back before I knew her, back before anything with us. We were sitting around playing whisky monopoly and I was cheating to lose because I didn't want to get so drunk I'd miss her, jumping around her apartment and making everyone drink tea. I didn't want tea. No one did. But damned if it didn't keep her happy, bringing everybody these little mismatched china teacups, most chipped with broken handles. It was funny because she didn't seem delicate enough to own teacups, and she wasn't granola enough to really be into herbal teas, I'd thought, but here she was, into it and insisting that everyone else at least pretend to be into it too. I thought maybe that was part of her essence, that she would go around forcing people to be enthusiastic about whatever her focus was, but as it turned out tea was her only thing like that.

So I hadn't made up my mind about her but I knew she was sexy. Didn't know why. Kind of odd face, hair too short to tangle but it tangled up anyway. Maybe it was just that her eyes always looked interested in everything. That seems more than enough.

Alcohol is a sedative so why is my heart doing this?   Don't think it was something romantic, it was more like a panic attack, my heart crazy throbbing, unpleasant. I don't think it was her, maybe it was too much tea plus too much whisky plus way too much monopoly. Alice got a phone call. I listened. She was clunking around in the kitchen, phone tucked into her neck in the way everybody does it. She was being the Nutty Cajun. Do a gator pee in de swomp? I tried to tune my ears so they would filter out everything but her. They were poking me and it was my turn.

I was sitting on the floor on the Princess Di pillow. I was very conscious of it, without looking up, when Alice came to stand next to me. I tucked a $500 bill between her toes. She let me. No, she was saying to the phone, no you don't want to come over. Just a bunch of old fogeys playing board games.   She nudged me with her knee and grinned down and I knew I was in on the joke, whatever it was.

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