It’s easier than you think having a computer for a face. After the accident they gave me a choice: reconstructive surgery or this. I hate to admit it, but I’ve always been frightened by deformed people. I suppose I am one now. But a computer screen is so orderly, perfect lines and a full color screen. And I can record everything. Does it make me a bad person that I still look at the burned girl and cringe? She lives in the apartment tower next to mine. I used to spy on her before she closed her shade.
At first people thought my face was a costume. Some kind of giant 3D goggles, Liv said. She’s the burned girl, my only friend before the accident. I was one of those kids without designer jeans, just cheap second-hand sweats and white socks who spent my days snickering and drawing gross cartoons at the back of the classroom. But now there is a certain awe around me. Girls come sit with me and scroll through their messages on my screen. They use my camera to take selfies. Where does it go? one of them asks. I start to explain the central processor, the relay to my neural—but she isn’t listening. She leans into me, puts her arm on my thigh, and kisses my screen. I capture her lip print. Can you animate it? she asks. I make it fly around, turn it into a screensaver. I can hear Liv making vomiting sounds up in the front row. She doesn’t sit with me anymore.
Sometimes when I’m tired of everyone asking me stupid questions—can you see or is it like television, is the computer your brain, does your thing still work—I pretend my battery is low and turn off my screen. Sometimes I actually do just sleep in class. The teacher is afraid to say anything.
Last night, I was in my room, watching girls I had recorded in P.E., when I turned on my external camera and looked across the alley at Liv’s room. Her shade was open and there she was, too close to the window, some boy with his shirt off leaning back and looking up at the ceiling. It’s the other side of her face that is melted, so she looked perfect. I pictured whatever her hands were doing and gagged. That’s the only way she can get a boy. I went out to the deserted train yard behind our apartments and sat on a crumbling column of the old station. I thought about what our teacher says, how the poets thought steam power was the future, speed and technology a new kind of beauty. I picture the trains roaring up the coast toward Canada. The cars are defunct now, just gathering rust, so I don’t know how it’s possible, but sometimes they seem to shift a little, their iron wheels emitting a strange high pitch like the metal itself is screaming.