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Girls Were Never Discussed Much on Saturday
Girls were never discussed much on Saturday. On Saturday, Billy and his friends were too busy playing video games for such inefficient talk. The muffled shouts and lights that fractured the residence every Saturday of the year was just something one got used to. This regular worship of Billy’s favourite game--Ultraquest— was essential to their survival from the weeks of jock-spitting, toilet-dunking high-school life. And Billy’s friends preferred dragons and explosions to dating and gossip, thank you very much. In fact, not a single one of them had ever so much as talked to the bewildering, often frightening humanoid species of the opposite gender.
But no matter how much they scoffed at the notion, girls still did intrigue them-- their high-pitched antics, their flirtatiously batting eyelashes, their fragrant alcoholic ointments. But of course, any of these girls coming within a two metre radius of Billy’s friends would result in them scurrying as fast as they could in the opposite direction.
All girls, that is, except for Xeba.
One could easily observe the longing and admiration in Billy’s eyes as they roamed over Xeba’s curvaceous pixels on the character select menu, all tight and metal and gravity-defying blonde hair. He ran his tongue over his braces as he absent-mindedly flicked through Xeba’s extensive costume selection.
One could then deduct that it was a combination of boredom, tension (from losing to the level nine dragon again), and pure luck when Billy’s friends decided this particular Saturday to pick on his frankly embarrassing fetish.
The short pimply boy with a severe hair-part snorted. “It’s too bad this is as close to what Billy will ever get,” he chimed in. Billy’s friends snickered appreciatively.
“To what,” Billy snapped. He changed Xeba’s eye colour in the options menu to Cerulean Blue.
“A real girl,” the bespectacled boy said. More snickering.
“Ever kissed one?” grinned the red-head.
“I asked first.”
Billy shrugged. “Maybe.” It was an obvious lie.
“I’ve an idea,” the boy with the hair-part trilled. “Let’s bet Billy that he can’t score one with a girl in the next two months.” The faces of Billy’s friends lit up with the infinite possibilities for ridicule that this would entail-- the boy with the spectacles inhaled deeply into his puffer in his excitement.
“And why would I want to do that?” Billy said.
“Because…” Hair-Part Boy paused. “Because we’ll take Ultraquest away if you don’t!”
This was met by whoops of approval and clumsy high-fives. Billy stared.
“So you can get a real life!”
Billy continued to stare fixedly at the screen, now visibly annoyed. In his book, it was of the highest insult to ridicule his Xeba. And he of all people knew how his friends kept promises after a lousy game. So perhaps he had overdosed on his sinus medication, or he was simply too overcome with thoughts of vengeance when he uttered those fateful two letters: “O.K.”
Billy could not help but smile a little to the ensuing draught of shocked silence. But it wasn’t long before that smile was twisted into an expression of sheer terror.
Billy picked at his elastics distractedly during lunch on Monday. It was time for action. The sound of his colliding kneecaps had rang all through chemistry class—what he was about to do was an unprecedented experience. After all, the only remotely female thing he ever knew and loved embarrassedly lived in the world of UltraQuest—his voraciously attractive cyber-Xeba. Blonde, metal, big boobs, pixels. This is all Billy ever knew about women.
But it was Billy’s courageous determination to keep his prized video game that motivated him to stay up the night before, preparing a speech to be presented to his first target— a bodacious girl from his math class with a familiar golden mane of hair, but with her bodice replaced by tight jeans and a skimpy top. Unfortunately, the first two sentences of his speech landed him promptly in the garbage can. With as much dignity as he could muster, Billy rocked the bin onto its side and, defeated, crawled through the cafeteria doors back to square one.
Afterschool, Billy sat as his computer, at a loss for what to do. He absent-mindedly manoeuvred the arrow keys on his keyboard during a meditative game of Tetris, wondering what he had done wrong, and what he should do next. Of course there was the boyfriend, but just remembering the scathing, derisive look on the blonde’s face after his first utterance made him want to cry. He closed the Tetris game. He stared long and hard at the monitor and sighed. Google appeared, and his practiced fingers clacked away on his keyboard, directing him to sites and forums galore. He opened a few threads. “Top 10 tips for checking chicks out,” he muttered under his breath. He pored and pored over lists and tips and advice columns for a solution to his problem that left his beloved UltraQuest—and his pride-- hanging in the balance.
