66. Introductions all round redux

Jesse felt really, really sorry for her, whoever the hell she was.

Colin thought, I should know who this is.

Sparrow and Avtar, who both knew Stephanie virtually but had not previously met her, looked at each other and smiled, and then gave welcoming smiles to Stephanie, who accepted them with some relief.

“I took the liberty of bringing an agenda,” Stephanie said.

Michel said, “If you think it will help.”

The buzzer sounded again. Once again, all the humans jumped, and in reaction both Colin and Jesse started to giggle into their hands. Kima took her diaphragm along for the ride this time and as her tentacle hovered over the button she bellowed into the speakerphone, “Who is it?” in her unnerving voice.

A young woman said, “Who’s this? Is George there?”

“This is Kima. George is here. Who are you?”

George made his eyes pop out, with no subtlety but brevity. “Let her in, Kima,” he said.

Kima buzzed the anonymous woman in.

“Notice how all the women are late,” Jesse whispered.

“Steady on old son they actually have lives,” Colin whispered back, and they started giggling again.

“I’m going to make you swap spots with Avtar if you don’t quit,” George said.

“I’m fine over here with Michel. C’mon guys it’s like you’re passing notes in school,” Avtar said.

“I was homeschooled, but I appreciate the metaphor,” Jesse said raising his hand in acceptance. Being around Colin was bringing out his inner snarks. His qualms about Kima, who was every bit as compelling and remarkable as rumour had encompassed, were making him jittery and talkative, rather than terrified and silent.

“Both of you, be quiet, unless you have something to say germane to our purpose,” George said.

Colin rose five seconds before the knock, and ushered in a woman in her twenties, notably short and Asian. Once again he hung up the newcomer’s coat. “Colin,” he said. “Anh,” she said.

Colin brought up another chair. Jesse thought he was enjoying the sidekick gig too much, and slapped himself mentally for being so narrow-minded.

Colin after all was able to make himself useful in field conditions around aliens, a skill which would likely keep him employed in the future — if it didn’t wind him up in a black site for the rest of his short life, as he had darkly predicted over beer at some hipster dive in East Van.

Jesse remembered frowning as Colin got all gloomy.  “Didn’t he give you the speech?”

“What speech?” Colin said. He was trying to drink everything on the board that wasn’t an IPA.

“Didn’t he tell you you’d never spend a night in jail on his account?”

“I always thought that meant that he’d kill me,” Colin said, apparently serious.

“Lemme get this — fuck man I don’t think I could — I mean why the hell would you work for a guy that you think would kill you if you crossed him? He told me he’d come get me, with lawyers or without.”

“You think he’d do the same for me?” Colin said. “Remember, I work for my granddad, not him.”

“I’m not sure George sees it that way, but whatever. He can’t keep all the gradations of ownership,” here Jesse turned his hands into mock fireworks, “and employment and government straight in practice, for all he knows the codes. I’m certain he thinks of you as part of his familia. The rest of us crew of even-tempered non-conformists would prob’ly not be happy at him ditching you, and even if no-one else cared I would.”

This heartening speech, followed by a few others, allowed Colin to toss his angst overboard (they were drinking at the Rowing Club at that point, neither of them could remember afterward why, although Jesse thought it had something to do with losing a bet about running around Lost Lagoon.) Colin was further cheered by the thought that Michel would pry prison bars apart to win his freedom, and their pub crawl continued until both of them got puking sick within minutes of each other.

“I’m a lightweight — haaaaggh-khuhk-khohk,” said Jesse. His size was no defence, and he’d gotten a late start on alcohol, since bioMom didn’t drink and Rhonda didn’t drink at home, preferring to binge elsewhere. Colin was almost a stealth puker, which seemed at the time somehow admirable.

It was also during this record-breaking evening of debauchery that Colin tried to tell Jesse how hard it was to be a white guy who liked Asian girls while living in Vancouver.

“I’ll have to stop you right there,” Jesse said. “What you’re saying is gross, sexist, not news and not calculated to make me like you.”

“Whaaat? This is a boys’ night out,” Colin said, slurring.

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting drunk and looking at women. I’m just asking you not to talk about it or leer while you’re doing it.”

“There is just no fucking escaping from feminists,” Colin said, disgusted.

Jesse emitted a cartoon laugh and said, “I’m living proof you can escape from feminists.  Escaping from feminism, though, unless you want to live in a remote compound free of birth control and Person of Interest re-runs, that’s a little harder to arrange.”

“You’re a right fuckin’ killjoy, you are,” Colin said.

“I have all the joy I need to stay sane, and I wasn’t put on earth to piss on someone else’s. When you act like a jerk toward women, or talk about them among men or women as if they neither need nor deserve agency, you’re hurting women’s joy. You can have all the goddamned sex you want — and then some — without hurting any women’s joy. Once you figure that out — and get serious about what you need out of sex, companionship, parenthood and partnership — your requirement to talk tough about women in front of other men will vanish.”

“I don’t want any of those things but sex and companionship,” Colin said, serious.

“Then find a woman who wants to get laid and have a well-mannered companion for family gatherings, and doesn’t want children or a live-in boyfriend.”

“Where the hell do you find a woman like that?”

“I’m not you. And I’m not the one with a thing for petite Asian woman so why don’t you start by looking where they are.”

“I suppose I could go back to school, except at this point I’m ancient.” Colin was twenty-seven. Of course, he was an old soul, Jesse thought, trying not to guffaw. Half a second later he was sniggering.

“You think I sound like an idiot. I’m not a hyper-buff lumberjack dude with forearms like fucking cord wood,” Colin had said, reacting to the mockery. 

It was with these recent words in mind that Jesse observed how his friend had become mute in the presence of the newcomer.

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Born when atmospheric carbon was 316 PPM. Settled on MST country since 1997. Parent, grandparent.

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