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A Third Alice

After the wine guy was gone from her life forever, Mary lit a fourth cigarette, a brand you can’t get here. She couldn’t explain exactly what was so upsetting to her. And then from the blah bar emerged Alice—a small, brilliant, self-contained, comely brunette with a conversational knowledge of the mother of Alexander the Great—Alice, of whom Mary had taken so little notice in the past, who without saying a word, because she had no secrets, at this very moment rested her head upon Mary’s shoulder.

It was all a flash. I was converted.

Photo by Vyacheslav Argenberg.

Though Matty had known Alice for many years, he recognized nearly nothing of her in the gilded form approaching his park bench. The blonde curls terminating in golden ether, the cornflower cotton button-up worn as a dress, the vaguely Grecian sandals, the total absorption in her conversation partner—all were so unlike the self-contained, clog-sporting, bi-but-functionally-gay brunette upon whom he’d inflicted so many dialogues at countless parties that Matty didn’t even notice her escort. As the couple passed him on fall’s warm opening day, Matty, even Matty, had fallen in love.

But Alice didn’t see him. The pair veered left. Dropping a century-old treatise on musical harmony and a dead black felt pen into his tote, Matty arose. He wasn’t stalking or spying; he was on his way home. The guy was holding forth, from what Matty could tell, and Alice nodded and nodded along. She had no bag. The blunt giddy intimacy of the morning-after animated their being and their bearing. Matty slowed. Maybe he wasn’t in love.

Alice looked around—regarded Matty directly, and blankly—and kissed the man like she was drinking from a cool but impractically tall fountain. She stayed up on her toes. He took her hand. As the couple exited the park, their footsteps fell metronomically, and the chorus of love was beat out once again upon Matty’s rib cage.


The following Friday, Mary was whispering with Matty by an open window in her freezing apartment, away from those pregaming on her couch.

“I saw Alice with a guy in the park on Monday,” Matty said. “She’s blonde now.”

“First of all,” Mary said, “No, she’s not, so no you didn’t.”

“I literally did,” Matty said.

“Would y’all mind closing the window?” a couch sitter asked. Mary, categorically, could not hear the request. Anyone Mary wasn’t speaking to directly was always immaterial. This induced devotion in her interlocutor and inflicted devotion upon her ignored.

The two of them resumed drinking the weirdly silty white blend Mary had taken without permission—Mary’s notions of property were complex but coherent—from a “wine guy” she was fucking. It was left ambiguous whether a “wine guy” was a guy who worked the counter at a wine store, the bar at a restaurant, or had a sommelier certification and a job in tech. It didn’t matter. The important thing was this arrangement granted Mary access to good wine and initiated her into its mysteries.

A friend of a friend with dark hair and blue eyes and a red-stained mouth glanced over with what both Matty and Mary interpreted as longing for themselves.

“You’re thinking of Kathy,” Mary said, to look busy. “Kathy went peroxide blonde.”

“I’m not talking about peroxide blonde! I’m talking about living honey. I’m talking about hair that catches the sun as a child cups a firefly.”

“You can’t really dye hair like that. God gives you that. And I was at the same bad talk as Alice literally yesterday.” (This had in fact happened the previous week.) “Downtown. She’s super brunette.”

“Maybe—”

“And she’s taken a vow of celibacy.”

“She’s Catholic?”

“Catholics are an urban legend. She’s convinced herself that there’s a sex problem, which is clearly a men problem. Straight, now bi, now celibate. She’s running out of options.”

“Mary, she looked—literally incredible.”

Mary regarded Matty for the first time during this conversation as if they were engaging in an exchange of novel information.

“Oh?” she accused.

“A man can compliment a woman without making some kind of declaration.”

“It is conceivable, yes.”

“Yes.”

She stuck the bottle between her legs and struck its throat with a red fingernail.

“Alice is coming tonight,” she said.

She had in fact decided to invite Alice at that moment, but Alice always came when called. As Matty began, yet again, exhaustively critiquing the people on the couch, mistakenly believing them to be out of earshot, Mary texted Alice with many emojis and a single exclamation point.


