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Bullets & Vitamins


I woke up groggy as hell, I guess hella groggy if I wanted to sound like a jackass. I wiped my eyes and remembered what happened. Fuck. What the hell is happening to my life?

I was piecing together the night and having that exact thought when I rolled over and saw the most disturbing sign I’d ever seen in my life. “DISPOSE SOILED LINEN HERE” in big bold black lettering over a neon pink background so people would know. That way they wouldn’t try to recycle the soiled linen, or mix it with the other trash, or leave it on the bed. I immediately felt like I was laying in someone else’s shit.

I laid there for a few minutes looking at the sign before a nurse came in. I’ve always admired nurses, and I know she’s just doing her job, but I freaking hate all these people. We went back and forth about when I would be able to leave. And she explained it was a mandatory 72 hour hold, which infuriated me to no end. I began referencing Nazi Germany before she left and the intake nurses came in to do their job. And just to be clear, someone truly intent on hurting themself or others can probably find a way to do so without hiding weaponry up their own ass or underneath their scrotum.

I asked for as much drugs as possible that night to help me sleep, coughed them down, made due with the lousy breakfasts and forced upon meetings and activities, and drifted my way through the rest of my time there.

It was a little over a week before they released me. I immediately got a burrito and went to the beach. I love the beach. I guess that’s what I grew up with, but anytime I want to relax, turn off my phone, and be by myself, or whatever it is, the beach has always been there for me. Luckily, in Southern California most people only go to the beach during the summer or a holiday. Try going to the beach during the Fourth of July, everybody and their mothers from Arizona are there. Right now it was perfect. God, I love the beach.

I guess since I’m thinking about it, I should explain why I was put in the hospital. To be honest, it’s not as big of a deal to me as I know it is to everyone else. My parents are pretty concerned as any would be, but what it boils down to is: Cops have absolutely no sense of humor. I made a hypothetical freaking joke, and they took it up the ass, slapped handcuffs on me, and stuck me in the crazy house_ pricks. What’s more pertinent and concerning right now is if I’m going to tell any of my friends, or not.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends, and I know how lucky I might be to have as many friends as I do, but even with the ones I like and respect and sometimes want to trust, I know if I told any of them, everybody else is going to know within a matter of hours. …That’s just high school though_ my friends are great. I’m not trying to say anything negative about them. I just wouldn’t tell them certain kinds of things. Important things. _I don’t know. Nevermind. I mean they’re my boys. And I love my friends. …But I think I’ll just tell everybody I turned my phone off for a week. They’ll understand that.

And since all that facebook crap, it’s kind of become the thing to do. Turn your phone off and sign out of social media for more than a day and people’ll think you know something about life they don’t. Anyways, I’d listened to the waves long enough, and put the smell of the hospital behind me enough. I wanted to get drunk (faded more properly, “hyphee” if you’re that much of a jerk-off).

I texted my buddy Austin. I guess if I had to choose a best friend, it’d be him. We grew up together and all that, and of all my friends, even though he was as much of a fuck-up as any of them, I knew I could count on him. He wasn’t really the sharpest tool in the drawer though. Guys always find that one thing everyone has in a group of friends that you can make fun of. Whether it’s sort of funny or kind of mean, it always happens. The fat guy gets his, the rich guy, the poor guy, the guy with the hot mom, the guy that was born clumsy… Austin’s was that he was dumb. I always tell him how much he likes stuff that blows up. I should probably stop doing that. I always feel bad afterward.

Anyway, you could always rely on Austin to have a good time. He started asking about where I had been and everything. I told him I just took a week off, and that I wanted to get drunk, and to call some girls. Conversation went quick.

Austin was really good with girls too. He definitely looked the part, and you didn’t have to be in the LGBQT to realize that. And unlike the rest of us, Austin was actually on a sports team. He was co-captain of the basketball team. He would’ve been the only captain if he didn’t ask the coach to give it to someone else so he could party and drink more. He was a really good guy like that. Just such a dope though… But I also kind of think girls like that. I’ve always relied on him for this stuff too. My girlfriend right now is a friend of a girl he dated for a couple months. We’ve been dating since the beginning of the year, and we hang out with her and her friends a lot. But it’s always easiest to go through him when we want to hang out with girls.

Anyway, typical night for us involved two objectives: Find booze. Find girls. The booze typically stayed the same_ the cheapest we could get, and the most we could get. Generally, we tried a little harder with the girls. I was really lucky I guess I had the best of both worlds. I didn’t really want her to, but she did it so effortlessly I never said anything. She was crazy like that, probably why we liked each other so much. But not long after we started dating, instead of asking a bum or stealing from our parents, my girlfriend, Mary, would just walk in a store, pick up a couple of bottles, and run out. I mean she’s done it a thousand times. We probably make her do it more than she actually wants to because that’s pretty much the only time we don’t drink $10 handles. She never argued about it either. I don’t know. She’s a lot of fun though, and a really cool girlfriend, and I really do like her a lot.

Like twelve of us got together, me, Austin, Pete Knuttercup (which we always changed because of what he always tried to do with girls), Pete Romero (who’s our rich friend, his dad is a big internet developer guy), his best friend and rapaholic Gabe (We all like rap. We’re kinda suppose to.), and Jake (whose only time ever even touching a vagina was when he got a girl so drunk she probably forgot it was him. I don’t really know what happened there, he’s just kind of weird. I guess people say that about me too though. I mean of all my friends and everybody I know, I’m the only one who isn’t completely obsessed with social media and all that crap. I’d probably go insane if I cared about that shit anyways. But I mean we all kinda joke that Jake is going to be the next school shooter. He’s that kind of weird.), a group of sophomore girls, and Mary came as well. Mary got me and her a bottle of vodka, and the biggest bottle she could grab next to it for everyone else. We also had some beers stored away, and bud as always, and ended up at a small park we often went to close by.

I was the only one with a car big enough that could fit everyone, so I always ended up being the DDD, the designated drunk driver. I didn’t mind or care too much. I was good at it, and I always kind of thought if I was meant to get pulled over, then so be it. I never did. When we got to the park we climbed up the play structure we always did to drink. Luckily we stashed some shot glasses in the structure, otherwise we’d always forget. Obviously drinking was our prerequisite and what we did in order to have fun, but I know some of the best memories I’m going to walk away with from high school are going to be sitting around in these circles, somebody with a bottle, somebody with a blunt, girls doing stupid things, me and my friends doing even dumber things, not a care or concern in the world, just looking forward to having a good time. This was our senior year, and for some reason I was feeling that thought very heavy tonight. I sat there with everyone quietly, taking my turn and laughing along, but all I could grasp was this feeling like this was it. I looked around at everybody, and it was almost like there was something in the background I was listening to more. I don’t know if it was being in the hospital for a week or what, but I just had this pure sense of nostalgia and sentimentality about all of it.

We drank a lot. Mary and I finished our bottle, and still drank some of the other. Everyone was bullshitting about crap on instagram, so Mary grabbed my hand and we climbed down and went over to the dugout. I really liked her a lot, and I wanted to tell her everything that had happened, I just, I don’t know though. I just think you have to be careful what you tell girls. I mean they want everything to be sacred, especially when they need it to be, but in general, nothing ever is.

She said she was cold so I gave her my jacket and we sat down. Every time she puts on my jacket she curls up in it, then smiles at me, and snuggles into my arms. I don’t think it means the same thing to both of us. If Jake said he was cold, I’d give him my jacket. Jake just always had one when we went out. I liked it though. Seeing her in that raggedy old thing I’d worn the last three years made me feel wanted, and it turned me on.

We sat there for a little bit while I debated whether or not to tell her about the hospital. When I finally decided I was going to, I lifted her chin and looked in her eyes. She was super fucked up. She was already smiling, so I smiled and started making out with her. Her tongue had little bumps on it that always kinda freaked me out, but I mean it could be worse. When we were done I pulled away and saw she was almost on the verge of tears. I thought something was wrong, but she was still smiling so I didn’t know what to think. The more she looked at me, the more nervous I got. Then she told me she loved me. Freaking relief. “We’re both really drunk,” I said. I grabbed her hand, and we started heading back to the group. I was really drunk, as was she, but that was the first time a girl’s ever told me she loved me.

Definitely the first time it really mattered to me and I believed it. When we were walking back I knew something was wrong. I knew it. I could feel it. But I didn’t understand it, or get it. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I just a had gap in my stomach and felt really uncomfortable. I didn’t say anything and we kept walking.

I tried to be cool climbing up the slide when we got back, but immediately regretted it. My shoes got all wet on the grass and I took about two steps, slipped, and fell face first on the thing, and slid back down. It gave everybody a good laugh, myself as well. But it hurt. I hit my nose on the damn metal. My eyes started watering and everything. It was fucked up. Right in front of Mary too. Glad I went before though. If that happened to her, I wouldn’t ever forgive myself. We messed around for the rest of the night running around the park and dancing on the play structure like we owned the place. Nobody ever bothered us when we were there. It was the perfect spot, and a perfect first night out. The week in the hospital seemed a lifetime and a thousand miles away and evaporated into a cold memory with the night sky.

