When Emerson saw Greta next, it was like time hadn’t passed and like everything was different all at once. The floors and the walls of this New Year’s Eve party had stayed constant, and the guests had not changed, no one seemed to have died or moved away, but already Greta looked disproportionate and blurry, like Emerson was going to have to struggle to catch up.
Greta climbed atop a couch in her boots and leaned up against the wall, bored. “Nothing that matters ever happens at these parties. They’re always the same.”
Emerson climbed up after her and surveyed the room. A number of people were drifting around like lonely satellites with beer cans and in that moment she realized humans looked a lot younger when they didn’t think that anyone was watching. “Everyone is always so confident and well-adjusted,” she added.
Greta turned to Emerson. “You want to fight?”
“What? Not really…”
“Please physically battle me.”
“Why would I do that?”
“To remind yourself that you have a body and that we are alive and here in this moment! To teach ourselves that we weren’t meant to be anything, that we are not any singular thing, that we don’t exist for any force outside of ourselves.” She shook Emerson’s shoulders and set her nose against Emerson’s nose. Her eyes shone with a comforting kind of danger. “Come on, Emerson, I need this. Slap the shitty self-importance out of me!”
Emerson looked at Greta. Then she swept her arm back and ricocheted her palm off Greta’s cheek. People close by turned and gasped as the blow rang particularly loud.
When Greta opened her eyes again her cheek was flaming red and she grinned at Emerson, then threw a punch that caught Emerson’s chin and dislocated her from the top of the couch.
The remaining party guests stood around, either thrilled by the disruption but unsure if they could join, or unamused by what they judged to be an enactment of alcohol and estrogen.
Emerson felt the consciousness gyre out her body and concentrate in the action before her, as the seconds expanded into inconsequence.
Eventually, however, Greta’s hand pushed a little too hard and there was a crunch and Emerson’s nose began to bleed.
Greta dropped her fists and marveled at what she had done. Then she began to laugh, and soon Emerson, too, was laughing from genuine satisfaction.
At some later point in the night the room groggily began to chant, “Ten…!” and when that happened Greta instantly took Emerson’s arm and walked her out the door, down the hallway, and into the stairwell.
As Greta slouched cinematically down the stairs, Emerson could still hear the numbers ringing like slothful spirits behind them.
Suddenly, Emerson stopped. “Let’s meet up every year on the thirty-first of December.”
Greta turned around to look at her in surprise and laughed out loud so that her teeth showed and the fresh scratch on her right eye radiated like a splinter of light. “Sure, buddy.”
Then they continued on their way, pushed open the door to the street, and kicked snow off the steps.
The year after that Greta wasn’t at the house party, and the year after that Emerson stopped going.