I Met My Online Friends for the First Time and Remained Fully in My Head

Hello! I did the thing where after months of talking in group chats galore, I met my online friends for the first time in the same physical space! I hate calling it “real life” because what I have with them, and all my online friends, between our fingertips and technology screens is real. Like, if I talk on the phone with someone I care about but haven’t seen in years, that’s still real life. But I digress. Prior to this, I met two of my friends when I moderated the Night in Gotham panel at QFX in May, and I met one other friend for the first time when they came to my city. I was bunking with one of the friends I’d already met, so my nerves were down considerably because absolute worse come to worst, I could’ve just slept in bed for two days. Here are the thoughts that went through my head during Clexacon 2022:

  1. Wow I really hope my nerves don’t turn into gas — I have cramps and there’s only so much I can focus on at once
  2. I just need to know why airplanes and traveling are the worst
  3. There are worse things — I just can’t think of them yet
  4. Oh my gosh, bathrooms are the best and liquids are trying to take down the economy
  5. Why does my phone keep ringing?
  6. Should I answer the phone?
  7. I’m too out of breath to answer the phone
  8. If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen
  9. I wonder who those black people are waving to
  10. Oh shit, it’s me
  11. This is why you’re supposed to answer the phone when people call you — especially at an airport
  12. Maybe my hunger and thirst made me believe I’d just be teleported where I needed to be
  13. I just need everyone to know that as soon as I get to the hotel they can officially meet me
  14. Today has been sweat and tears, and I refuse for them to believe that’s all I am when we first meet
  15. Sorry for stealing your water, J, imma get you a new one
  16. Once again, my hips have decided that no one in this car will be having any personal space
  17. I just be saying words huh
  18. So, self, we *knew* seeing her (B) was gonna happen, but this laugh? The heart is reporting: Code Ruh Roh
  19. I was worried about the weight thing but honestly? It’s makes me great for cuddling, and that’s what matters at this point in time
  20. At least my ass offsets anything else
  21. Why is LA traffic like this — who let this happen
  22. I know I’m autistic and like my routines but HONEY WHAT AM I DOING HERE
  23. *looks around at my friends* Right right that’s why I’m here
  24. I am always with the group that is holding up traffic. Even as a young babe, the people I’m with decide that they are more important than mere traffic laws
  25. And they’re right, but it also gives me anxiety
  26. Oh great, everyone is fine as fuck
  27. That is perfectly fine for me because I am a professional lesbian
  28. I am not a professional lesbian
  29. I think my certification got lost in the mail
  30. WHY ISN’T IT SHOWER TIME YET
  31. Oh damn wait, I do need to go to Walmart, let me hush
  32. Look at us all being all gayly domestic and shit
  33. Why I buy all this food like I’m not in a bougie ass hotel? Like, the water? Makes sense. Saw that shit was SIX DOLLARS when we dropped our bags off but like a jar of peanut butter, five candy bars, a box of peaches, and four chocolate chip muffins. What am I trying to accomplish here?
  34. Shit I forgot I brought all those granola bars
  35. Am I a granola bar lesbian?
  36. *eats a candy bar* no
  37. Was I ever truly alive before I got to shower? This shower is the best thing ever in life
  38. *crawls into bed* This bed is the best thing ever in life
  39. WHERE AM I?!
  40. Oh right. Hotel.
  41. Gay friends and token — it’s cool
  42. It’s 3 fucking a.m. — it is not cool
  43. I don’t even get up at this time on the east coast this is a lie and a conspirac–
  44. Damn it’s actually 8 a.m.
  45. Well, after that dream that may or may not have been an orgy, I probably won’t be able to look anyone in the face today
  46. If anyone gets any closer to me, I may in fact pass out
  47. I will not pass out I am GROWN AS FUCK
  48. BUTCH UP
  49. BUTCH UP
  50. BUTCH U–
  51. Damn she’s pretty
  52. I fear I’ve found myself jello stable once again
  53. Is it possible to marry all of your friends?
  54. Would it be like Big Love?
  55. I probably should’ve finished that show
