This may or may not be fiction. Ooh— the ‘fiction’ tag is present; I guess it’s fiction.
I don’t even have a smartphone.
Self-conscious to the nth degree, Norman spends most of his time off work at home to stave off impressions. That abnormal fear— to avoid contact with the opposite of sex, and for what? Something that has nothing to do with sex. And no sex.
Every time this man walks out of his place of stay, he must only glance. He must not make eye contact. And, if ever, break it. He must keep his thoughts that apply to this nature in question within his time in the shower—clean and muffled.
Each time Norman picks up the phone, and it’s of a female voice, his voice breaks. And the unease shows, trying to find the words. For each email that happens to be feminine—and not SPAM—he wonders whether he’ll be able to respond at all.
The same to all of those brilliant authors: she’s a she, and he’s a he—what would people think? Becoming deep, lest writing a word—the struggle to not sound like a creep.
Even after actual laughter, or to have found the writing real, ideal, and it “clicked”; it relates. But, how can he relate? He and she, INCOMPATIBLE, in the eyes of the public!
With enough words to drop, once gathering the courage, Norman goes for it. A grunt follows, “What have I done?!” Sweat beading, heart rate increasing, his thoughts megaphone. Please understand my intent! Asexual!! Face-Value!!!
As the day passes with no response, he calms. Oh, well— or Good, he thinks. Just a drop in the bucket, just one little comment to ignore.
All of the sudden, he receives a message…from her. Virtual heart attack! Oh, no— What did I get into? Why did I do that? Why did I…
His exclamation now aloud, “And what does it say about her, deciding to talk to this ‘dirtbag’? Doesn’t she see how people might look at her, if she— on account of— this seething, wretched, in-the-shadows, aging, decrepit ‘man’!”
And then, as he lets his left hand, partially concealing his eyes, off his face, fingers throbbing in the adrenaline—the excited fear, he sees. He dreads, he reads, his name, and something that merely acknowledges his work. “That’s all?” he says.
Practical thought returning, his worry diminished, he dreads no longer the thought. At least for the moment, or at least until the next time…the next time he decides to “converse” with a female.
Strangely, this woman of an older age would respond to his work without much reciprocity of his own. Norman is still uncomfortable chatting, but nevertheless he does, in short little bursts, if even for nothing but words of kindness.
Just with the people I know, he asserts. “Just the people I know— screw gender.”
Catching sight of details that prove a great distance, he laughs a little, relieved. It was appropriate after all. Nothing could happen.
But still, the thoughts. The age and name would speak and spark a memory, recalling someone he knew from his past. They look nothing alike, he dismisses.
Out of the distance and all of the denial in so long, one small thought leaks through: “what if it were to happen, anyway?” He smashes the thought to pieces. Shut up.
Days would pass. To avoid getting ulcers, what killed Edgar Poe, he would communicate mainly with males and those who’ve yet to reveal any gender at all. That way it would truly be asexual. That way, nothing could be implied. And if it turns out one of the males are gay— so what? Straight but not homophobic, the self-conscious ass does not care.
But then, out of the blue, the little bubble of an icon pops up. A sound plays. This time, it wasn’t in direct response. It would be from someone he knows not.
Who is this? he wonders, looking at the “stupid emoti-gravitas— whatever the hell these things are.”
Some Russian model? (The only exception to his phobia, where there is no chance and therefore neither the attraction nor the fear: supermodels.) “But still, why would she— my crap isn’t worth it.” Or maybe it is? No, never— but I don’t know what she thinks.
After reading a message that asks nothing from him, he blows it off. “I’m busy.”
Something demonic surrounds this woman, Norman thinks, checking out “the model’s” public profile. She can’t know I’m looking, right? Oh, now I really am a creep with that thought. So he spends little time before shutting off his phone. But he finds he is uniquely attracted to her work and personality. He found a connection in the content.
He would be going back for more. And “what a creep” in doing so, he hates himself.
Out of all of the things that catch his eye the next day, the troubles— how badly she’s been treated in life, and not by the government she lives under. Intrigued, and foolish in the moment, his phobia was now on break.
Reading, reflecting, he replies.
And then it hits him. Oh, no. I just… Inhale, groan. Come far enough, he’s now used to this feeling, but not to grips with it. The same-old thoughts start to roll. How will she react?, he wonders.
Finally getting a response from the young woman, the worries come back. He is reluctant to look. So he works around the bubble.
What does she think of me? Will she tell me to go away? (She ought to then.) Despite being thousands of miles away, did she contact the authorities???
And when he gets around to it, the last item in the list, he takes a deep breath, eyes closed. I know— I’ll just say, I was stupid. I’m always stupid. There’s got to be some way to repair the damage I just know I had caused.
Opening his eyes, Norman is amazed. She’s helpful… or trying to be. She has the somewhat common habit of mixing up similar-looking English words. And for getting involved, he recalls from somewhere, “Alas, I am an ass, indeed.”
Some chatting would occur in this corner, however far less than “the genderless.”
Total silence. The worries emerge, now compounded with the worries of the past. Losing his social freedom before, Norman feels he is about to lose it again.
Returning, the bubble already present, he decides to again put it off for as long as possible. No matter the anti-persperant, sweat dripped from his pits, his pores. All of this time, the chatting would interfere with work; yet so involved now, he cannot break free.
He sees a different image—masculine features. It’s a male.
The anxiety declines but does not evaporate. Norman deals with it—something small.
And then, on his computer, the young woman pops up.
The worries turn for the worse, his grip on the mouse released. He could see now his pulse— the pulsating effect in his eyes. Oh, now I— now I know I’ve come off as a creep. I didn’t even think that what I’d…done would— I’ve never—… Stay away, man. STAY AWAY!
Swiftly pulling back his arm, his arm would knock some items over from his desk, and onto the floor. A small knick, and a paper cut, but nothing that would cause him to bleed.
Through the pulsations, he cautiously clicks the buttons on the screen. Through the menu, past the stars, and other “stupid icons,” he gets to the message at hand, with a knicked hand.
He pauses. Everything would come down to this moment. He reads.
Elated, but not too elated—he is reminded of how the English language has suffered under an era of text-messaging. And for getting involved, “Alas, I am an ass, indeed.”
Do you know of any Norms or Normettes out there that need help with basic communication skills (besides me)? Don’t be afraid to drop a word.