“That’s one real mess of a day.”
“I know, right,” Adam sighed. “My parents are getting divorced. My face is all messed up.” He gestured to the scratches covering his cheeks and forehead.
“Least you got a cat out of it. I don’t like cats as much as rodents, but they are interesting creatures.”
“Yeah,” Adam muttered, glancing around the cramped living room at the myriad of rodent homes. A cage taller than him with multiple stories housed four pokemon-looking animals. Robby had called them ‘chinchillas.’ Tubes and tunnels traversed the ceiling, held in place with metal pipe clamps. One entire wall of the living room was floor-to-ceiling rodent housing units; hamsters, mice, guinea pigs. A huge wooden hutch on the opposite wall held two small rabbits with ears that lay flat against their heads, and hopping around freely, coming over to sniff at Adam’s scuffed sneakers, was a massive black and white spotted rabbit about twice the size of the asshole cat Adam had left with the vet for observation.
Adam raised an eyebrow, as the rabbit put his paws on Adam’s sneaker and started to nibble at the hem of his jeans.
“Oh, Cow, stop it,” Robby chided. He padded over and scooped the enormous animal up, enveloping him in his arms.
Adam chuckled. “Cow?”
Robby looked down at the rabbit, snuggled into his red sweatshirt, its tiny black nose twitching rapidly. “What? He looks like a cow.”
“Guess so. He’s big too. Are they supposed to be that fat?”
Robby set the rabbit down at the edge of the living room. It hopped into the kitchen, his paws scuffing over the linoleum. “No, he’s on a diet. That’s why I adopted him. My sister’s friend kept posting pictures of him on Facebook. I sent her a message and told her she was feeding him too much. She didn’t like that. I made her angry. She got bored him though. Then Mia-that’s my sister-she asked me if I wanted him. I’ve had him for four months now. Poor rabbit had his food cut in half. He’s probably hungry all that time.”
“Yep,” Robby sighed. “Gotta do it, though. He’s already having health issues.”
Overhead, a hamster scampered through the purple plastic tunnel traversing the ceiling in a diagonal from the doorway into the kitchen to the corner of the room where the TV perched atop a weather-beaten brown desk. Almost all of the color was gone, sun-bleached. Adam wondered if Robby had gotten it from someone’s trash.
Adam glanced back over at Robby, who was now crouched down, digging for something in a plastic drawer tower to the right of the wall of rodent homes. “How do you have time to take care of all these things?”
Finding whatever he was looking for, Robby shut the plastic drawer, something now enclosed in his hand. He blew a stand of hair out of his face and snapped up to his feet. “Time? Oh, I’ve got loads of that. I like doing it too. Aren’t they neat?”
Looking around at all the tiny paws and wriggling noses, Adam found himself nodding. “Yep. They are pretty neat.”
“Working from home makes it easy too,” Robby continued. “There are a few days that I have to be in meetings. Mostly though, they don’t care when I work, long as I get everything done. It would be a lot harder to take care of all my pets if I had to commute and be away from the house nine or ten hours every day.” Robby traipsed over to the sliding patio door that led out onto a small balcony. He flashed a small plastic bag filled with green and brown flakes. “You smoke?”
Adam’s eyes widened, before he burst out laughing.
Robby stared at him. “What?”
“Aw man, you’re an enigma, Robby. Sure, I’ll smoke with you. I’ve only had weed a couple of times though.”
“This stuff is weak. I got ripped off. It wouldn’t get you too high, even if you smoked the whole thing.”
“All right then,” Adam chuckled. “Go off, Robby.”
He followed Robby outside, where they sat in plastic patio chairs and Robby expertly rolled two fat joints.
“Pineapple flavor or mango?”
“Both are good,” Robby said. “Here, try the pineapple.”