By the time Alice had crossed the bridge, the party had moved to a bar, so she was forced to walk to a second location. She’d spent the ride receiving updates from her mother on the hip surgery of an aunt, as well as comprehensive synopses of several episodes of television, and, despite her best efforts to close the conversation, now spent half the walk on the phone, because her mother kept sighing, which made Alice feel guilty. Sometimes Alice felt like she wasn’t really good at anything, but she could always remind herself that she was a virtuoso of guilt.

Why had Mary texted her? Whenever they hung out, Alice detected a slight sour disdain from her. Mary was smart enough, which Alice liked both in theory and in practice, and Mary was beautiful, which didn’t matter to Alice in theory—but then she would stay out for hours later than intended because Mary’s beauty made her want to rise to the occasion, convinced her there was an occasion.

She peered through the window of the bar at a tight group. Mary and some guy sat on tall stools while the rest stood around them. To be fair, it was also Mary’s brittle brilliance, as much as her beauty, that made Alice stay out later than she wanted to in the hopes of vague approval. But on the morning after, Alice knew she was smarter than these people she was trying to impress—so why try to impress them? But that was a vain thought and wasn’t how she felt when she was actually with those people—so which thought to trust?

Alice stepped before herself in the glass. She fussed her bangs and wondered whether people inside, as in police interrogation mirrors, were now looking at her look at herself. She continued styling longer than she would have, had this not occurred to her, because they can smell guilt on you.

Alice waved as she approached, and though she only knew Mary, all cheerfully mimed back—see, people were nice—and she hugged everyone. It was only while embracing him that she realized the man next to Alice was Matty. He’d buzzed his head since she’d last seen him, which made him resemble both an adolescent and an alien (neither a deal breaker). He was glaring. She considered asking whether she’d done something wrong. She resolved not to think about it, or him.

Mary hooked Alice’s bicep and escorted her to the bartender, recapping the night so far with what felt like an awful amount of detail to convey that it had been regular. And then, like an afterthought, she added, “Matty was asking about you earlier.” Before Alice could respond, she said: “But what have you been up to?”

“You mean like in general?”

“Did you dye your hair?”

“I mean. I trimmed it like a month ago.”

“And how is your job?”

“I rest easy knowing cultural journalism is God’s work.”

“Same,” Mary said, but she meant culture-slash-arts nonprofits.

Mary’s coolness was oppressive, narrow, even suggestive of spiritual rot. She was looking Alice over. “You have really good posture,” Mary said.

Alice relished praise but didn’t love remembering that she was part of the visible world. Being complimented was complicated for her.

“I used to have amazing posture when I was a dancer,” Mary continued, straightening herself to demonstrate and then dropping her pose. “I don’t recognize myself in, you know when you see yourself in the side of a building? I’m like who is that slouchy bitch?”

“I was a dancer too!”

“Modern?”

“Obviously!”

“Show me.”

Before Alice even considered whether she wanted to, she had charged her body, held a figure, and radiated. Mary applauded. Somehow their chat bloomed from an exchange of words to fill space into a conversation that was the space they occupied, and something behind Mary’s eyes softened. She took Alice’s elbow into her hand. Alice felt like a plucked flower. Alice felt confused indeed. After a while, with the slightest articulation, Mary towed her back to the group, but she didn’t let go.


Both time and key had modulated when Alice stepped before herself in the mirror of the bar window and Matty beheld, at length, her relationship to herself—the vanity of insecurity, the self-regard of self-consciousness, whatever you want to call it—and his relationship to her. Here was the same old Alice, greeting everyone as if she’d never met them, though all these introductions had already happened at an apartment not twenty minutes from here less than two weeks ago. As Alice hugged them all, Matty cradled his phone, hoping to escape, but once she touched him, that quality in the hands of women, like a perfect fifth played in the piano’s highest octave, now embodied in this lithe brunette in a work pant and an oversized sweater, was so satisfying, or mystifying, or enamoring, who knew what exactly, certainly something closer to what he’d felt for Pseudo-Alice than for the true Alice, that he knew what he had now before him was a third Alice.

