BuzzFeed News; Courtesy Alex TorresAnthony and I met through Grindr in January 2014, during the winter quarter of my first Stanford year. I was experiencing constant anxiety about my life and body at the time. After being hospitalized with cellulitis the previous quarter, my doctor, who was very uncoordinated, suggested that it could have been a complication of cancer or HIV. He also told me that I had engaged in high-risk homosexual activities. My dad was just released from prison and was now living in a halfway home. This made me realize how different I was to most of my classmates. My first-year roommate was interested in engineering, medicine, or athletics. One went to the Rio Olympics and another played professional baseball for St. Louis Cardinals. Startups were not interesting to me because I didn't know what they were. I was not interested in anything other than reading poetry and studying novels.Anthony was a flirty middle school boy. He loved to poke fun at his date and express interest.Anthony asked me to tell him that I was interested writing poetry. I found it amusing that he was a senior major in art and was planning to take a fifth. He had decided to quit computer science, his second major and pursue English, the major that he was going to declare. Anthony's problems began when he had CS 107, a notoriously hard class that was misogynistically called CS Dump Your Girlfriend, had to be retaken. Anthony explained that he wanted to write fiction based upon his stand-up comedy and art. I assumed he meant that he had a drug addiction and that he was currently in recovery. He suggested that we meet at a Philz Coffee downtown Palo Alto, and that we exchange work. The first date turned out to be a bit of an accident. I was picked up by him in the 2000 Honda Honda his sister drove (it still had his sister's UC Irvine license plate), and we both were disappointed that neither of our Grindr profiles looked as good as they used to. We were not completely catfished. However, we both admitted to each other that we simply looked different months later. I was astonished that he wore glasses. We didn't talk about sexual preferences on Grindr (Are your tops or bottoms?), so I wasn't sure if this was a date. Anthony was a middle-school boy with the flirting skills. He would poke fun at his date and express an interest. The leather sectional was brown and worn out. We were sitting next to each other while Patagonia-vested tech brothers programmed late into the night. Crossing my arms, he was not allowed to touch me, as I was already thinking about the end of our date. Anthony began to boast about how gay and funny he was going be. Anthony wanted to be an Asian American queer Lena Dunham, direct a TV series like Girls, and write Emily Gould-type confessional essays about being sexually promiscuous while performing stand-up comedy in New York City. I didn't know who Lena Dunham and Emily Gould were at the time, so I just nodded along pretending to understand. I thought incessantly about how outlandish I looked in an oversized Stanford hoodie, which Anthony had told me not to wear again, and one-size-too big bootcut jeans from American Eagle. His outfit was much more stylish, with a worn-out T-shirt by an obscure band that I didn't know, well-fitted jeans that naturally ripped at the knees and second-hand desert boots he had rescued from the dump. Anthony wanted to project a nonchalant air. He struggled to get out of his comedy persona and I didn't know how to make a joke. He asked me what my favorite bands were. I replied that I listen to Death Cab For Cutie and Vampire Weekend. He replied, "So you have the music taste like a 13-year old girl?" As if I were a victim of a stand up set. He continued by telling a few jokes that he had learned the previous summer. One was about his shitty family of refugees who spent all their money on cigarettes and Jack in the Box tacos. Another was about Tourette syndrome. He tried to convince my that he was a comedian because he was booked at a place in LA for up-and coming comics. Also, because Florence Henderson, his mom from The Brady Bunch had kissed him on both cheeks after he gave her a ride during his internship at San Francisco Sketchfest 2012. It was twenty minutes before I finally asked him about his family. He was trying to find out his ethnicity, but it was only veiled. Even though I didn't know it at the time, it was probably true. He asked me what kind of Asian I think I was, skipping the part in which you tell someone about your parents' work. It was a surprise to me because I didn't know what to answer and was worried about offending Anthony. Stanford was much more interested in political correctness than my high schools. My small, predominantly white, libertarian town on the border between Illinois and Wisconsin had very few Asian American students. It was the same town Kyle Rittenhouse, the white supremacist shooter at the Kenosha Black Lives Matter protest last year. My hometown had a high percentage of non-Hispanic white residents. My sister and I made up only a small portion of the Hispanic population. However, our skin tones were not in line