This is what it’s like when I do a reading:

“Come on,” Nick said, tugging my arm. He dragged me past the plesiosaur and iguanodon skeletons, and unlocked a stairwell. He prodded the elevator button within. It had one of those old iron grilles, which he shoved aside for entry. He pressed me against the back wall of the box and kissed me.

He has lovely hands. Later, when the people making “missing” posters asked for a detailed description of him, I uselessly went on about his perfect hands.

When the lift went ping at the top floor, he stalked out down a long, dingy hallway. I trotted after him. I’d forgotten that he has an office up in Earth Sciences–but of course he would. It’s a tiny space, nothing more than books and a coffee maker and a desk and a lock on the door, which is enough. We perched on the desk and he pulled my face to his.

I don’t think he meant for much more than petting–he doesn’t seem like someone who would rush anything. But when he unbuttoned my shirt,

[Audience gets nervous. How far will this go?]

I said no. I’m certain I did, but it got muffled in his cheek. So he undid the next button. I shoved his shoulder, hard, and said no again. He was surprised, I think. I was too. I mean, it’s fine to say no to anything, but this was abrupt. He leaned in to kiss me again. I don’t think he deliberately ignored me; I think he was just on a roll. So was I, frankly. I kissed him back, which was disorienting–he had a right to be even more confused. It was all so…

There was this line. I wanted to be on one side of it. I tried to stay there, and haul him back there. But he couldn’t see the line. All he knew was that I was still leaning into him. He kissed me all down my neck, and then lower, down into where my shirt was open from the first two buttons.

[Audience worries further. Will more buttons get undone?!]

It made me crazy, in a good way, and it made me angry, which was strange. I shoved him so hard that he was suddenly standing; I had pushed him off the desk onto his feet. I leaned over the other side of the desk and vomited into his rubbish bin.

[Audience LAUGHS. This unnerved me the first time it happened. It’s not funny, is it? I think it’s relief that they’re not going to have to listen to an all-out sex scene read aloud in public!]

It had papers in it, not crumpled, just all smooth and rounded, clinging to the side of the basket. I vomited in it, and then over it onto the floor.

[Audience inappropriately laughs again.]

The sounds were horrible. I tried to stop. I covered up my mouth but just ended up with stuff on my sleeve.

[Audience inappropriately laughs again.]

Nick put his hand on my back. I elbowed him off. More stuff came out of me. I didn’t think I’d eaten enough for it to go on this long.

When it finally stopped I held still. A minute flipped on his clock, one of those old “digital” clocks that has the numbers on little cards attached to an axle.

Nick said something. I made a noise to cover it up and bolted. I didn’t wait for the elevator, instead I lurched onto the stairs, which I hadn’t realized go on forever. Every corner I turned there was another flight down. I passed the museum level by mistake. Then the ground floor stopped everything.

Through the window in the stairwell door I saw a dozen students gathered, for a club or a meeting. My shirt was still open at the top. I turned to the wall and buttoned it up.

I wanted to brush my teeth. I wanted to change my clothes. I went back up one flight to get my jacket from the window seat in the gem room. On Trumpington Street I started running.

[Once at this point an audience member memorably shouted “Yes!!”]

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