The Aliens by Anthony Spaeth


When we first encountered the fat aliens, we had not necessarily been looking for fat aliens, nor for any aliens in particular. However, the fat aliens were hard to miss: They had parked their bulbous, hippy-dippy spaceship half-way up the artificial hill at Miller Outdoor Theater, as if someone—someone very lazy—had been trying to fly to the top instead of walking. And smoke was billowing out from under the hood. It might have been smoke. It might have just been steam. Who could tell? Anyway, their warp drive was fried or something and so we, being somewhat nosy and somewhat bored with our own existences, walked on over to better observe them and their predicament. There wasn’t anything we could have done for them, of course. Possibly we could have changed a tire, if the problem had been a tire, which obviously it wasn’t.
     But there was something about the fat aliens, something about the improbability of their situation, that attracted us. When we came closer, we saw they were all hot and sweaty, their hair disheveled, their hands and forearms covered in engine grease. They were holding some sort of tool, something utterly inappropriate for the task. Possibly a vise-grip. As we peered over their shoulders into the engine compartment, they glanced back and shot us a look of mock exasperation. We say “mock” because at the same time as the fat aliens were looking exasperated, they were obviously not taking things that hard. They blew their bangs up with a puff of breath and then smiled at us. It appeared they were actually enjoying themselves, in an absurdist sort of way. Taking it all in from a distance. They tipped their eyes toward the engine and pointed their tool at it and said, “All our experiments have failed.”
     And so, for lack of a better thing to do, we repeated our joke to them. That we could possibly have changed a tire, if that had been the problem, but that beyond that we were blissfully ignorant concerning the inner-workings of modern spacecraft. They looked at us, intrigued, perhaps by our strangeness. And then they laughed. A big and hearty laugh that shook their bellies and their considerable breasts. We smiled also. And then we stood beside their spaceship for awhile, looking at the engine, wondering what we should say next. Eventually, they raised their rather plucked-looking eyebrows and asked, “Do you like baseball?” They said it with that happy, sort of gap-toothed grin of theirs. If we did, they said, and we could get them to the stadium, they had some extra tickets.
     And so we left their spaceship right there, where it would clearly be towed by the authorities. We left it there and they seemed never to give it another thought.
 
* * *
 
As it turned out, the tickets to the baseball game were extremely good. Behind third base, just above the visitors’ dugout. The fat aliens, we soon learned, were fanatic about baseball and also great shouters. They barely used their seats the whole game. Most of the time, they leaned against the railing, screaming and raising their fists and rolling their eyes and slapping themselves on the knees and dropping popcorn onto those around them and slugging drinks from their enormous cups. They were wearing very large and tent-shaped blouses covered in black polka dots. Fabric gathered in strange places as they writhed around in ecstasy or disgust. And, leaning out onto the field, they yelled a litany of things at the third baseman. “LaRouche! LaRouche! You’re an old woman’s blouse, LaRouche. Your panty lines are showing. Every time you take your hat off, we get blinded by your bald spot! You must’ve rubbed too much IcyHot on your scalp or something!” And on and on like that. They talked about spare tires and the virtues of retirement and the fact that people’s eyesight was supposed to decline with age, but that sonofabitch behind the plate was probably born that way.
     But, somehow, even when the fat aliens were shouting obscenities at the tops of their voices, they didn’t seem the least bit angry. In fact, it was obvious to everyone, including the players (who by God heard them loud and clear), that the fat aliens were having a wonderful, wonderful time. The people in the adjacent seats seemed to be familiar with the routine. Everybody did. Even the first baseman, Berkman; when he hit a triple, he stood up from the bag and scanned the seats above the visitor’s dugout as if fishing for a compliment. The fat aliens, seeing this, cupped their hands, leaned over the rail and bellowed, “What are you grinning at, Lance? When Mansolino whirls his arms around, it means you’re supposed to waddle fast as you can. You want a gold star or something?”
 
