Mike saw the rubber band dangling from the doorknob, and cursed into the freshman dorm's empty hallway.
He'd laughed when his roommate had suggested the rubber band signal to each other for when they had a girl in the room. He wasn't laughing now.
On this Friday after Thanksgiving, the hallway, the building, and the campus were all nearly empty. It had to be a million to one that his roommate and his roommate's girlfriend would still be on campus.
But they were, and he was shut out of his room. Again!
Then he noticed the yellow post-it note by the doorknob.
"Mike, Emily's here too. Could you stay with her tonight? I owe you one buddy. Jim."
Emily was Sarah's roommate. Mike envisioned Sarah behind the locked door with her legs wrapped around Jim. He thought about listening at the door for the little chipmunk sounds Jim said she made when making love. But that would only add to his frustration, so he headed for Sarah and Emily's room on the floor above theirs.
The door was open as he approached their room, in contrast to every other room on the floor. He hoped that Sarah had thought to tell Emily about this brilliant plan. He knocked softly on the door jam, hoping the break in the building's silence didn't startle her.
Emily turned from the thick textbook on the desk in front of her. "Hi Mike, ya'll come on in," she said cordially. "I've been expecting you."
Emily was a pre-med student, and was very serious about her studies. Mike caught the scent of the well used yellow highlighter in her hand. She had the classic look of a young librarian, with black-framed glasses, her blond hair pinned down on top of her head. She generally dressed in a no-nonsense, functional style, with jeans and bulky sweatshirts, or loose fitting sweaters. Tonight she was wearing a big purple sweatshirt with "Huskies" written across the chest.
Emily eyed the bulging backpack Mike had on his back. "Aren't you supposed to be taking a break from studying?" she asked dryly. Mike knew she was teasing him. Their roommates were so horny that he had spent more than enough time with Emily to recognize her subtle but keen sense of humor.
Mike was a computer science major, and was equally as serious about his studies, which Emily well knew. She also knew without asking that Mike had been at the computer science lab, taking advantage of the ready access to the servers while everyone else was away on vacation. Although he lived here in Seattle, that extra access was why he'd only gone home for Thanksgiving dinner, before coming back to campus.
"Just a little light reading," he replied, just as dryly, dropping the pack on Sarah's desk with a heavy thump.
"I take it you've heard about our roomies' plans for us tonight?" she asked.
"I just read about it on a post it note stuck on my door."
"They didn't even give you a chance to pack a tooth brush?" she asked with feigned shock.
Mike smiled ruefully. "Nope. But I've been at the lab all day. They probably couldn't stand to wait any longer."
Emily smiled. It was a smile Mike hadn't seen from her before. It was a little sly; and it was... knowing.
"Well I guess I can understand that," she said, and garnished it with a soft sigh.
"I can understand it too, in principle anyway," said Mike. "Sounds like you have a boyfriend back at home?"
"Uh, no, not really," she said, sounding somewhat startled by the question.
Mike started to pull textbooks out of his backpack.
"Not really?" he asked, almost immediately regretting it. He thought he was probably getting too personal. But she seemed to recover fairly quickly from the initial surprise.
"I did have a boyfriend, but he decided to stay close to home and go to UT. We both agreed a long distance romance wouldn't work for us."
"So he went to Texas?" Mike asked innocently. From earlier conversations Mike knew she was from Knoxville. Being a Seattleite, he couldn't tell one southern accent from another, so he'd asked her about hers. He was instinctively giving her the opportunity to change the subject if she wanted to.
She recognized what he was doing, and gratefully took the 'out' he offered. "The University of Tennessee is the only true 'UT'," she said with righteous indignation.
"But of course. I stand corrected," he replied, but his words were belied by his unapologetic smile.
She couldn't help but smile back at him. "I've got another half hour of biology reading to do today. Have you had dinner?" she asked. The dorm's cafeteria and every other eatery on campus were all closed.
"Want to split a pizza?"
"As long as it doesn't have pineapple on it."
