It was a hot morning, the kind that caused imaginary puddles to form on the roads and waves of heat to distort air. Various insects vocalized their displeasure as people walked across the dying grass outside. Most people would not normally be up and out so early, but with the new semester came new students, many of which were getting an early start on moving their belongings into the apartments on campus.
Oliver Heathcliff was not one of these students.
He let out a soft growl when he heard someone thumping around in the living room. His head pounded with each loud thump and his body trembled in disdain. He forced his tired eyes open and found the clock on the nightstand beside his bed.
Who was even up this early voluntarily, he wondered. There were no classes during the small summer break between the summer and fall semester-
Oh, right. Probably his new roommate. His other one had moved in with his friends, so a new one had to move in.
He rolled over and covered his head with his other pillow, but it hardly helped. He could hear voices through his door, people going in and out, the thumping of items behind moved in. Try as he might, there was no way he would be able to go back to sleep.
Oliver threw the blankets off and sat up. He knew he'd just lie there and fume if he stayed, so might as well get up. He stumbled away from the bed and found a pair of crumpled jeans and a wrinkled shirt on the floor. After checking for any questionable stains and finding none, he deemed them fit and put them on.
He opened his door and checked the living room. The door was wide-open, letting in warm summer air as people walked in and out. There were two older adults, a man and a woman, and a younger woman wearing a sundress. The family all had dark skin, but the mother's hair was a dark brown, rather than black like the father and daughter. The mother's hair was shoulder length and straight, the father's was very short and curly, and the daughter's was long and pulled back in a ponytail made of numerous small braids.
Well, he assumed they were family, anyway. Seemed logical that family would help move the son in.
He scoffed and stepped over to his vanity area. He brushed his curly blonde hair, brushed his teeth, and washed his face. Once he was finished he headed into the kitchen, hardly greeting the people moving through the apartment, and made himself a cup of coffee.
Coffee was the only thing that stood between him and murdering the shit out of other people. How had civilization even functioned before coffee? It barely had, obviously. The sudden advance in technology was clearly the result of coffee. Obviously.
He leaned against the counter as he drank, just watching the group move things in and chat with one another. The bitter drink was hot as it poured into his mouth and down his throat, but he hardly noticed. He'd gotten used to drinking it at such temperatures.
None of them tried to talk to him, thankfully. It was really for the best. He would have probably said something shitty. Eventually, they finished dragging things in and all left, probably to go get books and whatever else.
Oliver sighed and decided it was time for some television before meeting his two best friends, Hyun and Austin, for lunch at some little diner just off campus. He took a seat on the couch and flipped the TV on.
Ah yeah, fuckin' Kitchen Nightmares reruns. Nothing was better than watching Gordon Ramsey scream at a bunch of fools.
As the episode ended he heard someone walk in. He glanced at the door and saw the younger woman come back inside, a bag of books in hand. She was wearing a floral halter-top dress that hung to her knees. She smiled hesitantly at him and he gave her a nod before she walked into the second bedroom.
Where the fuck was his roommate?
She reappeared again a few minutes later and went into the kitchen. There were bags on the counter that she began putting away the contents of and Oliver watched a few moments before deciding to speak up, "Where's your brother?"
She stiffened and stood up straight, looking at him skeptically.
"What?" He quirked an eyebrow. Had he said something wrong?
"…I don't have a brother."
Oliver was stunned by her voice. It was too deep to be a female's. He suddenly realized that this wasn't a girl. Her chest was completely flat and her chin was rather large. "Dude, why are you in a dress?"
The other boy sighed and crossed his arms over his chest, "Because I like dresses."
Weeeeiiiirrrd. "Why? That's for chicks."
"I am a chick." He protested.
"Er, no. Pretty sure you're a guy." Definitely male.
He sighed, "I'm transgender."
Oliver scrunched his nose, "You're a tranny?"
"Don't use that word, it's offensive. Transgender means I was born in a boy's body, but I'm a girl."
Oliver stared at him for several seconds, trying to process the new information, "So… You want to be a girl?"
"No, I am a girl."
"Then why'd they put you in a boy's apartment?"
