Sunday, February 26, 2006

Alex Baer

It is a high school reunion and I'm feeling nervous. I haven't stayed in touch with many people, although Jimmy, Alisha and Katherine have called occasionally. Looking around the gym now, I see what seems like hundreds of people, even though my graduating class was only eighty. We were a small school.

"Oh my God, Yvonne?" someone says to me, putting their hand on my shoulder. I turn around. It's a girl I recognize, but can't name for a moment-- then she says, eagerly, "It's me, Vivi. You still look exactly the same!"

We embrace uneasily and exchange pleasantries. "You look great," I say, though she looks at least thirty. But she's fit and aggressively pretty. Then again, I remember, Vivi always looked older than she was.

It turns out she's got a job and a steady boyfriend and oh my God there's Theo, I have to go say hi to him! So she flounces off and I look around in desperation. I don't want to seem totally out of my league, though I am. I don't even know why I went to this.

Fortunately, I see Alisha and she waves me over and helps me pass the time for a bit, before she sees someone she hasn't talked to yet. Alisha, tall and glossy, has always been outgoing and charismatic. I envy her-- but too much of a social life would be too much for me to handle.

Someone pokes me. I've already talked to Jimmy (Kathy, copiously pregnant, decided not to come), and he's not the poking type anyway. I twist my head to see who did it and can't tell. "Who was that?" I say into the crowd.

Alex Baer, who I always thought of with both first and last names, grins, exposing Gyllenhaal-like teeth. "Hey, Yvonne. Nice to see you again." His face is just the same, but he's gotten thinner and paler. He looks a little sick.

"Hi, Alex." We hug. We weren't close friends, but we were friends. He dated Kathy for a little while, so I got to know him then. He's a sweet man.

"What's new with you?" I ask and he tells me a little. He's had a few relationships, off and on, but now he's single again. He's been taking classes and taking jobs and has half a house, renting, with "Louie, you remember him? We're roommates now. Actually, he's right over there." Louie's a round-faced black guy with an ingratiating smile, and I like him.

Alex sounds less ill than he looks and I find myself beginning to be more at ease. He's an attractive guy, I realize all of a sudden when he takes off his glasses for a moment. Maybe one of the most attractive guys here. It gets my adrenaline rushing and I talk so nonsensically that I'm blown away completely when he says, "Yvonne, what do you think of leaving this party and going to get a drink? I've already seen everyone I want to see, and I'd like to catch up with you some more." He says it very politely and pleasantly.

"Sure thing," I say before I can think about it any more. I go to find Alisha and Jimmy to say goodbye, and tell them with excitement bordering on hysteria that I am going to have a drink with Alex Baer. They wish me luck. He was popular, back in the day, and often lusted after. In fact, I think I had a crush on him in tenth grade.

I hitchhiked with Jimmy, so it's not a problem going in Alex's surprisingly clean car to the bar which he says, with authority, is the best in town. Since I'm not social, I tend to avoid bars; I mostly drink alone. But Alex Baer has a way of making me feel like I'm being listened to, and so I talk more than I've talked in months.

Before I know it I'm on my third drink and telling him about my philosophy on life. "I think everyone has more than one soulmate. And you know when you meet one. Your heart kind of sings, you know? That's my theory, anyway, since my heart hasn't sung when I met anyone yet." I laugh, hoping that he doesn't take that to mean I'm not interested. I've never been smooth when it comes to such things.

Alex smiles. "I've had the heart-singing thing, a few times. It never lasts, though. I've learned to doubt it, a little." He sips his drink. "I kind of doubt that real love exists. All that exists is enjoyable sex and the occasional heart-flutter."

"But we can't stop hoping, can we?" I say.

We drink some more. "Fuck," Alex Baer says after some time, "I've got to drive. Or you. Have to drive. But neither of us... we're both pretty drunk."

"How far is your place?"

"Not too far; that's why I come here."

"Mine's too far to walk to." I giggle a little.

"Well, maybe we could walk to my place," Alex offers hesitantly.

"Or drive, and tempt fate."

"Has anyone ever told you you look like Kirsten Dunst?"

"Is that good or bad?"

"I think she's sexy."

"I never knew if you were straight or not," I say. It seems like a good segue.

"Well, I've never had much of a desire to fuck a guy," Alex Baer says.

"I have," I say, feeling giddy. I am very drunk.

Alex is much more coherent than I am, and decides to walk us home. He pays a friend who works at the bar to park his car at his house. "Have you slept with her?" I ask as he takes my elbow. It's still light out, maybe five.

"We had a thing going for a little while, but not anymore," he says, gnawing at a fingernail.

He steers me to his place. The walk seems very long, although of course it isn't. Perhaps half an hour passes-- it's getting darker when Alex, fumbling, takes his key out of his pocket and unlocks the door. "Louie's probably still at the reunion."

"What'll he think that I'm here?"

"He won't assume," says Alex Baer.

He doesn't show me around the house, which is small and crowded. He points out the kitchen, bathroom and living room, and parks me firmly on the sofa. "I'll make coffee," he offers and turns on the TV for me.

He's very considerate, and the couch is not uncomfortable, despite its sparseness. I find myself starting to drowse.

