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Harmlessly Lethal Con

By Venus Wright

Ryland was walking back to his dorm from his last class, which had gotten out late. It was already dark which made the February wind all the more bitter. He really just wanted to get into his bed, really didn’t want to see anyone, not even Darla, his best friend. He typically stopped by her room after classes to decompress from his day before heading to his own room to pass out but tonight he texted her to let her know he was going to be MIA until tomorrow. 

He kept his head down to protect himself from the wind and, for his mood, to keep interactions with other people minimal to nonexistent. There weren’t many people out, but Ryland knew the possibility of running into someone he knew despite that. 

And alas, “Ryland?” 

He lifted his head to see Tyler coming his way down the sidewalk. Damnit, Ryland was only a few minutes away from his dorm entrance. He put on a fake smile to try and keep the interaction short. 

Tyler smiled and stopped in front of Ryland, blocking his path. Ryland had devised a plan in his head to just keep walking, only to smile and say “hello,” but with Tyler blocking him, he was trapped. Ryland braced himself to be his “normal” self to try and keep the interaction even shorter. 

“How are you, man?” 

Ryland used the little energy he had and let out an exasperated, “I’m good, I’m good.” 

Please, please leave me alone, Ryland thought, please catch a hint and keep walking. Ryland knew that even if his words weren’t true it may ward Tyler off faster. 

Tyler nodded. No response, just awkward air. Tyler sucked air through his teeth and rocked back on his heels. “Yeah, I’ve been good too. I didn’t see you at Trevor’s party last weekend, did you go? Are you going to the next one?” 

Ryland closed his eyes for a second. He knew there would be no use blowing up on Tyler for simple questions, but he was asking too many and it was too fucking cold and Ryland was tired of shivering, he wanted to be inside, be in his bed, away from any voice that would crowd into his already full head. Tyler is nice enough, but could never read a room. Ryland was trying to figure out how to get away without hurting Tyler’s feelings but his frustration did nothing but build. 

Ryland realized it had been weirdly long since his response. 

“Yeah, I, uh,” Ryland cleared his throat, “I’ll be at the next party, school’s just kicking my ass right now so I had to take a break.” 

“Yeah I hear you, my Anthropology cl-” 

“Listen, Tyler, I’m cold as shit, and I’d much rather be in bed than here right now. I appreciate your concern, but please leave me alone.” 

Tyler seemed a little stunned. He opened his mouth but just sighed and pushed his hands farther down his pockets. He stepped to the side and kept walking in the opposite direction. 

Ryland stood frozen. He hadn’t meant to snap, and he really liked hanging out with and talking to Tyler, now just wasn’t a good time. He didn’t even feel like it was that bad of a snap, but guessed any snap was not welcome, understandably so. 

Ryland sighed. “Fuck,” he said under his breath. 

He took a deep breath and continued walking the few minutes to his entrance. His bed no longer seemed as comforting. 

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