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Vaxxed and Unmasked for Margaritas with Alice

My dear friend Magdalena has always had a special talent for sniffing out delicious secrets. She's an outgoing, bold, colorful woman, but she keeps an eye on the quiet people. She has a knack for glancing over a bunch of same-same-looking folks, breezing past all the dull sad sacks, and picking out the socially camouflaged, melancholy few who seem to be harboring some kind of romantic ennui, guarded eccentricity, or rich private life that they aren't eager to share. And then she goes after those people with the focus of a truffle pig on the scent and won't stop until they reveal themselves to her and let her love them!

I had the pleasure of meeting Magda's latest conquest, a silver-haired lady I'll call Alice the Archivist, last weekend in my very first post-lockdown public group hangout (everyone 100% vaccinated!). The following is my understanding of how Magda infiltrated her personal bubble and founded the official Alice Fan Club.

Alice is Magda's next-door apartment neighbor, but they went years without having a real conversation. Alice kept to herself and responded tersely, if at all, to Magda's friendly greetings when they happened to meet in the hall, which is understandable in a pandemic. But Alice's crustiness drove Magda wild with curiosity, combined with the occasional tantalizing glimpse into Alice's apartment and private life--solitary, a little dark but impeccably tidy, filled with fragrant old books, and were those tarot cards on the table?

One day, after vaccinations had become widely available and utilized by most of the educated population in our area, instead of simply saying hello, Magda ventured a more personal question: "Do you like tarot cards?"

"No," snapped Alice, and before she could disappear inside and shut the door behind her, Magda sneaked in the comment, "Well, I do. I find them interesting."

The next time Alice and Magda met, Alice abruptly asked Magda if she was a Sagittarius. 

Magda was floored because yes, she is.

"I knew it," said Alice. "I have a connection with Sagittarius. It's my moon sign [Her sun sign is THE CRAB, obviously!!!], and in the past I had many Sagittarius lovers. We form an instant connection, like you did with me. Also," she added, "I looked at your license plate."

LULZ! Points for honesty. But what she said next is quite spooky: "There is a man I've met recently who I am sure is a Sagittarius."

"Oh, why are you sure that he is?"

"We have a strong connection, and I can sense his Sagittarian nature. He's the manager at the bicycle shop down the road."

Magda's jaw dropped back onto the floor, because she realized that Alice was talking about my husband, the manager of that bicycle shop, who is, indeed, a Sagittarius as well.

Of course, Magda related this tale to me immediately, and I asked my husband if he had met a woman of Alice's full name and description. He said, "Oh yeah, I know her. She comes into the bike shop sometimes, but I think she hates me." 

Which is a very odd thing for my husband to say, because older women usually love him. But I told him, "That's not what I heard..." and he was very amused.

After the ice was broken, Alice and Magda became fast friends. Magda was invited inside of Alice's charming apartment full of beautiful old things. When drama broke out in the building one night (some possibly drunk people woke everyone up by repeatedly smashing all the buzzer buttons for all of the apartments), Alice checked in with Magda the next morning. "I was so afraid, I ran and bolted the door," she said. "It was not a good time for that to happen to me. I was high and naked." 

After hearing this story, a previous friendship conquest of Magda's--another shy, hermetic woman in the apartment building--buzzed with a desire to meet Alice properly and declared herself the President of the Alice Fan Club. 

Alice's crabby shell was softened so successfully that she agreed to meet up with the object of her previously secret crush (my husband), his wife (me), and her own secret admirer (the President of the Alice Fan Club), all of us about the age of her grown son. We all met on the patio of a cheap Mexican place that Alice enjoys, for margaritas and beers and enchiladas and spectacular post-pandemic conversation, at 4:00 p.m. on a sunny Saturday. Alice, we learned, gets up in the morning as early as my husband does, not for an early work shift but because she is one of those rare people who naturally awakens at about 4:30 a.m. and has done so all her life. She eats her meals on a weird, adjusted schedule like my family does. She lives a mostly regimented, healthy lifestyle, works weekdays for an academic establishment, and kicks back and gets blazed on the weekends while listening to classic books on tape.

Oh, how delightful it was for a group of five eccentrics to emerge from our dens, gather in a place of noise and bright sunshine, and laugh together after a year and a half of near-total isolation! The vibe was like this:

Except instead of young people clubbing in the early 2000s, it was four people who used to be young in the 2000s but are now approaching 40, plus a woman about our moms' age, talking loudly about political Satanism and the thriving local cannabis economy, at a casual dive off a busy highway, at Early Bird Special time. 

And it was so much fun! We took our masks off, sat on sticky chairs, nibbled out of communal bowls of chips and salsa, and touched each other's arms and shoulders. Wowee! I won't say it was just like the Before Times, because it was so much better. We took nothing for granted, got a thrill out of every little thing, and didn't give a single flying frijole about whether we were being awkward or uncool at this funny time when everyone is awkward, aren't they? And isn't it a privilege to be alive and awkward and free to enjoy all of it?

It is a joy to meet new people again, and it's liberating to be weird and no longer care, because life is short and unpredictable and full of more serious problems than worrying about whether other people wish you were a little more conformist. I hope you are vaxxed and relaxxed and venturing out on little baby adventures too.



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