Going braless

He liked the girl without the bra. I could sense it, could literally feel his animal attraction to her.  The three of us were standing around after class, waiting for the elevator. They were talking and laughing. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and opted to hike down the stairs.

I met him in grad school. We both studied American lit, neither of us had made the cut for the PhD program. We made due with our master’s studies.

I arrived ten minutes early to my first meeting with my advisor. I found her door closed, blurred voices escaping from inside the office. I sat outside, on the floor, reading a copy of the first book on the syllabus. I waited forty-five minutes before I worked up the nerve to knock.

He showed up thirty minutes in. He was hot. Tall, dark hair, nice smile. I did say hi, so at least there was that. I smiled. But, you know, I was already married. Year one. So I didn’t show interest. But he was perfect. He wore his button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up, a messenger bag slung across his chest.

Who knows what would have happened if I had not already been taken. But honestly, I had no clue. I was 24, and I was only beginning to invent myself. Going braless was not on my checklist. Marriage was, and so was grad school. I was new, awkward, and in a rush to get things right.

Finally I stuffed my book into my bag, stood up, and said, “I guess I should knock.” I didn’t laugh and I don’t remember properly introducing myself. I knocked on the professor’s door and interrupted her meeting. Afterwards, the tall guy and I glanced at each other as I held her door open for him.

Here’s the thing: Doing things right made me unhappy. I thought that I wanted to quit my job and start grad school. I thought that I wanted to rush home each night after class. I thought that I didn’t need to be all that friendly to my single schoolmates because I had my real married friends. I thought that one misstep would bring my whole life crumbling down. I thought that things that made me uncomfortable were bad.

But you know what? I was wrong. I wanted to flirt. I wanted to forget my bra. Have I ever mentioned how much I bombed at grad school? I did all of the assignments, but I completely missed out on the experience. I still graduated, though.

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Her talk

She’s at the seminar table, her heart pounding, breath coming in gasps, their eyes on her, when her voice fails her. Her talk on Pynchon all but forgotten, past and future fade into the irony of Mucho Maas and his love for Oedipa as she knows but doesn’t realize just how much more she wants. Her classmates, clueless, stare at her in silence, but for one: “Killer handout,” he tells her.