How Are You

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Photo by Travis Wise

I’m sitting on a park bench reading when I hear the woman call my name. When I look up, she waves at me. She is jogging, decked out in an 80s-style tracksuit, a sheen of perspiration on her forehead. “My goodness,” she says, plunking down next to me, “I haven’t seen you in, what, five years now? How are you?”

I smile and tell her I’ve been doing well, all the while trying to figure out who she is. Usually when I don’t remember exactly who someone is, they at least look familiar. But I wouldn’t know this woman from Eve, never mind getting her name right. Everyone should be required to wear nametags to prevent this from happening. Hello! My name is so-and-so. I’m an accountant from New Jersey. I like my steaks medium rare, and I get too drunk at Christmas parties. Hope this rings a bell!

“Well, I’m glad to hear you’re doing well,” she says, patting me on the leg. Ok, she’s known me for a long time, long enough to touch my leg. Then again lots of people overstep their boundaries when it comes to touching acquaintances, hugging coworkers or slapping men on the back whom you’ve only met once or twice at barbecues or church functions. This woman could just be the touchy-feely sort. “How have you been?” I ask. “Same old, same old, you know how it is.” “Oh, yes, I know exactly what you mean.” No, I don’t.

I hear my name again and see my neighbor Bill being pulled along the sidewalk by his enormous Great Dane named Tiny. Bill thinks he’s really clever. Thank God for Bill, I think, waving him over. I read about this trick in a magazine once: if you don’t know someone’s name, you introduce them vaguely to another person and hope they
supply their name for you.

“Bill, this is an old friend of mine,” I begin, but he cuts me off. “Oh, I’d know this ol’ gal anywhere,” he exclaims. The woman stands up and he embraces her. “Don’t tell me you two know each other!” “Yes,” the woman says, looking at me from over Bill’s shoulder, “for many, many years now. How time flies!”

“Time flies like an arrow,” Bill says. “Fruit flies like a banana.” The woman laughs, shrill and jubilant, and slaps Bill on the bicep. “I see you haven’t changed one bit!” She reaches down and squeezes my shoulder. “It’s so nice to see you, and I hate to rush off like this. How about we do lunch next week. I’ll give you a call on Monday and we’ll touch base. Sound good? Bill, you’re welcome to join us.” “I wouldn’t want to get in the way of girl talk.” She swats Bill again and leans down to peck me on the cheek. “Talk to you soon!” As I walk home from the park, I realize the only solution is to move far, far away.

Jen Corrigan is the fiction editor for Inner Weather, and an editorial intern at the North American Review. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Linnet’s Wings, Litbreak, Heather, Apocrypha and Abstractions, Penumbra, and Cease, Cows.

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