Fiction submitted by A.M. Welles
Two days after
It would be hardest to tell my father. My mother had already found out from Rylan’s mother when I called. Hours of tearful recriminations passed before I could extract a concession from her to keep quiet. The indignation of having to lie by omission to her husband gave her something more worthy of her laserlike fury. She bellowed at me with the rage of a wounded materfamilias, but I could take it, because I had known what was coming. I wasn’t sure how Dad would take it.
I hung up on Mom—she was the only person who still called me—and opened Signal. I’m in a really shitty situation right now, and I need someone to be there for me. It would mean so much if that could be my maid of honor. I wondered if I should soften the message with the hands-clasped emoji, and thought better of it.
Liz responded immediately. What’s up? She enclosed a link. She always had one URL or another on her clipboard: I didn’t read the mainstream fake news anymore, except through Liz. Did you see that someone died at Charlottesville? Yikes on bikes 😭.
I need you to meet me in Detroit this Wednesday. I’m flying there from SF and I need someone to drive me to my parents’ in Findlay. Does that work for you? I was pushing thirty-five and still had not passed my driver’s test. I also wanted a witness in case my mother was waiting for me with a sawn-off shotgun. Liz was finishing a dissertation in science, technology, and society studies at Emory, and like all graduate students could always be depended on to take a weekend off for a personal crisis.
Sure thing, sis. Sounds intense. FaceTime?
I’ll explain on the drive. Forward me your itinerary and I’ll Venmo you the cost of your ticket. And then some. It would be the first of many reimbursements, refunds, and transfers over the next few weeks. Don’t fly Spirit.
Lol, I’m poor, not stupid. See you Wednesday. Her lack of curiosity told me that she had already gotten apprised of the news by someone else.
I had taken nothing with besides my laptop and a printout of the guest list, both of which sat accusatorily before me on the formica dining table. I had been staying at an Airbnb in the Lower Haight since the blowout. I still needed to personally apologize to each of the first-string guests, send a general apology to the second-string guests, and contact the caterer, band, florist, photographer that no the ceremony is not happening but yes you will still be paid and no I will not be available for testimonials or references but yes everything you have done for us was just perfect and if ever the time is right I will certainly reach out again. I agonized over delegating this task to Liz, who was at least two standard deviations above me in terms of trait conscientiousness, but that would require telling her what happened. It seemed like a better use of my time just to lie in bed listlessly or to sit on the benches at Duboce Park doglessly.
In any case, Liz was at the moment busy packing enough clothes, toiletries, and raw vegan keto gluten-free snacks for the both of us. Everything I had eaten since the breakup tasted like gravel, and I fleetingly wondered if food that actually tasted like gravel might not transubstantiate into ambrosia in my qualically disturbed state.
That was the kind of Reddit-tier joke that Rylan would have found humorous. He had a roaring laugh that was anti-iconic of his slight form, projecting outward from a open-mouthed grin that emphasized the crinkles in the corners of his eyes. In conjunction with his beard and flannel, it was dangerously close to something a shitlord might call it a nu-male smile. I missed it.
It was a rara avis who could conjure his mirth, of course. “I don’t think anyone’s ever made me laugh like this,” he had once said to me. “Maybe Travis. You’ll like him.”
A shrill, blue-haired pixie who was too low-testosterone to go work for McKinsey or Google after finishing Teach For America, Travis had actually decided to stick with preaching the high school English gospel to our disenfranchised youfs, all while trying to deconstruct the ways in which he deployed white supremacist logics in the classroom. His poorly hidden limerence for Rylan made us fast enemies, and the fact that I would be missing out on his best man’s speech was a small but very welcome blessing. Undaunted, he treated me to a 5,213-word e-mail.