with the stereotypes that people believed. It was very different from Stockton in California, where Anthony was born, which US News ranked as America's most diverse city for 2020. I was stupid and allowed him to indulge me, reaching for every nation I could think of: Chinese Japanese, Korean Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Vietnamese. He smiled every time I got it wrong, but kept going until I gave in, as though he had a secret power. He said Im Cambodian before telling me a joke about growing up in Cambodian America. Maddox Jolie Pitt. He stopped, hoping I would laugh. He is sometimes my role model. I still wait for a white, rich person to adopt me. It was Cambodia that committed genocide? I asked casually, embarrassed when the words fell from my lips. I was prone to accidentally offend people by my bluntness.Ecco, the cover of Afterparties.He explained that my parents were refugees before launching into a joke about gay marriage being neoliberal. Anthony believed comedy was the best way to talk about his identity. He worried that if someone saw that his family had been through genocide, they would be able to see him differently. This was a strategy he used in his writing, particularly in the stories that made up his posthumous first book, Afterparties. He sold it in a six-way bidding battle while still pursuing his MFA from Syracuse. If I hadn't spent the entire date feeling insecure about my own abilities, I would probably have believed Anthony was funny and talented. It was years before I realized that he probably thought only about himself, but in a different way. After I decided that I did not want to have sex that night, I asked him to take me home. I listened to the burned CD in his car as we drove back to campus. It was filled with melancholic and angsty songs like Pavements Date with IKEA and Oscar Isaacs, Hang Me, Oh Hang Me. These songs would be the soundtrack of our first year together. He started to laugh. I was probably a bit surprised that he ended the conversation after 45 minutes. In the car, we chatted about our favorite poets (Emily Dickinson & Langston Hughes) and shared stories about how we had embellished college applications. Before I could buckle my seatbelt, I rushed back to my dorm, hoping to never see Anthony again. Anthony pulled my head towards his and kissed my lips.Anthony believed comedy was the best way to talk about his identity because he was afraid that if someone saw his family's experience in genocide, they would look at him differently.Sorry, my breath smelled bad. I apologized when I opened the car door. After drinking coffee, who kisses? As I stumbled out, I thought to my self and looked over my left shoulder to see Anthony driving off. Anthony and I had planned Grindr dates for Friday with two different men, but they both mysteriously cancelled us. He asked me to go on another date, and 30 minutes later, he picked me up in his Honda, while I was tripping on shrooms. I was unaware he was high, until I met his friends. They were concerned that Anthony, their RA, would be watching Nigeria compete in the Olympics and might get mad if they caught them selling illegal drugs in their dorm. It was named Narnia after C.S. Lewis' famous fantasy world. Sometimes, the dorm was transformed into a fake psychedelic paradise. Anthony and I woken up a drunken woman one night who had fallen asleep at a table. She thanked us for our help and said that it would be so ratchet, if the cook found her passed out like this tomorrow. After consuming acid in Lake Lag decades ago to save an endangered salamander species, groups of people returned to Narnia. Narnia was home to a majority of seniors. This was a drastic change from Rinconada, my first year dorm. There, we were allowed to smoke or drink in our rooms, but we were lightly disciplined if things got out of control, such as when my friend was drunkenly pissed up on the stairs. Anthony took me to his room on Friday night to protect me. He exasperatedly explained that his girlfriend and my roommate were coming back later so we should probably hook-up soon.Alex Torres, author, and Antony Veasna So, his partner in death.Anthony's visual art was what made me fall in love. A pencil-drawn portrait that Anthony wore in his cramped room was hung on the walls. He had taped it together using broken earphones. A self-portrait of Anthony, which looked like a facepalm emoji was painted on his cramped room walls. It also featured photographs of his duplexes and cartoons of his friends using heroin. A stunning tapestry of vivid colors decorated his bed. It contained images of the evil dictator Pol Pot, as well as skulls from the massacre fields and Khmer Rouge soldiers. Because I assumed his art was fiction, I didn't ask him if he used heroin. Although his aesthetic was cartoonishly absurd, I couldn't tell where his art began or ended. His work made me see, as Ralph Waldo Emerson would say, my own images of rejected thoughts. They seemed to be facts in my eyes even though they were surrounded by fog that I couldn't penetrate. Anthony had already returned and I was thinking about how his art reminded me of Jean