Reunions are a mixed bag of emotions and experiences. I look older than I wish. But I feel younger. In an unflattering, diffident way that I hoped I’d be over a decade later. But I am not.
I look around and see only adults. I notice some are even starting to grey. And they’re all saying intelligent, wise things about the paintings at the art gallery we’re at. I wonder how the alma mater managed to cough up the dough to rent this place.
Then I spot Ariko. In theory, he’d look normal without his spectacles, those huge double magnifying glass things he used to wear. But now that the specs are off, his weird eyes are on view. His pupils are tiny. It’s like he’s in a shady horror movie from the 80s and has become possessed by a demon so his eyes are rolling back in his head.
He’s the manager of the gallery, I remember just as he nears me. Ah, no wonder. Poor, pathetic Ariko, even the college alumni committee knew he’d do anything to please. Including opening up this swank studio to all the credit card salesmen and software programmers that we all turned out to be. I hope the telemarketer from Socio doesn’t get grease marks on the paintings or the walls. Akiro might get fired and even I’m not mean enough to see the humour in that. Well, I won’t be as long as Shay stays away.
Ariko’s bobbing his head at me and I realize that his tiny pupils aren’t the most striking thing about his face. His hair is entirely grey but his face is still that of a 12 year old. Does he still have that 12 year old’s crush on me?
“How are you, Lara?”
I drop one perfect, plastic smile that earns me my salary. I only meant it as charity but to my alarm, he takes it as encouragement and starts to talk. I twiddle two fingers through my bangs, a gesture that won’t immediately slot me in the minds of those body-language book readers but shades my eyes enough to let me cruise the room. Clean, clean, clean, clean. Or rather, greasy, harmless, nobody, idiot. Safe, so far.
“So whatever happened to you and Shay?”
Ariko snatches my attention back with a single word. It also destroys my equilibrium. But for all of a second. I permit myself the luxury of a full three seconds more to add something to my reply. It’s just Ariko after all and this might be fun. Moving my fingers away, I fix my gaze on him and say,
“We’re happily married.”
Astonishment mixes with disbelief, peppered with disappointment. He swallows noticeably.
“But…but…I heard that you had broken up ages ago.”
Idiot. And I move in for the kill.
“We did. Now he’s married. And I’m happy.”
Right back at you, ‘Secret Admirer’. I know eyeless boy will report back. So I don’t bother dropping my card at the reception on my way out.
See how the story changes tone completely with a change of format. Here’s the same tale, this time in a comic. (from the Idea-toons)