They smoked in silence for the next few minutes. The third-story balcony of Robby’s apartment faced the woods. Birds chirped and fluttered from branch to branch. There was a road leading out of the apartment complex that cut a swath through the grass just ahead of the slight incline that preceded the forest. If Adam craned his neck to the right, he could see the busy Nashua road that the apartment was positioned just off of. Adam took a sip of skunk weed and enjoyed the contrast between nature and city.
“Must be nice living here,” Adam said eventually. “You’ve got the busy city right there, but then it’s like you have all this nature to look at too.”
Robby fussed with his hair, blowing out a slow puff of smoke. “Yeah, I like it. My mom didn’t think I could be on my own. I’m fine though. She still comes over to annoy me a lot. Reminds me to pay my rent. I never forget that stuff. She thinks I do, but I don’t know why.”
“Well….thanks for inviting me over. I..” Adam chuckled uncomfortably. “I don’t have a lot of friends.”
“Yep. That’s why you’re messing around on braincels and incelswithouthate.”
“What do you mean?” Adam laughed. “You said you’re an incel too.”
Robby shook his head without looking at Adam. His eyebrows came down low and he stared at the woods, joint poised between his fingers just in front of his lips. “Braincels is the worst. How can you take all that anger?”
“Aren’t you mad? You’re not even ugly like me. I mean, no homo. Thing is, you said yourself, you’re an incel because you’re autistic. That doesn’t piss you off?”
Robby shrugged. “The blackpill isn’t for me. They get some stuff right. Ladies like tall men. It isn’t high IQ to figure that out. Some of the other stuff….it’s all so trad-con. You really want to go back to the 1940s?”
Adam chewed his bottom lip. “I don’t know. I’m not really into politics. I don’t know if I’m conservative or not. Just know I fucking hate my life.”
“The blackpill is conservative when you really dig into it.”
“It’s all really doomer too. I hate all the suicide posts. That was what finally made me unsub from IWH. They’re not as nasty as braincels, but it bugs me to see guys telling other guys to go ahead and kill themselves. It didn’t help me cope. It made me worse. But I will say, some of the advice on IWH got me started getting my life in order.”
“How did you get your life in order?”
“Robby Menning! You go inside with that marijuana. I don’t want to smell that!”
Adam jumped at the sudden sound of shrieking from below them.
Robby sighed and leaned over the balcony railing. Leaning over his own side, Adam realized that one of the second floor balconies was positioned directly below Robby’s. A middle-aged woman with a head full of wiry gray hair and a pair of round bifocals that magnified her eyes, making her look like an angry bug.
“Mrs. Gonzalez, it’s winter,” Robby pleaded. “I know your windows aren’t open.”
“I’m outside enjoying the fresh air!”
“I can’t smoke inside. It bothers the animals.”
“And that’s another thing,” she huffed. “I can smell that farm down here.”
“No, you can’t.”
“Like hell, I can’t! I’m about to report you to the landlord.”
“The office knows exactly how many pets I have. I pay a higher pro-rated rent to have them, and you’re the only one bothered by them.”
“You need to get rid of half of those darned things! And get a job!”
“I have a job.”
“Maybe if you didn’t spend all day playing video games-”
“I don’t own even one video game.”
“Then maybe you’d have a girlfriend.”
Adam pinned his lips together. He wanted to tell the old bitch to shut up and go fuck herself. But he knew it wasn’t his place, and he didn’t want to make problems for Robby with his neighbors.
“Oh, Mrs. Gonzalez, I don’t want to argue with you.” Robby straightened up, snuffed out the joint in the ashtray on the table between them, and then pulled the sliding door open. Mrs. Gonzalez was still squawking as Adam put his own joint out and followed Robby inside.
“What a bitch,” Adam muttered.
“Yep. She is difficult.” Robby stopped at the rabbit hutch and looked in on the animals, clicking his tongue and chattering to them under his breath.
“You really don’t play video games?” Adam asked.
Robby looked up at Adam. “No. Why would I?”
Adam blinked. “I don’t know. They’re fun?”
“Not to me. They’re too violent.”
“I mean, not all video games are violent.”
