26 September 2008

Fray Bash - Eyes Meet Across the Room

Fray Bash - Eyes Meet Across the Room
09/26/2008, 7:08 AM

Imagine Gregor Samsa as a 50-year-old engineer. He's got a roundish head, gray and receding hair, and a face that looks like it ought to be serious. When he's at the office, he lolls about his chair like a small-town sheriff, that same combination of relaxation and confrontation, and his bosses and coworkers avoid talking to him because he has a habit of cheerfullly making complex wisecracks, which the others don't often get, and fear are at their expense. (This suits Gregor well enough, and unmolested, he gets on with designing, or reading, or making verbal doodles on the internet).

Let's picture the enigmatic ghost of a-z as a straightbacked, dimunitive, and icy woman, sort of a Lilith Sternan-Crane type, but without all the Hollywood. She dresses nice, and doesn't even crank the hair back in a bun all the time, but that neck is rigid enough, face muscles tight when other people are around. She avoids conversation more actively, would rather get lost in abstract thoughts, but her withdrawal is more frequently interpreted (sometimes rightly) as condescension. At the Fray bash, Gregor and ghost are sitting on opposite sides of the room.

Ghost is sitting upright in her chair, avoiding eye contact, but Gregor's leaning comfortably forward, idly peeling the label off an empty beer. He's looking around the room, and at last his gaze lands on ghost, sitting by herself, and he stops fiddlling around with the bottle and looks right at her. For a second, he catches her eye, but she huffs and turns away. Undaunted, Gregor ambles across the divide, and sits down next to her. As an acknowledgement, ghost stiffens up just a little more. Gregor thumbs his hand at a couple not far from them. It's topazz hitting hopefully on chango, who is not biting but is enjoying the attention. "Check it out, it's reverse Lamarckianism in action. So much for those phenotypes."

Ghost is aghast at both his forwardness and his idiotic comment. Flushed, she turns toward him, her voice trembles with anger. "Moron. It's clearly a selection--" But Gregor is sitting there grinning at her, waving around the beer bottle, which is now stuck on the end of his finger. She glowers. "Leave me alone," she says, but she turns her head away slowly, and at the end, her eyes flick back, and there's a discreet little grin.

A minute or two passes in silence, and ghost spies Dawn Coyote in the crowd. Dawn is already getting bored (having to drive around a bunch of drunks doesn't help, and her foot's sore from kicking people in the groin all night) and to divert herself, she's trying to instigate a fight between FieldingBandolier and The Bell, both of whom are patiently, and at length, reasoning their way through her attempts to rile them up.

Ghost is sick of these people, can't understand why she let's herself be anywhere around them, but still, she can't leave it alone. She speaks to Gregor without looking at him. "Now, provoking him is in her paramorous interest, and, presumably his, but including him as a rhetorical adversary" (she gestures at Bell) "clearly lowers the stakes for all parties. Although there's the patina of rationality, can only conclude they're failing to optimize non-cooperative equilibrium." She grimaces slightly. "Perhaps being unclear."

"Yup, dumb move," Gregor agrees.

Ghost giggles a little. "Ding and Dong" she addends quietly. Gregor smiles and puts a hand on her knee, and she whips around at him, looks him right in the eyes. She expected to berate him again, but finds she's instead at a loss for words. They lean in slightly toward each other. Closer…


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