*A draft of this was read at Forever Magazine's issue IV reading

Recently, Maxwell Bodycount had developed a habit of reading about himself on the internet. It could even be called a fixation. You see, Max's girlfriend was an actress and the host of a popular New York City-based podcast called "Asian Hate," where Max's girlfriend, Linh, and her cohost Hao, engaged in cultural criticism, discussed current events, politics, etc, etc, from a Vietnamese-American perspective. Max had been a fan of the podcast since 2019, after listening to their episode titled "On Earth We Were Briefly Faggots," in which the hosts said they "don't claim" acclaimed novelist Ocean Vuong, and that they could each "beat his little ass," despite weighing a combined 190 pounds.
white Like many people, Max enjoyed hearing the provocative things the hosts of the Asian Hate podcast had to say. But since getting to know Linh personally, he'd begun to feel troubled by the increasingly reactionary things she said on her podcast and in real life, particularly things about the 2020 election, welfare reform, and the connection between race and IQ. Max often felt like she was adopting these right-wing ideas out of resentment for him. Most recently, she even refused to get her 4th Covid-19 vaccination, despite Max's many pleas.
white Max met Linh earlier this year after she posted an Instagram story about needing help with her computer, which Max responded to almost immediately. They met in person and Max told her that there was no substance or mechanical device known to man that could remove that amount of soy sauce from the insides of a MacBook Air keyboard, but that he had a friend who worked for Apple who could get her a discount on a new one. They began an extremely sexual relationship that night, and Max felt proud of himself for being able to entertain Linh, especially given their age difference (she was nearly two months older than him).
white But over the past several weeks, after Linh posted a heavily filtered photo of her and Max together (which was the first time her followers had had a chance to see him), several "threads" had appeared on a Reddit community called /r/AsianHatePod, where Linh's fans called Max "pudgy," "big-beaked," "rancid-vibed," and a "blatant gold digging loser, the likes of which this world hasn't seen since Kevin Federline himself." Initially, he had found these funny, and enjoyed seeing himself as the subject of online gossip, but they grew old quickly, and soon became a source of anxiety.
white One comment, which read, "she might as well date that little ugly Jewish guy from The Big Bang Theory. This guy 'Max' looks exactly like him but has no career. I found him on LinkedIn and he's a total nobody," in particular, caused a feeling of overwhelming doom to settle in Max's stomach.
white Max quickly closed the tab containing this comment, feeling that somehow this might make his problem go away. But his mind immediately drifted to paranoid places. To jumping off bridges. To growing a mustache and moving to Austin, Texas. To hiding beneath the covers of his bed like the little baby he really was.
white Max's main worry was that if his employer found out about his relationship with Linh, and about her controversial and increasingly right-wing podcast, that they would fire him, take away his health insurance, and post a screenshot from the iPhone Notes app announcing that his role had been terminated, and that his choice of sex partner was despicable and ought to be condemned in the strongest terms possible.
white Max worked as an Information-Technology specialist at Let's Bail Black People Out Of Jail Incorporated, which was founded in 2020 and raised many millions of dollars from online donations that summer. Donations which gradually dropped in monthly volume by over 99% from their peak, with many of their most reliable patrons now reallocating their spending to groups like Abortions Now And Later Ltd., and the Uzis for Ukis Foundation.
white By Max's estimations, his employer, Let's Bail Black People Out Of Jail Incorporated, could operate for about two more years before running out of money, as their spending had also been steadily declining as much of the country phased out the systemically racist cash bail system.
white Max's role involved defending LBBPOOJI against a neverending campaign of cyber warfare assaults from the likes of Proud Boys, the Groyper Army, the National Nudists, the KKK (Ku Klux Klan), and the KCSS (Korean Corner Store Society). Due to Max's vigilance, the company had yet to suffer any serious damages from hacking or cyber terrorism or prank phone calls.
white This week however, they faced threats of lawsuits after Alberto Jimenez, a thirty-six year old Dominican man in San Antonio whose bail they'd paid, went on to kill a pregnant white woman while drunk driving. In the days following his second arrest, a screenshot of a Facebook post from 2015 where Jimenez said, "I'm not black...I'm Spanish," was posted to TikTok, along with details about the circumstances of his initial release from a local jail, which has led a number of the LBBPOOJI's donors to consider suing for fraud, false advertising, etc, etc.
white On his ride home from work, Max listened to the latest episode of Asian Hate, where Linh said, "Kanye is one-hundred-million billion percent correct about the Jay Eee Doubleyous," and that she's been feeling so depressed that she "hopes a super-predator or pissed off Haitian man with retard-strength hurls her in front of a moving subway soon."
white Listening to this made Max feel almost completely doomed. Partially because it was unsettling to hear Linh fantasize about dying a violent death, but also because it forced him to think about how he had no power over her erratic moods, or the racist things she said publicly. And that her habit of publicly saying racially insensitive things may threaten his ability to earn a living, and pay his many bills.