Matty never understood that people could see or hear him, so he wore a deranged expression as he thought, processed, and experienced the above. He had been excited to best Mary—an intractable competition raged between the two friends—and the disappointment of being wrong, even with something as trivial as Alice’s hair, was nearly as depleting as the shock of not being in love after all, if no longer in love was what he was.

Mary was reclining on the bar in her magnetic way, murmuring to make Alice catch the next word, whereas when Matty or Alice mumbled you would just nod along to nothing. She was bringing to Alice the confidence Matty brought to several antiquated keyboard instruments. What did it mean to play the song of yourself upon another person—that for Mary to play the song of herself, she needed another person? That made Mary sound evil, but she was just an artist. Most people were content to play the folk songs of the same stories over and over; Mary was a composer for orchestra.

The friend of a friend with blue eyes and dark hair was sitting next to Matty and drinking what appeared to be a tequila soda.

They asked: “So you’re a musician?”

Matty closed his eyes as if to remember whether this was true. He still hadn’t opened them when he said yes. The friend said they were a musician too and asked what he played. Matty imagined them swiping at the electric bass, root root root for the home team, occasional octave presented with the pathos of a finger painting to a mother.

“I’m a composer. I make stuff that sounds interestingly bad,” Matty said. “And to pay the bills, I make background music for podcasts. But I’m a composer for the opposite of money.”

“You mean like—”

“When the big reveal is revealed to you, the audience, and you need it explained to you, the audience, that you’re shocked or sad or relieved.”

“What kind of—”

“Music is the art of the confusion of the emotions. Artificial external stimuli triggering organic internal states. Once the state is there, it doesn’t matter how it got there.”

“Isn’t there just stock music for podcasts to use? Loops?”

Something prevented Matty from realizing that if he allowed himself to smile more, as he was doing now, people would like him better.

“You’re not wrong,” Matty said. “But this is like the aesthetic question. What’s wrong with what we have? Why do we need crown molding in this bedroom, why do we need skyscrapers to express the glory of line, why do we as a video streaming service need to fund the masturbatory emissions of a self-styled auteur when we can make for much cheaper and with better reception six thousands episodes of an unscripted franchise about humans who experience eros for dogs?”

“But we all know these questions.”

“OK, well”—Matty finished his cocktail and ice cube, and by the way, the two of them were leaning on the bar, elbows touching so each could keep their mouth to the other’s ear like a seashell—“I think personality—personally, rather—it boils down to what we used to call the soul and its relationship to current reality. It’s not really relevant, as we all know, and love, that modernity, whatever, consumerism, has disabused us of the notion of the soul itself, but that thing we were referring to, whatever organ this was hidden amongst the lymph nodes, is still active, even throbbing, and more importantly that if we opt not to nourish it, that it atrophies.”

The friend was tapping on their phone, but in Matty’s defense, they were also kind of nodding.

“It’s a matter,” Matty continued, “of saying that we have needs, or maybe something like needs but crucially different. Were this not so, we’d all be eating soylent.”

“Yeah but—”

Mary and Alice rejoined them.

“And!” Matty rushed to continue. “This entire notion of necessity. As if it relates to anything we think or do. Our society is anti-necessity. We’re better about mobilizing around the lower wants.” Everyone he was speaking to was looking in a different direction. “Who will advocate for the higher wants? We’ve all become lesser hedonists. I say let’s return to the glory of the higher hedonism.”

“Someone has to be on the other end of that though. That’s the thing about people getting what they want.”

“Someone’s on the other end of it now. We assume and accept that a child made your shirt. What’s the difference between that and how in ancient Greece, how kids—never mind.”

“Wise.”

Matty had been about to shut up minutes ago, but when Alice and Mary had rejoined them, he’d stuck out further the arcing tail feathers of his intellect in an attempt to woo, well, any of them, though it was the third Alice who had decidedly triggered the impulse.

“I’m Alice,” Alice said to the friend.

“We’ve met,” the friend said.

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“Twice.”

“I’m sorry twice then.”

Alice smiled into their face. Mary beheld her subjects with beneficence. Matty wondered how to get them all away from the third Alice. There she was again, but all of them were drunker, so they were all a little different, again. He asked her how her night was going. Alice looked at Mary as if checking her for permission or guidance to answer. Matty didn’t like that.