The girls decided it was time to go home when one of them finished hooking up with Knuttercup. The predictable story that would come during lunch on Monday was already making me laugh. Mary and I went back to Austin’s dad’s place. He was always cool with us staying there. Great place to crash too. It wasn’t a huge pad or anything, like Romero’s place. But Austin had his room set up in the garage separated from the rest of the house so it was perfect for bringing back girls, and crashing, or whatever. However it was a pretty rare occasion when I brought back a girl and Austin didn’t. Mary was in bad shape though. She could barely speak or walk. Kinda ruined any kind of “mood” I had.

We sat down and Austin turned on the playstation. Mary immediately asked for me. I asked, “what’s wrong babe?” “I don’t feel good,” she said. “The room is spinning.” Shit, I knew what was happening. Before any major drama started, I picked her up and took her to the bathroom. Austin rooted her on. “Make sure you make it in the toilet!”

She bobbed back and forth and made it into the bathroom with my help. “Get out, get out…” she kept telling me and pushing me away. I was pretty drunk myself, and insistent on helping her, but this was also a rare occasion when a girl was saying what she wanted, and I knew to disobey. She pushed and struggled with me a little longer before she couldn’t anymore. I grabbed her head before everything started and held her hair back. It really wasn’t the right time for me to notice, but her hair was so soft. Everything that came after that wasn’t as pleasant. At first I only heard her. It sounded horrible, like a caveman devouring a wooly mammoth. I didn’t really look or pay attention too much… didn’t want to. And she kept apologizing, which annoyed me. Every time she said sorry, I told her how beautiful she was. She was. I guess now was a better time than any to truly appreciate it. I pulled her hair back, and in between her telling me to shut up and her mouth filling up with vomit again, I kissed her on the cheek and told her I loved her. She gave me one of those looks that made it feel like the whole world had stopped. My heart stopped. I forgot about everything, except her. And in the next moment she was back down in the toilet. I kept holding her hair and thinking about her for a couple more minutes until she was finished before I gave her a glass of water and we went to sleep.

When she woke up in the morning, the first thing she said to me was, “what happened last night?” She couldn’t remember any of it. I gave her a brief explanation before I banged her and we went to go get breakfast burritos. She could barely eat. We finished pretty quick, and I dropped her off at her best friend, Claire’s house before I went back home to smoke. A great night and one that could’ve been treasured quickly disintegrated into morning wood and a half eaten burrito.

I hadn’t seen my mom or dad for a week. Felt kind of awkward walking inside, and even more when I saw my mom. I mean what are you suppose to say to your mom after spending a week in the looney bin? There was a blanket and a pillow on the living room couch which made me feel even worse. “Mom, I texted you I’d be out all night,” was the first thing I said. She told me she knew before she gave me a hug and started crying. “Mom, it’s ok,” I told her, “I’ll be fine.” I really wasn’t though. I was furious about what happened. And even though my mom and dad were the only people that knew about it, it was too hard to tell them the details. Plus my mom cries a lot as it is, and I’ve gotten used to immediately trying to make her feel better. “I’m really fine,” I said. “Let me know, and I can go pick up dinner tonight if you want.” She replied “ok dear,” before she watched me go down the hallway and shut the door to my room.

Times like these I really wished I had a brother or sister. I mean if for nothing else than just so my mom would have another kid she could look at when I messed up. My parents had me, probably by accident, when they were both really young. They struggled a lot before my dad got his job now. That was in the second grade. I always kind of expected them to have another kid, and give me a little brother or sister, but for whatever reason, it never happened.

Anyway, my dad was probably out on the porch drinking a beer. He’s a cool dad and everything, but I mean that’s just what he does, especially on Sundays. And I don’t blame him or anything. All my friends and I drink. All of us smoke. Just after so many years, that’s what you come to expect. Whatever though. I needed to smoke. I actually like to smoke more by myself. I mean I like hitting a blunt or whatever and going around in a circle, smoking out with everybody, but when I smoke solo, I don’t have any reservations or anxieties about anything. I guess I do sorta, but I mean sometimes if I’m with a group, I can get really awkward.

The main reason why I like smoking by myself is it immediately cuts the edge off, and helps me think about things in a different way. I reflect a lot when I smoke. I write stuff in my notepad, draw, rearrange my room, watch old movies, just zone out, whatever. I don’t know. I’ve just always enjoyed smoking in solitude, and I’ve always smoked with the group kind of, I guess mainly, because that’s the thing to do.

I took a couple bong rips, laid down, and flipped the TV on. Right away I started thinking about this lady I’d met in the hospital. All her kids were grown up and moved out, and she was having a semi-nervous breakdown/mid life crisis sort of thing. She was funny as hell though. She called the place C.F.U. for Crazy Fuck University, and just made jokes about everything the whole time. I liked her a lot obviously.

It got quiet for a second, I saw Bobby Flay grilling something in the background before the time one of our buddies, Ryan, made himself throw up all over the classroom because our teacher threatened to take away his phone came to mind for some reason. The time we passed out brownies to like half the school before the homecoming game popped in there. The time a couple of us filled a condom up with lotion and rigged it to explode when Olivia Wilder opened her locker after her weekend with Austin slipped in, and all sorts of other memories from the last four years flew through my brain while I sat there and stared at the TV. It seemed like I reminisced about my entire time in high school before I ended up on last night. I was upset I didn’t tell Mary about the hospital, even though she wouldn’t have remembered. Should I bring up that we said we loved each other? Should I just try to say it again? What the hell was our relationship when the most meaningful night isn’t even remembered the next morning? And so on. I second guessed everything. Falling on the slide played in my head about a thousand times. I dissected and picked apart just about every single little thing I said or did that I could remember. I did this sort of a lot though, but maybe being in the hospital amplified it a bit. I knew there was no way they could know, but in the very back of my mind I worried someone could tell something was off. Like somehow they found out. Like they knew something I didn’t. And regardless, I knew. And no matter how I tried rejecting it, I couldn’t escape the thought and feeling that something was wrong with me.

Some commercial came on that finally distracted me, and I took advantage of that by taking a bong load and redirecting my thoughts and attention to old high school memories that were more pleasant. Also thank God I wasn’t interested in social media at all, otherwise I’d have to over analyze and pick apart all that crap too. Every time we did anything, I mean should I post, should I not post, how many ‘likes’ am I gonna get… whatever… I had no time or space for any of that crap. I’d have to worry about posting the wrong thing too, and everyone thinking I’m crazy. That reminds me, thank God for weed. After awhile, I settled down and focused and decided my memories were going to be mine, and weren’t going to be chipped, chopped, and prodded through the lenses of others. I might always remember some of these little details from certain memories of high school and the last few years that I’ll take away with me, but a memory is a memory. I can’t control them. I can think about these events and some things as much as I want, but I can’t predetermine what they’ll be 5,10, 20 years from now. I wanted them to be the best they can be. I wasn’t going to muddle them or go through this tedious pointless exercise of shaming myself anymore because somethings weren’t exactly and precisely perfect. That ain’t life. That’s no way to live. Fuck that. And fuck, I’m tired.

I went and got Mexican food and went to sleep not long after dinner. When I woke up the next morning I had no interest at all in going to school. I needed another day. I told my mom I wasn’t ready to go back to school yet, and she was understanding to that. She gave me a huge pack of vitamins that she said were really expensive, but she thought it’d help me try to be healthier. After she left my room I took a couple and put the rest of the pack in my closet, and had a little ceremonial wake ’n’ bake. I was feeling pretty good about everything moving forward. The stay at the hospital was on its way to being behind me. I knew never to say anything controversial to cops again. I learned my lesson. I kept telling myself it’s over. And I kept reminding myself how good it felt to let go. Shame would not detour me from living my life anymore, from loving my life.

I felt myself getting kind of emotional actually, so I grabbed the remote and began flipping through the channels. I landed on The View. I don’t know how it started and God forbid anyone ever finds out I’ve watched this show. Talk about shame and all that, I could never tell anyone I actually enjoy watching those women sit around and squawk when I’m able to. I was zoning out mindlessly, half following along with whatever they were saying about Trump when the blonde on the show, Sara Haine, started laughing about something. She has the most innocent and endearing laugh of anyone I’ve ever seen on television. You can’t really believe anything you see on TV though. Anyway, hope I meet someone with a laugh like that someday.

When the show was over I wanted to go to school. It was just about lunchtime so I texted Austin and took burrito orders from whoever wanted one. Ended up picking up and bringing about a dozen to lunch time. After a week off, and with burritos in hand, I got an appropriately anticipated welcome. I mean it was lunchtime and I was bringing everyone a burrito instead of the crap personal pizzas and three day old sandwiches from the cafeteria. That was really it. Plus everyone besides me already posted pictures and made comments about them from the weekend.

Typical fashion more often than not most of the guys when they were done eating got around in a circle, and had freestyle rap battles (as young developing white kids from affluent suburbs should…). This kind of circle-jerk really wasn’t my thing, or my stee, yo. I don’t know. I just always think of those old movies where black men from Detroit or wherever would gather around a fire-pit and sing harmonies after a long day of work to unwind and take their mind off the cold. Now, we’ve “progressed” so much as a nation it’s a bunch of dopey white kids in California bobbing and waving around like they’re Tupac, coming up with some derivative rhymes day after day about girls and blunts and whatever else, while the biggest jerk-off of anyone stands there bobbing and waving his hands around making little fuzzy beat box noises with his mouth like he’s J.T. Anyways, he’s a man of the woods now, and I’m not into it. Thankfully I could distract myself by talking to Mary. She seemed worried about a test coming up so I kinda had to stay there and hover while everyone else broke off their next rhyme, yo.