“Xeba, no,” Billy moaned. He fell to his knees, his armour crashing defeatedly to the cold flagstone floor. The glowing presence of blonde hair before him, whipping ominously in the non-existent wind, was too beautiful—too terrifying—to behold.
“You have failed me, Sir Billy,” Xeba simpered. “And now Dragon is hungry. I am sorry.”
And just as the ferocious level nine Dragon was about to toss the screaming Billy down its oesophagus, Non-knight Billy awoke in a cold sweat, still on his desk. He sobbed, furious at his inadequacy. What did it take to attract these females! Rocking back and forth, Billy sat and sat until dawn thinking about his situation. By the time his alarm clock went off at 7AM, he had already vowed to himself that he would do anything to talk to a girl and to keep his beloved UltraQuest. Anything.
Billy trudged to the bus stop, eyes bleary from the night’s restless episode. He stumbled onto the bus, flirting tips and dragons and love quizzes a-tumble in his head. He collapsed between a thick, sinewy boy and a large middle-aged man devouring a doughnut with enthusiasm. This obviously did not leave much room for Billy. With a jerk, the bus was on its way, and doughnut crumbs tumbled their way onto Billy and down his shirt. Pleasant.
The bus was stuck in especially heavy morning traffic, and by 10 minutes it had been filled to the brim with weary commuters. He was definitely late for school. With a grunt, Billy freed an arm from under the folds of the man’s belly and fished into his bag for his Nintendo DS. Arms crammed awkwardly close to his body, Billy flipped it open and removed the stylus to select his favourite handheld game—handheld UltraQuest, of course. But for some reason, today he felt his hand involuntarily jerk towards the “chat” option on the screen instead. To his surprise, the screen showed there was another person in possession of a Nintendo DS within proximity of his seat-- ‘Angie1017’. It sounded female. The next thing he knew he had pressed Angie 1017’s name, and the chat box appeared. Suddenly Billy was aware of what he was doing and looked wildly about him for a second DS on the bus. But the bus was now so packed that all he did see was a man’s jean-covered crotch pressed uncomfortably close to his face. Billy gulped. Horrible visions of his dream last night danced before him. As did a particular piece of advice he had found on a site that night— “Be imaginative with your flirtation. Girls love creativity.” Hitting up a girl through a Nintendo DS was fair game, as far as Billy was concerned. He reminded himself that he was willing to try anything at that point. He was tired. With bated breath, Billy directed his stylus over the keys on the screen. “Hi Angie 1017. Are you also on this bus?” Billy’s mind flashed back to yesterday’s research. Friendly? OK. Asking sufficient questions to sustain a conversation? Check. Introducing yourself? Oops. Billy hastily added “I’m Billy” to the end and, holding his breath, pressed send.
It was only after he had pressed send that he realized the pure idiocy of his actions. How desperate was he to try and talk to a complete stranger on a bus—over WiFi? He didn’t even know what she looked like! For all he knew, Angie 1017 could be 5 years old. Or 50. Billy only dwelled on this briefly before a message was sent back to him in reply. Breathing heavily, he read what the girl had to say in return. “Hi Billy. Yes I am on this bus. Why are you talking to me?” Yikes. He was again completely dumbfounded to what had possessed him to do this. He swallowed and jabbed the screen with his stylus as he wrote his reply. “I was playing UltraQuest but I got beat by a Snakelord on level 4 so I pressed chat and I found you. The bus will be a while.” With a giant lurch in his stomach, he pressed send. He rarely said so much aloud to even his friends. The sentence was also terribly unappealing, not to mention grammatically insufficient. He stared at the screen in unbearable anticipation, and was rather shocked to read the reply:
“UltraQuest! I’m playing it too. Do you know how to get past the Gnome on level 2? I’m still stuck there.”
Billy was elated-- what were the chances his object of passion was also known to this particular female? He sincerely hoped that she was blonde. Like Xeba. Girls who liked video games usually looked like the girls in them, right? He hesitatingly typed his reply. This might go well after all, he thought to himself nervously.