She called the local pizza parlor and placed the order, with instructions for the driver to call her cell phone when he reached the building's front door. They both settled down in the room's back to back study desks to get in some reading before it arrived.
When Emily's cell phone chirped, Mike went downstairs to retrieve the pie, while Emily got a couple cokes from the floor's vending machine.
They sat on the floor with their backs against Emily's bed, the pizza box between them, and dove in.
"So what about you all?" she asked between bites. He knew what she meant before she completed the thought. "You're a local boy... no girlfriend in town?
"Nope. I went on a few dates, but... I didn't really sync up with any of them "
She raised her eyebrows at him. "Sync up?"
He frowned slightly. "You know... click. It seemed like the conversations were more work than anything. We couldn't find common things to talk about, and they had to try too hard to be interested in what I'm into, so..."
His voice trailed off, and he shrugged. "I guess being such a computer geek doesn't help. There don't seem to be many girls interested in that stuff."
Then he chuckled. "And of course I get a roommate that hooks up with a girl the first week he's in town! There's just no justice in this world."
"I think Sarah is just enjoying being away from home for the first time," replied Emily. "I don't think they're serious, they're just having fun."
"Humph," snorted Mike.
"What?" asked Emily.
She could tell from his pouting face it wasn't 'nothing.' She thought she knew what was bothering him, but hesitated to go there.
"Mike... don't worry about it. You'll find a girl that 'clicks and syncs.' You're a nice guy." She saw a slight blush come to his cheeks. She reached over and ruffled his hair.
"Want me to set up some dates for you? I know some girls that like the quiet sensitive type."
He looked troubled, and Emily realized she must have said something wrong. "Or not," she added hurriedly.
"I just don't seem to be good at blind dates, Emily. I mean, I have lots of friends that are girls. We get to know each other over time, you know? Like, without the pressure of a date - so I don't have to be entertaining and charming at a specific point in time."
He frowned. "But then the girls that I'm friends with, they don't seem to want to be more than friends. I'm kind of tired of being the nice, safe friend, you know? Guys that aren't that nice to girls seem to have all the dates they want."
He looked at her apologetically. "Sorry to dump all that on you, Emily."
She gave him a somewhat enigmatic smile. "That's okay, Mike," she said gently. They were silent for a while as the pizza rapidly disappeared. When it was gone, they continued to sit on the floor drinking their cokes. Emily was the first to resume the conversation.
"Let me see if I've got this right," she began. "You have lots of friends that are girls?"
"But they don't want to be more than friends?"
"How do you know?" she probed.
"How do I know what?"
"How do you know that one of the girls that's your friend isn't interested in being more than a friend?"
He stopped and thought about it, then said slowly, "I guess I don't really know how I know, when you put it that way." He frowned in thought. "I mean, wouldn't she say something? Or maybe let me know some other way?" he asked.
"Like what other way," prompted Emily. He realized she was using the Socratic Method on him. He hated the Socratic Method.
"Well... maybe she would, uh, show an interest in what I'm studying, for example."
"Oh," she replied. "Like, knowing what classes you're taking, and that you have to spend a lot of time at the computer lab? Stuff like that?"
"Yeah. Like that."
"Okay. What else would she do?" she prompted him.
"Uh... I'd be interested in what classes she was taking."
"I see," she replied. "Like, she could have a different major than computer science, like English, or medicine or something, but you'd still find it interesting to talk about."
"All right. What else?"
He really did hate the Socratic Method. "Uh, I don't know... She'd be easy to talk to?"
"Ah, good one. So, you'd be comfortable talking to her about personal stuff?"
"You could maybe tell her things that are bothering you, and she'd listen? She'd offer advice without making fun of you?"
"Yeah. That's a big one. I don't do well when I have to be watching what I say all the time."
"Yeah. Same here." She picked up the empty pizza box and stood up.
She started for the door to take the box to the big garbage cans by the elevators. She paused in the doorway. "Don't worry Mike," she said, with that same enigmatic smile. "I'm sure you'll run across someone like that eventually."
.... There is more of this story ...