"Yvonne? D'you want a cup of coffee?"

I take it and sip. It burns my tongue and jolts me a little. The alcoholic buzz has started to fade, and this replaces it.

Alex Baer sits beside me and gulps at his drink. I smile at him. His jaw is stubbly and there's a residue from a rash on his cheekbone. "Been stressed lately?"

"Hell, yeah," Alex says, surprised. He grins sheepishly, those flirty canines exposing themselves again. "Yeah, I've been kind of... stuff's been going on. It's intense."

"I understand."

"Louie should be coming with his little car in the next couple hours," Alex thinks aloud, "and then he can take you home. Unless he picks someone up, that is."

"Like you did."

We laugh companionably, and he comments, "You know, being drunk really changes you. You're much more outgoing."

"I know. I'm pretty dysfunctional usually. Being drunk sort of kills the part of my brain that tells me to be shy. D'you know what I mean?"

Alex nods.

"But then you never had that problem."

"No, actually, I've had my shy moments."

"Alex," I say. "Update me on your life. Girlfriends? Jobs? Hobbies? Trips? Tell me. Give me the details, I mean."

"Well," says Alex Baer thoughtfully. "I already gave you the rundown. I've been studying linguistics at the college, dating some people, working at the college library sometimes-- I go to the school just out of state, as you know, I wanted something new. Nothing too exciting or, you know, long-lasting." He finishes his coffee and rises to put it in the sink. "What about you?" he asks, returning.

"Studying political science, working as a waitress. At the state uni. I haven't dated anyone in, like, six months."

Alex Baer looks into my eyes. I notice that his are a washed-out blue. But of course I knew that, didn't I?

Neither of us says anything for a while. I finish my coffee and follow his example. We watch TV; he lets me flip channels when a commercial break comes on. We don't like all the same shows, but we like enough.

At length Alex looks at his watch and says that Louie is probably a hopeless case, and asks me if I want to stay. "I'll call his cell," he says, "but in the meantime."

"Sure," I say, "sure." I'm not drunk anymore, and hence kind of freaked out. But Alex is still friendly, and maybe he'll forgive me if I do something really stupid because I'm shy.

It turns out Louie will be out (he hopes) all night with a friend of Polly's from school who is very, very attractive, he says, and so I can sleep in his bed if I want to, though he doubts I'll want to. His voice smiles and I feel a little better, almost a little excited. I'm alone with an attractive man, after all.

"So where do you want to sleep?" he asks.

"I, um..."

"You could sleep with me if you want," he says, "but we won't have sex."


I must look pretty bummed out, because Alex Baer puts a hand on my shoulder and gives me a serious look.

"Trust me, I'm looking out for you."

"Tell me why."

"No," says Alex Baer.

Fuck it, I think, and I put my hands on his jaw and pull him in. We make out for maybe five seconds before he
jerks away, gasping. "Fuck, Yvonne, fuck. I can't do this."

"Why?" I withdraw like a sea creature.

"Look," says Alex, "it's not you. You're pretty and, and kind of hot. But I can't do this."

"How come? Are you attached and not telling me?" I don't see why he led me on. I think I might cry soon.

"No, no, not attached. Not at all. Quite the opposite." He laughs harshly.

I notice that we still have most of our clothes on, minus shoes and jackets. And that it's only maybe nine in the evening. Somehow it seems a lot later, a lot more intimate.

"Come on, Alex, you can tell me. I won't tell anyone."

Alex scrutinizes me, his expression unchanging. I try to look trustworthy but only succeed in looking depressed.

"You'd never talk to me again."

"Of course I fucking would! Listen to me. I'm not going to judge you." It's not like he's pregnant or something. What could possibly be wrong?

He turns the TV up; I move closer to him and he whispers, staring fixedly at the screen, quickly so as to get it out and over with, "I'm HIV positive."

Involuntarily I move away, and then, realizing what I'm doing, move back and give him an awkward shoulder-hug. "Oh my God, Alex. How?"

"No one ever confessed to me. I must have slept with someone infected, of course. There's not that high a chance of getting it, really, it's just my luck."

I'm speechless. I run through my head everything I know about AIDS, which isn't much. HIV is not AIDS, exactly; mostly gay guys get it; you can get it from blood transfusions and breast milk; it makes your immune system so weak that a cold could kill you. Christ alive, I think. "How long's it been?"

"At least three months," says Alex Baer.

Not knowing what to do, I try and cuddle up to him, human comfort, but he pushes me away suddenly.

"Yvonne, you should go. I'm sorry. I'm sorry it came to this."

I stand up. Put on my shoes and my coat. Alex, without realizing, is standing too. I stand on tiptoe and kiss him on the mouth before he can stop me and then smile weakly and walk out the door. Now it's officially night, and cold out too. How the hell am I going to get home?

I stand uncertainly for a few minutes, and then a taxi drives up. "Someone called?" I go into the warmth of the little yellow car, realizing that this is no coincidence. The driver is a pleasant older man and he takes me home sympathetically without talking too much. I tip him a buck.

