By Laurence Pevsner
Volume XXXV, Issue 3, April 19, 2013
I’m a nice guy. That’s not to say that I like everyone, or keep in touch with everyone, but in person I treat people right. I say this because I know I was being judgmental. But the truth is that I just didn’t really want to see my old high school friends. They just seemed so…small. They were a blip in my memory, a part of my development that I’d rather not reflect on. And these fifth year reunions don’t even have the allure of a tenth year reunion. The only people who go to these things are the people who have nothing else to do and no one to do it with.
Looking at my watch again, I had to remind myself of why I was here: I happened to meet both of those criteria. I’d discovered that post-collegiate life is nothing if not lonely. I was living near enough to Hilton, in the City, with 8 million neighbors. Despite all these neighbors I somehow found myself continually stumbling home to my computer, partner-less, tired, awake. And while I loathed returning to Hilton, one night living vicariously through my popular, space-cadet, high school self couldn’t hurt.
“Mark!” I glanced up from the punch bowl. At first I couldn’t place her voice, then her face.
“It’s me, Kelsey. Kelsey Green.”
“Kelsey! Of course. So good to see you.”
I could not for the life of me remember a Kelsey Green. And I’m fairly certain I would have remembered someone as attractive as her. A stunning creature, Kelsey was wearing a tight black sequin dress that stuck out against a pale body, fake pearls, and wavy dark-blond hair.
“So, what have you been up to for five years?” I asked.
“Oh, you know, usual story.”
“What’s the usual story?”
“I studied, drank, loved, lost, and graduated.” She looked directly at me, her red, punch-kissed lips daring me to call her out on the cliché. “You?”
“Sounds about right, but with more drinking.”
She giggled, her lips concealing what must’ve been a shining smile. I tried hard to remember something, anything about this girl from high school. I thought I knew everyone—we were a close class, a small town—but I couldn’t locate anything about her.
People tell me I have a habit of losing things. People are right. I’ve lost my passport twice, and I’m on my sixth phone. My annual birthday gift is a watch. “Like clockwork,” my mom always says, when I eventually confess to misplacing the old gift again. The losing is unintentional, of course. An acquaintance once told me that he only loses things on purpose, like his virginity and his report card from 7th grade. I don’t get that—I really don’t mean to lose things. I guess I just don’t pay that much attention. Bad memory. But I’m much better at remembering people. And yet, Kelsey Green wasn’t ringing any bells.
“Did you keep acting?” she asked. “I loved you in our silly version of The Matrix.”
She looked up at me expectantly. I’ve always been terrible at taking compliments. I tend to feel an odd mixture of flattered and guilty, like I owe the complimenter something in return. But I never know what to give.
“I did, of course I did. Actually I’m trying to find acting work in the City now, but it’s difficult. I’ve had to take a temp job instead.”
“I know!” she said, stretching out the last syllable. “I mean, it’s not like I didn’t expect it to be hard. But still.”
I poured myself some punch as she sipped through her straw. I was pretty confident Kelsey had not acted in high school—I definitely knew everyone in theater—so the mutual “profession” came as a surprise. Her left hand gripped her tiny purse tightly. She probably knew I was checking her out. She giggled, the same way she had at the non-joke, her lips covering what seemed to be a secret little moon in her mouth. Her blushing cheeks made me think she might even be unaccustomed to the attention, though I couldn’t see why. Maybe she was just buzzed.
“Well now that we’re all caught up, I think it’s only fair that you ask me to dance.”
“Is this a dancing affair?” I looked around. People were indeed beginning to couple off.
“Alright then. Kelsey, may I have this dance?” I took her hand, with an exaggerated flourish, and led her onto center stage. Her smile was unforgettable. And I imagine so was mine.
“Gummy bears! Get gummy bears if you have them!” she called out from my bed. I was in my kitchen, putting together sundaes for the two of us. I poked my head back into the bedroom.
“I don’t have hot fudge, but I do have refrigerated chocolate syrup.”
“What’s the difference?
“There’s a difference.”
“The refrigerated stuff sounds fine to me.”
I went back to the kitchen, and scooped out chunks of my favorite vanilla.
“So do you have gummy bears?” she called out again.
“You’re in luck.”
I walked back into the bedroom with two overcrowded bowls of ice cream. I handed her one of the sundaes. For a while we said nothing, and the sloppy sounds of eating filled the room. Something felt right about all of this. Maybe it was the mix of temperatures (the cold of the dessert, the warmth of Kelsey and the covers), maybe it was that after-sex feeling, or maybe it was just being with someone else. I looked over at Kelsey, who was entirely concentrated on the task at hand. Large mounds of ice cream threatened to careen off her spoon, but she ate carefully and with consideration for every morsel. Here was someone who knew how to treat her food.