Over time, Billy began to gain confidence with the fellow online Ultraquester. They discussed and shared various strategies and tactics they found useful—going down the rear tunnel instead of the front door, such related things that didn’t come anything close to romantic. But it was good enough for Billy. He began to forget his initial goal of flirtation and found himself genuinely enjoying his conversation with Angie1017. Billy’s research from the previous night was soon forgotten.
But as the bus neared the subway station, Billy broke from his lengthy instructions on how to acquire an extra life on level 7 and suddenly remembered the task at hand. He looked up, but the bus still too crowded to see who she might be. Pangs of nervousness coursed through Billy’s body again. He had to do something! It was now or never. Chanting ‘Xeba´ repeatedly in his head, Billy despairingly typed his next move. “Bus getting to subway stop. U getting off?” He waited. And with a bleep, he read “yes.”
Billy typed, sweating profusely. “It was nice meeting you, Angie1017.”
Bleep. “You too, Billy!”
Bleep again. “Wanna meet outside?”
Billy’s heart raced uncontrollably. ‘Wanna meet outside?’ Now or never. He gulped and shakily typed back, “Sure.” He winced. What was he doing? He typed again. “Can I have a phone #?” He pressed send. But the bus had already arrived at the subway station, and people were starting to pile out of the vehicle. Billy’s heart threatened to burst right out of his frontal cavity as he shakily made his way down the stairs. What Billy had just done was by far the boldest thing he had ever attempted in his life. Possibly more so than riding that rollercoaster at the amusement park last summer. He was going crazy. He stood there on the platform, positive he was about to urinate in his pants. How tall was she? Did she have braces? Was she blonde? Like Xeba? Billy had a vice grip on his Nintendo DS in anticipation, as if squeezing it would make Angie1017 pop out of its screen. There was a tap on his shoulder. He turned around. In front of him: small, mousey, square purple glasses, matching braces to boot. He stared. And not blonde. The girl sheepishly waved to Billy. “I’m Angela,” she said, twirling her frizzy, unkempt curls around her finger. “Billy,” Billy stammered. He felt himself receding back into his shell, not given the prize he had hoped for. But his eyes widened further when Angela bashfully presented Billy with a slip of paper. “Sorry…I don’t do phones,” she squeaked, and without another word, scurried off into the crowds ahead. At a loss for words, Billy shakily pried the slip open. It was her e-mail address.
“E-MAIL ADDRESS?” they hollered in unison. It was the first Saturday the game controllers ever lay forgotten as Billy’s friends huddled in to closer examine the little slip of paper.
“She said she ‘didn’t do phones,’” Billy lamented.
“It’s better than nothing,” Glasses Boy wheezed.
The Glasses Boy, the Hair-part Boy, and the Redhead listened in awe to the serene, Buddhist- like figure before them, legs crossed and mind enlightened with new found knowledge. Their bet had vanished from their minds as Billy relinquished everything he saw, typed, and felt in excruciating (and often confusing) detail. He talked. And talked. And talked. Billy tried hard to illustrate emotions the boys couldn’t comprehend, insisting the feelings of excessive heart-palpitation and giddy anticipation were “like how a light brings out a haze”… or something like that.
“So what did she look like?” interrupted the boy with the hair-part, poking distractedly at a pimple. Billy’s long incoherent tangent on “faith and restraint” was suddenly stopped short. He found that he had almost forgotten what Angie1017—er, Angela—actually looked like among the excitement of his immense achievement. But then he realized that this was really all that the boys really wanted to hear—whether or not she was hot. Billy bit his lip. He admitted to himself that he did not find her very physically attractive—quite the contrary. But it was a start, wasn’t it? Billy cleared his throat. “Yeah. She was.”
There were whoops of excitement and envy, and Billy began to carefully study the designs on his Persian rug.
“What does she look like?” said the Redhead, mouth slightly agape.
Billy paused to think. “She uh… has curly hair.”
“Big luscious curls?!” Glasses said. Billy’s friends gave each other high-fives.
“Er… yeah,” Billy stammered.
“She has big ones, doesn’t she, Billy?” Hairpart Boy pitched in gleefully, making clarifying gestures with his hands at his chest. This, Billy admitted, was true, although they were covered in a rather distractingly horrid sweater. He sat there slightly deflated as he watched his friends bounce around the room in their glee that one of their number had “scored a hot chick”.
