I think both Phil and I were pretty eager to model correct behavior through E-Merl in this moment. If we’d done this story ten years earlier, we might’ve made him a little angrier, just for a regrettable moment or two, because hey, that’s human. I’ve had petty moments due to romantic and sexual frustration, and I’m pretty sure Phil has too.

But we’d seen too much of that elsewhere by 2013. I don’t think I’d heard the word “incel” too much at this point, but the sentiment behind it was becoming… rather hard to ignore if you had any ties to nerd culture.

Not that we could make E-Merl just shrug this rejection off. He’s a performer, but not a very convincing one when the subject is his own emotional vulnerability.

I have little to add to Rachel’s accounting of herself here that the story itself won’t get to in a few chapters, except that in a narrow sense, she’s right: E-Merl has needs (right now) that she is not in the right headspace (right now) to fulfill. It’s easy to look at their fates and say they waited too long, but Rachel lying about her misgivings and just giving E-Merl another kiss wouldn’t have been a better choice, in the end. He’d see the lie behind her smile, and it’s pretty clear he wouldn’t interpret it in a way that was kind to himself.