When Jim found out about being aromantic and asexual, it was because of a set of pride flags he stumbled across online. He knew what some of them were. He’d spent months trying to figure out if any of those ones fit him. Then realizing they didn’t. Not really. The only one that came close was bisexual. Still, it felt like there was something different about him. Something that didn’t quite fit with the bi label. Something that was it’s own thing entirely.
Mom said he could be a late bloomer. That he’d figure out romance in his own time. There was no rush. She’d always be there for him if he wanted to talk or if he needed help in getting resources. Jim never took her up on that.
What if that supposed magic moment where he’d figure romance out never happened? He asked himself on occasion. Did he really want it to? Jim wasn’t sure. He’d never considered himself different from anyone else. He always thought the way he felt was the norm. That the “romance” he saw in media was something exaggerated by Hollywood to sell all the movies they could.
The fact that he was apparently the different one felt strange to Jim. He didn’t know what to make of the feeling. He’d gone through life without really thinking about romance as A Thing. He honestly didn’t want to start now.
So, seeing those pride flags and learning of the aro and ace labels felt nice. Like the beginning of an answer to a question Jim didn’t know he needed to ask. “Aroace” rolled off the tongue in a pleasant way. It was a secure feeling, to know he didn’t have to be anything else but what he already was.
In the coming days, Jim learned more words, an entirely new vocabulary. Squish. Queerplatonic relationship. Zucchini. That last one made him smile when he used one of the vegetable for dinner one night.
An entire world he didn’t know existed, one that felt right, had been opened up to him.
And something, for once, felt comfortable.
Jim soon found it was hard to deal with everyone else. Before learning of being aroace, he hadn’t realized (noticed) how much everyone else around him seemed to be obsessed with romance. Now that he did, it was grating. Just a little bit.
Jim didn’t mind that romance existed or that people were interested in it necessarily. It just, it wasn’t something he was interested in. Not really. Sometimes it was downright frustrating when everyone assumed he wanted or would want it. Eventually.
His mom, in particular, seemed to be waiting for that “eventually”, given her regular comments that “girls” were a natural part of high school that he should be worried about. Jim generally avoided talking to her about it if he could. He loved her, but there were times when Mom could be pushy when she thought she was being helpful (when she was really not).
Jim still hadn’t figured out how to talk to her about that one yet.
Toby was easier.
“So aroace, huh? Sounds like you’re some cool archer dude. Like you’re an ace ninja with a bow and have like a bajillion arrows that you can shoot with deadly accuracy and you’re going to become a superhero—wait, hang on, I gotta look this up.” Toby whipped out his phone and started typing. “There’s gotta be some cool aroace superhero already.”
Jim laughed. “Only you, Tobes, would react by thinking of some hero thing.”
“Laugh now, Jimbo, but one of these days I’m going to be right. Just you wait.” Toby paused. “Anyway, you good?” He turned to face Jim. “How do you feel? Like are you “I just came out to my best friend and I’m totally awesome sauce cause I know we’re awesome sauce forever” or “I just came out to my best friend and I’m kinda panicky about it?”
“The first one. Mostly.” Jim shrugged. “I wouldn’t put it exactly like that, but yeah. “We’re good, Tobes.” He took a cookie off the plate Nana had given them and lay back on Toby’s bed. He let out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding in.
“Master Jim, I must apologize. For I assumed you and Tobias were already in a partnership.” Blinky spoke in an uncertain tone.
“Wait, you thought we were dating? Like gay?” Jim clenched his hands arounds his knees. This conversation was not going how he’d expect it to. After talking to Toby about it, he’d decided to come out to Blinky too (and ARRRGGGHHH!!! depending on how the conversation with Blinky went). So far, he’d made it past telling Blinky that he was aroace. That had gone well. Blinky had accepted his explanation of the labels. But now they’d gotten here, where Blinky apparently assumed he and Toby were an Item.
Blinky spoke up again, “I would not put it like that necessarily. Not too many years ago, while scavenging on the surface, I overhead a set of humans talk of what they called a ‘queerplatonic relationship’. From what they said, I gathered it must be a meaningful sort of relationship that exists independent of the usual trappings or symbolism of traditional romance. Since then, ARRRGGGHHH!!! and myself have found it a wonderfully useful term to define what we are to each other. We are something that is both strong and deeply emotional. Somedays there are no words to eloquently put how I feel about him nor him about me. For us, queerplatonic fit what other words could not possibly hope to describe.” Blinky paused. “Ah, my train of thought seems to have gotten away from me. But my assumption was that you and Tobias share a similar relationship. That you are, I believe the right term is zucchini? Partners?”
