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Message Man

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"i regret even listening to you,"

tyler types on his phone as he carefully scrolls through every comment below his latest cover video. he can get millions of them, but he would never overlook any. he's honestly desperate for people's opinion, which always gives him a hint about what he should do to intrigue them more.

comments are important for him, because they are about him. reading about himself from many points of view is one of the most interesting things he's ever experienced. everybody wants to know, what do they look like in other eyes. tyler wants too.

he never obeys to any comment though. usually, at least. people tell him not to do that. tyler does that. it became a habit for some reason. if they are really loyal, they will stay no matter what.

"tyler, seriously, did i really wait 4 minutes for actual video to start? that's annoying, dude." the next video tyler posted had 4:30 minute pause at the beginning, during which the only sight from the screen was purple wall, and the only sound was muffled footsteps somewhere behind the camera.

"great music, as always! btw, could you fix the sound the next time? it hurts my ears, when i have earphones in." a thread of people agreeing to the comment appeared in a span of minutes. the next time tyler was recording the video, he put hair dryer on his bed and turned it on. if somebody wanted to hear tyler's voice clearly, they had to turn up the volume to the highest. it had been really cruel and childish of him, tyler started thinking some day, but at least it had been some fun in his pathetic life.

and, of course, dozens and thousands of people pleading him to show his face finally, and the other bunch hating on him for being so weird. what's so important with showing the face? the message is the most significant in his job. he didn't begin this with an intention to shine with his face, even though faces are often half of the success.

tyler reads carefully even comments like these; examining every word. he rolls his eyes afterwards and looks down at another one.

he doesn't reply to anything, still. it seems like he doesn't exist anywhere else except for inside his camera. some think he simply doesn't care, and that's why he never interacts. that's wrong. he's just insanely scared.

sometimes he thinks it would be nice to speak out, but along with that thought comes the realisation, that there's no chance to do that. people know him good enough already, and wouldn't let him go easily afterwards. theories about him are obviously being made. that is already that stage of fame. tyler isn't famous. but it's cool to read something healone doesn't even know about his own self.

coming back to tyler's latest video; singing the song recommended by one person in particular made bigger mess than it had been necessary. tyler doesn't know, why, but people are asking for more. what more? he constantly post more and more content. there's no need to be afraid.

tyler is glad it's getting attention, but he hasn't expected so much attention. it's suddenly too much to deal with in past few days. it's finally some popular song, not personal stuff tyler writes on his phone, that's why people like it. and that's finally some sort of happy song, not screaming out of despair, that's why people are freaking out.

it doesn't take long, when tyler hears a buzz from his phone and he has to stop with his tracks for a moment.

"what's wrong?"

everything is wrong, tyler wants to say, but that's not the right answer to the question. that person tyler has been texting with on tumblr for almost a week now, told tyler to try to learn that song on ukulele. they don't know tyler decided to make a cover of this song and put it on the internet.

since the first day, they've been talking with each other very casually, like lost long friends; no uncomfortable topics, no pressure. they haven't even got to know basic informations about each other, like name or age. it's not, that tyler wants to reveal his name at all. at least not yet.

the main reason that person texted tyler in the first place was his creepy post on tumblr, but they probably forgot about it a long time ago. they don't mention it. however, tyler will have to mention it some time. that's why he wanted a help.

a help with emotional instability, because some josh moved in to his city and tyler has no idea at all, what to do. how weak.

how is tyler going to respond to that text? "nothing's wrong, just a bunch of people want me to sing something like that again, and happy songs make me look weird"? definitely not. tyler hasn't talked about his youtube account, even a word. then why did he start this conversation like that? he has to make up some different proper response very quickly, but nothing comes into his head.

what about telling him finally? him? is that a guy? well, it has to be. tyler doesn't even know. who is he even texting with?

"my sister heard me singing that song and now i have to teach her playing it on the uke."

tyler hates to lie, and honestly can't lie. he can see people knowing he's lying even through texts. that's why he acts like that around josh. he probably already knows everything. he finds tyler scary, for sure.

another buzz.

"i've never heard that song being
played on ukulele, but i bet it sounds
sick."

"hopefully."

to be honest, the person hiding behind message man name makes tyler feel a tiny bit cool. he's never thought a conversation with a complete stranger would be that easy. like with ashley, but ten times quicker. tyler can say anything, that comes into his mind and not be afraid, if it is appropriate, or not.

talking to strangers isn't so bad idea at all. they don't know you. you don't know them. you can tell them anything, though. they still have no idea, who you are. they don't even care. but on the other hand, you have something to kill and fill your time with. someone to listen to you and examine your thoughts and beliefs.

tyler describes himself as boring person. he often doesn't have a proper answer to questions asked towards him. he often answers with nervous laughter or doesn't answer at all. he also has a weird kind of humour, so he prefers to stay silent, than be laughed at later.

but right now, it's not his problem at all. he can send a dumb emoji and still keep the conversation going. maybe that is a good person to share your secrets with. maybe. not yet.

