Machine’s Life: Flirting Machine

His name is Josh, and I can’t stop thinking about him. His soft brown eyes and cute half-smile is so attractive to me. I know, I know, he doesn’t look like the cutest man, but man, his personality almost lifts him to a completely different status.

We met at a cafe inside of a mini Japanese center uptown on a Wednesday. It was a meeting for people interested in Japanese culture and looking to practice their Japanese tongue with a group of local Japanese residents and Japanese-speaking Americans. Why was I, a machine, at this particular cafe filled to the brim with everything and everyone Japanese? In the future, I hoped I would return to Japan, the land I felt so comfortable in, and in hoping so, I decided to learn the language more profusely.

I sat at one of the tables as people began to clambor into the small cafe, drinking my green tea boba drink, while I chattered with a Filipino immigrant. Joshua soon joined the table, and I started a conversation with him and the other people at my end of the table.

At first, I thought he was a bit short–he was only 5’6–but the thought soon faded, and I began to see him as cute. The hour went by very quickly, and soon, everyone climbed to their feet, paid for their drinks, and headed home or collectively went to a restaurant. I went home to study.

The Sunday following, a friend I met at the meeting invited me to Josh’s place for a barbeque, and he picked me. It was a definite bacchelor pad, but I didn’t care. The dog that was almost as tall as one of the tiny Japanese girls was a handful to control. He slobbered everyone and everywhere, leaving tendrils of drool across hands and fingers. (So gross!)

Josh was even more humorous than when I first met him. I was only one of three girls at the barbeque and it took all day to finally settle down for a game of Asshole. Since I wasn’t driving, I drank throughout the entire time at Josh’s place, feeling the guards within me slowly drop to a tolerable and funny level.

While we played Asshole, Josh and I traded insults, innuendos, and role-playing remarks until his dog became ill. When Guitar Hero became the new center game, I asked Josh to show me some moves. He was a former teacher in karate and martial arts, and it had been so long since my last mini martial art session with a cute older guy. He showed me how to get out of different holds and use my small stature to my advantage.

It was odd to be handled by a man. It wasn’t like men never touched me, but just to be pressed against a man’s body struck me as new and exciting. Unfortunately, not paying attention meant I was going to get thrown, so I diminished any thoughts or feelings from my brain and focused on the lesson. “Chin down. Ok, got it.”

I don’t know when I started to think about Josh in that type of manner. I think it was when I was lying in bed later that night, trying to get my mind to shut the hell up, that the thought of kissing Josh began to take form. At first, it was just a simple, sweet kiss, our bodies unsure of how to react, where to touch, what to do. His lips were soft, and I loved his smell. Then, the innocent kiss escalated, becoming a rage of passion and hormones, making our hands grope each other, explore every inch, until the bed was found.

I removed myself from the dream as the scene became laded with X-rated sounds and sights. But the scenes never stopped. Instead, they played randomly, from the bouts of consciousness at night throughout the rest of the next day. Why wasn’t he out of my mind yet? Why?

So much for being an impartial machine…

My Life as a Machine: Super-Perceptions

Machine or not, having dreams that tell the near future and having thoughts that come true start to take its toll on me. Maybe that’s why I’m a bit broken, right?

Since I was 11, I would have these amazing dreams, where its vivid scenarios would become reality in front of my eyes. It first started as what I thought to be coincidence. I would have a dream about a cartoon I loved, all of its characters running the course of the writer’s plot in high definition, and a month later, the exact scene would be an excerpt in reality. The cartoon would come to life with something I dreamed about.

Even small thoughts in my head would reflect a moment in future. I knew every episode of a television show I avidly watched, and when I thought, “I think this episode will come on today”, I predicted the episode correct. Lo and behold, the episode would air, and I wondered how the hell did I know that. We didn’t have TV guide or anything. Internet was still in its preliminary stages.

The amount of premonitions lessened as I got older, but there was something about having such an involuntary ability that irked me. Where did it come from? Was I going insane? What was wrong with me?

This super-perception didn’t just stay within the limits of my dreams nor thoughts. My ninth grade teacher thought it completely necessary to organize different types of psychology and perceptual tests for class, giving in to testing “ESP”. I didn’t really think much of it. I partnered up with a friend and received a deck of cards.

“Your partner will pick out a card and hold it out, but only your partner knows what the card says. You just guess the color of the card. Is it red or black?”

