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  • The Past
  • Danica Li (bio)

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My new boyfriend and I have been fighting a lot recently. We've only been dating for six months or so, so it's to be expected, I suppose, that things will come out, aspects of the other's personality previously concealed or ignored, strange living habits, uncontrollable facial tics, troubled relations with one's mother, preferences for whole-grain mustard or Dijon, etc. I've been surprised by the theme of these arguments, although I suppose they aren't arguments per se. That would imply that our conversations lack civility, intent facial expressions indicating active listening, measured and thoughtful responses. Still, the fundamental thing about these conversations is that we can't agree. We start far apart, and after an evening spent going back and forth, nodding thoughtfully at the other's point of view, presenting our own, invoking [End Page 141] our piecemeal knowledge of the relevant fields of academic study—sociology, biology, epistemology, phenomenology, zoology, and all the rest—we always find ourselves farther apart than before.

Anyway, as I was saying, I was surprised by the theme of our disagreements when we started disagreeing, which was back a month ago—or so I think; my sense of time has become so strange and collapsible these days. I'm a client relationships coordinator at a big, faceless conglomerate that has a lot of clients and therefore a lot of client relationships to coordinate. Coordination is not my passion, but it pays well. One evening we had a client dinner at which I was expected to be present, hosted at an upscale restaurant near the waterfront, everything on the company's tab. I invited Evan, my boyfriend, to be my plus one, thinking, what the heck, it would be a fun date night. Maybe we could sneak away and make out under the potted palms. At that point we still didn't know each other very well, so that was still something which excited us to do.

Well, first of all, sneaking away proved impossible, as we were seated in a booth that looked out onto the water, which was a pretty view indeed, but we were trapped at the very end of the booth, with people sitting practically stacked on top of us, and to get out we would've had to crawl out under the table or climb over people's laps. Second, we managed to get seated next to some interesting people. I don't know what my manager was thinking; maybe she had such faith in my relationshipcoordination skills that she thought this was a smart move, to put me there, so I could groom these people for business development purposes. That or she had created the seating arrangement from strips of names mixed up in a party hat while drunk in her office.

So it was I, my boyfriend, next to me, and, across the table, this couple that had, as publicity would say, a "high visibility quotient," even as they sat there saying nothing to each other or to any of the others. The reason they had a high visibility quotient was because the woman was young and so beautiful as to be radiant, really like a sun bursting out from behind clouds, while her husband was old and ugly and, judging from the way he was dressed, extremely rich. Looking at the woman was quite uncomfortable, for me and for Evan, though I suspect for different reasons. She was one of those people who instantly put you in mind of your own physical inferiority. Her husband, on the other hand, had the opposite effect, of reassuring you that however you looked, at least you didn't look like that. The contrast between the two was quite jarring and made me feel, I'm not sure why, bad for us all. [End Page 142]

Anyway, here we were, the lot of us sitting there with our appetizers and drinks rimmed with salt and served with green lime wedges in case the drinks lacked adequate acidity, and I determined to make small talk, as...


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