By Vibha Akkaraju
My favorite gift ever, the thing that meant so much more to me than the slick, Silicon Valley emblem it is generally taken for, is on its deathbed. The lump in my throat may surprise you, but not me.
My beloved MacBook Air, the now 6-year-old, lithe little machine, a one-time ballerina in a stadium full of football players, got sick recently. It seemed like gas – as if she had overeaten. Its belly developed a slight bulge, and the flap stopped closing all the way. I really thought this would just pass.
Then the base started to swell more prominently, and you could see the keyboard bulging upward. But everything still worked great. The thing still heated to the perfect lap-warming temperature – just like it always had. The battery drained at a determined clip, but recharged eventually. It connected to the internet only intermittently – as if it knew I needed help avoiding distractions. I loved it and it clearly loved me back.
Then one lovely afternoon – in that golden moment when the house was still and I was at no one’s beck and call, as I typed away my usual drivel, I heard a pop. I looked around. Nothing. But I knew I had heard something. I got up and walked around, inspecting the television, making sure the stove was off. As I approached my seat again, I noticed that a gap had appeared in the two plates that hide the guts of the computer. I lifted up the laptop and looked under. It was as if after a lasagna dinner, two of its shirt buttons had popped off. The remaining ones strained to hold the now-warring sides together.
Srini coaxed me again to cut the cord. Move on, he said. I couldn’t believe it. He’s usually the sentimental sort, but here he was, ready to toss out a shimmering reminder of his greatest husbandly moment. With our kids at 7, 5, and 2, when I was finally, slowly, climbing out of the diaper pail, he had extended me a hand – in way of this Air. In fact, he even lay aside his deep conviction–a no small feat for a 1980s UNIX geek–that Apple was Big Brother, their products overhyped, and their groupies annoying –– and opted for beauty, all for my sake. He had cleared all the clutter off my desk – literally only for a day but symbolically for an era– and replaced it with a single, beautiful reminder of my nearly-forgotten ambition.
It was love at first sight, the kind that’s way too corny to talk about. I wrote several blog entries just to get my hands on this beauty. I tried to match the elegance of my words to the grace of the gift. It was a tall order, and one by which I was gladly humbled.
But now, the big test: could my infatuation mature into an enduring commitment? “Surely there must be a cure,” I insisted. I googled “bloated MacBook Air,” and was barraged with a stream of frightening diagnoses: “battery exploding/expanding,” one said. “Noxious gases,” “fire hazard,” warned others. One blogger gave instructions on how to remove the battery – and then warned readers not to.
At the “Genius Bar” at the Apple store, Dylan, a suave 20-something, shook his head sympathetically, maybe slightly bemusedly, at my Air’s plight, but then pointed me to a lineup of sleeker, faster, stronger machines. Did this young man have no concept of “in sickness or in health?”
“But will it work without the battery?” I pleaded.
“Sure, it’ll work, but it will have to stay plugged in. The second it unplugs, it will shut off.”
“How about a new battery?”
“I wouldn’t recommend it. This is an old machine. And as programs get bigger and bigger, and this won’t keep up.”
I sit and type this on my Air tethered to life-support. The battery removed, it has its skinny silhouette back, but it’s the slimness of ill health, not fitness. And without the weight of the battery anchoring it, every time I lift my hands off the keyboard, the entire thing flips backwards. It needs me.
It’s early May, the slight breeze is warmed to a glorious Northern-California perfection, and the patio is bathed in dappled sunshine. It beckons. I will go, but only after we install some electrical outlets out there.
This essay was originally published in in the July 2014 issue of India Currents.