“Forward. Movement. Motion. Pause. Rising. Accelerating. Stall. Forward. Movement. Motion. Pause. Climbing. Trying. Dying. Fall.”
He considered the words on the page, the words he’d put there. They meant something. He felt something when he read them back to himself. But….no….this was trash. And crumpling the paper, that’s exactly where he put his weak attempt at a poem.
Snatching his computer from the end of the bed, he made his way to the front of the house. As he crossed through the living room, a deep, nasally snoring alerted him to a rumpled form on the couch. A maroon fleece blanket draped across a small body. A prematurely balding head peeked out from beneath the corner. Bobby. Mark’s boyfriend. Adam had heard them arguing on the other side of the wall late last night. Mark suspected Bobby had slept with a mutual friend of theirs. Bobby had argued back that Mark was imagining things; he was only feeling insecure because he didn’t take care of his body. They’d kept at it until Chuck banged on the wall with a closed fist and told them to shut the fuck up and go to sleep. Looked like they had, albeit separately. Adam pulled his phone from his pocket. Nine-thirty in the morning and everybody else in the house was still sleeping.
Laptop in hand, he walked over to the front door and stepped out onto the porch. It was chilly, a crisp January morning, but not freezing cold. The temperature had risen considerably since yesterday. It was probably nearing fifty degrees.
The porch was small, a narrow slice of wood just big enough for the tattered beach chairs that Chuck had salvaged from their parents’ garage. Adam shimmied between the mottled wood railing and the chair. He plopped down and put his feet up on the railing. He had his first class today at noon. An elective credit that he was only taking because he had to take twelve credits to be eligible for financial aid. That was four classes. Two were in his major: Intro to Game Design and 3d Modeling 101. Then he had a bullshit nothing class that was supposed to teach him all about how to be a college student. Chuck had warned about him about this one. Apparently the class just taught you how to find the registrar’s office and not rape people. Half the class was how to navigate the logistics of life as a college student; the other half of it was affirmative consent. Joy.
But he didn’t have to worry about that class until next week. Today he had his elective: Poetry 101. Adam didn’t know shit about poetry. He’d mentioned it to that female, CallofBeauty. Somehow he’d gotten to talking to her last night. She was….she was okay. She loved poetry and she’d given him some advice. “Just sit down and write whatever comes into your head. You can make it sound good after. The key is to capture all your feelings.”
Stupid advice. The “poem” he’d written was a string of random sentences. He didn’t even know why he’d written them down.
He opened up his laptop and signed on to the forum. He had a couple of hours to kill before he could leave for class. He was actually feeling kind of excited about it. He had his backpack all ready with his textbooks, notebooks, and pens. He was planning to get to school nice and early. This was going to be good. A new step in life. Maybe he finally had some direction….He was also starting to feel the creeping ghost of nervousness winding its way up his sinews. Distraction. He needed distraction.
Opening up his inbox, he smiled. A new message from CallofBeauty. An icy gust of wind rattled the bare branches that lined the street. It bit into his cheeks. He tugged down the sleeves of his hoodie and read her words.
“Thought I’d say good luck. Since you start classes today and all. I hope your write poems that aren’t too cringe and I hope you like all your classes and make friends…..and you know, if you want to, meet girls.”
He fired off a quick reply.
“Thanks. Maybe I’ll show you one of my poems after I write a decent one. I put some words down on paper, but it was a mess. Not a poem. I have three classes today and one Monday. Be at the school until eight at night. It’s cool though, because it means I only have one short class on Monday, and I can spend the rest of the day doing whatever homework. Hey, I never asked you, are you a college student? Thanks for thinking of me. It’s been fun talking to you. Too bad you probably live on the other side of the world. You might actually be a female I could connect with. Not that you’d want anything to do with me if you knew what I looked like….fun to think maybe this would be something, if we ever met.”
He knew it was weird to be so direct. He knew it was weird to tell a stranger online he was thinking of her that way, and after only a couple of conversations. She’d opened the door though. Hadn’t she? When she’d said “I’d appreciate you.” Well if she could be weird, then he could be weird. And he wasn’t going to feel bad about it. He was sticking with his new resolution to give way less shits. He wasn’t going to let life phase him anymore. He wasn’t going to let his own idiotic decisions phase him anymore. If he fucked up, he fucked up, and that was that.