I jump in every now and then for the mandatory social reasons, but to be honest, I’m actually not into rap as much as everybody else (God forbid, I know), and this was my least favorite thing we did as a group to pass the time. And I don’t know if it was the brief time away or what, but I was sitting there listening to Pete Knuttercup rhyme his name with some girl’s butt for the fifty thousandth time, when I got the most brilliant idea I thought I ever had in my life. I interrupted the circle-jerk with some lame excuse about my mom and left before going to any classes at all.

I rushed home as quickly as I could, zipped by my mom, and began writing. The idea flowed out of me like an endless swell of ocean waves. Just freaking perfect. I couldn’t stop. My hand was on fire. I thought of everything. The name. How it would work. Who would use it. Why they would use it. How I can make it work. What I wanted it to become. Everything. This was it I thought. A precious gift from the gods. The holy grail. A golden ticket.

I wasn’t exactly accepted to the colleges of my dreams, so I truly thought this was something I could start preparing for and dive into after graduation. I worked on it all night putting everything on paper, double-checking and proofreading nonstop, and when I was done I put it in its own special brand new folder and texted Pete Romero. I knew his dad could help me out instantly with something like this. I told him that I had something important to talk to him about, and went to bed feeling more excited and optimistic about my future than perhaps I’d ever been.

I woke up, packed my backpack, made a good breakfast, hugged both my mom and dad, and headed out. Pete came up to me during passing period, but I told him that I wanted to talk after school. It was my first day back in class since everything, but I didn’t care at all. Some teachers welcomed me back which was nice but I mean, I wasn’t focused on class at all. I was just looking forward to seeing Pete and getting to tell his dad about the idea. I even told Mary she couldn’t come over because I wanted to go home and work more after we talked.

The bell rang and I headed to the back of the school where we were suppose to meet. I must’ve waited for Pete like twenty minutes. Figured that because I had to talk to like six different people before he finally showed up. Of course when he finally arrived he was with Steve Ambrosia (like the salad). I had no interest in talking to Steve or anyone else right now and was getting pretty damn frustrated with Pete for taking so long, then bringing Steve, and making me have to smile and bullshit for ten extra minutes before we could finally talk. My patience had basically run out by the time Steve left. “Pete!” I demanded, “this is fucking important.”

“Alright, alright, chill out, what’s up?” he said. Everyone always say ‘chill’ too. This was not optional, and universal code for ‘I smoke pot too.’

We started walking down the street toward his house and I told him I needed to talk to his dad about something ASAP. He said something like “everyone wants to talk to my dad. What’s it about?” That was Pete though_ pretentious and arrogant. I began proposing to him that this idea I had was something we could maybe do together and maybe one day we could get Austin and Gabe and a couple of the other guys involved and we could do something pretty cool. Pete took an interest and said he’d be able to talk to his dad. We walked a little more going back and forth about dreams and goals we had for the future when I began to tell him what the idea was after he had asked a few times. I told him. “It’s an app. that will record people free-styling and generate beats to them, or customize a beat to the flow, and after you can even edit it.”

That was the basic jist of it, but we talked about it the whole way back. I told him the name and the meaning behind it. I told him the scope of what I wanted. I told him pretty much all the ins and outs of how it should work and what it would do. We talked about everything. Pete was stoked. Kept saying we’re gonna kill it. I was stoked.

We reached the front gate of his house, and I was ready to go inside and pitch the idea to his dad. I was so excited. Pete seemed pretty excited too. Fucking awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome! I couldn’t get over how cool this was. We were going to blow this thing up, and with Pete’s dad on board we could actually do it. We were going to have something amazing we could all take part in together. And something I made. Something I created. It’s going to be great. Then Pete told me his dad was out of town on business and I’d have to talk to him when he got back in a week. My mind and everything else went numb. I couldn’t comprehend anything except I wanted to stab him in the eyes. It felt like falling out of an airplane without a parachute and having a miniature ninja turtle there kicking you in the balls the whole way down_ just absolutely deflating in every way. What the fuck did we walk all the way over here for? Before I did anything or said anything I thought I could regret, I went into survival mode and laughed it off, “Alright, alright. One week. You’re totally on board then? Ready to do this?” Pete said, “Yeah, yeah, we got this.” We shook and gave each other a bro hug. “We’re gonna do it up man. Don’t worry about it.” That’s what he said at least. But after I took a step back and looked right in his eyes, which prompted him to turn around and walk in the gate. I stood there, just watching. I felt empty. He never looked back. The pits of everything I revealed to Pete, a kid who had always been a greedy spoiled asshole since I knew him, stirred in my brain, wrapped around my legs, and overtook my stomach. This is fucked. I should’ve known better. I imagined myself taking a gun out of my pocket and shooting him in the back right there. Just bang! Bye Pete. Actually, I’ll take my idea over you everyday of the week now that I think about it. “Hey Pete!” I called out after him. He didn’t stop at all, just kind of turned his head before I yelled again, “I’ll see you tomorrow!” He threw his hand up and turned back toward his pretty house. Fucking Pete. What was I thinking?

My head was already spinning when I made it back home. Most of the time when I came home I’d check in with my mom to see what she was doing, or whatever, but I went straight into my room, shut the door, and went immediately for the bong. I took a snap, then another, and another, and another,… and laid down. No one would believe Pete would come up with this idea. Pete was probably the worst with free-styling, or rhythm, or anything original. I could just go to school and tell everyone the idea myself. Show everybody all the notes and everything I had written down. Mitigate the problem. But then everyone would be in on it or want to be or whatever. It wouldn’t just be mine, or even mine and Pete’s, it’d be everyone’s, which is fine later on, but not right now, not with our group, definitely not. I could just tell Austin maybe. He might know what to do. But what’s that matter anyway. And if I told Austin, that just starts the process of eventually everyone finding out. Plus Pete’s the guy that can actually make it happen, through his father. I’m just the shmuck with the idea. And after everyone knows the idea, then who the fuck am I. Pete’s the one that’s necessary. I didn’t want to do that. I mean everyone would lean toward Pete. He’d have total control over everything after that. I didn’t want to tell anyone yet. I shouldn’t have told Pete. Fuck. And what if it’s not even that good of an idea to begin with and people think it’s stupid? I just want to pitch the idea to his dad and go from there. And what about that one time a girl said the wrong answer in class, and Pete called her out on it in front of everyone and started ridiculing and mocking her for the rest of that class and even more the next day, and even still sometimes. Fucking Pete. What was I thinking? Before I could realize it, the room was literally spinning. The whole ceiling was spinning… but I had to figure this out. Fucking Pete. The next time I looked at the clock, it was almost eight o’clock. WTF!?

Fucking Pete. Fucking Pete. Fucking Pete! God damn it… I got up, took another snap, and tried to calm down a little bit. When I went out I saw my mom was laying on the couch watching TV. She mentioned I looked anxious when I got home even though I didn’t remember seeing her, and told me she didn’t want to bother me and that dinner was in the fridge if I wanted.

“Are you sure everything’s O.K.?”
“Everything’s fine. Mom.”

I grabbed the dinner from the fridge, and went right back into my room. Fucking Pete. I managed to get some of the make-up work I needed to do done thankfully, but when I laid down for bed, it all came back to me, and I went right back to it. Fucking Pete. I can’t believe I was so stupid…. What was I thinking? Of all the people I would want to rely on in the world, Pete freaking Romero was not one of them. What was I thinking? What now? Fuck. Finally around two in the morning, it dawned on me. I’ll see Pete tomorrow. As long as I can find him, I can do something about it. (recourse.) Mercifully, my head let me go to sleep after that.

Started asking people immediately the next day. But Pete didn’t show up. Freaking Pete. I was really quiet at lunch. Mary asked about coming over after school, but I told her I wasn’t feeling well. I thought that’d be a good idea, and I kinda wanted to talk to her about all this, but I told her it’d be better to get together later. I wanted to go to Pete’s house to see him.

When school was over, I started marching about a block towards Pete’s house before I thought “this is completely crazy.” “What the hell am I doing?” I could just see him tomorrow. Maybe for whatever reason, he actually couldn’t come today. I texted Mary, but she had already met up with a couple of her friends. Austin was at practice so I headed to the beach to vape. I vaped a little bit, and dug my feet into the sand, and started watching the waves per usual, but grew tired of it very quickly. Headed home briefly to check in, and hit the bong, and grab my car, and then headed to the movies. Unlike Holden Caufield from Catcher in the Rye, which I had been reading for a class, I loved the movies. I loved going to the movies too. With everyone of course, but over the past year I started to enjoy going to the movies by myself. Especially at this one theatre no one ever went to, I could get really into the movie as much as I wanted, and sometimes that could be embarrassing if I was with company. Unlike going to the beach or whatever, it took some getting used to, but after a couple of the right movies, I loved it.

