Darryl was one of the first people Rachel met when she got to UNC-Trinity. She liked him. He was cute. Kind of a dork, but in a way she could appreciate. She’d made some bad choices already by then when it came to men and she was hoping to change her ways, maybe get it right this time.
Darryl didn’t seem to take to her immediately, though. He was more interested in this petite virgin, Michelle, who seemed like the shoe-in for the ingénue-protagoniste of their college saga. But was she interested in him? Nah. Darryl was the kind of guy who found a girl out of his league to be friends with and pine over.
She needed to save him from himself.
It was charity, really.
Rachel told herself she wasn’t going to use it anymore, but she actually had a superpower and her high school fan-club (which had consisted of her gay best friend and her frenemy Susan) assured her that it was the scariest, most powerful and most dangerous superpower there was—even if it was the most subtle and hardest to detect. Rachel had the ability to psychically manipulate other people’s emotions. If you were having a bad day, she could turn on the sunshine and make you infectious with glee. If you were too happy with yourself, she could activate your sadness and drown you in self-doubt.
It was horrible, of course. There had been a learning curve, because she knew she was a horrible person for using it and she had to deal with that, but when she found out the guy Susan had been sleeping with was becoming abusive, she had to do something, right? So she took away her love and her lust and replaced them with anger and a very rational fear.
She wasn’t sure how this power she had worked, or where it had come from or anything, but she conceptualized it as a color wheel of six basic emotions. The primary colors were Love (blue), Hate (red) and Fear (for the yellow-bellies). The secondary colors were trickier, but she figured that Grief (Green) was founded on Love and the Fear of losing it; Lust or Passion (purple) turned Love into a kind of Rage; which left Joy as a combination of Hate and Fear, which only makes sense if you really stretch things (but orange is the color of stupid people, so that makes it okay).
With these six basic emotions, she was able to get people to do pretty much anything she wanted them to do, as long as she activated them at the right times. So making this Darryl kid fall in love with her? Easy..
Not that easy, of course, though. It was a process. She couldn’t get him to fall out of love with Michelle (not that “love” necessarily had anything to do with it) but what she could do was push the Purple more to the Red end of the spectrum when he was around her, maybe sprinkle some Green in any time she went Orange.
It was weird, though, because Darryl still kept hanging out with Michelle, no matter how angry she made him. It was like there was something else compelling him towards her.
So she put herself in play, perhaps a bit sooner than she should have or otherwise would. She put herself in play as an antidote to Darryl’s unrequited feelings for Michelle, and she encouraged him to take her advances seriously.
But she underestimated Darryl. She underestimated what we are forced by the limitations of language to refer to as Darryl’s rational mind. The part of him that longed for Michelle wasn’t just physical or even emotional. She challenged him intellectually on a level few other people ever had, and shared his interests in ways few others could.
When he started to feel an attraction to Rachel, he knew it was irrational. He knew it was his body telling him to want sex, his heart (as it were) longing for amorous attentions, but Rachel couldn’t fulfill the roles that Michelle was taking up. She couldn’t, wasn’t even equipped for it.
So the more Rachel changed Darryl’s heart, the more conflict Darryl felt. He wanted to like Michelle, but he felt some strange irrational anger towards her at the strangest times. Was he really that shallow? He knew she didn’t want him—it didn’t stop him from wanting her, but it allowed him to cope with it. Was he really turning into that crazed, psychotic asshole misogynist taking out his own insecurities on the girl who wants to be his friend?
And then there was Rachel. He could tell she wanted him—he couldn’t imagine why, but he wasn’t blind. He just had to ask himself, How would that work? OK, she wanted to sleep with him, but then what? Did she want to be his girlfriend? Having someone willing to warm his bed did appeal to the baser facets of Darryl’s sensibilities, but no matter how many simulations he ran, he couldn’t make any of these numbers add up to a long-term sustainable connection. So he resisted. No matter what parts of him pumped his gas, he forced himself to stay in neutral around her.
He was sad (green) when she wasn’t around, passionate (purple, never completely blue) when she was, jealous (bright, blinding red) when she was with someone else, happy when she spoke (the orange of the stupid people) and all the while he was desperately frightened (yellow) of himself, of his yellow-bellied cowardice in dealing with the whole situation.
Finally, Rachel asked him “Why don’t you want me?” She was drunk at the time, they were at a thing, and he was drunk, too; when Darryl is drunk, he waxes poetic: “Because I don’t understand you. You’re this huge, terrifying force and there is absolutely no reason why I should want you.”
“So you think I’m fat?” she slurred.
This confused him.
“You do, you think I’m fat! I’m a fat whore manipulizing other people and their—“
“I don’t think I’m fat!”
“Well fuck you, then, because I am fucking fat! I’m fat and I’m horrible person!”
This made him feel worse. She knew because she was upping the Green in his aura. He made a move towards her and for a brief moment, she thought maybe she’d won, maybe this would be it.
But instead of taking her into his arms and smothering her insecurities with kisses and then guiding her to the bed, he just wrapped his arms around her and held her.
“It’s okay,” he told her. “You’ll find someone. There are plenty of reasons to like you, your fire, your personality. Those reasons just aren’t mine.”
It isn’t fair, she thought. Why does he have to be so nice?
But he was right, so she dismantled what she’d done to his aura.
By then, she had more important things to use her powers for anyway.