She thought he was going to go in for a kiss and prepared to duck and offer him her cheek, but instead of kissing her on the mouth he took her by the arm and kissed her gently on the forehead, as though she were something precious. “I will see you soon.”On the walk back to her dorm, she was filled with a sparkly lightness that she recognized as the sign of an incipient crush.
While she was home over break, they texted nearly non-stop, not only jokes but little updates about their days. “His name is Robert, and I met him at the movie theatre.
But he was on the heavy side, his beard was a little too long, and his shoulders slumped forward slightly, as though he were protecting something. Or, if he did, he showed it only by stepping back, as though to make her lean toward him, try a little harder. Soon she noticed that when she texted him he usually texted her back right away, but if she took more than a few hours to respond his next message would always be short and wouldn’t include a question, so it was up to her to re-initiate the conversation, which she always did.
When Margot returned to campus, she was eager to see Robert again, but he turned out to be surprisingly hard to pin down. “I promise I will c u soon.” Margot didn’t like this; it felt as if the dynamic had shifted out of her favor, and when eventually he did ask her to go to a movie she agreed right away.
The movie he wanted to see was playing at the theatre where she worked, but she suggested that they see it at the big multiplex just outside town instead; students didn’t go there very often, because you needed to drive.
They started saying good morning and good night, and when she asked him a question and he didn’t respond right away she felt a jab of anxious yearning. We’re in love, and we’re probably going to get married.”“Hmm,” her stepdad said.
She learned that Robert had two cats, named Mu and Yan, and together they invented a complicated scenario in which her childhood cat, Pita, would send flirtatious texts to Yan, but whenever Pita talked to Mu she was formal and cold, because she was jealous of Mu’s relationship with Yan.“Why are you texting all the time? “Tell him we have some questions for him.”“My parents are asking about u,” Margot texted, and Robert sent her back a smiley-face emoji whose eyes were hearts.
” she said.“If you want,” he said.“If you want” was such an unpleasant response that she sat silently in the car until he poked her leg and said, “What are you sulking about? “I’m just a little tired.”“I can take you home.”“No, I could use a drink, after that movie.” Even though it had been playing at the mainstream theatre, the film he’d chosen was a very depressing drama about the Holocaust, so inappropriate for a first date that when he suggested it she said, “Lol r u serious,” and he made some joke about how he was sorry that he’d misjudged her taste and he could take her to a romantic comedy instead.
But now, when she said that about the movie, he winced a little, and a totally different interpretation of the night’s events occurred to her.She still didn’t know much about him, because they never talked about anything personal, but when they landed two or three good jokes in a row there was a kind of exhilaration to it, as if they were dancing.Then, one night during reading period, she was complaining about how all the dining halls were closed and there was no food in her room because her roommate had raided her care package, and he offered to buy her some Red Vines to sustain her.She was wearing leggings and a sweatshirt, and that might have been the problem.When she got into the car, he’d said, “Glad to see you dressed up for me,” which she’d assumed was a joke, but maybe she actually had offended him by not seeming to take the date seriously enough, or something.The thought of this possible vulnerability touched her, and she felt kinder toward him than she had all night. “I thought you said you were older.”“I told you I was a sophomore! Standing outside the bar, having been rejected in front of everyone, was humiliating enough, and now Robert was looking at her as if she’d done something wrong.“But you did that—what do you call it?