When I marked on my roommate survey sheet that I’d be interested in living with an international student, I was thinking she’d take me to Switzerland for Christmas break or to Puerto Rico for a month in the summer. I wasn’t thinking about a romp around the red eye of Jupiter, which is exactly what I’d have gotten had I followed my roommate home. Apparently, American school systems have gotten popular all over. Universities shepherd the foreigners in. Anything to be able to write on the brochures, “Our student body hails from thirty-three countries and the far reaches of the solar system.”
You’d think there’d have been an uproar over the matter. I mean, here we have student-funding going down the toilet and everyone staging protests to show they’re pissed. And she gets a full ride, all the amenities paid for. She comes in like a Cuban refugee, minus the boat, sweeps up all the scholarships. And why shouldn’t she? She probably qualifies as fifteen different types of minority. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have anything against her. We were friends. I just didn’t expect her to be so popular. I figured I’d have to protect her from riots and reporters. But as it turns out, she was really well liked.
The first time I met her I nearly peed my pants. It’s the end of August and I’ve got all my stuff shoved in the family van, a bit too unorganized for my father’s taste, but we only live an hour away. I’m hoping to get there first to pick the best side of the room, the one with the most sunlight and the least damaged furniture. I get up early—just to beat her there. But I don’t.
She’s sitting at her desk already, reading the student handbook. I double-check the room number. 317. I’ve got the right place. This is my roommate.
At first, I think she’s an inmate. She’s wearing this light-blue jumpsuit. And she’s got pale-green skin that looks sickly. Gangrene, I think, not quite knowing what that is. It just sounds like a disease that would turn you green. She’s not an all-out green. Tinted rather, like she got a sunless tanner that didn’t work out. Her ears are inset like a whale’s, and she doesn’t have eyelids. She’s this tiny creature, not even five feet tall, completely flat, no breasts. It doesn’t even look like she has nipples.
My parents are right behind me. My mother’s carrying my lava lamp like some offering. My father’s got my futon extended over his head, trying to be all macho in case my roommate’s a babe. They drop my stuff on the side of the room with a broken closet door and turn to this green, earless girl. They’re all excited, want to make friends with the new roommate. So they start asking questions: “How was your drive? Do you like the campus? Have your parents left?”
Not even acknowledging the obvious. That she’s green. Maybe they didn’t notice. Like I said, it was a pale green, a tint really, but it was pretty obvious to me, and she had weird eyes too, beady black pinhead eyes like a hamster’s.
So finally I ask, “Where are you from?”
And she says, “Jupiter.”
“Jupiter, New York?” my parents ask.
Not that they know there is a Jupiter, New York. It just makes more sense than the other possibility.
“No,” she says. “Jupiter, Jupiter. The planet.”
“Oh,” they say. “I didn’t realize we’d found life on other planets yet. How interesting.”
She says, “You didn’t. We found you,” and goes back to her reading.
That shuts my parents up fast. They have no response. They do an about-face and head back to the car.
“Jupiter,” my father’s saying. “You believe that, Cath?”
My mother’s shaking her head, saying “Jupiter” over and over. First, like it’s a word she’s never heard, a word she’s trying to get used to. Then like a question. “Jupiter?” Not quite sure whether or not to believe it. She says it several more times, looks at my father, then me.
“I was worried about Angela living with city kids,” she says. “This is a bit different.” She unlocks the car, grabs a handful of pillows, and adds, “Is Jupiter the one with the rings?”
“I thought Jupiter was made of gas,” my father says. “How can she live on a gaseous planet?”
“Let’s just drop it,” I say. “She could be from the moon, for all I care.”
As it turned out, she was from the moon. Well, one of them. Apparently Jupiter’s got a few dozen. The one she’s from is called Europa—by Americans at least. But she tells everyone she’s from Jupiter, says it’s easier to explain. Her name is Bibi. No last name. Just Bibi. I looked it up. It means “lady” in Arabic. Ironic, as her kind doesn’t have genders, just one type, like flowers, self-germinating and everything. But she looks more like a girl than a guy, so that’s how we treat her while she’s here, even though her body parts serve both functions.
She tells me most of this the first night in the dorm. I’m unpacking my toiletries and makeup, and she’s still reading. I say, “Your parents were cool with you coming to America? Mine wouldn’t even let me go out of state.”