Michel Basquiats. Basquiat introduced graffiti and street art into the world of painting, and attracted the attention Andy Warhol who was just 27 when he overdosed on heroin. Anthony was impressed that I had mentioned the comparison to him. He said something along the lines that Basquiat, who was also of Haitian Puerto Rican heritage, was a minority within a minority. We started to make out, and I'm not sure if it was Anthony's tripping on shrooms, or if I was distracted from his art. But we couldnt figure out how our bodies would fit together on his twin-length mattress and his hand-me-down bedding. We gave up and jerked off. After eating burritos, we fell asleep on his MacBook Pro, watching Broad City's first episode.Anthony and I did not have a third date. We were only together after our first anniversary.Anthony and I did not have a third date. We were only together after our first anniversary. We would joke about our three-year age gap and tell each other that I was older in the gay years since I came out in middle school in 2008 and Anthony in college in 2013. We became closer as we spent more time together at Narnia. I began to realize that Anthony was sensitive and introspective. Studying his art helped me understand his emotional world. He shared with me how he created his visual art by taking acid. This was a more religious experience than Buddhism or Christianity and he thought it was a religion. My dad was a drug addict, and I became cynical about the substance use of others around me. We felt like rebels at a time in which most Stanford students wanted to make it big in Silicon Valley. But, unlike Anthony I was not afraid of being obscure. I was busy creating poems that would never see daylight. We read dense canonical texts that we had difficulty understanding, such as William Burroughs Naked Lunch or James Joyces Ulysses. Anthony spent spring putting together portraits for his senior art exhibition of his parents and Pol Pot. I read a lot of poems by women, such as Sylvia Plath or Emily Dickinson. We listened to a lot Fleetwood Mac. We had fantasies of becoming like Stevie Nicks or Lindsey Buckingham, the romantic and musical duo who would eventually end up in a relationship that was deteriorating as they tried cocaine. They met at Menlo-Atherton high school, just north of Stanford's campus. Stevie taught us how to move forward despite the constant grip of grief. Stevie was juxtaposed with Patti Smith, whose sounds were more grittier and more erudite. It was easy to be sucked in by Narnia's fake bohemian charm. Although I declined the offer of cocaine or ketamine, it was the first time I was offered the latter. Anthony and I were the only ones who would have sex in the shower stalls. Sometimes you could even hear the other couple sexing. We would smoke joints, cigarettes, and spliffs on the patio. Some members of sororities would show up at random times with shopping bags full festival clothes from Stanford Mall. I couldn't afford the Urban Outfitters clearance rack.Because I assumed his art was fiction, I didn't ask him if he used heroin.Anthony and his friends were consuming prescription drugs that I had never considered, such as Adderall, Xanax and Ambien. Anthony's friend gave us an Ambien that his parents had sent him on Valentine's Day. A friend of Anthony's went on a cruise to Mexico, bringing back Adderall. He then sold it all to Anthony to purchase Coachella tickets. When she went to buy back her Adderall because she was weeks behind on her problem sets, the econ-major-cum-drug-dealer upped the prices. Anthony and I viewed the Narnia residents like fictional characters from the books we were reading. It became apparent that our conversations felt like we were in a shared mid-epiphany. We were constantly experiencing realizations about ourselves, art and the world. It was like we were speaking our own language. We believed that Palo Alto was a upscale suburb that contained glimpses of the sublime. We wanted to make everything we saw and felt art. We packed up our rooms by June and left an era behind. I think we both felt relieved. Anthony quit using any substances except caffeine. It was a time we referred back to often in our lives, so much that it inspired the antics of Afterparties and his unfinished novel Straight Thru Cambotown. It was like living in Narnia's afterparties. The following summer, we spent it together. He was in a science fiction class and wrote a funny semiautobiographical story about his experience with Alex, his boyfriend. While he was in class, he was also on a research fellowship at Stanford's Cantor Arts Centre, Stanfords museum. I obsessively studied American paintings by Andy Warhol, Georgia OKeeffe and Asher Durand. Our college friends were either in San Francisco for the summer or away. We ate Trader Joes charcuterie and did laundry at Target. Amanda, our poetry and poetics TA, quickly became our best friend. We talked about how abstract expressionist painting was really about how ridiculous everything was. All agreed that laughter was the best solution to our feelings.He did not want to imitate the world around him, but rather recreate it.