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Just Inhale For Now (And Someday You Can Exhale)

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There were times Roman hated his life.

Now, don't get him wrong. He wasn't suicidal or a self-hating mess. Most days he was great -fantastic, really! But some days he was not ...days like today, for example.

Let him back up a step. Roman King, born in a small town in south-central Texas, is seventeen years old, has a fiery passion for Shakespearean theatre, travel, acting, and is, without a doubt, biromantic asexual.

It's not something he's ashamed of. In fact, amongst friends and classmates, it is something he flaunts; although he can't flaunt it too much, because then he'd run the risk of his parents somehow finding out.

Ah, his parents (don't worry, he'll get to that later).

Either consciously or not, he ended up being friends with other LGBT+ kids in his school: Patton Charleton, a genderfluid pan-oriented quoiroromantic asexual(? He's somewhere on the spectrum); Logan Gray, an agender homo-oriented grayromantic demi/graysexual (they confessed to Roman that they'd once experienced sexual attraction toward an unnamed friend of his, but only very vague, very fleeting romantic attraction a few times beforehand), Virgil Lockhart, a polyromantic demisexual trans guy, Damien (or Dee, as they preferred to be called) a gray(suspected bi)romantic pansexual demiboy, and, of course, Remy Pandara, a novigender panromantic homosexual.

Roman absolutely adored his friends. Patton Charleton was just about the kindest creature to ever walk the Earth. He spent recess making flower crowns and handing them out; the younger LGBT+ kids flocked to him (or her, or them, depending on the day) as their leader, role model, and occasional parental figure. It was not uncommon to find him comforting a sobbing teen in between classes. He made breaking tension and lightening the mood into a downright art form.

Logan Gray was the smartest person in the entire school (most likely the world if Roman was being honest). They came off as arrogant, cold, calculating, and unfeeling, but they were so much more than that. They were confident but insecure, speaking rationally to other people but irrationality about themselves, smart but also somehow dumb, passionate and determined and devoted and okay Roman needed to stop before he started waxing poetic-

Virgil Lockhart was as ever-changing as the seasons -probably more so. At least seasons follow a schedule. But Virgil's mood flipped as often and sporadically as the wind itself; he was either spiteful or forgiving, anxious or calm, angry and hateful or happy and loving. He was, overall, quiet and withdrawn and maybe a tad bit strange, but he never failed to fight back (with words or fist) for himself or anyone he felt deserved it (Roman wondered if Virgil felt he deserved it).

Damien "Dee" Tempest was a living enigma. He gave off an aura of mystery and intrigue, as if they were someone you could never truly know, yet perhaps, if you try hard enough, he'll give you something. It took Roman nearly ten years to look beyond that surface level -for Dee to let him look- but once he did, it only got better. Dee was like an autumn leaf flutteting in the wind; he's constantly getting thrown around, but instead of distressed he seems playful and content to let life continue like this. He's ...well, amazing.

And, of course, Remy Pandara, who would likely throw a hissy fit if he knew Roman had put him down as last on a list of any sort. On the surface level Remy was the most confident person in the whole school, flaunting their sexuality with their whole heart, the living epitome of the gay best friend stereotype. They were a little selfish, and at first Roman didn't much care for them, to be honest. However, as he was learning, first impressions don't really mean shit. Remy turned out to be incredibly kind (in their own, strange way) and just as scared and confused as anyone else on the topic of their sexuality (Roman would never forget the day Remy blurted out, "So I think I'm actually panromantic homosexual and not gay, woops," and then immediately ran in the other direction).

Now, what possible explanation could there for all these wonderful people to be abused and targeted for the one aspect of themselves they can't control?

What possible reason could there be for Patton Charleton, who has never hurt so much as a fucking fly, to be bullied and punched and abused by every homophobic imbecile in the entire school on a regular basis, and nobody doing anything because a) Patton never fights back or reports it, and b) most of the teachers are homophobic as all hell.

What possible reason could there be for Logan Gray to be scared shitless by the thought of anyone but their small group of friends discovering they're not-straight or not-cis because of the chance of their fanatically religious family finding out, or for them to have to endure hour-long homophobic rants from their own parents, the ones who are supposed to love them unconditionally, unable to say anything in defense of the LGBT+ community (their community)?

What possible reason could there be for Virgil Lockhart to have to fight tooth and nail to get a binder, to nearly get kicked out if his own house at the age of fourteen, and to still endure purposeful misgendering and verbal abuse from his own mother on a daily basis?

What possible explanation could there be for Dee getting cat-called and sexually harassed every single day for having the sheer audacity to be confident in their own sexuality?

What possible explanation could there be for Remy Pandara to get into fistfights on a regular basis because of homophobic comments, or being told that they're just faking being gay because they've dated woman before (sorry, being attracted to more than one gender does not exist), while also being told they're faking being interested in woman because they've never slept with one?

That's right. There isn't.

And it's infuriating.

Compared to his friends, Roman has it easy. His parents don't really give two fucks about the LGBT+ community one way or another, and most likely wouldn't care if he was bi.

But he knows without a doubt that behind his back they'd be calling it a phase or saying that he's just gay and in denial. He knows. Which is why he hasn't come out yet. He hates it. He hates this. He hates not being able to tell the people he loves about such an important aspect of his life. He hates refraining from making that gay joke or calling Virgil his chosen name and pronouns around them (his parents had known Virgil since before he transitioned, and is in their eyes just a strange emo girl with a flat chest and short hair). But he can't.

All he can do for now is wait, inhaling every word he wants to say. Roman supposes he and his friends are inhaling together.

But maybe, if they just keep inhaling, they'll all be able to exhale together someday too.