I waited for my partner to pick a card and hold it up. A picture seemed to enter my mind, and I began to rattle off the color of the cards. Once we did ten trials, she set down the deck and pursed her lips together, thinking, staring at me.

“If you get more than 50% right, move on to guessing the suit. Is it diamonds, cloves, spades, or hearts?” My teacher went back to talking to another teacher as the class continued with the task.

My friend held up a card, but the expression on her face was one of concentration. She peered past the card at me with her green eyes. I looked away, another image of the card coming into my head. I only concentrated on the suit and I reluctantly told her my guess. Slowly, as we worked through another ten trials, I could see the excitement run across her guise. Ironically, she was more excited than I. On my end, I was merely confused.

She leaned forward and whispered, like unburdening a secret, “Hey, let’s try to see if you can get the face right,” she challenged, her green eyes imploring me to attempt. “Let’s see if you can get what’s on the card.”

The look in her eyes, like she discovered something fascinating worth probing, made me scared. Was I a freak because I could guess cards accurately? I mean, I wasn’t a card counter or anything! What was the deal? I started rattling off the cards that came into my mind, and after the third card, my teacher stopped the class to begin his lecture.

I felt grateful at that moment. If I really could pass all of the “ESP” tests, did that mean I had ESP? I was so confused, I didn’t remember anything that came out of the teacher’s mouth. When the bell rang and we all filed out of the classroom, my friend came to whisper to me again.

“We’ll try that last test tomorrow morning,” she stated, refusing any “no” answers. Her eyes were still afire with the excitement I saw earlier. It frightened me, really. So the next morning, before school, she presented the cards to me, and I started to guess each card wrong on purpose, though, I knew almost all of the cards I attempted. She pursed her lips again and shook her head, disappointed.

I didn’t want to become an even bigger outcast than I already was at that time. I sabotaged the test just to get her off my back. Just the sheer joy of finding out a secret of mine was a fear I couldn’t have running around. I left any talk of having ESP with the deck of cards she never played with.

Although I wasn’t a card counter, I was great at guessing cards. It made me one tough challenger to an enthusiastic card player. I developed a reputation in college for winning card challenges.

But, once again, I wasn’t surprised when the abilities continued to evolve. My premonitions were only active when I was highly stressed. My dreams, however, began to warp into different stages of consciousness.

Sometimes, they were so acute, so vivid, I would become disoriented when I awoke. Some nights, I was another person, but every dream ended similarly. I dreamed, and the person who I was formerly, would look straight at me and tell me something. I couldn’t always understand their sentences, but somehow, I held a comprehension that I never knew existed.

And then, in my conscious moments, I felt surrounded by things, tendrils of people who once existed on the planet, and scary things. When I was dating my ex-fiance, there was this warm spirit that followed me everywhere. I even dreamed what she would look like, and in first seeing a picture of her, my ex told me sadly, “That’s my grandmother.”

I merely stared at the picture, which intrigued him. “She’s the one who’s been following me around,” I murmured, uncertain of how he would take it. Sure enough, he was a bit taken aback, watching me. “She has a warmth like yours, but different. More motherly.” Although he never understood this quality I had, he accepted the fact that his grandmother was watching over us. After all, my ex was his grandmother’s favorite grandchild.

I started to fight the feeling of ghosts and spirits and things around me. It was exhausting to wake up from a dream about someone else’s life, them pulling me into a sea of another reality. And when I slumped around college, I could feel the tug of other people’s problems just a little distance from seeing them. It seemed that I could sense some type of trauma or sorrow from others in spite of their smiling faces and outgoing personalities. I suddenly understood how keeping such a sixth sense would drive me mad.

It wasn’t until after things went downhill with my ex-fiance that I began an inward transformation. I was engrossed in my own problems, my own self to even think about my dreams, my premonitions, the heavy pasts of others and playing cards. Slowly, the things I felt and saw didn’t make me jump or hide. Instead, I started to blossom and see things for how they were–see things at face value.

And then, poof! It all mostly disappeared. I could still read cards in my mind, but it wasn’t the same as knowing things and having a third eye. Whenever the pasts piled up on a person I hardly knew, I told myself not to go there, thus, saving my sanity.

I believe the last evolution of this perception finally came to its permanency. I only have vivid premonitions and seer-like thoughts when I am stressed. Once I fix whatever screw is loose inside of me, the premonitions stop. I don’t rely on it, and ironically, I don’t believe in my dreams anymore. It’s only when whatever I dream or think becomes reality, I start to look inward for why.