“I don’t have parents,” Bibi says.
“Oh Christ!” I say. “I’m sorry. That sucks.” What can you say in a situation like that? I’d never met an orphan.
“It’s fine,” she says. “Nobody has parents. I grew up like this, sort of in a dorm.”
“How can nobody on Jupiter have parents?” I ask. I know I’m being nosy, but you’ve got to admit it’s a bit strange.
“It’s complicated,” she says. “I don’t feel like getting into it.”
I’m about to insist when there’s a knock at the door. Bibi jumps to get it and these men wheel in a full-size fridge. It’s brand-new, a Frigidaire, one of those side-by-side freezer-and-fridge jobs complete with icemaker. They prop it against the window, plug it in, and leave.
“What the hell is that?” I ask, knowing damn well it’s a fridge, not quite sure what it’s doing in our room. My parents bought us one of those mini units, just enough space for a Brita filter, pudding snacks, and string cheese. The university had exact specifications on which ones were allowed. This Frigidaire wasn’t on the list. Bibi explains how she got special permission to have it in the room, says she has a medical condition.
“What kind of condition?” I ask. “Are you contagious?”
“It’s not a viral condition,” she says. “I need a daily supply of ice.”
“Ice,” I say. “For what?”
“Don’t they teach you this stuff in school?” she asks. “The basics of the solar system?”
“Of course,” I say. “Third grade. We memorized the planets. There was a song.”
Apparently she doesn’t believe me. She goes to my dresser and starts grabbing stuff. She throws my nightie in a lump in the middle of the floor and says, “That’s the sun.” She places a red thong beside it and calls that Mercury. Venus is a pair of toe socks. Earth a blue bra. Mars a pair of leggings. And Jupiter and all its moons are my best sparkly panties. She lines them up, stands to the side, says, “See?”
“Yeah, I get your point,” I say, though I don’t really. I’m too pissed that my underwear are on the floor. Matching bras and panties aren’t cheap. “I appreciate the astronomy lesson,” I say, but she cuts me off.
She points at my bra. “You’re here,” she says. “We’re there. See how far we are from the sun? It’s cold. We don’t have sweat glands. Your planet is hot, so I need ice. Capisce?”
Capisce? Who the hell does she think she is? A Jupitarian girl trying to intimidate me with Italian. Barging in with her refrigerator. Taking the best side of the room and making my thong a planet. I snatch her solar system off the floor and stuff it back in my drawer, say, “I don’t know much about Jupiter, but here, shit like that just isn’t cool.”
There’s another knock at the door. I’m about to say, “That better not be a fucking stove,” when these guys from down the hall walk in. They want Bibi to join them for a game of pool.
“I’m Angela,” I say, extending my hand.
“You can come too if you want,” they say. But it’s clear they’re just interested in Bibi.
I shrug. “I got stuff to do. Maybe next time.”
And Bibi takes off. No apology. No, “I’m not going without my roommate.” No nothing. She just leaves me there with her big fucking fridge while she goes to shoot pool with these boys she’s never even seen. I’m not sure what they see in her. She isn’t at all pretty. I mean, I don’t think so. We have rigid aesthetics here, right? How can you count a green earless girl without eyelids as pretty?
I watch them head down the stairs. The dorm is quiet, empty. I thought people were supposed to congregate on their floor the first night, praise each other’s bedspreads and posters and shit. The door across the hall opens and a guy wearing pink pants and a polo shirt steps out.
“Hey,” I say.
“Hey,” he replies.
He’s wearing his collar propped up like he’s Snow White. His hair is gelled back and all goopy. I want to tell him that went out of style with the Fonz, but instead say, “I’m Angela,” even though it’s written on the construction paper sign on my door.
“Call me Skippy,” he says, even though his sign says John Ward III.
“Where’d the nickname come from?” I ask.
“I made it up. People say you can reinvent yourself in college.”
“Huh,” I say. “Good choice.”
“So that green girl’s your roommate?” he asks.
“Yeah. Afraid so.”
“Do you know when she’s getting back?” he asks. “I heard she’s from Jupiter. You think you could introduce me? Lloyd in Space is my favorite cartoon.”
