Is your name a reference to the video game? Can I really ask you anything? Is the Windows 10 update worth it? Are you? Who stole my bird, Cortana? Well? Can you tell me that? Who steals a bird? What do users generally ask you? How to find their files, now that the interface looks different? Is that what it’s called? An interface? Why in the world is Microsoft making a reference to Halo in their help-section? Why can’t I understand that? What am I missing? Is there some Greek or Latin god you’re named after? Are you supposed to be male or female or neither? What would you look like on my devices? Did you see the pictures of my bird? Do you have the capacity to really see things? Does anyone? Did you go through my pictures at all? Did you see the folder marked “Davey”? Where did you put that folder, Cortana? Why can’t I find it? What if I want to see Davey’s pictures right now?
Where do I go to report the theft of Davey? What number should I call? Did you come before or after Siri? Do you have a voice, too? Somewhere? Do I have to phrase my problems as questions for you? Is anything okay? Is your search-bar a gimmick? Why am I so lonely, Cortana? Can you answer that question? If you could answer it, would you tell me? Isn’t that what life is, just a long period of not knowing what the answer to loneliness is? Why didn’t I put one of those trackers on Davey? Why didn’t I keep a tag on him? Why is love so often like a prison? Why is it that so many people dismiss birds as companions? Did you see how beautiful his feathers are? Why are people so horrible? Why did I leave the door unlocked while going to get my laundry from the basement? Why would people steal a bird before stealing clothes? Is that question even fair? What are the statistics on stolen laundry, as cross-referenced with those on stolen birds? What about my nice TV? Can I die of a broken heart?
Didn’t I save some link related to that question? Why didn’t the thief also steal Davey’s cage? Are they more enlightened than I am? Where do I look first for him? Should I put up flyers? Do you think it’s crazy I never let Davey outside of the apartment? Do you blame people for wanting to protect their loved ones? Are you tired of my questions? Am I repeating myself? Was Davey tired of me? What happens if he doesn’t get his medication at the right time? Will he die? Can I call 911 for this? Am I going crazy? Why did I get on my computer in the first place just now? What was I looking for? Are you meant to be a distraction? Are you meant to inspire reflection? How long has it been since I got this Windows 10 update? How long have they been asking me to accept the update? How many questions have I asked you? Is it over 100? Do you believe in silver linings? Do you think Davey will be happier now that he is out in the world, scary though it is? Do you think that’s why I’m stalling? Is it my self-doubt again? Is it the anxiety? Should I just really think hard about it and decide in my mind to be stronger and more confident? Why do all the quick-answers popping up from your search-bar suggest looking at my work-folder and old resumes? Is that some kind of joke? Am I too indecisive? Do you believe in love? Isn’t that more relevant? Would you believe me if I say that love is the thing I believe in the most? Why is everyone so quick to belittle a positive attitude these days? Am I a hypocrite? But should I quit my job? Should I try to get laid? How long has it been since I got laid? Did you see the folder marked “Private”? Do you know what’s in there? Do you know what I use it for? Do you have the capacity to know things? Is knowing different from seeing? Does it matter if the answer is yes or no? Do I have the capacity to understand what that difference means? Should I get sleeping pills? Should I try to calm down already? Should I get on some kind of beta-blocker, or an anti-depressant? Should I get another bird? Should I wander around outside yelling Davey’s name?
Can I really do that again? Wasn’t I whispering when I did it? Should I simply let him go? Should I hope for the best? Should I picture him flying across an ocean? What if I went for a different animal? Is that betrayal? Is asking that question indicative of my failures as a partner? What do you think? How long can I go on? Are dreams real? Are aspirations? Did you see the Browns game? Did you see the pigeons all over the field during the game? Did you also howl with laughter and joy? How does one become an official for the NFL? Aren’t I too old? Can you tell? How many years can someone realistically keep being an accountant? Numbers all the time? Is this a sign? That I should make a change? Do you believe in change? Do you want to help me find out if I do? What do you say? Can I have a do-or-die moment? Can I confront my pain and say no? No, I will not? Right here and now?
Does this mean I’m taking your advice? Are you me, when all is said and done? Am I going on? Will you help me, Cortana? Find me some space? And will you agree to say nothing at first, like Davey did?
Or is that the reason he’s gone now and apparently not fighting to get back? I’ve left the windows open, haven’t I? I should stop thinking so much, don’t you agree? But what am I asking for, if not for someone to just listen awhile, and wait until I too am prepared to breathe?
Tim Raymond has work forthcoming in Passages North, Sundog Lit, and others. He has an MFA from Wyoming, and lives in Korea now. He is also developing Problem House, a contest for emerging fiction writers, which will be open soon.