The dragon’s face, face to face with her now, is indeed lopsided. One eye’s bigger and rounder than the other. She’s speaking babytalk and flaunting a bad tattoo, but there’s that vibe, and besides, crazy is an adjective that only ever gets applied to beautiful people in hindsight. Nunc stans, the blonde is a knockout. “The students don’t start crawling in until five or six.” Emily congratulates herself on her response to the boredom comment. It conceals her excitement and makes her seem informative. She’s off to a good start. The blonde repurposes her pout into a sneer. “This is the first time I’ve set foot in a bar before nine.” The writer interprets the rude comment as her own mistake—around hot girls, she tends to confuse herself for a mirror. She extends her hand suddenly, desperately, but holds it low in case the gesture is all wrong and she has to pass it off as a miscommunication. What? I wasn’t trying to shake your hand. That’s stupid. Who shakes hands in a bar? I had an itch. The gesture pans out. The blonde’s palm is warm and dry, so much so that Emily’s hands must be clammy for her to feel the difference. “I’m Emily,” she says. “Michelle,” the long, warm, firm, reassuring fingers introduce themselves. “I hate it, it’s so oldfashioned. I used to go by Mia, but yesterday morning I decided to reinvent myself as ‘X.’” It’s a funny joke. Emily would laugh except, while she’s socially aloof, she uncanny knack for knowing when not to laugh. She feels it out: “Is it catching on?” “Ummm. I mean, sort of. My roommate thinks it’s stupid, but she’s a crazy cat lady in the making, I don’t care what she thinks. The boys on the hall really like it.” Boys on the hall. Dorms. Boys. Fuck. “I bet they do…” Kevin’s cute, but he has ‘I don’t do condoms, they’re too tight’ written all over him. I’ve already dated a Kevin, he was like that too.” X continues to disappoint. “Emily looks longingly at her notebook. Andrew could use a hobby. But X drops her hand on Emily’s knee and asks, “You as bored with this hole as I am?” Dizzy from the shock, she hears herself say, “No. Well, I’m flattered.” But Emily’s familiar with bad dialogue, and recognizes I’m flattered is a phrase reserved for formula rejections. She attempts to emend herself, saying, “I’m very flattered!” X moves to draw her hand away; Emily covers it with her own before it can abandon her knee. “As in, I enjoy it. The good flattered. I’m surprised. You just mentioned guys, so I thought…” “Oh, that’s my bad. I’m bi.” She removes her hand anyway. Emily’s hand spreads its fingers in protest, like a thespian flailing his arms, begging his lover not to leave him.