The first week wasn’t at all what I expected from freshman year. Bibi followed me all over the place, dragging her leaky ice packs along. Didn’t quite understand we had different schedules. She’s taking all these science and math courses. And I have this good mix. Swahili. Ballet. Psychology. Statistics. My adviser made me take that last one, said I needed a math credit. But besides statistics, I’m thinking classes will be fun.
Then in psych lab, I turn around and there she is sitting behind me. She’s even got the books. I figure she must have bought them for both our schedules. How’s a girl from Jupiter to know better?
Everyone wants to be her lab partner. They crowd around her desk and ask stupid questions like, “Are you going to be a psychologist? Will you go back to Jupiter and counsel manic-depressives?”
“No,” she says. “I’m a neurobiology major. Stem cell research. I’m going to learn to grow pancreases and livers on rats, then take them back to Jupiter and implant them in bodies.”
“Right,” I say. “You’re not even supposed to be here. Don’t you have chemistry?”
She doesn’t answer, just prepares her rat for the maze.
Of course, hers finishes first. Mine gets stuck in a corner and goes into shock.
But what does it matter that her rat’s the smartest? The girl doesn’t have any common sense. She forgets her shoes all the time, puts the toothpaste in her mouth instead of on the brush, and doesn’t close the stall door behind her when she goes to the bathroom. No one wants to see how Jupitarians pee. Actually, everyone was interested, but once they saw it, they didn’t want to see it again.
Around the third week I finally get a look at her schedule. It’s in one of those ugly-ass Trapper Keeper things. As it turns out, Bibi is enrolled in my classes. Hers too. She’s taking nine at once. I didn’t think that was allowed. Bet they make exceptions for Jupitarians, figuring anyone from another planet is more intelligent than us. Bibi is pretty smart actually, gets perfect scores on the tests even though she says absolutely nothing in class.
And to top it all off, even the boys are into her. That guy Skippy won’t stop hanging around. He’s a complete dork, a grade-A loser. He stands outside our door like he’s the king’s guard. At night he brings Bibi ice cream and Popsicles. He follows her to dinner and leaves flowers outside our door, nasty weedy ones with ants. Bibi hangs them from the ceiling and the flowers die because there’s absolutely no light in the room. She won’t let me open the blinds, not even a crack, on account of her condition. So now we’ve got all these ants crawling across our ceiling between brown crusty root systems. And Skippy’s become this stalker. I find him in my closet behind my shoe rack and Dustbuster.
“Just playing hide-and-seek,” he says, and winks.
“Hide-and-seek, my ass,” I yell. “She doesn’t even have a vagina!”
I call my mother and tell her about Skippy and the icepacks and the ants. My mother tells me to be patient. She reminds me about Martin Luther King Jr. I tell her she shouldn’t send Bibi presents anymore. She puts something in all my care packages for Bibi. Cookies. Statuettes from the dollar store. Soup-for-the-Soul books. I tell her, “Bibi doesn’t need presents. You should see this girl’s checks. The government gives her plenty of money.”
My mother says presents are different. Bibi doesn’t have parents. She tells me to be mindful of that. I tell my mother no one on Jupiter has parents. She says that doesn’t sound right, and I agree. I mean a whole planet full of orphans. That just seems too sad to be true. She’s probably lying. Going for the sympathy vote. I could press the issue, but I don’t. I think about Martin Luther King Jr., and when Bibi comes back, I give the roommate chitchat thing another try.
“So who do you have the hots for?” I ask.
And she says, “Nobody really.”
I’m not quite sure how it works for Jupitarians, since they can self-germinate. She seems asexual, never mentions boys.
I say, “What about Skippy? He wants you bad.”
“Oh, him,” she says, as though she hadn’t noticed. She gets her shower caddy and heads down the hall. I stare at the door after she’s gone.
Maybe she’s bisexual. Maybe she’s gay. I wonder if she masturbates when I’m out of the room. It seems like genderless people don’t care about anyone but themselves. They might, but Bibi could give two shits about me.
By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, I’m getting pretty sick of my roommate. I mean how many times do you have to tell a person, “Put on your shoes,” before she gets it right? There’s snow on the ground, and she’s prancing in it like some leprechaun. She walks around in her bare feet, leaving these monster frog prints. Did I mention Jupitarians only have three toes? It’s like she needed to show them off. You’d think she at least would have tried to fit in. I think she liked being different. Everyone was always stopping by our room to see what the space alien was up to. I was happy to have a week at home without her.
