Can You Find Me? II: Exordium

Disclaimer: Mature Content

I always knew there was something fucked up in my head.

It wasn’t like I was really destined to be this way. Mom and dad were in the picture from birth. Neither of them ever raised a hand to me that was too harsh or spoke a word to me that was too cruel. My mother doted on me for every minor achievement I made growing up and my father was your typical suburban dad, dead-set on making me the king of football or baseball while teaching me life lessons on how to be a man. We had money, we had a nice house, and I never went for longer than a day without something I asked for. Sure, I was a spoiled kid but I wasn’t a spoiled brat. My best friend in high school was even more well-off than I was and anyone would call him a good kid. A good friend, a good guy, a good son, yet his only faults were a short fuse and a tendency to be over-protective. At least his mistakes never hurt anybody; Mine did.

In regards to the “Nature vs. Nurture” argument I have trouble seeing where my nurturing failed me. I mean, maybe my good life was the reason for my problems, but then I remember my best friend and that he doesn’t have the same issues I do. In fact, he doesn’t have any of the same issues that I do. He had his emotional outbursts so that it was no secret what was going on in his head. I was always calm, cool, and collected. My demons rarely came to the surface.

I grew up being everything my parents wanted me to be. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to play baseball and take photography classes, I’m just lucky that I wasn’t stuck doing anything that I hated. I was being cultivated into the perfect little plant for all to see. Once I hit high school my GPA and sportsmanship spoke for themselves. By junior year I was good-looking, I was successful, and I was popular. My future seemed unlimited to everyone else but me. My paraphilia was the demon hidden inside of me, waiting for me to slip back into his clutches at any moment. I started over-stepping my boundaries as a child. Many young children are caught and disciplined for certain behaviors before it can get worse. Sadly, I was never caught and never disciplined. Because of this, what started as simple curiosity morphed into a complete obsession. That obsession took me down an unforgivable road that put some of the most precious people in my life in danger.

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It Takes A Year: Part Six

[Updated: 2/15/17]

Tara and I played a few more songs together before she stopped to answer the texts that she’d gotten. While she scrolled through her phone I pulled out my own too, wondering if the vibrations I was ignoring were from Will. One of my messages did turn out to be from him but it was just a generic reply to our earlier conversation about his annoying new coworker. I was kind of used to it by now to be honest. I also saw that Tyler had texted me asking what was up. I hadn’t seen him since the first time we met and I honestly wanted to hang out again in a less tense setting. He seemed genuinely concerned for my well-being. We texted pretty much daily and it felt nice. Will didn’t really bring up personal things in our conversations anymore. The more casual he kept it, the easier it’d be for us to move on. At least I suspected that’s what his plan was. It’d be just like last time, except now we weren’t looking towards a reunion.

“My friend Lana just invited us to a party at her friend’s house, you wanna swing by?” Tara asked.

My senses perked up a little. A party didn’t seem to bad, it’d be a nice way to unwind and meet Tara’s other friends. Alicia’s crowd was getting boring and predictable. I could use some new faces in my life.

“Yeah, I’m down,” I said.

Tara put her guitar aside and closed her laptop. We both agreed that we needed to change clothes. I headed to my room and started flipping through my closet for something extra cute to wear. I had to admit that I was slacking on my appearance as of late. Will used to tell me that I looked sexy with messy hair and no makeup on but my recent mornings in the mirror begged to differ. Tara, on the other hand, seemed to look flawless all the time. I couldn’t decide if it was her chic hairstyle, her healthy amounts of sleep, or her enviable body. She had youthful skin which she could probably thank her mother for. I remember her coming over once to drop something off for Tara. That’s when I found out that Tara was half Vietnamese. I knew she looked mixed.

It was easy to notice that Tara’s eyes were bright and lively while my lids seemed to be heavier than before. It took a decent amount of concealer to hide the darkness cradling my sockets. They always got worse when Will left.

When I looked at Tara on those days that she sat cross-legged on the couch, hair tussled and guitar in lap, I wondered if that’s the way he used to see me. Existing beautifully in my own little world, gently in focus. Back when happiness actually shone through my skin instead of hiding away in hollow bones. The perfect candid.