The choices at my theatre were narrowed down to seeing Love, Simon again, which was a good and I guess overdue movie, but I didn’t need to see it again, Avengers: Infinity War, and Rampage. So basically all of the Avengers fighting each other or The Rock fighting a giant gorilla. As intriguing as The Rock fighting a giant gorilla seemed, I went with The Avengers_ just something I knew I would be entertained with and would take my mind off shit. They’re the same every time, but at least they’re entertaining… not like Suicide Squad which might’ve been the worst movie ever made when you consider the budget. I mean how do you make a super hero movie that is boring? Did Will Smith even read the script? I mean WTF!? The people in Hollywood should just take the Avengers and make them fight the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park… there’s your movie. I hear they’re remaking Papillon too…Seriously, what are they doing!?? Superhero sequels, remake after shitty remake, other types of rapes, a decent bio pick every now and then that doesn’t get screwed up if we’re lucky, and The Rock fighting a giant gorilla… fucking Hollywood. What a bunch of grubby fucking bullshit.

Anyways, thankfully some stuff blew up and the Avengers fought enough people to take my mind off Pete and anything else for awhile. I got back home, and no one was there. I smoked and made myself a sandwich before my mom and dad got back from a dinner themselves.

They seemed like they were in a good mood. Dad was grabbing a drink in the kitchen and singing “Dancing in the Street” by Martha and The Vandellas. Mom was saying they had a nice dinner. It was pretty rare when both my mom and dad were in a good mood at the same time. I suggested watching a movie together, something different than The Avengers. We started scanning Netflix before we decided on The King’s Speech. Forgot how good of a movie that was. It didn’t matter though, Dad still got up about a third of the way through and went into the bedroom. I guess he was over it. My mom and I finished the rest, which might’ve been for the best. I love that movie.

The movie ended before I was able to realize it. The credits started to roll. My eyes stayed on the screen. But my mind wasn’t following at all. Then I heard my mom in a distance say “Goodnight, honey. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I didn’t respond. Didn’t say anything. I just kept staring, while my heart begged for her to come back. I heard the door to their room shut and reality crept back in. “Goodnight, mom. I love you.” I whispered.

I got up and went to my room. The bong was already loaded. A necessary habit like using a wet wipe when you’re finished with the toilet paper. It’s sad when you think about how much of an emphasis we put on presentation and packaging. I mean all the guy was ever gonna do was give that speech. I guess that’s why it’s such a good movie. But Winston Churchill is running around doing everything, and that guy’s job was to give speeches and give the people something to look at and feel better… I mean that’s basically it, isn’t it. Packaging, branding, distribution… Especially now, that’s what it’s all about I thought. Integrity, substance, originality… fucking lifestyle brand… Fucking Pete. I gave him freaking EVERYTHING! And more. Sneaky phony rip-off piece of shit. A swift storm of adrenaline rushed over my body in an instant and my desk chair ended up on the other side of the room. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fucking Pete!

I walked over and picked up the chair. Felt pretty lousy and stupid, but I guess I’ll never get an ulcer. I suppose it’s always counterproductive though letting your emotions get the best of you. Told myself it was time to call it a night and crawled into bed. I started thinking about The King’s Speech again. I mean it’s so important what people see. And ultimately what people say about you. I mean that’s reality. Perception is reality. If the king of England stammered over that speech, it would’ve been as if England would’ve already lost. The morale of the country would’ve depleted, people would’ve lost hope, no matter what Winston Churchill was actually doing. That man was the king and head of the country, more so the face of the country. And it would’ve sucked the air out of any momentum or enthusiasm leading into battle. Fucking lifestyle brand… Just as if I was the brand of England, I had to put a good face on this. I couldn’t let Pete or anyone know how much this was bothering me. I’d muster it all for now, and wait and see what happens. I mean if worst comes to worst, it’s just Pete Romero, I’ll rip his God damn throat out.

I texted Pete, “Dude where’ve you been? Haven’t seen you the past couple days?” An hour went by. No response. I didn’t expect one. I kept thinking about this one buddy of ours, Craig. His brother died. He was in the service, and he died fighting for our country. There was a huge military style service that we all went to. It was the most beautiful and honorable service I’d ever been to, and the whole time Pete was hitting on one of the family members. I remember him coming up to us over and over drunk as shit—just bragging about how he was about to “fuck the sailor’s cousin.” And what happened was, he ended up getting her so drunk he probably raped her while she was passed out. Who knows though. Jake takes the brunt of that stuff because the story was so notorious and he never covered it up. Pete knew what to say though, and how to embellish and manipulate it enough so people heard what they wanted, and what was necessary, but just enough to fill in the blanks with something more palatable. Of course come school on Monday, that’s what we got to hear about from him the entire lunch period… I mean she was passed out, Pete. Shut up… He has absolutely no sense of character, at all. Fucking Pete. What a piece of shit. …“No, not tonight.” I finally told myself. “I need to get some sleep. I’m not going to ruin tonight.” Probably around an hour later, I passed out.

Of course he wasn’t at school the next day either. I can’t freaking believe this guy. I can’t freaking believe this guy. I can’t freaking believe this guy. I couldn’t get it out of my head. It just kept repeating nonstop. I mean really, what kind of piece of shit is he…? During second period I asked a teacher we both had if she knew where he was, and she said he was on a vacation with his dad. She didn’t know when he would get back. Fucking Pete! What the hell is going on? What the hell is going on!?… I didn’t know what to do.

I went to the bathroom twice during the next period just because I couldn’t take sitting in class any longer. I couldn’t hold back any longer either. I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know what to do. This little rich spoiled brat piece of shit who’s had a lifetime of people walking around kissing his ass, doing whatever he tells them to, is maybe stealing my livelihood away, after I tried to come to him as a friend to do something cool and maybe pretty freaking special together… fucking Pete. What a piece of shit. On the way to lunch I texted him: “WTF Pete??? You and daddy go on an impromptu vacation the day after we talk? You piece of shit. Wonder WTF you guys are doing… I’ll see you when you get back.”

That was that. Mary came up to me during lunch and asked what was wrong. She must’ve noticed something. Thankfully nobody else did, or more likely cared at all. I told her I was fine and that I was just worried about a test I had, but she insisted on coming by after school. I wasn’t going mention anything about Pete to her. No matter what, I knew if you get bothered by one of your peers, and you show it bothers you, it’s social suicide. Your parents, some bullshit on television, Donald Trump, your younger siblings, your boss, fine. But the moment you show that a friend, or a girl, or any kind of peer has gotten to you, you might as well tape a sign on your own back saying to kick the loser. And so goes the circle-jerk of life, the show must go on. I told her I’d meet her in the back after sixth period, gave her a kiss, and made up something about a test I didn’t care at all about.

I did have a test though the next period that I was going to ace no matter what. The answer to the first question was A, for what a freaking Asshole Pete is. The next answer was D, for Daddy’s little bitch. And so on. The obsession grew and grew over the next two periods, and by the time sixth period rolled around, the only thing playing in my head was a fantasy about throwing him head first into one of the bathroom doors and then repeatedly slamming the door on his face and leaving him in a toilet.

The last bell of the day rang, and I popped out of my chair, forgot to breathe, walked practically through everybody, out the door, down the hall, onto the grounds, and out the back. I was fucking steamed. Still thinking about bashing his head in, and leaving him in the toilet, I headed right for his house. I knew he wouldn’t be there, but I was going to ring the bell until one of the servants came and told me when he’d get back. I just kept thinking about that moment when I’d see him again.

I got to the gate of his big fancy fuck of a house and just started ringing. I must’ve buzzed the thing fifty times before a very soft spoken Mexican lady’s voice came through on the intercom. I didn’t understand a word she was saying. Mother fucker! I can’t believe this sneaky coward piece of shit! I went to my backpack and pulled out a sharpie and some paper. I went over each letter a few times to embolden them. ‘YOU SLEAZY SLIMEY BACK STABBING SPOILED TWO-FACED PIECE OF SHIT: I WILL WIPE THE FLOOR WITH YOUR SEVERED FUCKING HEAD AT SCHOOL AND BURN THIS ENTIRE CUNT OF A HOUSE DOWN IF YOU SCREW ME OVER.’

I taped it to the front of the gate so they could be welcomed home by it, and started walking back to mine. After a couple blocks, I pulled out my phone to see if Austin maybe wanted to smoke, and saw that Mary had left a couple of text messages. Shit. I totally forgot about Mary. She wasn’t happy about it either. The last line in a series of texts read: “Fine, if you don’t want to see me and you don’t care enough to even text me, I don’t want to see you anymore either.” Son of a bitch! I wanted to kill Pete. I quickly gathered myself the best I could and tried to repair the damage. “Babe, I’m so sorry. My head’s been in the gutter lately. I had to run somewhere after school. Please let me explain.”

I wasn’t too far away from Pete’s by then, and the thought of going back and actually burning the house down was seriously tempting at the moment, but I couldn’t. I kept walking, and just at the end of the block a mom was walking my direction with her young son. Damn, I really didn’t want these people to see me right now. I moved off to the side so they could pass and kinda kept my head down, but the little kid started to wave as we got closer and closer. Trying to be invisible wasn’t really an option anymore. The kid was looking right at me smiling and waving. It was either be rude and let the kid down, which I knew I’d feel stupid about later, or try my best to appear normal for a second to avoid being a total jerk. My head managed to pick itself up a little more as we were passing and I put on enough of a smile and gave the kid knucks. The mom smiled and said hello and we waved and continued in each direction. When I got to the end of the block I looked back and saw the kid was doing the same. I threw on one last smile to try and show the kid everything was alright before we continued onward… About ten minutes later when I was just getting back to mine, I got a response from Mary. “Ya you haven’t seemed like yourself lately. I’m worried about you. Glad you said something, but me and Claire are going to the mall right now.”
God if there was a time to text ‘I love you,’ I wanted to now. But I mean the first time it was said she has no recollection of it so I don’t want the first time she does remember to be over a text. I just said thanks for understanding, and asked about doing something tomorrow. She said she couldn’t because she had family coming in, but definitely in a couple days. I called Austin, made sure he wasn’t dead, and told him I was coming over.

