Touching You, Touching Me
Apple’s official unveiling of the latest MacBook Pro, with its new OLED Touch Bar, has me, understandably, I should think, contemplating touch, as concept and experience, and things touch-related/-based. My initial thoughts flutter about before landing upon my own MacBook Pro, which, being two years old, has no touch functionality or interface. Since it is but a couple of years old, I shan’t be upgrading, at least for a while.
This decision to wait isn’t really a decision in the sense of choosing among options; given the debt I’m currently carrying, the best option was already pre-determined, and never mind what my remaining credit tries to whisper in my ear. I’ve learned to ignore that voice. Usually. Were my own computer four instead of two years old…. As is, my MacBook Pro has plenty of life left in it, in no small part because I turn to it so infrequently of late.
The thing about trying to save something from dying, such as one’s marriage, sanity, or simply one’s own ass, is that, at some point, when the situation becomes critical and failure seems imminent, one has a tendency to double down instead of cutting one’s losses. You tell yourself that none of it will matter, neither price nor pain, if your objective is obtained, if the impending doom can be halted or at least forestalled. To paraphrase Rush lyricist Neil Peart, as I am wont to do, you pay the price without counting the cost. Or, to quote directly from the actual song, “If love remains, though everything is lost, we will pay the price, but we will not count the cost.”
If love remains. So, what if it doesn’t? What if it never was to begin with? What if the entire enterprise was in error, a miscalculation of another’s desire or intent, or, worse, of your own? What if one’s trust and faith were misplaced, their being founded upon flawed reasoning or dishonest claims? If that which had to be so desperately saved dies anyway, the only recourse, arguably, the inevitable consequence, is your being forced to count that damn cost, after all, a desperation of a different, colder sort, devoid, as it is, of hope.
The above applies equally well when the thing to be saved is your own life. What price is too high? None, you say to yourself; how could it be otherwise, when death negates all else? If you’re dead, you’re dead, and nothing at all would matter; the only thing that does matter, then, is your ultimate survival and continued existence, for on that all else depends, it being the fulcrum of all concerns, good and bad.
Yet, still, the cost remains, unpaid and demanding justice. Debts of various sorts must be repaid, erased. Except, what if the price truly had been too high, rendering recompense unlikely, even impossible? What then? What then, indeed.
The price for my own MacBook Pro was high, but not too high, and well worth it, or had been, until the iPad Pro came along. Since its release, much has been said within the tech community about the respective values of iPad and computer, to the task(s) at hand and to each other. The general consensus among tech journalists, at least among those covering Apple, is that it all depends on your own expectations and workflows. The iPad Pro is an amazingly capable machine, and can handle many, though not all, of the same tasks and demands as a traditional computer. Then there are some, such as Myke Hurley, who just prefer to work on the iPad, even if they can’t determine or articulate why.
I’d like to venture a guess, as I share Hurley’s preference. I hardly ever picked up my Air 2, both because it had limited functionality and because I was largely unaware of those things it could do. I didn’t even watch TV or movies on it, being too depressed, really, for things entertaining. Much changed when I finally decided to upgrade to the Pro model.
My debts were high, but I justified the additional cost by reminding myself that (1) I could sell my Air 2 (which I did), and (2) I deserved it after what I’d been through—namely, my wife ending things and effectively kicking me out of my own house.
Due to the unexpectedness of it all, combined with having to pay double rent plus a security deposit (so triple rent, in essence), not to mention moving expenses, I was woefully cash-poor and, for the first time since I was 15 years old, I actually had to borrow money from a friend. It was humiliating. As if rubbing salt in the wound, my wife (she’s still technically my wife to this very day, fifteen months on) soon after moved herself. Just so we’re clear: I was basically forced to move for nothing, for no more than a couple month’s convenience for herself.
