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[personal profile] octomantra
This is a story about two young guys clashing over the Internet.

About a year after Conqueror of Shamballa came out, I befriended some guy from school. Well, at least I thought I did. Let’s call him J.

Ed hated J.

I met J through yearbook, and for whatever reason, he was interested in talking to me. I was one of the editors, so part of my job was to help J get his spread to match up with design standards. Ed was amused by him at first, making comments such as, “Get a load of this guy” or “Yeah? So what.”

I wanted to be polite even though my impression of J on the first day was that he was a bit of a know-it-all. He actually seemed friendly once we got to know each other a little bit. We both liked anime and video games, so we spent a few slow workshop periods talking about them. His tastes were very different from mine, however.

After about a week, I could sense Ed’s irritation, and he said, “You’re way too nice. You know that?”

I responded, “He’s just a classmate, and we don’t have much in common. He’ll probably get bored and move on as soon as I give him the green light on his work.”

“I wouldn’t count on it.”

I was oblivious to any sort of flirting J did, partly because I was aromantic-asexual but mostly because I was young and inexperienced. Knowing the difference between flirting and “being nice”? Good luck with that, 16-year-old Octi.

I made an off-hand joke about my interest in LJ roleplay. J became curious and said that he wanted to try it out with me. I was shy at the time, so I wasn’t quick to write with someone online, especially with well-known characters such as the Elric Brothers. I had some experience beforehand, but I was never fully comfortable within a community.

Al was on board with the idea, and he said, “Hey, this is kinda cool! It’s like you’re writing an adventure story together with a friend.”

Ed responded, “Yeah, but we’re not going to be talking to another soulbond. It’s all the same person, and he’s going to be talking to us. Not her.”

“He doesn’t need to know that.”

“That’s not the point.”

So I created a basic plot, I taught J the basics of play-by-post roleplaying and storytelling, and we got started. I actually had a great time for the first several months, most likely because I was in charge of coming up with plots and because J was on his best behavior and eager to follow along. Al really got into it, and he pointed out that J’s writing was improving after I had given him some tips, which…not gonna lie…stoked my ego just a tiny bit.

Ed calmed a little…not enough to like the guy but enough to inspire me and allow me to gain an even greater understanding of his character and background. I think that was the only reason that Ed went along with the idea. I wanted to gather as much “headcanon” as possible, and I really got to know him and Alphonse as people instead of imaginary friends. The experience of watching CoS merely kicked that off.

As time went on, J’s behavior changed.

It started with some bigoted comments about his Muslim neighbors, and it all went downhill from there. When we weren’t roleplaying, he rambled endlessly about boring topics, and at some point, he was ballsy (or perhaps stupid) enough to make a misogynistic comment right in front of me. I brought it up with him, and he shrugged it off, saying, “Well…you’re not like other girls.” Ah, one of the oldest tricks in the book. He was also using religion as an excuse to be judgmental, which lead to Ed giving him several side-eyed looks.

Ed said, “Are you bored of this guy yet?”

“Yeah, he’s gotten to be a bit of a prick. I thought it was you influencing that, to be honest.”

“Why? He keeps jerking you around and talking about nothing. I’d rather have a pitchfork in my brain than listen to him bitch and moan about work he should be doing instead of wasting your time. And my time.”

Towards the end, J very quickly turned into a douchebag, making passive-aggressive remarks on my personality and the way I was responding to him. I was taking several AP courses, and I had a part-time job at a day-care. Naturally, I was tired all the time. He did neither one of those things. I tend to be overly polite and accommodating when I’m unfamiliar with someone, and eventually, those formalities peel away. J wanted the public persona I had on in the beginning, and he was no longer getting it from me. From my side, I felt like he was starting to take up too much of my day, which wouldn’t be so bad if he was a nicer person and a better conversationalist.

I looked back on recent RP threads, and I noticed that Ed’s dislike of J was evident in my writing style and some of the responses I chose. To clarify, my experience more closely resembled channeling than actual roleplaying, simply because it was the natural response for me at the time. Ed was, in a sense, standing right there.

“Why do you like this character?” J asked me. “He’s kind of an asshole.”

Ed muttered, “Yeah, the feeling’s mutual, pal.”

One night, he made an unfunny, insensitive joke about Nina that I’m not going to re-tell on here, and that earned him a permanent place on Ed’s blacklist. I wouldn’t be surprised if Al disliked him for that, too, though he didn’t vocalize it. Even if you don’t believe in soulbonds, tulpas, or living characters, the joke was extremely malicious and it came out of nowhere. This is a little girl we’re talking about, here. A “fictional” little girl in J's mind, sure, but why on earth would you even be thinking that way about her?

