fic, fandom, and online friendship
molliegollie: ok I have a new idea.
molliegollie: he’s a firefighter. and she’s the 911 operator.
molliegollie: and cause it’s a small town the call center is in the firehouse. so every so often he’ll walk by the room and hear her voice and how kind she is and how she cares
lauryngitis: uh huh
molliegollie: and sometimes he’ll take his coffee and sit on the steps by the window and listen to her do things like talk children through their grandparents’ heart attacks
lauryngitis: oh no
molliegollie: and he listens and smiles and he falls in love with her a call at a time
lauryngitis: and then they frick?
molliegollie: and then they frick
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We met because she liked the way I wrote our two favorite characters fucking each other.
To jump back—I wrote my favorite characters fucking each other. Many times. In many different positions. In moods that range from desperation to contentment to the kind of rote momentum that exists when writing sex for sex’s sake.
Do you know what I’m talking about?
(Would you admit it if you did?)
To leap forward: Her name is Laurie. She lives in the midwest (the city part, not the Laura Ingalls Wilder part), and has three dogs and a cat. She studies psychology, mixes a mean sangria, and in her spare time she writes shower sex that makes my toes curl.
There’s spanking involved.
Of course, there’s the tiny fact that I’ve never heard her voice. We’ve never shared wine and chocolate while crying over Patrick Swayze’s abs, never held hands or hugged or been in the same room. I’ve never seen her mouth move, or her hands gesture, or her arms swing when she walks. Her face I’ve only seen through the grainy filter of a webcam, resplendent with under-eye bags and day-old sweat pants.
But it doesn’t matter. Because human connection is built of more than just sharing space.
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It’s the heyday of summer, and my mother is upset. Apparently, not leaving the house for four days is frowned upon.
“What do you even do all day?” she asks.
I say nothing. I don’t tell her that I spent my night plotting a 30,000 word piece about an heiress falling in love with her gardener. I don’t tell her that Laurie had a bad day, and I spent two hours writing car sex to make her feel better.
Of course, the next day I go to a movie with high school friends, and all is well: My mother is appeased, I have a good time, and my friends are glad to see me. It’s a good day.
It’s the bad days that scare me; the ones where it’s harder to hide what I don’t want others to see. I have trust issues. I have intimacy issues. I have social anxiety and bad moods and sad moods and moments when it feels like every body in the room is a boulder on the center of my chest. For a long time, I read this as the sign of something wrong. It wasn’t normal to need to leave a party two hours in because I felt like I couldn’t breathe; it wasn’t normal to prefer the safety of my bed to pretty much anywhere. I love spending time with my friends, but some days it’s just hard; other days it’s shattering.
I know what I’m expected to want to be—what I sometimes wish I were—and I know what I know: that I like little better than the solitude of my own company; that I think of the words used to describe true friendship—close, attached, inseparable—and feel trapped.
There isn’t anything missing from my in-person friendships. But that doesn’t mean they have everything I need.
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If there were someone there with me, the mood would be called intimate.
I am sitting in my room, sitting in the near-dark. The only light comes from the yellow flicker of my fairy lights, the slightly harsher glow of the screen. The Civil Wars plays from my $40 speakers; the fan buzzes quietly, muffling the sounds of drunk freshmen stumbling by outside. The air smells like the quesadilla I had too much of for dinner, the slightly-musky odor of the comforter that needs to be washed, the scent of solitude that wraps around me in something like home. My fingers slide across the keys, chilled and slightly oily on my skin, and I shiver as I draw the blanket closer around my shoulders.
“… her lips still tingle, an hour later, from touching his. She worries them with her teeth, absently, as he speaks, saying more than he’s said in the entire time she’s known him, saying more than she can imagine him saying to anyone…”
A notification pops up in the corner of my screen, and I smile. She’s asking me when the next chapter will be ready; says she misses editing my work, now that school and responsibility takes up the time we used to devote to this. This, our friendship. This, our writing. Not what the academic-industrial complex would call writing; not masterfully-crafted essays or poetry infused with binary-breaking structures. No, this is the taboo, the unacceptable, the hidden. Not because it’s easy, because it isn’t. Not because it’s unrelatable; 10,000 hits and Laurie’s capslocked messages would disagree. And yet it’s the first thing pushed to the side when adult life intervenes—when I need to act like a person again, when I have to worry about little things like money and jobs and the future.
The 19 documents bundled into a folder called “idiotic wastes of time you’re in college mollie pull it together”; the Kik notifications I have to shove to the bottom of my bag when real life intervenes—because of course.
I’m an Adult. That’s supposed to mean something.
There’s a lull in the writing, and my mind wanders. I send her a message about an alternate universe story I want to write; she responds in all caps, enthusiastic, ecstatic, adding ideas I never would have thought of, building characters with words like we’re building each other.
They meet at a biker bar and fuck in the bathroom.
She’s his math tutor and he fails on purpose to stay close to her.
They meet at three in the morning in a 24 hour diner. She lost her mother, he’s lost everything. They’re scared, broken, alone. They know they can’t save each other; it doesn’t work like that. But together, maybe they can save themselves.
This writing will never bear my real name; it will never be published in the Brown Daily Herald or The New York Times or whatever other publication I’ll flourish for cocktail party cred. It will be spoken of in pseudonyms: my “creative fiction,” my “personal work”; Laurie, my “friend from Ohio,” not the person who tells me when I use the word pussy too many times in the same sentence. Not the person who’s so much like me that we could have grown up in the same house; not the person with thousands of my words in her inbox, words of good days and bad days and papers we can’t write and people we want to be. Laurie, who makes me feel well, makes me feel wanted; a succession of ones and zeros coding lines that become words that add to the sum of a person.
We are not joined by geography or academics or meetings of chance. Neither of us has au paired in Paris or sat together in class. But we can talk for hours about where a TV character learned to hold a baby; exchange stories about characters falling in love as baristas and firefighters and the age we are now, a thousand different ways in a thousand different lives, spilled out in letters of black and white. In writing them, we understand, we learn; we break them down and remake them in our own image, and thus we remake each other.
And yeah. There’s sex. There’s a lot of sex. Most people, especially outsiders, think sex is kind of the point.
But it isn’t the kind of sex we’re used to seeing—not on TV or in gang-bang porn mags with girls dripping and limp. It’s permutations, and remakings, fantasies come to life for and by the people fantasizing about them.
Have you ever built three-dimensional characters solely through a sex scene? Have you listened to the drag of their fingers and the clench of their thighs and understood them better than the TV writers themselves? Have you known a person you’ll never see and never touch but still trust like they’re an extension of your body?
Have you ever tried?
I love my “real life” friends; I love my “real life” writing. But just because I call them that doesn’t make them any realer than anything else. It doesn’t mean that Laurie is just an excuse to not go out at night; it doesn’t mean that my fanfiction (there, I’ve said it, and it emerges like a benediction: I write fanfiction, and I am damn good at it) lacks value because it’s done in the dark.
I know what I’m supposed to want to be—but that’s not something I want.
I want to communicate through season spoilers and capslock; I want to write about bikers fucking prom queens, and I want it to matter as much as anything else.
I want to be open about my desires. I want to be open about myself. I want a connection that doesn’t make me feel like I’m drowning.
If you think it’s just about sex, you’re missing the point.