My Life as a Machine: Broken Machine

I hates being sick. When people announced that machines couldn’t get sick, they simply broken and somebody fixed them, I thought it was aperposterous statement. How many times have I acquired an illness, a sneeze, and dear God, a magical headache that jumped from my boss to between my eyes?

As I matured, my childish invincibility to disease began to waiver, and before long, the common cold became common, and allergies kicked into my nostrils in the form of pollen, and sinuses was my dear foe. What happened to being sick-free? It was but a dream…

One of the last years in college, I discovered the secret for my body to function at optimum levels for long periods of time. I didn’t attend parties, for fear of not sleeping for a full 7 to 8 hours. I skipped procrastinating habits and completed homework on the weekends to avoid overworking during the weekdays.

“How do you do it?” people ask me, wide eyes imploring me for some magical bean that caused full rest with a platter of responsibilities on the shoulders.

I always shrugged my shoulders, like brushing off the tendrils of spider webs. “I don’t know,” I answered, “I prioritize.” The disappointed faces, the failure I was to them, caused me no grief. I simply kept my face void of anything more than a sympathetic smile. There was nothing to prioritizing once someone figured out themselves through trial and error.

But people…they need to be spoon fed the cure. Everything has to be a quick fix with people. Even robots have caught the phenomenon of laziness and so-called privilege.

Hey! I worked my ass off to become the best machine I could be!

Sometimes, being as strong-willed and well-built as I am, people don’t see the advantage in having a machine in their lives, functioning or not. People can’t see past their sloping noses to realize that they are looking at themselves first before they peer down at anyone else haughtily. To me, people are permanently broken and not looking to fix themselves either.

My Life as a Machine: A Machine’s Mother

My mother is a completely different being. She is passionate, fiery, and funny. The only problem is when she overlooks so many details, you begin to wonder where half her brain resided in her tiny 5-foot-nothing body. The worse thing about her, passion or not, was her inconsistency in everything she did. Plainly spoken, she was a breathing hypocrit.

She hardly took interest in me unless it were having to do with her finances. I understood her concerns–after all, I was partially raised by her–but I also felt her unnecessary need to hold me at arm’s length. She tried to snuggle up to us, her children, sometimes forgetting that we abandoned her a long ways down the road.

In one instance, my mother’s presence was required at a summer orientation for a college I was to attend briefly. Our only mode of transportation, a boxy Nissan Sentra with three generations of hand-me-down prints, was out of commission for some reason or another. Somehow, my mother booked us a ride with one of her sisters, and she whisked us off to the college where public transportation didn’t exist.

As soon as I stepped out of my aunt’s Toyota Corolla and watched her speed off, I turned to my mother. “Mom, how are we getting back home?”

She just stared at me for a moment, and I watched as the non-existent gears in her head completely crumbled. “I don’t know,” she answered, quickly walking down the sidewalk to who-knows-where. Her sense of direction was horrible.

My entire face burned up and I found the words whirling out of my mouth before I could stop them. “You mean to tell me that we don’t know how we’re getting home?” I snapped, following her. “I mean, how could you not think about that?”

She whirled around, anger flashing in her eyes. I backed off immediately. For a small woman, my mother had a mean temper. Her jaw was already set, and if my immature memory serves me right, her wavy black hair stood out like a witch’s. “Don’t talk to me like that,” she bellowed in a voice I knew meant no negotiations. She turned on her heel and continued to walk towards an ambiguous direction. That day was only one out of many in which my mother completely overlooked the big details.

When I was growing up, I didn’t speak to my mother much. It was a one-way relationship, really. She spoke to us, with her thick Filipino accent, to get this or do that. Her role in the household was purely stereotypical “female work”; she cooked and cleaned and folded clothes, watching soap operas when no one occupied the television.

She didn’t take much interest in us because we were hard-headed, I suppose, but we all knew that her accepting the “wife’s role” in the household caused my brothers and I to treat her as such. Her concerns for us as children, pre-teens, teenagers, and finally, as adults, were limited. It felt fake to be loved by my mother. With her arms stretched out, I hesitated to hug her, and instantly asked myself silently, “Should I hug her?”

I ended up hugging her out of obligation.

In most times, there was a sense of reciprocity in regards to my mother and I. For some reason or another, there was a nagging feeling from her I felt. It seemed she didn’t like me, like there was something wrong with me. I could only assume my brothers were born people and I was born a machine, which seemed about right when it came down to genetics.

