Being the kind, charitable soul that I am, I have taken Amy Hawthorne out for dinner at my favorite local restaurant Neddrick’s. For how tough her life must be living with a gang of runaway homeless teenagers, she deserves a hearty meal at a good price. Also, I want pizza.
…At least, that’s all what I thought up until our meal actually began. Now, I’m not so sure I should have ever gone along with any of this. Or that I should have been born.
“Screw that!” Amy shouts, loud enough that the people at neighboring tables turn to look at her. “Who in their right mind’d think that?”
“Uh, me,” I say.
“You’re an idiot then,” she says.
“I think the crust is the worst part, so I eat it first. It’s not that big a deal.” I grab another slice and, to demonstrate, I chomp off the crust first.
“You’re ruining pizza,” she says. “Ruining pizza.”
See, if this came out of the mouth of like, Karina or something, I’d be fine, because I’d know she was overreacting as a joke because that’s part of our weird rapport. With Amy, best I can tell, she’s completely serious.
“I used to know a lot of people who ate the crust first on their pizzas. Then every single one of them turned into complete asshats the moment I thought I could trust them,” Amy says.
“What? Every single one?”
“Yes,” she says. “Not one exception.”
“And what about the people that eat the non-crust first? Are they trustworthy nice people?”
“No, they’re all asshats too, but at least they eat their pizza right.” She munches on her slice, all the way to the crust… and then sets the crust back down on the plate.
“…How old are you again?” I ask.
“Yeah, thought so…”
I’m eating dinner at a bar and restaurant with a fourteen year old homeless girl. This is weird enough already out of context, but every single topic of conversation we’ve had so far has just been so… Ugh, this is a disaster beyond comprehension. Please, eldritch monsters from the realm beyond ours, devour me now.
“Why don’t we talk about something else?” I ask. “Like, uh, movies? Everyone likes movies. What’s your favorite?”
She gives this some serious thought, putting her finger to her chin and squinting. “Mega Busters 1,” she finally answers.
“Wh… Huh? Didn’t that just come out?”
“I saw that last week. It’s my favorite.”
“How can you say it’s your favorite when it just came out?” I ask. “Is it THAT good?”
“I don’t know. I just like it,” she says. “It’s pretty good.”
“Pretty good.. but this is your favorite movie here we’re talking about. This is an important, person-defining question. It’s not like, ‘What cereal do you want at the grocery store tomorrow?’ This is vital.”
“I like Reese’s Puffs,” she says.
“Yes, you may, but you also like Mega Busters 1, and you must justify this opinion to me.”
“I don’t have to justify shit. It’s my favorite because I like it.”
“Well… you have me there. I can’t argue with that. I literally can’t.”
Amy picks up another piece and begins eating at it as she says, “You can’t. So don’t.”
“I hope you’re not.”
“I never said I would.”
“You wouldn’t, would you?”
“I want to stop this.”
“What’s YOUR favorite movie then, Morgan?” Amy asks. She finishes off her current pizza slice and then, again, drops the crust on her plate.
“My favorite movie is–” I stop myself.
I was about to say Dinosaur’s Revenge. I’ve never even seen that movie. That’s.. Whew, boy, am I tired. When am I not, though? As for my real favorite movie, that one’s easy.
“What is it? I thought you’d have an answer immediately, after your big speech. Personality-defining bullshit. Remember that?”
“It’s F-Zero,” I say. “I didn’t have to think about it that hard. It’s–”
“That movie sucks,” she says without hesitation.
“No, you… Wait, not the remake. Everyone hates that one. I mean the old one from the nineties. The Ethan Hawke one.”
“The nineties? I don’t watch old movies,” she says.
“The effects are bad. It’s always these bad miniatures and bad computer graphics. Everything looks fake, and the actors are lame.”
“Everything you’re saying is fake, and biased, and nitpicking,” I say. “Older movies are fine. They’re more fun than the junk they make now. And they’re funnier. And the actors aren’t bad in F-Zero! Ethan Hawke, Sam Jackson, Julie Delpy, Mark Hamill–”
“I didn’t say bad. I said lame. All those actors are lame because who cares about them.”
“I feel like you’re specifically trying to antagonize me.”
“You think too highly of yourself.”
“If this is how the rest of this evening is going to go, I’m not going to negotiate your stupid peace treaty thing.”
“No! I mean, I’m so sorry, Dr. Harding. I will do anything to make it up to you,” she says in a tone that indicates she cares absolutely nothing about making anything up to anyone.
“What am I a doctor of, now…”
“The doctor of funk,” Amy says.
“Like, Doctor Funk? That’s a real dude who used to exist and made music, but he’s dead now. I am not him.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she says. “You’ve ruined my joke.”
“You called me a doctor of funk, but there is a real musician who was named Doctor Funk. It’s a good genre, but I do not make funk music. Or any music, for that matter.”
“No, no. When I say funk, I mean like, a funk surrounding your aura. By funk I mean you smell bad.”