I knew you were terrible for Rylan from the start, but I had no idea how disgusting you really are. He wasted the last ten years of his life on a racist, xenophobic, two-faced Nazi apologist. Bet that I saw the fucking signs when you were talking about “life history theory” at Pat and Chris’s gender conceal party. I hear Richard Spencer is getting a divorce, so why don’t you get right on that? That is, if you weren’t the reason for his divorce. Who fucking knows what you’re capable of in your secret other life? With handmaidens of the patriarchy like you, who needs anti-feminists? If you have even so much as a shred of decency, you will reimburse every cent Rylan spent on this godforsaken wedding. I hope you start reading Jesse Benn, Tim Wise, Noel Ignatiev, and everyone else in the bibliography below and start understanding the error of your ways. And I hope that you drop dead the day after.
What kind of disease vector writes an e-mail with a bibliography? For the record, I did not break up Richard Spencer’s marriage, although I was in attendance at his infamous “Hail Trump” speech. You can catch the faintest glimpse of my elbow in one of Tila Tequila’s pictures. Rylan had believed me to be traveling for work.
(A gender conceal party is when two [or more—wouldn’t want to be polyphobic] parents commit to not reveal a theyby’s sex assignment at birth, until such time that the child may state their own gender. Rylan had purchased a “We’re All Born Naked and the Rest Is Drag” romper and said that it was from both of us.)
The temptation to respond to Travis with my own meticulously sourced wall of text was nigh irresistible. It certainly would have been much more fun to write than the disinvitation e-mails. But I returned only two short sentences: You are happiest when he is miserable. It is the only time that he will ever need you.
I never heard from Travis again.
Two weeks after
“Your mother said that you’ll be staying here for quite some time,” Dad began. Mom had taken Liz grocery shopping, since there was nothing vegan in the house and she had just finished the last of the provisions in her checked luggage. “Is something going on?”
“Rylan and I got into a fight, Dad.” My lips were trembling, but I couldn’t break so soon. “He called it off.”
“Heather Heyer or James Damore?” No gloating. No reprimands. No mourning the untold sums he had spent on the wedding. Just a cryptic disjunction given in an interrogative intonation.
“What?” The sob that I was suppressing evaporated.
“What did you fight about, Heather Heyer or James Damore?” he took out his mobile phone and began tapping. “Rylan’s latest article is about how James Damore’s memo performs, ahem, ‘the work of ideological normalization of the sort that leads straight to the murder of Heather Heyer and the establishment of death camps.’”
“If James Fields hadn’t killed her, that scorching take might have.”
My father narrowed his eyes at me and stared. I couldn’t bear to meet his gaze, and instead fixated upon his red beard, my face hot with shame. I felt the weight each femtosecond pass before he finally spoke. “They expect us to be unkind. We never have to be unkind. And we are at our kindest when we don’t have to be around them.”
“You’re right, Dad.” I was still in his arms when my mother trundled through the door carrying flax seed and textured vegetable protein.
“It might not even be his fault that she died, the absolute unit,” my father murmured into my ear, before relieving Liz of her grocery bags. Just like that, he had recreated the joke that aborted my marriage.
Liz and I were staying in my childhood bedroom, which had many years past become my mother’s hot-process soapmaking workshop. Mom had resentfully converted it into something that could double as Liz’s writing room and my rotting room. The scent of lavender was hot and heavy and started almost immediately to annoy Liz, who began each day with a two-hour thesis writing binge in swimmer’s noseplugs. Findlay had a few coffee shops, and she would steal to Coffee Amici to hold interminable, acrimonious meetings with her advisor, cursing under her breath that her half-oat, half-soy latté with a dash of nutmeg did nothing to cover up the cloying odor of what simply had to be a deposit of lye in her philtrum.
Most days, I merely lay in bed waiting for her to come home. I had obliterated my savings and gone into debt paying for the wedding, returning the gifts, and shipping my belongings from California to Ohio. Maybe I could make ASMR soap-cutting videos for money, if it came to that. Getting into soap-making might restore some modicum of maternal goodwill. These days, Mom alternated between percussive, laconic commands (“Eat,” “Wash up,” “Get the mail”) and forlorn, world-weary speeches (“What do you think your grandfather would say to you? He fought the Nazis!”).
