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They went to a bar she’d never been to, an underground speakeasy type of place, with no sign announcing its presence. The bouncer hardly even looked at it; he just smirked and said, “Yeah, no,” and waved her to the side, as he gestured toward the next group of people in line. Finally, someone in line who’d been paying attention tapped him on the shoulder and pointed to her, marooned on the sidewalk. “I’m twenty.” And then, absurdly, she started to feel tears stinging her eyes, because somehow everything had been ruined and she couldn’t understand why this was all so hard. Please don’t feel bad.” She let herself be folded against him, and she was flooded with the same feeling she’d had outside the 7-Eleven—that she was a delicate, precious thing he was afraid he might break.There was a line to get inside, and, as they waited, she grew fidgety trying to figure out how to tell him what she needed to tell him, but she couldn’t, so when the bouncer asked to see her I. Robert had gone ahead of her, not noticing what was playing out behind him. But, when Robert saw her face crumpling, a kind of magic happened. He kissed the top of her head, and she laughed and wiped her tears away.“I can’t believe I’m crying because I didn’t get into a bar,” she said.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.Robert came to pick her up in a muddy white Civic with candy wrappers spilling out of the cup holders.
Just as she thought this, he said, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to murder you,” and she wondered if the discomfort in the car was her fault, because she was acting jumpy and nervous, like the kind of girl who thought she was going to get murdered every time she went on a date.“It’s O.At first, she deflected this with another joke, because she really did have to study, but he said, “No, I’m serious, stop fooling around and come now,” so she put a jacket over her pajamas and met him at the 7-Eleven. He greeted her without ceremony, as though he saw her every day, and took her inside to choose some snacks.