When I got there, Austin was microwaving some knock-off pizza rolls, not even the Tostino’s ones. “Duuuuuude grab a pizza roll… These things are legiiiiiit…!” Austin’s temperament always had a way of making me smile. I grabbed one just to go along with him, and took a seat on the couch. “Dude. I don’t know how they do it. It’s like they go to Papa John’s, take one their pizzas, and roll it up into one of these perfect little pillows… Best invention ever if you ask me.” I couldn’t take much more of that. “Dude, chill out,” I said, “give me the bong.” We smoked and talked about video games and whatever else for half an hour before I asked, “You know I don’t do the instacrap or any of that nonsense… has anything been going on?”

“Same old stuff,” he said before going off about a picture of a girl a couple grades younger than us posted of herself in a bikini on the beach. “What about Pete? I haven’t seen him in a couple days.” I made it seem like I was genuinely interested, but if I didn’t ask abruptly like that, Austin would never get to the point.

“Yeah, yeah, he posted something with him and his dad earlier… they’re on some vacation.”

“Oh shit… Really?… Let me see.”

Austin showed me a picture of Pete and his dad driving balls together at some range that was at a location they marked as Paradise Lounge, U.S.A. with a caption that read: “Hole in one… After hole in one… After hole in one.” Fucking pieces of shit, I thought to myself. I mean, what am I suppose to think? How much am I rationalizing, and how much is it that Pete is just that much of a piece of shit? They take off on vacation spur of the moment the day after we spoke… this is hell not knowing what’s going on with something I want and that I made for my life… not being able to really rely solely on myself with all of it… having to guess what this punk piece of shit, and his daddy, are doing… and they’re posting little cutesy pictures, teeing off balls, talking about Paradise Lounge, U.S.A…. and what the fuck does “Hole in one… After hole in one… After hole in one.” mean? I shouldn’t have ever put myself in the position to have to rely on or trust that guy. Fucking Pete. What a piece of shit. What was I thinking?

I couldn’t say anything to Austin though, that would be crazy. The most I could say was that I talked to him about the idea, and they took off. My mouth started moving as I was thinking. “Fucking guy. I told him about this idea I had and he took off on this vacation with his dad the day after.”

“What are you talking about? What idea?”

“I had an idea about an app. that I wanted his dad’s help with, and the freaking guy took off the day after we talked about it.”

“Yeah, well his dad would be a guy to talk to about an app.”

“That’s why I told him about it to begin with. I just hope that fucker isn’t ripping it off.”

“Pete? I don’t know man, he’s kinda always had somewhat of a track record. I don’t tell him anything.”

“I know. The only reason I told him is because I wanted to talk to his dad, and I’m kinda thinking I was just really stupid and naive.”

“Fuck man, well what are you gonna do about it?”

“I don’t know dude. I guess just wait and talk to him when he gets back.”

“Ya. That sounds good. You want another pizza roll?”

“Na Austin. But thank you. I appreciate it.”

We smoked and played video games for an hour or so more before I left. Never mentioned it again.

I was feeling better having just said anything, sorta, I guess, but still pretty fucking lousy and pissed when I got back home. I mean what the hell is going on?

When I saw that post of shithead Pete freaking Romero and his daddy basically rubbing it in my face that they’re ripping me off, or whatever, little bitchy cryptic captions and everything, I wanted to go find that spoiled little turd, and slaughter him like the fat pig he is, right in front of daddy too. I mean, the nerve on that two faced piece of shit…

I was gonna smoke and try to relax like I usually do, but I had too much on my mind lately, and I needed help. I went back to my dad’s office where I found him drinking a beer and watching TV. Rarely do I ask my dad for advice, but I’d probably never been more stressed and on edge about anything in my life. I was ready to kill Pete whenever he got back. I sat down and asked if I could ask him something. He said “sure.” “I don’t know where to start,” I said. He said, “Spit it out.” I said, “…some guy at school is using his dad, and they’re ripping me off I think.”

He stopped the TV and looked at me. Then said, “What’s going on?” So I told him the story. “He stole my idea.” “He’s posting stupid shit on Instagram.” “His daddy is in on it.” “This is something I really believe in…” My dad basically said he doesn’t care about Instagram, and that us kids put too much time into it, and that I was over thinking everything. “Dad,” I said, “I’m not even on Instagram.” “Apparently you are,” he replied, “You know how to handle yourself. Just talk to him when he gets back.” I said, “Alright,” but he didn’t get it. Pete and his dad were probably ripping me off as we spoke. I left, and he went back to his program.

I went in my room and smoked for the sake of it, and tried to think of new ideas for the app., but no matter what I could come up with, I gave Pete the heart and soul of the whole thing. And Pete’s just the type of guy you can’t rely on for anything except his own self interests, and fuck it to everything else. The ends always justified the means with him. It didn’t matter how drunk she was, or that she was the cousin of our friend at a funeral. As long as he got his, and had his story to tell… That’s Pete. He’s brazen. He’s shameless. He’s been entitled his whole life. His daddy has wiped his ass his whole life. I mean, the guy doesn’t have any sense of character whatsoever, at all. Kind of like the rest of the world it seems now days. No character. No originality. No morality. No authenticity. No substance. Not much at all it seems. Bullying. Divisiveness. Lots of acronyms. Another derivative hashtag piece of bullshit after another. One big putrid overrun mess. Everybody just concerned about their own shiny little lives on the gram gram, how many likes they have, yoloing, and whatever Kim Kardashian last did with her giant ass. I’m getting sick of it. It’s not just music and movies. It’s everything. Stuff on television, journalism, politics, manufacturing… I mean, you can’t buy anything that’s not made in freaking Taiwan. It’s all a bunch of cheap crap. Stuff started rattling around in my head for the rest of the night: Pete, other stuff, Pete, all sorts of crap, and I ended up not getting any sleep at all.

The next day at school I sorta just wondered around and kept to myself. Mary still had family in town so she said she couldn’t hang out, but we made plans for Friday before we went out or anything. That was in two days, and both of those days the same thing happened to me when I tried to go to bed. My mind just became overrun, and I wasn’t able to fall asleep.

I rolled out of bed Friday, got dressed and ready, mostly as usual, and went to school. It was amazing I was still functioning, and for the first time since all this crap happened, I had something on my mind and was looking forward to something else besides kicking the crap out of Pete. I don’t think I ever looked forward to hanging out with a girl more, and I’d never been more grateful to have a girlfriend. I wanted to tell her I loved her. That’s what I had on my mind, and despite not having slept for a few days, I felt pretty good. I still kept pretty quiet though. I was more loopy than anything, like a puzzle missing some pieces. I still saw and grasped the whole picture but clearly some of it just wasn’t there. At lunch I saw Mary, we talked a bit, told her I looked forward to seeing her later, then went to my next class early, and started drawing until lunch was over.

Finally. The bell rang. School let out, and the weekend was here. And Mary and I were finally going to get to some time together. God. When I saw her standing at the gate waiting for me, I almost started to cry, but I didn’t. Thankfully I kept myself together. She looked great, and it felt like she was an angel standing there in the midst of all this bullshit and turmoil. We gave each other a kiss and decided to go to the beach for a little bit. When we got there it was calm and peaceful. There was a little overcast and not much of a crowd other than a few people walking around and some surfers.

We picked a spot overlooking the water and sat down. She started going on about one of her teachers and something that happened in her class before asking me to tell her what has been wrong lately. She said, “all this week you’ve been like a ghost.” I had to stop for a second and told her I wasn’t getting much sleep. I almost broke down and started to cry again when she said that, but I refrained. I wasn’t really thinking clearly, all my thoughts were sporadic and I got a headache whenever I tried to concentrate. I wanted to tell her about what happened with the hospital and everything, even though I wasn’t sure and it didn’t really feel like the right time_ and the next thing that came out of my mouth was, “I want to tell you something.” I looked at the ocean to avoid looking at her, and something in the back of my mind said don’t do it, tell her you love her instead, but I did anyway. One sentence led to another and I told her the entire story. “That week I was gone, I wasn’t on vacation or any sort of break. I was in the hospital.” She asked what for, and I told her, “It wasn’t like a hospital hospital. I was put on a mandatory psychiatric hold.” I continued, “I was detained all week on something called a 5150 for being a threat to myself or others.” I went on even more, “I don’t know how it all really happened. My mom and I just got into an argument, then my dad and I got into it, and one more thing led to another, and my dad called the cops.” She asked “why’d you end up in the hospital then?” before I said anything more. “I guess I just said the wrong thing at the wrong time, to the wrong people.” I told her.

Not much more was said about that, or anything else. We talked a little bit about school and what was going on over the weekend, but not much. After about twenty more minutes we decided to get going. I dropped her off at Claire’s, and headed back to mine.

I texted Austin, and he said a kid named Lance DM’d him and told him he was having a bonfire. But when I got home, and went in the door, I knew my night was done. It took five minutes before I consciously made the decision that I was too tired.

