Ever since I was a kid, I didn't act like an average male. At five years old, while the others played rudimentary sports, I played rudimentary computer games. In third grade, when boys were convinced that girls had cooties, I was best friends with three females of the species, and calmly denied any romantic attachment. When puberty approached, and football became more popular with my gender, I took up piano and Playstation, all while jamming to various musical cast recordings.

Whenever my parents gently prodded me for my thoughts on girls, I'd change the subject. Sharing those kinds of feelings with family members felt fishy at best and intrusive at worst, and family disapproval could result in me and my hypothetical love object reenacting Romeo and Juliet. I didn't want to die, literally or otherwise. Thankfully, I didn't find anyone attractive, so they couldn't find any "special" feelings even if they used a lie detector.

Around this time, a couple of my older male friends came out as gay, which opened my eyes to the evils of homophobia, and whenever the subject came up, I'd happily voice my opinions. My mom seemed to be proud of me for this, but my dad would sweat slightly and smile a crocodile grin for the remainder of the event, then express his discomfort with my...expressiveness, especially if we were with my grandfather.

Then things started getting stranger. Whenever I asked for a CD of the latest musical, he'd twitch and ask me if I wanted tickets to a Pistons (or Red Wings or Tigers...) game. Belting out a tune from one of those CDs would end with him dragging me in a room and him asking me if I really wanted to present myself like that, especially if my paternal relatives were there. I didn't know what the hell he was worried about. Why would you worry if your teenager liked musicals and video games? Did my lack of muscle build me up as a late bloomer in his eyes? I had no idea.

***

Two years later at fourteen, I had a revelation. Playing FFVII, Tifa Lockhart strutted into Cloud's resistance effort, and I couldn't keep my eyes off of her. I would keep her from going down even if it meant everyone else had to. Whenever she said something that enchanted me (a common occurrence), I'd scribble it on the nearest medium, even a napkin, just so I could type it up later to TifaQuotes.txt. I helped a transcriber of the script by correcting some of Tifa's lines (and eventually persuaded him to play the game again to get all the lines absolutely correct). He never met a Tifa fanboy like me before, and rewarded me with some pictures and fanfiction of my gloved girl, which I devoured like a pig. A few of them sent sparks to my crotch that had never been there before, and I set my favorite of those pictures as my computer wallpaper, so I could see her whenever I booted my computer up.

Despite my joy, I kept silent about this to my parents. If he chided me for camping out in fantasy worlds, he'd never stop laughing at my falling in love (which I had absolutely no control over) with a fictional character. I only told my closest friends, who calmed my fears of insanity. They told me that falling in love with a real person was falling in love with a fictional version of them that your mind creates, and I was just cutting out the middlewoman.

***

Two years later, I was playing on the computer without a care in the world, and I heard my dad's klipklopklipklop footsteps. Sensing a confrontation, I exited Quake III and turned off the monitor.

As he entered my room, I noted that he looked more stressed than usual, with his bloodshot eyes and purple veins. He took a seat on my purple futon.

"Jake, I need to talk to you. Your mother and I have noticed several behaviors of yours. First, you don't like what most other young men like, which is perfectly fine-"

"Then why did you mention it?" I shifted in my chair.

He didn't answer my question.

"I thought your love of musicals was a phase, but you express it so much without a care-"

"What's wrong with sharing what you love?" I raised my voice as I sat up straighter.

"That brings me to the last issue, Jake. You've never told us about any crushes you've had, not even in kindergarten. You withdraw when others talk about love. If you're... that way, your grandpa won't be happy, but I can learn to live with it, but you'll have to stop being so..." Tears welled up in his eyes. "obvious."

"What are you talking about? Can I go back on my computer now?" I pressed the monitor's button.

I forgot that I quit Quake III, and my dad promptly got an eyeful of Ms. Lockhart clutching her breasts and wearing nothing but a demure smile. My dad froze.

"Is that a woman!?" He squeaked.

"It's Tifa Lockhart," I said with a smile.

He walked out.

***

Later, my mom walked in my room to ask me what happened, and she saw the picture too. She looked at me, embarrassed.

I grinned. "I guess you like that my wallpaper is Tifa Lockhart!"

Her lips barely moved. "Why?"

All the way from the living room, my dad shouted at the top of his lungs, "She's a woman!"

END

Based on a true story

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