The loss of my wife and the life I had known (much of the latter, to be fair, cannot be laid at her feet) is forever conjoined in my mind and memories, as well as my emotional reactions, to the iPad Pro. One would think the negativity, pain, and loneliness would spill over and color my perceptions of the iPad. Instead, the two broad associations quickly became entrenched, to my mind, within a bipolar relationship, with all things positive associated with the iPad Pro.
Even now, I derive no small amount of pleasure from the act of merely holding it in my hands—or hand, though not for long, since mine is the 12.9-inch behemoth. It quickly ceases to seem so large, however, once it’s put to use, a transition that sheds much light on how even the most discerning people, in this case, tech journalists, cannot easily escape inherited notions. Size, after all, is relative, and the Big Daddy iPad is, at the end of the day, only the size of a magazine. Their weights are comparable, as well, given the number of full-page advertisements in rags such as Cosmo.
Adjustment to its size doesn’t explain my fondness for it. Neither does my discovery of its power and functionalities, because most of those I could have done on the MacBook. That I said most, not all, is telling. Even when the same end can be achieved on either machine, such as video editing (though I eventually purchased a third-party application, iMovie is shockingly powerful on the iPad Pro, likely nearly as powerful as Final Cut Pro from a few generations back), they are frequently accomplished in different ways. So differently, in fact, that many projects, again, such as video editing, had never previously crossed my mind. Meanwhile, other projects, such as hand-drawn or cell animation, are virtually impossible on a traditional computer without a number of cumbersome workarounds.
The difference isn’t so much staring me in the eye as it is resting beneath my finger or palm. Touch. The power of touch. The intimacy of touch. Touch as an extension of self. Touch as connection. To quote Tool, “This body, this body holding me—be my reminder here that I am not alone.” There’s no getting around that I myself am, in fact, utterly alone in the universe; well, aside from Jackass Angie, of course, who, it must said, represented, only recently, the sole safety net between myself and homelessness. All those graduate degrees are worthless when life itself ceases to have worth (and you see yourself as unworthy).
I had—have—nothing to touch save my iPad Pro, and touch it I do, as I am doing now with every character and word. Even the Apple Pencil seems but an extension of both myself and the iPad itself, as though an interface through which to meld into a singularity.
The absence of touch certainly played a major role in the downfall of my marriage. I don’t mean sex, though that was part of it, so much as the mundane touches of everyday life and love — a hand, perhaps, placed briefly upon a forearm; a squeeze of shoulders to either side of the neck; a kiss upon the forehead, just above the eyes. Maybe a playful tickle, or pretend punch to the arm.
Even now, I cannot comprehend how Marsi can blame me — or, rather, my “bullshit” — for the failed marriage when she refused to touch me in any fashion, for any reason. She only ever initiated sex when drunk, and that was but twice in seven years. What did she expect?
Only once did she hint that it may have had something to do with her parents, specifically, her father’s treatment of her mother. Whatever the reason, she chose to keep it to herself while allowing me to fumble about in the dark for answers, for reasons, for anything that wasn't my-wife-hates-me. In the end, that which I least desired to find was all that remained, so that it felt as if it had found me, or had been lying in wait, an ambush of sorts.
Can I be blamed for giving in to despondency and hopelessness? Maybe. I don’t know. Certainly feels as though I should blame myself. I just don’t know for what, exactly. Clearly something keeps her in a state of perpetual anger with respect to me. So angry, you’d think I had left her, or that she’d caught me in the arms of another woman. But no, none of that was the case. Believe me, I had nothing to touch at the time besides my iPhone.
As you can imagine, I am excited by the possibilities opened up by 3D Touch. And haptic feedback from my Apple Watch still brings a small rush of pleasure. Even if it’s an AI-generated push notification, such as a reminder to stand, it still represents a touch from something outside myself. Go back far enough and there’s an engineer, as well as the inevitable managers. Maybe even Tim Cook himself. But someone. Some-one-not-me.
I can’t say what it is about holding something in your hands, feeling it with your fingers, other than that touch may be a core component of our humanity.
All the same, I’m still not buying that MacBook Pro for at least another two years, Touch Bar be damned!