I wasn’t going to go. I felt like shit, and I felt even worse about everything after what happened at the beach. I should’ve known better I guess. I packed the bong and smoked a bit and tried to put on an old movie I watched a couple years ago that I loved, but I couldn’t pay attention. My mind was elsewhere, my eyes wandered, my body twitched, and my ass was incredibly fidgety and unsettled. I felt completely outside of my self, like I was a bad movie I had no choice but to watch. I went in the living room for a bit with my mom, but the longer I sat in there the more I didn’t want her to see me, so I went back in my room, smoked some more, and turned off the lights.

I like the dark, I thought. More peaceful I thought. It was like 8:00. I was stuck. I couldn’t move. Just sat on my couch and stared. Started picturing the bunny from Donnie Darko. I knew it wasn’t good, but I didn’t know what to do. My mind jumped around. Different thoughts, different tangents, but kept landing back on that damn bunny. I didn’t know what to do. I was frozen. And even when I told myself to just get up and take a shower, or anything, my body never responded, and I’d end up on another tangent or the damn bunny again. I sat there watching myself and listening to myself lose my mind. Finally I heard my phone buzz.

It was a text from Mary: “Sorry about earlier. Wish you were here right now, but hopefully we see each other tomorrow.”

My soul freaking melted. My heart swelled and felt like it was going to explode out of my chest, and just before eruption it came back down and I took a deep breath. I couldn’t help it and I had no control. And I didn’t want to. I could feel the air filling my lungs. I felt my heart come alive. With every breath my body lit up. I really do like her. Wish I had just said I love you earlier when I said I had something to tell her, instead of mentioning anything about the hospital. I thought I should tell her I loved her right now, but didn’t want to make her feel unsettled with anything again, and didn’t want to say it over a text when I wasn’t there. “It’s ok. I understand, and definitely. Have a good time. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

It was 11:15. I sat there staring at the wall for three hours. My eyes felt like bowling balls. I was tired and pretty relaxed so I laid down, and closed my eyes. I laid there probably twenty minutes, but couldn’t sleep. I turned to the other side, and same. Side to side, over and over, but I couldn’t sleep. It was almost 7:00 in the morning when I looked at the clock again.

First Saturday in awhile I was up that early. I had a summer job for a friend of my dad’s helping with his construction business, but rarely have I ever chosen to be awake at 7:00 on a Saturday. I went in the living room and played video games just so I could half ass focus on something. My mom and dad were up soon. I told them I couldn’t sleep, but too causally to spark any real concern. My mom asked if something was wrong, but I said I was fine.

I got some texts from Austin, Mary, a few other people, even Jake, about the party and plans for later, but I really didn’t feel like doing anything. I didn’t really want anybody to see me, and I felt like trash, and even more rotten than I had the last few days. The only reason I’d go would be to see Mary, and I almost felt like I had to, but I didn’t commit to anything to anybody.

When night finally rolled around, I stayed in. Texted Austin and Mary and told them not to wait up. I tried to be as endearing as I could in the text to Mary. It took an hour for her to reply back “OK.” My parents went out to dinner, and I stayed in playing video games, which was the only thing that I felt kind of occupied with. I felt bad about Mary, but I’ll see her another time I thought. A couple hours into the the video game I was playing, I wondered again if I should suck it up and meet up with everyone, see Mary, and get the hell out of the house, but it never happened. My parents came home around 10ish, and I was still playing the freaking video game. My mom stopped and looked at me. I could tell she was worried, but I kept feeding her the same BS answers and eventually my dad told her it was time to go to bed and they went into their room. Not before I got that look from my mom that said she knew I was lying.

I continued playing the same game until around a quarter past two, decided it was time to go to bed just for the sake of it, laid down without any hope, and wrestled around for an hour before I got up and went back and started playing the game again for the rest of the night, often tiptoeing back to my room to smoke. A little before seven I went back to my room to smoke again, and hide. I figured if I stayed in there until my mom and dad got up I wouldn’t have to face any of my mom’s questions or concerns.

I stayed in my room most of the day Sunday, just basically looking forward to going to sleep later that night. I felt like a freaking zombie. Whatever was going on the past few days definitely caught up to me. I could barely move my legs, didn’t care to eat, or think, or breathe, or do anything. I probably would’ve gone to the beach, but I didn’t really care to do that either. I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to drive, and I was too nervous. I didn’t want anyone to see me like this. Anyone. And especially anybody I knew, but anyone at all. I just didn’t feel like being in the vicinity or relative area to other human life forms. I felt dead, all over. I usually love Sundays too.

The video games lost their interest to me. Pretty much the entire day I just wondered around mindlessly not knowing what to do. I thought to myself “I’m hungry,” but I guess I just didn’t put the pieces together enough to go eat real food before I moved on to whatever next. All I think I ate was like four lunch bags of hot Cheetos and some M&Ms my mom put on the counter. I avoided my parents as much as possible. Probably the only thing that held some of my attention for a moment was part of an interview with Trump. …that freaking guy.

When night hit and the sun went down, I was relieved the day had come to an end. It was the first time I remember ever really feeling that way. Just thank God this day is over and done with. I’ve had bad days like anyone, but I never remember thinking and being totally thankful to see the day come to an end. I got my stuff ready for school, took a good shower, and laid down around 9:00. I told myself no matter what, I’m getting some sleep tonight. Then I tossed and turned until 10:00. Around 10:30 I started trying to count sheep. Still tossed and turned until 11:00, then started counting backwards from 30… until 12:00, just tried to focus on my breathing… until 1:00… nothing. I couldn’t go to sleep. I looked back at the clock again, and it was 3:30. Finally, I sat up. What the hell is this? I probably would’ve broke down and started pleading and crying if I was sane enough to do so, or had any feeling at all other than restlessness. The morning hit, and again, I went without any sleep at all.

I went through the motions and made my way to school like any other morning except I had no idea if I was actually there or not. I kept to myself as much as possible first period and just stayed away. So much so a buddy that was in that class mentioned that I looked sick. Walking to second period I just put my headphones in to avoid everyone. Then I saw Austin hustling his way over to me. He was sorta out of breath, but he told me Pete was back. And that he was saying some serious shit about me. All of a sudden, I was awake.

“What’d he say?”

“All sorts of stuff dude, what the fuck’s been going on??” Austin answered. And before I could say I told you what the fuck’s been going on Austin, he continued, “Dude, he said you’ve been sending him all sorts of crazy text messages, said you went to his house and left some threatening note on the gate, and threatened one of his maids, and that his dad got home and saw the threats and called the police. He also said the app. was his idea…”

“His idea??” I defended myself, and told Austin that obviously wasn’t true, but he said Pete showed them the texts. I brushed it off and said whatever to Austin. “We’ll see Pete at lunch, and then we can all figure out what’s what and what’s really going on with all of this bullshit.”
I was in class the next period, fucking furious Pete said it was his idea. I was thinking and mapping out all the stuff I was going to say at lunch. I wanted everyone to know what this sneaky lying piece of shit was really doing, but I also wanted all of it to end, so I could move on with my idea without any further conflict or nonsense. I could bring the original stuff I wrote down. This is ridiculous. Regardless of whatever, it was going to be good to finally give Pete a piece of my mind.

As furious and dejected as I was about all this, I started gaining a sense of comfort knowing we would resolve all this in a couple periods. Finally I said just let it go, we’ll finish it at lunch. Then the cops showed up at the door. I seriously almost started laughing it was so ludicrous. I was shocked though too. The words “What the fuck?” fell out of my mouth. He actually called the cops? I mean, we don’t call the cops. We just don’t do that. We hate the cops. And so freaking what. I said some stuff and wrote some stuff, whatever. I was pissed. I figured I’d talk to the cops, I knew not to say anything crazy, but I’d tell them the truth, say there’s been a total misunderstanding of what’s going on, and beat the living snot out of Pete whenever it was I saw him.

They escorted me to the office, and when we walked in, Pete was already there. His dad was there. And his dad’s lawyer was there. They showed me the texts. The couple that I did write, and a few that were clearly fabricated. I copped to the ones I did write and just said I was pissed and dismissed the other ones. They showed me the sign I posted on the gate. And again I just said I was angry, upset, said they didn’t understand, and tried to explain what really happened, but Pete’s dad cut me off. He said this has been going on with me for awhile, which I denied and laughed at. And then their lawyer took his turn. Said a bunch of bullshit like Pete was afraid to come back to school, and mentioned my eyes looked like I’d been abusing drugs. I said, “I haven’t been sleeping, and with all due respect this is a bunch of bullshit.” Then one of the cops butted in, “No son, this is, and these are criminal threats, which is a felony.” They slapped cuffs on me and escorted me to a squad car. It sunk in what Pete had done, and I shut up. There was nothing I could say or do. I couldn’t believe it.

The position my arm was in with the cuffs sitting there in the back of the car was the most uncomfortable and excruciating sensation ever. That was the least of anything though.

I must’ve sat there for at least two hours before they finished whatever they were doing and we made our way to jail.

They put me in a holding cell with one guy using toilet paper for a pillow, a homeless guy that was talking to himself, and another guy using the toilet paper for what it is made for. The holding cell had a phone, which I used to call my mom. She was in tears the whole time, but kept telling me everything’s going to be okay, and I kept trying to tell her the same. We talked probably twenty minutes about what the plan was, and I kept apologizing and trying to explain myself, and she just kept saying everything’s going to be okay. But in the back of my mind I just couldn’t believe all of this was happening.

