At the party it is Conrad's idea to write down our dreams on index cards and then read them, try to guess which was whose chattering sleepy brain. Conrad, why do you make it so easy? I have more impressive skills than this. He doesn't know how effortless it is for me to build my own game; I am always looking for trouble. I put my card near the bottom of the stack; I know these people and their attention spans.

The sexy art dream is Gullet, the outdoors one is Suzy, the boring one is boring Mike, the grandiose wonderful lie is Jim. All easy guesses except the quiet girl, so quiet I didn't catch her name, or think to find out what it was, and yes I am ashamed of that. Her dream is buoyant and dark - flying over night villages / red clouds howling like monsters / sweeping the fish out of the sky.

Then:   I am the head crocodile in the school play, but my big fake head won't fit properly, and something is wrong with my mike. Someone tells me, "You're going to make a great frog. You'll do just fine."   What? No, I'm a crocodile. I promise. They don't believe me; I burn down the building.

A few people laugh at my silly brain, no one is paying much attention by now, we've exhausted the humor of it and someone has brought out the playstation; grownup shouts of glee. Conrad keeps reading.

Next I am in a room with many people. Not enough chairs, couches all full. I sit on the floor with my back against the wall, knees pulled up. A handsome man with crumbs in his goatee comes to lean against my legs; he does not ask if he can do it, we are both comfortable.

I have been watching Conrad; he has been smiling. His hand goes to his chin. He knows he always has crumbs. He's embarrassed, that's all right. The next line is   The handsome man comes to sit next to me, I said. He is only briefly hesitant.   He walks over to me. Don't think Conrad is easily manipulated; he just knows how to play.

His back is firm and warm against me. He is not shy about leaning back and his weight pressing on my legs is good. My fingertips on his shoulders, dancing down the muscles and bone. My dream on the index card ends mid-sentence. There is another card, I say; he gets up to get it. As he leans away, I lean forward, copying his motion so my hands don't have to leave him. Fingertips on shoulders. A small but shameless come back here to me soon.

Conrad covers the distance from coffee table back to me in one leap. We're both shameless, I see. We're both natural smilers but this has gone ridiculous, I'm glad the rest of them are engrossed in pod racing. From here I can see the ships going faster and faster against backgrounds which I am sure are beautiful but which from here are only a blur.

The second card says.   The handsome man gets up for a minute. My hands do not want to let him go. My hands say, come back to my hands. He does come back.   Conrad is quietly embarrassed about all this, but has reached up to cover my hand with his own. His palm is warm and dry and scratchy; a boy's hand.

I tell him a secret. I say, Listen carefully. This might get complicated.

He flips the card over. Nothing more. He turns his head to look at me sideways. What I get is an excellent closeup of his profile, scruff, one warm-coffee eye. What's the secret, he wants to know.

This might get complicated, I say. Listen carefully. I lean in. I take my hand back from his hand and cup it around his ear. I almost go for his ear but at the last second I know not to make it that sexy. I kiss him on the warm cheek, near his rampant sideburn, scratchy where he needs shaving but I like it that way. I feel his whole torso relax against me. His face and beard smell like cinnamon; I wonder if he did that on purpose, dusted himself at the spice rack. I wonder if he knew how well it would work.

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