How it is: Chapter 1

“Hey.” A small Taiwanese boy with short black hair and a square shaped jaw stepped back into his grimy, dimly-lit dorm room. Laying on the occupied bed was his roommate and childhood friend, Tarou. Tarou was a tall, decently build Japanese boy with clean features, round brown eyes, and dark hair that was often swept to the side. Many people could already guess that he was a model from one look. “Hi, Timmy.” He yawned, before going back to looking at his laptop. Timmy had just finished another week of his freshman year in college. Being a computer engineering major, he was always bombarded with homework and assignments. Coding, programming, algorithms, it was all just one big mess of numbers that he had to sort out. But that was what he enjoyed about it. Being able to create something digitally, organizing and structuring text into actual visuals, it was a lot of fun for him. And then there was Tarou, who was a drama student, and a part-time model. Tarou was always busy doing performances, ranging from singing to performing, and in his free time, the Japanese boy was at an agency downtown, the New York branch of Logan Photography, doing shoots in the trendiest outfits. The two lived together in this crammed NYU dorm room, and they were both constantly stressed out with different things. “Hey, so I’m going to be out studying with the guys tonight.” Timmy started. He had another assignment, which meant another all-nighter with his computer friends Jeff and Nate. “That’s fine. I’ll be hanging out with my fan club.” Tarou joked, referring to a trio of girls who would follow him around the moment he set foot in public. He actually would never approach any of those three harpies willingly. “You really should just settle for one of them, or be honest with them. Leading all three of them on like that, it’s not right.” Timmy frowned. “Eh, like I care or have time to sit down and talk to them about feelings.” Tarou shrugged. He was too immersed in watching a music video on Youtube that featured him as the male lead.

“Honestly, how do you do it? Your roommate sounds crazy.” A tall but lanky male, Jeff, looked at Timmy. The two were sitting with their friend, a tall but muscular youth, Nate, doing their computer science homework in the library. “I just don’t get it. How can anyone put up with somebody who’s basically a sociopath?” Nate frowned in agreement. “Sociopath is a harsh way of putting it.” Timmy shrugged. He was referring to how Tarou would lead on several girls, causing him to have quite the following amongst female students in the greater New York area. “He just doesn’t know how to handle so many girls liking him at once. Plus, when we were kids, he wasn’t terribly attractive, so he’s just not used to be seen that way.” Timmy explained, realizing his own bad habit of omitting certain information. “Wait, Tarou used to be ugly?!” Jeff and Nate looked at each other in disbelief. “Yeah! Haven’t I ever told you that before?” Timmy fished out his phone and started flipping through his photos. “Oh wait, here we go.” He stopped at a picture from middle school of a noticeably younger Timmy standing with a stout, overweight boy with an acne-riddled face and large glasses that obscured the upper half of his head. “THAT’S HIM?!” Both of them yelled, completely shocked. “What the hell happened to him? Did he get hit by a truck and then use plastic surgery to rebuild his entire body?” Nate pondered. “No, that’s obviously not Tarou, right?” Jeff theorized. “Nope, that’s him. This was back in 8th grade, when he was still a fat blob.” Timmy answered.

“Hey, Timmy!” A chubby 12 year-old boy ran up to him. They were both in middle school, specifically the black top, walking towards their next classroom. “Tarou! Calm down! You’re already out of breath!” Timmy was right. The Japanese boy was panting and sweating profusely as he finally caught up to his friend in the hallways. “Wait, why are you waiting? Keep moving! We’re going to be late for English!” Tarou huffed. “Alright, alright.” The two started to walk. “But what did you want to talk about?” Timmy eyed his sweaty friend. “I just wanted to say hi!” Tarou laughed, wiping off his forehead. “Hey, you two!” The boys noticed a slim Singaporean girl, Valerie. “Tarou and Timmy, T and T, you two are dynamite!” She laughed. “What the heck, Valerie?” Tarou rolled his eyes, unamused. “Actually, though.” Timmy laughed, appreciating the pun; Tarou would be the more serious of the two, while Timmy was much more easygoing, something that stands true even to this day. “And that was my attempt at being funny.” She shrugged before joining them in their walk to English class. It was funny to think about how they were friends from then even to now, at NYU. Timmy fondly chuckled at that memory. Even though living with Tarou now, it was stressful to him, he still knew that his friend meant well. He just did not understand why Tarou felt the need to hover over him all the time.  It made him feel like he was trapped and cornered. He had no freedom in his own home that was supposed to be their room together.