“I don’t smell bad! I smell great!” I exclaim, loudly enough that nearby tables shoot me a glare. I feel like I’m going to get kicked out and be banned from Neddrick’s if this keeps up. This is my favorite restaurant, so that would be something of a death sentence. If I’m kicked out of Neddrick’s, there is no choice for me but to reincarnate in a new timeline where I can redo everything in my life, but this time the right way. I will use my knowledge of the future to become a prodigy at every subject, then in a twist of fate, be forcibly sent to private school, where I will be stifled and abused and be forced to make a daring escape, where I then seek out the help of teenaged Karina Kodama, who–
“You smell pretty bad,” she repeats.
“You are a very mean person, Amy.”
“Wouldn’t it be meaner if you smelled bad but nobody said anything? Which would you prefer?”
“If nobody said anything!”
“In the end, we’re all going to die anyway, so what does it matter, really? That is my rationale for everything I do.”
“So there are no consequences to actions?” I ask.
“Consequences are a social construct.”
“So if I slap you in the face like I most certainly have not been tempted to do at all this evening, there would be no consequences?”
“Well, I’d hit you back, but that is one being assaulting another. That’s only a consequence because we define it as one. Otherwise, everything is a completely random series of particles floating around aimlessly, occasionally bumping into each other in a way that happens to be represented by my fist in your stomach.”
“Why are you punching me in the stomach as retaliation for slapping you? How do you even reach my stomach from across the table? Are you going to duck underneath first?”
“You’d better be careful, or those random particles might collide with each other in a way that is represented by me throwing my pizza crust at you,” she says.
“You really should eat those pizza crusts,” I say. “It’s wasteful to throw them away.”
“Corporations are currently polluting the skies with ash and dumping toxic waste in our rivers. Throwing away some biodegradable pizza crusts is nothing.”
“But after you made that whole speech about never eating the crusts first…”
“I’m watching my figure,” Amy says, batting her eyelashes. “Gotta get ladylike.”
“Oh, I was meaning to ask about that. Your pronouns are she and her, right?”
“Yeah, that’s right,” she says, her voice losing a bit of the sarcastic edge she had before. “I guess I’m still at the point people have to ask.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I just wanted to make sure. I didn’t want to mess up.”
“Heh, usually I have to wait until someone messes up so I can yell at them until they use the right pronouns,” Amy says.
“I mean, when people hear your name, they know you’re at least PROBABLY a she/her, right?” I ask. “It seems kind of natural considering your name.”
“You’d be surprised at the number of people who ‘don’t get it.’”
“Well, at least you have a good name. Amy. I like that name.”
“You’re getting weird.”
“It’d have been a lot weirder if I said something like, ‘I’ve always planned to name one of my kids Amy, and now I want to consider you my daughter.’”
“You’re so weird, Morgan.”
The waiter scurries by and places the check at our table, too fast to say anything or even to make eye contact. I guess some people have been listening to our conversation…
“What time is this deal going down?” I ask.
“Ten,” Amy says. “You think we should get over there?”
“It’s a long walk, and I’d prefer not to take the sky rail right as all the convention goers are leaving the expo,” I say. “So I think we should go soon.”
“Alright,” Amy says.
This has been all developing so fast that I’ve barely had time to really think about any of it. Just a couple days ago, I was with Karina playing Genesis Crush. Now, I’m getting involved in a conflict between gangs that could be related to some of the tensions developing around the big tech expo. For all I know… Wait a minute, I almost forgot. “Oh, I need to… Just a second, Amy.”
I get up from the table and go off to the nearest corner of the restaurant so I can make a phone call in relative quiet. I take out my cellular, hit the speed dial, and three rings later–
“Hi, it’s me,” I say.
“Morgan?” Karina asks from the other end of the line. “Hey, what’s going on? Where are you?”
“Don’t worry about me or anything, but I’m not going to be home until late. Sorry about that. If you make any food, make sure to leave me some leftovers. Got it?”
Karina giggles. “Oh, Morgan. My first Friday night off in ages, and you’re not even gonna be here.”
“Wait, it’s Friday? I thought it was like, Tuesday. I’m really sorry, I just… Oh wait, you’re teasing me.”
“Yeah, I’m just teasing you,” she says. “The Sakaguchi press conference is tomorrow, so I’m probably going to be helping Father all night anyway.”
Amy, who is now next to me in the corner of the restaurant, bumps me in the side with her elbow. “C’mon, let’s go.”
“Hold on, you little– Okay then, I’ll let you go, Karina. Good luck with the helping out. I l–See you.”
“See you too.”
I turn my gaze to Amy and try really hard to to glare at her menacingly. I fail.
“I can’t wait to get to know you better on the walk over,” she says. “It’s gonna be really fun.”
I shiver. “Please.”
“I… I’ll survive tonight. I swear it.”
“Whatever you say, Morgan.”