Monday, April 19, 2010

Foreign Relations/Perfect Stranger (Binary Stars Vol 2) by Jack Greene

What idiot goes to the mall on a weekend to compete with half the city for a parking place, only to join the throng inside the over-air-conditioned stores, shuffling along and looking for bargains?


Me, apparently.

I didn’t think it would be this bad, honestly. I work all week, and the last thing I want to do afterward is deal with the mall. But, I needed some new dress pants. I’ll go on the weekend, I thought.

Bad idea. Everyone and their minivans were apparently there, and there wasn’t a parking space to be had. I wasn’t even trawling for a prime spot, either. I went to one of the farther lots; I don’t mind walking a ways. Still, it was packed.

I was about to give it up and go home to try to patch my old pants when I saw it. A Toyota, backup lights blazing, lurched into reverse right in front of me with nobody else nearby. Mine! I switched on my turn signal and waited patiently.

Unfortunately, the driver seemed incapable of backing out of the parking place without executing a five-point turn, and I sighed as I watched a gigantic SUV speed toward us from the other direction. Good thing I’d gotten there first.

The Toyota finally cleared the car next to it, and trundled off on its merry way. I could see screaming children in the back, and shuddered. As soon as the car passed, I moved forward, turning into the parking place.

Just as the SUV began to do the same.

I stared in disbelief. Surely he’d seen my turn signal. What the hell? I’d been there first, by a long shot. I continued my turn into the spot, but so did he. Only by virtue of my Civic’s smaller turning circle did I make it past him into the spot. I couldn’t believe the gall of the SUV’s driver.

I turned off my car and glanced in the rearview mirror, expecting to be flipped off as the disgruntled driver continued on his search.

But the SUV hadn’t moved. In fact, the door flew open as I watched a mountain of a man lumber out. Shit. I froze in my seat. What to do? I had to get out sometime, and this was 2009. Surely I wasn’t about to get beat up in broad daylight in the middle of a suburban LA mall parking lot, was I?

I had a bad feeling about it.

I couldn’t sit there all day. I opened my door and got out. And looked up.

The guy was big. I’m just under six feet, so he had to be well over it. I may be tall but I’m skinny—I’ve been called waif-like as a compliment, and scrawny as an insult. Basically, this guy stood twice my size. Maybe it was my nerves talking, but at that moment he resembled a fucking WWE wrestler. Not that I watch a lot of wrestling, but this guy probably did. He looked like a crew-cut, Budweiser drinking, NRA-supporting breeder.

I’m a skinny little gay boy with shoulder length hair and eyeliner.

I knew I was screwed.

I took a deep breath to speak when he bellowed, “What the fuck you doing, boy?”

“I was here first,” I tried to explain calmly. “I had my turn signal on.”

Bubba was not impressed. “Bullshit. I saw that place from way back. It’s mine.” I saw his lip curl in a sneer as he looked me over.

I crossed my arms, perhaps to hide the fact that I was shaking. “I’d been waiting a while. It’s mine.”

He laughed harshly. “Well, let’s pretend this never happened, okay? Just back your little rice burner out of the way and run along.”

Oh, hell no. “I don’t think so. I was here first. Find your own spot.” I made to walk past him. Leaving my car where he could damage it probably wasn’t a good idea, but the car could take more than me. No doubt he could snap me in half with one hand, but I wasn’t caving.

“Fucking faggot,” the man snarled, proving he was at least observant, and suddenly he crushed my arm in its fashionable black leather jacket in a vice grip. “I said move your fucking car.”

I gasped as he slammed me back against my car. This guy had seen one too many Schwarzenegger movies. I couldn’t believe this was happening over a parking spot. “No,” I said, proving I wasn’t as smart as I pretended to be. I don’t know what I was thinking.

He loomed over me and I got a good whiff of cheap cologne mixed with cigarette smoke. Lovely. He grabbed me by the collar, apparently just so he could slam me back against the car again. That time the door handle caught me in the small of the back. That fucking hurt. I tried to push him away, like trying to move a fat-covered boulder.

I was about to get beaten up by Jabba the Hut.

I kicked at him, but only managed to deliver a glancing blow to his shin.

“I’ll teach you to fuck with me,” snarled Jabba, drawing back his fist. I tried to pull back but he had me trapped. I struggled, and I managed to slip sideways. His fist bounced off the window of my car. That had to hurt. Jabba howled in pain, and while he was distracted I threw my own punch. Direct hit to the doughy stomach!

Unfortunately, it seemed to have little effect other than to piss him off. “Oh, now you’re fucked, queer boy,” he growled, and lunged for me. My life flashed before my eyes.

But, the expected blow never came. Jabba jerked back, and looked around in surprise. “What the fuck?”

“At the risk of being clich├ęd, pick on someone your own size,” snapped a voice. “Of course, that may not be possible…”

With a bellow, Jabba rushed the man who’d come to my rescue. The man just danced out of the way, grabbing my attacker and slamming him into the car next to me, a very solid Lincoln Navigator. Jabba staggered and rushed the man again. This time the man met him head-on with a fist. Jabba went down.

“Holy shit,” I murmured, staring at Jabba on the ground for a moment.

“You okay?”

I looked up into the prettiest blue eyes I’d ever seen.

I swallowed. “Yeah, I… oh my God, if you hadn’t shown up…” The man stood a few inches taller than me, and his eyes weren’t the only amazing thing about him. His light brown hair was a few inches long, spiked stylishly, and he had cheekbones that could cut glass. His nose was perfection, and his lips belonged on an angel. He had the body of an athlete, showcased in clothes just snug enough. I stifled a whimper, but just barely. “Thank you.”

My savior shook his head and smiled charmingly. “Don’t thank me. What did you do to piss him off so much?” Peripherally I noticed Jabba crawling off to his SUV. He peeled out of the parking lot.

“Um. Took his parking place.” I couldn’t look away from those eyes.

“Apparently a mortal sin,” the man said, eyebrows raised.

“I guess so. Then he took offense at my general, well…” I spread my arms and looked down at myself. “Queerness.” Undoubtedly the man would run away now.

Now his perfect mouth curved into a grin. “He’s an idiot.” The man stepped back, and only then did I realize how close he’d been. It hadn’t felt weird at all. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

I nodded, biting at my lip. I wanted to pretend I wasn’t okay, just so the pretty angel would stay with me, or ask if they had cell phone numbers in Heaven. But, I was shaken and unsure and I just stammered, “Thanks again.”

The man bowed just a little—unutterably charming. “Be careful,” he said softly, then walked away. I watched him go until he was out of sight, sighing. He was probably straight. Married even.

After a moment of self-pity I gathered my wits and my keys, and headed into the mall.