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Aliens aren’t green, by the way. Nothing about him was green except for one sock. When he stood still, his mismatched socks were like a lime and a lemon in the same fruit bowl. I haven’t met an alien quite like him ever since, and I really doubt I ever will.
When I first met Alien I was sitting on a curb grinding a pebble into the ground with my heel, stewing in a big pot of negativity. Abuela tells me to view my life better, but I can’t. Everything sucks. I feel like this life, this place, was built with the intention of making me feel like I’m in the wrong place all the time. And then Mom’s husband’s fists when I get home. I’m never making Momma’s mistake––I’m never getting married.
The wind picked up, threw, and scattered dead leaves against the pavement like dice, and suddenly, there he was.
“Who are you?” he asked, hopping from one foot to the other, awkward and unsure. His eyes were deep, deep brown, almost black.
“Who are you?” I snapped back, but...he looked too vulnerable for snapping at. He was a little soft in the middle and cheeks, but his limbs were extremely thin. There was a wet stream on the side of his bubblegum pink mouth where he had dribbled slightly, down to his chin. He looked about twelve, like my brother- Paul.
“I’m Carmen,” I said, standing, brushing my hands off on my pants. “You lost?”
“No,” he said, shaking his head jerkily. “I don’t get lost. I’m an alien.”
I played along. Who would it hurt, really? “Where are you from then?” He tilted his head quizzically; I prodded him further. “Y’know, aliens aren’t from here. That’s what it means...you don’t belong.”
“Oh!” he said, grinning wide, as if he’d just solved a puzzle. “I’m from up there!” He pointed triumphantly at the sky. “Mom and Dad dropped me down here for now. But...but they’re coming back to get me soon.” His grin disappeared, and he suddenly crumpled, his back sliding first, then his arms curling around his knees, and he folded into a heap right in the middle of the road.
“Oh no,” I moaned. The last thing I needed in my day was to watch some kid get splattered.
“Hey, dude, c’mon,” I whined. With some persuasion and delicate pushing, he stumbled over to the sidewalk. I collapsed back down onto the curb, and started picking a leaf apart with my nails.
“Aren’t you going home?” he asked. I shook my head. “Why not?” he prodded.
I snorted, “I hate my home.” He seemed very flustered by this, touching my shoulder and ruffling my hair. I didn’t mind, really. He was like Paul.
“You can’t hate your home.”
“Yeah, I can.”
“But I don’t ever get to see mine.”
“I’m sure your family in outer space is way nicer than mine, buddy.”
“Well, they left me here.”
“Look, I don’t wanna talk about my family, okay? Why’re you’re still hanging around here, anyways? Shoo.”
“No. I like it here. You go away. Shoo.” He said, mimicking me. I couldn’t even try and be mad at this kid. He reminded me of Paul, the memory picking at the back of my mind like a cat scratching at my door, begging to be let in. I tried to ignore it.
“You’re the only person I know who’s come from farther away than I have,” I said, rummaging through my backpack. I grabbed a sandwich, giving half to him without thinking. He took it and started eating, chewing loudly.
“Where are you from?”
“Mexico,” I said, with an exaggerated accent. He snorted.
“I came from farther away!” he yelled, triumphant. “Weird I’m still alive, huh? I’m not meant to live here. I can’t breathe air.” He made a big show of holding his breath. I laughed.
“Well, what’s it like where you’re from?”
“It’s beautiful. I like it best because everyone is just like me.”
“Lucky for you then. There isn’t a place on Earth with people like you or me, Alien.” I meant it to come out jokingly grim, but the moment it slipped past my lips I realized I wasn’t joking at all.
“Yeah,” he said, scratching his head uncomfortably, “That’s what my doctor said, except he said it different...But wouldn’t it be nice if there was?”
“But there isn’t,” I said, twisted the ring on my hand nervously. “Nobody quite like you or me.”
“But I’m like you,” he said. I sharply turned to him. He had such dark, sweet puppy eyes, I couldn’t bear to disagree.
“Yeah,” I said, throwing reason to the wind. “We could live in our own little spaceships together. That’d be fun, right?” He started really getting into it, bouncing up and down.
“Maybe we will. Maybe when my family comes down to get me we can bring you too!”
God, he’s exactly like Paul.
“But not yet,” I said. My legs were kinda wobbly and tired, and I suddenly felt the intense desire to be somewhere warm and safe, somewhere where I could try and forget harshness, loss. He’s exactly like my brother, I could tell. Paul had all the same mannerisms, all the same quirks that made people think he was flat-out crazy. It doesn’t just make me sad, it makes me hurt, it makes my stomach burn.
“I’ll see my family soon,” Alien said, rambling on. “ Where I’m the most normallest person there. Nobody makes me stand still, nobody waits to eat. It’s real nice, ‘cause nobody tries to hit me there, and that’s really okay. It’s all okay there, Carmen. It is. The stars are tiny dots all around, and the world is tiny.”
I don’t want to stare and make him feel like I’m annoyed, yet I want to watch him talk forever. Suddenly I was feeling less alone, like one lost astronaut meeting another, floating about in deep space. Happiness is infectious, I guess, and a terrible, bittersweet nostalgia began creeping over me again. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to let it, I had found out how crippling letting myself live in the past was. Mama had warned me about thinking about it too much, and I tried to take her words to heart.
“That sounds good,” I said, throwing my bag over my shoulder and tossing the leaf I had been ripping up into the wind like confetti. He nodded eagerly.
“You can get home? I mean, to your house.”
“Easy as pie.”
“Good. I’ll uh...see you later.”
“Course you will,” he yelled over his shoulder as he ran away, “because I’ll see you when we’re a pair of aliens floating in the sky!”
Today, I saw him in the newspaper. He was dead. I recognized his face in the family photograph in the article, the rest of his family standing still and straight as dolls, oddly generic on either side of him. His house had burned down. The paper said his family tried to save him, but he was trapped in his room and it collapsed. It said that he had probably died pretty quick, but that he was definitely, completely dead.
I don’t believe the newspaper, not even a little bit. Denial? Possibly. But a denial I’m willing to make in order to imagine him skipping like a pebble across a pond with my brother, my alien who left me alone down here.
Alien’s not dead. I think Alien just went back to living in the sky.