(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The narrator comes to Harvard University from New York City to present two academic seminars in immunology. After her first presentation, she is taken to an Italian restaurant by young faculty members and graduate students. When she leaves, a graduate student named Eric gives her a ride, puts his hand on her knee, and asks her if she wants his company for the night. Stirred by his hand on her leg and his sweet and disarming manner, she accepts the proposal and takes him to her hotel room. Although she neither expects nor wants any real romance, his direct style disappoints her a little. However, after he turns the light off and they make love on the moonlit bed, she concedes that he excels at the enterprise.

Afterward, as they make small talk, the narrator realizes that Eric wants her to see him as a caring, sensitive person—what he believes to be the feminist ideal in men. Her realization that they are jumping so far ahead in their relationship, skipping the customary “first-night trappings,” irritates her, but she decides that casual encounters do not warrant much scrutiny. As Eric drives her to the Harvard campus the next morning, they seize on the beautiful day to saunter around the Boston Public Gardens. When they behave a bit passionately in public, three young boys urge them on and the flustered Eric chases them off. His overreaction annoys the narrator, who again senses they are becoming more deeply involved with each other than she wishes.

The narrator’s second seminar goes so well—partly because she enjoys...

(The entire section is 633 words.)