3.16.12

They bump into each other, literally, on the 3 of June. It is a clear day, warm and with a slight breeze. It has been years since they last saw each other.

"I'm sorry," Akilah says in her clear, quiet voice, looking down and moving around the man she has bumped into.

"S'all right," he slurs, mumbling, trying not to feel too embarrassed that he has just stumbled into the most beautiful girl he has seen in a long while. Alistair is only slightly drunk, less so than usual. He does not like the almost clear-headed feeling that accompanies this state.

Akilah looks up, recognising the voice. She is not sure, but he reminds her of… no. It couldn't be. "I'm sorry, do I know you?" Akilah takes a closer look at the man, who has a scruffy beard, and smells of alcohol. She does not feel comfortable around him.

"Wha- no. No, you don't." Alistair is suddenly and violently alert, aware of his surroundings in a way he has tried not to be for quite some time. He tries to put his head down and hurry on, but Akilah grabs his shoulder.

"Alistair? Wow… I haven't seen you since… well, for years. How've you been?" Akilah beams, though the though of this dirty man being her wonderful Alistair is somewhat disconcerting.

"Fine. I've been fine. I'm in a hurry-"

"No you're not," Akilah says, her voice only half teasing. "Come on, let's have some coffee. I know this great place down the street, if you want. Please?"

Some part of Alistair, remembering the short-lived beginnings of a friendship that began too far into senior year of high school, relents. Akilah leads him down the street, chattering away. Alistair tries desperately to sober up quickly, but his efforts do little good. Soon, they are seated, Akilah with a mocha cappuccino, Alistair with a mint tea.

"How've you been Akilah?" Alistair asks, trying to remember how to have a conversation with someone he likes.

"I've been great. I'm a lawyer now, you know." Akilah somehow forgets to mention her ex-husband and two kids, whom she has custody of seven nights out of ten. "Anyway, enough of me. What's been going on with you?"

Unable to find a version of events that is truthful and polite, Alistair tells the truth. "Got married, had three little girls. Then my mother died and... Then she left me. Took the kids. And here I am, I useless drunkard."

The conversation continues, but Akilah's mind has left it. Somehow, her image of the beautiful boy she fell in love with in high school doesn't match this old, decrepit man, unclean and beaten down.

Alistair, on the other hand, has never truly been in the conversation. He is lost in memories of how his life used to be, how his life was when he had finally gotten away from Eurydice, when he had his beautiful wife and his baby girls. When Eurydice died, he had been unable lie to his wife as to why he was happy. He told her what Eurydice had done to him. The next day, he came home from work to find the house empty, a note on the kitchen table:

My dear Alistair,

I'm so sorry. They say those who are abused as children are more likely to abuse others when they grow up. I can't take the chance that our children will have anything but a happy life. Goodbye, your wife.

The next week, divorce papers were sent in the mail. He never saw his family again, and within a year, he had started drinking. First, it was only occasionally. Then, the occasions became increasingly frequent. He lost his nice house, his job, his life. He lost himself.

Akilah and Alistair, both feeling awkward about the turn of the conversation, take the first escape they can. Alistair doesn't see Akilah again, but she lays awake at night, thinking of the boy she loved, and the man he had become. She cannot imagine what horrors have turned him from the introverted, quiet boy in school to the sad, lonely man he is now.