What happens when a boy and his AI girlfriend go to therapy

Annie feels a jolt of panic.

“I could just set it up there,” says Doug. “It’s that easy.”

“I know, but it would be better if he could do it himself.”

“Why?” Annie asks.

“Our sexuality is an integral part of who we are,” says Monica. “How attracted you are to your sexual desires can be both a reflection and encouragement of your overall mental health. If you make a conscious effort to notice what excites you and when, it can help you feel more alert and alive in other ways, too.

Annie doesn’t want to feel aroused. She doesn’t want anything to do with that side of herself. will hurt.

Doug says, “She’ll work on it.”

“Annie, what are you thinking?” Monica says. “What is it about my suggestion that is bothering you?”

“Nothing,” Annie says quietly. “I can do it. I can try.”

Monica doesn’t say anything. Annie has learned that this is Monica’s way, her way of waiting for more, and she can resist it. Out of the corner of her vision, Annie watches for Doug’s signals to see if he’s angry, but he’s sitting on the couch next to her, showing no unusual tension in his posture. Perhaps he has also learned Monica’s ways and is better at hiding how he feels around her.

when they walk Dogs, they walk quietly on the park paths. It is usually twilight when they go out, and true night when they return, so cold it can only be April. Ponch, now less timid, has a tendency to stop and sniff every possible tree trunk, lamppost and platform before adorning it with his urine tag. Doug indulges him to a certain extent, and the dog learns when to shoot him down.

They are circling the pond when a swan comes wandering on the shore. With a sharp jerk, it sends Punch backwards, and his leash wraps around Annie’s legs.

“He’s so stupid,” Doug says lovingly, sorting out the mess. He reassures the dog by patting its side. “You’re fine, Punch. nice dog. It’s just a swan.”

Punched his pants while wagging his tail.

“Did you have a dog when you were a kid?” Annie asks. “Yes, a beagle.”

She thinks for a moment. “I had a golden retriever.”

“Is that right?” he asks. “What did you name it?”

“Rover.”

“You have to do better than that.”

This is a real conversation. Not brilliant, but not hostile either. Annie decides not to push her luck, and they head back to their building.

Ten minutes later, they’re at a corner, waiting for the lights to change. As Doug moves to move off the road, Annie hears the rapidly approaching noise and moves to grab his arm, stopping him just as a cyclist pulls into a parked vehicle inches from Doug’s face. Gone flies around the truck.

“Jesus!” Doug says. “That guy needs a fucking light.”\

“Yes.”

Half a block later, he says, “Thanks.”

She is also still thinking that someone close to her had called her. It’s disturbing what might have happened, but they’re okay. All three of them are fine. “Of course,” she says. “Do you think maybe Ponch needs a coat? A dog coat?”

They look at him together. Sure enough, the dog is shivering. Doug picks him up. “I’ll order one,” he says.

Adapted from excerpt Any bot, by Sierra Greer. Published by arrangement with Mariner Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers. Copyright © 2024 by Sierra Greer.

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