I met Brian at a house party thrown by a friend of a friend. People were dancing in the living room, smoking and doing who knows what in the bedrooms. I stuck to the kitchen, where it was dark and I had easy access to a fridge full of beer. It was dark in there—the bulb in the ceiling fixture was out—and every time someone opened the fridge Brian seemed to glow with blueish light.
I couldn’t tell how old he was, I couldn’t tell his ethnicity, but I could tell his skin was so smooth he didn’t have to shave. I was taken in by his style, which was outrageous—pleather pants, galoshes, and an enormous garbage-chic scarf—and his manner of speech, which was quiet, precise, and controlled. My friend had left me alone to flirt with some woman she knew from work, and because I didn’t know anyone else I was drinking faster than usual. Yet though Brian seemed to match me beer for beer, by our fourth, when I found myself hiccupping, he still seemed entirely sober.
We talked about this and that. He asked me a thousand questions about myself. There was something charmingly childish about his inquisitiveness. Where did you grow up? he asked, and when I told him the name of my hometown in Pennsylvania he asked me, Where’s that? He asked about the climate (cold, humid), about the customs and personalities of the people I knew. Though I felt my upbringing had been pretty normal, even boring, he made me feel I was the most interesting person on Earth.
When my friend came to tell me she was leaving, I said I’d go, too—and then looked at Brian meaningfully. I waited a moment, but although we’d stood together all night he didn’t seem to respond. I hesitated a moment before saying: Well, nice meeting you.
He said, Nice meeting you, too. His face was expressionless.
My friend rolled her eyes and said she was getting her coat.
I let myself put a hand on his face. It was so preternaturally smooth. I work in a lab at a large cosmetics company, developing concealers and skin creams, so believe me, I know what I’m talking about when I say there was something really alluring about Brian’s skin. Even in the dim kitchen it was clear and luminous.
I don’t normally do this, I said, but would you like to come home with me?
He opened his mouth. He closed his mouth. He smiled. He nodded. I took his hand.
We walked back to my house through the empty streets of early morning. It was midwinter. Under the yellow streetlights I could see my breath. Brian’s whole face steamed in the cold. At my door I fumbled with my keys as he watched me frankly. I don’t usually have any trouble with this lock, I said. He bent down to look at the lock and the key more closely. With a smooth, almost liquid gesture he put his hand over mine and, pressing my fingers with his own, helped me turn the key.
I turned on the light in the kitchen, and the long florescent bulb buzzed loudly. Brian seemed startled. He turned it off. Would you like a glass of water? I asked him in the dark. He did not reply. Instead, he stepped toward me. He put a hand on my face, just as I’d put my hand on his face in a different kitchen, a neighborhood away.
Brian turned out to be as innocent about and game for sex as he was conversation. Every movement he made was like a question. He concentrated hard on the way I responded to the even the minutest of gestures. I’d never been paid that kind of attention. He was focused. I was enchanted. He was riveted. I was consumed.
Because my apartment has an overactive radiator, I woke up that night with a parched mouth and dry eyes. Quietly I climbed over Brian to go get a glass of water, and returned to him lying there naked in the streetlight glow that poured in from the window. The curvature of his every muscle, every delicate joint, was illuminated. I am not a person who sleeps with very attractive men, understand. I prefer dating people whose insecurities I can identify, then address with subtle acts of kindness. Men who think I’m out of their league. Men with body image issues. Divorcés. Men like this are men I can engage with. Men I can help are men I can date.
Brian was different. His beauty was startling. He was flawless to me.
As I stood there by the bed, absently admiring him while he slept, I began to sense something off about him. For one thing, except for the thick shock of hair on the top of his head—Polyester-smooth as a Barbie’s—he was entirely hairless. I could more or less rationalize this, however. Perhaps he was a swimmer, I thought. Perhaps he shaved in the shower each morning before going off to the YMCA, where he did lap after lap in the Olympic-sized swimming pool. Yes, he had the build of a swimmer, didn’t he? I could imagine him swimming, could almost smell the chlorinated water rolling over his arms, back, butt, legs.
For another thing, though, Brian did not seem to be breathing. It wasn’t that his body was entirely still. His eyelids fluttered, his mouth opened a fraction—but no breath seemed to escape from it, nor from his perfectly formed nose. This breathlessness I could not reconcile. I moved closer to him, the better to listen. A few inches away, I saw what really unnerved me: his skin itself was breathing. All over his body, minuscule pores were opening and closing ever so gently, like gills.
Oddly, despite being taken aback, I found Brian’s presence soothing. I slept well that night. When I awoke it was late. I’d slept past noon and was alone in the bed. The only sign Brian had been there at all was the small valley he’d left in the mattress.
I called the friend who’d brought me to the party. How was it? she asked upon picking up.
It was great, I told her—but this morning he disappeared.
Classic Brian. Total f*ckboi, she laughed.
You know him?
Not personally, but he’s slept with like all of my friends. Marianne, Margaret, Chloe, Zoe, Marie. They all say the same thing. It’s great; then he’s gone.
God, I said, a little taken aback. I wish you’d told me.
Oh, she said, breezily, you wouldn’t have cared! Brian’s the kind of guy everyone wants to fuck. Women, men. Doesn’t matter. People underestimate the power of amazing skin.