“Whenever we made sundaes as a kid, my Mom always put on gummy bears and Snow Caps instead of sprinkles,” she said, eating another spoonful. “So now I associate proper ice cream with gummy bears and Snow Caps.” She looked up at me as she stuck the spoon in her mouth again. “This is only half-way there, so it kinda sucks.” She grinned.
“What are Snow Caps?”
“You know, those little chocolate things with white sprinkles on them. They have them at movie theaters?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Really?” She grabbed her phone, googled “Snow Caps”, and handed it to me.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen these things in my life.”
“Must be your rabbit.”
“Yeah, your rabbit, like in rabbit theory.”
“But I don’t have a rabbit. What are you talking about?”
“Well imagine, for a moment, that the day in Kindergarten that your class learned about rabbits, you were absent. You had the flu or something. And then imagine that you never watched Sunday morning cartoons, because you always wanted to sleep in, so you never saw Bugs Bunny. And then, as you grew older, you just never happened to eat at a place that served rabbit. And you grew up in Georgia, where they don’t have that many rabbits just roaming around. And you were raised in a Jewish neighborhood, so you never heard about the Easter Bunny. And you never watched The Holy Grail or Harvey, and your mom never read you Peter Rabbit or Alice in Wonderland as a kid, and so on and so forth. And so one day, you’re minding your own business at age twenty-three, and someone brings up rabbits. And all you can say is, ‘What the fuck is a rabbit?’”
“Rabbit theory is the idea that everyone has at least one ‘rabbit’. For you, maybe that’s Snow Caps. For me, well, I don’t know. If I knew, it wouldn’t still be my ‘rabbit’.”
“It seems unlikely that everyone has one of these.”
“I guess. But think about it, there are just so many things that people are expected to know about! You can’t pay attention to everything. Maybe you were in school when they were talking about rabbits, but you were just daydreaming.”
“I was not day dreaming. I know all about rabbits. I mean, at least I know what they like to do…”
She smiled at me mischievously. “What do they like to do, Mark?” I looked her in the eyes, and narrowed my gaze, trying to look as intense and sexy as possible. I placed my hand on her thigh.
“They like to read.” And there it was again. But this time her giggle evolved into true laughter, accompanied by cute little snorts. Her laugh was weird. It was the kind that distracted you, made you think more about the laughing person than the joke itself.
The next morning I awoke to a light rain dribbling against the window. Seeking a warm embrace, I searched for Kelsey’s hand, but I couldn’t find it. Unsatisfied, I looked over. She was gone. I got up and checked my phone. No texts. I went to the kitchen, looking for a note, or something, but all I found was a thoroughly washed ice cream bowl in the sink.
I took out the bowl and poured some cereal into it. I tried to put our naked night together on replay, but it was all a blur. I pulled out my cellphone and sent her a quick text:
Had a great time last night. Don’t really believe in the three day thing. Call me if you want to hang out again.
I kept hoping to hear a double-knock on the hard wood door or a rattle of the doorknob. But she never came back.
After three days and numerous phantom vibrations, I tried calling her, but the call went straight to voicemail. She didn’t have a recorded greeting. I left several messages, each a bit more rambling than the last. Nothing. I wasn’t in love, I wasn’t angry, I was just a little confused. Hadn’t we had a good time? Had I really been that off the mark?
Over the next few weeks I tried to forget about Kelsey. But I kept returning to her. Why couldn’t I remember a Kelsey Green from high school? Had she changed her hair? Lost weight?
I tried asking some of my old, contemptible high school friends. A few of them said the name sounded familiar, but not much more. No one could recall anything in particular about Kelsey Green. I asked, perhaps too forcefully, how they could not remember a girl as cute as her. They laughed. Mark the romantic, they said. Of course Mark falls in love on the first date, they said.
I searched for her online, but her name was too generic. I tried talking to my old teachers, but none of them could recall a Kelsey Green. It’s been five years, they reminded me. Not every student stands out. Not every student is like you, Mark.
It began to consume me. Why could no one remember Kelsey Green? Was she an interloper, hanging around our high school reunion? That seemed ludicrous. Had I really spent the night with her at all? That question seemed crazier still. But I couldn’t remember what color eyes she had, or what kind of nose. I couldn’t see her cheeks, or her ears, or her eyebrows. All I could see was her Cheshire Cat grin, and all I could hear were her tiny giggles and snorts.
I continued to dwell on the disappearance of Kelsey Green. I didn’t know how I could have lost her. I sure as hell hadn’t done it on purpose. But then I remembered! My high school yearbook! I scoured my bookshelf, until I finally found the thick blue and white book. I pulled it out, and immediately lost myself in its pages. I scanned every line, took in every picture, tried to recall every memory. I dug further and further. I tried to understand. I dug so far that I passed the point of no return. It was too late to crawl out. Inside it was dark, and cold, and wet. And in the darkness I saw nothing, nothing but a bright, white, teasing smile.