinely built a robot. It took time, but they had the skill. It looked just like the repair man. They programmed it to destroy the repairman. The robot went out of the room and the women strained to hear the voices in conversation. It was the secretary who spoke.
“Now you are immortal, my love.”
Vegetable Barley Stew
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