“Ugh, I just don’t want to do anything right now.” Tarou groaned to himself. He had the entire dorm room to himself while Timmy was off studying. Normally, Tarou would be swamped, being a secretary for student government in the Tisch School of Arts, the treasurer for the Japanese Business Association, and the vice president of the NYU Modeling Club, while modeling part time, all while being a second semester freshman in college. Looking back at his own journey getting to this point, he chuckled to himself. When he was younger, Tarou had little to no confidence: he was overweight, unattractive, and a lot of people ignored him because of that. Timmy was one of the few people who was there for him, since they were in kindergarten. Even during cross country and track, Timmy was the one who helped him through practice. If it was not for Timmy, he knew that he would still be that same overweight loser. He owed Timmy for his confidence. The two of them, in Tarou’s eyes, were inseparable for this reason. Whenever he was nervous, had to vent, had a problem, he would go to Timmy. But then when puberty hit, and Tarou wound up being the taller, better-looking, and outgoing of the two, things started getting weird. Everyone assumed that Tarou would be the older brother-figure to Timmy, and it got to the point where Tarou himself started to see that as well.

“Aw, is he your little brother?” A small Korean girl, Enya, smiled at the two. It was back in their first day of college. “Wait, little? I’m the older one! And we’re friends! We’re not related! We’re not even the same ethnicity!” Timmy frowned, half amused and half offended. “He’s Japanese, and I’m Taiwanese-Chinese!” He pointed out. “Oh. Well, you definitely look really mature and reliable.” Enya winked at Tarou, who was slightly confounded at her remark. It was really rare for anybody their age back in high school to say that to him, granted, everyone from high school had always known the two of them, and their general dynamic. Everyone knew that Tarou was this chubby little kid. Here in NYU, nobody knew that. “Trust me, a straight guy like you in the Tisch School of the Performing Arts, you’ll be really popular.” She giggled, running off. And everyone following Enya continued to assume that Tarou was this suave older brother to the smaller and seemingly timid Timmy. Even though Tarou was scouted to be a model back when he was in the 9th grade, he never really stopped to think about how he looked, and why it was so appealing to others.

“Hey, don’t do that.” Tarou looked at Timmy. It was the present again, so in this case, February. It was less than 30 degrees F outside. The smaller male was about to open the window to their dorm room, because it was getting stuffy and uncomfortably hot in their room. “Why?” The tired Taiwanese boy gazed over, only to be met with a worry-struck Japanese model. “You’re sick. I don’t want you to get a fever from being exposed to the cold.” Tarou frowned at his friend. The last thing he wanted to see was somebody he cared about making an easily avoidable mistake, and paying the price for it. “Oh.” Timmy quietly slumped his way back into his bed and went to sleep. This was just one of several instances of Tarou acting like a helicopter parent to Timmy. If it was not staying warm, it would be the way he dressed, making sure he ate three meals a day, that he would be on time to class, all things that a parent, not a student or peer, should ever have to concern themselves with. Making sure that Timmy was safe suddenly became the Japanese model’s priority. He never understood why at first, but he just had this urge to look after and protect the Taiwanese boy. It was stressful and exhausting to Tarou as much as it was aggravating and annoying to Timmy.

“Hi, I’m Timmy. Timmy Li!” A five year-old Timmy was smiling at a chubby Japanese boy who was in his kindergarten class, Tarou Shimizu. “H-hi.” Tarou nodded shyly in acknowledgement. The boy was not used to having friends, so seeing Timmy made him nervous. He did not know how to react to being in any kind of social setting. “I heard from Valerie, that really pretty girl in our class, that you were new to town, and I am too! I figured that us new kids got to stick together.” Timmy laughed, sitting down with Tarou in the sandbox. Timmy had recently moved to Queens from La Canada, California, just a week after Tarou had moved to Queens from Torrance, California. It was funny to Timmy that both of them were from Southern California, and that was what drew him to Tarou to begin with. “Yeah, I moved here a couple weeks ago.” Tarou shyly nodded. It was clear at that point, Timmy was the more outgoing of the two. “Hey, do you like Kingdom Hearts?” Timmy beamed at Tarou hopefully. “Yeah! I love it.” Tarou grinned sheepishly. “Want to come over and play it at my place sometimes?” Timmy offered eagerly. “Sure! I’d love to!” Tarou nodded, feeling at ease for the first time in a while: he was so used to being picked on that he was initially cautious of Timmy’s friendliness. But seeing that he was genuinely trying to be friends, it was touching. From that moment on, the two of them became and remained close friends. Almost to the point of being inseparable. That was, until college drama took its toll.

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