“I’m not a Nazi, Mom.” And Grandad might have preferred to speak German than to attend drag queen story hour. “I have never once contributed to the activities of the historical Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei.”
“Maybe you should have. They would have paid you.” Mom’s three favorite things were signaling virtue, having the last word, and reminding me of my unemployment. She loved it best when she was able to accomplish all three at once. She had conspicuously erected a “Hate Has No Home Here” sign on our lawn the day Liz and I arrived. She loved me, but sometimes I made it so hard.
“You don’t have to stay here, Liz.” I said some version of this every night. “Really, it’s okay. You’re graduating in a few weeks.”
“That’s exactly why I should be here. I can do my revisions from anywhere, you know that.” She was kind enough not to add: I’m all you have. Rylan had scooped up most of our mutual friends in the fallout.
“But you’re not doing your revisions. At least, not most of the time. You’re listening to me feeling sorry for myself.”
“Maybe you feel sorry for yourself, but I don’t feel sorry for you. You ended a relationship with someone incompatible with you. I’m happy for you.”
She was trying to be supportive, but it stung. Compatibility? Put away the fucking ephemeris, Liz, this isn’t a matter of my stellium in Gemini overwhelming Rylan’s unaspected Sun in Sagittarius. I didn’t spend ten years with a man who was bad for me. He threw away ten years with me because he thought I was bad for society.
“Do you think,” I whispered, “that if he had found out after the ceremony, like way, way down the line, that it wouldn’t have ended up like this?”
“What are you saying?” The room was pitch dark, but I knew that she was wearing that quizzical, probing expression that she saved for her most affirmatively acted upon students.
“I mean, he broke up with me because of my politics. You can end a relationship over that, but you wouldn’t end a years-long marriage over it, right? My parents don’t agree on a lot of this stuff, either.” I could have done things differently, better, right. I couldn’t have changed, but I could have changed how he found out.
“How is this helpful to think about?”
“One of your dissertation chapters is about the covert resurgence of Carl Schmitt’s Politische Theologie in online neoreactionary movements. How is that helpful to think about?” I had even put her in contact with some of her interview subjects.
“Don’t attack me.” She rolled over in her cot. “I’m all you have.”
Two months after
Liz had long flown back to Atlanta to defend her dissertation and was starting a postdoctoral appointment at some hate-speech-is-not-free-speech hellhole of a small liberal arts college in rural western Massachusetts. Dad had helped me find a secretarial job at Anhedonia, an addiction treatment center not far from our house. He would pick me up when my shift ended, and we would make a pot of Danish licorice tea and watch Tucker Carlson Tonight together. Every so often, my mother would cluck disapprovingly at the screen, but she did not begrudge my father the pivotal role he was playing in my gradual reintegration into the world of taxpayers. Sometimes she would report on some development in Rylan’s life that she gleaned from social media, and I would feign a studied disinterest that melted into a lachrymose, lavender-scented breakdown as soon as I closed the door to my room.
Rylan had ghosted me. Defriended, unfollowed, and blocked on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and Spotify. I didn’t even know you could follow non-musicians on Spotify. In turn, I ghosted everyone else. I had hundreds of unread messages and e-mails from my San Francisco contacts, Travis’s histrionic screed having sapped my resolve to open any of them. I was content to leave everything behind, until something miraculous happened: a physical package appeared on my doorstep. Who else knew I was here besides Liz?
Hey, hope you don’t think this is weird, but I got your parents’ address using Google-Fu. We all miss you at the office. Girl who replaced you in HR sucks! She keeps hiring all these people who aren’t good culture fits, you know? The engineers and me had a going-away party planned. We were gonna do it once you came in to clean out your desk, but you didn’t come in, so a lot of your stuff was thrown out. I saved your first edition of Cavalcare la tigre though. Thanks for making such clear and easy to follow PowerPoints. Hit me up if you need a reference. Still don’t know why you left but I know you’re killing it wherever you are.