There was always this distance my mother placed between us, an invisible barrier, disregarding our blood relation. I didn’t notice the veil of separation until my teen years when my parents separated, and suddenly, my brothers and I were living with a stranger called Mom.

It wasn’t that I disliked my mother so much. I think if she had been more active throughout my childhood and actually cared, our relationship would currently be stronger. The biggest factor in our relationship was her personality. She was a naturally selfish person. Even if she wanted to be involved with her children, it seemed more forced by parenthood than out of love or concern.

I promised myself I would not be like my mother. I would encourage communication with my children and interact with them on as many levels as I could. I wouldn’t do it out of obligation; it would be out of love.

Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t that my mother just did everything out of obligation. She cooked with love, which was one of the things that I loved and respected about her. But looking back, I don’t think my mother was happy or content. After all, my father was a completely different story.

My Life as a Machine: Falling in Love Machine

People think that machines are incapable of love, and when they do love, machines only love other machines. Since when did people think they knew us machines better than machines?

I think the person I fell in so deeply in love with was in my dreams. Yes, I was engaged briefly in my short life, but this heart-wrenching love, where your heart isn’t voluntary or involuntary anymore. There is no ending to the feeling, the bliss of dying, and crying, until you are cleansed of your own salty joy.

He was a machine as well, one of the best functioning machines in the world, but his existence was still lowly because of his unearthly potentials. We both knew he was the center of this world, if people allowed it, if only… He reached his hand to me and I spoke to him without opening my mouth. Who was this man? I wondered with curiosity.

“Don’t be afraid,” he began, loud and clear. His voice was enough to melt my soul into pieces of life. Something awoke inside of my body as he stared at me. I knew he had soft eyes, warm windows to his  soul, despite my inability to recall his facial features. He took my hand, completely overwhelming my tactile senses with his touch.

“You are someone special. This world, everything in it, is only a small piece of what you truly see. Already in your few years in this universe, you have become wise. God has gifted you beyond your wildest imagination, yet, you continue your life in the dreams of shadows. What are you afraid of?”

His speech surprised me. The words were stated so simply, but the warmth radiating from his etheral body seemed to encompass my whole being. Who was this man? Was he really the man of my dreams? In literal terms, yes, yes he was, but in my brain–in my real mind–I could feel my consciousness kick in. This is a dream, isn’t it?

The other machine seemed to comprehend my furrowed brow, my frown, and my uncertain eyes. Tilting his head to the side, I felt him smile gently. “I am asking you something you ask yourself every day. Why is it difficult to return an answer? Have you not found your answer?”

Such bewilderment on my part! I looked away, unsure of myself. With my mind’s realistic eye slowly approaching, I realized that such a question wasn’t so far from my true desire. I needed to answer the question placed on a platter and served to me without options to refuse.

Who was this man?

“I’m not afraid.” It wasn’t a complete lie. I was afraid of different things in life, but ultimately, I wasn’t afraid of many things. “I used to feel like a part of me was hiding something very important from me. My body and my mind knew something I didn’t, and I just didn’t get it.”

“And now?”

I shrugged my shoulders wantonly. “I don’t have that feeling anymore.” I clutched his hand, wanting to wrap my entire body in his warmth. He didn’t pull away. “I figured it out, but now, I’m more confused than ever. I know I’m supposed to do something wonderful with my life, but what is it? It’s not myself holding something back. It’s something else!”

“Hey, hey,” he cooed in a husky voice, patting my hand, effectively reassuring me. “Don’t worry. You’ll come to know what your future is.”

I stared at him, trying to see if he was just humoring me. There was nothing wavering in his appearance. Even the warmth from his body reassured my own hesitation. After a few moments, his smile widened me.

“You may not know me,” he began, leaning closer to me, “but you are not alone.” The other machine fully embraced me in his arms, utterly enveloping me inside the warmth inside his body.

As we hugged, our bodies almost as one, I didn’t care anymore about who he was. Instead, I savored the touch, squeezing him back to keep this feeling from escaping my existence. I knew, however, that this would be the first and last time I would talk to him in this manner. If he were to enter my dream, my consciousness would surely chase him away, as my mind took such cruel measures to protect my unconscious self from falling victim to any threats or dangers, especially thought-provoking questions.

“I love you,” I found myself murmuring, and immediately, amazement crossed my features. Love? I wasn’t so certain about loving someone else, but with this graceful machine before me, I blurted it out.