“But with what you’re saying,” Alice said—and finally Matty was getting some real audience participation here—“you’re suggesting we should think about, basically, dignity. But then you’re advocating for hedonism. But what we need is connection.” She pointed a flat hand at Mary, a request for backup, and added, “Love. You know.”

“Art is a vessel of connection,” Matty said, before Mary could respond. “It joins people out of time. Art is love. Better art would be enough.”

“Love,” Mary said, trying to end the conversation, but on her own high note, “is the prime example of what this young man is calling the higher hedonism. It’s the most pleasure-seeking activity imaginable. A closed system with little love games and funny pet names that release dopamine like when the lab rat presses its little button. You’re building an exoskeleton of pleasure.”

“Aren’t we cynical?” Alice said. She seemed surprised at her own aggression.

“I’m not being cynical,” Mary said, proportionately defensive. “Cynicism is a species of sentimentality, which is to say laziness, and I’m never lazy, and I’m definitely never sentimental.”

“So what are you?” Matty asked, just supplying basso continuo.

“I’m right. And I’m a lover. There’s nothing more hedonistic than romantic partnership. And nothing more stoic than chosen solitude. Even if you’re out fucking strangers every night.”

The friend of a friend was watching the debate with mocking eyes, which Matty respected far more than making a good point.

“We live in an essentially decadent age,” someone put in.

“No, that’s exactly what we don’t live in,” someone else retorted. “We live in an essentially puritanical age. But our puritanism has been so debased as to include a lesser decadence, thus debasing both puritanism and decadence.”

Mary’s wine guy showed up. What would you call that? A love pentagon?

Mary went to meet her lover, and the friend joined their friends.

Matty shout-whispered to Alice that the guy who’d just walked in was fucking Mary. Matty said the guy who’d just walked in was a wine guy. Matty said all of this in an attempt at merry cruelty. She nodded.

Alone with Alice, Matty could now really warm to his theme.

“Alexander the Great was wasted on wine,” he said. “Especially in the late days. Like when he was in love and after his lover died. His love and grief were both an imitation of Achilles. Of Achilles’ epic love and grief for Patroclus. Neither of whom existed obviously. But he was absolutely blackout on wine. I say this in an attempt to braid several conversational strands.”

“That wasn’t really wine as we know it today,” Alice said.

“It was part of the cult. The Dionysian cult,” Matty said. “Initiation into mysteries.”

“I’ve never gotten a real explanation,” Alice said, “of what those mysteries were. I know that’s why they’re called mysteries. But I can’t even picture the shape of the mystery.”


Mary had regretted texting the wine guy even before he arrived. What was different about Alice? Her jokes were funnier, brows darker maybe, asides and silences more cutting. Mary, even Mary, had—well, maybe. The wine guy was narrating a benign car accident of abstruse chronology involving his ex as Mary watched Alice and Matty chat. The friend of a friend was still among the friends. This was how things were meant to be, the most logical arrangement. And yet, it wouldn’t do.

She ferried the wine guy to Matty and Alice by his finger, hoping the charm of a full-figured woman tugging him by something phallic would be vaguely erotic enough to eclipse any rudeness. It didn’t matter whether this gambit was successful; Mary lost nothing she truly wanted if she lost him, only something she enjoyed, and there were so many things she enjoyed. He shut up, too confident to feel snubbed, which she admired in a way that was similar to resentment.

Matty and Alice were riffing on Alexander the Great’s mother. The bit was how she was a proto-feminist icon? Mary had never considered that Alexander the Great had a mother. She often found herself at sea when specifics flooded from the pretentious assholes she called friends, and thus she limited herself to, or was limited to, general but authoritative pronouncements eliding particulars, as if to suggest they were beside the point, that truth was mightier than fact, that it would be petty to adjudicate the individual woman known as Olympias when the real issue was Motherhood.

Matty and Alice cackled. Mary cut in.

“So did you tell her?” Mary said.

“Tell me what?”

Matty was looking at Mary with his famous flat mouth, as flat as he could muster.