There were a bunch of new forum posts. That was always something. Such a low traffic forum, it only got a few new posts a week. This morning there were six new threads going. Grateful to have something to take his mind off everything-his upcoming classes and the autistic message he’d just sent-he started reading.
Why do all you male incels like to pretend women have it so easy?
It looked like every femcel on the forum had jumped on this thread. All….seven (?) of them. He spotted the icons of all the regulars. The femcels all held varying degrees of the same opinion-that there was no point looking for love for ugly women.
“Men hate ugly women. If I were to ever date a man, he’d hate me and secretly want a hot Barbie doll.”
That rankled him a little. He’d settle for an ugly woman. Well….ugly, maybe not fat. Then again…..he didn’t know, maybe fat too. Right now he wasn’t getting fucked and he didn’t have any female company. If all he could get was a fat chick, probably he’d take it. At least then he’d have the female company portion of that. Getting his dick hard would be an issue. Fat chicks could suck dick though. And no, he wouldn’t be an asshole to her like the femcels were saying. Like he’d ever be mean to any woman willing to do that. No, they were wrong. He’d make the best of any relationship he was able to get into. Whoever would have him, he’d take. He wasn’t a volcel. Wasn’t a standardcel.
The guys on the site all told them as much. “Fuck you and your whining. You’re like a billionaire on a private yacht, sailing past a starving third-world country, complaining that you’re peckish. Stop lying. You have a whole pantry full of food you can eat whenever you want. But that’s women. Always have to play the victim. Always have to pretend you have it so hard.”
Some of the femcels admitted male incels had it harder. Some argued that they didn’t.
A female regular, a woman Adam had seen around the forum quite a bit, chimed in and agreed that men were all about looks, so there was no point in trying to fall in love with them. For a second, Adam felt bad for her. He knew she was on the older side, in her forties, and she had one kid. She really was a living example of the difference between femcels and incels. Still, tough not to feel bad for her. From some of the stories she’d told, it sounded like the men she’d dated had really put her through the ringer. Then he kept reading, saw another icon he recognized.
CallofBeauty: Don’t give up hope. There are lots of great men out in the world. That being said, I’m sorry you’ve been so hurt.
HappyYogiShorty: What an idiotic thing to say lmao keep your feel good opinions to yourself. The fuck are you here for?
It wasn’t so much the words. Because Adam had felt very much the same the first time CallofBeauty had left him one of her “inspirational” comments. Chick really needed to learn to read the room. Still….HappyYogiShorty’s response was….a bit much. Not because she didn’t have a point, but because HappyYogiShorty was nice to everybody. Not just nice. Sugary sweet. Adam had never seen HappyYogiShorty bite someone’s head off like that. Not even the dudes who came from the more extreme forums and lost their shit on her, after figuring out the place was co-ed. Even then, she brushed it off and moved on. So why was she pulling out her fangs for CallofBeauty?
Adam chuckled aloud, reading the response from CallofBeauty. It looked like she had some fangs too.
“@HappyYogiShorty It’s a little weird the way you interact with me. All I’ve tried to do is be nice to you. I’ve seen you say you’re such a nice person. You aren’t nice to me, and I think I know why that is. But you can go ahead and back off. I’m not interested in playing out this awful female stereotype with you.“
Clicking back over to his inbox, he sent CallofBeauty another message.
“Don’t let her bother you. She’s lonely. People are assholes when they’re lonely. Besides, if you really want to cheer someone up, cheer me up. I’m ready to be cheered up.”
He was about to log off and close his laptop, when a green circle popped up beside CallofBeauty’s picture. She was online.
He waited. If his first message to her really had been awkward, he was about to find out.
Steadying his breath, he watched the cars round the Milford circle. Traffic was light for this time of day. Across the circle-through the island of sparse plants ringed with iron-wrought benches and complete with a whitewashed gazebo in the center-the diner with the red tin roof was doing a decent amount of business. The wide glass windows revealed a counter filled end to end with contractors and college students. A line cook salted the sidewalk out front and a waitress inside moved from counter to table filling mugs with coffee. A high-pitched ding alerted Adam that CallofBeauty had responded.
“I want to cheer you up.”
She was still typing. He waited.
“I live in New Hampshire. What kind of distance are we talking?”
His breath caught in his throat. Blood rushed to bloom in blazing cheeks.
With shaking fingers, he replied to her. “What about that guy you joined this forum for? The guy you like? You just gave up on him?”
Her answer came like lightning. “I think that guy is you…..Hello, Adam.”