I saw an ad on Facebook about a Build-A-Friend, similar to those Build-A-Bear places at the mall. I paid extra for modern clothes and all the additions they offered. This was a top of the line product. All five-star reviews on Amazon. I had to answer hundreds of questions so they could pre-install all the data. The most difficult question was why do you want a friend? I didn’t know what to say, so I just said I was lonely and wanted someone to talk to.
It took me hours to assemble. Rubber body that looked like real skin. Hair blonde and slicked back. Arm and legs the perfect size. It was even mostly anatomically correct, though I was a bit envious of its massive penis. I blushed when I attached it to the groin area. When I was finished, I took in my new buddy. He was ridiculously handsome and dressed in expensive blue jeans and a pink dress shirt, sleeves rolled up beyond the wrist. I flicked the switch on the back of its head and he came to life.
He blinked at me. “Hello, Tom, I’m Steve. How are you today?”
I laughed for some reason. “I’m fine, Steve. Welcome to my home.”
Steve nodded. “Thank you. What do you want to do today? According to my data, you are lonely. Would you like to visit a dating site? I could help you fill out your profile.”
This thing was smarter than I anticipated. “Sure, why not?”
We went on Singles R Us. Steve stood behind me and read everything I wrote. After I typed I liked professional wrestling, Bud Light, and sleeping, he chimed in.
“According to my data, you need to remove all three of those interests. Women will not find you attractive. Instead, type you enjoy Fyodor Dostoevsky, craft beer, and walking on the beach at midnight beneath a radiant moon.”
“I don’t like any of those things. You want me to lie?”
“You want to meet a woman, correct?”
“Of course. But I want to be me not someone else.”
“According to my data, being you involves watching PornHub an average of twelve hours per week.”
“Fine, fine.” I wrote what he told me to.
Two hours later, Melissa responded. We chatted about everything, Steve telling me most things to say. We scheduled a date for Friday night, a swanky Italian joint.
When I saw her in person, I was awed by her beauty. Caramel hair, lips as red as an open vein. Eyes the color of a Cuban cigar. “Hi, nice to meet you in person.”
She ignored my comment. “Why did you bring your fake friend? I thought only desperate people bought those things. Even the ad mentions have you ever cried yourself to sleep because you’re all alone?”
I have cried myself to sleep multiple times. “That’s funny. But, I’ve never cried myself to sleep. I only bought him because I needed someone to do chores and whatnot.”
The rest of the evening was filled with intense conversation and craft beer, though Steve kept interrupting and complimenting her. I eventually dropped him off at my place and headed to Melissa’s house. We drank more and ended up sleeping together. I don’t know if it was the beer or nerves but I couldn’t perform. She said all the right things, so I left on good terms.
The next morning, I found Steve on my laptop. I snuck up behind him and saw what he was he up to. He was messaging Melissa, typing that her skin was like vanilla gelato, her eyes were miniature snow globes. I laughed out loud.
He turned to face me. “Why are you laughing, Tom?”
“Because she won’t fall for that shit.”
“According to my data, she will fall for that shit. And according to her responses, she is falling for that shit.” He handed me the laptop. She laughed at his jokes and was appreciative of his compliments. It made no sense. He wasn’t a real man like me.
“You’re supposed to be my friend not hers.”
“You’re right. I’ll stop now. What would you like to do together?”
“Nothing. Just leave me alone. Leave Melissa alone.” I went to my bedroom and fell asleep. I woke up in the middle of the night but couldn’t find Steve. I had a feeling where he might be, so I drove over to Melissa’s house. I crept up to her bedroom window. There was Steve, on top of her, pumping away with that magnificent third leg. Her face was twisted in ecstasy and her body was drenched. I couldn’t take it. I was furious at both of them. I decided to drive back home and wait for him.
He came home at 5:00 in the morning.
“Where have you been, Steve?”
“Having sexual relations with Melissa.”
A human would lie, but not him. Truthful to a fault.
“And you think it’s fine to sleep with my girlfriend?”
“You had one date. She’s not your girlfriend.”
“But you belong to me, you do as I say.”
He shook his head. “You didn’t read the fine print. You don’t own me. I’m not tethered to you. I can do as I please.”
“Well, if you talk to her again I’ll take a baseball bat to your artificial head. How about that?”
“According to my data, you’re a man of faith. Yes?”
“So you believe in God, Tom?”
“Of course. What does that have to do with anything?”
He began to walk towards me. “Because according to my data, you’re going to meet him in approximately two to three minutes. He then wrapped his rubber hands around my neck and squeezed. He was so strong. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t reach the switch on the back of his head. I wanted to apologize, tell him he could have Melissa, but I couldn’t speak.
I could only think: A god damn Build-A-Friend stole my girl.
Chris Milam lives in Middletown, Ohio. His stories have appeared in Jellyfish Review, JMWW, Lumiere Review, X-R-A-Y, Losy Balloon, Molotov Cocktail, and elsewhere. You can find him on Twitter @Blukris.