This was the first time we drove down to Southern California, to see the places where he'd grown up, the childhood bedroom, the university housing where his best friend from high school was living with four other uberbrains. They had a white board that covered a whole wall, and a section of the board was devoted to a project they were working on, tracking correlations between the weather and the number of sweat droplets that the cartoon character Cathy had floating around her head that day. There was no correlation. I admit I thought it was a big deal to meet the parents and the friends but probably my car just got better mileage. I had not hung out before with people so entirely devoted to being intellectual, sitting in rooms without furniture and talking about string theory and Derrida. My life had been almost exclusively pop entertainment and human behavior, and I was thinking that this was simply different, like how I liked Eurythmics and other people liked Madonna, but it was soon clear that actually what I had was less, at least to him. But I thought: I will make them like me, and then it will be okay. And I did, I did. I had my insecurities but I also had my shell games for hiding them. I conducted subtle interviews and found the thin threads where their brains collided with mine, the symmetries; I hung stories on these threads, I regaled, I raconteured, one of them laughing until he rolled onto his back like a beetle, legs kicking in the air, and I thought I had won, but then so much of my life is coloring in the lines and then showing my pictures to the blind. "You're talking too much," he said, stopping me in the hallway. "And nobody thinks it's funny when you pronounce 'subtle' wrong; they don't think you're joking, they think you're stupid." Gravity pulled into the equation, the tales I had been weaving collapsed around me, and I stumbled back into the room and tried to play the quiet game until it was time to go to bed. I've moved on since then, I've stayed up late talking in so many places, slept and woke up and tried again, and usually I don't care but sometimes I stop, mid-anecdote, and wait for someone to tell me the truth, the ugly truth, and I feel the knot pull around my heart that was first tied years ago, before this memory even, and for a second I can't breathe.