Posted by Alex on February 23, 2019
The first time I met Alice was pretty boring. Her side of the story is a lot more interesting than mine, really.
When I think of it, I was just sitting in a free-use computer cafe at the edge of the university when a young Alice waked up and started asking about what I was doing and other boring icebreaker questions.
I found an interesting recording the other day, though. While I’ve heard Alice talk about how we met, I seem to remember even what she said all wrong. But then again, this is why I’m writing down any memories before my mind disassembles them into new ones. Here’s the full recording, but it’s hard to hear.
Just to make it easier for me if I ever forget again,
* * * here’s the conversation’s transcription * * *
New coworker named Brian Kim (B): What are you eating? That looks really good.
Alice (A): Hey, you’re Brian, right? I’m Alice. Glad to have an electrician to help me with the hardware.
B: Oh, yeah. That’s right. Nice to meet you, too.
* * * Blah blah blah, small talk skip this * * *
A: Anyway, this is just a panini. At least, that’s what Beth’s Bakery calls it. I feel like it’s a made-up word, personally.
B: Well it sure looks delicious! (short laugh)
A: (Sympathetic laugh) I think I’d prefer to bring my own food, but I never seem to have. I admire your ability to bring a sack lunch.
B: What, this? I just punched in a few basic items in my apartment’s vending machine. I feel lucky the machines here can print on-demand. But I think I miss some of the more interesting snacks I used to buy every day in Korea.
A: What city are you from? I’m sorta from the old US, technically, but I grew up near Busan.
B: (Speaks Korean. Something about being from a sub-city of Seoul.)
A: (Speaks a little Korean back, apologizing that she’ prefers English.)
B: Oh, no problem.
(Some time passes while they eat.)
B: So how long have you been working here?
A: A few years. Since the lab opened, actually.
B: No way, that’s crazy! You must have already lived here. Were you part of the university?
A: Yes, I was. My parents didn’t really have much to support me once I grew old enough for school and they knew I wanted to make robots. Something in them thought I should be a part of the NAC’s first city, so I ended up studying from when I was a teenager.
B: So you’ve been here for ten years?
A: Almost fifteen, actually.
B: What!? I can’t believe that unless you were sent here when you were barely thirteen or something like that!
A: I had just turned sixteen when I arrived.
B: (Face full of shock) You look way too young to be thirty. I mean, I know what they say about Asians like you and me, but still. You look like my sister! She’s two years older than me, and she’s twenty-three!
* * * This is the important part * * *
A: (Laughs more comfortably) I remember being that age. That’s about when I met my husband, actually.
B: Who’s that? I think I’ve seen a guy in the main office you talk to often…is he your husband?
A: That’s right. His name is Victor.
(They both finish their food and look at a clock. Presumably, they see there’s still time for their lunch break)
A: Want to hear about how we met?
B: I guess I am a little curious. Especially if it was around the massive NSU. I haven’t gotten a chance to see it, but I’ve only heard crazy things from articles I’ve read while I was in high school and college back in Seoul.
A: Okay, I’ll tell you how it went down. But only because it’s just too much fun to talk about. You can even go bug Victor later if you want, though he might be unhappy with you for a few days for knowing such a story before even meeting him properly. Just make sure to tell him I told you (smiles with a wide grin).
B: I…I think I’ll pass. I don’t want to make him upset. I’m still new here, after all.