In response, the next day I made up a lie and told him that I had a series of after-school AP-prep sessions I had to attend. I lucked out with the timing, as the exams were only a few weeks away, so it was an easy dodge. It gave me some time to re-evaluate things and get Ed to calm down.

“I don’t want to talk to him,” Ed said. “I didn’t like him the second he opened his goddamn mouth. YOU of all people should not be talking to him.”

A few days passed, and J wanted to get back in touch with me. Typically he called the house when he was ready to continue the current RP thread.

As soon as the phone rang, Ed said, “Oh. Great. It’s that asshat again.”

I got online with J, read over the last post, and I asked Ed what he would do in this situation.

Silence.

The few times I tried to get a verbal response from him, he pretended he couldn’t hear me, and he made exaggerated gestures signifying boredom, such as idly looking at his automail hand, fixing his ponytail, staring out of my bedroom window, etc. All I got from him was a blazing, white-hot hate towards the RP thread I had displayed on the screen. The classic silent treatment.

I knew Ed well enough to roleplay as him on my own, so it was not like I needed him to be cooperative, but a combination of Ed’s anger, my own dislike of J, and mental exhaustion made me very unwilling to write. So I called it a day with J, and I looked over at Ed.

Immediately he brightened up and said, “Oh, hey. How’s it going? Wasn’t there a film you wanted to watch later on?”

I smiled at him. “You little shit.”

“Very funny. I’m older and taller than you, y’know.” He said this in good humor despite the jab at his height, and I'm pretty sure that we did watch a movie later that night. I can't remember which one.

About a week passed, and I realized just how much I had missed my free time. The next time J called, the very first thing he said to me was this: “Hey…I don’t think we should be dating anymore.”

Pause. “Is that so?”

He then went onto a long speech that was clearly rehearsed, pointing out my flaws: I wasn’t a church-going girl, I swore too much, my taste in storytelling was too “dark and disturbing” (funny…he wanted more blood, guts, and violence in the RP than I thought was necessary), and I wasn’t a Republican. He then did a 180 and said, “But you’re really a nice girl, so it’s not you. It’s me.” It was like he flipped through a mad-lib magazine, found a page that was “break-up” themed, and filled it out before he called me up.

Another pause…and then I said, “I didn’t know that we were dating.”

“…what?”

And Ed was laughing so hard at him.

I then told J that just because we were opposite gender and hanging out does not mean that we’re dating…and I don’t recall ever getting a memo that the status of the relationship had changed. In short, grow a set and learn to communicate.

I felt bad (and stupid) that I went along with the whole thing for so long, so I was about to apologize to Ed, but he immediately cut it off and said with a heavy sense of finality, “He was a bastard and he treated you like shit, so good riddance.”

Couldn’t argue with that.

And that was the end of it. A few months later, I heard through the grapevine that supposedly the actual reason that J “broke up” with me was because his dad found out that he was being irresponsible and not finishing his homework, so he told him that he couldn’t have his “girlfriend” anymore. At that point, I didn’t care about whether that was true or not, and I’m not one to listen to rumors. I even told the person who relayed that information to me that I didn’t care, though I was probably too mild about it to get it through to their skull. That said, I would not be surprised if that was the truth, and I found the idea to be quite hilarious.

I made the mistake of telling a few air-headed female classmates what happened (without telling them about the soulbonds, of course), thinking it would make a funny story, but apparently they missed the entire point.

“Oh, you poor thing!” one of them said. "Your heart is broken!”

I blinked at them. “Um…we weren’t dating…and I wasn’t attracted to him. He just assumed that we were dating because he was an idi—”

“There are plenty of opportunities for love.”

“…alrighty then.”

And it was weird, because I remember my mom getting all panicky thinking that I was actually going to go over to J's house and sleep with him, and that, of course, didn't happen. She even gave me The Talk, but I was already sixteen and had known the mechanics of sex for a long time by then. She gave me that nauseating, pitying look when I told her that I understood the process...but that I had zero interest in dating anybody, let alone sleeping with them. I think the only person who knew better was my dad, because he told her that there was a snowball's chance in Hell that I would want J as a boyfriend. He was 100% correct in that department.

I just wanted a roleplay partner, man. Was that too much to ask? Apparently so, but it's funny to Ed and I, now. We were such kids back then.
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