“It’s so dumb,” Matty said.

“Tell me what?”

“Tell her what?” the wine guy said—others had been ignored, but he was somehow the most ignored.

“He fell in love with you in the park.”

“Well—”

“What?”

“He did.”

“No, I thought I saw you in the park the other day, and you looked beautiful, but it wasn’t you.”

Alice looked hurt, and Mary felt a little bad, so she accelerated.

“He’s underplaying. He was ravished. It was like what used to happen to people but doesn’t anymore.”

“But it wasn’t me?”

“She was blonde.”

“I’m not blonde.”

“I thought you’d dyed your hair.”

“I would never go blonde.”

“It wasn’t like I thought this through. I was just totally convinced it was you. For some reason.”

“So funny. But like. Why did you think it was me?”

“I guess your face. Her face. Or something. Like similar height. Or vibe. It was all a flash. I was converted.”

“Are you disappointed?”

“You’re great the way you are.”

“What was she like?” Mary said.

“Well, blonde. Alice’s height. Wearing a guy’s office shirt as a dress. Wearing, like, those Greek-seeming sandals. With some corny guy in stripes. Looked like Alice—but more—traditional. Near all the dogs in the park on Monday morning.”

“You mean basic.”

“Wait,” the wine guy said.

“Basic is an offensive term. You shouldn’t say it.”

“You mean because it implies bitch?”

“Wait.”

“But I didn’t say it, you did.”

“Terry?”

“Who?”

“That’s Terry! Like around ten Monday morning? I’m the corny guy!”

They looked at him like he was a parrot who’d started soliloquizing. Mary and Matty—not Alice, because she wasn’t privy to the context—were considering how this meant that the wine guy had maybe been fucking Terry, and that maybe, his tone certainly suggested it, Terry was his girlfriend.

“That’s my girlfriend,” he said.

Matty and Alice looked at Mary. Matty and Alice looked at the wine guy.

“We’re open,” he said.

Alice nodded like, oh cool. Matty huffed with what appeared to be disgust for the whole institution of polyamory. Mary tried on a flat expression like the one Matty so often wore. The wine guy didn’t notice any of this.

“Do you want her number?” he said, tilting weirdly close to Matty.

“What?”

“I mean, you’ll have to send her your Instagram first. This isn’t like a cucking thing. We’re just not super into jealousy.”

“I mean.” Matty looked at Alice. “Sure,” he said, handing his phone to the wine guy.

Mary was nodding like a gallery-goer.

The group fractured. Soon Mary was rubbing her bare biceps outside.

“What the fuck?” she asked her wine guy once he’d put his arm around her for warmth. He didn’t respond, but his expression soured. “You didn’t tell me you had a girlfriend, dude.”

“We’re open,” he explained, helpfully.

“But you didn’t tell me that.”

“What would be the difference? It’s my personal life. So not really your business. And, I mean, it’s not like you’ve asked me so many questions about myself.”

“Well that’s some personal shit to say.”

“I’m just trying to say our arrangement isn’t exactly a wedding track.”

“You and hers?”

“No. Me and you. Look, no offense, but I have a person I fight with. My primary partner. That’s what that term means. You’re the one I don’t fight with. I think we can move past this right now—so now that you know—no big deal—I didn’t realize it would bother you. But let’s move on and have a good night.”

After the wine guy was gone from her life forever, Mary lit a fourth cigarette, a brand you can’t get here. She couldn’t explain exactly what was so upsetting to her. And then from the blah bar emerged Alice—a small, brilliant, self-contained, comely brunette with a conversational knowledge of the mother of Alexander the Great—Alice, of whom Mary had taken so little notice in the past, who without saying a word, because she had no secrets, at this very moment rested her head upon Mary’s shoulder and helped herself to Mary’s very last cigarette.


Mary handed a sloppy joint to Alice and played the video of herself performing modern dance at 7 years old. When they’d entered the apartment, Mary had asked Alice if she wanted to see it, and Alice had consented, and so they’d been able to attain with minimal awkwardness the goal of the bedroom. Alice had been inside Mary’s apartment before, but never back here, where she was surprised to find a wall-mounted TV that suggested untempered consumption as shameful as a fridge of soda. Watching the home movie, Alice kept thinking, she was good, she was good, that same sentence repeating because she was high now, she was good.