* * *
 
Certainly, we thought, the fat aliens weren’t very attractive in the conventional sense, what with their stubby appendages and those weird little pony tails growing out of the backs of their heads. But they were happy and their jollity was infectious. We soon found we could spend the afternoon in the kitchen with them, just boozing it up and babbling away. And the fat aliens certainly knew how to drink. No problems with lushiness where they were concerned. A pitcherful of margaritas was no problemo. A big bottle of cheap wine. A dozen Tecates. Sometimes it made our heads hurt just to think about how much they could put away.
     But we drank with them anyway. Drank and drank and cavorted and scrabbled and yaked and fucked. And if we went to work a little slow the next day, and if our skin looked a little waxy, and if we felt a little peaked, and if occasionally one of our co-workers remarked that it seemed as if we hadn’t been living right, well, that was just the price we paid for being with the fat aliens. And frankly we hadn’t been too interested in work since our last quarterly evaluation, after which we had decided that our supervisor had an insufficient appreciation for our talents. So fuck it.
 
* * *
 
Then, in September, when things with the fat aliens had been going well, when we had slept with them to the point it was no longer that important to us (though they did it as they did all things, loudly and with gusto), just when we were getting brave enough to ask the fat aliens the really good questions, like, “Do you think anybody lives at the Big Blank Spot at the center of the universe?” and “What if there isn’t anybody?” and “What if there is but he doesn’t really like us or he’s evil or something?” the fat aliens up and ditched us. They cut us loose, just like old bait.
     We didn’t really know what to say when they told us they were leaving. We’d never seen this coming. We’d never expected it at all. Not in a million, gillion years. In fact, we’d just been debating with ourselves whether to ask the fat aliens if they would be interested in formalizing the current state of affairs. That is, in cohabitation. But, when we looked into their eyes, asking why they were leaving (we were standing on our front porch at the time we were dumped), they turned away, toward their spaceship, and said that they were already running late and had to get going. There was no use dragging things out. It wasn’t healthy for anybody.
     We felt so sad inside to see them like this, leaving us for no apparent reason. We almost began to cry, right then and there, between the various potted plants and wind chimes. Above all, we wanted to know why. Why?! WHY! WHY!!!! Had it all—the screwing, the board games, the drinking, the eating, the baseball—had it all been some sort of one-sided delusion? Had we misread them that much? Had we been such fools?
     But, for some reason, instead of simply asking the fat aliens how they could possibly consider leaving, we told them, apropos of nothing, that we had just bought all the ingredients to make Fettuccini Alfredo. (“But . . . but . . . but . . .” we said, “we just got everything to make Fettuccini Alfredo.”) And we held up our pathetic little grocery bag to show them. We were planning on making it for dinner that night, we said. We knew it was their favorite.
     Perhaps we hoped their gluttony would bind them to us, if only for a minute. Not so. Almost as soon as we asked them to stay, we wished we’d never raised the subject of Fettuccini Alfredo. It made us sound so lame. So desperately lame. Lame to the nth degree. And also totally at their mercy. We might as well have asked them to peck out our livers. And so we told ourselves that we should stop talking before we made things even worse. And we told the fat aliens we guessed we understood the way things were. In just those terms, and very coolly. This was just how modern life worked sometimes. You were in love and then you weren’t. You were into a relationship and then the moment passed. We said, “Goodbye and good luck,” to them. We said we hoped they would look back on this as fondly as we certainly would.
     But all they said in response was, “Okay. Sure.” They gave us a sort of half-hug (after a moment, we hugged back) and then we watched them trudge out to their spaceship, turn around at the end of the driveway, and speed off into the cosmos. We were just left there, feeling empty, waving after them like a bunch of fools, holding our fucking sack of pasta and heavy whipping cream. If we had had a gun that afternoon, perhaps we would have shot ourselves in the head repeatedly. More likely, we would have just contemplated the barrel while gloomily considering excuses to miss work for the rest of the week. (We came up with some good ones anyway.)
 
