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I woke up before Alix did and lay still, watching her breathe. Her face glowed, sculpted from the translucent wax of sleep, and I thought, What the hell is she doing here? By which I meant here sharing an apartment with a misfit academic like me. That was the most difficult of the Alix questions, but there were zillions more. Alix was a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside a body that was impossible for a grown man to view intimately without weeping.

She sniffled when I tickled her nose, twisting away and burying her face in her pillow—universal body language for "just five more minutes." I rolled out of bed and headed for the bathroom. And that was when the day began to take its bizarre shape.

While I was shaving, a sparrow splattered itself against the bathroom window, chasing a bug probably. A few minutes later someone who spoke only Croatian (I think) phoned and wouldn't get off the line. I went to scramble some eggs and cracked open two double-yolkers in a row. Now, your liberal arts academics, as opposed to purely logical types like Alix and me, will read portent into a sequence of events like that, forever on the lookout in real life for the omens and resonances they find in their books. What they don't understand, and what you can never convince them of, is that what happens in this impersonal universe of ours is random. The truth is, probability rules, or, to couch it in the language of some of their favorite ancient philosophers, stercus accidit (cf. Latin manure + happens).

And as the morning progressed and stercus continued to accidit, it took the hard-nosed rationalists that we are to dismiss the sparrow as nothing more than a myopic fist of feathers, the Croat as a simple wrong number, the eggs as acceptable statistical outliers.

Ever calculating, I served Alix breakfast in bed—bagels with cream cheese and raspberry jam, the aforementioned eggs, a cappuccino from our wheezy machine to wash it all down—but she was in an odd mood. She seemed distant, anxious to get out of the apartment, so that her heart wasn't in the little seduction that I instigated. But she's a sport, is Alix. Afterward, sticky with sweat, jam and spent bodily fluids, we showered and threw on some clothes. By now she was wide awake. She could barely wait to shuffle me out the door.

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