“Don’t you know who I am?”
Alice thought about it as hard as she could, studying the man’s features. Eventually, though, she was forced to shake her head.
“I’m sorry. I don’t,” she said. “Should I?”
“Of course you should!” he said. “Everyone should!”
“Oh,” Alice said. She waited for a few seconds, but soon understood, from the look on the man’s face and the way he crossed his arms, that he wasn’t going to say anything more.
“Aren’t you going to tell me?”
The man’s face grew red. “Why should I have to tell you? You should just know!”
“I’m very, very sorry, but I don’t!”
“Well, I would prefer it if you did.”
“Please,” she said, trying to remember how things had gotten this way in the first place. “I have never met you before, and I cannot know who you are if you don’t tell me.”
The man tutted and shook his head, his arms still crossed. The red in his face somehow deepened, becoming a shade of purple Alice thought was very unbecoming. Not that she would say such a thing.
“This is completely unacceptable. I cannot accept this. Nor will I. Accept it, that is.”
Alice furrowed her brow and brought her hand to her chin as she tried even harder to remember the man. But she plainly hadn’t met him.
“Are you, perhaps, famous?” she asked.
The man laughed. But it was an angry laugh, and his face stayed purple. “What a shallow thing to ask! Is that all you think about? Fame?”
“Well, no, but-”
“Vanity! As if I would be consumed with such a thing as fame!”
This conversation was really very troubling, and Alice very much wished it would be over. Only she had to get past the man, and she didn’t see a way without him moving to the side.
“I’m sorry,” she said for the third time. “But if we haven’t met, and you are not famous, I do not see how I would know you.”
“I’m not famous,” the man said, rolling his eyes. “I’m important.”
“Why are you important?”
The man tugged on his mustache with his fingers. “Well, why wouldn’t I be! Of course I’m important! I’m an important, known man, and it’s completely unacceptable you do not know who I am?”
This must be a game, Alice thought to herself. A game I cannot win.
She didn’t relish the idea of turning back to find another way, but with every passing moment standing with the curious, unknown man it seemed turning back would be faster.
“I must be going,” she told the man. “I hope the next person knows who you are!”
The man turned up his nose. “I should say that they will!”
The man stayed that way, nose up and arms crossed, the entire time Alice walked away, right up until she turned a corner and lost him.