* * *
 
It wasn’t long before the bored-looking aliens appeared. Naturally, when we saw their spaceship in the distance, we thought it was the fat aliens returning. Our hearts lifted up. We breathed a long sigh of relief, staring at the spaceship in the sky. We said to ourselves, “We knew the fat aliens wouldn’t leave us! They had a moment of weakness or something! Everybody does! But now they’ve thought the better of it and they’re coming back!”
     So we stood there on our doorstep with our eyes hooded, remembering the fat aliens—their short appendages and unruly tufts. Their vulgar oaths. Their unshaved armpits. And we felt all warm and fuzzy inside. We told ourselves that we weren’t even going to act like the fat aliens had gone anywhere. We weren’t going to blame them. We weren’t going to hold it over their heads or guilt them with it or anything. We weren’t even going to bring it up. We were just going to forget the whole episode, pretend it never happened. A real demonstration of our magnanimity, we supposed. In fact, what we were going to do was we were going to get out a couple of pretty good bottles of wine and make our special Fettuccini Alfredo for them. Eat it with them on the porch with the lights down and some mildly scented candles. We began thinking of the music we would play. We imagined a whole playlist.
     But it wasn’t the fat aliens, of course. The fat aliens’ spaceship was an oblate spheroid, much like themselves. But this new ship was longer and more angular. And it had two hooded lights on the front, which made it appear somewhat contemptuous, even from halfway down the block. Still, we couldn’t help but look at it. Even though our hearts had sunk back down when we recognized it wasn’t the right aliens. Even though we were feeling deflated.
     What we told ourselves was that we should be optimistic at the sight of these new aliens. Standing in the front yard, craning our necks, we told ourselves that we were optimists by nature. With the fat aliens gone, we thought to ourselves, “Well, here are some new aliens. They may not be as good as the fat aliens. But, on the other hand, they may be even better. Who can say?” (It was all bullshit. We were not really optimists at all. Sometimes we chose to fool ourselves, for inexplicable reasons.)
     When the new aliens landed next door and walked down the gang plank, we were a bit surprised to see that they looked exactly like their space ship. That is, they were squarish and menacing and had bored-looking eyes. They stalked around the front yard, pulling out the “for sale” sign and leaning it against the side of the house. When they caught us looking at them, we waved at them half-heartedly. We didn’t want to seem excessively weird. They took a few steps toward our fence, keeping us at a careful distance. Their expression seemed to suggest that they had not yet determined if we posed a threat.
     We didn’t like them, you know. We didn’t like them instantly. Their eyes were looking everywhere but us as we introduced ourselves. They seemed high-handed. Vain. Aloof. Condescending. Narcissistic. So, even though we were just welcoming them to the neighborhood, we felt the urge to say, “Well, if we’re so goddamn boring, why don’t you just go on down the road to the next planet. We were getting along fine without you. We were just trying to be friendly.”
     But we held our tongues. Perhaps it was the way we’d been raised. Perhaps it was also that at that moment we were feeling terribly lonely. So we said to the aliens with the bored-looking eyes, “Hey, you know what? We could help you unload that trailer you’re hauling as sort of a welcome-to-the-neighborhood type thing. And by the way, welcome to the neighborhood. And you know what else? We were just getting ready to make Fettuccini Alfredo, and you’re welcome to come over if you’d like some. It’s the best dish we know how to make and—while that’s really not saying much—it’s really pretty good.”
     The aliens with the bored-looking eyes studied us for what seemed like a long time. (It was really only a couple of seconds. But when those bored-looking eyes were looking at you, it felt longer.) They seemed to be considering the offer. Considering us. Until, finally, they said, “It is important to meet the new neighbors.” That was as close as they could come to assent.
     We wanted to say, “Well, don’t do us any favors.”
     But we didn’t.
     We just smiled and nodded.
     When they came over, our living room, it has to be admitted, was a little bit chaotic. We had never bothered to clean it up from the last time we had eaten pizza and played board games with the fat aliens. There were several pairs of blue jeans lying on the floor. Also several mostly-empty pizza boxes. It looked a little bit like we’d just held some sort of orgy, followed by movie night. Or vice versa. But, we reflected, perhaps we were doing what the fat aliens had always called “projecting.” Perhaps the sight of the living room really wasn’t that suspicious. It probably just looked very bachelor-pad-like. Anyway, we hoped that the aliens with the bored-looking eyes wouldn’t ask us about any other romantic entanglements we might have had in the very recent past. And they didn’t. All they did was watch us scurrying around the room with our vacuum. They said, “It must have been some party.”
 
