80. I don’t want to use the word love for both you and Cheez Whiz

“Oh, I know perzackly how messed up my memory is, I have PTSD,” Jesse said. “I dunno about anybody else, but I realized that a lot of what humans call memory is just what sticks in your mind from whatever it is that bullies yell the loudest.”

“I have no response to that,” George said. Jesse was three beers in, and getting a slight shine to him. It was good that he’d eaten something more substantial than the nachos. Most Sixers wouldn’t even be in the same room as an adult male human who’d been drinking, if they’d even managed to power through their distrust of indoors while managing sociability. Disgust and fear create a powerful barrier. There was that steady buzz of danger, danger, that flowed from Jesse with every vaporous exhalation. Sixer lore firmly held that drunken humans were the only kind of human you needed to fear. Sober humans, given a demonstration of Sixer capabilities, usually went yipe yipe yipe over the hill; drunks could be hard to predict, and on that basis alone were the most successful at killing Sixers. There were not often smart enough to avoid killing themselves in the process. But it had been done, or so George had been told, and he held it to be true.

There were always plenty of drunks with hunting experience; if the last Gianni killed himself while taking you out, his kid or nephew would pop up like one of those mole heads in a carnival game, seemingly made of chipped enamel and concentrated loathing.

So he sat with Jesse and watched him drink, and was pleased that he felt safe while he did it.  Jesse would never deliberately or voluntarily hurt him, and he wouldn’t give up on him either. The idea of having an attachment point in his life more important than his illnesses and family history had proved too seductive to Jesse. In one way it was a relief. In every other way, it seemed like the warmup for a spectacular betrayal.

It’ll be years before I go into space, George thought. Plenty of time to warn people about what could happen after I leave.

Jesse wasn’t upset at the comment; from what he knew of George it was more likely confusion than some variant of politeness that had made him say that.  He shot out his lower lip. “It’s what I experience.  A response isn’t really necessary.  I have always felt very isolated because nobody experiences the world the way I do, and they show they don’t experience it like I do in the words they use to describe it.”

“Some English words seem to guarantee the dopiness of the user,” George said. It was classic George derailment, but he went with it.

“Let’s pretend I know what they are,” Jesse said.

George made a small, non-committal noise.

“Shouldn’t be too hard, right? And let’s pretend that you won’t point them out to me when I use them.”

“I’m teasing. Words rise and fall out of fashion,” George said.

“I have a question,” Jesse said after a while.

“Really? A question.”

“I’d like you to answer something now, and you know it’s not just one question, it’s more gathering information toward a deep conversation on issues of substance.”

“I suppose, having taught you to be even vaguer than you already were, I can’t shudder when I get the same treatment. Ask away, young human.”

“Did your species have love before you came to Earth?”

“We had sexual predation and lifelong friendship. Not exactly a one for one mapping of how humans manage things.”

“I’ve heard you say that you love Kima,” Jesse said diffidently.

“No doubt you’ve heard Michel ask why’d he’d try to lean his feelings up against a word so small. ‘I love Cheez Whiz’, he’d say, ‘and I love Kima. They don’t belong in the same thought let alone the same language’.”

“He did say that, although I really don’t think he likes All-Purpose Industrial Paste.  I was asking about you.”

“A man I know whom you haven’t been introduced to said that I was the Apollonian lover, and Michel the Dionysian one.”

“Except that doesn’t really take anything about Sixer sexuality or gender expression into account,” Jesse said, and redeeming himself for his tiresome question. “It’s the kind of things humans say when they’re trying to dodge the responsibility for seeing Sixers as they are… mind you it doesn’t help that you assume a human appearance all the time.”

“What do you think?” George asked bluntly.

“I think I don’t know Sixers well enough to know. I do know that you’re closer to each other, somehow, than humans manage to be, even when you’re not in agreement. I think it has something to do with the language of light, and something to do with how matter-of-fact Sixers are, mostly, about their own abilities and sex lives.”

“I don’t disagree,” George said.

There was an uncomfortable pause. Jesse persisted. “If you do love Kima, why do you love her?”

“I can’t give a true answer to that in a human language.”

“That sounds kinda ominous,” Jesse said slowly.

“She’s a predator with her brain as well as her body,” George said. “She’s smart, fast, deadly and though she’s got an ego, it’s small and easily stroked.”

Jesse heard this as, She’s useful and easy to manage.

“The physical attraction, given your differences, is hard to understand.”

“Humans should be able to have sympathy for Sixers about attraction; it’s always a matter of surprise to all but the participants who bangs who if all are free to make their own choices, without regard to the wide human range of strictures, taboos, relative fecundity, laws and religious hangups. If I say a lover smells good and likes me, that should be more than ample reason for me to feel an attraction, and to subject my love to a media ‘means test’ of her attractiveness would make me puke, were I capable of puking.”

George was rarely so animated.  It felt wrong, odd.