“I was good, right?” Mary asked.

“She was good,” Alice said. “You were good.”

The person on the television called Mary was wearing a costume that obscured her face, raising her fist, exuding youth, and being echoed exactly by three peers in a choreographed expression of the kind of triumph of which Alice at first considered children incapable but upon reflection realized was only for children anymore. This had something to do with glory that couldn’t be voiced to this older Mary next to her (it could’ve been voiced to Matty, she noted) as the women casually entered an elaborate cuddling situation. The only socially appropriate response would be to lightly mock Alice (which only reinforced her point!), because this was immoral self-aggrandizement (but how was any grandness possible without some aggrandizement!).

Alice watched these anonymous children dance. What would it mean to fuck to a video of yourself as a child? The kids weren’t exactly dancing, though, not like what you’d see at a wedding. They were performing. Dancers now mostly just raised a single finger as ominous music menaced the audience—though there would always be troupes of trim brunettes Mickey Mousing in high school gymnasiums. Mary stroked Alice’s leg through her work pant. And how strange the tenderness of the touch against the roughness of the fabric. And how she should really stop thinking and start hooking up.

Mary asked if Alice wanted to borrow some shorts, hedging by editorializing how much she hated wearing jeans in bed, and adding, to grant a little personality to her relatively anonymous remark, that she couldn’t consent to guests wearing jeans in her bed either; they were as bad as boots. Alice found the fact that Mary felt she had to play these games, even Mary, endearing, but also slightly—pathetic was too strong a word. Alice said shorts would be amazing thank you so much. As Mary wasn’t touching her anymore and was instead tearing apart her room and making inquisitive grunts searching for a second pair of shorts—the first had been tangled with sweatpants on the floor under the bed—Alice felt more freedom to speak, less pressure, you know, and said: “Maybe she isn’t you.”

Not-listening voice: “What?”

Detective voice: “Do you remember it? The person in the video?”

Mother-doing-necessary-chores-as-the-child-bothers-her voice: “But it is me, silly.”

Actually asking voice: “Do you remember it?”

Actually answering voice: “Not exactly.”

Mary had opened the bottom drawer of the antique dresser. The TV continued to glow, dim or soft, depending how you looked at it.

“It’s the kind of the thing where, you know,” she said. “I’ve watched the video so many times. That’s the memory.”

“You’re the principal dancer?”

“The middle one, yeah.”

“What if you’re not though. Maybe you’re the one to the side.”

“Are we gaslighting me?”

Mary was now removing wide-legged taupe corduroys, and Alice tried not to look but peeked anyway, and Mary smiled when she caught her. Mary threw the shorts she found at Alice. Alice wanted to change like Mary had out in the open but went around the side of the bed anyway. As she did this, Mary gave her space by lighting a candle.

“It wouldn’t make any difference I think,” Alice said. She considered as she was nattering that her insistence on the point, originally a tossed-off high thought, was a way of asserting control conversationally that she didn’t currently feel physically, though of course this insight didn’t stop her from talking.

“Maybe you and one of the other girls have the same proud memory of being the lead dancer and now watch the same video and have the same experience. I had this thing with my second-to-last ex on the train a month ago. I spent the whole ride looking at her. She was at the next window down. I looked up from my book and there she was. She’d just gotten on. She was also reading. My whole body was so rigid I was sore the next day. And I rehearsed this whole conversation. I forgave her. Like I made this peace my therapist had been insisting on that I make. I started tearing up on the train and felt this total welling of generosity for her, my ex, and for other people in general but mostly for how hard it must’ve been for her. To be her, like to be herself.” They were back in their original positions on the bed. Past-Mary or Pseudo-Mary was somehow still dancing on the screen. Alice wondered as she spoke whether the video had begun looping. “But then at our stop I realized it wasn’t her.”

If they did sleep together, or maybe even if they didn’t, Alice knew she would tell this story as how she went home with Mary the other day and they’d hooked up to a home movie of Mary dancing as a kid.

