Hallo, Aro is a series of flash fiction stories about allosexual aromantic characters navigating friendship, sexual attraction, aromanticism and the weight of amatonormative expectation.
Contains: A gay aromantic man dealing with the casual amatonormativity of alloromantics who think they accept his aromanticism.
Length: 992 words / 4 PDF pages.
Advisory: Depiction of amatonormativity in social discussions about relationships and references to the amatonormativity experienced by aro-specs in sexual relationships. Some swearing and casual sex references.
The same old words, the same tedious amatonormativity.
Monday starts with Gina from Marketing. She plonks herself on the edge of Piper’s desk and wreathes him in nose-stinging perfume before delivering a new entry in the long-running drama of her husband and father-in law.
It takes several reminders that the new website won’t design itself before Gina stands and pats Piper, engaged in the passive-aggressive twiddling of a mini pride flag, on the arm. “You’re so lucky, being aro! I wish I didn’t have to deal with partners!”
Why do they always say it like that? Piper shoves the emerald, green, white, grey and black flag inside his yellow coffee mug before texting a single number—one—to his housemate. Only then does he sigh and turn to the nightmare of Head Office picking Calibri as their header type.
So soon? Akira texts back. Fuck.
Piper knows then it’s going to be one of those days.
Lunch sees him sitting with Bruce from Distribution—all muscle and leg, nice to look at, terrible to talk to. Piper eats and twists a white spinner ring on his right hand, subjected to a monologue on swiping, bars, ghosting and the dearth of good men. Only then does Bruce blink, boom a laugh and slap Piper over the shoulder: “Least you don’t have this, right? You’ve got it easy, mate!”
Piper forces a smile and beats a hasty retreat to his computer, where he can safely send a second message.
After lunch, a second excessively-polite email with Head Office has him hopeful that he’s persuaded the ignorant. Piper stands, rolls his shoulders back and walks to the kitchenette, green arrow-printed mug in hand. He stands in front of the sink while the kettle boils, snickering when Akira texts in his first comment of the day.
“Piper! My girlfriend wants to go base jumping!” Sonja bursts into the room with a tuna-scented clip container; Piper almost knocks his mug off the counter. “How can she risk her life like that? Doesn’t she care about me?”
“Um,” Piper says. Why do alloromantics keep forcing these conversations on him? Is it meant to make him feel included? Or is it because they think he can’t interrupt with his own relationship problems? “I suppose it must bother you that she’s not listening to your … uh, fears? Maybe?”
Sonja blocks the kitchenette doorway and delivers fifteen minutes of frustration on her girlfriend’s choosing a rock-climbing competition over their anniversary before sighing. “I wish I didn’t want her, Piper! It’d be so much easier to not have a girlfriend! Like you!”
Piper waits until he returns to his desk and an email containing Head Office’s firm insistence on Calibri before messaging Akira.
Finally, after an hour of swearing at Photoshop, he sends the new header image back to Head Office for approval, gathers his coat and prays for a peaceful journey home. Instead, Miguel waits at the bus stop, offering up a tangled tale about his daughters, an expensive dolls’ house and the misadventures of the family dog resulting in vet bills and panicked children. “But,” he concludes cheerfully as they both get on the bus, “you needn’t mind it, do you? You’ve just you to worry about. No spouse, no children. Lucky!”
Piper twists the ring on his finger and, when Miguel gets off three stops before Piper, sends one last text message.
It’s a dizzying relief to walk down the street and up the drive to the one place free of alloromantic ridiculousness.
“Four!” Akira, all dark eyes and broad grin, lies sprawled across the lounge couch, a remote in one hand and a mug in the other. “Dude, you got four! Do you even know how to wash a dish anymore?” He sets the mug on the coffee table and holds out his free hand, adorned by a plain white band. “See, wrinkles! I’m getting bloody wrinkles from all the dishes I’m doing because you keep winning!”
Piper throws his coat on the kitchen table and flops down on the free end of the couch, pretending to examine Akira’s hand. “I don’t see any wrinkles, just a whole lot of whining. Get rubber gloves?”
“Arsehole.” Akira sits up and shoves him on the shoulder. “Want to do the chicken shop so my poor hands get a night off?”
Piper pretends to consider: Akira does keep ending up with the dishes.
The game came from a drunken conversation between two aro guys tired of the inevitable comments made by folks who think they’re being supportive. Lucky, even though Piper has lost count of how many times people tell him he can’t not fall in love. Easier, even though he lives and works in a world that turns on an axis of romance. Better, even though mentioning his relationship with Akira to Piper’s colleagues means his aromanticism will be dismissed and ignored.
The same old words, the same tedious amatonormativity.
It’s a little more fun this way.
“I suppose. Want to fuck me after?”
Akira snorts, grins and reaches for his phone. “Fuck yeah, but you know what they’d be saying if they heard that?”
Piper laughs. “Half of them will be all ‘that sounds so easy’ with that wistful voice and the other half will be all ‘that’s actually just romance’. Fuck.” He slides the spinner ring from his finger and drops it on the coffee table. “I almost want to tell Distro Bruce I’ve got a man who buys me chicken, does the dishes and fucks me whenever, just for his stare…”
Akira, snickering, messages their standing order; Piper leans against his shoulder.
He is, in many ways. It’s a privilege to be out at work. He has a man who cares about him. He doesn’t need to wade through feelings he can’t rationalise or reciprocate. He no longer struggles through the hell of dating as an unknowing aromantic.
He would be, completely, if the world outside better understood him.
K. A. Cook is an abrosexual, aromantic, genderless, autistic, queer adult who experiences chronic pain and mental illness. Ze writes creative non-fiction, personal essays and novels about the above on the philosophy that if the universe is going to make life interesting, ze may as well make interesting art. Ze can be found online at Queer Without Gender and @aroworlds.