"what are you doing?"

"nothing."

"come on."

"i have a mood for ice cream."

"it's too cold for ice cream."

"it's never too cold for ice cream."

"the colder the better."

"you're weird."

"so are you."

that's how most of their texts look like. at first they both acted mysterious, as if their life depended on it, but in a span of few days they got more comfortable and laughed at that. is it, what tyler wanted? maybe.

however, one stupid question still tortures him on daily basis.

"can i ask you a question?"

not even a single second passes and tyler feels another buzz. he was afraid he wouldn't get any response at all. everybody freaks out at "can i ask you a question?" question.

"come down for dinner."

that's not the answer he was expecting. but that's actually the message he'd been waiting for. his mum is calling him for dinner. good, he is starving.

he closes every page on his computer, even though his computer is safe in this house, at least he hopes so. nobody enters his room without his knowledge. it's not, that he has something to hide. his parents control him enough to manage to hide something from them.

as he walks down the stairs, he notices a glimpse of blue hair from the kitchen. ashley sits comfortably by the kitchen table, staring at her phone.

"hi?" tyler speaks up, as he approaches the table and joins the girl. dinner's not ready yet, tyler's mother is still in hurry in the kitchen.

"hi!" ashley greets tyler with a wide grin. she's happy and smiley again. this girl would never remove that smile from her face. she even smiles through the pain. that's why tyler has to spend much time with her. he's a total opposite.

"why didn't you come upstairs?" tyler asks as the girl puts her phone down on the table.

"i just came in. i wanted to help aunt in the kitchen, but she didn't want me to."

"yeah, look at her," tyler looks up at his mother humming some song on the radio whilst preparing last details of the meal, "she always seems to have like six hands in the kitchen, but she always refuses when i offer her help. then she complains i do nothing productive in this house."

"same with my mom. but i actually do nothing productive."

"oh, are you even in your house sometimes?" tyler jokes, keeping his expression slightly serious. ashley spends more time in tyler's house than in her own. that also contains her sleeping here. when she sleeps in her own room, she often sneaks out and breaks into tyler's in the middle of the night. tyler doesn't mind. at least he's not alone. his parents don't seem to mind as well, so who is he to complain?

"i just came back from my house. i made dad very proud." she smiles sweetly, not looking away from tyler's mother doing who-knows-what in the kitchen. "it smells wonderful."

"it would smell even better, if i helped her," tyler says and chuckles a little. ashley sends him back her small laugh, admiring his lovely face and enjoying the fact, that he seems to be happy. it's good.

"well, mr. perfect, my dad asked about you today."

"yeah? what did he want?"

"nothing, he was just like, tyler is performing tomorrow, right? record him or something, i want to know which song he wins with." she smirks. "look, my father loves you more than me. i got used to that."

"same thing with my mom. she doesn't care about me anymore. she doesn't even listen to me, but always talks with you. we should exchange our parents."

"definitely."

suddenly tyler's face falters a little and his smile fades. he gazes down at the corner of the table and feels his phone buzzing inside his pocket, but he doesn't react.

"what's it, tyler?" ashley notices immediately.

"it's just... never mind."

"come on, you can tell me." ashley smiles and puts comforting hand on tyler's, now fully healed, shoulder.

tyler takes a deep breath and says in one go, "i've been thinking about not appearing at the competition tomorrow."

"why?" ashley asks a little bit too loudly. tyler's mother turns around and looks at the kids, but only for a second, turning her gaze back to the counter and saying something to tyler's siblings.

"i didn't want to perform in the first place. i didn't consider that decision thoroughly."

"but ty..." ashley sighs. "you registered your song and everything is planned out. people are waiting for you."

"i don't think i would get into trouble if gave up in the last moment. i could say i had caught a pneumonia."

"you could, but you could lose your chance."

"chance to what?" tyler asks sarcastically. "to embarrass myself in front of the whole school? i enjoy what i already have."

"why the fuck would you even embarrass yourself? have you seen how many people love your singing? have you read all these comments? or are you too busy watching josh's videos?"

"i read everything, to your surprise," tyler snaps. "i just don't see any use performing at school. i'm good with being a secret youtuber."

ashley looks away, smiling nervously. "i think you're not a secret anymore."

"fantastic," tyler grumbles, leaning on his chair and crossing his arms, wrapping them tightly around his chest. he stares at nothing. it's embarrassing how he keeps bringing himself problems only to avoid josh. he can't keep going that way. life doesn't work like that. well, what would go wrong if he finally told him that simple hi in the hallway? he's comfortable with talking to the stranger. he's known josh for a longer time. what could go wrong?

speaking of the stranger; tyler forgot about him for a moment, so he pulls out his phone and opens the app.

"shoot."

they are probably freaking out at what is taking tyler so long, but that's not going to be some serious and private question. well, tyler should've already known the answer, but he's still hesitating.