* * *
 
We went to a dinner party with the bored-looking aliens. They told a story about work. A long, involved story meant to be humorous, but the subtext of which was that there had been some sort of personal affront by a co-worker heaped on top of a generalized lack of recognition by all co-workers. As the bored-looking aliens came to the end of the story, their voices rose, it seemed in trepidation. They were in conflict with their boss. That was clear. The boss had said something that could arguably have been interpreted as demeaning. The bored-looking aliens had certainly interpreted it that way. And they certainly wanted to fire back with something even worse.
     We could hear the tension and uncertainty in the bored-looking aliens’ tone. It was as if they were only then realizing that their story didn’t conclude the way they would have liked. It didn’t have a climax. They’d never actually said what they meant to say to their boss. Not only that, they didn’t really know what they’d meant to say. And so, as the bored-looking aliens came to the end of their story, they were also searching for an ending. Something snappy. Something biting. Something powerful and quick. And they never really got there. Instead, they just said, “So we’ll just see how that works out for him,” and looked around for laughter.
     We quickly learned that we had better laugh at all the appropriate stopping points in the bored-looking aliens’ stories, especially if we wanted to get any pussy. We had better at least let out a chuckle or a snarf. If we didn’t, that was some form of a betrayal. Especially in public. If the bored-looking aliens dribbled out some lame-ass disjointed series of grievances, it was somehow our fault their story didn’t have a climax. We (we came to understand) were to blame for their shortcomings as story-tellers. If only we had been more encouraging, they thought, then everyone else would have laughed along. And then the aliens with the bored-looking eyes would have developed the sort of confidence that would have allowed them to be funny for the rest of the evening (so they thought). In a way, according to their thought process, the failure of whole evenings was traceable to us. We had submarined them by not laughing. That was what they thought.
     After we had been with the bored-looking aliens for awhile, we developed this sort of half-laugh that we used to fill the silence at the conclusion of their grudge fables. We would be sipping cocktails at an art gallery, perhaps, and they would end one of their stories, and we would punctuate it with our goofy “huh-huh-huh” right out the nose.
     We began hating the sound.
     We began hating ourselves for the sound.
     Then we really started hating ourselves for it.
     Then we started hating them for it as well.
     But, we said to ourselves, pretending to be reasonable, “So what if we go on a few dates with the aliens with the bored-looking eyes? What’s the harm in that? In this day and age, isn’t it pretty common to date a few aliens, even a few you don’t like? You have to play the field, right? And, anyway, you can’t really find out whether you like aliens or not unless you give them a chance. That’s just the way it works, modernly.”
     And were the bored-looking aliens really so bad? No. Of course not. They were just like everyone else. They were a little insecure a times. They got a little maudlin when they drank too much. But so did almost everybody. So did we, for that matter. And the truth was we didn’t want to spend the weekends by ourselves. We didn’t like to eat dinner all alone. Was it so wrong that we were lonely and sought the company of aliens we didn’t really like? Was it a crime that we were sleeping with them in part because they lived next door and it was so convenient? Of course it wasn’t. Adults did that sort of thing all the time, modernly, we reassured ourselves.
 
* * *
 
Besides, how were we supposed to know the fat aliens would return? They’d said they were leaving for good. They’d had their super-perfect dream job lined up in Dallas. Wasn’t that right? Wasn’t that what they’d told us? A once in a lifetime opportunity? How did we owe them any loyalty? After all, they were the ones who’d left us. What did they expect? For us to have built a temple in their memory in the two months since they’d gone?
     “We thought you said you were never coming back,” we told them. They were standing on our doorstep, crying. We said it very coolly, like complete fucking assholes. We wanted them to know how badly they’d hurt us. In particular, we wanted to make sure we hurt them back at least as much. We said, “You think this whole galaxy revolves around you. You can come knocking on our door at any time, and all is supposed to be forgiven? Is that what you’ve imagined?”
     But the fat aliens asked us if they could come inside for a moment. They didn’t want to discuss it on the porch. And when they came in and sat down, they said they were sorry about what happened. They said at least we could be civil. They said they’d thought they were just good-times to us. A laugh. And then they looked at us and really started sobbing. They said they thought we weren’t really the sort of aliens to settle down, especially not with them. (We took the last part of the explanation to be a reference to their fatness.) They said they’d thought we wouldn’t need them if they weren’t funny and they couldn’t be funny forever. That just wasn’t how it worked. But they said they couldn’t stop remembering how we used to play Scrabble with them and to make up all the funny words. Cuntriculate. Cuntangled. Cuntectomy. They said they had remembered how we looked when we were sleeping, so calm and sweet. “As opposed,” they said through their tears, now smiling, “to the way you are in real life.”
     So we made up our minds to get back together with the fat aliens.
 
