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<p>A short story by Kangli Hu.</p>

When he was a kid and people asked him what he wanted to be he’d say I don’t know. When he was older and people asked him the same he said a father, after which people would laugh at him and tell him to use condoms. When people berated him for not knowing how to cook, how to clean the house, how to change the cat litter, how he was already twenty and didn’t help his parents with anything, he’d shrug and blink and look away.

He liked certain things in his own way. When he said he liked to go on his computer and read sports news about people he’d never be and awards he’d never accomplish and open ten articles at once to read their opening paragraphs and close them again, he understood this wasn’t the like of passion or love but of habit. There are many forms of like: like is the word preceding a simile and like is the feeling preceding love.

He liked to listen to the same songs over and over and over, until after perhaps a year or two or three they got old and he never listened to them again. He liked love songs and sad songs. He liked ‘Just The Way You Are’, ‘Breathless’, ‘Chasing Cars’. It reminded him of the girls he liked in high school and never talked to.

Sometimes he liked to listen to piano songs. He didn’t like violins because they were loud and blared hard against his earphones. The songs he liked were stuff by Beethoven and Chopin and Mozart and Pachelbel, not that he knew what any of them did, because he’d never learnt piano. In fact, he liked most piano theme songs from famous movies, with composers with long German names with five unpronounceable immemorable syllables.

He didn’t like going to the movies too much. He’d been before, with a friend, his only real good friend, and he liked going there because the cinema was always warm and the girls dressed in very little clothing, which was nice to look at out the side of his eye but otherwise he didn’t like the experience much. The cinema sounds were violent and the images bright; he always had a headache afterward.

His first time at a movie was probably when he was ten or so. He’d liked it then, it was a nice superhero movie with lots of action and flying and fireballs. He’d wanted to be a superhero for a few weeks afterward but like every other dream that had soon faded. That time he’d gone with another friend, a childhood friend from primary school, who now liked to go to parties and drink lots of alcohol. He didn’t really talk to him anymore. The last time they’d met they said nothing much to each other, just sat on the bench waiting for a bus that never came and kicked their shoes and commented politely on how shiny they were – yes, they’re very shiny – where’d you get them? – I can’t remember, some cheap store in the city – okay – and then the friend had left and they’d never seen each other again.

He didn’t like texting much at all. He texted sometimes, he supposed, and it was far better than speaking on the phone, after which he was usually red and hot and uncomfortable and stared off into the distance for a few minutes as his heart rate receded again. He usually just rejected calls outright.

He had once liked to read. He read a lot in primary school, a few books a day, detective fiction and mystery and fantasy and horror. He even had a brave foray into teenage romance, which he’d read with a tingling neck while watching out for exciting dangerous words like sex and breasts and penis. He said in his Year 6 graduation he wanted to be a writer, and then he’d searched up some advice online about how to become one. Someone had written that to write fantasy you needed to first read Lord of the Rings and so he had, clenching his teeth and struggling through the whole of it and never really liking writing again. He’d tried again in university, taking one subject about writing, but none of the books he was ordered to read were interesting. Some of them he couldn’t even understand the first sentence.

After that he’d dropped out of uni. Uni was hard, and very different to high school, and he had the same amount of homework but could never bring himself to do it. He also never found any friends in uni either. His favourite part about it was coming home on the train in the last carriage in a lonely corner listening to the same twenty songs. He didn’t understand when people said uni was the best time of their life, although he hadn’t understood it about high school either. He supposed he couldn’t ever remember a best time of his life.

He’d felt free for a little while after uni, free to chase his dreams, except it turned out he didn’t have too many dreams to chase. He decided to try chess for a while, and at 10pm read up on famous chess grandmasters who’d broken records and posted genius IQs and revolutionised the game. When he went to sleep his head was always buzzing with information and hopes about how he’d be greater than all of them and he couldn’t fall asleep until around 2 am each night, and then he’d wake up and stare at his red eyes in the mirror and fail to muster up any motivation to play chess. Eventually he grew disillusioned with his progress and quit that too.

Now he played computer games. He liked them, but what he liked most was that if he got bored with one he could always switch to another. He was playing some game he’d downloaded which was about killing people and it was especially fun because there were real people on his team and real people on the other team. He typed into the computer:

go kill this kid

No one responded, so he went in alone, except he didn’t end up killing his target and got killed. It didn’t matter too much; he could always respawn. He liked that about computer games. You could always redo things, redo levels, redo moves, redo ideas, recreate situations. You couldn’t do that in life so easily. Someone typed back.

What teh fuck r u doing

He’d once tried to ask a girl in high school out, a girl he knew because they both stayed in the library all the time. She wore glasses and was a little fat and he didn’t think she was too pretty and that was why he thought she would definitely say yes to him, except he never ended up saying the words.

Fuckign blue just lost us the game wtf

why would u try solo their whole tema lategame

Blue what the fuck were u doing

Answer us

He remembered his heart threatening to rupture his chest that day as he watched a bead of sweat fall down her long skinny nose. He remembered opening his mouth several times and closing it again, crossing his arms and uncrossing them again, putting hands in his pocket and taking them out, slouching down and sitting up but none of it ended up helping him ask her out. He wished he could do that again but it had happened in real life.

Hes got like 20 hrs played no fucking wonder


This game also had some professional players. It turned out they were mostly the same age as he was, so he had a real shot of making this. Probably that was why he’d failed to become a chess grandmaster. His dreams were too ambitious. This game, this was more in his reach.

Fuck blue noob just lost us the game

He had 29 deaths, thats the most ive ever seen

Im actually gonna go break into ur house and fuck u up the ass Blue

We know where u lvie

Just kill urself blue

He closed the game and shut down his computer and slammed the screen down, almost breaking it, and went to have a shower. He had a good computer. Rather expensive. His parents had bought it for him for his birthday. They’d bought him the newest phone, too, with a plan that allowed for a lot of free data and texting and calls, except he told them he didn’t need one but they’d insisted and given it to him anyway and now he let it sit there and looked at it about once every day. He was never really addicted to his phone. He didn’t understand people who were. Games on a phone were far more primitive than games on a computer.

He stared at his red eyes and the mirror and decided not to have a shower and just go sleep. He did that a lot. He stopped feeling uncomfortable or disgusting about not showering a long time ago. He’d probably dream about the game and wake up tomorrow feeling uninspired again. Life was a chore, he’d long ago discovered, getting dressed, washing hands, eating meals, playing games, taking naps, day after day.

Farrago's magazine cover - Edition Three 2021


Our final editions for the year are jam packed full of news, culture, photography, poetry, art, fiction and more...

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