Abraham and Vivian in Love

Abraham and Vivian first met nearly twenty years earlier, when they were both students at Joshua University. His roommate, Jürgen, had invited him to a party. There was a girl, a dancer, Jürgen was interested in. They had crossed the intercampus between the Engineering College and the Institute of Fine Arts. Abraham knew the girl must be rich to afford her own apartment. If you lived in the dormitories, there was a strict rule against mixed-sex parties. Her name was Gwendolyn, but everyone called her Winny. This kind of girl intimidated him even more than the quiet sincere types, who intimated him plenty enough.

Afterward he would find it funny that the first time he saw Vivian she was coming out of the water-closet; it was not the most auspicious start. All he saw was that long blonde hair, those eyes, the curvature of her. She looked severe, he thought, until she smiled at something Winny said, heading into the water-closet after her.

Vivian passed by him waiting his turn for the water-closet, seeing him (if at all) as another body in a hallway crowded with other bodies. He leaned against the wall casually so he could watch her find her way back to the party. Over the years, he recounted how he knew right then that he was going to fall in love with her, even though he wondered if that was true. If they had never talked, had never ended up together, would he have forgotten her after a few weeks of whimsical daydreams? Probably. But he preferred the story the way it had happened and preferred to think of it all as preordained. And so he stuck with his line about how he had known immediately.

***

Abraham ended up drinking too much. Events progressed with the swimmy discontinuity of drunkenness. He found himself standing in the kitchen—with Jürgen again. He had tried several times to strike up conversations with others but always found himself safely back by his friend’s side.

“Do any of you know who you are talking to now?” Jürgen said. “Abraham is without a doubt the greatest genius this city has ever seen.”

Abraham blushed and mumbled modesties, at the same time pleased to see that Vivian was among the listeners.

“You think I’m joking,” Jürgen said. “But I’ll bet anyone one hundred thousand drams that this man will change the way all of us live. In fact, we’re doing a bit of celebrating tonight. Tell them about the grant you got, Abraham.”

“It’s just a…a research position,” he said quietly.

“Just? A position usually reserved for faculty only. Abraham is the first student to receive it in the history of Joshua University.” When Abraham said nothing, Jürgen said, “Tell them what you’re doing.”

When Abraham saw that everyone was still listening, he spoke with more enthusiasm. “Well you see, I’m trying to…” he searched his drunken mind for the words, “…what’s interesting is—if you change the smelting process of the iron at first…I mean, before you apply the electricity to the compound…” he stammered on a bit, trying to find the beauty and perfection of the process he was developing, the sheer scientific wonder of how this infinitesimal portion of the universe worked, “…but that’s just the beginning of my idea. What’s really interesting is—“

A few people had wandered off, and most of those still in the kitchen with him had given up trying to follow his incoherent explanation. But Vivian was still listening. He went on just for her a moment longer.

“Hey, Winny’s got some blackroot we can smoke,” Jürgen said, “Are you two coming?”

“I don’t know…” Abraham said. People said that blackroot calmed you, but the two times he had smoked it, it had the opposite effect—as if the floodgates were all opened at once, revealing him and his life for what they were—pathetic, hopeless, small. That second time Jürgen had to sit with him all night, practically holding his hand until the blind, animal panic subsided. No, not animal; it was a thinking terror. The terror of thinking looping back on itself thinking itself.

But Vivian nodded yes. She looked to him, waiting for him to follow. He hesitated, hoping for some way to convince to talk with alone, without the blackroot, but instead he feigned eagerness and joined the others.

***

Winny’s bedroom was small and cozy, draped with countless curtains and filled with more pillows than anyone could ever need. The light was a soft yellow, just bright enough. Maybe it was that light, maybe it was the combination of alcohol and blackroot, or maybe it the way Vivian’s arm touched his in a way that he didn’t want to think was accidental.

“You’re kind of quiet, aren’t you?”

He blinked dryly a few times. “I guess sometimes.”

(Later, in one of those conversations that only occur between longtime lovers with no need for secrets anymore, in the dark and late night, she told him she had deliberately sat beside him. She was shocked he hadn’t known.

“Why me?” he asked.

“I thought you sounded interesting.”

“Little did you know,” he responded, making a joke of it.)

“Do you want some ice cream with spirits?” she asked and hopped to her feet.

She grabbed him by the hand and led him from Winny’s room back to the kitchen. She grabbed the ice cream a bottle of spirits from the cooling-cabinet and prepared their bowl. They went into the living room, and amid the commotion of drunken, stumbling feet, staked out a circle of quiet on the floor. They sat face to face. She took the first bite and then fed him one, caring like a mother with her child.

“Kiss me,” she said.

And he did. The spirits tingled pleasantly on his tongue.

“That’s nice, isn’t it?” she asked.

“Yes. Very nice.” He kissed her again, thinking that he might never get another chance.

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