Dee Anderson threw the best spa parties around. Her 1920s Victorian home, as dark and promising as an avocado, was set far enough back from the road near Sequoia Park that Jillian could recline in the fiberglass-reinforced acrylic spa with tile-lined seats whose hydrojets massaged the backs of her legs and gave her that ooh-ahh feeling, and contemplate how much extraterrestrial life is up there without the glare of streetlights dimming her view of the night sky. And there’d always be an attractive—or attractive enough—single man or woman there to riff with her on the sort of civilization that would exist on Eldobon or Xerzizody or whatever planet she was then feeling supported alien races.
And Jillian would look around the cedar deck on which the spa sat quietly burbling, the house on one side and the lawn on the other, and she’d think, “This is a polyamorous occasion. This is a lot of people living lives of quiet deviance.” Because over by the all-nite barbecue there’d be Dan Stixon, Fortuna mayor and avowed bachelor, making time with a just-dating couple from McKinleyville who belonged to the Humboldt Artists Guild with Dee. And sitting beneath the portico leading into the house would be five perfectly nude men and women smoking opium and comparing their skin flaws with one another, the scars and birth marks and strange epidermal fungi that didn’t respond to over-the-counter topical creams, all ready to retire to the master bedroom for some mutual tongue lashing. And John Zorn playing on the hi-fi, or maybe an all-ukulele ensemble doing Ennio Morricone overtures, lending the sharp night air an ambiance of deep remoteness.
Not that it mattered much to Jillian what the soundtrack was to her restful recline in the spa, to the escape from her Monday-to-Friday, to the meaningful attentions she was giving to her fellow space theorist across the water from her. Dee on her left, Milo on her right, an ocean of possibilities as fingers and toes sought out other fingers and toes and body crevices and body protrusions. A plate of vegetable shish kebabs half-empty on the glass end table by her left elbow, a lazy dog rubbing its boner on the sack of lawn fertilizer next to the rake.
She thought, she thought that maybe aliens were really advanced creatures who had rigged their society with nutrient pills and automated labor and static government, so that nobody was left wanting or dissatisfied or generally angry and malcontent. She thought it was possible that the citizens of Eldobon had eradicated strife and now existed on a plane of absolute contentment and therefore wouldn’t bother seeking out other worlds, like hers for instance, because they were so satisfied with themselves and their fellow Eldobonians. Because work was a four-letter word and they hadn’t any need for it. Because things were easy for them and growth a redundancy. And she started to get pissed off the more she thought about it, because she didn’t have it that easy and she didn’t think others should either, no matter how many light years away they were, because she’d internalized the belief that suffering leads to wisdom, that comfort is anathema to compassion, and that these smug aliens, by thinking they had nothing more to learn, might as well be dead. “Those fuckers,” she said, refusing a glass of the sickly sweet Merlot that Dee had been plying her with all night, removing her finger from someone’s vagina, standing up and feeling light-headed. She had to get home. What was the point of this ridiculous orgy and its perfunctory pornography? Dee asked what had gotten into her, and Jillian responded by asking if the world was just a pleasuredome to her. “What kind of question is that?” Dee asked. “Just forget it,” Jillian said, grabbing her sandals and polyester blouse, pulling on her tan corduroy hip huggers. And then she got in her car and drove past the darkly silent Sequoia Park and signaled right at the stop sign and didn’t see the carful of LSD-laced teenagers driving without their headlights on—the thrill to obscure their boredom, oh yes their complete lack of interest in Eureka—that rammed into her car, driver side, killing her instantly.
(But she’d died a thousand deaths a day. She’d asked blind people to watch out, made passes at uninterested strangers, known in her heart that she was unremarkable, failed to live up to others’ expectations, been passed over for promotion and thought that that was fair. She’d heard air whistling up at 9.7 meters per second squared as she fell. She’d seen the world getting lost up there.)
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