“Oh, um no. We’re just friends.” Jim’s grip tightened on his knees. He hadn’t thought about being anything with Tobes. Not yet. He was still adjusting to his identity. That was what this conversation was supposed to be about. His identity. “Blinky, I’m…I may never want a relationship. Of any kind. I haven’t really so far. Like I haven’t gotten crushes or anything ever. I didn’t even think they were real for the longest time, but according to Toby they are.” He sighed. “I just…I don’t know.” He threw up his arms. “I’m ok with the possibility of a queerplatonic relationship, but I don’t want you guys to just assume I’m going to do that. Or anything else. Because I don’t even know what I’m going to do yet. I’m still figuring this out!” He paced around with his fists clenched. “Just…don’t say I can still have relationships despite my identity. Cause being aroace? Is really important to me. It’s a part of me.” He spun and glared at Blinky. “Not something that needs to be overcome.”
Blinky approached him slowly. “I deeply apologize, Jim.” He cautiously put his hands on Jim’s shoulders. “It was not my intention to convey that that needs to happen. It does not.”
“Thanks, Blink. I…I kinda like the idea of a qpr? Just not right now. Or yet. Or something.” Jim inhaled. “For now, I want to be just me.” He paused. “But, can you tell me more about them anyway? Just so I know?”
Jim backed up a step, away from the classroom door. “Are you sure I can be here? I mean, I don’t know, they may—”
“Dude, chill.” Toby grabbed his shoulder. “It’s going to be totally awesome sauce. Trust me. I got you’re back. Worst case scenario, we run out of there and become school legends.”
“Really, Tobes? Running out of a GSA meeting will make us legends?” Jim sighed. Ran his hand through his hair. “This was a bad idea. We should—”
Toby interrupted him. “No buts! Trust in your wingman. When have I ever led you astray?”
“Do you really want me to answer that?”
“Good point. But I’m right about this, Jimbo.” Toby faced him. “I know you read some stupid stuff online, but this isn’t the Internet where anyone can say anything. I know everyone on the other side of that door and I can say with certainty, you belong with us and they’ll think so too.”
Jim sighed. “Fine. Let’s do this.” Worst case scenario, he activated the Amulet of Daylight so he could break through the classroom window as an escape and then have to deal with the fallout of revealing magic to a bunch of high school kids.
Toby opened the door with a flourish. “I hereby welcome you to the Gay-Straight Alliance of Arcadia Oaks High!” He led Jim into the classroom. “Where we have doughnuts, friends, and on special occasions, Miss Janeth’s dramatic interpretations of other teachers!” In a quieter tone, he added, “You should hear her Strickler. It’s hilarious, dude.”
“I heard that, Mr. Domzalski.” Miss Janeth spoke from where she was hanging up a poster on the board. “And welcome, Mr. Lake, we were just about to get started.” She turned to address the entire group in the classroom, which included Eli Pepperjack, Shannon Longhannon, Mary Wang, Darci Scott, Claire Nunez, and even the new students Aja and Krel, as well as others Jim didn’t recognize immediately on sight. “As many of you know, the club fair is coming up and I’d like us to have a station.” Miss Janeth went on. “We’ll have signups for those of you who want to help man the table and, like last year, Señor Uhl has agreed to maintain a ‘security presence’. Now, Ms. Wang has submitted the idea that we get mini pride flags to put on the table, so everyone, especially if they’re still in the closet, knows they’re welcome with us. She’s volunteered to acquire the flags and start a list so we don’t miss anyone’s labels…”
As the meeting went on, Jim relaxed. No one asked him to come out or prove why he should be there. He was welcomed easily into the conversation. He was ok.
Jim set up the mini pride flags along the front edge of the GSA’s fair table. It had taken then a while to find them all, but in the end they’d been successful. He set both the aromantic and asexual flags down next in the lineup after the genderfluid and agender flags.
A part of him regretted letting Toby talk him into helping today, but a part of him really wanted to be there too.
“Ah, they look lively!” Aja bounced into the chair next to him. “It is so exciting! We will educate the people of the municipality of Arcadia all about the wonderful identities they don’t know they can have or they know they have and don’t know that have support for!” She spun around in her seat. “Either way it will be a totally legal day!”
“Arcadia’s a city and we’re only manning the table for the school’s club fair. I don’t think that many people are going to show up.” Jim was quick to reply. The idea of a huge number of people showing up made him nervous.
“Yes, but some will still come That is exciting!” Aja playfully punched his arm. “We will help people! Toby told me you’re an archer ninja. Between your mad skills and my…errmm…also mad skills, we will do good for the next two hours!”
Jim couldn’t help but smile. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.