“Give me some of your power.”
– Marianne Faithfull, “City of Quartz”
“Rick. Rick! You can’t go up there right now, you’ll do something stupid.”
“I plan on doing something. I plan on beating the snot out of A.J.!”
“But if you go up there right now, A.J. will know that Greg has been talking to me, and Greg will never tell me anything again!”
Alice. The litmus test for any action in her world was Will this decrease my steady supply of juicy, faggy gossip?
“You know, he’s just trying to prove his loyalty to Greg. He’s probably been cheating on him this whole time, and now this is a convenient cover story: I’m so chaste, I’m so faithful, look how well I behaved when that evil Rick came onto me!”
“That’s precisely why I’m going to juice his face. He’s placating his paranoid boyfriend by spreading lies about me!”
“But there’s nothing you can do! What good will it do anyone, especially you, if you beat up A.J.?”
So I didn’t do anything. Alice and I just sat there and talked about how truth would prevail and evil would be exposed. I didn’t believe her, and I resented that she had stepped in. Still, the last thing I needed to do was screw up that pretty face. If I did that, A.J. would be ugly everywhere, and that bit of poetic justice is just a touch too trite.
I just knew if I gave you enough rides to the library, or to your boyfriend’s place, that eventually you would relent and admit your undying devotion to me. That you you would make room for me on that remote, fortified island, and that together we would forge an existence wholly isolated from the rest of cruel, ugly humanity. That I would wait for you, keeping the home fires burning while you bravely defended our country.
Maybe I didn’t respect your relationship with Greg, but neither did you. Greg and I are pretty much broken up. Why is it that Greg never seems to know this, A.J.? You lead people on. You’re good at bringing them under your control.
Thank you for showing me how weak I still am.
A.J. become a shadow figure, at least to me, after he was exposed. He was a three-dimensional creature with only one dimension that intersected my plane. I went joyful days without seeing him, and, on the days I did see him, I shamelessly trotted out my anger. Every cold shoulder was a triumph. Somebody’s cold.
Yes. Somebody certainly is.
A.J. left town for a few days. Sometimes he called Greg, sometimes he didn’t. There was talk about now A.J.’s gone for good He packed up his stuff and left but I knew he wouldn’t stay gone. A.J. isn’t the sort of person to make plans and then actually realize them. Everything A.J. does is a threat.
He told everyone he was leaving town to take a stripping job in Detroit and to live with his new boyfriend. He was back within a week, bedding for a night in Greg’s apartment with his Detroit boyfriend.
Greg told them that would not be happening again.
I recalled the days when A.J. told me about moving to South Carolina with my sister Chicago with Andrew Florida with this straight couple and their dog and it scared me that he might leave. That would mean everything was as disposable as I thought it was. A friend is an enemy with no reason to seek your downfall. How I’d forgotten my own advice.
Leave us, A.J. Please.
The last time I saw A.J., his coat and hair were the same shade of orange. My boyfriend Adrian had just gotten out of the car and was walking up the sidewalk when A.J. came walking towards him (I was still fighting to get the key out of the ignition). A.J. stopped to talk to him. I guess he pointed out that Adrian was growing his hair out, and went to touch it, but thought better and pulled his hand away. When Adrian and I got back to his apartment, he said, “One of those times when you’d wished a friendly nod would have sufficed…” When I finally got out of my car and walked past A.J., he put his head down and continued walking the other way. He was going to the store to buy a pop for Greg.