Alison frequently unsettled us. She ignored the well-established traditions and conventions of the city. She aggressively challenged the familiar order of things. For example, each morning, when she stepped onto the train carriage, she greeted her fellow commuters with a piercing ‘Morning all!’ It was deeply distressing for all concerned.
Please don’t leave. Why not just lie here and see what happens? What could they actually do? I mean realistically. Let’s phone in sick. We could make these our special days: undiluted, irretrievably ours. But oh no – you have to ruin it. Get lost, you say. You’re not nineteen now.
The new chief executive launched his bold strategy. Look, he said, we need to pretend all this stuff actually matters. That way, we can give ourselves the illusion of significance. Otherwise we’ll have nothing to mitigate the complete oblivion awaiting us in a few months. Excellent plan, they all agreed.
You photograph well. Look at this one. And this one! At first he was delighted by her compliments. Until he realised they weren’t directed at him at all: she was actually celebrating her own photographic technique. To her, making him look okay was a remarkable triumph of form over content.
He had to do a numeracy test as part of the selection process. He had to interpret some charts to reach one of four possible answers. But his answer was never one of the options, causing him to guffaw repeatedly. You seem happy, the invigilator said. No choice, he said.
His parents come for Sunday lunch. They spend the whole meal probing him about his stalled career and why he’s still single. And he doesn’t even feel relieved when the time comes to wave them off. Because they are, he reflects sadly, without doubt the strangest people he’s ever met.
They met in secret at the hotel. I’ve never done anything like this before, she whispered. Me neither, he gasped. How about this? she asked. Nope, he said. And this? Well I recall doing something….perhaps….a little bit similar, but…..not…..there exactly, no. How about this? Oooh, he said. Or, she groaned.