MATTERS OF PRIVACY
A Bo Fexler Story
"What happened to your face?" Axel pushed aside one of the peaks in the mountain range of papers on my dining table.
"Little dispute with my latest ex boyfriend."
"Oh? What about?"
"The definition of the word 'privacy.'"
"Okay-- you know, girl, you have this tendency to stop before the end of a story. Keep going."
"Hm. He tried to tell me that asking his friends, neighbors, and coworkers about him was an invasion of privacy. I disagreed."
"And he hit you for that?"
"For disagreeing? No."
"Okay . . ."
"See, some of his friends informed me that he had a bit of a temper, so I actually kept my distance."
"So, he threw something."
"No. If you keep jumping to conclusions like this, I won't bother to correct you."
"We argued about the meaning of privacy . . . with him telling me it was wrong to ask his ex-girlfriend why they broke up. I said it was acceptable because it was public knowledge."
"Anything that is told to another person cannot be considered private anymore. You can only control what you tell people yourself. If I want something to stay private, the only way to do that is to keep it to myself."
"So, you don't believe anything could be told to a person in confidence?"
"Not really. If that person comes to hate you . . ." The words got stuck for a moment. "Then they would easily break that confidence. An ex might admit that she faked orgasms. A former coworker might laugh at how you were oblivious to what everyone thought of you. People are fickle, Axel."
"But it's one thing to find these things out by accident, it's another thing to go sneaking around digging them up."
"So, even one's sex life isn't private, because it's share with someone?"
"I mean, something's should be private. You should be able to not worry about people saying things."
"I agree. But that fact is, you can't."
"Your world is a dark place."
"You live in the same world I do. I just don't turn on all the lights and pretend that it's not dark out."
Axel shook his head. "Well, I'd never tell anyone the things you've told me. Things you've said in confidence."
"Well, good for you!"
"Lemme guess-- you've asked about me."
"Of course. Just finished the background check the Monday."
His forehead scrunched up. "You called my landlady!"
I nodded. "She had good things to say about you."
"I don't fucking believe this! Bo-- you know, you have a really fucked up sense of privacy! You act like this is a good thing-- spying on people--!"
I sat back in my chair. "Would it help if I let you read the report I wrote up?"
"I can't believe you did this!"
"Axel. Maybe you don't realize this-- I came across it while I was doing the background check on you-- but you don't seem to be able to conceive that people do bad things on purpose."
"Well, I guess you've showed me."
"Perhaps." I lit up a cigarette. "You asked how I got hurt."
Axel threw up his hands and muttered something.
I didn't let that faze me. "What happened was this-- my now ex informed me that he'd made a video tape of . . . one of our evenings together. He was sure his friends would get a kick out of it. He figured he'd invite everyone over and show them."
"If you don't mind my asking, what was on that tape?" Curiosity overtook anger. And his politeness almost me chuckle.
"Huh? Oh, I just talked dirty, gave him head. He came really fast. I mean, like, high school boy fast. That's all. I don't think I even took my shirt off. Not enough time."
"You gave him head?" He gaped like a boy who'd just run to his room with the lingerie ad from the newspaper like it was some sort of contraband.
"I'm sure the knowledge that I am a sexual being is a shock to your small town raising."
He shrugged, but the strange little smile on the edge of his mouth remained. "Do— do you swallow?"
"Please. That's only good for getting an STD."
"Oh. So, you use a condom?"
"Yes, Axel. Though I'm not big on the vanilla flavor."
"Okay. So, how exactly did you get hurt? I don't think I've gotten that yet."
"You haven't. See, like I said, one's sex life is hardly private. Part of mine will be broadcast. Hell, might even end up on the internet if any of them are technologically inclined that way. But that doesn't bother me."
"Oh? Because you already figured it was public information, right?"
"So, what bothers you?"
"I'm sure someone who watches that tape will make some comment about my speech."
"Your . . . your speech? Well, it's not like you're going to be there to hear it."
"I know. But that's not much of a consolation. I'd bet that someone makes a comment that with the way I talk, I'm better off with someone's cock in my mouth."
Axel's mouth hung open. Nothing intelligent came out.
"Between you and me, Axel, I hate my speech impairment. Fucking hate it. And I hate the things people say about it. So, hearing that he was going to show the tape made me so upset that when I opened the door, I hit myself with it."
"You did this to yourself?"
"Aren't you worried that I might spill what you've just said?"
"No. See, when I was doing the background check, I really got a sense of how honest . . . how honorable you are. Otherwise, I wouldn't have told you! Shit, I'd have lied about that, too."
"Huh? Oh, you don't want to know. Private stuff."
BIO: Clair Dickson writes between teaching Alternative High School students and her other three jobs. She primarily writes Bo Fexler short stories which have been published in places like MuzzleFlash, Out of the Gutter, Yellow Mama, Crime and Suspense, and PowderBurn. She keeps track of Bo Fexler at www.bofexler.blogspot.com. And she wrote this story after a comment from Mystery Dawg.