They drove past the nice independent creamery they used to have ice cream dates at, before they ran out of money.
They took a left down Queer Street.
“I miss getting ice cream,” she muttered. “I miss hanging out with you. We used to do stuff together. I know things weren’t always like this.”
Joseph said nothing.
They drove straight.
They drove past the graveyard full of the flaming tombs of the nonbelievers.
“Sucks to be them,” she said to herself.
“Don’t say that.”
They drove past Mary’s house.
Alice saw Joseph slow the car down and look out the car window. She guessed that he was trying to tell if Mary was home or not. “What’s up?”
“I had something I wanted to ask her about,” he muttered. “Not now. On the way home.”
“Really? The chicken lady?”
“Don’t be that way. Why are you being an asshole now?”
They drove up a hill.
They continued to drive up the hill.
Alice found herself wondering about the chicken lady. That woman had dated Joseph, though only briefly. During the era of their lives, Alice had met her a few times. They had gotten along well – at first – until one day, Alice mentioned her interest in the medical sciences, and Mary suddenly turned cold.
Mary was an odd sort from the moment she met her, but this was unprecedented, it felt like. Complete silent treatment. When Alice finally caved and asked Joseph what was going on, he had no idea it was even happening. (Not that he ever paid attention to anything that didn’t directly affect him.)
One day, they finally spoke again. Mary confided in her a moment of her own history – an incident. A surgeon had done something horrible and cruel to her to make her look the way that she did.
Alice had remained silent for the conversation, merely nodding and trying her best to seem understanding. But afterward, she found that it just raised more questions than she was prepared for.
For example, how was the woman capable of dating Joseph, who seemed to idolize everything medical, and spent more time in institutions than out of them? How did those conversations go?
That was a question with an easy enough answer: who fucking knows, who fucking cares. The question that truly unsettled her was about herself.