Always Check for Evidence of Alien Abduction Before Going to Bed with Someone
He looked to be about thirty five, sand-colored, pock-marked, the complexion of a man who had spent his life in the sun, drunk out of his mind. A dry, used-up bleached-out destroyed-party-animal orangeness. It looked like he maybe bicked his head every day, the way his rust-colored scalp glowed under the fluorescent lights. The glasses, the ancient, tight, stone-wash jeans, the leather jacket hanging on the back of his chair with sparse limp faded fringe, it was all so Euro trash. Jailhouse tattoos all over his wrists and arms. The only modern thing about him was his t-shirt, black, over sized, with a picture of Tux on the breast pocket.
He was managing the internet café that day when I walked in. My stomach hit the floor, hard, when I saw him. It was April. April is just so frustrating, I always form these secret crushes on strangers, or maybe the crushes form me. I was transfixed by him as soon as I saw him—there was something about him. I walked up to the desk he was sitting at, which was facing all the other terminals, like a classroom.
“$5 for a half hour on one of those machines,” he pointed without looking, “$7 for a full hour. If you want to print anything you need to use one of the machines in the back,” he gestured again, this time to a back room with a wide doorway. His other hand moved his mouse as he spoke. “If you move from one machine to another you have to pay for at least a half hour on both. Pay when you’re through. Have a nice day.”
I hesitated. It was obvious that he wanted me to go away but I wasn’t ready to. I stood there picking one of my fingernails and grinding my toe into the floor for a second. I wanted to say something clever, to show him that I knew about computers, that I was just doing this because my dad took away my internet access when he got my last report card. I wanted to show him that I knew who Tux was, that I wanted to take him home with me and put his head reassuringly on my chest and find out all about the Spanish beaches he obviously spent his youth puking all over. But in the end I just shuffled to one of the machines and settled in to check my email.
I have three email addresses, so I was planning on paying for the full hour. Nothing cool that day though, just lots of spam. I dicked around on my favorite web sites, posting random message boards until I realized I’d wasted an hour and a half, and that the sun had disappeared behind a cold April rain. I would have to walk home in it.
I tried to make conversation as I paid. “Slow day huh?” The place had been empty except for me the whole time.
“Yeah,” he sighed, “mostly business picks up around 9 after the library closes. Frankly I don’t see why anyone comes in here when it’s open—there you get an hour for free. This place is a rip-off.”
“Um.” Let me tell you, I felt special at that moment. It didn’t help that he gave me too much change for my 20, because I could tell it was an accident.
My dad was in a bitchy mood when he got home. At dinner, I told him I had plans. He shrugged. I said I’d probably stay the night at Torsten’s. He shrugged again.
Normally my dad gets really weird when I say I’m hanging out with any boys, but dad used to be married to Torsten’s mom, so I guess I’m supposed to be safe with him, ‘cause he was my brother once. He’s a year younger than me, but he gets out a lot more.
When I got over to Torsten’s house, he had just networked his computer to this new system he’d put together from spare parts, and installed this new video game. He had also somehow found a supply of really cheap beer. So we sat in his dingy basement and drank beer and shot each other into little pieces until it was about midnight.
“Do you want to go out?” Torsten asked. “I was thinking about going over to Dave’s house. Have you met him?”
“No,” I said.
“Maybe you’ve seen him around? He’s at the comic book store all the time, big guy, brown hair, always wears those Pink Floyd t-shirts?”
“The guy with the hair down his back and the beard that reaches his beer gut?” I asked.
“He’s gross,” I shuddered.
“Whatever,” he said. “Dave’s a cool guy. He runs this website I have to show you, but not now.”
So we went over to Dave’s house. There were a whole bunch of people there smoking weed when we showed up. I was the only girl, which is normal. I like the attention I get when I hang out with Torsten’s friends because boys at school don’t look at me much. On the other hand, it’s kind of weird how everyone just stares when I walk in because I’m the only girl, again.
The room was hung with network cables, and important looking computer parts littered the floor along with pizza boxes, overflowing ashtrays, dirty socks and a switchblade knife. The walls were still unpainted, and the furniture had probably been picked up from someone else’s curb pretty recently. The place smelled sort of funky, like resin and drywall and mildew. A pitiful stereo in one corner was playing They Might be Giants.
I didn’t know anyone other than Torsten, so I didn’t say much. We were passing the bowl around and this one skinny Goth kid was going off about how much funnier Reese’s Pieces would be if they were Rhesus Monkey Pieces and this one fat kid I’d seen at the comic book shop all the time was laughing his ass off.
Then he appeared. The guy from the internet café. He came out of the door by the kitchen.
“Torsten,” I whispered in his ear, tugging his sleeve, “who’s that?”
“That’s Stan. He lives with Dave.”
Stan came over and sat by me, mostly because that’s where there was room. Torsten and I had the couch but I had slid to the floor, to sit among the dust and crustified empty glasses and enjoy being buzzed. Stan took my old place on the couch, so I was between him and Torsten.
“What’s up?” I said to him. I was really stoned, and I think he could tell.
He looked at me for a minute, and then recognized me. “Hey,” he said, smiling at me.
“I’m surprised you recognize me,” I said, lolling my head on the seat of the couch.
“ ’Cause you didn’t look at me when I saw you earlier.”
“I looked at you,” he said, and then looked at me in a way that made me want to run and hide. Real intense. Then it was like his face was right down into mine, as though it was floating a couple inches in mid air, detached from his body.
Across the room, Dave was talking fast and paranoid. I noticed Stan was listening, so I started to pay attention, too.
“Wait a second," said Torsten, "you’re not telling me you believe in computer disasters too, do you? I mean at this point pretty much everyone knows the problems with Y2K are going to be pretty minor…”
“According to my internet sources," Dave told him, "if the millennium goes off okay, then that just means the end of the world will take place in 2012. By 2012 the antichrist will be among humans...”
