The year I met Alice
Every year around this time I think of Alice (not her real name). Alice and I have a lot in common. We have the same last name, same initials, and we had no idea the other existed until one day when I randomly checked my email and discovered a serious case of mistaken identity. That was my introduction to Alice, so every year I think about her and wonder how she’s doing. But my dear reader, the story isn’t about the emails. The story is about what happened next.
I’m not a fan of fate. I don’t believe it exists because it feels lazy. If fate exists then it doesn’t matter what I do, whatever happens will happen and nothing I do — or don’t do — will change that. I’ve had a hard, miserable fucking existence and I would rather think that the universe doesn’t give a shit about me than to believe there was some giant cosmic fuck you involved. But if fate does exist, it made itself known when I randomly checked my school email. Let me set the story a bit first.
I had just moved across the country to start my PhD, it was all new, confusing, and very different from what I was used to. One of those frustrating differences was the school used a different email provider.
My old school used gmail, so I could easily swap between my main email account and my school account. The new school uses microsoft (outlook) which I hate with a fiery almost nonsensical passion. I am not even exaggerating when I say I avoided checking that email like the plague and truthfully to this day, almost four years after I started at this school, I still barely look at it. So I couldn’t tell you what possessed me to randomly log into the email account that day, but I did.
What I found was about a half dozen emails that were very obviously not spam. In a moment of panic I thought I had missed something important. It had been several months since I had previously logged into the account (at least!) and initially I had assumed they were old, very old. However, they were sent a few days prior over the span of two days. I thought I got very lucky checking when I did, so I read them and realized they weren’t for me at all.
The emails were from Alice’s ex and they were incredibly pushy. Asking for closure, asking if he could send a list of questions for her to answer. Explaining that the dozens of phone calls were an accidental dial and not really him trying to call her. This man was in his mid thirties and they had dated less than a year (all included in the emails). In fact, since I still have those emails, let me share the first introduction I got to Andrew.
After the first two or three emails I was angry. This guy was really, really going at it and just hurrassing the shit out of this poor girl. It became apparent that I was cc’d in these (what turns out to be subset!) emails due to our similar names (thanks to having exact initials). And as a general rule of thumb if you CC me in a flood of harassing emails I will save them and I will tell the story like I’m doing now. By the time I got to the last email it was clear to me that this wasn’t going to stop and in my opinion it was only going to escalate from here.
Maybe I shouldn’t stick my nose in other people’s business, but that’s not my style. I’ve never stood by while someone needed help and if this had happened in person, I still would’ve stepped in. So instead of politely ignoring it, I decided to send my own email. Looking back on it I was very, very, OVERLY polite, but I wanted to tread with caution.
Now this could’ve been the end of the story. After all Alice (again, not her name since she, unlike Andrew, deserves some anonymity here) could’ve politely ignored my email. I assumed she would be incredibly embarrassed that I knew something personal like this and I would never know if Andrew (aka bag-o-dicks) took the hint and left her alone. But funny enough, this isn’t the end of the story either.
For awhile after I sent the email, I kept checking every few days just to be sure that bag-o-dicks, oops I mean Andrew, was either leaving her alone or removed me from the email chain. I was hoping for the former, but I was FULLY prepared for the latter. Some people just can’t take the hint even after some random person slaps them with it in their face. I was also prepared to never find out how things went, but then Alice happened. About a week later she emailed me to give me a … let’s call it update.
Since I was new to the area, and thought it would be interesting to meet a fellow student, I really did take her up on the offer for coffee. So we did actually meet in real-life about a week later in mid-December which shocks me to this day (she didn’t know me, that girl was way too trusting!). It was then that I got more of the story. There were apparently a whole hell of a lot more emails before the ones I was CC’d on and a lot of other huge red flags (more social media BS some of which he hinted at in that last email from him I shared). She told me she was on the fence about what to do and had thought about doing what he asked so he would stop. She said that my response was exactly what she needed. An outside third party to help her figure out what to do.
After that, I got to hear where she was from, about her family, about her relationship, and about her going to the same school. It turned out she was new to the area as well, just started school and was in a completely different field. When it was all said and done, we hugged, then exchanged numbers and a few texts after the fact. We sort of dropped out of contact from one another and I respect that. After all I’m just some random guy who got thrust into her life and she would’ve never known me if it weren’t for that incident.
I still think about her from time to time and I hope she’s doing well. I was just happy to be able to help when I could. Then again, I’m sure anyone would’ve done what I did if they found themselves in that situation, or at least I hope they would. Alice has probably graduated and moved on by now. I doubt I’ll ever get an update and frankly that’s fine by me.
And that’s the end of the story. Now every year, around this time, I think back to the day I met Alice.