* * *
 
Of course, the bored-looking aliens, who were vindictive and had a real mean streak, were in no way agreeable to this change in circumstances. When we raised the subject with them, standing in their wooden-paneled living room among all their expensive-looking furniture (handmade by eunuch Shaker paraplegics), they became very very angry with us. They said we were being foolish. They said frankly we were dumb as shit. 95 I.Q. tops. Then they stormed around the room, pointing in various directions, looking for something cheap enough to throw. “Just one thing and then on to the next,” they said, shaking their heads at us, “You’re like goddamn dogs.” Then they turned on us. “You know what you are?” they asked, rhetorically, their fingers jabbing at our faces. “You’re just a bunch of little boys, all blended in together. Goddamn little boys with your goddamn comic book collection and your stupid board games. You’re not even grown up enough to be considered fucking Peter Pans.”
     We listened to all this, sometimes nodding or making other gestures meant to convey our readiness to concede various points. For example, our immaturity, impracticality, impulsivity, and imprudence. And that was just the Is. But, deep down inside, as we pretended to be apologetic and sensitive and accepting of criticism. . . deep down inside, the bored-looking aliens’ anger made us feel extremely powerful—to see them suffer, to see them crying and hurling their insults at us. If we were so bad, we thought, then why did they want us back? Why did it hurt for us to leave? They wanted us. Hadn’t they enjoyed showing us off to their friends? Hadn’t they been intimating that we should move in with them? Hadn’t they been suggesting that they knew certain people at certain highly-regarded advertising firms who might be willing to give us a better job? Hadn’t they been almost uniformly sexually aroused by us, no matter how inappropriate the circumstances?
     No, we secretly concluded, we were really not the problem. They were the problem. Their lameness was the problem. Their story-telling was the problem. Their jealousy and insecurity and not-very-attractiveness were the problems. All of them. How had we ignored it for so long?
     And, looking at the bored-looking aliens while they shouted at us, their mouths in large round Os, we began to feel a little sorry for them. We sensed they’d been through this sort of thing before. That others had put up with them for awhile and then reached the same conclusion—that you might want to go to bed with them, but they were no one you really wanted to wake up to in the morning. Their skin was blotchy without make-up. Their faces swelled up when they slept. They had extremely bad morning breath. And sometimes they got cross about the least little thing when they woke up, such as not folding up the newspaper or leaving out a dinner plate.
     We tried to put our arms around them and console them for their loss.
     And then it dawned on us, while we stood in their living room stroking the bored-looking aliens’ coarse and color-treated hair—that was the real reason they were so angry. In their minds, they had always been settling for us. They were rich and we were poor; they owned a house, while we rented part of a duplex; they were going to be partners in a law firm, while we wrote unattributed copy for the local paper. And therefore they had viewed us as the ones who were lucky to be in the relationship and themselves as the ones who were generous and tolerant and non-judgmental. They’d thought our poverty and low social standing would prevent us from ever leaving. That’s why this had all come as such a shock.
     Even though we had our arms around them, we felt a rising anger. We were tired of hearing about all our flaws. We were tired of explaining ourselves in the same monotonous and non-offensive tone. And, to tell the truth, we didn’t really give a shit what the bored-looking aliens thought about us anymore anyways. We didn’t mind it that they hated us or that they felt wronged. We didn’t mind what they were going to say about us to their peers. We sort of reveled in it. In the end, no one would really believe them anyway.
 