“But don’t forget the bet, Silly-Billy,” Hairpart reminded Billy with a sneer. “Can’t make out with a girl on MSN.”
Billy was at a loss for how his friends managed to be so ecstatic at his news, yet still plot so terribly against him. He felt rather alone, burdened to feel these emotions in solitude. But he also felt a new twinge of purpose, and as soon as his friends left, Billy sat in front of the computer, hesitated, and added Angie1017 onto his MSN Messenger list.
Billy did not budge from his seat for the rest of the evening, waiting unblinkingly for his new-found acquaintance to sign in. He spun a rubix cube to the ominous beating of the clock. He wished she had given him her phone number. Well… on second thought, Billy mused. I wouldn’t be able to handle actually talking to her for a while, anyway… that’s moving way too fast. The idea of a real live breathing girl to talk to excited him immensely, to the point where he wanted to puke. For once in his life, Xeba the Warrior was far from his thoughts.
It was 9:37 PM when Billy awoke with a start to the sound effect for a new instant message. Billy rubbed his eyes and to his disbelief, read on his screen that Angie 1017 had started a conversation with him. He hurriedly wiped the drool off his face and clicked.
Angie1017 says: Billy?
Billy says: Hi Angela. How’s it going?
Bleep. Angie1017 says: I tried out that move you told me about in UltraQuest. It worked!
It was a vicious cycle of typing, waiting, sweating, typing again, sweating some more. But at least Billy could still seek refuge behind the safety of his computer screen. Talking to girls, he realized as he typed away, was much easier when you didn’t have to look at them.
But to his immense relief, Billy and Angela settled quickly back into the light, easy conversation they had shared just that morning. Cyber-Angela was an almost entirely different person from the meek, frightened girl Billy had seen face-to-face. And all was miraculously okay. They talked well into the night about their interests, hobbies, and found they had a surprising amount in common. And at 2:14 AM, Angela finally signed off with “Talk to you tomorrow, Billy.” Billy then sat at his desk for an extra half an hour incredulous at his success in attaining his very first female friend.
Weeks passed, with the highlight of each day now involving his routine chat with Angie1017. He had learned so much from her—and not just gaming strategies, but what a girl was actually like. She was a quirky, but refreshing change from the regular gang. Billy’s superficial (and largely inaccurate) depiction of the female gender had vanished upon the entry of this new girl in his life. Together they enjoyed online chess, sending each other program hacks, and cruising gaming forums together. Billy was shopping with Angela (on futureshop.com) when the doorbell rang. Irritated, he hastily punched in a “brb” and raced downstairs to rid of the intruder on his happy-time. It was Redhead, his usual stupid grin planted on a bed of spotty complexion. “The boys are heading over to the chess tournament at school, wanna come watch?”
“Sorry,” Billy said hastily, retreating back into the house. “Busy.”
“It’s not Angie1017 again is it?” Redhead called out hotly. Billy stopped to watch his friend stare at him reproachfully.
“What’s wrong with that?” Billy replied defensively. He had a bad feeling about where this was going.
“Billy,” Redhead snapped. “She’s a girl.”
Now Billy was mad. “The bleepers is that supposed to mean?” he demanded.
“Well I don’t know, us boys never see you anymore.”
“So you blame it on Angela.”
“Darn it Billy!” Redhead cried. “You’ve only ever seen her once!”
Billy stared. Frustration welled inside him like vinegar and baking soda in his gut, but it was more at himself than at Redhead. What he said had some truth.
“You don’t understand,” Billy mumbled.
“Got that right, genius,” Redhead said. “You’ve always liked cyberchicks more than real friends, anyway.”
And with that, Redhead turned around and stormed away, stopping only to shout furiously back at Billy that if he were a girl, he wouldn’t kiss him in a million years, anyway.
Billy watched Redhead stalk off, now utterly confused as to which friends were even real anymore.
Billy trudged back upstairs, quite alone. He sat back down to his conversation window with Angie1017 with a new dissatisfaction. She brightly greeted him upon his return, but Billy did not immediately respond back. He sat there, slouched in his chair, wondering what to do. Billy sighed and began to type.
Billy says: Angela?
Angie1017 says: Yes, Billy?
Billy pulled on his face. He forced himself to keep typing.
Billy says: Do you think it’s weird that we got to know each other entirely through MSN?
