Technical Support

Months of sex, years in the gathering.

Roula Partheniou, Caution Yellow. 2009, Polymer clay and acrylic paint. Courtesy of the artist and MKG127, Toronto.

Excerpted from Private Citizens, forthcoming from William Morrow.

Machines take me by surprise with great frequency.

 —Alan Turing

I. STROKE OF GENIUS

Vanya knew about the porn. She had to. Right? Certainly she knew of it; that Will dabbled, fleetingly and without remorse. A few months ago she’d asked (maybe a bit too casually): Baby, have you watched much porn? He’d said yeah, and that was the end of it. But thank god she hadn’t asked exactly how much he’d watched, because the honest answer would’ve been most of it. So far as Will knew, to Vanya it was a normal guy thing. A quirk . . . though quirks were usually effects and not causes of one’s personality, and by that standard, Will’s porn watching was no quirk — it was pure trait.

And though he hadn’t watched it since he’d met Vanya a year ago, it was still a huge part of who he was, of what he’d consumed, and it was here now, and Vanya was not. What did she expect? He’d never delete it — it was too important, indisputably rare and beautiful. Never mind the man-hours it’d taken to download it; to create file tags and XML-formatted scene markers; to regularize the file names and formats; to fill gaps in photo sets and find hi-res scans of DVD cases, front and back; to complete the back catalogs of particular performers (since in porn, the juvenilia was often the masterpiece); to build his seed ratio on invite-only Torrent forums; to decipher thousands of CAPTCHAs to prove that he was human; or to assemble the storage solutions to house its gigascale, then terascale, then petascale volumes — he’d only watched about a third of it, so it remained in many ways a mystery even to him.

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