How it is: Chapter 4

“Thank you for attending our meeting!” A tall boy named Alex, a junior and president of the Asian Cultural Union, waved goodbye to all of the members in the classroom. Timmy was just leaving a general meeting for ACU, but noticed the time on his phone. It read 4:30PM. “Oh, crap! I need to call an Uber.” He got out his phone and logged into the app. The meeting was a lot of fun and he was too sidetracked by all of the activities going on to keep track of the time. He knew, looking back, that it was irresponsible of him. He needed to be there before 5. “I can’t be late for this! I’m a volunteer!” Running into the car, he was quickly whizzed off to the Y.E.S. office. Timmy was a volunteer there, working mostly on tutoring elementary to high schoolers and helping them get into colleges. Two of his closest friends co-volunteered there with him: Vincent and Justin. Vincent was a fellow freshman, studying business at NYU Stern and biology in NYU’s College of Arts and Sciences. His other friend was Justin, a former graduate student who studied computer science in CAS as well. Because of their similar majors, Timmy looked up to Justin in a lot of ways. He saw Justin as an older brother figure because Justin worked with artificial intelligence, a department that he could potentially see himself doing one day.

“Alright, so here’s what we’ll do today. We can spend the first hour on Algebra 2, and the second hour on World History.” Timmy was sitting with two high schoolers, Hannah and Jake, helping the two of them with their homework. Timmy had always loved volunteering and helping others. There was just something about being able to give back that made him feel like a better person, or at the very least, somebody who can make a positive difference for the world. “Oh, that’s how you graph a parabola?” Jake was stunned as Timmy explained his homework to him. On the table next to him, a slim Asian boy with bleached blonde hair, which was Vincent, sat with a high schooler, Jeremy, excitedly going over his English 2 assignment, which was to read and answer questions on the Shakespeare classic, Othello. Vincent, being a brother of the community service fraternity, Alpha Pi Omega, enjoyed doing volunteer work in his free time, especially because it was a much more rewarding outlet and stress reliever than partying or drugs. Unfortunately, those were things a lot of other students lean towards. Vincent and Timmy clicked on that note, because both of them greatly enjoyed volunteering together and tried to stay away from slippery slopes. For both of them, it was enriching to give back to those who needed it.

“Hey, you two.” A tall Chinese boy, Justin, waved as he walked into the tutoring center. “Oh, you’re late.” Timmy shook his head. “Well, I wasn’t even supposed to come in, but somebody needed help teaching World History.” He smirked at Timmy, who shrugged. “What? It’s a lot easier to teach the subject with an old geezer such as yourself.” He cackled, much to the irritation of the now-former student. “Shut up.” Justin rolled his eyes, sitting down next to Timmy, and looking over Hannah and Jake’s assignments. “Alright, so we’re going over when Japan invaded China during World War 2.” He started. Seeing Justin reminded Timmy oddly of what Tarou was trying to be. Justin, and to some extent, Alex from ACU, already filled the role of being an older brother figure to him, yet Tarou insists on looking after him and making sure that he’s okay. It was frustrating. He was almost 19 at this point, and the last thing he needed was for somebody to be a helicopter parent to him during college. These were supposed to be his four years to grow up and learn to be an adult. How was he supposed to do that when there was somebody constantly breathing down his neck? At least with Justin and Alex, they gave him the space to grow, and being around them was fun. Being around Tarou, it was stressful for Timmy.

The three were walking back from the Y.E.S. office together when Justin bumped into a really attractive Asian girl with long, wavy, brown hair. “Hey, babe.” He leaned in and kissed her on the lips. “Hi, pookie.” She smiled eagerly. at him. “Um, Justin, did you purchase a mail-order bride or something?” Vincent questioned aloud. Both college freshmen were puzzled at the sight of Justin, this broody nerd, acting romantic with somebody that attractive and exuberant. “Well, that’s rude.” She turned to the oldest male. “You never told your friends about me?” She winked at the younger boys. It was obvious that Justin’s girlfriend was the flirty type. “Oh, well, this is my girlfriend, Misaki.” He gestured to the brunette who was clinging onto his shoulders at this point. “Nice to meet you guys!” She beamed mischievously. Timmy could already tell that this girl would be a very energetic character. “I’m Timmy.” “I’m Vincent. Nice to meet you.” They exchanged handshakes, although Misaki burst into another fit of laughter. “This is so funny. Jeez, kids these days, acting so formal and uptight. Whatever happened to being youthful? You two remind me a lot of one of my co-workers.” She laughed. “Co-workers?” The freshmen looked at the couple. “Oh, Misaki works at Logan Photography as a model.” Justin explained. “Wait, so you’d know his roommate then?” Vincent pointed at Timmy. “Wait, what’s your roommate’s name?” She looked over at Timmy, almost anticipating the right answer. “Tarou. Tarou Shimizu.”