"Because they're dumb."
"Wait, does this mean you're gay?" That made more sense. Some gay men wanted to be chicks, right?
"No, I'm straight. I'm a girl who likes men."
Right, gay then. "Alright, well, anyway. I'm Oliver Heathcliff."
Oliver scoffed, "What's your real name?"
"That is my real name."
"I hardly think your parents gave you a girl's name if you were born a boy."
"Fine!" He yelled, "It's Cody! God, I can't fucking believe how shitty this is!" He stormed out of the kitchen, tears in his brown eyes, and stomped into his room. The door slammed a moment later, making the apartment tremble.
"What a dick." Oliver muttered, shaking his head. He finished his coffee and took the cup to the sink before heading out.
The diner was nearly empty save for the three of them. They sat at a booth in the corner and chatted rather loudly. Oliver wasn't quite as energetic as the other two; he preferred to just hang out and joke and laugh, rather than rough-house.
Hyun was a Korean man with very short black hair and an average build. He was easily the most rambunctious member of their little trio and, in all honestly, Oliver found him rather overbearing at times. He didn't fit the Asian stereotype at all. He liked to party and get drunk and get high. It was a miracle he was passing anything, especially math. It was amazing he even knew how many fucking fingers he had. Hyun was completely into men and seemed much more keen on having sex than forming a relationship, though he'd had quite a few in his three years here.
Austin was Native American with a much more muscular build. His long black hair was kept in a neat braid and he tended to be a kind, soft-spoken man. He was much more rowdy around friends though. He was very much into spiritual things and mysticism, but was never pushy about his beliefs. He was incredibly smart too, so much so that Oliver was about ninety-percent sure Austin was doing Hyun's work for him. That was the only explanation. Austin identified as "pansexual," whatever that meant. Sounded like a made-up word.
Speaking of made-up words…
"So, my roommate thinks he's a chick." Oliver spoke up, playing with his fries, "Said he's a tranny or something."
"Dude, that's fuckin' weird." Hyun scoffed, "Does he wear dresses and make-up and shit?"
"Whaaaat? Even I'm not that gay."
Austin scoffed at them, "You guys are being really rude."
"How?!" Hyun gave the other an offended look.
"If she says she's a girl, then she's a girl. Transgender means she was born in the wrong body. It's not some weird, freak-thing, it happens."
"Sounds like something to get attention to me." Hyun commented.
"Well, it's not." Austin glared, "That's like people saying you're gay just for the attention. It's not even rude, it's just downright cruel."
"No one's gay just for attention, that's ridiculous."
"No one's trans just for attention either! That's completely absurd!"
Austin rolled his eyes and shook his head, "You two are so ignorant, I swear."
"I just don't get why a guy would want to be a girl." Oliver finally spoke up again.
"She doesn't want to be, she is. There's a difference."
"But she has a penis."
"That doesn't matter! It's what's inside that matters!"
"I'm sorry, I just really don't get it."
Austin sighed heavily and shook his head, "Fine, whatever. Just please don't misgender her, that's really fucking shitty."
"Misgender?" Great, more made-up words.
"Use female pronouns and her chosen name, not the name her parents gave her."
"Yeah, I'll try, I guess."
"Don't try, do."
"Okay! Jeez! I came here to hang out not get lectured!"
"Well I'm gonna lecture you if you're being dumb!"
"Can we stop?" Hyun spoke up, "I don't wanna argue anymore. I wanna talk about hot freshmen."
"Yes, gladly." Oliver nodded, "Picked anyone yet?"
"Aw, yeah. Got like five numbers already. This'll be a great year."
Austin shook his head, "You two are hopeless…"
The conversation devolved into Hyun describing in detail everything he wanted to do to some goth kid he'd seen wandering around campus. Oliver listened, of course, but found he couldn't really relate to what his friend was talking about.
He'd never been able to relate to such things.
Something was wrong with him. He'd been messed up for a long, long time. He didn't talk about it or like to think about it, but sometimes the awareness kept him up at night. He found that, unlike Hyun, he had absolutely no drive to have sex with anyone. He frequently made-up stories about people he'd slept with just to keep up appearances, but the truth was he was a virgin and might end up stuck that way for a long, long time.