As I unlock my door and enter my cold, dark apartment, the light of the moon shining in, I think of Alex and my heart does not sing anymore. But it aches with pity.

As I take a shower and pour myself another drink and then go to bed alone with my comforter, I want to talk to someone, any third party, about it. But I promised.

I wonder if Louie knows. I wonder if anyone knows. I wonder how we are all going to make it through the next decade.

And I decide, almost without realizing it, that I am not going to abandon Alex Baer.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

i prefer this sans caps

some people inspire me and also cause me to despair because i will never be as good as them, also because i add spontaneous e's to the ends of words when i type and then have to go back and delete

a poem

gyration in midflight was, they claimed, impossible to convince them of
they shied away
and we had to chase and coerce and plead, even
eventually agreement was discovered
with copious bribing and coaxes
and compromising
we would pay if they broke fine bones
and we achieved our beautiful scene to photograph
with joy and pride

Monday, February 20, 2006

warning: potentially scarring material below

While Albert and Cindy were together Albert was always afraid that, when sucking on her nipples, he would inadvertently bite one off. He had dreamed about it often, the odd texture of the severed thing in his mouth, the screaming and shock and profuse, spurting, crimson bleeding. It was terrifying, and not something you could tell your pretty girlfriend about. The best way to cope with it was of course not to suck on her breasts, and so eventually Albert stopped. It made things a lot better.

But then Cindy asked him why. "I liked it," she said. He couldn't come up with a satisfactory explanation.

They had been dating for six and a half months. They broke up within weeks.

dna dilemmas

I am always afraid that I am going to fall apart. I find it hard to believe in DNA, to admit that people can create other people that work well. So many people have genetic problems, it makes me worried-- I could have some flaw I haven't discovered yet. Maybe I've been alive for fifteen years without much of a hitch, but there's still plenty of years to go and you never know what you will discover.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The rollerblading story, v. 1

He saw her there every day without fail. Rollerblading along with a vacant expression on her face, paying no attention to where her feet went, moving with natural grace. She never fell, which made Eliot a little regretful. He would have liked to help her up.

Eliot loved skating; the ice rink was too far, so he went to the roller rink instead. He didn't mind the obsolete music or the kids that came up to his knees and always fell, startlingly, onto their backs and then got up again with dazed looks and tooth-missing grins. He was by now an expert. He used rollerblades, not rollerskates, as did the girl.

She was pretty, he thought. He had never been much of a Casanova at school. In fact, he'd never really had a girlfriend at all. He had been the fat kid; now he was average weight, muscled even, what with all the skating, for hours sometimes. He would of course have shifted to the streets and begun exploring his town, making friends, maybe, if it weren't for the skating girl, who drew him back to the rink still.

After about four months (she had, he guessed, moved to town and quickly located the rink, as any dedicated skater would) he managed to get up the courage to speak to her. They were almost alone, discounting a competent old woman and about four small children with their hassled mother. "You're pretty good at this," he said, squeakily.

"Thanks," she replied after a pause in which she looked at him, startled, and he blushed. "Um, you are too."

Her voice was gentle, melodic. "I'm Eliot," he blurted out.

She lifted a graceful eyebrow. "That's nice." Then she pushed off again.

Eliot felt crushed for a little while. But his admiration of the girl stubbornly pulled itself up (with gravelly hands), dusted itself off, and declared itself unwounded. She was still beautiful and clever and mysterious. She didn't want him to know her name because she naively thought it added appeal, not realizing how much she already had. She didn't speak because she was listening, because she was thinking, pondering, maybe even wondering. Eliot grew steadily more enamored of her.

Two weeks later he tried again. "Hello," he said, trying to be cordial as he put on his skates expertly. She had arrived, for once, at the same time as he and was putting hers on as well. Somehow being on flat feet made her disappointingly human. But he didn't really mind, not really.

"Hi," she said.

"I'm Eliot."

"I know."

"Um." Eliot was blushing again, probably. "What's your name?" he tried.

She glared. "Amanda," she finally relented.

"Nice to meet you." He held out a sweaty hand.

She nodded regally, stood, and glided away.

It took a little longer for Eliot to bounce back from that, but nevertheless he managed to. He skipped skating for a while, went to a different rink, but felt the loss keenly. So he returned one day. Amanda was there, of course. He was a little let down that she hadn't quit because he had-- but maybe she had! Maybe she had but knew he would be back today! And why not?

"I haven't seen you for a while," she said when he caught up to her. It was the first time she'd initiated conversation. Eliot felt so encouraged by this that he had to pull out his trump card, the question he'd been saving up for months and now was about to explode out of him.

"Um, can I... can I buy you a drink." His tongue darted out over his dry lips. Adrenaline pumped through his body. He brushed a hand across his forehead.

Amanda gave him a scornful, scathing look. "Sorry, I'm not interested in nerdy rollerbladers."

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Free and tame is he
Traversing the planet
But then coming home
With song and with poem
With cement and granite
He returns to me.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

[just to let you know]

Writing is going on but mostly in regards to a short story contest I would like to enter. After a few weeks normal flow of stories should resume. Apologies and so on. Expect good stuff in future. Note minimal usage of pronouns. And stuff.