“Oh my god! That’s hilarious! I just saw him!” She jumped up and down excitedly. Jeez, how does anyone think with her screaming like that constantly? Timmy and Vincent exchanged looks. Her voice, it just drowned out all sound. “Wait, and you’re his roommate?” She raised an eyebrow at him. Slowly, Justin connected the dots: earlier, Misaki texted him about one of her college-aged co-workers coming out as bisexual, and wanting to keep that a low profile because he was living with a guy. “Yeah. We’ve been friends since we were in kindergarten.” Timmy explained. Out of all of his friends, the 18 year old stuck with Tarou for as long as he could remember. “Oh jeez.” Justin sighed. “Babe, let’s get going.” He linked arms with his girlfriend. “It was nice meeting you both!” She waved as the two walked off. “Later, Timmy! See you, Vincent!” Justin waved. “I wonder how the two of them could even be together.” Vincent shook his head in confusion. “Yeah, they’re polar opposites.” The Taiwanese boy laughed. Suddenly, Timmy’s phone buzzed. It was a text from Justin. “Misaki told me not to say anything, but I got to look out for you. Tarou came out to her as bisexual.” Upon reading that, Timmy could feel a sense of uneasiness, creeping over him. He started to question every moment where Tarou interacted with him, specifically his intentions behind being so caring. That was something he felt better off not knowing.

Timmy was in a field of flowers with Valerie, laughing together. “Oh, Timmy. You’re such a great guy. And I’m so lucky to call you my boyfriend.” She giggled. “I’m the luckiest guy alive to be dating somebody like you, Valerie.” The two leaned in for a kiss, when suddenly, Valerie’s face morphed into Tarou’s. “What?” Timmy recoiled in shock. “WAKE UP!” Tarou screamed. “Ugh, it was a dream. Thank god.” The smaller male got up to Tarou’s alarm. Every morning, Tarou would be the one making sure that Timmy would wake up on time, brush his teeth, get changed, and get breakfast in the morning. “Ugh.” The Taiwanese boy groaned as he was brushing his teeth. His roommate was always trying to enforce this morning routine, even though he did not particularly care to be woken up at 8:30AM every morning. Timmy himself admits that growing up, his parents did not really eat breakfast, nor did he or his two siblings. He just was not hungry that early in the morning. But Tarou insisted, much to Timmy’s frustration. This sort of stubborn behavior was new for Timmy. He had never seen Tarou, who was typically easygoing, so adamant to follow a routine like that. So then the two would get breakfast together in the dining hall and then head off for classes. Knowing that Tarou was interested in both genders, it made Timmy feel uneasy. Perhaps all of this time and commitment that Tarou devoted to him, it was something more than just the older brotherly love that he was claiming it to be?

“Aw, is he your little brother?” Enya smiled. That comment took a slightly younger Timmy by surprise. Back in high school, everyone knew that Tarou was more of a follower while Timmy was the one who took the lead. “Wait, little? I’m the older one! And we’re friends! We’re not related! We’re not even the same ethnicity!” The Taiwanese college freshman was flustered. He did not know how to react to that kind of comment. Trying to regain his composure, he just stopped speaking. At that point, it was too late. Enya was already flirting with Tarou, who seemed equally uncomfortable. The two of them were so used to Timmy being the one in charge, the more mature and intelligent person. So for Tarou to be seen in that light instead, it almost made Timmy’s blood boil. He was frustrated. It felt like his own qualifications and capabilities were being stripped away and that he was left with nothing going into his first year of college. And it continued to be that way for the first semester. Everyone kept on assuming that Tarou was the older and more mature person, even though Timmy knew that Tarou was fragile and sensitive. Despite that, Tarou continued to be offered so many different kinds of opportunities, while Timmy was either ignored or faced rejection; when he applied to be ACU’s freshman representative, they forgot to follow up with him on his interview time because of how unimpressionable he was at first. Timmy was the only general member who consistently went to events, even when the attendance would otherwise be just the officers. For the Taiwanese boy, ACU felt like a good escape from this nonsense that was Tarou being such a revered figure, just because of his looks. Timmy just could not accept the fact that Tarou was capable or mature, because the Tarou he knew and befriended all those years ago is nothing like that.

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