Alex Rose

Nafkote Tamirat

I didn’t meet Alex Rose until I started working at Condom World during my fourth attempt at living in Boston. It was my second day, and he came in to ask about multi-speed vibes. I asked him if he had ever used one before, and he said no, but his brother had told him that it would help him out with his problems. I recommended the Velvet Touch and he asked me if he was the only one who always thought of The Velveteen Rabbit when he heard the word “velvet” and my heart melted a little bit, because I could tell that he was already a little broken.


Alex Rose and I were abruptly shoved into each other’s psyches in the first grade when I threw up on his head. Some cunt named Stephanie Deputy kept asking if I liked “seafood” and opening her mouth wide as she chewed a never-ending cream cheese sandwich, and when she sneezed and became a vision of snot and cream cheese I threw up and down onto the head of Alex Rose, who was cleaning under the table. I pretended that I had accidentally wiped the table too vigorously and that the pasty stream splattering onto his scalp was just the detritus that others had left there. Alex Rose wasn’t fooled, and neither was the lunchroom monitor, who punished us with five Silent Lunches in a row because we were taught in religion class that vomiting was a sinful body’s way of shamelessly telling the Lord Our God that it scorned the gifts of sustenance that He had initially bestowed upon Adam and Eve, who were sinful in a different way. Alex Rose was the only person who continued to speak to me during that week, and would sit next to me under the table during Silent Reading.


I met Alex Rose when he was eighteen and I was nineteen and a half. I walked into my apartment and I saw him sitting on one of the couches eating raisin-walnut bread. He ate each slice of bread, six in all, by taking out the raisins and walnuts first, consuming the bread part, and then finishing with the mix of raisins and walnuts that he had exiled to the far side of the plate. I was struck by how beautiful he was, but he’d have to be for any of this to be memorable; I remember and admire in those what is absent from myself, no pity, just truth.

“This is Alex Rose.” My roommate designed perfume bottles and had a knack for picking up interesting and beautiful people on the side. My roommate had met the interesting and beautiful specimen in our living room at an Afghani restaurant where he had been playing and she had been networking. She had heard him say that he needed a place to stay for the night and had offered our apartment. I wondered again when I would go back to school.

“Delighted,” I said, and began to touch his arm whenever possible, which he didn’t notice; because Alex Rose was too used to physical intimacy, it was easily lost upon him. There was no hair on his left arm, which he said was an accident, and when I asked what kind, he said of birth.

“Alex Rose plays the tenor sax,” my roommate said later that night, continuing her role as the self-designated tour guide of the Alex Rose Playland.

“I see,” I said.

“You do.” Alex Rose was steadfast in his affirmation.


I was twelve years old when I crashed into a parked car as I was biking down a hill, because my body is retarded and I didn’t really learn how to ride a bike without training wheels until I was about fifteen, and that’s not supposed to be a joke, that’s supposed to be the saddest story that you’ll ever hear about lost youth. Alex Rose lived on Talbot Avenue and came running out to ask if I was okay. He and I had become neighborhood friends because we were both afraid of Tyson, the fat-ass who lived three doors down from me on Lorna Road and who still hadn’t made it through fifth grade, even though he had to be about fourteen.

“I’m fine.” Blood was pouring down from my chin, and my cousins had run screaming and laughing into the house because they’re useless people with pretty faces and witty jokes.

“Do you need a band-aid?”


“Do you want to cry?”

“Yeah, but I’m not gonna.”

“It’s okay if you cry. It’s better for you.”

“That’s weird.” That was when my mother came running towards me, wailing that I was going to die before I bought her a nice house and a nice life. Alex Rose held my hands until she wrenched me up from the ground and, still sobbing, rushed me into the house where she reverentially washed my face with rubbing alcohol and soap. Alex Rose and I didn’t speak again until after we had graduated from high school, because my mother remembered the strange American boy with large green eyes and wouldn’t let me outside unchaperoned.


