Alex the Unfortunate
Robert Lopez

Alex the Unfortunate was the one born that way, unfortunate, but I wasn’t. I was born with the sun shining down on me. I was born beautiful, without blemish, with people wanting to take my picture, touch my skin and hold me close. Alex the Unfortunate was born unsightly, pockmarked and discolored, but I’m not Alex. I’m someone else. Maybe I look a little like Alex the Unfortunate, around the eyes maybe, perhaps in pigmentation, but that’s all. Alex the Unfortunate was born sweating, with a tingling sensation in the extremities, with a high pitched fever, with double vision, with scoliosis, thinking inappropriate thoughts. I was born healthy, like a horse, stout and hale and upright. They say I was born standing up and talking back and I believe them. Alex the Unfortunate was born meek, cowering in a corner, alone in the middle of a room, in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, pacing back and forth, naked, uncertain what to make for supper. This isn’t what happened to me. I was born like most people, in a hospital, surrounded by concerned parties, knowing what was what and who was who. I was born to loving parents, to whom I meant the world, unlike Alex. I was given room to stretch out, given free range, a wide berth, room to grow. Alex the Unfortunate was born inside a tight space, close quarters, cramped, with no people around, no one there to make decisions, to take responsibility. Outside it was snowing. It was quiet, unearthly. This is how it was when Alex the Unfortunate was born destitute, bereft, in squalor, in a shotgun shack, with creaky floorboards, no insulation, a draft coming from the windows. That’s not me in the least. I’m someone else. I was born basking in a perpetual light, bathed in the warm afterglow, covered in sweet gelatinous afterbirth, into a loving family, who were well off. We had servants; I was waited on hand and foot and spoon-fed milk and honey. I wanted for nothing. It wasn’t until much later that Alex the Unfortunate was born catching cold, catching hell, catching as catch can, limp, paralyzed from the neck down, with a trick knee, with an overdeveloped sense of smell, suffering, lame. This isn’t me, not by a long shot. There can be no confusion here. I have full freedom of movement, am flexible, athletic and can outrun a jackrabbit with ease. Alex the Unfortunate was born angry, aroused, champing at the bit, fit to be tied down, enflamed, hysterical, hard, wet, insatiable. I came from good stock, had some bona fides, pedigree. I was born restrained, civilized. For me it was easy, but it wasn’t for Alex, not at all. We look nothing alike, except maybe for our faces, the general shape of them, like an almond, and the hair, a tussle of gold, a wisp of copper. But otherwise we are two separate people and have nothing to do with each other. This proves it, I’m sure. Alex the Unfortunate was born as a hypothetical, an idea, a vague notion, a best guess, whereas I’m real, I’m tangible. I can bleed and spit and run and jump and hide and seek. Alex the Unfortunate cannot do these things and has never been able to do these things so I don’t know why I’m mistaken for Alex all the time. Whenever I am called Alex I politely correct the person and move on. I don’t chastise people. I don’t berate. I don’t humor them, either, but I do accept apologies. I am always gracious, always, though the same can’t be said for Alex. But the truth is it doesn’t bother me, none of it, not to any great extent. Whenever I see Alex myself I am always cordial. I always say hello Alex and goodbye Alex and it was good running into you.

Robert Lopez is author of the novels Part of the World and Kamby Bolongo Mean River, and a collection of stories, Asunder.