“Isn’t that crazy?” she said.

“That’s crazy,” Mary said, as she wrote her name with her middle finger on Alice’s exposed thigh.

“What’s crazy is that I did forgive her. Like I had that experience with her. With my ex. And I couldn’t have had it without her. My ex. But it wasn’t in fact factually her. Do you know what I mean?”

“Yeah, that’s crazy.”

The video climaxed with the four girls writhing on the floor with unsettling violence. Alice had no thoughts about this except that she didn’t want to see it anymore. Before the screen went black, the next video, selected by the algorithm, whatever that meant, was queued with a countdown from ten, though not ten seconds, some shorter unit the company had invented. Mary rose to kill the smart TV, and Alice saw in her movements a nervous awareness of audience like her own. She’d never seen Mary outside a crowd. She was gentler, more vulnerable, more diffuse.

It was obvious they should kiss, but Alice wanted Mary to do it. Mary-of-the-bar would. She knew she was stubborn but considered it one of her admirable flaws.

Mary checked her phone on the side table. Alice applied chapstick.

Mary showed Alice a text. Did you guys leave? From Matty a while ago.

They laughed. Alice considered whether that was cruel.

Then an audio message appeared. It was five minutes long.

Mary asked Alice what she wanted to listen to, and as an act of aggression and an attempt to introduce rashness into the air, Alice hit play on the message. Matty spoke clearly and brightly. He began with the customary greeting of voice texts, OK so, and then there was a long pause suggesting the surges of attention famous in dogs and the truly drunk.

Did you guys leave together? Possessiveness is really unfashionable right now, as you heard straight from the horse’s mouth. “We’re just not super into jealousy,” this motherfucker said. They could hear quick loud steps like he was trying to catch the train. There was car noise and warm laughter from the smoking parties he was passing. They could hear his cigarette in the pauses. Mary palmed Alice’s thigh. Alice put her head on Mary’s shoulder as she had earlier in the night. Plus like she’s poly, right? No, that was Pseudo-Alice. What was her name even, let me check. There was a big wait while he checked. The implication of jealousy literally brought the two women closer together. Terry. I guess I’ll call her. On the phone. Obviously I’ll call her “Terry” too. Except if we were together for a long time and it became like an in-joke after I confessed it in a wholesome way I wouldn’t call her Pseudo-Alice. Yeah yeah I don’t need your dollar dude you don’t really mean it anyway lighter OK have a good one bro. I don’t know I will confess to you now here and now I was looking at Alice tonight and I confess I did see something in her. And you have to wonder. Was my brain telling me it was Alice all along. Flashing upon. Don’t get me wrong. I’m gonna meet Pseudo-Alice. Terry. I mean Alice is hot. We’ve never given her enough credit for that. But maybe I wish Alice’s beautiful brain was yoked to a blonder body. Mary kissed Alice’s neck and squeezed Alice’s thighs and headed upward and smelled like fresh deodorant, perhaps subtly applied while Alice was changing. Alice looked beautiful tonight. What am I trying to say here. What does it matter to me that the two of you are fucking right now as I leave this message and that you’ll listen to it in the morning when she’s gone? I’ve got Pseudo-Alice to keep me warm. Alice had taken off Mary’s shirt, allowing herself to take the more aggressive role that was natural to her now that Mary had initiated, as Alice had expected or wanted or needed. She briefly wondered, given the SSRIs both had revealed they were on as a joke that was true earlier at the bar, whether either would be able to finish, but decided it didn’t really matter and listened to Matty for a second again as she drew her nails across Mary’s pubic hair. Pretty fun night honestly. Your other friend. Or I guess the friend of the friends. We made out a little. I think it was an obscure act of aggression toward you. They grabbed my dick and I thought, ya know, they’re not for me after all and made my excuses and departed. Terry. Terry Terry. Alice looked up at Mary. Terry. Do you think what you’re doing right now is an obscure act of aggression against me? Alice thought, at this moment, as Mary took her hand and reclined further, that she could see Mary in fact falling in love, and this thought brought before her a version of herself—anyway OK love you bye—a potential future Alice, even Alice.


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