That image didn’t stick for long when he started opening up to me after a couple of weeks.
I did not expect that he would be so knowledgeable in x-rated literature that he would launch into an extensive lecture about old and outdated fandom tags the moment I asked him what the hell “lemon” was. It was an innocent question that stemmed from a random book recommendation that featured that tag on the site I was looking at but the response was way more in-depth than I initially thought.
“So,” I pressed my hands together and took a deep breath. “You’re saying you’re gay as fuck?”
“No, I’m saying that Stucky should’ve been a real relationship portrayed on the big screen because people write so much smut about them!” Angelo leaned back into his chair, facing away from the work on his desk.
My eyes glazed over his half of the room and I saw no indication of gay pride. No rainbow flags, no cheesy print t-shirts, and no posters of any celebrities. The only thing hanging on his side of the room are posters of Mother Mary and Jesus Christ himself that his parents helped him hang up when he moved in on the first day.
I opened my hands with palms facing upwards and my stare was probably devoid of any life. “Yes, that makes perfect sense.”
He huffed. “It’s good for inspiration too. You never know when it comes and hits you and then you just have to write what you can before that spark disappears.”
I blink. “You write?”
His eyes widened and he began to shrink into his seat. “Yes?”
If he hadn’t blown my mind with his unexpected interest in smut, the revelation that he wrote stories wouldn’t surprise me more.
I gave a stiff nod. “Cool, me too.”
“What really?” His posture was restored to its original state. “What do you write? Fluff? Meet cutes? Romantasy?”
“Oh.” He seemed stunned. “Um…”
I took the silence as an opportunity to lie on my bed and stare at the pansexual flag on my side of the room. “Not into horror?”
“No… It’s always too scary,” he said quietly. “And have you seen horror movies?”
“They’re so icky!”
“And bloody,” I added.
“And disgusting!” He threw his arms up to emphasize his point.
“Right? Isn’t it cool?”
“No! You’re messed up!” His eyebrows then shot up in realization. “Is that why you’re called Boo? Because you’re into horror?”
“No, I had the nickname since I was a baby.”
“Because I was as pale as a ghost when I was born. That’s all.” I looked down at my own hands and took note of how dark I was now. It was hard to believe I was white as a sheet when I was born.
“Well, whatever fits you. Horror is awful.”
“Right, as if smut is any worse than horror.” I raised an eyebrow at my roommate and he was silent. “You think blood is icky? What about that stuff that comes out of who knows where in smut?”
“It’s more disturbing than whatever monster lurks in the closet. At least I can relate to the monster and sympathize with the struggles it's going through.”
Angelo sighed wistfully. “But don’t you believe in true love and spending every single moment being intimate with that person?”
“And eventually being squeezed out of any breathing room and when the spark goes away you have to sit through hours of small talk about how your day has been which eventually leads to a full-out screaming match on why you’re not putting in effort into the relationship anymore? Yeah, I’ve dated before. It’s not all that cracked up to be.” I smoothed out the crease in my forehead with a knuckle.
“No!” Angelo was back to waving his hands wildly. “Like super true love. Soulmates.”
“Soulmates don’t exist, Angelo.”
“It’s nice to imagine at least.”
The conversation came to a natural silence and I pulled out my phone. I scrolled through the apps and my eyes landed on the app where I post my stories on. A frown formed on my lips as I checked the stats of my story and saw it hasn’t moved upward at all. Three thousand and nine hundred reads. Not bad but I’ve been stuck at that number for what felt like an eternity. I was hoping that because the story was finished, it would gain more traction but my hopes were quickly crushed.
“What are you doing now?” Angelo asked. It looked like he went back to doing whatever he was doing earlier but was avoiding it.
“You post there too?”
“Too? Okay, give me your handle. I’m following you.”
He hesitated. “Promise you won’t judge?”
“You insulted the genre I write first. I think it’s fair I get to judge you a little.”
He held out his hand and I stared at it.
“Your phone,” he said. “I’ll make sure you get the right profile.”
I eyed his hand as I handed over the device and he typed into it quickly before handing it back.
I stared at his author page and was assaulted with bright colours and suggestive images as well as a giant number.
“You have five hundred thousand reads?!” I didn’t mean to yell but it came out as one.
“Yeahhh…” A pink tinge spread over his face and he rubbed the back of his arm. “It’s not a big deal.”
“If your book stats were a person, it would crush my book stats by its very existence.”
“And you’re fucking famous.” I pointed at my phone screen. “If I had that support, I would be way more motivated to write than ever. I think I could finish like three books with that pure encouragement. I haven’t been able to get back into writing lately because of this slump.”
I swiped through his profile but then noticed the last time he updated the book. Two months ago. That’s not a very long time but noticeable enough that I would doubt the book would be updated again any time soon.
“Encouragement? It’s more like demands for your very existence to be a slave to your story or trying to tear you down for the fun of it.” Angelo’s voice raised an octave. “How about ‘give me the next chapter now!’ or ‘write this character to be the top’ or ‘how dare you fetishize gay men! I bet you’re a cishet white woman writing this story.’ It’s terrible. I just want to have fun writing again.”
I try and wrap my head around the idea of being so famous that I would receive comments like that but I can't help but feel bad for the guy.
“Then have fun writing.”
“I can’t,” he sighed. “But there’s just so much pressure—”
“Then try writing a different genre,” I suggested. “Like horror. Start a clean slate. Even if you don’t like it, it could get you to understand why you liked writing before.”
His eyes met mine and pursed his lips. “I don’t know.”
“Hell, I’ll do it too. I’ll write—” I looked down to read his story tags. “Smutty gay friends to lovers… oh my god they were roommates? Fairy sex?”
“That one might be too intense for you.” If Angelo was blushing before, he was now red as the university’s signature colour. “How about something more beginner-friendly? I wrote another story that’s more innocent and fluffier.”
I scrolled down and saw a book with a cuter cover. Still too romance-centric for my liking but it definitely captured what the story seemed to be about.
“Sure,” I said. “How hard can writing romance be?”
“Then we have a deal,” Angelo smiled. “You try writing romance and I’ll try writing horror. Once we’re done with our stories, we can show each other and celebrate.”