  56. We should get one of those big ass houses where, like, you can visit each other if you wanna see them but if you’re beefin you won’t see each other for days
  57. Ohhhh this is what they mean by U-Hauling
  58. How do people even do these conventions? Like, do you hear all this noise in here? See all these people? And for what?!
  59. I mean, okay wait, I would do this for Javicia Leslie and Meagan Tandy
  60. BUT OTHERWISE
  61. Wait also Sarah Catherine Hook and Imani Lewis
  62. BUT OTHER OTHERWISE
  63. I am understanding flirting in real time. Mama, we made it!
  64. Can people tell when I’m blushing? I’m light enough that it’s not out of the realm of possibility, especially since I haven’t seen the sun for proper appointments since 2019. But like, my ears feel like they’re about to melt off my face — is that obvious? Why didn’t I make myself blush in the mirror first so I could know?!
  65. We are not going to take pictures with ANYONE, celebrity or nah!, like I’m still in high school.
  66. YOU BETTER HOLD THESE WOMEN LIKE YOU A LESBIAN WE’RE NOT BEING PUSSY IN HERE
  67. Being pussy actually might be the right thing considering this group of friends, but YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN
  68. Oh no, is that…..
  69. Autistic meltdown?
  70. Paired with
  71. The knowledge that if I’d had these kinds of friends earlier in life I most likely would’ve had at least 70% less chance of wanting to die?
  72. WELP THAT’S NOT WHAT WE’RE FOCUSED ON HERE
  73. OKAY BRAINY NOW LET’S GET IN FORMATION
  74. I wonder why B pushed her away when she was coming to sit on my — OH
  75. WAIT A MINUTE WHEN SHE TOLD ME SHE LIKED ME SHE MEANT SHE LIKE-LIKES ME HOLD THE PRESSES
  76. I have no idea why she likes me, but guess what? Not really my business at this particular moment
  77. Damn we really all together up in this bitch. And we just love each other. How fucking miracle is that
  78. Like not to toot my own horn, but I am a good cuddler, that is an arena I will happy throw myself in
  79. Not really throw, that’s so dangerous, what if there are lions
  80. And tigers and bears
  81. *jazmine sullivan voice* but I’m scared of lovinnnnn you!
  82. Listen, completely fuck this racist ass restaurant
  83. I gotta get out of here. It’s too fucking loud. But, self, we can’t run away in a city we don’t know and just expect people to like magically know where we are or that there’s even a reason behind you running
  84. Like we’re not 17 and suicidal anymore, you can’t just be doing danger just because your body feels it
  85. Let me get out this parking garage, it doesn’t matter if its lit, I’ve seen enough horror movies to know they ain’t gonna let my black ass live
  86. Waiting outside the restaurant seemed like a good compromise? But I wanna leave. Damn, can’t fit in these seats with my ass, guess I’ll sit over here, away from them.
  87. Is it my cramps making me angry or like my general dislike of myself that’s usually at a simmer but is ready to boil over at any–
  88. Holy shit, why are my friends so funny
  89. See, 17 year-old-me, we can come back, and it can still be okay
  90. I don’t know what they’re talking about in this car, but this might turn into a little anxiety over here
  91. Well at least we’re almost at the room — FUCK MY MASK
  92. *takes anti-anxiety meds and a shower* Okay, I can go back into the room, I can do this
  93. This was a great idea because now I’m calm AND I get cuddles from B and my friends AND I smell good
  94. Anxiety, for once, you have done me good
  95. Maybe I shouldnt’ve drank with the meds
  96. That’s probably fine
  97. TOMORROW IS THE BIG DAY: WILDMOORE RISES
  98. Oh hey, M
  99. Ohhh we’re gonna share a bed that’s cool
  100. I hope I don’t just fall asl–
  101. Damn, it really is a whole new ass day
  102. Oh shit, I gotta be stealth so I don’t wake anyone up
  103. *clatters glasses and phone onto the hardwood floor*
  104. Like should I just start saying the opposite of what I want or…
  105. I know they’re snoring, but I think they’re doing it just to be polite
  106. HOW MANY TIMES AM I GONNA HAVE TO PEE TODAY
  107. Oh wait maybe it was the drink last night
  108. THE MOMENT WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR THE FAMILY PHOTO WITH JAVICIA AND MEAGAN AMAZING
  109. Wait, why do Javicia and Meagan remember me?
  110. I should not be this freaked out when people remember me.
  111. But like, I’m really forgettable, you know?
  112. HOLY SHIT THIS PICTURE WITH ALL MY FRIENDS AND MEAGAN AND JAVICIA AND AHHH I LOVE THEM SO MUCH