Robby shrugged. “You’re probably right. I never got into them enough to find out. Mia likes COD. She played Doom a lot when we were kids. I don’t like that stuff. It’s not fun to kill people.”
“It’s not…real,” Adam said, blankly.
“Guess not. Don’t like them though. Mia and I are twins, but we don’t like any of the same stuff. She’s the one who likes video games.”
“Anyway,” Robby said, gesturing to the kitchen table where a Toshiba laptop was plugged in. “The blackpill will mess you up. Can I show you some incel places that aren’t blackpill?”
Adam hesitated. Did he want that?
“Unless you like all that. You’re not a misogynist are you?”
“I don’t think so.”
“I mean,” Adam struggled to put his thoughts into words. “I….a lot has happened lately….I’m angry all the time.”
“Yeah.” Adam scratched the back of his head. “I don’t know what I am. Sometimes I’m fucking pissed at women. Sometimes I want to get my life together. Believe women are good. Try to be happy….”
“Right,” Robby replied. “Let me show you some incel places without any pills.”
Over the course of the next two hours, Adam received an education. Gender-inclusive incel forums. Incel forums where couples had met, gotten married, had children. Incel forums where incels tried to help each other. Incel forums that hated the blackpill. Incels that were anti-tradcon, anti-misogyny. Incels that were regular dudes.
Regular dudes like him.
Maybe his people like us didn’t have to be the edgy guys on .co and braincels.
Driving home, his thoughts spun. Everything tumbled.
What did he want? It felt so good to get his anger out on r/braincels. It felt so good to read other guys rage about women. Especially since the whole thing with Becca. It felt good to give in to the impulse to rage. And all day every day, he had to hear about how oppressed women were, how men were the privileged ones and had no problems. And on r/braincels, on incels.co, there were other men who understood how fucking hard it was for him.
And then, he thought of Robby. Some people would probably think Robby was lame. Call him a wagecuck. Yet, Robby was light-years more happy than he was. Robby had a life that Adam would kill for. He had a good job, his own place, and he was spending his time doing exactly what he wanted. He loved rodents and he spent his free time taking care of them. Robby cared about things. Robby had a passion.
But what was Adam’s passion? If he were going to clean up his life, what would he do?
He had no idea he was going to do it. He had no inkling of a plan. But when he passed by NCC, he saw the flashing sign by the roadside. Register for Spring classes now!
That apartment. That life. That passion.
His heart thumped. He made a u-turn.
The woman in the registration office was incredibly helpful. That’s why he felt so badly when halfway through the paperwork completion, Adam saw something in the program brochure. It hit him like a flash of lightning, sending energy thrumming through him.
“Wait,” Adam said. “I think…I think I might actually want to sign up for a different program.”
The woman raised her eyebrows. “You don’t want to sign up for the culinary program? You sounded so sure.”
“I am-I was, but…see I saw this…” Adam lifted the brochure and pointed to the program description. “There are really classes where you learn to do this? I could get a degree in this?”
“I know it sounds fun. It’s a lot of work though. You have to be good with computers. Do you know how to code?”
“No.” His stomach started to hollow, his mood started to fall, but then, with a burst of gusto he didn’t know he had in him, resolve hardened itself. “No,” he repeated. “But I’m going to learn. This. I want to do this. I’ll do whatever I need to.”
“Okay, let’s change up your paperwork.”
He left the college in a state of awe. He’d done it.
He had signed up for college.
He called Chuck and was thrilled when Chuck picked up.
“What’s going on? You know Dad left right?”
“Is that what you called about?”
“No, I gotta tell you what I did.”
Adam grinned. Joy surged through him as he spoke the words aloud. “I signed up for the spring semester. I signed up to take classes in Game Development and Programming.”
A brief pause. Then a snort, a chuckle, and a reply. “Nice.”
It was nice. So nice. He’d make this life thing work. He’d do it. He could make something of himself for him, even if for no one else.