by Alison Bacon
On the train most people, like Simon, carry an extra brain. Tucked under an arm or slung casually over a shoulder, it’s a more useful accessory than the old-fashioned integral kind. Battery powered or attached to the mains, it needs no shot of caffeine to kick it into life, nor six hours of sleep to refuel. Best of all, when it’s not needed, you can simply shut it down.
Of course, these brains, being visible, are also fashion statements. The girl in the white wool coat keeps hers in a Gucci pouch, and clasps it to her like a soft-skinned daemon. Further along the carriage, an aging Apple Mac is carried by the wearer of denim who’s reading Silent Spring. Impressive styling, if you go for that kind of thing. Simon is proud of his own brain. Smooth and shiny, he knows it cost more than the others. It’s powerful and compact. It fits in the palm of his hand, or hides in the pocket of his suit without spoiling the cut.
He gets off at the station and slides into the silver saloon that’s been controlling its climate all day long, just for him. At home, Olivia greets him. She’s wearing Agnes B. and a frown. His brain has somehow failed to remind him of a dinner date. ‘You’re late,’ she says, and smoothes her discontentment with a deft stroke of Rouge Noir. At the party he’s greeted and seated and given a drink, but feels out of sorts, disconnected. At the black glass table adorned in white sushi, someone asks him a question. His mind is a blank. ‘I’m sorry,’ he says, ‘I was miles away.’
He can’t imagine what’s wrong, until his wife waves a dismissive arm in his direction.
‘You’ll have to make allowances for Simon,’ she says to the others, ‘I think he left his brain on the train.’