As I look at her, I try to remember. All that she was to me, all that we were. All that I was.
It is all exceedingly difficult.
“You’re lying to me,” I tell her flatly. “Why are you lying?”
She does not speak; and for the first time, I realize how much our roles, our personalities have been reversed. Of course this was a mistake; and the moment I saw her by the computer in that 3 x 5 feet cubicle, I should have left. No looking back.
Now, she is crying. Silently. The way award-winning actresses do, like in that local movie my sister dragged me once to watch. In another time.
But I am being unfair. Alice was never devious or malicious; but she used to be a better liar than this.
“Do you remember what you told me about diagenesis?”
I stare at her, completely perplexed at the non-sequitur.
“You said,” she continued, “that sedimentary rocks are your favorite. Because they show that … things and stuff can be so transformed. To be so different from how they started.”
“And you are bringing this up now because …”
She frowns. The way she used to, when she thought she was able to understand something that I couldn’t. I used to … like that expression on her face. “I guess I am a sedimentary rock,” she said.
“Do you also remember that the organic stuff in these rocks die before they can undergo diagenesis?” I ask her.
She didn’t miss a beat. “Yes. I am not senile, Jonas. That’s my point.”
I would have wanted to smile, to laugh. This was usually how we start. The geeky banter, the scientific jargons that somehow fall from her mouth like endearments.
I try to explain, the best way I know how. In the manner that would be … acceptable for her. “The collagen dissolves; hydrolysis kicks in. The amino acids, the building blocks of life, will disintegrate. After all the microbial attack, the corruption, the deterioration … nothing will remain. Nothing that resembles life.”
Of course at that point I was not exclusively talking about rocks.
The weird, amazing, damnable thing is that Alice can listen to this and then smile. “And then we have limestone!” she said. “Can you imagine the world without limestone?”
I used to have difficulty imagining a world without Alice. But since the goal of this discussion was to send her away, I do not tell her that.
“Why Alice?” I know that she knows what I am asking about.
And she didn’t look guilty or even defensive. She just looked … sad. “You know the answer to your question. We talked about it once, remember?”
Actually, she was right.