k_a_cook: Square icon with text reading hallo aro in bright pink script type. Text sits against a backdrop of green surrounded by small, crude leaf and branch drawings. (hallo aro)
Ze doesn’t feel the want when they’re together.

Saturday afternoons at the cafe comprise exhalations on demanding bosses, unfair assignments, games of Dungeons and Dragons, criticisms of fictional love triangles. It sneaks up on hir after, alone in bed, when ze remembers how she smacks the table when excited or the loose curls framing her bright face. Curiosities, then, plague hir: how soft will her stubbled jaw feel against hir skin? Will she laugh as deeply and warmly in private as she does in public? What if, next time, ze asks...?

She isn’t seeing anyone. Ze knows that she has few limits on her attraction, a shape of pansexuality that encompasses hir genderlessness. Sometimes, when her sable eyes linger on hir face, ze wonders.

What if ze asks...?

She speaks, on those Saturday afternoons, of old paramours, of her affection for kisses and hand-clasped walks under moonlight. She needs to be loved and feel loved, and her words encapsulate that desire in the usual, natural assumption. Romance.

Ze wants what they have now with one addition: a bed, its twisted sheets dangling over the floor, socks and jeans lying in discarded mounds. Skin brushing skin, a closeness in any way they care to come together, a closeness void of the fear that their intimacy will turn into something ze doesn’t feel or understand.

What if ze asks...?

Explanations, then: hir intent and desire shaped by plain words so that, this time, none will mistake hir intent. Say the word, aromantic, with hopeful explanations. Say the words, friends with benefits, with laughter after so she knows it isn’t quite truth, but ze owns no common phrase to express what ze yearns for. Say the words, I don’t experience romantic attraction, with hir fingers crossed under the table. Say the word, queerplatonic, with a heart-pounding hope that she’ll still see the person with whom she shares, each Saturday, a chocolate-chip muffin and an apple cake.

Say the words. Is it aay-romantic or arrow-mantic? What if she hears I’m a romantic instead of I’m aromantic? What if she says isn’t that just friendship or that can’t be real or, worst of all, I’m looking for something more?

Hir fingers dance over keys without hesitation, setting that dangerous word free into cyberspace. Online, ze is bold and defiant, hir pride cloaked in green, the word unquestioned. It’s hirs when framed as black sans-serif characters on a white background.

The word hasn’t touched hir lips and tongue. Ze hasn’t gleaned it in any form of communication not delivered by text on a backlit screen.

What if ze asks...?

Saturdays shine bright in the week’s crown, those afternoons spent with the friend of hir heart. Yet ze thinks of magazine articles and breakfast morning shows: psychologists and relationship coaches telling disappointed lovers to drop the partner who can’t give the something more of a romantic union. Romance, somehow, means maturity and togetherness, its lack a fault to be rectified or discarded.

Why should she feel any different, when ze isn’t sure that ze does?

What if ze asks ... and ze loses her?

Alone in hir bed, wanting, ze wonders how many more Saturdays will pass until ze finds the courage to say the word.

Hallo, Aro is a series of short pieces about allo-aro experiences and sexual attraction as shaped by aromanticism.
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