Emily felt like there was an ogre inside her. The ogre was buck-toothed, with uneven eyes and wielded a giant mallet of anxiety in the caverns of her secret soul. It was daytime and the powder blue cotton sheet on top of her felt like a lead x-ray blanket. Her head thudded. She was prone to migraines when she was a child, but this doozy was pure Cabernet Sauvignon. She didn't even know how to spell Sauvignon, much less endure an excessive hangover because of it. The ogre took a rest and lit some heartburn in her physical self to remind Emily that her bladder felt like a whoopee cushion filled with jelly.

It was spring and she could smell green through her screen window. The window brought weekend city noises too; people going to get the paper and drink coffee, car doors slamming, other people kissing good morning. She sighed and rolled over, feeling chilly under the thin sheet. She rubbed her feet together like spoons and lifted them up enough so the sheet edge drifted, then she quick tucked them down to cocoon the sheet under her feet.
Snug as a bug in a rug. Emily half smiled and crunched down into her pillows trying to find the "cold" spot.

Emily keeps little things. She has an antique cologne bottle on her windowsill with the neck the size of a punch hole. This is the smallest bottle she has and is impressed that it is the size of the snuff bottles in museums, but held instead wannabe pheromones in the 1920's. Other jars and bottles of various color and age line the sill and they are all filled with things she combs from the beach; rocks, bits of broken pottery, frayed nylon nets and seaglass. The smallest bits of seaglass are put in the small cologne bottle, because they are the only things that will fit. Emily has a wish that her eventual husband will set a bit of seaglass on a platinum ring instead of a diamond solitaire, but she knows that it won't ever happen. Emily dates guys that pick flowers in public rose gardens.

The morning light shines through the bottles and leaves a kaleidoscope of color bubbles on her wrinkled sheets.

The bladder is too much and she shuffles to the bathroom over oak floors. She pees and gives the toilet lever a push, then opens up the cold water on the pedestal sink. It flows and she scoops it up in her hands, hanging her face above the painted iron bowl. She splashes the water on her face until she feels fresh. Beads of water drip off her smooth skin, one bead catching on the mole on her lip. She licks it off and smoothes her hair back before she shuffles back to bed. She is thinking of the robin eggs and remembers time doesn't matter.

When Emily was a little girl, she found a fallen nest of robin eggs near her front steps. The blue speckled orbs intrigued her five year old self. She thought they were leftover Easter Eggs. She cracked the first one for chocolate and found a dripping mess down her arm. She was ashamed and took the other three dead eggs to her room and put them under the butts of her stuffed animals. When the eggs began to stink her mother confiscated them and bragged to her socialite friends that her daughter had tried to "save" the robin babies.

Emily would play "shark" in the downtown pubs. She would circle and wait until some riff-raff would buy her a drink. She would never fornicate with that particular bloke. Instead, she would shmooze to his friends and they would buy her drink after drink. As a gesture, she would sport a round and they would all flambooozle over the gesture. She had it sown until her old loves intervened.

Her old loves popped up all over and she didn't know what to do. They sabotaged her effort and without friends to divert, she was lost. Emily wished she had friends, but most of the straight girls she hung around grew jealous with her errant apathy. Emily didn't mind so much, but she really did want a girl friend to snuggle with on the couch.

Girls abhorred Emily. Her soft lips and big breasts made most women cringe. When they went to a bar with her, men would drool and flock around her pressing chests, ignoring them. F-that.

Emily would lead those same guys on and make them sleep on the couch. Guys made a joke about giving her a ride home. It became that none of them did. Emily was alone.

Instead, alone with the remnants of bitter drunken guys, Emily swoons with her imagination and predicts love like it might occur on a long lost beach; swollen robin egg blue sky with yellow sun and sand beach. A beach where you close your eyes and see the red insides of your lids and smell the salt caking on you and the wind brushes the tiny hairs on your arms. If you have been there, you know what Emily wants.

She dances like an idiot at clubs. She does not care how stupid she looks. Her short, boy haircut bangs fall into her eyes as she wiggles her hips, pretending to apply compact makeup first to herself, then to her girlfriend in rhythm to a dance remix of Cold Play's Viva La Vida. This dance is a product of her own.