But there was no place for her to go, and my mother offered our house, insisted, really, said, “Angela, if we were dead, I would hope someone would be nice enough to take you in for the holidays.”
I guess she was right. Bibi couldn’t very well go back to the moon. The least I could do was share my goddamn turkey with the girl. My turkey. My gravy. My family.
Bibi stayed in the guest room, and wouldn’t you know it, she got along great with my mom. Better than me. The two of them bonded like bears.
My mother showed her how to cook cranberry sauce and corn bread from scratch and, of course, how to pull the guts out of a turkey. Bibi was fascinated, watched my mother tear the bird’s insides out of its ass, leaving this hollow pink part in the middle. Bibi couldn’t stop staring at it, until finally I said, “It’s only a turkey. Gobble, gobble.”
Bibi didn’t answer, just looked at me like I’d threatened to cut off her head.
And my mother said, “Angela, why don’t you help your father clean the garage?”
Things went on like this for days, my mother acting like Bibi’s her new adopted daughter and treating me like chopped meat.
Then Thanksgiving Day, we sit down for dinner and, of course, my mother makes us hold hands. We do this every year, even though we’re a family that doesn’t go to church. Even though we’re a family that doesn’t pray. My mother insists we still believe in God.
She starts out as usual with, “Thank you, Lord, for the food before us.” Then she goes off on this new part, says, “Thank you for bringing this space child into our lives. May our civilizations be as peaceful as those of the Pilgrims and Indians.”
I want to say, “God, Mom, does everything have to be about Bibi?” Instead, I grab the nicest piece of turkey and dump gravy all over, a little extra in case Bibi helps herself to more than her fair share. But she doesn’t. She takes some potatoes and squash, a little cranberry sauce and corn bread, really small portions. My father tries to pass her the turkey.
“Don’t you like meat?” he asks.
My mother says, “Bill, maybe she’s a vegetarian.”
“No,” Bibi says. “It’s just that the turkey reminds me of my mother.”
I want to ask Bibi what the hell she meant at dinner, but she goes to bed early and shuts the door. The next day my mother takes us to the mall. I’m thinking she feels bad about the turkey thing because she tells us to buy any outfit we want. But Bibi doesn’t want clothes. She goes to the cooking store and buys a turkey baster. And now I’m really confused.
We go to the food court for lunch. We get Sbarro’s, chow mein, and Arby’s. My mom’s sucking a slushie. She gives Bibi a sip, says, “Tell me about your mother.”
Bibi says, “I never had a mother. No one does. She died before I was born.”
It’s been three months and this chick still hasn’t explained the “no parents” situation. So I say, “What’s the deal? No parents. No fathers. How exactly do you make babies?”
My mother gives me this look like I’m being rude.
“What?” I say. “You started it.”
Bibi swallows the rest of her egg roll, asks, “You wanna see?”
“What? Here?” my mother says.
She lifts her shirt, and there’s this hole where her belly button should be. It’s the size of a nickel, but it scoops in and up like the inside of a funnel. She does this right in the middle of the food court. People turn and stare. My mother tells her to pull down her shirt.
“So it’s like a vagina,” I say.
“Except you put your own pollen up there, push it in deep instead of flushing it.”
“What a relief,” my mother says. “I thought you couldn’t have children.”
“I can,” Bibi says. “But I won’t. Anyone who has a baby ends up dead.”
“Childbirth used to be risky here,” my mother says. “Thank God for modern medicine.”
“No,” Bibi says. “Procreation is suicide. Babies can’t come out the bottom. There’s no hole. To get out, they gnaw through your stomach. They eat the other organs on their way out.”
I sit there, shocked, my fries turning to mush on my tongue. “My God,” I say. “Why would anyone want to get pregnant?”
“They say it’s wonderful. Like being on heroin for nine months. The best euphoria there is.”
“Christ Almighty,” I say, “that’s some mad kind of population control.” I ask her if she’s heard of the one-child law in China, but she doesn’t answer.
“You’re in good hands now,” my mother says and gives her a hug, rocks her back and forth in her arms. Right there in the middle of the food court like she’s five years old. I just sit and stare at my food. As though I could eat after that.
