Building Family (S1, E7)

Season content notes: transphobia mention, ableism,

Emeka debated for the fifth time rearranging the furniture in the living room. Which was a foolish thing to do, with guests arriving in the next few minutes. But it distracted him from his nerves. He’d never been this stressed about a first date before. Was this how people in an arranged marriage felt when they met their spouse-to-be for the first time?

It wasn’t something that would usually occur to him, but Orli had said something about her great-grandparents being in arranged marriages. She said it worked out fairly well for them.

The doorbell rang, interrupting his thoughts. Emeka hurried to open it.

Andie loomed in the doorway, making Emeka step back in surprise. Once he caught himself, he invited Andie in. “Sorry about that. I didn’t expect you to be so… big.”

Andie shrugged. “Yeah, I get that a lot.”

Physically Andie looked exactly like their profile picture — which picture wouldn’t look bad next to ‘nerd’ in the dictionary. But most nerds didn’t have the physique to play linebacker.

“Can’t say I’m surprised. You want a drink? Orli should be here any–” and there went the doorbell again.

Like Andie, Orli matched her profile pic — curly black hair held back in a ponytail, a face marked by strain and lack of sleep. The difference this time was in the nervous energy. She was bouncing on her toes and fiddling with her ponytail.

After letting Orli in and introducing the two to each other, Emeka said, “So… Orli mentioned Hanukkah, that’s Jewish, right? There’s this one kosher restaurant a couple streets over that does delivery. I ordered some stuff from there for tonight.”

Orli grinned. “That’s really thoughtful. I don’t actually keep kosher. I can’t afford to. I try to keep… we call it ‘kosher-style.’ Mainly, that means no pork and shellfish, and don’t mix meat with dairy. But for tonight, that’s awesome.”

Emeka laughed, “See, that’s exactly the kind of thing we need to talk about. Beyond, you know, ‘are we comfortable enough with each other to live together at all.’ Let me get both of you something to drink, and we can talk while we wait for the food.”

After a few minutes, they were all seated in the living room, and awkwardness had set in.

“Um…” Andie said after a moment, “I don’t… I’m not good at… Am I the only one feeling awkward right now?”

“Oh God, no,” Orli said. “This is… I”m usually pretty good with people, and this is just… like a first date turned up to 11?”

“I was thinking that right before you both arrived, I’ve never had a first date that had me this nervous.” Emeka chuckled.

“Oh, Good.” Andie sighed. “I’m… Look, I’d love to do the whole ‘meet someones, fall in love, get a solid triad or quad going, find a place together. You know, the usual poly dream relationship. But I can’t afford to do it that way?

“I’m, well, I’m autistic, and I have trouble with… schedules, and remembering to take my medication, and… it’s called executive dysfunction?

“My parents want me to ‘be independent’ and ‘get my own place,’ but I need help. I can do interdependent, like, I help you, you help me? But I can’t do independent, and they don’t get that. So I need something, like, soon. I’ve looked for roommates, but most aren’t willing to be more than, well, you know, roommates.”

Emeka stared at them for a moment, then turned to Orli. She was looking back at him, looking kind of bemused.

“Sorry,” Andie said in a small voice. “I’m always just… blurting stuff and talking too much. And you can’t want…”

“Hey,” Orli interrupted them. “It’s okay, it’s… my turn to blurt stuff. I… I knew I’d have to say something tonight because It’s not fair to… and I didn’t want you to think…

“I’m monogamous. And homeless. I’m. I can’t do it anymore. I’m trying to raise my kid alone, and I’m in constant pain from fibro, and I can barely keep a roof over our heads. And I just…

“But that’s not why I’m here. I mean, I’ll be honest, I’m desperate enough I might have reached out anyway. But I had to try this because… because I’m tired of being alone. I’m aromantic and nonbinary, so dating is just… impossible. I want family, that’s all. And I said I’m monogamous, but I really don’t… I mean, can an aromantic person really be monogamous or poly or anything like that? I’ve just never tried to have more than one relationship before.

“And I guess I need help too, help to not be alone anymore.”

She took a deep breath. “I read your post, and it felt like something I could have written. About needing family. I promise I’m not trying to take advantage, but if you don’t want me here–”

“Wow,” Andie said. “And I thought I blurted out everything.”

Orli laughed. “I usually don’t… just spew stuff like that. I’m just…”

“hey,” Emeka finally found his voice. “I had my chance to dump everything in that post, only fair you two get a turn.

“That’s a lot to take in, but I’m not asking anyone to leave.

“I don’t care why you’re here, and you both know I got my own shit going on. You’re both here, right? We all want to make this work?”

Orli nodded firmly, though Emeka noticed she didn’t stop fidgeting with her hair. Andie said, “Yeah, absolutely.”

“So, that’s all good. Where do we go from here?”

Andie raised his hand. When Emeka waved for them to speak, they turned to Orli and asked, “If you’re nonbinary, why do you use she/her pronouns?”

Orli laughed, “Do you want the long version or the short version?”

“There’s a long version?”

“It involves Jewish stuff,” she replied. “There is always a long version.”

Emeka blinked, “Really? I don’t know much about Judaism, but I suppose I’m going to learn.

“We got all evening, so what’s the long version.?

Andie nodded. “Long version, please. Then it’s your turn to ask a question.”

“Okay, that works.” Orli nodded, then paused for a moment. “So, 2,000 years ago, when the 2nd Temple was destroyed, Jews had 6 genders…

Already fascinated, Emeka settled back to listen. It sounded like both Andie and Orli came more from desperation than anything else. But Emeka figured he wasn’t one to criticize — it was desperation that had him making that post, right?

Worst case, he’d met two very interesting people.

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