Chapter Fifteen: Don’t Be a Pussy

The rest of the day was very productive. Not that his mom or anybody gave him a thank you for it. All she did was raise her eyebrows and quip, “Finally decided to help out around here, huh?” He didn’t respond. He went to his room, still full of energy, and decided he’d give the whole basement a deep clean.

He vacuumed. He picked up the crumpled fast-food wrappers and sticky cardboard cups and chucked them into the trash. He changed his sheets. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d done that. He wiped away the layer of dust on his bookcase, and the screen of dust coating the windows. The room was much brighter now. He kept going.

He organized his collection of anime DVDs and funko-pop figurines. He realized that Batman was on one side of the shelf and the Joker was all the way on the opposite side, with a myriad of characters outside of the Batman universe in-between. He placed Sailor Moon next to Sailor Jupiter and Invader Zim next to Dib. He arranged them all so they looked nice and neat.

When he was done, he stood back to enjoy his work. Nice. His living space looked somewhat respectable now. He still lived at home with his parents, and that wasn’t ideal, but his room wasn’t a neckbeard cave in the making anymore. The first step was actually asking a girl out, but if he was successful, he’d probably want to bring her back here at some point. His room should be clean in case that happened sooner than expected.

He stopped, his body stiff, eyes widening, struck suddenly and intensely with how ridiculous he was being. A girl agreeing to come back to his place? What the fuck was wrong with him? He got some new shirts and went for a jog and now he thought he was some kind of ladies man. He’d gone fully delusional. He had to bring himself back down to earth.

With his good mood falling away, all of his energy and enthusiasm melting, he made his way upstairs for a shower. He took far longer than he usually did. He stood under the hot stream, scrubbing at the small thatch of curly hair remaining, for the better part of an hour. Pausing a number of times to look down at his scrawny body in dismay, he felt those weak threads of hope he’d woven fray, loosen, and come apart. His gut was heavy, a ball of metal thunking through his innards, when he did finally exit the shower.

If he asked a girl out, all that would happen was he’d humiliate himself. He didn’t know how to do it and he’d have to get himself all mentally worked up to do it, and then all that build-up would be for a rejection. He’d be deflated. He’d drip into himself and form a puddle, a puddle of a useless sad-sack that was supposed to be a man.

In seventh-grade, he’d tried to jump from the high diving board at the pool where his mom made him and Chuck take swimming lessons. Everyone else in the otter group had jumped with ease. Otter was the highest level. Adam was a strong swimmer. The other boys had sprung, hopped, and cannon-balled from the high cliff of bouncy plastic. The teacher and the lifeguard had shouted at them to jump the way they’d been taught, no cannon-balls, no flipping, but they kept on hurtling recklessly off the board, screaming with glee as their twisting bodies dropped through the air, smacked into the surface of blue, breaking it apart. None of them had any fear. Only Adam was afraid to jump.

It had taken him ages to talk himself into climbing the ladder, and another tortuously drawn-out moment of inner anguish to inch out to the edge. Then, with the knowledge that all eyes were on him, he coaxed himself into standing. The board felt flimsy beneath his feet. He imagined he felt it move, although that must have been his mind playing tricks. He stared down at the water. Don’t be a pussy. Don’t be a pussy. And every second he spent talking himself into just-fucking-doing-it-already was like a vice on his brain. He felt his courage squeezed.

And in the end, the decision was made in a fraction of a second. Because if he didn’t stop thinking and jump, he’d remain stuck in that horrible moment of fighting uselessly against fear that. The only option was to jump. If he didn’t, he’d have to climb down the ladder, with all of the other boys watching. That descent would be bad enough, but it wouldn’t end there. He was the last one left, and if he didn’t jump he would be the only one who hadn’t. That was the sort of thing that stuck to a kid. An event as sticky as a nickname, as unshakable as vomiting in the cafeteria (like Mike Roden had in third grade), as reputation-shattering as getting a boner from the vibrating back seat of the school-bus, the row over the wheels that Adam had learned not to ever sit on, but poor Eric McMaynard hadn’t. This was like that. But only if he didn’t jump. If he did jump, he would make it through. If he didn’t, he’d forever be a pussy. A faggot.

Pussy. Faggot. Pussy. Faggot. Shit-for-brains, scared of a little water, faggot.

He shut his eyes and jumped.

The fall was awful. He forget everything that the teacher had told them. His arms flailed, and with his eyes shut he had no idea of what to expect.

The force of the water was cutting. Sharp like he’d never thought fluid could be. Prickles like needlework danced over his skin, and the burn continued even as he descended below the surface of the water.

Twisting about, he kicked for the surface. Accomplishment and victory made him strong. His heat buoyed. He’d done it. It was over.

Adam remembered that moment. That fear. He had to ask a girl out like that. Just do it, because eleven years later, he still didn’t want to be a pussy. He still didn’t want to be a faggot.

Except….when he’d jumped from the high dive, he’d swum for the surface with a sense of victory dancing through him. He had accomplished something. It might not be that way this time. If he asked a girl out and she said no, then he’d walk away a loser. All that build-up, anticipation, that horrible place of fighting against his own fear, for nothing. For a no. For a rejection.

If he had to endure that, he didn’t know how he’d put himself back together. Something like that could make him fly apart. On the inside at least, and flying apart on the inside was the worst because no one every knew it was happening, and there was no way to explain it to another person.

His mood soured, he went to reddit.

He was still going to ask Becca out. But he needed the internet to help him figure out how to do it. There was nobody else he trusted to be honest with him.

“I have never asked a girl out before. I am 23 and a virgin. I want to get a girlfriend and change that. There is a girl I like at work who is quiet but cute. I think another guy who is better-looking is already making a move. I want to ask her out anyway and see what happens. What’s the best way to do that? What can I say to make it not weird? Please help me and tell me how to do this. I don’t want to be a loser with no gf forever.”

He posted to r/datingadvice.

Then he sat back and waited for the responses.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s