* * *
 
As it turned out, the fat aliens were more hesitant about getting back together than we’d initially been led to believe. When we talked to them about our break-up with the bored-looking aliens, we assumed they would be pleased. But instead they (sitting in the middle of the living room floor on their ridiculous exercise mat) looked hesitant. Hesitant and somehow a little peeved. “But what if things don’t work out between us?” they asked.
     It was a curious thing for them to have asked. Or at least we thought so, since it seemed to suggest the fat aliens might have preferred it if we had kept our options open and maybe two-timed them for awhile. It was a little difficult to understand why they would say something like that. Perhaps it was their insecurity coming to the fore again, we reasoned. We tried to steer our thoughts in that direction. But we rather suspected that it was because they wanted to keep their options open, too. Which hurt.
     God knows we tried to revive the old times. We went to the museum with the fat aliens. (They demanded we drive around and around to find a good parking spot because it was too hot.) We took picnics to see Shakespeare-in-the-Park. (They noisily ate an entire chicken.) We drank together. (They implied we’d had too much.) Somehow things just didn’t click with the fat aliens the way they had before. We couldn’t make them laugh. They couldn’t make us laugh, either. Things just kind of skidded.
     And the fat aliens continuously grew fatter. At least we thought so. Living in close proximity with them, we realized there was nothing glandular about it. They simply ate and ate and ate. There were old Dairy Queen bags piled up in the back of their spaceship, half a dozen of them. They could eat a half-gallon of ice cream at one sitting. And, in their view, virtually every movement was a form of exercise. Walking the dog was exercise, they told us. Sitting lotus-style on their matt was exercise. Mowing the small bare patch of grass in front of the duplex was exercise. Every movement was exercise, with an offsetting expenditure of a very precise number of calories and the potential for a chocolate reward.
     But, most especially, we were put off—we were set on edge and actually grimaced—whenever the fat aliens turned on one of their inane melodramas. After all, the fat aliens were abnormally harsh critics of the t.v. news. They were always saying how silly it was. How everything was tits and giggles, giggles and tits. Pointless. Filler. But by God they would sit transfixed by the treacliest daytime romance imaginable. Hope and Bo. Trent and Claire. Whatever their goddamn names were. The fat aliens would watch their soaps for hours. Sometimes they would even cry while the various intriguers and ingénues were frozen on the screen and the music came to an ominous crescendo.
     After awhile, we began to think about the bored-looking aliens again. We had, of course, seen them talking on their porch and flying down the street in their fancy, angular, inherently-disdainful spaceship. We had run into them a couple of times at parties, where they had treated us coldly (but the rawness of their emotion seemed to hide their true feelings). They were wearing more mascara now, which we found sexy. They’d gone to the gym a bit. They were wearing tighter clothes, too, even though they didn’t have the figures for it. It looked a little bit absurd, a little sad, to see them so got-up. And for some reason that turned us on: The implied desperation of aging aliens in tight pants. They weren’t getting any younger and they knew it. We started thinking about the bored-looking aliens each night before we went to sleep. We would lay there beside the fat aliens, who were snoring lightly, and fantasize about the bored-looking aliens. In our imaginations, they were extremely whorish and obsessed with novelty.
     We came across the bored-looking aliens at a cocktail party on Church Street that was held by someone forgettable. We circled for awhile. Them glancing. Us catching them at it. And vice versa. When our orbits finally intersected, we confessed that it was good to see them. We complimented their appearance. We may have in some way intimated that we’d been thinking about them.
     When we broached the subject of a potentially clandestine meeting, the bored-looking aliens looked up into our faces warmly. (They’d obviously been drinking.) They were very forward in response. In fact, they put their hips against our hips and nuzzled up against us. Since we were standing side-by-side, they may have felt it was a very subtle gesture. In reality, it wasn’t. Anyone looking at them would have seen they were in heat. Still, we didn’t move away.
     They looked skeptically at the other partisans for a moment. Then they pulled us around the corner and into the bathroom. They said something to us that was beyond misunderstanding. Staring at us. It was the first time they had ever looked at us that way. They opened their mouths a bit. Not necessarily to make a word. They pushed us against the vanity. They held us there, clamped beneath their desperate weight. We could feel the heat from their vulvas. Their eyes were flashing brightly behind the lash extensions.
 