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It Takes A Year: Part Four

[Updated: 4/20/17]

As Will laid alone in his bed I was miles away draped over an unfamiliar couch. Drunken bodies decorated the rest of the room, framing my limp form in the center. I heard my phone nip at my thigh three times after I hung up on him. I didn’t flinch a single time. I knew he had probably poured his heart out to me through the screen and I didn’t have the will to illuminate my face with his fractured words. I felt entirely hollow. The only thing filling my senses were the light breaths of the unconscious ones around me and the soft clicking of dishes in the kitchen. I had forgotten that there was at least one other person awake. I traced their footsteps around the house until they finally creaked into the living room.

“You’re still alive huh?”

It was the party hosts’ roommate, Tyler. I’d seen him around my circle a few times and knew him for how chill he was about letting people over. He wasn’t much of a drinker but smoked a lot whenever we were all together. Even from a few feet away I could smell the cigarettes underneath his cologne.

“Barely,” I said with complete honesty.

“Ah. Well I hope you don’t plan on puking on the floor like my brother did. That shit was gross.”

“No, I think I’ll be fine in that department.”

“There’s that at least. Do you want some water though?”

“Umm…Yeah. Water would be good.”

“Coming right up.”

He turned and went back into the kitchen. I listened to him pull down a glass and fill it with water from the fridge. My hand grasped lightly at my pocket, tempted to finally read your messages. I was just about to pull out my phone when he returned.

“I put ice in if that’s okay,” he said, handing the glass to me.

“Yeah that’s fine. Thanks Tyler.”

“No problemo. I’m pretty much the designated baby sitter at this point. Though it looks like all the other kids are knocked.”

“Yeah…” I laughed weakly. Tyler sat in the armchair beside the couch as I took small sips from the glass. He started scrolling through his phone, the illumination bringing his face into view from the darkness. The light in the kitchen crept a couple feet past its threshold, stopping just before the shadows of the living room. I sat there in silence before glancing up at him. He had steel gray eyes and undercut black hair. He looked so young to me.

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It Takes A Year: Part Three

[Updated: 4/20/17]

Will left me in the morning with a heavy head and leaky eyes. I knew he had to work, but the fear and distress of the night before had convinced me that the space he left beside me in bed was permanent. I didn’t have the cute text he usually leaves me on my phone when he went to work. I had no indication of hope left to wake up to, only a single fan blowing and the rays of a rising sun. I laid still for a moment, basking in the memories of last night. How he had pushed me away and how our first “I love you” was in the midst of anger and lies. I had never fallen apart so fast before. I’d never let someone’s actions control so much of how I felt. I was so used to apathy and shrugging off someone’s threats because I knew I’d find someone new. But I didn’t want anyone to replace Will, for once I didn’t want someone new.

After I laid in the painful silence for a few minutes I brought up his number and hovered my thumbs over the screen. I started with a simple greeting, one without the embellishments of affection I was used to giving. He replied almost immediately, sounding so monotone and careless even through the little words on the screen. I began to type “I miss you” and stopped, wondering if it was just going to bother him. I backtracked and asked if he was at work first. He said he was. I told him I missed him and he didn’t answer me back right away. “I’ll be home at four” he said, blowing past my sentiment. My heart hurt.

I had to find something to do with my day that didn’t involve sobbing in his room for nine hours. I called up a girlfriend of mine to take me out around noon. I needed to vent, to try and understand where we’d go from here.

She picked me up from the apartment and we planned on going to the mall to get smoothies. She could tell from the heaviness of my stride that something was very wrong.

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It Takes A Year: Part Two

[Updated: 4/20/17]

“So what are we?”

“I don’t know.”

I was irritated. It had been three weeks after our first kiss and we were sitting in Will’s room again on the same bed where it happened. Many more things had come to pass in those three weeks. We saw each other often, we went on dates, we fell asleep together, and he started grabbing my hand in public places. I couldn’t deny that it was a blissful time. Things just felt easy. Natural. I’d shower at his place and he’d knock on the door, saying he had to come in. Truth was he just wanted to sneak me wet kisses on my skin and hold me from behind while I combed my hair. He blew up my phone while I was gone and it didn’t bother me at first. I just got used to it. I got used to Will.