  113. Well shit, we’re not gonna be crying in the club ABSOLUTELY NOT
  114. Okay, so no one else is hot as shit? It’s hot as a motherfucker in here
  115. Oh wait, maybe that’s my cramps
  116. Damn them joints really do come outta nowhere don’t they
  117. These bags is too damn heavy
  118. I just wanna fight, why do I wanna fight
  119. Why is everything so fucking loud and close and I should’ve sat down and now I’ve messed it up I’ve messed everything up how the fuck how the fuck
  120. Why do I immediately feel better?
  121. *sees B holding my hand* Oh shit.
  122. I will *not* cry because I am a thug in my mind and I will not cry
  123. I am really sitting with all my fandom friends as we watch the two women who brought us together have a panel for the first time — this some historic ass shit
  124. Damn that question really sounded better when I dreamt it
  125. Ah well, at least it’s over
  126. I really be getting in front of crowds like I don’t have whole ass anxiety, wild
  127. All of my friends saying, “Good job, Lex” and I’m probably gonna cry
  128. Oh when they say “meet and greet” they really mean that shit
  129. We really in a circle like we in group therapy — it’s kinda lit
  130. Who says lit anymore? Well I guess I do, maybe I should lower it on the list of my vocabulary though
  131. Why do people think we’re together?
  132. It’s not a bad thing, I just wish I understood
  133. Ugh, just because I’m uncomfortable doesn’t mean I should’ve said that shit
  134. Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit
  135. And like, there’s no way to fix that because this is an opportunity that is like, donezo now, and I can’t fix it and shit shit shit shit shit shit
  136. Probably shouldnt’ve done that
  137. Shit, it like echoes the first time in high school almost exactly
  138. I really said I will never be in a public bathroom stall cutting over a girl again. It’s been ten years, what the fuck man
  139. I wanna go back to my room, but I can’t, I won’t ever be in this place, in this time, with these people ever again
  140. I so did not mean to like almost bawl my eyes out when I met her
  141. But she asked “Are you taking care of yourself?” and I almost lost it right there
  142. Like damn bitch! Keep it together! All this damn therapy and shit make my tear ducts all loosey goosey and whatnot
  143. Well, that was okay, I think I can try the next one
  144. HI BABE (B)
  145. *be cool*
  146. *remembers i am not cool*
  147. *be warm*
  148. wait what
  149. I can’t believe this is the weekend everyone in my group learned I can only tell the truth and the whole truth because otherwise it hurts my tummy
  150. Of course she’s gonna take the best pics — she always takes the best pics
  151. Oh shit, self, you’re down bad aren’t you?
  152. No time to answer! Talk!
  153. The boyfriend pose will never get old for me
  154. *Javicia spins me around* “My turn!”
  155. ………..well I’ve learned something about myself very quickly in this moment
  156. It’s like every time I’m around my friends I learn about ten years’ worth of new shit about myself — how do they do that?
  157. I kinda wish I had done the meet and greet
  158. Nope, I get to sit with B, just the two of us for a while. I’m glad it worked out this way
  159. Sitting in this hotel room with all my friends, babe lying across me, I wish this right here would just stay
  160. The last time I went to something like this, it felt like I was in a bubble outside of the world, to an extent. But this one, all of me was still right up against me in a way I couldn’t escape. And I think it made meeting them, being able to call them family, more real. Cause if it could survive whatever shit I just went through, then maybe it can survive other things too.
  161. But like how is it possible they are all so fucking hot, good grief, but also thank goodness

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A. Tony Jerome

A.Tony is a black nonbinary artist out here to do good and to do gay. They are a 2015 Pink Door Fellow, 2016 Lambda Literary Emerging Writer Fellow, 2020-21 Afro Urban Arts Lit From the Black! Fellow, and have worked with Roots.Wounds.Words., Words Beats & Life, and Winter Tangerine among other places. You can find more of their work on their website and listen to them scream about poetry & other interests on Twitter.

A. has written 35 articles for us.

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