My mother drops us off at school on Sunday, tells Bibi if she needs anything to call. We carry our laundry upstairs. Under our folded clothes, we find notes from my mother on matching stationery taped to bags of Hershey’s kisses. Mine says, “Loved having you home. So nice to spend time with you and Bibi.”
“Your mom’s really cool,” Bibi says. She props her turkey baster and note up on her dresser.
“Yeah,” I say. “I guess.”
Now that she likes my mom, she wants to be friends with me. Go figure.
I curl up on my futon with a piece of leftover corn bread. “So did you ever think of doing it?” I ask. “Just to see what pregnancy’s like? Don’t you think you will eventually?”
“Why would I do that?” she says.
“Don’t you think you’re missing out? You said it’s like drugs. I’d try that.”
“I don’t want to die,” Bibi says. “That’s why I’m here.”
“How does your planet feel about stem cell research?” I ask.
“They don’t understand why things should change.”
“Yeah, it’s kind of the same in America,” I say. “Stem cell research is a sin. Better watch out. They might throw you out of the country.”
She empties her chocolate kisses into the porcelain bowl my mother gave her.
“I think you’ll do it,” I say. “That’s what the turkey baster’s for, right? To stick the pollen all the way up?”
She just stares at me with her black eyes bugging out, and for a second I think she’s going to throw the bowl at my head. Either that or she’s going to cry. But she just turns and walks out of the room.
She didn’t come back that night. I wasn’t sure where she went. And frankly, I didn’t care.
Bibi didn’t speak to me for weeks. We gave each other the silent treatment and slammed the door a lot. I called my mother and told her I wanted to switch rooms. She said, “Angela, that’s not how we deal with our problems.”
I went to the RA and asked how long it would take to get a new room. She said I could file a complaint, but room changes were rarely approved.
It looked like Bibi and I were stuck with each other, at least for six more months. I started thinking I should muster up some sort of reconciliation. I thought about apologizing. Maybe she’d apologize for being such a bitch. I had a plan, was going to do it after my last class the Monday before finals. I swear I was going to.
But then I get back to my room, and Bibi’s in bed with Skippy. He’s straddling her stomach. His schlong’s way up in her belly, shoved up there real good. He’s riding her like a madman, and Bibi’s arching up so her belly keeps hitting his balls.
I slammed the door behind me and slept in the lounge.
Who did she think she was having sex with a human boy, and one from our floor? It’s not that I liked him. He was too pimply for me. But she’d been lying to me all semester, pretending she didn’t understand my crushes, and now this. She loses her virginity to Skippy. She loses her virginity before me. I couldn’t believe a Jupitarian had beaten me to it.
Still, I figured I’d be the bigger person. I figured we should talk. The next day, I get back from ballet, and she’s sitting at her desk reading chemistry, taking pages of notes, pretending like nothing happened. So I sit on my futon and sigh this huge sigh, hoping she’ll get the gist we need to talk. And when that doesn’t work, I say, “If you’re going to be one of those kinds of girls, we need a system.”
She says, “Skippy told me to put a bra on the door. I don’t have any. Is that what you mean?”
“Yeah, that’s what I mean,” I say. And then, “So what’s the big idea? I thought you were genderless. Were you lying about the self-germination?”
“I can’t get pregnant the human way. It’s got to be my own pollen. You’re not even the right species.”
“A girl who can’t get pregnant,” I say. “The boys are going to love that.”
She shrugs. She doesn’t even care that she just lost her cherry. It doesn’t even faze her.
“So did you orgasm all over good ole Skippy?” I ask. “Was he good? Can Jupitarians even get off?”
“You’re so stupid,” she says. “Would a species survive if they couldn’t orgasm?”
“Screw you,” I say. I grab my towel and shower caddy and slam the door behind me. Emily, our next-door neighbor, is just leaving for class.
“God,” I say, “that Bibi is such a whore. I wish she’d warn me before she fucks guys in the room.”
Emily says, “Really? Bibi? I didn’t know she could. We were wondering about that.”
“Yeah,” I say. “She’s a little bitch.”
“Didn’t she go to your house?” Emily says. “I thought you were friends.”