But that week he’d been questioning me. He was eager for us to be something more tangible. I just wasn’t sure yet. Even though I liked him a lot and he sent my heart in a flurry I was scared. Looking back now I know that I was afraid of committing to him.

5 days after I kissed Will I kissed a boy who I’d liked 2 years ago. The boy had finally expressed his interest for me at a party and I let a mix of vodka and nostalgia wrap my body around his. I felt a writhing in my gut, a sickness that burned my throat and tore me away from him momentarily. He found attention from another girl for awhile before finding me again. I still smiled at him after, still hugged him and hung off of his arm that night while he sneaked me kisses on my drunken mouth. We passed out together on the couch.

I didn’t talk to Will for a few days after that. I shut up in my room listening to slow music and a buzzing phone. I wanted to be distant. After he became almost frantic in his calling I finally told him I was coming over. He asked me how the party was and why I didn’t ask him to go. I told him it was just a spur of the moment thing and that I wasn’t really thinking about it. He assumed I just wasn’t thinking about him at all. He had seen the pictures of me grinning and hanging over the other boy’s shoulder. I didn’t know an old flame of mine was going to be there. Will didn’t know our lips touched. I just got up and went with the same freedom I’d been used to having. I didn’t mean to hurt his feelings.

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Carmen

She was a bold beauty and a careful madness. A willowy storm filled to the brim with honey-coated words and sensual desire. I had been to hell and back with that girl and I could honestly say that she was nothing but an angel to me with the devil’s charm. The boys in town could brag all day about having her, but we both knew better. I was the only one who gave a damn enough to show her that she was worth more than a Gin Rickey and a pricey night at the motel. I never made myself out to be a hero because of it. I thought it was just common decency to take her away from dirty men and cheap drugs. I didn’t even recognize her at first, what with a few years of disaster taking away the light in her eyes. But sure enough I knew after a few words that it was her; That sweet girl I dated back in high school with her wavy blonde hair and her full red lips. God I missed the sparkle in her eyes. She took a few drags off the cigarette I gave her, saying she’d just been working as a waitress and living with a friend in L.A. I should have known better from the darkness under her eyes and the frailty of her frame. I’d come to find out that she was living in her car making money off the next customer that saw her strolling down the boulevard. She thought that was all I wanted at the time.

“Let me guess, you’re here to fall in love with me too huh?” she said, flashing me that Hollywood smile.

“Don’t flatter yourself honey.”

I took her out to dinner a few times. One night we sat in the diner talking until the sun rose. She was going on and on, laughing and smiling at me, reaching over for a playful nudge to my shoulder every now and again. Finally she rested her hands on mine.

“I feel like I could tell you anything.”

She looked at me with such dreamy eyes. There was no faking that look.

“Sweetheart, you know you can,” I said.

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Finding Home

“She’s just so moody you know…”

“So was I.”

I rubbed the handle of my coffee cup as my eyes traced the lines of the wooden table. He sighed again as he looked at me. A single breath traveling the lengths of many seasons to finally come to rest. I looked up.

“I know you. You get lost with people and you think you have to look beyond them to fix it. You think that talking to a girl who isn’t moody will make up for it. You’re not a boy anymore, it’s time to stop the games.”

This whole afternoon had become a game. From the embrace of our greeting to his eagerness to talk about all the good times we had. What was he trying to remind me of? What did he want?

“I’m not playing games, it’s just I know an ongoing problem when I see it. I feel like she doesn’t even try anymore.”

“Don’t you talk to her about it?”

“Of course I do.”

“Hm.” I pondered taking another drink. His eyes were pleading with me, looking for guidance. I had coddled him for so many years of our friendship. I had dipped sweet words into his heart when I called him mine. I was used to being the wrong one, the “moody” one. He was rarely keen on his own reflection. I wondered when he’d learn.

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