83. Well that’s real close, but that’s not why

“I’m going to need you to help offload the boat on the day,” George said.

“Sparrow’s piloting?”

“Yes, but he refuses to come ashore,” George said. The annoyance was obvious.


“He says the ceremony held previously between myself and Kima and his people was everything he needed and he’d be happy to do logistics. Participation was not advised as it was not consistent with the independence of his people.”

There was a long pause while Jesse ran this new fact through the accumulation of prejudices he called his brain. “Credit where credit’s due, the time to ask for favours is while your friends still like you,” he finally said.

“I think the Musqueam have figured out the shitstorm that’s coming, but are too proud not to support us in some way.”

“Do you think I’m gonna die?” Jesse asked in an overly placid voice.

“You’re far too entertaining,” George said. “Somebody will spare you to prevent a child from crying.”

“I’m childish enough, god knows, according to my sister,” Jesse said.

“About that,” George said. His skin stiffened and his hair started to rock from side to side.

Jesse frowned. “Everything okay? You look fucked up.”

George’s voice matched his body. “I am. I’ve been lying to you.”

Jesse’s expression went from worry to broad, drunken mischief. “Only question is, you wonderful critter, whether it’s something I know about already or not.”

“It’s about your sister.”

All the mirth vanished. “No.”

“I met her without telling her I know you.”

This time the silence went on for a long time.

“What do I need to know,” Jesse said tonelessly.

“I’ve been spying on her and I’m very infatuated.”

“Holy fuck.” The emotion came back.

“You’re taking it very well.”

“You’ve got a crush on my sister? Does she know you’re an alien yet?”

“No. But by one of those stupefying coincidences that living in The World’s Biggest Small Town encourages, she’s the former lover of the scientist and academic whom I have chosen to carry the Sixer’s research water.”

“Brendan,” Jesse said.

“You know him.”

“He was my sister’s boyfriend while I was living with her, so, yeah, I knew him. I really liked him, a lot and all that bullshit about her choosing to quit UBC after some fucker reported the affair to the university really grated on me. I’ve kinda hated on him ever since, but at the time I thought he was the coolest guy I’d ever met, and we smoked a lot of dope together.”

George looked at him pityingly.

“What? what?  I was seventeen!” Jesse said. “What the fuck had you accomplished by the time you were seventeen?”

“I’d gone through three morphs already,” George said.

Jesse splayed his hands. “I have no idea what that means.  You and Michel talk about morphs but you never stop to explain.”

“Imagine going through puberty and completely changing your shape and the way you think and process information three times in seventeen years when you have a lifespan of four to five hundred years.”

Jesse considered it. George let him do it.

“No, I really can’t,” Jesse said.

“While being forced to watch horror movies and getting yelled at by angry relatives and you lose control of your bowels and bladder and you lose social contact with everybody you know because you go from being sentient to non-sentient.”

“What the hell?” Jesse said.

“Welcome to my childhood,” George said.

“Having a bad childhood is not a contest,” Jesse said, almost as a reflex. “We experience these bad things as individuals, and share them in words. Does the person with the best words win?”

“Not in my experience,” George said. He was thinking of the language of light, and of course that was not what Jesse had meant.  There are a million avenues, he thought, for miscommunication.

Jesse pressed on. “No, because success in dealing with your past doesn’t come from talking about it, it comes from knowing yourself and making meaning from the life and energy you have left.”

“Very wise.”

“I had a therapist,” Jesse said. “He was amazing. I wanted the benefit of the life experience of someone who wasn’t a sexist asshole and who wasn’t a woman, nothing wrong with that,” Jesse said. “He taught me lots of things, like not to talk about the abuse without clear ongoing evidence that I was in a safe space first, which has turned out to be really good advice, because every time I ignored it, I paid for it. He told me not to let loneliness and alcohol loosen my tongue. He told me there are lots of people who take advantage of the damaged ones, and I’d have to learn to see it coming.”

One could argue that I’m one of the advantage seekers, George thought. “You didn’t see me coming.”

Jesse kept it light. “No surprise there — since you are invisible.”

“I’m hardly ever invisible,” George said, offended.

“No, not like Michel, who seems to think that a day without invisibility is a crime against Sixer-kind.”

George smiled.  “He sleeps invisible, which is traditional, and I don’t. Took me almost twenty years to learn how to keep my human appearance while asleep; when I was living with humans before, I had to sleep all kinds of crazy places to prevent them from tripping over me in the morning.”

“When was that?”

Always so keen on the details. “Back in Europa, in the gay mad revolutionary times before the Great War,” George said. When I was living with a sex worker and her asshole revolutionary wannabe boyfriend.

“And when else have you lived with humans?”

“You’ll find out during the ceremony.”

“Which is when,” Jesse said, his head sagging.

“I don’t know for sure, except at night, to suit you, my photophobic chum, and not for at least a couple of weeks since we don’t have all the bits and bobbles rented yet. I’ll be asking you to help with that, too,” George said.

“Sure, whatever you need. Can I sleep on the sofa tonight?” Jesse’s face split in a yawn.

“Yes. You snore, you know.”

“I’m sure you can ignore it, and so can your hair.” Jesse thought about giving George’s hair a condescending little pat, but knowing it could rip his hand off without effort killed the urge.