A is for Alice. Every man should have an Alice; sweet legal sixteen. Get in young, before the skin clears and innocence is lost. My Alice had big blue eyes with shiny lids that flapped as though on shutters; thighs of uncooked dough; lips made for sucking. The tips of her fingernails were thick and white, like shavings from a bar of soap. Get in young, before they learn to milk it, those dairy-fed country girls with superphosphate in their veins.

B is for Brenda Walsh. Oh 9 oh 0 oh 2 1 0, the postcode of desire. The favourite masturbatory fantasy of a teenage boy with oily skin and teeth like mah-jong tiles. I recorded every show, and played them back a thousand times. Oh how I loved the infamous luau episode: even dirty Brenda Walsh would blush to hear how I celebrated when a warm Pacific wind brushed aside her lei and revealed a small pink hint of nipple.

C is for Claire. She asked for my autograph at a book signing; I gave her my phone number. We lived together for a year. She didn’t say much, but she liked to hear me talk about my work. On Sunday mornings I would smoke on the roof, while she walked the garden paths with a shovel slung over her thin shoulder like a dinner jacket. She was always clean, never spilt drinks, never made a fuss. One day she packed her things into twelve neat boxes, wiped down the kitchen surfaces, and drove away. That night I found a tube of gardener’s hand cream under the bathroom sink, but apart from that it was like she had never really been there at all.

D is for Diane. Frustrated second wife of a lifestyle publisher. She liked to speed down country roads at night, with the top back and the lights off, her red silk scarf billowing behind her like a kind of mannered howl. 

E is for Electra. Not her real name, but when we fucked she called me Daddy. It kind of turned me on, until the police came. 

F is for Fenella. Magazine bitch; wrote about orgasms in oxygen bars. Called me her hippo and told me not to wallow. Goebbels would’ve been a happy man, she said, if only he’d Learnt to Love His Imperfections.

G is for Gabrielle. Frustrated first wife of a quantity surveyor. We played pétanque and pashed beneath the agapanthus. Her pinched eyes told of a lifetime weighing the bodies and habits of other women. She tasted of olives.

H is for Helen. She would sip peppermint tea and listen to audio books of the early writings of Margaret Mead, while I crawled beneath her winceyette nightie to observe her solemn breasts. “Make them undulate!” I’d cry, and she’d give them a perfunctory jiggle; even wobbling, they looked unhappy.

I is for Issie. We had a brief everything-but-bed affair; she was saving herself for Jesus. She carried with her a dusty old book called Enquire Within Upon Everything, and when I tried to push her too far, she would open a page at random and read aloud in a stern voice. “Dogs with Hydrophobia,” she’d say, thrusting my hand back down her thigh, “exhibit a great dislike of musical sounds, and when this is the case they are too frequently made sport of. This is a dangerous parlour game, driving many a hound to madness.” 

J is for Judith.  She smelt of onions and, in truth, I was ashamed.

K is for Kerri. A blonde and bobbed TV newsreader prone to crying jags, she insisted men only slept with her to feel newsworthy. In most lights she was beautiful, but she could so easily have been ugly.

L is for Lolita. Light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul, my neighbour’s daughter, Susie. I came home drunk from a book launch. She was waiting for me by the gate, her toes turning circles in the dust. Her face was grubby, as though she’d been climbing trees all day, or sucking tangelos. I offered her a lemonade and she laughed. “Nobody drinks that shit anymore,” she said. Later my name was passed through the schoolyard on scraps of paper, and concern was expressed. I moved to a better neighbourhood and swore off vodka.

M is for Mike because I was an experimental youth. 

N is for Nathan because the validity of an experiment depends upon an adequate sample.

O is for Olivia. Olivia played trombone in the high school band; I played clarinet. She stuck obscene Post-It notes on the back of my music stand and dumped her spit cup on my shoe. My mother said she liked me. In biology class I hatched mosquito larvae in numbered matchboxes and let her give them names. We kissed once at the science fair, behind a papier-mâché model of Mount Etna. She tasted of strawberry lip gloss and burnt toast. 

P is for Petra Bagust. You saucy Christian lifestyle bitch. We have never met, but I would like to fuck you up against a wall until the crucifix falls from your throat and burns a hole clean through your dove-white sock.

Q is for Quick Fucks. Nightclub toilet; a park at night; the backseat of a Holden Barina. Soft skin; a pane of blond hair; the epileptic flicker of halogens. 

R is for Rebecca. Promising writer who gave her youth and beauty to an ACC claims assessor named Gary, and made up for it in later years by offering sexual services to the disabled, and visiting poets. 

S is for Shannon, who was smart and kind and always asked for hugs. On winter nights she would press her shivery body against my back and tell me she heard the hiss of steam. She played me a video of her bone marrow transplant. Three vials of grey-pink purée, pressed through a plastic tube into a cavity in her chest. Her eyes open, her mother by her side. “Did it hurt?” I asked. “A pressure in my skull,” she said, “like diving into a too-cold pool.” “How does it get into the bones?” I asked. “I‘ve no idea,” she said, “I guess it just knows what to do.”

T is for Tracey, a serious girl who worked hard at whimsy. She was good with her hands, fixed cars and rewired ovens. Her hair smelt of boiled eggs and op-shop cardigans. Friends told me later I broke her heart, and I’ve heard she writes obsessively about me. 

V is for Vet Nurse. She told me she had a mole the shape of Cindy Crawford and did I want to see it? We made out in the back room of the vet’s surgery amongst the emasculated puppies. “I’m warning you,” she said, “I smell of cat sick.” Afterwards we cooed amongst the cages. “Don’t they look funny after surgery?” she said. We pulled the tongue of a post-op poodle, and touched its eyelids with mock fear. Later we realised it was dead.

W is for Wendy. A hunger artist from Seattle. The clammy skin of uncooked chicken; bulging veins like udon noodles; blue-cheese breath sour with craving. She was all angles converging on a single point and I couldn’t see it. “I beg your pardon,” she said, “if I’m not insipid enough for you.”

X is for Xanthe. Ruined by her ornate name and further spoilt by unhappy parents, she liked to imagine her every foible was extraordinary, and that her preferences for food and soap and footwear were worthy of scientific interest. Her voice was gentle and she looked so sweet, it took me a few months to realise that Xanthe was damaged. She never felt the pain of others as her own, and worse, she never bothered to pretend.

Y is for Yelena. A paediatrician from Gdansk. My agent got her off the Internet, but didn’t like her accent. I took her out a couple of times. She didn’t say much.

Z is for Zoe. Zoe, my love, my wife, the mother of my son. Though we only see each for two awkward minutes on a doorstep every other weekend and alternate Wednesdays during the school holidays, and though you once phoned a radio show to tell them I was impotent, and though I know you’ve never understood me – Zoe, there will always be a place in my alphabet for you.

     [Forever after at]

Please realize the above was contributed by a Kiwi. 
And that what's above originally appeared 
in a N.Z. journal called 


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The Encyclopedia of Exes, featuring short tales of love gone bad
by Lethem, Ames, Almond, Shteyngart, and many others
(including the little old Eyeshot Editor), is now available.
Here's more about the book.

Congratulations to Eyeshot contributors Daniel Alarcon and Ryan Boudinot for
their inclusion in The Best Nonrequired Reading 2005 -- considerable props, as well, should be extended to
Randall DeVallance ("The") and Randa Jarrar ("You Are a 14-Year Old Arab Chick Who Just Moved to Texas")
for having their stories on Eyeshot listed as "notables" in the back of
that rather excellent anthology of writing