The penmanship was tentative and jagged, as though Bradley had never written this much by hand in a long time and was trying to refamiliarize his millennial paw with the very act. The book was attached. We had read it as a part of an outer right reading group set up by one of the marketing bros. Bradley was a kindred spirit: I had overheard him calling something “pozzed” in my first week at work and we struck up a fast friendship that made my makework job a little bit easier. I had no passion for it, but it paid the bills when Rylan’s freelancing couldn’t. Bradley was a great supervisor and an even better friend, but in that moment I despised him. I had no house, no car, no career, no genetic legacy, and no way out of a USS Liberty-sized mountain of credit card debt. I was thirty-five years old, and a man was going to remember me for my PowerPoints.
I had started writing again after Liz left to fend off my increasing social and intellectual isolation. I thought that a close reading of selected extracts from Calvacare la tigre might be a good idea for a post. My online contacts were happy to see me back among the living. Dude, did you get doxed? No, just dumped. I’m also not in a great place financially right now, either. Thanks for reading, king 👑👑👑.
Are you on Patreon or something? Don’t mind throwing a few shekels your way for this kind of quality content. No, I don’t accept donations, sorry. I’m no grifter. This blog isn’t a Premium Snapchat. If you have money to spare, you should donate to Anglin, who’s struggling to keep his site up on the clearweb right now. Or you can save it for when some man with a family gets fired for tweeting faggot twenty years ago.
No need to romanticize asceticism. We’re not just a political movement, we’re a mutual aid network. This makes me think about how multicultural dildocracy is, in one sense, a market distortion. People like me are excluded from legitimate sites of knowledge creation and dissemination, as well as from payment processing services. I have the supply and you have the demand, but the free market has failed us both. I never get rich, but the journalist who misrepresents my views in books and articles and interviews does. Is a cuckservative or lolbertarian ever going to make that argument? Tech censorship and leftist dominance of the academy, the press, and the entertainment industry, in effect, facilitate a wealth transfer between right-wing creators and the left-wing anointed scribe caste.
Not sure I care that much about economics. Just about any system would work if we running it for/by ourselves, free of external influence. Writers write for readers like you. Thanks for the support, @fashypepe1488.
I began boiling water for the quinoa that Liz did not finish and that my parents would not touch. It was nice to be able to leave my laptop open and play music, something I never did with Rylan. He had come close to finding out the truth some years back, or so he thought. I was in the midst of a Skype discussion of Jason Richwine’s Harvard dissertation when he barreled in after a long day of rejected pitches. I reflexively shut the laptop and greeted him, a quaver in my voice.
“Is everything all right?” he asked. “You seem tense.”
“I’m fine, you just startled me.” He wouldn’t believe me. I had failed to inherit so much as a quantum of my father’s self-possession. “How was work?”
“I think it’s important to think about women who dressed up as men to fight in the Civil War as part of transgender history. Slate didn’t.” He strode over to our Technivorm Moccamaster, a ‘National Best Friends Day’ gift from Travis. “Seriously, what’s wrong? You know you can tell me anything.”
“Isn’t that kind of an ahistorical, hyper-presentist analysis?”
“That’s what the editor said.” He took a long sip of his coffee before walking over to me and removing my headset. “Retract your claws, love, I don’t want to talk about work. Let’s talk about you.”
“What about me?” I liked as much as disliked how much his intent, unblinking stare reminded me of my father’s.
“I know what you’re doing.”
“Rylan, I don’t under—“
I felt as if he had slapped me. “No, I’m—”
“I’ve known for quite some time. You’re always cagey about what you do online, you’re always videochatting, you always manage to get the bills paid…”
“I get the bills paid because I’m good at my job. Bradley just gave me a raise.”
