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by Alina Stefanescu

The conference room was magnificent, the applause purpled by shameless enthusiasm. His paper had been delivered in a steady, unruffled voice untrammeled by tics. The title, “PCB in Secondary Social Networks,” implied elegance and veracity. A good title permitted a man to discuss the disinhibited lechery of a latchkey kid with two full hours to burn before the parents returned.

A renowned scientist, a trendsetter in his field, he studied precopulatory behavior, the series of linear and occasionally geometric patterns which both indicate and secure the coming coition. Light verbal banter was the beginning and pivot point.

When consulting with church marriage groups, he recommended self-presentation with open vistas of chest and abdomen. Pure modesty indicated an aversion to sex but coy modesty was wildly successful. A gauze of grins and batted eyes might easily be taken for giddiness. Middle-aged men needed giddiness—this was why they sought younger women. The wives should consider dabbing napkins over parted lips in a soft-porn sort of way. This was a global hit on the PCB circuit. He was happy to share any further data that might improve their marriage behavior.

Between airports, he watched the social interactions which accumulated in security checks.

To the Lions Club, he urged grooming and gum. Also, an ease of manner which implied the dice was loaded from the start. Romantic but firm. Fatalistic but spontaneous and unexpected as a treasure hunt. The men always laughed when he concluded, “X marks the spot.”

At the Young Professional Women’s Association, he identified the roadblocks posed by second-wave feminism. Though the third wave corrected such errors, an emerging fourth wave threatened to dismantle PCB entirely. He did not tell the professional women how much he despised this fourth wave. Instead, he urged them to aim for disconnected physical gestures which disconcerted and provoked others to think of sex. This was readily accomplished through an approach to food and conversation implying underlying fecundity with the promise of birth control.

For the Baptist Youth Cabal, he emphasized integrity. Anything related to Oldsmobiles was a shoo-in. Did their parents or grandparents have an Oldsmobile they could borrow? A sudden interest in whippoorwills as time-telling devices was clear PCB—clear as dusk.

At night, he laid on the ice-cold kitchen tile and reviewed the day’s glances—what others had shown him in unmarked cars. The neon lights of minimarts destroyed PCB in every circumstance. This would be the subject of his forthcoming paper, but the title eluded him.

Speaking to the national AARP convention, he admired their tenacity. They were beyond verbiage and nonsense. He said as much. They clapped without inhibition. They radiated PCB. He could not imagine screwing an entire room of elderly people in one night. Perhaps he would return.

To the events planner, he acknowledged the limited parameters of a word like love in the global scheme of things. A world like love amounts, at most, to a moment—this moment—the here and now between us is fraught and frizzy with PCB. She administered an unoriginal, though enthusiastic blowjob.

Alina Stefanescu lives in Tuscaloosa with her partner and three small native species. Her story, “White Tennis Shoes,” won this year’s Ryan R. Gibbs Flash Fiction Award from New Delta Review. She wants to imagine you reading it. More online at:

Lead image: “‘X Marks the Spot’ by FFX © florbelas fotographix” (via Flickr user Florbela)