He wanted to hit himself. Bleep.
Angie1017 says: I like you, Billy.
Billy blinked. He rubbed his eyes furiously, shook himself, pinched his arm, reached frantically for his eye drops to make sure his vision wasn’t completely impaired. But no—there those four words lay in that very order. I like you, Billy.
Billy wiped his sweaty hands on his pants repeatedly trying to calm himself down. This was it. It had happened. By some miraculous, accidental force of nature, a girl had actually found it in herself to like him. Okay. Whew. Billy could feel his sinuses acting up again. What was he supposed to do now? Act cool, he decided. Pretend you don’t know what she’s talking about. ‘Why Angela! Are you saying what I think you’re saying?’ ‘Oh Angela, what ever do you mean?’ ‘Angela, I’m afraid I don’t understand!’
Billy says: I like you too, Angela.
And with that, Billy’s bet with his friends from eons ago was now suddenly thrust foremost in his mind as he selected an emoticon of a pair of lips and so showed Angela both the true feelings of his heart, and his rightful standing as the reigning King of Cyber Romance.
Billy was forty-three minutes early to the bench at the local park. His right arm was growing increasingly tired from propping the store-bought bouquet rigidly in front of him. But of course, his left hand couldn’t share the burden as it was holding the other bouquet. The bright afternoon sun beat down on Billy’s back. His face was positively shining with sweat.
And with thirty-one minutes to go, there she was—though Billy barely even remembered what she looked like. But it was her alright—frizzy hair, frames and metal teeth all in order. Yes, his heart leaped, his stomach churned, his sweat glands were thrust to full-throttle— but Angela still seemed an alien on another planet compared to the Angie1017 he knew so well. At the back of his mind, Billy felt he was suddenly faced with a stranger.
Alas, Billy shot up and stiffly handed her the flowers. She smiled, her aura of light painfully reflecting from her purple braces into Billy’s eyes. Say something, the King of cyber-romance urged himself. Billy’s fingers itched to come in contact with a keyboard.
“H-hi, Angela,” Billy offered timidly. The vivacious online-conversationalist before him squealed a greeting back. Billy coughed. “Shall we walk?” he attempted gallantly, offering her his hand. He was positive he heard the group of teens behind them laugh.
As they walked in bashful silence, Billy realized that this was in fact their very first proper face-to-face encounter with each other, let alone their first date. “You’re really good at UltraQuest,” Angela tittered. This was also the first time he had ever properly heard her voice. It was strangely high-pitched and she had the habit of ending every sentence like a question. “Thanks,” Billy mustered. Pause. “You too,” he added hastily. What are you doing! CyberKing was not amused. Real-life Billy snapped back at CyberKing that talking in real life was evidently more challenging. Angela let out a loud snort, which caused Billy to jump. “I just do it a lot,” she said. The conversation ended there. In their silence, Billy kept stealing side-glances at Angela, desperately attempting to connect this frizzy-haired girl to the sweet, engaging Angie he knew online. Angela glanced up at him and then back down, embarrassed. Billy couldn’t help but feel that Angela was thinking the exact same thing.
Billy and Angela’s first date dragged on as they aimlessly wandered the park. Billy bought Angela ice-cream, and was embarrassed by his Velcro Power Rangers wallet he’d been using since grade 5. And no matter what, their lukewarm conversations always seemed to slide back to the subject of Ultraquest. Come to think of it, Billy realized dully, we never really talked about much else, anyway. They each apologized profusely when they stepped on each other’s feet as they walked.
The sun had almost set when they were back at the bench they had started from. Billy gave Angela a tentative smile, and noticed that she was staring at him quite strangely. He awkwardly turned away. Angela shifted uncomfortably in her seat. Real girls are complicated, the CyberKing lamented. He promptly tossed his crown from his head and stamped on it.
“So Angela,” Billy said. He had to man up to the situation—it was the number one rule in all those advice forums he had read so long ago. “I had a lot of fun with you today.” Angela nodded furiously, odd expression still on her freckled face.
“And I’m really glad that I got to spend time with you,” Billy pressed on. His shirt had produced damp patches of sweat. Angela tittered nervously. Billy readjusted his tie.
