My psychologist told me I was lonely and needed new friends. How could that happen? I lived in the woods and didn’t go outside. I had my dog Sally, but she couldn’t talk to me or anything.
Later that week I was driving back from my data entry cubicle and came home to a meteor planted in my backyard. It was flaming red and cracked open in the front. A little man sat inside. He waved his hands when he saw me. He said, “Get me out of here!”
I dragged him out of the meteor and to his feet. He patted down the fires on his pant legs. When he did this I saw that there was a little green node on the crown of his head. I was sure he was an alien.
“Do you have a name?” I asked him.
“No, but I need one,” he said, sounding embarrassed. “Maybe you can help me with that.”
He smelled like the burning coals Dad used to grill. I brought him to the shower to get him cleaned up.
“I’ll get some clean towels for you,” I told him.
I placed towels and clothes in front of the door. Faded plaid button-down, worn jeans.
I went to the kitchen to fix some dinner. This new man had no name. I thought about changing that, as I sliced through a slab of steak.
He walked into the kitchen wearing Dad’s clothes. I knew we were going to be friends.
On our one-week anniversary, a thunderclap split the sky. I curled up on my leather couch with a quilt Mom had stitched for me. Celery let Sally out and she came in soaked. She shook herself off and jumped on the couch with me. Celery made hot cocoa and turned on the TV. We watched Mean Girls and Pretty in Pink, which reminded me of younger days.
On our three-week anniversary, we went to town together. I gave him a beanie to cover up the spot on the crown of his head. He thanked me, knowing it was necessary. We drove to the farmer’s market. The spot on his head was green, like celery. The fresh vegetables from harvest were “green,” like Celery. No one seemed to notice anything strange.
A few days later I had therapy with Dr. Pesco. He was stroking his cat, Nadja. He asked me if anything changed in my life recently. I told him yes, that “everything” changed. He asked for clarification. I told him I met someone. He studied me and seemed satisfied.
On our four-week anniversary, Celery asked why I lived alone, so far away from other people. I wasn’t yet ready for it.
Shortly after, Celery got a delivery job at a Chinese restaurant. We started going out with his coworkers as a couple. They liked to make fun of their bosses with their broken English. For the first time, I wondered how he knew our language. I wondered how long this would last.
I hit it off with Celery’s new friend Johnny. He liked to play Ave Maria on the piano. He wanted to start a band. Since I played vibes I told him I’d come over and meet his roommates. They had wind chimes hanging on a string from wall to wall, in their living room. I picked up a stick from the ground and struck the one closest to me.
Celery and I never argued, but I saw him less and less.
It was late September. The leaves started falling into piles and Sally frolicked in them. I stood on my porch, breathing in the autumn air. I hadn’t seen Celery for six days.
He didn’t come home for two weeks. If he was going to just ditch like that, it would be pretty easy. It’s not like he owned anything. I went to the restaurant to talk to the manager—but he couldn’t speak English. I felt lost in my own town. I called Johnny up and asked him to meet me for coffee, because we had something to talk about.
I went to see Dr. Pesco.
He told me that it was nice to see me.
On his desk there was a box of little green nodes.
“I have something to tell you,” he began.
“You lied,” I told him.
“I still don’t feel ‘alright,'” I told him.
“Losing your parents is a pretty rough thing,” he said, “especially when they were your world.”
The last time I saw him was at the supermarket. He was in front of me in line but he ignored me. He told the cashier his phone number. The cashier asked, “Mr. Marco?” He was buying wine and they asked for ID. He gave them his driver’s license. You lied, I thought. He was still an alien to me. When he walked out of the store, I didn’t try to force a hello. I handed over my rewards card and called Johnny about band practice.
Rory Fleming is a writer of speculative and literary fictions, who exists in the margins of North Carolina.