He seemed pleased with my confession, and he bent forward, placing a kiss on the corner of my lips. It was a fleeting kiss, but it singed my lips like fire, like red hot passion in a single deliverance. He pulled away, smiling, and his mouth parted to speak.

“I lo–”

My consciousness flung me out of my dream, and I awoke with a start.

My Life as a Machine: Reincarnated Machine

Since realizing how much of a machine I really am, I hardly looked at men anymore. Not since I pulled down a dark shade over my love life two years ago. Somehow, everything that happened two years ago seems like ages ago, and as the year lengthens, I realize that time is only but a strand that never ends. I can’t cut it. I can only rely on it being a constant, even when time decides to stand still in moments of desperation.

I was a jerk those two years ago, still fighting the machinery inside of my body. I was engaged and I loved the person I was with, but there were so many skeletons in my closet and baggage at my feet, I made some sufferable mistakes. I fell for our mutual best friend. He loved me, too, and I immediately broke things off with the man who stood by me through thick and thin.

Then, my conscience kicked in, and I just couldn’t choose. I made even more mistakes; I bounced between both men, trying not to hurt anyone’s feelings. Of course, I lied, I deceived, and I even went into denial.

But in the end, I broke things off with both men. Still, I tried to redeem myself with my ex-fiance, and I let him use me in ways that I thought would help ease the pain. He discarded quickly after grabbing ahold of another girl’s hand, and I struggled to keep myself afloat in the midst of my despair. I even told my lover to take a hike, we couldn’t be in love anymore. It wasn’t right. As soon as he found a girl who wasn’t me, he also threw me away.

Not that I blame them. I was the common denominator. After all of the drama, I was standing by myself. I suffered inwardly, and it began to show outwardly. My weight decreased exponentially, and I hardly noticed.

One morning, when I aroused from my sleep, my mother snapped awake and she groggily presented me with a granola bar. It was her way of saying–at 6 in the morning–that I was becoming a stick. In sharing a room with my mother, it was unavoidable. My ribs were starting to show and my athletic body was beginning to decay.

At work, one of my co-workers repeated my mother’s granola-bar presentation, but she was wide-awake and smiling. “Girl,” she drawled rather loudly as she held out the bars to me, “you’re getting too skinny! Eat some food!” Not that I was complaining, I loved granola bars, but I felt myself slipping into this void, and I couldn’t hear what anyone said to me.

I merely nodded, smiled, and went on with my day.

Of course, my co-worker, whom happened to be my boss’s boss, was also a friend, and the months that my curves simply disappeared, she persisted in proffering food and snacks to me. I knew she cared–I knew everyone cared–but the problem was that I didn’t care.

An epiphany came to me one day, and I yanked it into my mind with a vengeance. I needed to love myself, I realized, or else, this could happen again. I could push somebody away again. I could hurt somebody deeper than any cut, any slit, any sever. I could murder someone without blood by doing this again.

So I started to turn myself. As a machine, turning was easy. It was holding oneself from returning to the original state that was difficult. There weren’t any secret ones and zeroes to do it. I just had to program myself to re-screw some loosened nuts and bolts in my mind and in my heart.

It took more than a year to return to my original figure. The sadness inside of my body dissipated, and I found myself laughing and happy all over again. I never forgot what I had done, but I learned from it. I found the courage to date again, and surprisingly, people loved me for me, even though I was a machine. It wasn’t so bad, I thought, and I didn’t mind being alone. I was alone for over a year, and fine with it. Maybe it was another machine I was waiting for, who knows?

My Life as a Machine: Basketball Machine

I never knew what it meant to be a machine. Yes, writing was easy. You do data collection and read and read and write and grab dictionaries like Holy Grails, but being a machine with a writer’s appetite was never easy for me.

I couldn’t write anything seriously. When I did, I returned later–either hours, days or even years later–to find the information I wrote was mostly garbage. I hesitated, and as a machine, that was my downfall.

I think my days as a machine became utterly exposed when I played basketball in high school. I was nothing more than a short pointguard with the ability to pass the ball and play defense. I learned how to time the shots, but I still hesitated. My body knew everything it needed to succeed in basketball, but my brain was just of a different caliber. It never trusted my body, and in all honesty, sometimes, my mind didn’t trust my brain either. I was a star, nonetheless, and I seldomly admitted to being one when people decided to challenge me just for “the props”.

