New Game, Start
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March 26, 2020
Cover art: Reese Dante
Genre: Contemporary romance, holiday
There was this guy… shit. That was how it always started, right?
He was better known by his online gaming persona, Waldere, which was actually the name of the fragments of an otherwise long-lost Old English epic poem about the legendary Walter of Aquitaine. I didn’t think Walter’s typical fans realized that, but I had a PhD in medieval studies and languages, so the fact that Walter Chase had even a rudimentary knowledge of Waldere made him even more endearing to me.
Here was the thing, though.
Walter Chase didn’t even know I existed.
Because I was only one of his subscribers out of millions—just another adoring fan of his mad video-game skills, hilarious commentary, and humble personality. Walter was also an out-and-proud gay man. He was completely unapologetic and shut down homophobia on his channel quicker than the Addams Family could snap in unison. It was empowering to watch him succeed and be respected.
But seriously, I had no chance. I wasn’t some famous video gamer. I didn’t even play much beyond what would be considered casual gaming. I only watched playthroughs because I found them relaxing. I was a horribly insecure scholar and freelance translator, getting by in the big bad city of New York, and pining after a gorgeous, wonderful, amazing stranger who had guys a thousand times hotter than myself asking in the comment threads of his videos to hook up at conventions.
So there was this guy… and I guess you could say it was pretty one-sided.
T-minus 1 week until I’m in NYC for GamerOn! Who will I see there? #ChristmaswithWaldere
I stopped mid coffee slurp and stared at Waldere’s morning tweet. I’d only made a Twitter account so I could follow him. He had 3.3 million followers. I had six.
Walter Chase was going to be in New York City?
I opened the internet browser on my phone and typed in GamerOn. The homepage advertised the event as the “must-attend” video game convention on the East Coast. It was three days long, from December 19-21, with previous attendances totaling over a hundred thousand fans.
And this year Waldere was a guest of honor.
I flipped back to the tweet to see that within the span of me giving GamerOn a once-over, Walter already had over a thousand little hearts and several hundred replies. Did he even read the comments he got on social media? I mean—he couldn’t. How would he have the time to? Even if he replied to a tenth of the messages he got per day, that would have to take him hours. Hours.
I guess that’s why I felt… confident in leaving a message. I mean, what could it hurt? It’s not like Walter would see it. And maybe if my voice became one of the millions who didn’t say anything special or unique and was ignored because he seriously had better things to do with his time, maybe I could finally shake this crush I’d been harboring for the better part of a year.
@Waldere 1st visit to NYC? Drinks on me. Would love to meet u @ GamerOn! #JingleYourBells
I finished the last dreg of coffee and stood to refill my cup at the counter. I’d barely topped off the mug when my phone gave a series of whimsical chimes. I’d never had a Twitter notification before, on account of not being someone worth notifying, so I didn’t even realize what the alert meant until I sat again and saw two bubbles on the screen.