“You’re going to be late for work if you watch another one of Rory Carter’s stupid videos.”
Tamia enters Joshua’s bedroom with a look of disappointment etched upon her face. Having been roommates for a few years now, this is a look that Joshua is all too familiar with.
“Your obsession with this dude is ridiculous,” Tamia continues. “Fitness is his thing, but you’ve never stepped foot inside a gym before, let alone touched a weight.”
“And your point?” Joshua coolly replies, his attention never straying from his iPad.
“My point...” Tamia playfully rolls her eyes, adding emphasis to the word, “is that I don’t understand why you care so much, especially when his interests don’t align with any of yours. How are you a fan of someone that you don’t have anything in common with?”
Joshua sighs, knowing Tamia has a point about Rory being his total opposite.
Rory Carter is a twenty-five-year-old high-spirited YouTuber who entertains millions with his fitness videos and personal vlogs. He runs two successful YouTube channels: one for his English-speaking audience and the other for those who speak his native tongue, Korean.
To those on the outside looking in, Rory Carter is merely a handsome, rich, and privileged millennial who got lucky and struck it big on the internet by uploading entertaining and informative videos.
To Joshua, however, Rory is more than just a pretty face.
And for Tamia, she would say without question that Rory Carter is the biggest distraction in Joshua’s life right now. A distraction that he needs to sort out before it further fucks his priorities up.
“Since you don’t follow him for any fitness tips and tricks, it must be because of his looks, right?” Tamia smirks, jumping to all the wrong conclusions. “I get it. We all love ourselves someone tall, dark, and handsome. Doesn’t hurt that he has those big dreamy brown eyes and that pearly white smile. Although not my cup of tea, I admit the man is undeniably gorgeous.”
“Undeniably gorgeous and totally out of my league,” Joshua mutters, mostly to himself.
Even though Joshua isn’t interested in fitness, he has been a fan of Rory’s for quite a long time. Rory’s vibrant personality, not his looks, had been what converted Joshua from a subscriber to a super fan. Rory, as Tamia had said, is certainly undeniably gorgeous. He is also every bit of Joshua’s type, and in an alternate universe, Joshua might have made a pass at the guy by now.
But, in this universe, Joshua doesn’t even have the courage to send Rory a DM on social media. As if they could ever be close friends. And as for a romantic relationship? Joshua knows he doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell with someone like Rory Carter and it isn’t because Rory is out of Joshua’s league.
It’s primarily because Joshua is gay, and Rory is not.
Joshua doesn’t set many rules for himself, but one rule that he does his best to abide by is this one—never mess with straight boys. Why? Because they bring nothing but headaches and heartache, neither of which Joshua needs or is looking for.
“Anyway, it’s more than just his looks,” Joshua says. “Rory is charming, funny, and kind. He takes time to actually interact with his followers, and he treats them like human beings instead of looking at them like they’re just another number. He’s genuinely a good guy.”
And you’re hopelessly in love with him... hopelessly in love with a guy that will never be yours, Tamia thinks to herself, frowning.
Tamia can’t help but feel sorry for her best friend.
She feels sorry that she can’t help Joshua be as social in real life compared to how he is on social media. She feels sorry that she can’t fill the obvious void that’s in Joshua’s heart, the one that appeared two years ago after his mother had that terrible car accident and died. She feels sorry that she can’t give Joshua the world, can’t give him the happiness that she knows he deserves.
“Hey. Why are you looking at me like that?” Joshua asks after finally tearing his eyes away from the iPad. Tamia sports an unfamiliar expression, one that closely resembles pity.
“Like what? I’m not looking at you like anything,” Tamia says.
“You totally are.” Joshua narrows his eyes. “You’re looking at me like you just caught the news that my dog died. You look sad for me, or like you feel sorry for me... Oh my God, wait.”
“Joshua...” Tamia breaks, her voice apologetic.
“This is about Rory, isn’t it?” Joshua sits up in bed, tossing the iPad aside. This isn’t the first time that they’ve argued because of or about Rory Carter, and Joshua knows it won’t be the last. “You must think I’m so pathetic, don’t you? Pathetic because I’m not a social butterfly like you. Pathetic because I’d rather stay home on the weekends than go out and party. Pathetic because I like a guy that I know will never like me back—”
“Joshua, stop.” Tamia holds her hands up in defeat, not looking for a fight. “You’re not pathetic. I’d never think such a thing about you. I love you as if you were my own brother, and that’s partly why I’m so damn overprotective when it comes to you because, at the end of the day, I only want the best for you... and Rory Carter isn’t it.”
Tamia takes a few more steps into the room until she’s sitting on the bed next to Joshua. She grabs one of his hands, smiling softly when their eyes meet.
“I truly do only want the best for you,” Tamia repeats. “You’re twenty-two-years-old, Joshua. You should be out living your best life, and no, that doesn’t have to include you partying and getting shit faced every weekend. Life is what you make it. But when life becomes you shutting yourself off from the outside world in a way that isn’t healthy, I can’t sit back and say nothing. I have to speak up. I have to do something, for your sake.”