What if he ended up completely alone?
It was a fear that ate at him. He'd had his share of relationships, but they always went south when he displayed little interest in his partner's body. He'd tried faking it, of course, but that only worked outside of the bedroom. It wasn't like he could make himself hard on command, so if he wasn't feeling it, it wasn't happening.
It sucked. He hated not having a libido. It made him feel like less than a man. How could he prove his worth if he didn't have a long list of sexual conquests, like Hyun? How could he ever make his father proud if he couldn't even father kids?
Psh, not like that wasn't already a problem though. Despite not being sexually attracted to anyone, he was well aware that he liked men. He'd had crushes on plenty. Couldn't tell dad that though, oh no, he'd be cut off for sure.
He couldn't tell anyone anything about himself, it felt like. He just bottled everything up and never talked about what was really going on inside his head. The turmoil, self-loathing, frustration, confusion, feelings of inadequacy… Mostly, however, there was an intense fear of loneliness.
No one wanted to spend their life alone and he was no exception.
Oliver returned to his apartment nearly an hour later to continue his silent charade of a happy life. He could hear Cody crying in his- her?- room, but didn't bother to stop and ask why. He wasn't very good at comforting other people. He only ever said the wrong thing anyway.
He headed into his room and fell on his bed, staring at the ceiling. It was so boring around here when classes weren't in session. Nothing to do but sleep all day. Hyun had his sexual conquests and Austin had his mystical crap to keep them busy, but Oliver had nothing but his damn games and TV, and he was sick of both. What he wanted was human connection, but he'd tried that like a week ago and it ended with harsh words, again.
They always ended with harsh words.
He heard Cody's-… Kathrine's… bedroom door open and his roommate step out, sniffling. They went to the sink and ran water for a few moments before it stopped and shuffling ensued. Soon, the sound of nose-blowing met his ears and he sighed.
Okay, he should probably make nice.
He wasn't very good at nice.
Oliver sat up and leisurely strolled to his doorway and leaned against the frame. They made eye-contact through the mirror above Cody's- fuck, Kathrine's- sink and he- she, goddamnit- glared.
Oliver opened his mouth to speak and immediately the worst sentence he could have possibly chosen fell out, "I don't like the name 'Kathrine.'"
His roommate turned to him and gave him a disgusted look. He sealed his lips tightly together and banged his head against the door frame, "Motherf- That's not at all what I was going for. I'm really sorry. I like the name fine. I was- I was trying to lead into saying that 'Kathrine' is really long and I was hoping I could use 'Kathy' or 'Kat' or something instead because I like simple names, but obviously that's not what happened. I'm sorry. I'm- I'm trying, really." He reached up and rubbed at his face. Why couldn't he socialize better? Why did he always say the wrong damn thing?
Kathrine gave him a neutral look for a moment before sniffling and smiling slightly, "I like 'Kat.' Sounds cool."
"You a cool cat?"
"Yeah," She chuckled, "I'm pretty damn cool, thanks."
Oliver grinned slightly, but it fell quickly, "I'm sorry I called you a tranny. And a boy."
"It's okay. Thanks for coming around. I appreciate it."
He shrugged, "To be honest, I still really just don't get it, but my friend kind of explained it and it is shitty to be shitty to you about it. There's no reason I can't call you Kat and use 'she' and shit."
She nodded, "Thanks. At least you're trying, a lot of people don't even give me that."
"That's me, the try-er. Never very good at anything I do, but damnit I try." He grinned some when she giggled. "Anyway, I'm bored, my only two friends still on campus aren't available, and you seem to be available, soooo…" He nodded toward his room, "You Playstation?"
"Hell yes!" He- she smiled, "You got GTA?"
"Awesome! I brought my PS4 so we can totally play online together- oh, wait, I'm not hooked up to the internet…"
"I'll hook you up." Oliver smiled, "Tech shit is like the only thing I'm good for. You have the cables for it, right?"
"Sweet. I can get you internet then."
"Awesome! Thank you so much!"