Vector shows up in an extravagant red gown, made out of something simultaneously velvety and reflective, and a king’s ransom in sparkly accessories. I look her up and down, trying to formulate a response to the sudden opulence.
“Did I miss something?” I ask.
She wraps an arm around my plebeian shoulders as I lock the door behind me. “Why, whatever do you mean, Travis, I always dress this way.”
I tug on my jean jacket. “I feel extremely underdressed.”
“For sandwiches?” she says, with an eyeroll, “there’s not even indoor seating there.”
Well, that explains the stole, anyway.
She laughs at me. “Are you going to ask?”
“No,” I say, offering her my arm, “no, I’m just going to pretend this all makes sense, and I’m not a) having some sort of hallucination, b) in the middle of a prank show, or c) extremely confused about the way that social norms function in the society I’ve lived in all my life.”
“Why,” she says, “is it not normal to show up in an evening gown when you hit someone up to get fast food with you twenty minutes ago?”
“I am literally not sure anymore,” I tell her.
She laughs, and I pretty much resign myself to not getting an explanation from her at any point. Of course, when we get to the sandwich place, it turns out to have a falafel sandwich, at which point I order that and completely forget my confusion for a blissful several minutes, until I get to the table Julia’s snagged, where she continues to be wearing that baffling outfit.
“Our fries will be done in a few minutes,” I say, slowly.
She beams at me above her egg salad.
I sit in silence for a moment, contemplating mostly my food and not so much her dress anymore. The hummus is amazing, and flavored with something I can’t quite put my finger on, even if the falafel themselves are boring and a little bit dry. Okay, except maybe the fact that it looks kind of purple instead of red out here in different lighting, what the hell even is that fabric? Is it alien? Is it some kind of experimental stealth technology? Is it –
“I was on a date,” she says.
“What?” I ask, with my mouth full of sandwich.
“Well, you were going to hold out possibly literally forever,” she says, “and I need to vent, so apparently I have to bring it up myself.”
“Oh,” I say, “okay then.”
“You know how I love ballroom dance?” she asks.
I nod, despite the fact that this explains only the style and not remotely the material.
“So, I figure,” she says, wiggling her fingers, “he’s kind of a smarmy douchebag, but he says he’ll take me dancing, some historical building, fun food, fun drinks, pretend we’re old-timey.”
I make a face. “A little too old timey?”
“Too old timey,” she agrees, with an eyeroll. “He started in immediately on how many kids I was going to have and how would I raise them.”
“So you threw a drink at him?” I ask.
She grins. “I actually upended his entire dinner into his lap and took off.”
I hi-five her, pause to go pick up our fries, and when I get back with them, ask her, “so you texted me on your way to get replacement food because you realized I live nearby?”
“What? No,” she says, “I texted you from home, Travis.”
I look at her dress again, wondering if I missed something.
“Do you know how long it took me to get this pretty, Travis, it was not easy, it took me a long time, and I’m going to have more to show for it than a quick set of selfies, damn it.” She shakes her head and brandishes a fry at me.
“I kind of,” I tell her, “don’t particularly want to dance, though.”
She shrugs. “The dancing kind of got ruined, anyway. Doesn’t matter. Let’s go see a movie or something. I don’t know. I need to do something while I look this good, fuck.”
“You do look very pretty,” I tell her.
She grins and turns her head slightly. “Fucking A. Did you see this hair clip?”
I look dutifully at it, although it really just looks like a clip with rocks on it. I mean, it’s a similar kind of red-purple to the dress, but that’s kind of more normal for gemstones. “Nice,” I say.
“It took me ages to get the curls right,” she says, with a sigh, finishing off her sandwich, and tossing the crumpled paper into a trash can on the other side of the seating area.
She stands up and bows as several people clap.
“Don’t look now,” I say, pushing the fries in her direction, “but at least one person was filming that, so I think your outfit is a success.”
“Sweet,” she says, munching on fries. “Why were they filming?”
“Initially, I’m pretty sure they were trying to film that, actually,” I say, pointing to a group of pigeons having a board meeting of some sort.
She stares at them for a minute. “The animals in this city are weird.”
“Yeah,” I say, “I think it’s all the cars. The exhaust fumes get to them.”
“That would imply mountain animals aren’t weird,” she says.
I shrug. “The only animals I’ve seen on mountains are pets.”
“I’ve been hiking,” she tells me, “trust me, wildlife out in the great outdoors are also weird as hell. One time I saw a bunch of squirrels playing hopscotch with acorns or something.”
“Animals, man,” I say.
She nods. “Next thing you know, some species is going to go around starting to build buildings in places, and invent literature and art, and start creating laws.”
“Can you imagine,” I say, “some of them dressing up in bright costumes, flying around after other ones in also sort of bright but differently shaded costumes.”
“Yup,” she says, “let’s face it, some species are just strange.”
“So strange,” I agree.