a short story by Teo Yu Sheng
I was seven when I was brought to see Morpheus.
It was just like another routine health examination at my primary school, except we were told to wait outside a room for a health interview after we got our jabs. I thought it’ll be like one of those dental sessions, where the dentist asks how we brushed our teeth, to see if we’re doing it right.
It was nothing like that.
The meeting lasted less than fifteen minutes, and within that short span of time, I managed to fuck up my entire life.
When I stepped into the room, I was instantly intimidated by what I saw. The windows were completely covered with thick, olive green curtains, and the entire room was lit by a single incandescent bulb. There was nothing else in the room except for the two red armchairs, positioned to face each other. The whole place looked like a scene from a horror movie.
“Good morning, kiddo,” Morpheus greeted me. He was sitting on the armchair that faced the door.
“Good morning,” I said mechanically, bowing slightly, just like how we were made to greet our teachers.
“My name is Morpheus,” he said. “Come, have a seat.”
I walked over to the red armchair opposite his, and sat down. The emptiness of the room made me feel vulnerable, so I stared at the floor to avoid eye contact with him.
“Do you know why you’re here?” Morpheus asked.
I shook my head.
“You’re here to make a choice,” he said. “A very, very important choice. One that will stick with you throughout your entire life.”
“Do you like candies?” he asked.
I shook my head. I was asthmatic back then, so I wasn’t allowed to eat candies.
“Look, I have two candies here,” he said nonetheless. “On my right hand, I have a blue candy. On my left, a red candy.”
I looked up and saw two shiny capsules, one resting on each of his outstretched palms. I might have been a seven-year-old kid back then, but those were obviously not candies. Oval-shaped capsules are not candies.
“If you take the blue pill,” he continued, “you will be normal. You will go out with girls, get married to one of them, have children, start a proper family, and lead a respectable life. Boys are strongly advised to choose the blue pill.”
He paused to let his message sink in. He didn’t seem to notice that he slipped from “candies” to “pills”.
“If you take the red pill, however, you will be abnormal — a deviant. You will become a girl, but because you have the body of a boy, you cannot become a girl. So you will be sad, and you will be a social outcast, and you’ll only have yourself to blame. Red pills are meant for girls.”
He looked at me for a moment, then swiftly slipped the red pill back into his jacket’s inner pocket.
“I’ll take it that you’re choosing the blue pill, then,” Morpheus said, as he reached out his right hand.
There’s something that I should probably let you know: I’ve always had trouble making decisions. In fact, making a choice of food for lunch was such a nightmare to me that I forced myself to eat the exact same food every single day in school. But this decision that I had to make was completely different. It wasn’t about trivial things like food, but something that — according to Morpheus — would affect me for the rest of my life.
So when he held out his hand and told me to take the blue pill, my brain went into a nervous overdrive. The blue pill was practically shoved up my face; is it really what I want? Do I have to get married once I take the pill, and do I even get to choose the girl that I’ll get married to? Must I have children in the future, like what Morpheus said? If I took the red pill, does it mean that I don’t have to serve in the army? My dad has told me terrifying stories of his army experience.
Can I not make a choice?
“Can I-” I started, but stopped myself when I saw Morpheus’ lips twitch in displeasure.
“Yes?” he asked impatiently.
“Do I have other choices?” I tweaked my question slightly.
Morpheus stared at me for a moment. (Admittedly, I couldn’t really see where his eyes were looking behind those shades.)
“As a matter of fact, you do have another choice,” he said. “There is one other pill that I’ve brought with me today, that I’m instructed to only talk about if the child — you — brings it up. And I must emphasise again that I’m usually not allowed to talk about the existence of this particular pill. But since you asked, and since you’re the one who’s making the decision and facing the consequences, I can show it to you. Do you want to see it?”
I nodded, not knowing what to expect.
He dug his left hand into his jacket’s inner pocket again, and took out a curious little purple pill.
Now, I suspect you’ve already guessed what happened next. Morpheus told me that the purple pill will make me happy, forever. But of course, he didn’t really say “happy”. He said “gay”. As in homosexual gay. And I took the pill, thinking that it will make me gay. As in happy gay.
Now I can only blame myself for being such an idiot.
There are things in life that we don’t get to choose: our parents, race, looks, and sexual orientation, to name a few. But there are many others that we can. Like stopping discrimination. Or attempting to understand less common sexual orientations. Or believing in ridiculous tales.
Just to clarify, I’m gay to be gay (although it took me more than 20 years to be able to say that). And I don’t feel disgusted or offended by any sexual orientation or gender identity (no one should, really) (I’m sorry if I made anyone feel bad about themselves).
Cover art designed by me.