I guess if there’s any silver lining at all, they moved me to a sleeping cell that was isolated and I actually got some sleep until 4:00 am when a guard woke me up for breakfast. A lawyer from the public defender’s office came and saw me and explained the process, and a little later that morning I was in court facing the judge, handcuffed, wearing one of those orange jumpsuits you see people on TV that are in jail wearing, in front of my mom being charged with a felony.

I got to plead my case. I said what happened, and they seemed receptive and sympathetic. But the prosecutor showed them the threats, everything that was on Pete’s phone, the sign on the wall, and painted me like I was a monster. I told the judge, “this has been the most awful experience of my life, I made a mistake, that I was sorry, and most of those texts were not sent by me.” The judge said that they were sent from my number and that they traced them to my phone. I said that wasn’t possible, but apparently somehow it was. And I was sentenced to 14 days in jail, 300 hours of community service, mandatory anger management, and a full protective order against Pete.

I knew Pete’s dad must have rigged those text messages somehow. I had no idea what I was going to do. Nothing I could do. After that, I was escorted through the same door I came in from, back to the jail, in front of my mom, through all the hallways and check points, was fully booked, given new jail clothes, a carton of milk, shower shoes, a flimsy plastic mattress I wouldn’t lend to a bum, and then led to the actual jail cell I stayed in. I guess the silver lining this time was my cell mate was just some crack head bum that snored and talked in his sleep so loud I had to make sure I got to sleep before he did or suffer another trial of insomnia. But I did. And I actually slept pretty good while I was in there for the most part.

Jail is not prison. At least that wasn’t the experience for me. There were mostly private showers, some of the people were decent and somewhat interesting, there weren’t any woods or gangs or anything, just a mix of people who messed up one way or another mostly. People were in there for everything from drunk driving to vandalism and whatever else. The worst parts of jail for me until the eighth day when I called Mary was getting up at 4:00 am everyday for breakfast, the actual food itself, and just reality of being locked up is what it is, and it is the most boring way a person can spend their time on this earth. My mom was the only person who came and visited me too. But I imagine prison is a lot worse.

The eighth day I was in there I decided to call Mary. I apologized first. We talked a little bit, and then she began explaining what was going on. I told her to be careful, and she couldn’t mention a certain person who has a daddy’s name. She said he told everyone what happened. I kept saying it was all BS. She said she believed me, but that he’s already getting people together, and they’re all wearing hats and shirts that have the name of the app. on it. And she ended it by saying there was no way we could see each other anymore, and hung up.

After that, jail got immeasurably worse. It became unbearable. I couldn’t believe all of it. The previous eight days were the longest days of my life, and the last week was even longer. They were the worst and most dreaded days and hours I could ever imagine. If I had gotten plagued with some deadly overnight disease, it would’ve been welcomed. To say the least, I was back to no sleeping.

I got out on a Tuesday and had to go back to school on Wednesday, but I had no idea how I was ever going to be able to do that. That night when I got home, my mom, and my dad for that matter, were both almost like strangers. My mom was obviously upset, my dad seemed concerned for the first time I could remember. Our family was pretty much being targeted or at least screwed over and torn apart, but I felt nothing. There was truly nothing there. Nothing in me at all. It wasn’t towards my mom or dad specifically, but just nothing in general. I felt hollow, like all the life I’d ever known was gone. And I didn’t try to console my mom or make her feel better or anything. She was very matter of fact about everything too, and explained to me what I already knew… that I couldn’t go anywhere near Pete, and if there’s any brief encounter at all at school or anywhere that I had to leave and get away immediately otherwise I’d go back to jail. Like two months away from graduation, and this is what it had come to. It was all over. Everything. My entire life, everything I knew, all that was, everything, seemed gone. I couldn’t believe this shit.

I called Austin later that night. If anybody was going to have my back it would be him. But he kept his distance over the phone. He said Pete pretty much has everyone on board with the “app. thing.” “People are upset about what’s happened with you,” he said. “But Mary’s gone. She said something abut you sounding crazy over the phone when you called her from jail, and that you were hospitalized that week you were gone…” “I don’t know how any of this can work out, man.” I pleaded with Austin about what had really gone on, and that all this was a total screw job. Austin said he believed me, but that people are just moving on really quickly. He said “Everyone’s upset, but Pete is showering everyone with dreams of becoming rich and working with rappers his dad already knows.” “Next week he’s taking whoever wants to go up to San Francisco for some business conference thing.” “Dude, I think it’s over.”

“Austin… Austin… Austin, how can you say that?” I asked. “Are you going?” In the back of my mind I was furious about Pete and my app. But all this snowballed so quickly, I could barely comprehend it. Everything just went black. “I’m gonna text everybody, and tell them the truth,” I said.

“I don’t think you’re going to get anywhere dude. You should just move on.” That was the last thing Austin said to me. I told him this isn’t right, and we’ll talk soon.

He was right though. Everyone confirmed the same thing, that they were going up to San Francisco and told me that I needed to move on. Besides Jake, of all freaking people. He said he felt horrible about what happened and said sorry that it did. He even told me he had been hospitalized once before as well. I finished texting Jake, and told him I was sorry for ever saying or thinking anything negative about him. After I sent that text, tears started to pour down my face. How did all of this happen to me?

And I knew how it did. It was Pete. I rejected any other thoughts or rationale after that. I wanted to actually kill him.

Over the next couple days, I kept completely to my self at school. I tolerated the stares, people going out of their way to avoid me, even some of the teachers I was in class with all year did the same, and seemed very nervous to have me in their class. I ate lunch in a secluded hallway. I didn’t say anything to anyone, or in class at all. I just stayed in the back and hoped no one would say anything, or see me at all. No one really did. Everyone just avoided me. A couple times I tried to tell some people what really happened, and people dismissed whatever I said and walked away. I was shunned and avoided entirely. I went home everyday, and stayed in my room as much as I could. My mom would have to force me to come out to talk to them and eat and things like that, but those couple days were the most quiet and depressed couple days of my life. And I knew my mom was having a hard time too. There had been problems clearly, enough to where I had to be hospitalized, but nothing like this. And I think when you see people changing gradually as everyone sort of naturally does no matter what, people don’t take notice or say anything or regard it at all. They just chalk it up to life. But when the change is rapid or instantaneous, it is a lot easier to realize and see, and my mother definitely did.

I didn’t know how to tell her I was alright, because I wasn’t. But we got through day to day until that weekend came around. And everything changed again. I was depressed all weekend, just quiet, playing video games, watching old movies, whatever I could do to keep my mind off of everything. Sunday morning though I got on instagram and saw everything again as clear as it ever was.

Most everyone posted pictures of all of them from Friday and Saturday night. Pete had something at his house on Friday, and there was another one at Gabe’s Saturday. Everyone was smiling and laughing. There was a group picture a few people posted from Friday where half the guys were wearing shirts with the app. on it, everyone just living and loving life… and laughing at me. Mary was in it too. Gabe posted it with a caption that said, “we’re crazy, but in a good way.” It went on. Some people posted stuff talking about looking forward to San Francisco the next week. There was more than a dozen posts from just the weekend alone.

After that I was no longer depressed. I knew where my dad hid a couple guns. And when they were gone, I got the key he didn’t know I knew where it was, and took one of the guns and a cartridge of bullets. I put them in my closet under some clothes behind the vitamins my mom gave me where I knew they would be hidden for good.

The next day when I went to school, some of the stares turned to quiet laughter. People that were going out of their way to avoid me before were going out of their way to smile and laugh at me. But it didn’t bother me at all. I wasn’t concerned at all. I could end all of this bullshit if I wanted to.

During lunch I did the same as I was doing. I stayed in the hallway, and kept away from everyone. I was disturbed, pissed, dismissive of everything, and satisfied. I kept to myself and ate my lunch with my own little smile on my face. Then out of the blue, Jake showed up.

I was startled when I saw him, but he was just as awkward and unsure of himself as ever. And for an instant, in the back of my mind, I said “it’s just Jake.” I knew that wasn’t the case anymore though. Jake proved himself to be different than I had known him or ever previously viewed him, but for a second at least, I felt normal again. And I said ‘what’s up Jake’ as I ever would, stood up, shook and gave each other a bro hug.

He told me again he was sorry that all this was happening. I said me too, and that it is what it is I guess. After that we both sat down and just hung out for the rest of lunch, bullshitted like normal, and talked about stuff that was more pleasant.

My next couple classes went as they would, but when school was over I was in a decent frame of mind. Things were okay. And as I was walking home I was thinking about Jake and how we all treated him the last four years, and the place I was in the past few days, and everything that had happened, and was just kind of taking it all in when I walked by this beautiful rose garden I walked by everyday. It had never stood out like that though. And a couple giant butterflies were dancing around the flowers and the rest of the plants. It was too beautiful not to stop. I was just kind of mesmerized by the butterflies for a second before I knelt down to smell the flowers. The first time I was ever compelled to I guess stop and smell the roses, that’s for sure. And when I stood up the two butterflies flew up to my face and continued their dance right in front of my eyes. For the first time since I told Pete about the app. or any of it, I had a sense of peace. Like no matter how much money Pete had, and how much of a piece of shit him and his dad are, they didn’t control everything. They couldn’t influence everything. There wasn’t any monopoly or stock portfolio on these butterflies. I started thinking about that more and more as I began to walk home again.

