He didn’t get home until one in the morning. He usually got home at eleven-thirty. He didn’t know why he let people walk all over him. He should have told her to find her own way home. He’d done all that driving for nothing. It wasn’t like he and Emily had made some great new connection. They probably never would.
Adam parked under the blue tent next to the house that served as his car-park and then trudged up the brick walkway to the door. He wasn’t surprised to see the glow of the flickering light in the front window. His dad was up late watching TV again. He’d been on a weird schedule ever since losing his job four months back.
“Hey, Dad,” he muttered, closing the front door behind him.
His dad looked over the back of the couch, peering into the dark entryway to wave at Adam.
“How was work?”
“Same as ever.”
And with that, he hustled into the kitchen to make his dinner. He’d never had a lot in common with his dad. Their conversations were usually on the shorter side. His dad was one of those guys who told jokes that weren’t funny, but then got mad if people didn’t laugh. He was the type of guy who’d answer, “I didn’t find the bag of hundreds,” with a shit-eating smile, each and every time a cashier asked him if he found everything alright. His dad was okay, just generally speaking, not his kind of person. He never had been, even when Adam was a kid. Not that he liked his mom any better. He’d always felt like an intruder in his own family. Chuck was the only one he had any sort of connection with, and that was flimsy at best.
Plate of hot pockets and frozen french fries nuked by the microwave in hand, and Adam was heading down to his basement bedroom. Being the oldest had its perks. He had his own space, completely separate from the rest of the family. Before moving down here, he’d had a small bedroom upstairs, and Chuck and their youngest brother, Chris, had shared a larger bedroom next door. Those two had fought all the time and woken him up in the middle of the morning when he was still sleeping. And Chris with his trumpet. Kid had insisted on joining his high school marching band. He was about to start his Senior year and he’d been practicing on that cursed instrument all summer. Adam had spent the last two years wanting to throw the stupid thing out the window. Of all the hobbies in the world, why pick trumpet-playing? Adam had always had more in common with Chuck, even if they weren’t super best buds. Chuck was a WOW and just general MMO kind of guy. That was a hobby Adam could get on-board with. Compared his two older brothers, Chris was such a normie.
Adam descended the stairs, coming into the finished basement area that now served as his bedroom. A couch and the family’s old television set served as the living room. Beyond that, there was an alcove with a fireplace, a rocking chair. A half-wall partition to the right of the fireplace separated the portion of the space that was Adam’s bedroom. There were three other rooms in the basement, but those were the unfinished portions, where they kept the washer and dryer and stacked the cases of water from CostCo.
Adam’s mom had been the one to insist on getting the basement finished. She’d had this idea to rent out the basement space. Adam didn’t know what had ever come of that. It was like they’d both stopped talking about it one day. Although, the family was still in debt from the basement remodel. Adam knew that. Because it was one of the first things Mom had brought up the day after Dad lost his job.
Setting his plate down on the end of the desk, Adam fired up the computer, an old Mac from 2012, and plunked down in the stained rolling chair with a sigh. He’d really thrown his night off driving Emily home. He was too nice sometimes. Always giving in and doing favors for other people when he didn’t really want to. Emily probably knew he liked her. That was why she’d asked. She hadn’t even offered to pay for gas. Women always felt like they were entitled to everything.
He spent the next ten minutes scrolling through his reddit feed and munching from his plate of soggy fries and hot pockets. He should start eating better. His acne was flaring up again, and it wasn’t doing him any favors. Maybe he wouldn’t ask out Emily. He wanted to ask out somebody though. It was a desire that came and went, but lately that desire had been getting stronger and stronger. Maybe it was because he was turning twenty-three in a week and it was suddenly dawning on him that time might be running out on him. He hadn’t had a girlfriend since high school. His job sucked. He didn’t know where he was going or what he was doing. More than anything, he was lonely, and nobody would want him with zits shining on his face.
He read a few stories of entitled karens. He popped over to r/nostalgia and laughed a few old video game memes he’d forgotten. He jumped onto his favorite reddit knockoff ‘saidit.’ He’d never liked Voat. That place could be a little like the wild west. He watched a few funny ‘rekt feminists’ videos and then decided to turn it in for the night.
He changed into his boxers and clean t-shirt, shut off the lights, and then set his laptop at the end of the bed. He could never just fall asleep. He always propped his laptop up on a pillow by his feet and put an anime on, usually one he’d seen a thousand times before. He decided on My Bride is a Mermaid. He lay his head on his pillow and shut his eyes. He drifted off, listening to the voices of the characters he knew so well.
Above his head, he heard the steps of his father padding from the couch to the bathroom. Poor old dude didn’t know what to do with himself now that he didn’t have a job. Adam could relate, even if the two of them would never talk about it. He did have a job, but he hated it, and he didn’t know what else to do with himself. His life kept moving, time kept surging forward, and he didn’t know how to lift his feet and keep up.
To be continued…