A: Your loss, then. I think his reaction would be quite entertaining. But anyway, about how we met. So, I was studying for a particularly boring lecture. My instructor was probably angry about how he had to teach mechanical engineering. I believe he worked both in one of the earliest research labs while also instructing advanced classes like that sixth-year course. He was always upset that he was told to avoid introducing his own work as examples, I believe. Anyway, that made him cranky. And he took it out on us. If we weren’t pretty advanced students deep into our education, I bet most of us would have dropped out. But there were only seven students in my class. I think we were pretty hard-core, all things considered. But yeah, I was at a computer-cafe at the edge of campus. I didn’t normally go out that far, but I had just left a career counseling office for work placement. Which, by the way, was under that very same instructor and his research team. I believe the first project they were working on was something about better reflective and solar panels for newer building in the city. They were working together with some material specialists and a civil engineer. (Shakes her head) But about how we met: I went into that cafe where I never would have normally and sat down to go over some lecture videos and compare my notes. I went up to get a drink. I really like places like that. I think I got some soda to drink. Nowadays I go for tea and water more often, but I still sneak some pop now and then. But the funny thing was that as I went to sit down and resume my lecture video, but before I put on my headphones, Victor came up with his own flavorless soda water in hand saying something like, (changes voice to imitate me) “That stuff is old, you know. Is that for your class?”
B: Wow, that’s pretty random to tell to a stranger.
A: Right?! So I removed my headphones and went to reply, but he just continued saying stuff like “it’s just dumb what they make students learn in class” and “I’m sorry your professor either is held back by the institution or is incompetent.” Then he just walked back to his seat without hearing anything from me!
B: I guess I can see him doing that even in the office. It’s my first week, but I think I’ve only seen him busy about himself and his work. You’re the only person I’ve seen interrupt him, and even then he seemed to always be looking back at his work.
A: Well the best part is after he sat down. I finished my video review and took a break. And wouldn’t you guess, he was still in the cafe. That lecture video was an hour long! And going off of how used his glass looked, I began to suspect he’d been in that cafe the entire day! I walked up to see what he was doing, and it couldn’t have been any more boring to me.
B: What’s boring to you?
A: He was programming! It was just a wall of text. I think I remember there being numbers in the several thousands all along the side, numbering each row. But there he was, wearing out his keyboard with impressively fast typing. When I asked what he was working on, he stopped instantly and didn’t move for a few seconds like he’d been frozen solid. It’s actually unbelievable, but he wasn’t used to people talking to him in general. Especially girls, I found out. To this day he can’t tell me what made him comment on my coursework, but it seems that he wasn’t the type to talk to anyone in general.
B: (Laughs) I still see that today! I think he’s the only person I haven’t said a word to…”
A: Well, anyway. I asked him about what he was doing, and soon I had asked him a dozen questions. Something about him was so strange and yet so interesting. And entertaining. I just couldn’t help myself. Most guys either talk small-talk with me or avoid me. I think being tall doesn’t help. But Vic, he just went head-first into explaining everything with his own brand of speech. I think I really appreciate how much he didn’t talk to me as if I wouldn’t understand. Even though I didn’t understand much programming back then, he still tried to talk to me as if I were just as good as he was. So many people in this city, especially back when I looked even younger, talk to you assuming you’re smart but also extremely ignorant about their field. It’s always so awkward and annoying unless you work in the same lab.
* * * And that’s the end of their chat, really. Skip the pleasantries after this * * *
B: (Sees the time) Wow, I guess you’re right. I’ll have to listen to him sometime. But uh, we need to go back to work. It’s already past noon.
A: Oh, damn. I’m sorry. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure you don’t get in trouble for staying over. Not that anyone would get all that upset at you, anyway.
(They both get up, throw away their trash into the compost and recycle chutes, and head back into the white hallway that leads to the office.
Looking at this version of the story, I suppose it was me that initiated it all. I always seem to forget that part.
Alice says she doesn’t regret us meeting. Sometimes, I do. It’s hard to imagine life without meeting her, but I wouldn’t have had to go through all the shit she did to me.
I want to say the shit we did to each other, but I can’t see how it’s even a contest. She has done far more to damage me and our relationship than I could ever dream of doing.
I shouldn’t be writing about this here. There’s no point. It’s just me hurting myself, now. She’s been done with me for ages.
To think I wrote this memory just after she left me. Sure, we weren’t officially “over.” But it was over. I was so hopeful she was just having a bit of an adventure before coming back home. How wrong I was…