"so, message man," tyler rolls his eyes at "i'm assuming you're a male, right?"

"seriously, that is your question?"

"that is my question."

before tyler can get any kind of response, he can hear his siblings shouting, and parents coming to sit at the table. that doesn't stop him from looking down at his phone. unless his parents decide to ask him serious questions he doesn't find serious at all.

"guys, have you seen tyler's cover?" well. or ashley.

tyler shoots the girl a mortal glare, repeating internally you will regret that. tyler hates talking about that with his parents, especially during dinner, when he wants to enjoy food and nothing else.

tyler's mother raises her eyebrows, not looking away from the kitchen table, and with a sigh, asks, "no, how is it?" of course not. what normal parent would watch her son chasing his dreams by doing something he's finally proud of?

ashley answers excitedly without hesitation, "it's amazing, oh my go-"

"-it's okay," tyler interrupts. he knows, what happens, when some of them gets too excited about tyler's interests. his parents aren't happy with that at all. they didn't raise him to do that. music is a pathetic choice and it takes much time to succeed, unless you have rich and well-known parents. at least that's, what they keep telling him.

"i should watch, but zack stole my laptop for homework and still hasn't given it back to me," his sister says.

zack rolls his eyes. "i'm still doing it, you have to wait."

"oh, for two weeks?"

"it's been like four days, dumbass."

"mom." madison turns to her mother, but tyler doesn't care at all and decides to check his phone again.

"yeah, obviously i am. are you?"

then a new message appears just from this moment.

"because if you're a girl, that would be weird."

"why?"

"because all this time i've
been thinking you're a boy,
and if i weren't right, then it
would be a pretty big surprise."

"be glad i'm a boy."

"you can see pictures of my head or something on my profile, so you should've known."

"they're yours?"

"yes."

"well, it's not that we pay hundreds for his progression, ashley," he can hear his mother talking, but doesn't even join a conversation. only his body is with his family at the moment. his head is somewhere else.

"okay, but girls have short
hair sometimes, too."

"it's obvious i'm not a girl."

"i know."

"how old are you?"

"how old do you want me to be?"

"where did that come from?"

"from my brain."

"are you going to tell me?"

"i asked you a question, too."

"why are you like this?"

"i want you to be somewhere near my age. please, don't be some old guy at the age of my father. it would be creepy."

"what if i am?"

"i am running away and reporting you."

"i don't even know, how old
are you, too. you could be
some old guy as well."

"you started talking to me at the first place. don't blame me."

"no way old guys have so soft hands like i have."

"i saw."

"maybe they have."

"no way."

"plastic surgery exists."

"yikes."

"what's so funny on this phone?" tyler's mother brings him to reality. "if you're texting your girlfriend, save it to a different occasion. not during dinner."

"i am not-"

"what's that with parents assuming their kids are talking to some lovers while they're smiling to their phones?" ashley interrupts tyler and saves him from another awkward situation; not just mentioning some girlfriend by his mother, well, that's awkward as well, but the fact, that tyler will never have any girlfriend. ashley gives his parents hints about that every time they mention it. she never disappoints. "i laugh at my own texts every day. funny pictures exist. funny videos exist. do i even need a girlfriend to find something funny? not on my watch."

"more like a boyfriend," madison corrects her.

ashley snorts, not knowing, what to say. "sure."

after a moment of silence, tyler's mother speaks up again. "we were talking about you, tyler."

"i know," tyler mumbles.

"so you should really rethink my words."

"i understand your words very well, mom."

"you're taking this internet thing a little bit too seriously, tyler." his mother doesn't look away from him. he avoids her gaze at all costs.

tyler wants to rip his hair out. "isn't it good?"

"there are more important things for you."

"what?" he almost shouts. "basketball? even though i'm good at it, that doesn't mean i enjoy it."

his mother blinks from a fake surprise. "you've always enjoyed basketball."

"maybe i enjoy music more." tyler is one second away from standing up and rushing out of the house.

"the thing is, your future is certain with basketball. look at your trophies. we are so proud of you."

"then why aren't you proud of me, when i do something different?"

"it's not, what you have been supposed to do-"

"okay, seriously, sorry, but why can't you just let tyler do what he's interested in?" ashley interrupts again. tyler has never in his life been so grateful for her. "he is really successful, you should check him out sometimes. it's not that it's his life, and decision made by his parents can change his whole life completely, duh," she adds with a sarcasm.

tyler knows ashley is his parents' weak point, especially his mother's. ashley is clever most of the time, when it comes to terrible conversations at a kitchen table. they also like ashley very much. they never argue with her.

"i don't want to affect on your life, tyler. i'm just trying to say, that if you choose something beyond basketball, it might not work out."

"you know what?" tyler excuses himself and stands from the chair, looking around and at the table. "i'm performing at a music competition tomorrow, and ashley's dad said i'm going to win it."

he turns around, gets his shoes, and rushes out of the house, slamming the door loudly.