Years later, when the protagonist runs into a man at a reading that the protagonist has heard the antagonist is desperately in love with, the protagonist sits down with the man and puts on the charm. He has come to the reading because he enjoyed a story she’d written, and he enjoyed also the story that she’d read that night. They talk of Iggy Pop and nose rings and 80s movies and drink lots of Guiness. The protagonist allows the man to walk her home. Then when the moment comes and the antagonist’s would-be love asks if he can come inside, our hero shrugs her shoulders and says sure. She brings him inside and makes him sleep on the couch in her room instead of her bed. She realizes that there is no evidence to suggest that she is the protagonist in this story and that most people are just trying to live their lives and be happy, instead of trying to hurt people in these secret ways. In the morning, the protagonist walks the man to the door and he asks if he’ll get to see her again and she says “maybe” but doesn’t give him her number. She realizes that this is the way to cultivate longing in a non-self-respecting man of his age, the kind of man who would sleep on the couch without getting anything out of it, by being just out of reach. By being deceptive. And then she decides that she is definitely not the protagonist, closes the door, and goes back to goddamn bed.

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