white Max exited the subway at the 2nd Avenue and Houston Street stop, and checked his phone to see a message from his friend Mia Sophia that said "these people are legit cray cray" with a link to a new /r/AsianHatePod thread titled "Pretty sure I just saw Linh's bf on the F train, guy looked terrible. I hope she cheats on him soon."
white Max felt panicked, and wrote back to Mia, "please. do not ever send me anything like this ever again. I really can't handle it," and then felt even worse for letting the mean things people said about him on Reddit upset him as much as they did.
white Instead of going up to his apartment, Max, feeling anxious and unprepared for a confrontation with Linh, walked into Whole Foods Market to look for organic pasture-raised eggs. Linh had asked Max to stop taking his diabetes medication because it made his hands too cold and sweaty. Instead, she told him to ingest 4-6 raw eggs per day, after she saw on a Tucker Carlson Originals documentary that they help raise testosterone and regulate insulin sensitivity. Max had been doing this for about a week and Linh had remarked that she appreciated the lack of slime on his fingers.
white Max enjoyed walking around Whole Foods Market. He felt at ease surrounded by neatly packaged products that all promised to be good for him, free from high-fructose corn syrup, nicotine, and unsustainable palm oils. He felt that with so many healthy options, and the pledges to environmental sustainability and workers' rights, he could hardly go wrong while inside a Whole Foods Market. This felt like the opposite of the rest of his life, where he felt pinned, trapped, and like no matter what he did, he was bound to upset or disappoint at least one person in his life.
white In the aisle with grain-free tortilla chips and sugar free chocolate bars, Max reflected upon a recent fight he and Linh had had. After suspecting that Linh had been smoking cigarettes in his apartment (even after he'd asked her not to), Max had set up a hidden camera atop his refrigerator. On the first day after enabling this hidden camera, within twenty minutes of Max's leaving for work, Linh walked into the kitchen, lit up a Marlboro Light and began taking large drags. Max also caught her on camera saying "I'm Max, I think I'm soooo cool because I don't smoke cigarettes in my gay little apartment," while prancing around in an exaggeratedly effeminate manner and then exhaling cigarette smoke onto some organic blueberries that Max had bought at the Lower East Side farmers market.
white When Max presented this video to Linh, and told her that if she wanted to live in his apartment for free, she should at least have some respect for him, she became hysterically angry, calling him a "psycho," and threatening to sleep in the park that night. "You're just a cop, you know that, Max?" she said. "Oh you would like that," he replied, "because then I would be oppressing black and brown bodies, instead of trying to liberate them!" he exclaimed.
white At the time, he had felt very clever for thinking of this retort, but now, at Whole Foods Market, face to face with the avocado ice cream, he felt deeply ashamed of himself, of his paranoid and often controlling behavior, and the way his actions affected others. For failing to understand that a romantic relationship wasn't the right place to test out clever schemes and hidden cameras, and that even if he did manage to "be right" or "win" an argument in some way, that it didn't really matter, because what really mattered was maintaining healthy communication and trust between himself and his Vietnamese-American partner. And that by being so uptight, constantly worried—perhaps traumatized from his job which demanded ceaseless vigilance and adherence to rigorous cybersecurity practices—he was alienating Linh, making her more resentful, more likely to do things that upset him, making him more uptight, more worried, making her more resentful, and so on, and so on.
white With an awareness of this dangerous cycle in mind, Max paid for his dozen eggs at the Whole Foods Market self checkout, then took the elevator up to his apartment on the third floor of "The Chrystie," an alleged luxury apartment complex connected to Whole Foods Market.
white In the living room, he saw Linh standing in front of the mirror, wearing a curly wig, a pair of loose-fitting chino pants, and a plaid sportscoat with no shirt underneath, buttoned and positioned in a way to cover her nipples. She told Max she was going to a Halloween party dressed as a "Sexy Kramer from Seinfeld."
white Max was annoyed by this, because it was now November 3rd, but also because he feared she was wearing this costume as some sort of reference, or dogwhistle, to Michael Richards' racist outburst at the Laugh Factory on November 17th 2006. Her immodest outfit worried him as well, and it called to mind an argument they had had one month earlier, when Linh told him she would be doing a topless scene in her role as Iris in a new all-Asian staging of Matthew Gasda's smash-hit play Dimes Square.
white "But there was no nudity even in the original staging..." he pleaded.
white "You just don't get it, Max. You'll never understand art. You're just a little computer man," she told him.
white Now, as he sat on the couch, watching her tape on some fake chest hair below her collarbone, he thought about how much of a little computer man he really would be without Linh. How she'd managed to introduce excitement into his otherwise lonely predictable life. How without her he'd have very little to look forward to. No more meeting celebrities like Tao Lin, Awkwafina, or Michael Crumplar. No more last minute reservations at the most exclusive Pho restaurants in the city. No more Urbit conventions. or magazine launches in Brooklyn.
white Linh turned around to face Max, holding a cigar in her left hand. "Don't try to stay up for me. I'm gonna be out really late," she said.
white "Sounds good babe. You look amazing."