I have a small collection of obscure talents: I can balance medium-sized jars on my head, am fluent in two different languages I created with my cousin, and can finish a mile-long three-legged race in under an hour depending on the amount of friction between my partner and the ground. I am most proud of my ability to flummox, disturb, or frustrate people by things I say. Particularly the more tangential or unsettling my comments are, it is rare that I am able to form a very lengthy dialogue with anyone who isn’t used to my behavioral quirks, but on the occasion that I do the experience can be thrilling. I’ve always been interested in studying people’s reactions. I also like to entertain, most often myself, but if I can at least get a stranger to laugh I’ve done what I set out to do. I’m not interested in people who can’t laugh.

It was Naomi who originally introduced me to Sydney at freshman orientation, having noted a similar case of psychosis in the pair of us. I hesitate to share some of the interactions between me and her — not because I am particularly concerned about the legal repercussions of doing so, but because I am loath to admit that I have ever been outwitted or caught at a loss for words. I do not believe that I have ever truly one-upped Sydney, minus the fact that at only 24 I have already out-survived her, but that is not so much a victory of mine as it is the raging infection that began in her colon when she studied abroad in Panama. In the years I knew her I accepted her resilience to my efforts to confound her as a challenge, so I seized every opportunity to do just that. Considering the generally elite nature of her social circles, it was always surprising to me that she was so willing to sink to my level of nonsensicalness, such as debating the merits of firewood as an alternative fuel source for automobiles throughout an entire dinner sitting. We shared a table with two of her friends, neither of whom said much or reacted enthusiastically to Sydney’s suggestion of extending the evening through strip poker at her place. In reality, Sydney was more modest than her behavior implied, and was careful to suggest this activity only to players she knew she could beat or those who would be too discomfited to accept. I of course seized every opportunity to exhibit myself for Sydney or her attractive friends, but it was inconveniently difficult to play Sydney out of her clothes. She was a terrible player but a flawless cheat. At least that’s my theory, because there are no legitimate means that I know of to produce a full house twice in a row.

Once, I tricked Sydney into boarding a flight to Spain when she was supposed to visit her family in the UK, but while she was at the airport in Madrid she struck up a conversation with the gentleman sitting beside her, who offered her an internship at the multinational bioengineering firm he worked for. A week later I was awaiting her return at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport with a bag of hash browns I had pilfered from the McDonald’s where I was essentially employed, but this was rendered unnecessary when her gentleman friend stepped off her plane and insisted on treating me personally to lunch for having made his meeting with Sydney possible. I tossed the bag in a trash bin on our way out, forgetting at the time about the engagement ring I had hidden inside.