Banged by an Alien Again
This story is a response to Amy E Butcher's short story, "Engaging An Alien: A Short Memoir," originally published in PANK, Spring 2012.
Green branches, fish, punk rock—these were all things I missed while I was living in space. For ten long months I slept in a bed that floated. We lived in a silver room moving very rapidly through nothing. We didn't have very much, but only because I'd discovered there was very little I needed. For instance: clothes. I liked to walk around the spaceship naked, to watch my alien watching me, his eyes big as plates.
In that year since he'd picked me up from Earth, my alien and I were swoony in love. There are no flowers in space, there are no heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, but you could see the way he adored me. Ever since he'd brought me out of the world, it had been just like a fairy tale, only the castle has laser guns and the prince is mildly telekinetic. You would not believe what telekinesis can do to sex. I felt I'd been doing it wrong my whole life. I felt re-discovered.
Zipping through space, my alien and I would sometimes visit other planets. The things that I saw. I saw seas of lava a thousand miles wide, belching hot gas. I saw planets that were only cave. I saw one world that orbited a dying blue dwarf and soon it would be swallowed up, too, like it was never even there. I even saw a galaxy that was populated entirely by giraffes.
One time we drove past a pulsar, the spinning stone throwing light. A hot, magnetic scab of star. We were so many miles from the next thing at all I couldn't even imagine the distance.
Eventually, I asked my alien if we could visit Earth. I said, "How about a quick jaunt to the old Solar System? Mine, I mean."
And he said, "Of course."
My alien wasn't worried about me changing my mind. He wasn't worried about me not liking him anymore, or getting cold feet. There is no jealousy in space.
My alien wasn't worried about me changing my mind. He wasn't worried about me not liking him anymore, or getting cold feet. There is no jealousy in space. My alien never got jealous. He squeezed my hand, and I squeezed back.
It took us another two weeks to get from where we were back to Earth. We were in a part of the universe that no one's even seen yet; there are no telescopes that could reach us there.
It is quiet, flying a UFO that way, and I would lay my head on my alien's soft strange chest and listen to his eight-chambered heart beat. Thumpthumpthumpthump, thumpthumpthumpthump. Like some clumsy new animal, running. I looked at myself in my alien's clean, mirrored wall. I looked ugly but sometimes, in that year, I liked to look ugly. I bared my teeth to see my yellow gums. I'd let my hair grow out all over my body, my legs. My alien loved me anyway. I crossed my pretty eyes.
I was excited to see Earth again. I had been kind of missing my family, the green lawn in our first home, pink Arkansas dawn; I could hardly remember how to drive to my favorite milkshake chain; there were all these smells of America that I'd never thought to want before. And there was the person I'd said "good night" to on my last evening in the world; he was there, too. The night I left I'd bought him a beer and he'd bought me a beer and we'd been talking, like usual, long and easily. We had been friends for a long time then. We had not kissed. We were joking about the Japanese, their holograms, how nuts are they, and he did not put his hand on my hand. Then I'd left, smiling, and bought a Laffy Taffy for the walk home. And then, on the walk home, I'd met my alien and I'd been invited to go away (to space!), and I had accepted.
I liked to stand at the spaceship porthole and think about him in a blue shirt putting both his hands on my cheeks, which is something he never even did. There isn't any reason to think about it.
It's true that I'd thought about him since I'd been driving around in the spaceship, but I thought about a lot of people. And it's true that he spoke the same language as me in a way no one else did, but, oh well. My alien speaks 620 languages. Still: I thought about him in a blue shirt, drinking something bright-colored, looking away from me. I could imagine him not even thinking about me.I liked to stand at the spaceship porthole and think about him in a blue shirt putting both his hands on my cheeks, which is something he never even did. There isn't any reason to think about it.
When you go to land on a planet with an atmosphere, there's a great roar and a distant burning as you break through it at an incredible speed. It reaches unbelievable heat and pressure. That's true on every planet. The sound we made coming through Earth's atmosphere was enormous! It was like God breathing hard on your ear.
I saw the shape of North America as we landed. I could see the blue Gulf water. I could see the disintegrating coast. If I had eyes like my alien, I could've seen my old neighborhood. I could've seen my person, walking along the street, squinting in the sun, or breathing on his hands, maybe; I didn't know what season it would be. I swore I could almost see him. I could almost see the glint of our sun off his glasses. I could almost see him looking up at the strange object, me, hurling across our sky.
But when we landed on Earth, it had, of course, been almost 900 years in Earth-time, because time moves differently when you travel so rapidly and so far through the universe, and everything back home was different and fantastic. The air was cleaner; the postal system was efficient; everyone was well-dressed and growing up to be a good person. It was amazing. I took deep breaths of the cleaned-out wind. I shook every single person's hand and they were so happy for me. I was so happy for them. My alien and I stayed for a week and saw some sights. I showed him what used to be Paris, London, New York. I took him to the sea and explained: "sand, dunegrass, some far-off whale which we cannot see." And then I went back onto the spaceship, waving goodbye! goodbye! to all the people staying in the world. I walked up the ramp and caught flowers and good-luck tokens that the crowd threw to me. My alien and I kissed a long, showy kiss, and his hands were still soft and strange in that pleasant way. On his floating bed we banged again. We kept traveling through space. We didn't look back.
That's how it went and I should have remembered about time and space, how they bend like that, how you have to watch your speed.
That's how it went and I should have remembered about time and space, how they bend like that, how you have to watch your speed. I've learned my lesson, and it's fine, though I still think about my person sometimes. Sometimes I think about him. About what if I'd come back. What if I'd come back in time. I'll tell you what we would've done.
We would've kissed for the first time in a dark room, half-drunk, already in bed, leaving it to the last minute like maybe it won't happen. We would've had brief, unsatisfying sex at first but then it'd change. We would've spent some time together, and then every day, and then we would've been standing barefoot in the kitchen making gazpacho and taping newspaper to the cupboards because we couldn't find the blender lid and our mouths open, laughing. We would not have gotten that red barn, or the smart/stupid dog with the name like Triscuit. We wouldn't've had that fishbowl of crawfish. None of that would come true. But we would've had an apartment together. We would've had a bed frame we made from wood we found on the sidewalk. We would've had a room with yellow light coming through all the windows, holding your hand up to it, the skin turning pink translucent, as if you are the one encased in glass with every solid thing illuminated. We would've kissed slowly. We would've heard the night street noises. We would've breathed into one another's ears; and we would've sounded like the atmosphere ripping a hole, dissolving, finally giving way. It would've been nice, I think. Wouldn't it've been nice?
We didn't do that though. And here I am. And space is enormous. That is the thing about space, one of the things I love, one of the reasons it's great that I'm here. There's just so much.
Delaney Nolan's fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Oxford American, Ecotone, The South Carolina Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Guernica, and elsewhere. She currently lives in Istanbul.
Illustration by Liz Apple.