The taxi smelled of seawater and weed. I'm not sure which made me want to vomit more, but I can't say I hadn't expected them both. To be honest, I was hoping that this opportunity would bring with it fame, if not fortune, and at least a limo, if not a private jet. If I had wanted to speak with another taxi driver with an Italian name that they almost offensively overprounced (Vin-CHENZ-soh, my dear) who seemed intent on my immediate familiarization with the area (you want to get your kale from Blue Barn, not the Swan Oyster), I could've just stayed in Chicago and sulked over my recent single status.

But I was here, and I had endured my fear of flying, as well as my slightly lesser fear of strangers, to get here, so I was sure as hell going to make the most of it. Besides, even if my fear of flying had proved to be unfounded with our safe landing, my fear of strangers turned out to be supported by the strange man I had met, developed an attraction for, and then promptly despised. 

I had spent most of the taxi ride to my hotel wondering about "Dallas." One does not forget that beautiful a face so soon, no matter how hard they wish they could. What possible reason could he have for lying to me about his name, of all things? It's not like I could do anything with it. Did I seem crazy, so untrustworthy that he couldn't even allow up that small bit of personal information? Was he a criminal escaping the law? 

Dallas McCarthy. I laughed to myself and the taxi driver glanced into the rear view mirror as if he, too, worried for my sanity. I tried to flash him a convincing smile. 

It sounded like one of those names of the "bad boys" from those teen fiction web novels I used to read late at night in high school, after I had tried to educate myself with classics and before I realized that the classics had to find me before I could seek them out. The boys who got their names from articles like "101 Unique Names For Your Baby Boy That You Haven't Heard Yet" and fell in love with nerdy, bullied, beautiful girls with heartbreakingly miserable childhoods and alcoholic fathers. Secretly, I was a little glad it wasn't his real name.

But it didn't matter, because the chances I'd ever see him again were infinitesmal. I shut down the dreamer part of my brain and decided to regroup and compartmentalize. I needed to organize my thoughts before they convinced me to do something stupid.

We arrived at the hotel, a gleaming, 15-story deal with a jaw-dropping view of the city from the top deck, a fully refurbished lobby with 28 crystal chandeliers, and a pool, spa, and relaxation center worthy of many a stressed tenant. At least, that's what the website boasted. The hotel itself was arguably mediocre, not quite unimpressive, but not unlike any other hotel that I'd stayed in before. I was just glad to have a bed and some time to myself, at last.

I payed VinCHENsoh and got out of the cab, making my way across the street and through the revolving doors into the lobby. The 28 crystal chandeliers rested high up in the vaulted ceiling, reflecting my tired expression back down at me.

Once I had checked in at the desk and found my room (420, ha-ha), I rolled my suitcase aside, flung off my backpack, and immediately flopped backwards onto the bed. I stared up at the (wet? Was that water?) ceiling and tried to plan something to do for the rest of the day until I went to my first briefing at 7. If I didn't do something, I would sit there and think, and when I thought, I got dangerous to myself, and that wasn't good. This was a healthy decision. I was "doing me."

So why'd I have to keep telling myself that?

I sighed and flipped over. I got up and walked over to my bag, rifling through until I found the lilac brochure that had been sent to me upon my confirmation that I would be attending the show. It had some quite horrible stock images on the front that I will not deign to describe, followed by a quick intro to the show's premise and then, the section I was looking for.

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