“And… perhaps we could do this again sometime?” Billy continued lamely. He looked up pleadingly at the face nestled in a thicket of big, bushy hair. Angela blinked. “Billy…”
“I wrote you a poem, Angela.”
Billy was panicking. Angela refused to talk to him, and he couldn’t understand why! ‘It’s me!’ he wanted to shout at her. ‘I’m right here! Why won’t you talk to me?’
Billy fumbled hastily to smooth out a sheet of paper from his pocket. Angela’s lip trembled. He had intended to give the poem to her in a far more romantic fashion, but romantic apparently didn’t work for Billy.
“Angela, fair warrior of Ultraquest who has also conquered my heart…”
“I...” stammered the purple-metal mouth.
“I type to you strategies of war, secretly masked as words of love…”
“The long golden mane of Xeba is no comparison to your luscious font colour…”
Billy stopped abruptly. Angela was now red in the face, and Billy suddenly regretted writing such an inappropriate piece. A visibly aggravated Angela stared at Billy, and got up.
“I had a good time, Billy,” she said simply. She then walked away, leaving Billy’s fragile hopes and dreams broken and mangled in the dust. He noticed the two bouquets beside him that they had forgotten to even take with them at the beginning of the day.
This, for Billy, was game over.
It had been a week since that fateful Saturday afternoon, and Billy, alone, was catching up on his favourite pastime—Dragon slaying. He had not even come near his computer in a week, instead choosing to give some attention to his faintly dusty UltraQuest. Billy guided Xebas’ sculpted, erect pixel-formation to dance and dart around the fantastic beast, lights flashing before his squinting eyes. But even after twenty-seven imps, six warlocks, and nineteen fire-sprites, Billy reflected sadly that his once favourite activity no longer made him as happy as it used to. The excitement, the thrill, it was all gone, now that he knew what it was to talk to someone real… Too bad he screwed it up. Suddenly the doorbell rang, and with a dejected sigh, Billy got up to answer. He was not prepared for who his visitor was.
“Hi Billy,” Angela greeted him shyly.
Xeba posed frozen on Pause as Billy awkwardly invited Angela in. He wasn’t ready to speak to her. There was no speech or poem to save him now.
Angela was the first to break the ice. “I want to apologize for last week,” she mumbled. “It—“
“I know, I know,” Billy cut in hastily. “I know I shouldn’t have written that poem, I’m a real creep… luscious font colour, what was I thinking…”
Angela didn’t respond. He gulped. “I’m doing something really wrong here, aren’t I,” he said quietly.
Angela readjusted her glasses. Billy could see the reluctance in her eyes. “I… I’m sorry,” Billy said, shaking his head. “I was just so nervous. I don’t usually even say anything really.” He blinked. “I guess you kinda changed that.”
Angela let out her trademark snort, her expression softening.
“I’m not great with girls,” Billy continued slowly. “I’m pretty awful. In fact the only reason I know you is because of… a dare.” Cue headsmack.
“Dare?” asked Angela, puzzled. Billy sighed. “It’s a long story.”
And so he explained everything. His female woes, the bet, the endless hours of pain, tears, and internet research. He was unsure of what to make of her stunned expression when he finished.
“So everything. To get a kiss from a girl.”
“To keep UltraQuest.”
But it was now so much more than that. What he had learned from this gawky teenage girl before him was so profound and worth all the copies of UltraQuest in the world. And with a deep breath, small, frightened Billy mustered all his strength and wit to formulate his next sentence:
“You mean so much more than UltraQuest.”
He had done it—Billy had said the magic words. The next thing he knew, his mouth in mid-sentence was covered by hers in an admittedly sloppy, but gentle caress, and then at once he knew that he, for once in his life, had won.
They broke, flushed, but transformed. “Looks like you get to keep your game, after all.”
Before Billy was a sight of frizzy brown far more beautiful than Xeba’s golden locks. He smiled. “Wanna game?”
“What is it that you were trying to tell me, anyway?” he later asked Angela as they pitted themselves once again against the impossible Dragon of level nine.
“Hm? Oh,” Angela said distractedly, eyes glued to the screen. “You had some snot hanging from your nose; I was just trying to tell you.”
Billy afterwards blamed it on being distracted by this embarrassing news when it was Angela who delivered a lethal 5-move combo to the magnificent creature and defeating the game.