Samsa dated dumb girls. The type who wore “keep calm and” merchandise in sizes that were far too small. That was his thing. Ever since freshman year in college he’d developed a reputation for being a bit of a roulette table when it came to women; always appearing with someone new whenever an invite extended to ‘your significant other.’ He was an alright guy to be honest. He wasn’t the brightest crayon in the box, but he had a knack for making you feel like when you were around him, something outrageously exciting was either already happening or just about to follow.
With this in mind, you can imagine my surprise when we decided to meet for dinner the night before our ten year reunion, and he showed up with Alice. She was taller than him, and perhaps older too. Her hair was red, straight, fell just below her collar bone, and was cut in a fringe. Laurrie kicked me beneath the table as they approached, and shot me a wink that said, ‘here comes another one’.
The food was great and the wine flowed freely, two ingredients that should have guaranteed a jovial time. And had I not been so distracted by Alice, perhaps I would have shared in Samsa and Laurrie’s loquacious engagement. The two swapped stories at my expense; him recounting my bachelor days, and her declaring that ‘not much has changed.’ They laughed, I laughed, and Alice did a reasonable job of pretending she was having a good time.
It’s not that she was very obvious about it. In fact, I am pretty sure I was the only one paying her such close attention. I noticed the way she cut her salmon into avoidably small portions, how the hollow in her neck deepened after she swallowed, how she tucked away a persistent strand of hair behind her ear, how her voice landed somewhere between a mumble and a whisper, and how, above all, she almost never made eye contact. It gave her an air of depth. The kind you come across when in the company of one who’s been places they’d rather not speak about with strangers.
We got talking about how quickly time passes, and if there was any moment of the evening that confirmed she was miles apart from Samsa, that was it. ‘I can’t believe it’s been ten years,’ said Laurrie, ‘Here Here!’ Samsa raised his glass, and punctuating their reflection, Alice added; ‘Imagine our conception of time was closer to Vonnegut’s representation in Slaughter House Five; I wonder if we would be happy. Maybe it’s less a matter of perspective in the framework of time, and more a critique of our perennial desire to pair two opposing forces together in order to appreciate either of the two.’
‘Well shit,’ Samsa broke the silence that followed. ‘Isn’t she the smartest thing you’ve ever seen?’ He put his arm around her and gave her a side hug. She gave a vague smile and patted him on the chest.
In the car, Laurrie addressed the matter first. ‘So Alice… what a strange girl.’ I wasn’t sure that strange was the word I would use to describe her, but I kept that to myself and said, ‘Yeah, I don’t see it.’
Six months later Laurrie and I were back in Phoenix for her sister’s wedding. We met Samsa by the bar at the reception. He’d remained faithful to the version of himself we’d always known, showing up with a blonde woman who’s dress ought to have been a little less revealing. When Laurrie and her excused themselves to use the restroom, I ask him about Alice. He shrugged his shoulders, took a sip of his drink, and said, ‘old news.’
*Part of the Postmodern Emotion series: A series of passages that pay homage to the curious evolution of contemporary relationships; or arguably, lack thereof. For an easier access to my work while you’re on-the-go, follow @clickstories on instagram.