(c) 2014 Karl Patrick Jager
He told me his name was Sam but I never was sure. Somebody had told me that Sam had died but, sure enough, here he was.
“I’m Sam.” He’d said.
“Sam D’Alessandro?” I’d asked.
“Yes,” he’d said. And that was that.
The next day I told everybody I’d been fucking Sam D’Alessandro. The claim was met with a pale disinterest, a wave of the hand. None of the guys really cared, but Jay stared at me and held my gaze. The conversation moved onto other things but Jay’s intense glare never wavered, his eyes narrowed and, when everybody got up to get more drinks or smoke outside, Jay shuffled over towards me.
“You know you shouldn’t really say things like that,” he said, softly.
“I knew you’d say something like that.” I laughed, shaking my head and lining up the damp cardboard coasters on the table. I watched him from my peripheral vision, waiting for him to get up and leave but I could tell he was crafting some more disapproval.
“Sam D’Alessandro is dead, we’ve been over this.” Jay’s voice was calm and measured, lower, softer than usual. He sounded serious and upset and ever so slightly jealous. He sounded like he was trying to keep himself together.
“How to you even know?” I said, turning to face him, “Because you read it somewhere? You don’t know that. It’s not something you know.”
“Everybody knows he died in the fucking eighties.”
“He’s here, he walked right up to me and I took him home, Jay. I fucked Sam D’Alessandro and you’re jealous and now you’re playing the old Oh-Sam-D’Alessandro’s-Dead card.” Jay stared at me slack jawed as if he hadn’t expected me to say anything. I shook my head, pitifully, and said, “So, so sad.”
That night Sam called, he said he wanted to come over and that he’d been writing about me and wanted to show me. He said he was excited and that he’d been writing a whole novella, a flurry of creativity, a speculative long-form prose poem about me.
I spun around, giddy, full of love. My chest hurt. And once I’d showered and fixed my hair I picked out a cool T-Shirt, a Cramps or a Blondie, something a little punk. Everybody thinks not caring about things is cool, but punk is about caring very much, about the right things. So I carefully stacked a pile of important magazines and papers on the coffee table. A Vice and a New Scientist and some zines and some small, very cool little indie literary press things. Graphic things, political things, things about sex and b-movies, all the cool stuff.
My place smelled like incense and I worried about that a little, but just as my anxiety began to tremor from inside me the buzzer shook the flat and snapped me into the present. I picked up the telecom and said, “Hello?”
After a crackling and a muffled cough, a deep voice said loudly, “Hey, It’s Sam.”
I wiped the sweat off my brow and buzzed him in.
Sam said that writing is, mostly, about putting on a voice, wearing a mask, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. “You need to really understand someone,” he said to me in bed, later that evening.
I stared into his eyes and at his hair. I wondered if he’d use anything he’d written about me. I didn’t ask, not wanting to appear desperate, but he showed me some old magazines and we watched some documentaries on YouTube, the laptop propped up on a stack of books on the dresser at the foot of the bed. He smoked, solidly and consistently and I loved it. He told me about nihilism and philosophy and astrology, and read some of his short stories out loud. He didn’t sign my copy of his book, though, he said it was tacky.
I told him what Jay said, and as soon as I did he sat up, straight and stiff. Suddenly wide-eyed and serious, he held my face in both hands and, with hot beer breath, said, “They’re jealous. They don’t understand. They don’t know what they’re talking about.” He seemed angry, and he shook as he said, “People are crazy. It’s a myth. How can I be dead when I’m sitting right here talking to you?”
“I know, I told them, I told them.” I could feel my eyes filling up, and he held me as I sobbed into his chest. He held my head and told me it would be OK. “They’re just jealous.”
I watched him as he slept. I thought about taking pictures as he slept but I was terrified he’d find out. He didn’t look anything like his author picture but, as he said, it was taken a while ago. People are crazy, and the internet made people crazier.
His hair smelled like cigarette smoke and I breathed him in, holding the scent in as long as I could, just in case.
Karl Patrick Jager is a writer based in the South West of England