I ended the call feeling strangely used. I’m not the kind of girl who goes through life breezy. I’m a creature of habit. I eat the same five lunches each week. Once, leaving a friend’s place in Morningside Heights, I found a stained glass lamp on the curb as it was beginning to snow. I lugged it all the way back to my place in Bed Stuy, avenue block after avenue block. The snow fell harder and harder, and I slipped on the slick pavement in my Keds, but still I lugged it down the stairs into the subway at rush hour, through the boroughs on the subway, and up the stairs at my stop. That lamp was probably twenty-five pounds.
In other words, when I like something I hang onto it. And Brian was the best sex I’d ever had.
But Brian proved hard to locate. I asked all my friends; no one knew his last name. I checked all their friend lists; none of their Brians seemed to be him. I looked everywhere I could think to look; after weeks of digging I was still stymied. Brian was unfindable. Brian could not be found.
It was at a party months later that I finally ran into him again. It was one of our first really warm nights, that time of year when everyone wants to be on a rooftop with a drink in their hand, looking out at the jagged city on the other side of the river, the lights swimming restlessly on the water. I happened to look up just as he walked in. His loose lamé jumpsuit and aviator sunglasses reflected the LED lights our hosts had strung up to light the night.
I got up so quickly I knocked over my drink. I’d been waiting so long to confront him, I could barely keep the pitch of my voice below a yell. Where the fuck have you been? I shouted. The volume of the party dropped. Starkly I heard myself yell: What kind of person just disappears?
He guided me to the edge of the rooftop as the voices welled up again. He put a hand on my face—just like that first night, that only night. Hello, he said.
Hello? Just hello?
Shh, he said.
Don’t shh me! I spat.
Please, he said. He spoke as if English were a foreign language to him. With what seemed like difficulty he formed a few more words: I’m sorry, he said, but you don’t understand.
I was livid. I said: What is there to understand? You’re a fuckboi, that’s all there is to it, that’s what everyone says.
He slid his aviators back up over his impossibly perfect nose. When he stood, it was as if he were moving in slow motion. From what seemed like thin air he produced a small card, and handed it to me, kissing me ever so gently on the cheek. Into the softness of that kiss I could feel all my rage fade away. I looked down at the card between my fingers. It read, simply:
When I looked up again, Brian had disappeared into the moving bodies and overlapping voices of the crowd.
When I showed up to McCarren that summer night, the park was quite crowded. There were hundreds of us. A woman with a long pink braid sat in a wheelchair chatting with a willowy girl in a plaid skirt and Doc Martens. A thick woman with dreadlocks and enormous gauge earrings lay under a tree next to an androgynous person wearing feathery wings. I walked slowly through the crowd, marveling. A girl with an elaborate septum piercing approached me. She looked as confused as I felt. Raising her eyebrows as a kind of question mark, she held up a card exactly like the one Brian had given me. I raised mine. She shook her head, rolled her eyes. She held it up again, this time to a short, wide-eyed woman whose skin was dappled by vitiligo. In reply, the dappled woman raised her own card. So we had all been on the receiving end of Brian’s mysterious invitation.
Slowly, I became aware of a sort of low, humming rumble. I felt it at first through the soles of my shoes. I worried we were experiencing an earthquake—but the rumbling was too steady, too consistent, to be an organic phenomenon. Then I realized I could actually hear it. It sounded like an engine, it sounded like a human voice. And then I noticed the women around me were all looking up, into the polluted night sky. There above us was hovering an enormous, oblong thing. It was the size of a skating rink. Its surface was entirely mirrored. It was shivering like an out-of-gear car.
As we watched, it switched on a light so bright we reflexively put up our arms to shield our eyes. Everyone had turned to watch. We’d all fallen silent. Below the hovering object, alone, in that shaft of intensely bright light, was Brian.
I just wanted to say, he said. His voice sounded as quiet and human as it was foreign.
I just wanted to say, he began again—and as he spoke he began to lift up off the ground, up into the shaft of light, exactly as if he were riding up in an invisible elevator—that you’re all really lovely.
He was a few feet off the ground when he added: And this has been a really informative visit.
The tip of his head disappeared into the hovering thing. He ducked down to say two last words:
And there went his perfect head, his plaid vest, his perfectly torn jeans. There went his two opalescent sneakers. With a tree-shaking shudder, the light shut off. The mirrored receptacle rose up and, as if blown away by some invisible wind, flew up and away. We watched it disappear into the clouds.
We stood together in awed silence a moment. Just a quiet park packed with human women. Eventually, in pairs, and groups of three and four and five, we began to disperse. Conversation picked up again. From somewhere in the crowd, I heard a voice that seemed to be directed at me: Hey! it said. What are you doing tonight? I turned. It was the girl with the septum piercing. She was walking with the wide-eyed woman with vitiligo. Yeah, you, she said. Whoever you are. You want to come for a beer?
Rachel Lyon’s work has appeared most recently in McSweeney’s, Joyland, Bustle, The Toast, The Saint Ann’s Review, and Luna Luna, where she is a contributing writer. By day she is the copywriter & content strategist for the marketing agency Velocidi; by night she teaches fiction for the Sackett Street Writers Workshop. A native of Brooklyn, NY, Rachel is currently at work on her first novel, a ghost story set among artists in Dumbo in the 1990s.
Victoria Siemer, also known as Witchoria, is a graphic designer based in Brooklyn, NY. She works predominantly in the digital realm, creating surreal photo manipulations that reflect her penchant for ennui, existential crisis, and heartbreak. Her work has been featured in a variety of digital publications including Wired, Juxtapoz, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan, and Business Insider. She graduated from SUNY Buffalo with a BFA in Communication Design.