Running is not a sport. It's a survival technique. A zebra munches on grass. She senses danger and her ears go flat. Whether the lion is sighted or not, the exodus begins. Zebras charging through grasslands, stomping through the plains. No rest until the danger is gone. All this, and no Nike endorsement deals.
With the help of three women who didn't like her very much, I managed to outrun Beckee Krackow. I camped out on their couch for the remaining nine days in Wisconsin. We made dinners together, crashed sorority parties, closed down Hurricane bars, and made dozens of mix tapes that featured little digs at Beckee that no one but the four of us would ever understand. I was almost having the time of my life. But this fun wasn't something I'd planned. Wasn't the spontaneous product of a carefree life. This fun was the byproduct of running away from my problems. And even though I was fairly sure they wouldn't be catching up to me any time soon, I was still uneasy about their proximity to my back. Every jeep that passed was Beckee. Every man I made eye contact with was unHarry. Every joke I cracked made three people laugh, and two cringe.
This is the way it has always been. Jeremy Burdick hits me in the face with a rock, I run home. The Saint tells me that hanging out with Kevin Harris makes me look gay, I run away from Kevin without looking back. The first time I got tired of dating Beckee Krackow, I gave her a Valentine's Day present, and ran to the safety of my dorm. Everything running. It's a wonder my feet ever touch the ground. This stupid fear of getting caught being who I was. Staring too long at Saint Christopher's ass, or unHarry, or that stupid crying faggy baby Jeremy Bird Dick. I spent so much time running from who I was afraid to be, that I never took a break to realize who I was. And now here I was, running from this crazed psychopath, Beckee Krackow, a girl who had never really done anything wrong except love me.
And, shit, even my running wasn't very original. Simone, Rachael, and Susan had already rescued one high school ex that Beckee had trapped. Alex. unHarry's junior year roommate, a tall, goofy looking kid with a blond fro. "He was obviously freaked out the very first night he was in town." Susan said. "Harry picked him up at the airport, and he met Beckee and us at The Safe House." So those fuckers knew where it was before I showed up. I wondered why they pretended they'd never been there before. "And then one of Beckee's skanky ass friends showed up, and kept flirting with Alex all through dinner. He looked so uncomfortable."
I wondered if the skanky ass friend was Michelle. If she'd laid her foot in Alex's lap while she bragged about how she orgasmed while giving head. If Beckee took him home afterward and read some poetry she'd written about him.
"He was weird anyway." Simone said. "He was always looking at people like they were some sort of exotic meat."
Rachel nodded. "Gave me the fucken creeps."
If they only knew.
I hadn't spent much time in high school getting to know Alex. Pretty much all the information I had about him came through Beckee. According to her, Alex's father was one of those rich shit heads whose jobs required him to move all over the world. That Alex never really settled anywhere until Torpor Heights. Five years old, and friendless in Madrid. Caught torturing a parrot to death in Belize at age seven. At twelve, he half-blinded a girl with a rock in Ghana. When he was fourteen he did something in a former Soviet Republic that made him chuckle, but that he wouldn't explain. Something bad enough to make his father send him to boarding school back in America. At fifteen, he was assigned to live with Harold Brissette. I don't know how or when they started fucking. Whether it was rape or if they were just two curious, horny teenagers doing what curious, horny teenagers do.
"He totally cries during sex." Beckee said. We were backstage, rehearsing for Romeo & Juliet. I had a few minutes before I had to go out, so Beckee was sitting in my lap, complaining about her sex life with unHarry. "It's so annoying. It's like, he's terrified of the vagina. Like it's going to eat him or something. Rargh." She wrapped her legs around my arm. "I don't get what's so scary about genetalia anyway."
"Pussy looks like an unhealed scar." I said. "Or some chasm to an alien universe."
"Oh, please. If there's anything alien looking about genetalia, it's the cock. It's fricken hilarious. Big droopy trunk and this hairy, floppy purse behind it."
"Don't knock my sword." I said, grabbing my junk as punctuation.
She chortled. "Puh-lease. I'm not afraid of your sperm purse."
"You haven't seen Kilo yet."
"Keeloh?" She asked.
"Short for Kilometer."
It was her turn to grab my junk. To her credit, she refrained from replying with the appropriate more like centi or, cock forbid, milli joke. "There isn't a penis in the world that scares me."
"And there isn't a vagina in the world that scares me." I replied. Which was true. I wasn't scared of them, just repulsed by them.
"Well, then you're one up on my gay ex-boyfriend."
"So you guys are definitely broken up?" I asked.
"Do you think I'd be playing with your sword if we weren't?" To my credit, I refrained from replying with the appropriate truth. "I mean. You have to promise not to tell anyone. But. Ok. Harry is totally gay."
I blushed. "So you've said."
"No, I mean like. Like he and his roommate fuck." And I'm sure she kept talking, but I didn't hear a word she said. I was picturing Alex and unHarry. Trying to figure out who was top, whether they held each other afterward. When I came to, she was looking at me. I was definitely supposed to be saying something.
"Why are you telling me this?"
The question became, why did she tell me this repeatedly? Every time we got together there was some mention of unHarry and Alex having sex.
Now that I'm comfortably in my twenties, I understand. She needed to talk to someone about how this guy she loved, who claimed to love her, was gay. How frustrated she was. And since unHarry and I weren't friends, and, maybe in her eyes, were romantic rivals, I was a perfect candidate. She didn't know that I, too, was a stupid, confused sixteen year old closet case, and because of how quickly and frequently she'd divulged unHarry's secret, I was now terrified to tell Beckee Krackow anything that she could use as a weapon with her next boyfriend. So, a couple of weeks later, I gave her the stuffed bear, and stopped talking to her.
A year later, I was in the theater, hanging out with JBob and a few of the techies when I heard Beckee screaming. She and Alex were in the basement, supposedly working on one of the one act plays for an upcoming festival. It wasn't a long series of screams and crying, it was a short burst of "No. No. Get off me!" followed by silence. None of us flew down the stairs to rescue her. I cracked jokes about how that must have been the first time she'd ever said those words. JBob and a couple of the techies laughed. A couple of them cringed.
It was summer before Beckee told me what happened. How Alex had raped her in the basement that she had to spend three mornings a week, rehearsing in. I had just financed Jennifer's abortion when she told me, and I was all out of comforting words. I mean what could I have possibly said to take her pain away? Should I have told her about Jennifer? Should I have mentioned that I was starting to get the sneaking suspicion that my interest in gay porn wasn't so much a phase but an obsession? Not knowing the most soothing thing to say, I asked "Did you tell Harry?"
She didn't. She didn't tell Harry. She didn't tell her psychologist. She didn't tell a dean, so no disciplinary action against Alex was taken. And two weeks before he was scheduled to graduate, he raped a sophomore who did report it. But since, as far as the school knew, it was a first offense, they chose to let him graduate. After that, he disappeared for two years, until either Beckee or Harry invited him to Wisconsin. I don't know what happened there, either. Why he had a black eye and a limp when he showed up at Simone, Rachel, and Susan's. How, despite all that, he still smiled through most of the visit.