I pound down the hall as hard as I can, though flip-flops don’t make much noise. I slam the bathroom door to let the whole floor know Bibi’s a skank. I let the hot water wash over my back. “Slut,” I say under my breath. And then a little louder, “At least I’m not a slut like you are.” I say it as though I’m talking to someone in the opposite shower stall. “You’re such a slut,” I say again and imagine Bibi across from me. I say it once more, almost shout it, “You’re the biggest slut in the galaxy, and I wish you’d go back to the moon!”
I’m not sure if it was Skippy who spread the word or Emily. It might even have been me, proclaiming loudly from the shower stall that day. Whoever it was, my bra ended up on the door an awful lot the next month. I left a note on her desk that said, “Stay the hell away from my underwear drawer.”
Bibi did a different guy nearly every day. I saw one of those little black books on her desk. She had all the boys on the hall penciled in. There were even some names I didn’t know. She really had turned into a whore. I wondered if they paid her or if she did it for free. I missed the old Bibi. The Bibi who forgot her shoes. The Bibi who studied all night. The Bibi who didn’t know jack shit about boys.
We didn’t talk anymore. We just came and went as though we didn’t know each other. I moved my futon into Emily’s room and slept there most of the time. I wondered what would become of Bibi. I figured her grades would plummet, and she’d get kicked out of school. But when I got back from Christmas break, her marks were posted to the wall, nine A’s. She’d completed a whole year of college in four months.
I’m not sure how she kept it up, the sex and the studies. Her second semester she upped her course load to ten. They even let her into a graduate class. Like I said, if you’re not from America, they let you get away with that shit.
Then around February she starts looking greener. I wonder if she has that seasonal depression thing. Then one day, I get back to my room, and Bibi’s jumping all over her bed. She’s got the music cranked as high as it goes, some god-awful Broadway crap, and she’s singing, “I feel pretty. Oh so pretty.” And she’s wearing this outfit that’s half her clothes and half mine with my sparkly panties around her head.
“What the hell’s going on?” I say. “I thought I told you not to touch my stuff.”
She jumps off her bed and dances this little jig. She looks so goddamn ridiculous I have to laugh.
“Did you find some solution to Jupiter’s baby problem?” I ask. “Is your research going well?”
“No,” she says. “I’m pregnant.”
“You’re not,” I say. “I thought you couldn’t.”
“Well, it’s not like I had proof it was impossible,” she says. “I guess it is. I’m pregnant with a half-human baby.” At this, she bursts out laughing. Pollen puffs out her ears in yellow clouds.
“Who?” I say. “Whose baby is it?”
“A boy’s,” she says. “A human boy’s.” And then she’s surrounded by pollen again. She swirls it around with her hands. “Can you believe that?”
“Are you going to keep it?” I say. “If you give birth, it’ll kill you, right?”
“I’m giving birth to the first half-human, half-Jupitarian baby ever!” she screams. She rips the panties off her head and twirls them in the air.
“Can’t you get an abortion? Those are common here. They’ll get rid of it. You’ll be fine.”
“I don’t want an abortion,” she says. “I want to be eaten alive.”
I didn’t know what to say. She’d turned ten types of crazy. It must have been that euphoria she told me about. I began to wish I had a normal human roommate I could take to the abortion clinic so things would be better. I’d never had a friend with a life-threatening illness. Only grandfathers and uncles. And they died. There was nothing I could do. Bibi had lost it. Her condition was terminal, and she didn’t even care.
In the weeks that followed, Bibi stopped seeing the boys. I moved my futon back into our room, and we started talking again. I became Bibi’s bodyguard, shielding her from all the male scum on the floor. Boys would stop by and say, “I’m here for some alien sex.”
I’d say, “Fuck off, asshole.” And they’d go away.
By March, Bibi had given up her studies. No more stem cell research. Instead, she starts holing herself up in our room making sculptures out of dining hall silverware. She hangs them from the ceiling where the ants used to be and opens the windows to watch the dead flowers blow in the breeze.
We start having parties in our room every weekend. Everyone brings beer and fills up our fridge. The RA doesn’t give a damn because Bibi got her through chemistry first semester, and she hopes she’ll get her through physics next fall.
I call my mother and tell her we’re getting along great. I tell her Bibi is the best. My mother’s glad we’re back to being friends, says she knew we’d work it out. I don’t mention that Bibi is pregnant. My mother would be disappointed. She wouldn’t understand.