“You don’t need to convince me that sex work is work.” He sat down on our couch and beckoned for me to sit on his lap. “I just want to tell you that you don’t have to hide anything from me. It doesn’t change anything about our relationship. I’m happy to be your primary partner, and I feel nothing but utter compersion for you as you explore this part of yourself.”
“Thanks for the support, Rylan.”
Two years after
Let the record state that I think this is a terrible idea. Almost as bad as Rylan’s latest op-ed supporting mandatory puberty blockers for all children, not just the ones that report gender incongruence, until they’re sure of their gender identity. Liz was being a good friend, but I needed a good enabler right now.
You and my dad are the only people who read that shit. I was being an atrociously rude wedding guest. Bradley had decided on the outré venue of an Episcopal church on California Street. I spent half the vows figuring out Rylan’s current address, and the other half explaining to Liz that I wasn’t trying to get him back, I was just gonna show up, tell him that I happened to be in the neighborhood, and that there weren’t any hard feelings…
LOL who do you think sent me the article? He and I are in a different window cackling about it now. Your dad is savage AF. Liz’s postdoctoral appointment had turned into a tenure-track position. She had recently published her dissertation in book form, and was appearing on a panel with Andrew Marantz next week.
You’re talking to my dad? That’s pretty weird.
No, weird was us waking up in your room every morning smelling of essential oils. Yes, I talk to your dad. I’ve been doing it since those heady days of you lying face down on your bed for 72 hours at a time. It was all I could do not to tell her that I still did that.
I think I need to go see him, Liz. It was so easy to find his address, don’t you think that’s like a sign from the universe? First, I saw on Travis’s Instagram that Rylan had hosted a housewarming party. Then, I used one of my fake accounts to message Travis, saying that I had come to the party as someone’s plus-one, but that we just broke up and therefore I didn’t feel comfortable asking her for Rylan’s address, which I needed because I had left my EpiPen in the bathroom. Easy peasy.
Here’s another sign from the universe: 🛑🛑🛑🛑🛑🛑🛑🛑. I can’t be your sidekick in every little drama. I have a class to teach. Please don’t do this.
I put my Pixel 4 away and watched the last few minutes of the ceremony. I tried to summon even a scintilla of desire for Bradley. It should have been easy. Bradley was richer, smarter, taller, and more muscular than Rylan. He had a bachelor’s in classics from Princeton and a master of business administration from Penn. He had full-bodied, flaxen hair, styled for the ceremony à la Nathan Damigo. If I had asked Rylan for permission to fuck Bradley while we were dating, he would have let me, and he would have asked to watch.
But I never wanted Bradley, not then, not now. The chemical specificity of my desire was absolute: in a world where Rylan existed, every other man was a eunuch. Rylan was the only substrate worth binding, and Bradley in all of his Anglo-Saxon pulchritude, was merely an allosteric inhibitor. Bradley wouldn’t find that amusing, but Rylan would. He would. He just needs to hear it.
I rose from the pews and shuffled quietly towards the door. A hand fell upon my shoulder: I turned to see the form of Bradley in miniature.
“You’re not staying for dinner?”
“No, I have another engagement today. It was a beautiful ceremony.” It was the first time in two years a man other than my father had touched me, but still I felt nothing. “Are you Bradley’s brother?”
“Yeah, Clifton. I’m the runt of the litter.” He winked. “Bradley’s favorite. Or I thought I was, but he only let me be usher. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“You have?” I only wanted to get into an Uber and head to Rylan’s. “All good things, I hope.”
“You turned his life around. I don’t think he’d be up there getting married today if not for you.”
“Come on now, that’s not true.”
“He was a bit of a ming tao before he joined that book club.” I wanted to ask how old this boy was. I don’t know if I knew what a MGTOW was in college. “Bradley was the fat, unpopular kid all through Horace Mann and Princeton, not that really successful with girls, just wanted to talk about what misspelled graffiti had to tell us about historical Latin phonology, you know?”
