Friendliness Levels

I knew a guy a long time ago. I never got to know him well at all; we were in the same place and doing similar shows, though we never worked directly together.

He was an odd duck, though, because he was super negative and hated people, and he didn’t know how to change any of that into useful material on stage.

I followed his trajectory for a while out of curiosity, and he kind of hit against this ceiling where he wasn’t doing any better because he couldn’t or wouldn’t shift the morass of bitter hate out of his spine.

He really disliked other human beings. He wanted to like them, in theory, but his coping mechanism for dealing with others was to numb himself into practically lobotomized friendliness and then joke about things. Because there wasn’t genuine interest under his navigation, he didn’t build actual alliances with other humans, and ran up against this internal lack in his stage work.

The thing that’s interesting to me about the dynamic is how forced-happy his smile was. There was darkness under his jocularity, and bitterness in all his laughs.

And now, Diana

Stuart followed Diana into the school and she knew he didn’t know what to say, because he started angry-breathing at her back as she strolled down the hall.

“So how long is it going to take them to realize that you’re–that you’re–” Stuart’s voice petered into quiet.

“Poor Stu. Tongue-tied as usual. Beaten into absolute silence by my glorious looks. What was your plan, lover-boy? Did the aliens say we were going to make babies for them or something?” Diana asked, turning to walk backwards and grinning at Stuart, who had a sour, distracted look on his face.

“You’ve got a thing on your face,” Stuart said, pointing.

“Really?” Diana asked, crooking an eyebrow at the boy. She felt this was a very shallow jab.

“Di, you’ve got words on your face. They’re moving around. Hold still,” Stuart said, squinting at her.

“I don’t believe you,” Diana said. Stuart reached out and grabbed her by both arms, holding her in place. Diana sneered at him, but her heart was pounding. Stuart squinted through the half-light of the hall at her left cheek.

“Domicile ready, demonstrate home,” Stuart read in a faltering voice. He let go and Diana twisted away and ran for a bathroom. “I’m not making that up!” Stuart called, chasing after her. Diana darted into the girls’ room and flicked the light switch; nothing happened but she went to the mirrors and got close to the surface. Stuart followed her into the bathroom.

“Come on, Stu. It’s the ladies’ room. Show some decency,” Diana said, staring at the shadow letters roving beneath the skin of her cheek.

Domicile ready, demonstrate home.

Heart pounding, Diana turned to examine her opposite cheek and found rudimentary directions.

One hour towards the sun.

“Well, crap,” Diana muttered, pulling back.

“What’s it mean?” Stuart asked.

“Can you really not tell, or are you playing stupid?” Diana asked. Stuart stared at her through the darkness for a long moment.

“I really don’t know,” Stuart said.

“It means they set up a house, or they thawed one or something. We go east for an hour and we should find it, hopefully. Come on,” Diana said, pushing past Stuart and out of the bathroom.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and owing to some unpleasant emotional purges underway in the fleshy vehicle, I cannot breathe. In my current novel, the hunter is creating a priority task list for the excursion.