Joshua stares at Tamia in silence.
He had no defense. He had nothing to say that could stand up against Tamia’s words because nothing could surpass the truth that she spoke. Joshua is absolutely letting life pass him by. He’s wasting away right before Tamia’s eyes, or so that’s how she feels, and it’s saddening because she knows that Joshua will never get to live out the fantasy that’s in his head; the one where he and Rory are together and living happily ever after.
It’s a nice fantasy, one that Joshua created and clung to after the passing of his mother.
Rory’s content, his life vlogs more so than his fitness videos, helped Joshua get through dark times, helped him smile when he thought he couldn’t anymore, helped him laugh when he thought he never would again. Both Rory and Tamia helped Joshua get through one of the toughest moments in his life, and for that, he’ll forever be grateful to them both.
He can’t let go of Rory Carter completely, but he can take Tamia’s advice and put some distance between them while he works to better himself. It’s the least he can do for Tamia.
Tamia is someone that has had Joshua’s back since they were kids, and had it not been for the support that she and her family gave to Joshua after he’d lost the most important person in his life, the only parent he’d ever known, Joshua probably wouldn’t even be here right now. He shudders to think about how he might have turned out had Tamia not been a part of his life.
“Just for the record, I don’t hate Rory Carter,” Tamia says. “If I felt like you actually had a chance with him, then I would encourage you to go all in. But if we’re being realistic here...” Tamia pauses, not needing to say out loud what Joshua already knows. “I just feel like the time that you spend on him is a lot, and I wish you’d put that time and energy into other things; things that’ll help you grow as a person, things that’ll help you gain the confidence to go out and meet people, maybe even meet a nice guy and start a relationship with someone worthy of your time versus being holed up in this apartment watching Rory’s videos all damn day and night.”
“Are you finished or are you done?” Joshua jokes, not having taken offense to her words.
“Yes. I promise I’m done preaching.” Tamia laughs. “Is it your turn to drill into me now?”
Joshua shakes his head. “No. I’m not going to yell at you for speaking the truth. And I know... I’ve always known that I don’t stand a chance with Rory. Only in my dreams. I also can understand how you see me as an obsessive fanboy who spends too much time on the internet and not enough time outside. I can’t blame it on me being an introvert, as much as I want to.” Joshua pauses, remembering his mother. “I admit that I’ve been emotionally unavailable ever since my mom died. It’s been difficult for me to open up to people, difficult for me to build new relationships but I’m trying. Every day I’m trying.”
Tamia squeezes his hand. “I know you are, darling. I know. And I’m sorry if I came across as harsh or insensitive. Listen, if Rory makes you as happy as you claim he does, then I have no choice but to be happy right alongside you.”
“He does make me happy.” Joshua smiles. “When I’m feeling like crap and am on the verge of breaking down because certain days are harder to get through than others, I turn to Rory because he cheers me up with his positive vibe and kind words. He makes me feel good. And I don’t want to give that up right now. I can’t give that up right now.”
He makes you feel good because you’re too dependent on him to think otherwise. You still have so much to learn about life, about love... Tamia thinks to herself.
“And I will never force you to give that up,” Tamia says. “All that I can do is tell you how I’m feeling and wish you well. But like I said, if you’re happy, I’m happy. No more preaching. Now get over here and hug me, bitch.”
Joshua laughs. “Okay, bitch.”
With less than an hour to spare, Joshua finally gets out of bed to get ready for work.
He’s a cashier at the local supermarket that sits in the center of his town. He’s worked there long enough to get the regulars who come in to call him by his name instead of yelling at him ’Hey, you there!’. Not a lot of exciting things happen at the supermarket, but there is one person that Joshua looks forward to servicing every time they come in, and that person’s name is Rory Carter.
While Rory may be popular online, he hasn’t gotten to the point where he can’t go out in public without being swarmed by fans. He is still able to go out for morning runs, still able to grocery shop at the supermarket where Joshua works. Rory has gone through Joshua’s checkout line a few times now. They’ve even held conversations with one another, albeit brief.
This is by far the most painful crush that Joshua has ever had to deal with.
There’s nothing like having a crush on someone who lives just a short drive away from you. And that is undoubtedly the most difficult part for Joshua when it comes to being such a hardcore fanboy of Rory’s. It’s him knowing that Rory lives just on the other side of town, the side of town where there are sidewalks and working stoplights.
Rory is literally within Joshua’s reach and yet, at the same time, so far away.
“I’m headed to the car!” Tamia calls out from the living room a few minutes later. Joshua can hear the front door open and shut as she leaves.
Joshua grabs his cell phone from off the nightstand before heading out until he finds himself pausing at his bedroom door after checking his Twitter notifications. Out of the thirty notifs, there is only one that stands out among the rest...
RORY CARTER FOLLOWED YOU
“Holy s-shit... Rory just followed me on Twitter?!”