If Allison, Franny’s elfin neighbor, had been aware of the wedding celebration going on with so many of her acquaintances in attendance, she would not have felt left out or envious. Allison would have been pleased for the happy couple and relieved that she was not invited. Allison was not a wedding person.
As if to make that point with some emphasis, Allison chose that afternoon to break up with her boyfriend. She felt bad about doing it over the phone, because that made it feel more like a business dissolution than the end of a romance. Her boyfriend – ex-boyfriend, she mentally corrected – took it with great maturity and kindness.
“I hope you find what you’re looking for,” he said at the end of their brief conversation. “I’ve known for a while it isn’t me. And I like you, Allison, and I hope you find it, whatever it is.”
That gentle prod, the recognition that she hadn’t found what she wanted, that she was a seeker – that prompted a wave of grief and tears that saying good bye to her ex-boyfriend did not. Allison had arrived at her twenties as if she’d been on a train with a single route and destination: college, graduate school, thesis, career in a major university in a big city. And now, that train was not simply derailed (that metaphor implied a violent break with the past that Allison did not feel).
It was as if she’d woken up from a nap in the dining car to realize that it wasn’t a train at all. She’d been in a creaky old diner in a strange town, living a kind of Twilight Zone episode in which the diner, the town, and the people were all unrecognizable and yet familiar, and her job was to figure out what alien force or government experiment had put her here.
The one way in which Marilyn’s wedding interfered with Allison’s peace was this: when Allison sought to shake off the sense of strangeness, of being lost in her own life, by getting her regular coffee at the shop across the street, Kassandra was not there. The other barista, covering Kassandra’s Saturday shift, was pleasant enough, of course. But the loss of the familiar face in the coffee shop made Allison feel completely unanchored, adrift at sea, and so she took her coffee to go and walked out, blinking away tears.