She works at an upper-middle class grocery store, where she is often approached by boys.

"Would you like to go out some time," a twenty-something stallion wagers one day.

"I have a boyfriend," she says.

"I have a wife."

wtf, she writes on facebook later, you having a wife does not help your chances.

She is not the type of girl who sees married men as forbidden fruit. You are beginning to see why she is so cool.

She does not know how pretty she is. Her boy haircut bangs, she does not know how much they affect you when they obscure her face. She does not know that her dark, unblemished complexion gives the impression that she would taste like caramel and honey. I am a little creepy, I realize. This is the point.

She is a tomboy. She likes to do stuff. She is stuck with a bunch of girlfriends in a suburban dump. All they want to do is talk. Guys are not typically like that.

It is easy for her to meet guys. She's in school, studying to apply for a dental program. She's smart, too, did I mention that? And her teeth are perfect. Incredible smile. I can see her being a dentist without having to try very hard. I would love for her to be my dentist. I was saying it is easy for her to meet guys. Guys always want to talk to her. She has a charming way of talking.

"Where did you learn to talk?" I ask her. We are eating dinner at a Korean bulgogi buffet. Did I mention she loves trying all kinds of exotic food? There are four guys in our party. One of us is dating her. The rest of us would love to have the same opportunity. I know I would travel all over the world with her, tasting every different culture we found.

She mentions growing up in South Carolina. She mentions having a guy best friend at the time. She doesn't mention that he was in love with her, but this is something that does not require very much of a stretch in imagination.

A few years ago: when we first met, we were looking for things to do.

"Do you play tennis?" she asks me. "I've been looking for a partner. Sometimes I don't like playing with the Asians. Too much drama."

I am, in fact, Asian. But because I don't have a life, I have no drama.

"Yeah," I say. "I play all the time."

I went out and bought a racket from WalMart later that day. She beat me. I have been told this is what you are supposed to let happen when you do stuff like this with a girl. I do not feel that I had much of a say in the matter.

She likes me. I am harmless. I am smart enough to hold a conversation. I say entertaining things. My biggest selling point, though, is that you don't have to feel like you have to watch your back around me. She confides in me. There are late-night texts as she falls asleep in bed, and good-morning texts when she wakes up.

When I confess my feelings to her, she does something that I will respect about her forever, and what she does makes me realize something that makes me feel regret to this day: she stops talking to me. She was not interested in the things that I could or would do for her. She was not interested in my attention. She just thought she'd found a friend. I was too busy looking for signals and playing the dating game to understand this.

The girl can get a boyfriend any time she wants. She doesn't have to give signals or play games. She wanted to be able to hang out with someone without having to worry about any of that.

Later: when she is under the impression I'm no longer in love with her, she tells me, "Sorry I've been shady. I just didn't want to send the wrong message. It's ok, you don't have to apologize. It's as much my fault as it is yours." It kills me that she felt she had to apologize for having a kind heart.

Recently, a sad story: a mutual friend of ours mentions, casually, her love for me. "He's a good guy. I love him." Our pretty girl (both girls are pretty) cautions her about using "love" in any context.

"It's a big deal," she says. "I just think it's a bigger deal than you're treating it to be. You have to be careful with that."

Perhaps an over-reaction, but she is speaking from experience. Boy after boy has misread her intentions. She's still kind, and still friendly, but now her actions must be guarded to protect the hearts of others. I said that she can get a boyfriend any time she wants. Cute guys try to hit on her. Cool guys just want to court her. Non-threatening nice guys email to her unwanted feelings at 4am. Everyone wants to be with her. No one can handle just hanging out with her. The boys pursue her, again and again - they just have to go for it, man. They don't want to regret not doing anything. It's better to confess your feelings and be let down than to keep them a secret and never know what could have been. We live in a world where a guy can never see a pretty girl without loving her a little.

One memory I have of her: late at night, she is standing alone out on her friend's driveway, reading a note from her ex-boyfriend. Attached is a mix cd. I didn't read the note, but I can guess what it says. I made a mistake. I can't just be friends.

Boy after boy, you see her faith in friendships dying a little more.

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