I went back to when I first came up with the idea, and thought about the time spent in the hospital, and why I decided to tell Pete when I did. Maybe I wouldn’t have done that if I wasn’t so amped on getting something positive in my life going. I don’t know. But as I was thinking about how all it started and everything that unfolded thereafter, another idea started coming to me about a story where a kid in a somewhat vulnerable and desperate position that gets railroaded by someone he trusted, or at least wanted to trust. It was my exact story. And I’ve never written a story or anything but I wanted to put it on paper. And I wanted to give it an ending that I could live with. Maybe I could put it online somewhere and people could learn from it, I don’t know. Maybe it would just give me some hope. I just knew I wanted to write my own story, and put my experience, and what actually happened on paper.

I got home, made a turkey sandwich, took a couple of those vitamins, and started writing. Starting with some funny stories from before the hospital, skipped that part, and headed into the concept of the app. My mind was on fire. The sound of the keyboard strokes and seeing my story unfold and get put down on the page was in invigorating, and revitalizing. My mom knocked on the door, and I told her I was writing a story, and I couldn’t be bothered right now. I yelled as she was shutting the door that I could go grab dinner later if she wanted. I didn’t stop typing though. My mind, my fingers, my story, were on fire. It flowed out of me as naturally as anything I ever felt before. I must’ve typed seven or eight pages in a couple hours, and wouldn’t have stopped if I hadn’t told my mom I’d get dinner. I went and got my mom and dad and myself an awesome dinner, and we enjoyed ourselves and each other’s company for the first time since the crap with cops, and even before that. I said I was writing a story and I thought it was turning out better than I thought, and went back to it when we were finished eating. I saw the relief in my mom’s eyes, and that felt pretty good too.

I brought my computer to school the next day and planned on finishing it. Ignored everything in each of my classes, continued through lunch, and ended up putting the last period on the last sentence during my next class. For the rest of the time, I thought about a safe and reliable place I could take it to get it proofread. Basically anybody that I saw as the opposite of Pete would do, and that wasn’t my mom. I wouldn’t want her to know the whole story anyway.

I printed out a couple copies in the library, and went to see my English teacher from last year who I thought would not only help proofread it, but would appreciate it as well. When I knocked on the door to his class, he was a little weary to see me like everyone in the school was, but we talked and he was happy to help. And I knew he would be.

He helped me proofread it, and then some. I put on some Netflix on my phone while he read it the first time, then we both went over the whole thing together. I mean, he couldn’t have been any more generous. He even told me of a writing club that was at little strip mall close by that might help me go over it some more, and even try to publish it. I was stoked. I went back to the library and made some changes per his suggestions, and printed another copy. The finished product.

It felt so good to have something I thought was beautiful in my hands that came from all this hellish crap that’s gone on lately. If anything it was a good and solid breath of hope when I didn’t have any before. And again, it felt good to create it. Maybe this was what I was suppose to do with my life… I don’t know. I headed immediately for the place he told me about.

Where he said it was was only a little more than a mile or so away. I’d never heard of the place, or probably never noticed because I didn’t have any interest. But I started thinking about how I was going to introduce myself, and contemplating the likelihood of one of the people there having heard of me or of anything that had gone on. Very doubtful I told myself, but I still kinda wrestled around with that thought for a little longer before I pulled out my phone and looked up the address. I must’ve walked by the place a thousand times. I put my phone away, and looked back up toward where I was going.

My path was blocked entirely, and I was stopped in my tracks. There were four giant dudes standing right in my way. All of them were tatted, all of them were ripped, three of them were wearing the same colors. Fuck. “Backpack, wallet, and cell phone mother fucker.”

This wasn’t happening. How could this actually be happening, I thought? Holy fucking bullshit. Fuck this. “Go fuck yourself,” I said. They immediately came at me. I tried to fight for a second, but was knocked down and stomped on in an instant. Every time they stomped on me, they’d call out “mother fucker.” On my sides, in the back, on my head, they just kept stomping on me. I tried to get up each time, but they just yelled, “stay down bitch,” and kept stomping. They ripped my backpack off which had my laptop in it, flipped out my pockets, and took my cell, my keys, and my wallet. I reached for my story which I saw out of the corner of my eye scattered everywhere, and one of them saw me doing that and said, “fuck you bitch,” and kicked me in the teeth. He grabbed the story off the ground, and pulled a lighter out of his pocket and lit it on fire. I saw the pages start to burn and he began waving it in my face. I reached for it one more time, but was stomped repeatedly. I didn’t have anymore strength. After that I just laid there until they finished. They eventually did. I heard one of them say, “Oh shit, mother fucker’s got a laptop in here.” They said it was time to get out of there to each other and started walking off. “Thanks bitch,” was the last of it. And the last of it for me as well.

I laid there for a little bit sorta going in and out of consciousness. For whatever ever reason I got this mental image and started dreaming of myself as a dog musher in some back woods up in the mountains somewhere. All I could see was a black background and trees everywhere. I was holding the handle of a dogsled being pulled by a group of mushing dogs, calling out to each of the dogs. I didn’t really see much more before I thought of Pete again, and how all of this happened. Then my eyes opened and I slowly got up. My whole body felt like I had just been hit by a car. My ears were ringing, my vision was blurry, blood was pouring everywhere, and my head was completely fucked up. I had to sit back down. Luckily some guy drove by and saw me there. I didn’t see who he was at all, and I didn’t give a shit. I got in his car, murmured where I lived, and he drove me home. He asked a few questions I didn’t feel like answering, and he offered to help walk me to the door when we got there, but I guess I said I was fine. I opened the door and made my way to my house.

My mom saw me walking up and opened the door and ran and got me. She started asking what happened and everything. And I kept saying I was fine. She insisted on going to the hospital, but I looked at her and said absolutely not. “I just wanna go inside,” I said. And we did. She laid me on the couch in the living room and started bringing me ice and towels and water, making a commotion, running around to find a first aid kit. But I got up, walked over to her and said, “I’m fine. Don’t bother me right now.” Then I walked in my room, shut the door, and laid down. I couldn’t smoke and didn’t even care to. I just thought about Pete, all those pictures, and the pain.

My mom knocked on the door fifteen minutes later which prompted me to yell and say not to come in at all. She pushed against the door, but it was locked. We argued and I had to tell her to go away a few times. She said she’d be waiting when I was done. I ended up going to sleep not too long after that, and was woken up by my father banging on the door a few hours later. He barged in breaking the door and said they were sending me to live with my uncle who lived up north for awhile after school was over. I went along with it so he’d leave. I kept the lights turned off and laid back down and continued thinking about Pete and all the same stuff. I probably ended up going to sleep around 9:00 and waking up around 5:00.

I was sore everywhere. But I managed. No bones were broken or anything. I wasn’t able to brush my teeth so I just got in the shower, and sat down and let the water run over me. I felt the burn on my wounds and on my body and watched as dry blood washed out of my hair down the drain. It was over.

After I got out of the shower I sat down at my desk, pulled out a couple sheets of paper and wrote two letters. One to my mom, and one to my old English teacher. Both said sorry and thank you, and goodbye. I told my mom I loved her. Then I went and opened the closet. I saw the vitamins there which kinda made me laugh and pulled out the gun, loaded it, stuffed it in my backpack, and left.

I got to school really early and just sat outside the grounds so no one would see me. I looked at the scope of the entire school and briefly remembered all the fun and memories I had built there. I didn’t know whether to smile or feel like shit. I didn’t really feel anything at all. And the thought passed. When it was time to go in I put my hood over my head and stayed back towards a bush out view of anyone. I laid down and waited for the first bell to ring. It did. Then I waited for the second bell to ring. It did. I imagined everybody walking around during passing period. I pictured Claire heading to her locker as she always did, and the couple of us who always met up with each other at this tree in the quad. I just laughed. Then I waited for the third bell to ring, and it did. Fifty-five minutes later the fourth bell rang which led to lunch. I sat up, looked at the school again, stood, put the gun in my pocket, and started walking. I headed to where we all used to sit during lunch, where I knew everyone would be, where some of my fondest memories of these people and this place were made. I kept my head down as I walked through the main entrance and headed right to our benches. Everyone was there.

I gripped the gun in my pocket. A couple of them looked up and said “what the fuck?” But I kept moving in. The closer I got the tighter I gripped. They could see my face, but when they got the sense something was really wrong, it was too late. I pulled the gun out, aimed in Pete’s direction, and started shooting. Pete got hit, then I shot Gabe, then the other Pete, a punk kid I was never really friends with named Taylor, another guy named Raymond, another guy Eric, anyone I could except Austin and Jake. Then I turned and pointed it towards the girls, at Mary, and looked at her. She was terrified. I didn’t shoot though. I turned and pointed it back at our bench. Blood was everywhere. Everybody was running and screaming. I saw the guys laying there, dead, the whole school screaming and running for cover, the pool of blood growing by the second, and realized what I had just done. Pete was crawling there on floor, and just instinctually I pointed and shot him one more time. That was the end of it. “What did I just do?” I thought. Blood covered the floor all the way to my feet. “What have I done?” All I saw was blood and bodies. Then I took a gulp, whispered to whoever was listening that I was sorry, put the gun in my mouth, and pulled the trigger.

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