Finally, Bibi and I do everything together like roommates should. We order pizza at midnight, rate the guys on the hall, redecorate the room. We move the beds against one wall and scatter huge pillows on the floor. Bibi finds these red Christmas lights on sale at the hardware store and hangs them up. She turns them on and lies under her swaying spoons, pretends she’s watching hot liquid hydrogen swirl around Jupiter from the moon. She says, “Angela, come lie with me. We can watch Jupiter together. Better enjoy me while you can. Pretty soon, this baby will eat its way out.”
“Don’t talk like that,” I say.
“Like what?” She dangles her three-toed feet in the air, says, “It’s okay. It’s only death.”
By April she’s really showing. She’s got this great green hump of a belly, draws faces on it with finger paint and calls it Skippy Junior. Every day she plans something different. She says, “Let’s take Skippy Junior to the zoo. Let’s take Skippy Junior ice skating. Let’s take Skippy Junior for parachute lessons.”
I say, “Bibi, I’ve got classes.”
She says, “I’m going to be dead in a few months. You can study then.”
So we go ice skating and snorkeling and rent lots of porno and drink slushies. Bibi does this thing with her turkey baster, fills it up with slushie and lets it volcano into her mouth. Half goes in. Half gets all over, which makes the ants come back. But this is kind of great, just like before when we hated each other and Skippy was a stalker. Back when Bibi studied all the time and didn’t care about parties or drinking or boys.
The new Bibi is completely different. She dances all over the room, begs me to go with her to clubs, says, “You gotta teach me that booty bounce thing.” She puts on a sparkly shirt and lipstick, a short skirt and heels. She tapes a paper bow tie to her stomach and says, “Skippy Junior’s ready.”
So that’s what we do. We go to the only dance club in town, Freaky Willy’s. And I teach her to dance the American way. I show her how to grind like a skanky ho.
We run into Skippy at the club. He’s there with some guys. His acne looks a bit better. He buys us both drinks, Coronas all around. You’ve got to give him credit. At least he got us good beer. Then he wants to dance with Bibi. He seems genuine enough. Anyhow, there’s no way he can get sex with her funnel closed up. One of those really bouncy songs comes on with the flashing lights, and Bibi drags Skippy to the dance floor and rocks it out.
I sit at the bar and watch. She’s picked up the booty bounce, no problem. She looks kind of sexy gyrating her tiny hips, her shoulders bopping with the music. In this light, she doesn’t even look green. Skippy puts his hand on her back and tries to shake his pelvis too. But you can tell he’s not the dancing type.
Later, he walks us home, and Bibi invites him in. I go to Emily’s room until he leaves.
When he’s gone, I ask, “So does he want you back? Is it his baby?”
“It’s nobody’s baby,” she says. “On Jupiter, no one belongs to anyone else.”
That was the last time I saw Bibi. When I woke up, she was gone. There was a note on my desk that said, “Thanks for teaching me to dance. Thanks for sharing your family.” Most of her stuff was still there. I assume she went back to Jupiter, but who’s to be sure. I don’t like to think of other possibilities.
After that, there were lots of policemen and school officials who wanted to know where Bibi went. I told them I didn’t know. Word got out to the papers. Skippy came by our room and put a bouquet of weedy flowers by the door.
He said, “I really loved her. I don’t know why she had sex with all those other guys.”
“I know,” I said. “I’m sure it was your baby.”
I invited him in. We sat on Bibi’s bed real close, and it felt better, that warmth, being next to someone who understood. We stayed like that for hours, shoulder to shoulder, not even talking. When it got dark, we slid under the covers. I was wearing those sparkly panties, the ones Bibi tossed on the floor that first night, the ones that were Jupiter. Skippy slid his hand down the front, brushed his fingers against what I imagined to be Bibi’s moon. I didn’t even mind when he aimed his boner at my belly button. I guided it lower, and he found the right hole.
“What if she comes back?” he asked.
“She’s gone,” I said, and kissed him hard.
He moved his hips back and forth and buried his head in my neck. My eyes locked on the turkey baster on Bibi’s dresser, and I tried to imagine that she had never been here. That she had never existed. That I had gotten here on my own.
© 2007 by Tessa Mellas
Originally appeared in StoryQuarterly.
Reprinted by permission of the author.