10 Stories About My Friends by Kaj Anderson-Bauer

A little before Christmas, a few years ago, my friend Bradley killed a woman with his car. It happened on the freeway at night, so you can’t really blame him. She was standing in the middle of the road. Just standing. He told me that when he hit her, the woman sailed in a high arc, which seemed odd to him at the time.

Her chin and mouth hit the pavement first, while her feet were still high in the air—like a diver. She went sliding along the road headfirst until she hit a ditch and disappeared from sight. Bradley had been going almost ninety. His car was totaled, so he had to spend Christmas at home.

Tina lost her virginity to this guy over fall break during our sophomore year of college. I still wonder if it could have been me—not that Mike guy or whatever. Not that I was ever interested in Tina, but they say that Mike or whatever looked a lot like me. And it wasn’t as if losing her virginity was a meaningful event for Tina. She just wanted to get it over with. It got me thinking anyway.

I heard that a few years ago Nicole discovered how to communicate with household objects. She discovered that everything from sofas to measuring cups had a secret language. This all culminated with an ill-fated IKEA trip, during which Nicole broke down in the kitchenware department. “All those spoons,” she sobbed, “bought and sold like animals.”

Last winter, Ethan’s boyfriend Jamel, confessed to being straight and dumped him. Ethan took it pretty hard. I don’t think he expected it at all. He told me that he didn’t understand how, two days ago, they could hold hands in the grocery store, and now they couldn’t even talk on the phone. “I just need to cry right now,” he said. We fucked like cats later that night, and I haven’t spoken to Ethan since.

A fifty-story hotel building fell in love with Corrie two summers ago. It began courting her relentlessly. After a while, she returned its feelings. Corrie loves the building’s largeness and honesty, its plumbing and its steel frames. The hotel loves her little details, her nose, her fingernails, her earlobes. They moved into an empty lot together. None of us see much of Corrie anymore.

Someone stole Jordan’s bike just after Valentine’s Day this past year. A few days later, we saw some punk kid riding it, and Jordan beat the shit out of him. Turned out it wasn’t Jordan’s bike, and upon closer inspection, it didn’t resemble Jordan’s bike at all. It was the same color.

Jordan beat the kid with a baseball bat, and he had to go to the hospital. We decided to visit him the next day—just out of common decency. Before we went into the kid’s hospital room Jordan turned to me. “Don’t apologize,” he said, “that’s just what he’ll expect.”

On her way back from the library one night during finals week, Sam found a dead dog on the sidewalk. It wasn’t just dead but flattened, as if it had been run over several times by a large truck. After that, Sam began to have a recurring dream where she hurled a little dog from the window of her apartment.

She watched it splatter on the sidewalk, ten stories below. By the end of June, she’d had the dream so many times, she felt as if she’d defenestrated that little dog in the first place.

Adam has bedbugs—he’s had them for years. None of us let him sleep over.

Ben used to be King Triton of the merpeople. He was born down there, but he chose to become human. We were watching TV in my apartment one time when he slipped off his socks and shoes and put his feet on my lap. His feet are small and elegant. They used to be fins, he said.

He told me that he sometimes imagines his return to the sea—even though he knows he cannot go back. Two miles down into the cold dark he will swim, then there will be lights and trumpets.

My childhood friend Rodney fell in love with a woman he saw in his mirror. She appeared to him first when we were little kids, then again years later when we were more sexually mature. She showed Rodney things he’d never before imagined—lights and colors unlike anything he’d ever seen. I remember when he finally went away, to be with her for good. I remember how angry I was.

It must be convenient to live in a mirror, I thought, to create pure undivided light. I could never compete with that.

Kaj Anderson-Bauer writes fake gossip about his friends and gives real advice to Sasha Frere Jones and Garfield the Cat. He has recently published his stories in Fiction Brigade, Melee Live and Thin Air Magazine. Kaj lives in Arkansas.