“Right,” said Torsten, “so how do the alien abductions fit in?” I realized that behind Torsten’s head was that poster from the X-Files, the one with the UFO that said “I want to believe”. I think it was the only thing on any of the walls.
“The abductions serve two purposes,” said Dave. “The gray aliens are breeding a super race of hybrids to do manual labor on this colony they’ve established under ground on Mars, but they’re also putting implants into the necks of the people they abduct, so that when things on earth really go to shit they can use these people to control events.”
“The messiah is supposed to come when the antichrist gets too powerful, isn’t he?” asked Torsten.
“Yeah,” said Dave.
“Well, won’t the Second Coming interfere with the aliens’ plans?” I asked, picking up Torsten’s train of thought.
“No,” Dave turned to me excitedly, “no, because the second coming only affects humans. God is only God for people on earth, not aliens.”
“I was abducted by aliens,” said Stan. “A couple years ago. They put an implant in my back. By my tailbone.”
No one spoke for a few minutes.
“Well,” said the skinny Goth kid after a minute, stretching, “I’d like another hit, anyone else?” He took out the bowl.
We passed it around the room again, and cranked the stereo someone had put on the Cure, and Dave was showing Torsten his ‘credible internet sources’.
I turned to Stan. He was looking at me all intense again. My stomach flipped over. I mean, I knew he was almost old enough to be my dad, but he really turned me on. I don’t know why. I asked him about being abducted by aliens, but he didn’t want to talk about it, so I asked him about his job instead. Turned out he owned the internet place, but he didn’t really expect it to get anywhere.
“Whatever the fuck,” Stan said casually, as he put his hand on my arm. “I give that place another couple months before it goes under.” His hand was warm and heavy. I could feel heat from it crawling along my arm from where he touched me.
I guess he didn’t care that his business didn’t seem like it was going anywhere.
“I can’t believe you have an implant in your back,” I said after a silence. I’d been thinking about it for the whole conversation.
“I’ll show it to you if you like,” he said, and then the heat rose up in my whole body, like a wave of adrenaline and sex.
“Okay,” I said, trying not to sound too shaky.
I followed him to the door to his room. I turned as he opened it and my eyes met Torsten’s as he looked up from Dave’s computer. I didn’t say anything. Torsten didn’t either. I wondered if anyone else noticed us getting up. Probably they did.
The only light in Stan’s room came from his computer monitor, the screen saver flickering periodically, the window was covered by an old sheet, clothes and dirty dishes littered the floor. He closed the door and put his arms around me, snaking one of his hands under my shirt. I was on the bed before I knew it.
His kisses tasted like stale cigarettes and pot, his mouth was and soft and old. I didn’t care. His stubble stung my face, his rough hands scratched my body. I started to shake because I’d been thinking about him all day.
At first it didn’t seem like it was real, because this sort of thing doesn’t happen to me everyday or anything. I haven’t had sex with that many guys, so I was afraid he’d do something weird, but there were no surprises. He held his hand over my mouth the whole time but other than that it was like I’d done before. I was really worked up from our conversation, like the whole time I’d been talking to him I was wishing this would happen, and then it was.
I always have this energy after sex. Not like I want to get up and do things but like my mind wanders all over the place and I like to talk about stuff. That was okay with Stan. He lay on his back, his arm outstretched to hold me. I was on my belly facing him but I was looking at the rest of the room. We were both sticky and I knew it was cold because where our bodies touched I was warm. I noticed something odd.
“Your sheets have Care Bears on them,” I said. I could hear the rise and fall of Torsten and Dave’s voices in the other room now that Stan and I had settled down, and everything was quiet.
He smiled this sad smile. “They were my daughter’s.”
“Oh,” I said. I’d never had sex with someone who had kids before. “How old is she?”
He grunted and sat up, reaching for a pack of cigarettes on the windowsill. His belly kind of crunched into little rolls when he leaned forward. “About seven,” he told me. “I haven’t seen her in a couple years. Her mom’s sort of a bitch.” He lit the cigarette.
I was nine when his daughter was born. It was obvious that he missed her. He looked so sad when he said he hadn’t seen her in a while.
He rolled over onto his belly and went to sleep after that. I sat up, smoking my own cigarette, my knees up to my chest, letting the computer fan ring in my ears, thinking about alien abductions and the end of the world. It occurred to me that I hadn’t had a chance to check out his back, to look for the implant. There’d be a scar, I was sure. So I stubbed out the cigarette and started to rub his back, gently, so as not to wake him. He made a soft sad sort of moan in his sleep when I touched him, and I brought my face close to his sagging skin as I searched for the scar. I checked everywhere, by his tailbone where he said it was, and then all along his spine, the top of his neck everywhere I could think of. I couldn’t find it. Not a single scar, nothing. I squinted in the blue computer monitor light and tried to make something on his back, anything, a freckle, a hair, look like a scar in the dimness. I started to rub his skin gently in search of a lump that wasn’t a muscle knot, some little scary lump that would prove Stan had had an alien encounter.
Torsten came and knocked on the door. “We have to go home now,” he said, “it’s almost dawn.”
I was weak-kneed from having stayed awake until I sobered up. I fidgeted with my clothes a little bit, they felt unfamiliar because I’d been naked for so long. I wondered how long I’d been in there, looking for evidence of alien abduction while Stan slept and Torsten and Dave argued. I never found anything.
Everyone else was gone, but Torsten and Dave were saying goodbye in the living room as I stumbled out.
“Remember man,” Dave told Torsten as I stepped, bleary-eyed over a greasy calzone box and an exposed computer tower, “the truth is out there.”