* * *
 
But almost immediately—which is to say, on the drive home that evening—we began to have second thoughts about our planned meeting with the bored-looking aliens. We remembered, especially, the fat aliens at home. We knew that we’d been reckless. That if we let this go any further, eventually we’d be caught. And the fat aliens . . . well, what could we really hold against them? They were really just being the fat aliens. They’d never said they were good housekeepers. They’d never promised to lose weight. So what right did we have to condemn them for these things? No, we told ourselves, we would regret it if we met the bored-looking aliens again. And, in any case, we did not trust them to keep a secret.
     So, when we excused ourselves from the fat aliens on a Wednesday night, telling them that some friends had started playing poker, we went over to the bored-looking aliens’ house on a mercy mission. We were only going to tell them that we’d made a very big mistake. Only going to say that we were really very sorry. But even we were a little suspicious of our motives—as we drove past their home, and especially as we parked our van around the corner, hidden behind a dumpster.
     After all, we admitted to ourselves, we could have easily called the bored-looking aliens to convey the same information, couldn’t we? But the lies were already told, the excuses made. Too late to turn back now. Sitting in our driver’s seat after the dome light had gone black, we explained to ourselves what we would do, what we would say to the bored-looking aliens, and how it would be said. Short and sweet and contrite and then goodnight. But, even as we rehearsed, we felt as though all of the terrible things the bored-looking aliens had said about us were true. We were irresponsible. We didn’t think about the impact our behavior had on others. We really believed, deep down, that the galaxy revolved around us.
     It was all our fault, we said to them. The first words out of our mouths after we were through the door. Initially, the bored-looking aliens didn’t appear to understand us. They seemed to think that we were saying that we were sorry we had ever left them. They actually looked joyous. But, when we didn’t kiss them, when we put out our hands to keep them at arm’s length, it dawned on them that we were saying that we were sorry about the other night. The arrangement we had made.
     We stared only at our clownish feet. We stood there in their wooden-paneled living room and told them we understood that they would not be able to forgive us. And we didn’t blame them. We said we had had too much to drink at the party, and that was what it was. We hadn’t been thinking clearly. The booze had made us foolish. And we apologized for that. It wasn’t a reflection on them, but on us.
     Then we looked up at the aliens with the bored-looking eyes. They were standing on the far side of the room at the foot of the staircase that led up to the guest bed. (We had often used the guest room. The mattress there was firmer.) Our hands were kind of turned out to our sides, asking the bored-looking aliens if they understood our predicament.
     The chandelier was hanging down between us. A strange brass chandelier that looked out of place. And, while we were looking at the chandelier, we remembered all the times that we had woken up beside the bored-looking aliens in the middle of the night. We remembered feeling our way down the steps from the guest room in the darkness, trying to find the light switch, trying to remember where the bathroom was. We remembered, always, the temptation to trickle out the front door and disappear into the night.
     The aliens with the bored-looking eyes, who had been staring at us all along, then turned their backs. They started up the stairs to the guest room without us. And didn’t wait to see if we were coming. It was a gesture that said, “We understand the situation. We don’t even necessarily like you. But here we are. We are getting older. If this means that we have to humiliate ourselves from time to time, then we are willing. At least on this occasion.” Or else it said, “We are your confident seductresses. We know you’re coming.” It was difficult to say.
     And once again we felt sympathy for the aliens with the bored-looking eyes—that they had been alive these thirty-seven years, and been all around the world, and made all this money, and their father was even wealthier and a doctor, and yet they were unhappy and totally alone. It seemed an empty life.
     They turned toward us again only when they had reached the bedroom door. When they saw that we had followed them, they sat down on the foot of the bed, looking rather tired. Rather old. Rather worn. Like prostitutes, we thought. And we were ashamed that it excited us.
     We told them we were only there to talk.
     “You’re never just here to talk,” they said, and laughed a loud, shrill, condescending laugh. “Never in a million years.” And it was the first time we could remember they had made us really laugh. Really laugh out loud without restraint. And we had to admit to ourselves that the scene was very sexy to us, filled with all these unpleasant revelations about ourselves and things we knew we would regret. So we lay down on the bed and waited for the bored-looking aliens. We watched as they exposed their awkward bodies to us, almost one stitch at a time. Their tight-fitting jacket gone. Their blouse gone. Then their bra and panties. When they were nude, they lay back and invited us to put our hands between their spindly legs. We stared into their eyes. Their bored-looking eyes with their derision and their subtle form of menace. It all felt very smutty and exciting and totally disastrous.
 
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Anthony Spaeth is a lawyer in Houston, Texas. His work has recently appeared in or is scheduled to appear in Jelly Bucket, Red Fez, Thieves Jargon, and The View from Here.