I did know. Bradley basically carried the discussion in that book club. He could write the book on Evola, and many other topics besides. “He was fat?”
“Like you wouldn’t believe. But once he got into b-school, he started working out, meal prepping, doing tris. Once he got cut, girls started treating him differently.”
“It made him feel like they were shallow.”
“Yeah, exactly! He was getting Tinder messages about how it was so hot that he liked Catullus, and it basically drove him insane. He was in a hashtag-hit-it-and-quit-it mode for years. It just really messed with him to realize how much, ahem, how did he put it, how much his humanity was conditional on being fit.”
“I had no idea.” I had never wanted a conversation to end more quickly.
“But anyway, he was basically set on forgoing marriage and children and all that jazz, but he said that all that stuff he learned from you in the book club really helped him get it together. Stuff like how just even falling in love and raising a family is a revolutionary act for us now, since they wanted us divided, childless, consumed by widgets and porn, with no notion of the good life beyond empty notions of ‘choice’ and ‘consent’. Like he’s doing this in a church because of what you said, about how marriage is now no longer about faith or family formation but could just as easily be about the state celebrating multispecies polyamorous child sex rings.” I’m not so sure that’s a direct quotation, Clifton.
“You shouldn’t give me too much credit.”
“Well, he also said you were one of the very few people who didn’t care what he looked like, didn’t seem interested in him at all, other than as a friend. He said it was like being fat again, being around you.”
“Just your friendly neighborhood manic fashy dream girl. On behalf of the female sex, tell Bradley that we’re sorry for not sending our best.”
“I’m sorry, I’m a lot better with memes than words, I know I’m not saying this right.” He opened the church door for me. “No wonder Wallace got to be best man. I just think Bradley would have wanted to thank you personally for being here, and if you have to leave now, then at least you could hear it from me.”
“I understand. Give the happy couple my best.”
In the Uber, I reflected on how I had done everything right. While my high school classmates were getting ravaged by the Sacklers and screwing one another’s brains out, I listened to Tyler Cowen and studied hard to prepare myself for a future as a symbol manipulator. I listened to Christina Hoff Sommers and studied microbiology instead of feminist dance therapy. When I got my bugman job in the human resources department of a tech start-up, I listened to Spandrell and hired the best candidates, not the bioleninistically fittest ones. I listened to Roosh and did not spend the most fertile years of my life on the cock carousel: Rylan was the only man I had ever dated, and I certainly didn’t choose him for his height (I was an inch taller) or his income potential (he had constructed his own major in animal studies). I chose him because left-wing men, with their wine bars and tasteful banter and Dungeons & Dragons and molecular gastronomy and experimental psychedelic post-screamo stomp and holler were better at organizing their lives away from multicultural enrichment than even the shitlordiest right-wing man. I was ready to wait for my small-souled bugman to metamorphose into a NIMBY butterfly and decide that we needed a neighborhood with “good schools,” at which point we would depart Sodom Frisco for the virtual ethnostate that was star-spangled suburbia. Our first son would have a trendy nasal-final trochee for a name, just like his daddy: Aiden, Jayden, Braden, Drayden, Landon, Brandon, Camden, Jordan, Mason, Watson, Carson, Dawson…
I thought about what I would say: It’s been two years. We’ve proven that we don’t need each other. But do we want each other? I knocked twice on his door and swallowed.
“Hi, can I help you?” I could hear Rylan’s voice in the background: Is that the food? “No, it’s something else.”
She was Asian. Not even an attractive Asian. Maybe a Filipina. The kind that didn’t speak her heritage language but still had a hint of an accent. She probably had a name that white people have long discarded, like Grace or Doris. Maybe she cosplayed or uploaded unboxing videos or mained Jayce on League of Legends. Cystic acne marred her rodentine face. “Sorry, I think I have the wrong house.”
And just like that, I was over him.