Cuatro, Four

Valerie and Alexander sat at a table overlooking Lake Pontchartrain. They decided to go to one of the restaurants beside one of the nicer marinas east of Fat City. The sun began to set. Many of the tables remained unfilled, waiting for the swelling of the night crowd.

"Sometimes people talk about you, Alexander."

"That's sort of strange. People don't talk to me very often. Who talks about me? What do they say?"

"You don't have to worry. Nobody cares what older people say. It's just that you got a reputation for being eccentric after not showing up for your wedding."

"We weren't right for each other."

"You didn't come out of your house for 7 months, even when Bella tried to commit suicide under your window."

"She was the one who was deranged, clearly. How could the world not see that?"

"Then why didn't you call an ambulance instead of climbing out of a window on the other side of the house? And then you got hung up on the fence and somebody had to call an ambulance for you."

"I see how it is. These are the sort of things people talk about. Who exactly has been saying things?"

"It was all over Tulane after it happened. Bella's friends wanted you guillotined, not to mention her parents. Do you have any idea how much money her family spent on the wedding?"

"No, I've never thought about it. I'm a bubble head. I can only think about bizarre, eccentric things, like stopping all the light from entering my room and keeping static on the television twenty-four hours a day, so as not to be able to hear the satellites in my head."

"Don't be that way. It's just that you should know you haven't vanished from people's thoughts just because you withdrew into yourself and stopped acknowledging the existence of the outside world."

"I didn't stop acknowledging the existence of the outside world. I got sick and tired of being involved with average people. All they do is talk, about the weather, about their portfolios, or about hair styles or television or celebrities, but most of all they like to talk about people who can't respond to what they are saying."

"This is good. You're really getting it off your chest. I knew this would be a positive exercise."

"Who are you, really? Were you sent into my life as some sort of free lance therapist? I'm beginning to think this is some sort of set-up."

Valerie smiled as Alex winked. "Yep. It's a set-up. Especially that thing. Remember that thing..."

"That thing gets me in trouble. That thing is the reason you could be a Soviet spy, well, a spy from Al-Qaeda or some other hideous, evil organization, and I'd never know."

"No, silly. Not that thing. That thing."

"Oh, that thing. Yes, it's absolute proof there could be nothing wrong between us."

They both laughed.

"What are you talking about?"

"Well, it's not you're failed engagement, that's for sure. That puts you in great spirits. Let's talk about something else, unless this is too public for you, too common."

"I'm all ears. I do have an appointment," he looked at his arm where a watch should have been. "Right after death I'm supposed to be somewhere very important."

"People say you're running out of your inheritance."

"Bella's crowd?"

"No, that would be your neighbors, who told people who are friends with Bella's parents. They say that you keep putting your bills back in your mailbox unopened."

"Some of the bills I receive can easily be proven to be fraudulent. I've stopped responding to collection attempts from shysters and thieves. If the post office insists on dropping off such disrespectful notices, even though I've written return to sender on duplicate after duplicate, repeatedly, then it's really up to the post office to sort out the whole mess."

"Some of the bills are for your accountant."

"He's the worst one."

"I can see that I'm going to wind up enamored of a completely deranged pauper. I'll have to give you sponge baths and feed you with a small spoon in our one room hovel. The cost of washing your bib will be more than we can afford."

"Would you really do that for me? Bathe me and feed me if I was a vegetable?"

"Not so much. I would take pictures of you being loaded into the ambulance and post them on the Internet with funny captions about your absolute incompetence. And the secret videos and audio tape. If you go broke I'm totally making sure the entire world knows all your deepest, darkest secrets. Because all I care about is money."

Alexander's features darkened. He looked at Valerie with a very serious expression for long seconds before looking out over the water. The sounds of gulls broke the silence between them. Valerie leaned over the table and pulled on Alex's bangs.

"Don't do that," he said.

"Don't be so serious. You already have only one thing I want, and that's you. It would be nice for you if you didn't fall into complete ruin before you die, but that has nothing to do with how I feel about you."

"I stopped caring. First my parents died. My next two relationships did nothing but make me more unhappy. I wound up in a relationship with a total nutcase. She was good in bed, but she and her parents were pushing me into marriage. That couldn't have been clearer if they had been using a bulldozer. It's like the world exists in a state of total discombobulation wherever I am."

"What if I told you it's probably mostly you? That the world is fine, but you're just not coping with it very well."

"I'd tell you that we're currently experiencing a deficit of that thing we were talking about."

"The good thing or one of the bad things."

"Who cares? We should go somewhere before the restaurant begins filling up. We don't want to be in the public eye..."

"I think we should stay right here. I think we should make this a regular spot, so people who want to talk about you will have to talk about us. We should do something totally scandalous. Like have a good time, talk loud enough for other people to hear, and engage in displays of public affection. Like kissing, even."

"I don't know if I can go through with something like that. You know how quiet I am. Can we just skip the talking and stick with scandalous displays of affection?"

"We can definitely do that."

Alexander moved his chair around to Valerie's side of the table. He leaned in very close to Valerie and nibbled on her ear lobe. She squealed very loudly, in a high pitch. Alex almost fell out of his chair.

"Masher!" Valerie exclaimed in feigned horror. Several people looked over, and those who didn't were trying not to. Their waitress appeared concerned, and finally decided to pick up water to bring over.

"What the hell, Val? And who yells masher? Didn't people stop doing that... when did people do that?"

"I do that. And we aren't scandalous if all we do is give people something to look at. They need to hear something too, or we haven't even caused a ripple in the pond."

"We're off to a good start then, because I'm fairly certain that could be heard in the next restaurant."

"I knew it. You're completely stuffy."

The waitress arrived at the table. She asked how they were doing and Alexander grunted and smiled at her. Valerie put her right hand conspicuously in his crotch and said, "We were thinking about engaging in a couple of forms of sexual intercourse right here at the table. You don't think anyone will mind, do you?

"To tell you the truth, the owner would probably consider you heroic for something like that. We still get crowds, but it's nothing like it used to be. The place could really use a spicier reputation."

"Wait... wai... uh..." Alex stuttered as something he hadn't expected began to take place. The waitress' face turned red. She walked away. Valerie smiled at him and leaned in close.

"I told you things would be different."

[unedited until mañana]
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Symbols of Decay is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License..
Related written works at Angelfire, Sex Symbols, Cymbals of Silence.Repent or Die