I first met Alex Rose in the Beta House bathroom when I stumbled into it by accident. I was looking for the wave pool, and if the Beta House didn’t have one (which I strongly suspected) then I was going to head straight to a bedroom and jump on the bed and scream out, “Fuck me right now!” and see what happened, and I wanted to do this, not because I had seen it in a movie or anything, but because I was really into the idea at that point in my life.

“Hello.” This was Alex Rose.

“Jello!” This was me, mainly because I was drunk.

“I’ll get out of your way.” He moved to leave the room and I propped myself up with one arm against a wall, thus blocking his way and confusing me greatly about the placement of my hands.

“Don’t bother, don’t worry.” I meant to explain that I was leaving myself and so he didn’t have to leave if he wasn’t finished or if he just wanted to hang tight for a minute and sit in the bathroom and think about rugby, because our rugby team was doing really well, but I didn’t say any of those things, so it just sounded like I was saying that I didn’t mind if he stood there watching me pop a squat, even though I’m not really into golden showers or chili dogs or shit like that (no pun intended). Alex Rose looked worried and I forgot which of my arms was right and which was left.


I first met Alex Rose in a waiting room while my mother was having her fourth doctor’s appointment of the week. I was sixteen, he was getting there, and we were both sifting through the shitty paperbacks, hoping to find a somewhat up-to-date celebrity magazine.

“Why are you here?”

“Why are you here?”

“My mother thinks she has cancer.”

“Does she?” Alex Rose’s bluntness was the talk of the land.

“I don’t know. She thought I had AIDS last week.”

“Do you?” Alex Rose didn’t look frightened, just intrigued.

“No. I used someone else’s razor though, and she found out, and then she decided I might have it. AIDS, I mean.”


“Why are you here?”

“My mom thinks my appetites are askew.”

“What the fuck does that mean?” Swearing was still a novelty to me then, I did it as much as possible.

“I don’t know. She just kept using the word ‘appetites.’ ”


“What kind of you music d’you like?” Alex Rose’s attention span was the talk of the land.

“I’m not into music.”

“What are you into?”

“Stuff you can hold.”

By the time my mother came out of the office, still cancer-free and still looking disappointed about it, Alex Rose and I had gotten through one magazine and one Roald Dahl book.


Alex Rose and I met when we smacked into each other in a turnstile in the Red Line station at Davis Square. It turned out that we had both just come out of the same Danish movie about children, and dogs who became cats, all of it being a commentary on urban air quality. He was going to a nearby Indian restaurant and asked me if I wanted to go with him, but I get nervous about eating in front of people whom I’ve never eaten in front of before, which is to say that I don’t eat with other people very often, and so I said no. I walked back to the station, and as I was about to enter he yelled something and I turned around.

“My name is Alex! Alex Rose!”

“I’m so glad.” New knowledge never tasted so sweet and flaky.


Alex Rose’s sister lived with three children in a dilapidated farmhouse at the edge of Emmaus. I was on a road trip to Augusta from Destin, because I was avoiding school with my friend Quavé. Alex Rose’s sister sold us homemade cottage cheese, and even though it looked horrible, it tasted like daylight, which is a rarity for cottage cheeses of all varieties. We began talking to her, and she told us that she was nervous because her brother was going to visit her for the first time since she had moved out of their parents’ house. She asked us to keep an eye out for him, he was tall and emaciated-looking and had green eyes. I asked her what his name was and when she told me “Alex Rose” I felt as though there were balloons being blown up all up and down my spine. I hoped that we would see him as we drove, maybe around New York, and maybe we’d ask him if he was the brother of a woman who would be likely to sell cottage cheese on the street, and maybe he would nod and maybe we could tell him to keep his head up, because he was going in the generally right direction, and we would share our weed with him and he would tell us that his sister was lucky to have met such lovely strangers as us.


Alex Rose had a lesbian best friend who fell in love with my lesbian roommate and that’s how we met, when our lesbian counterparts started fucking.


I don’t remember how I first met Alex Rose.