I loved basketball. For a machine, I was disgraceful. I didn’t dance basketball like Candace Parker, or fly like a bird like Michael Jordan. I had skill, but as a machine, I was set apart from everyone else because of who I was. I remained simply, well, a machine, now that I look back at those days.

Somehow, as one of the only machines in the group, I began to see why I was important and what made me special  as a basketball player. My inclination for improvement was faster than the other girls. They played for years before I started, and before I knew it, I was surpassing them in most aspects of efficient basketball playing. It was getting over my brain that made me a liability sometimes.

My senior year in high school, I was finally on varsity, a captain, and the rest of the world seemed to understand that. I had an average team, but our individual talents were far higher than our teamwork. The varsity coach was this man who came from our rival school. He looked like a football player and coached like a football coach. We would spot him scratching his crotch and ambling around with this strut that said everything but basketball. He coached us like a pack of girls, and in the game of basketball, it was a way of coaching that you did not do, girls or guys. The best part of his attitude was that he had an attitude towards us.

Everything we did wasn’t good enough, no matter his fake compliments. I was a machine, so I could see it clearly. It was such a problem not to trust the varsity coach, but I figured that I could help lead the team. After all, basketball was still basketball despite the coaching ability.

My real coach was Coach Ray. He was a father to me. He taught me how to play basketball, or moreso, the basics of basketball, and he gave me the room to learn things on my own. I think he was more of a father to me than my biological father, and so, our relationship was one I cherished even to this day. He put his trust into me, even when I made mistakes. Unlike the varsity coach, he was this impenetrable man of values and understandings. He knew so much, I always knew he would forever be called “Coach” in my book.

Coach Ray normally went to my games if he could, even though he was only the junior varsity coach. He always had something to say to me about my game or my brain. He could always tell when I wasn’t in a good mood because my game became something different. Angered, I was frantic and wild, but I had unending control of the ball and I was at least a fraction faster than my fastest sprint. Unfortunately, at the maddening levels of aggression, I forgot about others, including my teammates, and I passed the ball less, missed the shots, or hurt someone from my pure evil tunnel vision. Somehow, Coach Ray would bring me back to earth and tell me to calm down.

One game in particular, I felt the adrenaline hit me like a round block. It was during a pre-season tournament, and I made a bad pass to one teammate. The opponent intercepted the pass and went up for the lay-up. I tried to redeem myself by going up and trying to block the lay-up, but lo and behold, the shot went in and the referee called a foul on me. I was so angry with myself for making two dumb mistakes in two seconds. The second we were all going back down the court, I wanted out and the varsity coach pulled me onto the bench. I sat the farthest away and sulked. I was just so mad! How did I make two errors like that? What was wrong with me?

I sat out the rest of the game, and when we walked towards the bus to trek home, Coach Ray wouldn’t even talk to me. “I’m disappointed in you,” he told me, and walked ahead of me. I was struck with such shame, I didn’t even bother asking him why.

Later on, when we returned to school, I finally spoke to Coach Ray. He told me that I let the team down. Even if I did make a mistake, I shouldn’t take myself out of the game. My team needed me the most then, and I wasn’t there.

“But I’m not the whole team,” I protested, trying to get him to see my point.

He shook his head. “No, you’re not the whole team,” he began, “but like how a machine works, you are a very important gear. You make a up a special part of the team.”

When he said those words, I felt my mouth go dry and my eyes water. I don’t know what hit home for me when he said that. At that moment, I stopped thinking of myself as a part of the basketball team and started to think of myself as a special part of the team. I never realized that other people thought I was special, and for someone to say that to me so seriously, I was surprised.

Coach Ray placed his hand on my shoulder and smiled. “Why are you crying?” he inquired, his voice softening.

“I just…I never thought of myself as that,” I stammered, trying my best to wipe away the tears. I felt at that time period I was pretty worthless, and every mistake I made was closer to losing something, losing a piece of respect or a morsel of faith in me from others.

“Well, you are,” he reassured me.

I think that conversation gave me a whole different outlook on everything, and made me realize that I’m a better machine than I give myself credit. Did anyone else feel like I did? I didn’t know, and if I wanted to know, I could ask. Somehow, I still felt unable to express what I really thought. In the end, I realized how I expressed myself didn’t always matter, especially on the basketball court. I only needed to believe in myself and hope that everyone on my team would follow suit.

Being a machine already set me apart from people. It was being special that drove me. If I wasn’t special, then who was special and how did they become special? I was on the road to finding out.