Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Step-Grandpa

From the time when my mother married my stepfather when I was seven to when I was nine years old, the three of us lived in the company of my stepfather's dad. Not wanting to disrespect my "true" grandparents by implying that he was as influential in my life as they were, he and my parents told me to address him by his first name, Bob.

Aside #1: I don't know if this was actually their reason for this, but it was what I believed while growing up and what I will continue to assume unless told otherwise.

As most seven year-olds would be when thrown into living with a senior citizen they hadn't grown up around, I was incredibly apprehensive about the situation at first. After all, he didn't only live with us, he actually lived with us. I'd never seen anything like it before. He watched TV. He took showers. He ate dinner with us. He even lived in the bedroom next to mine. It was as if they had adopted another child, except this one swore a lot and didn't have regular bowel movements.

Aside #2: Because I can't find a way to coherently incorporate it into the above paragraph, I'll just mention it here: Bob lived with my stepfather before he married my mom. That is all.

But after a few weeks, I became accustomed to having him around. Usually, I'd arrive home from school to find him sitting on the couch watching the news or reading his Bible. Once I'd become completely comfortable around him, we'd go on walks together, where he would explain how the colorful Southwestern Bell telephone line-marker flags I was pulling up and collecting were actually placed there by a kid around my age who had gone on a walk alone and left a trail so he didn't get lost, and that he wouldn't be able to find his way home if I continued to take them.

Basically, he completely fabricated a story that was tailored to my adolescent mindset to give me an actual reason to stop taking the flags, rather than just telling me "don't do that" like a normal adult would have.

Aside #3: One of my favorite things I ever asked him on one of these walks was how cigarette filters tasted if you continued to smoke past the tobacco. His answer? "Burning paper. Don't try it if you ever smoke."

Because of his demonstrative way of passing down wisdom, Bob would teach me three of the most important things I've ever learned in my life over the course of the next two years; through things he did, not things he said.

Lesson #1 - The world around you is important, always keep up with current events.

There was a woman that lived across the street from us with her husband and three kids that Bob would talk to regularly, named Jane. She was notorious for getting her news updates through Bob, because she didn't read the newspaper or own a television.

Aside #4: It's sort of implied, but I'll say it anyways: This was in an age before the internet was most peoples' primary source for news.

One evening, Bob realized how dependent she was on him for this, and decided to play a prank on Jane, telling her that there was supposed to be a massive solar eclipse the following morning around 7 AM (when Jane would be waking up, and in her windowed kitchen making coffee). After explaining that the eclipse would make it pitch black outside around this time, he told her not to open her blinds during the few minutes the eclipse would last because she might unintentionally look into the sun and be blinded. Taking his word as truth, she believed him implicitly.

Late that night, long after Jane and the rest of her family had gone to sleep, Bob walked across the street with a handful of thick black trash bags and a roll of duct tape, affixing them over the few windows Jane would walk by on her way to the kitchen the next morning.

It worked perfectly. The way she told it, she woke up in her dark room and walked down a dark hallway into her dark kitchen, where no sunlight was shining through any window. She became suspicious and went outside, she explained, after the "eclipse" hadn't ended by the time her pot of coffee was done brewing.

Lesson #2 - Work can be entertaining, if you make it.

Sometime during the first six months of my mother and stepfather's marriage, they decided to paint the entire interior of our house peach. I don't know why, but it happened. Naturally, Bob and I were enlisted to help, with me taking on most non-painting duties (like watching!) as he worked on painting the living room.

Watching him work was infinitely more entertaining than watching either of my parents work. He would paint shapes and simple little drawings to entertain me as I valiantly tried to stop myself from dipping my Hot Wheels in the paint. He joked that he would paint a mural while I was at school one day, even though he only had the single color.

Lo and behold, he did. Sort of. You see, this story happens to take place the same week as Halloween, and Bob apparently realized that peach isn't so far from the fall season's head color, orange. So he painted a giant, smiling jack-'o-lantern on one of the walls in the hallway that lead to our kitchen. Upon my arrival home, I nearly shit myself with happiness when I saw that an adult had done something so cool. He had even left it out for me to see, meaning that it dried completely before he painted over it later that day.

That also means that every time I would walk by that wall, and look at it from a certain angle in the right light, I could see the faintest outline of a grinning pumpkin, years after it was painted.

Lesson #3 - Learn to make fun of yourself, before others do.

I don't know or remember what planted the seed of the idea that I was obsessed with the then-ridiculously popular Britney Spears into Bob's head, but after about a year of knowing me, he suddenly would not stop hassling me about it, teasing me every time she was on TV or in the newspaper.

Aside #5: He even left a Britney Spears poster for me to find in my room one day, suspiciously signed "To Tyler, Love Britney S. XOXO" in Bob's all-caps handwriting. That's how bad it got.

Being a hotheaded child that hated being made fun of even a little bit (like I still am), I chose not to ignore him and was subsequently driven mad by his constant success in pissing me off.

Like one earthquake triggering another, my anger turned into nonchalance over time, and soon I was reacting to her appearances in media faster than he was, with mock excitement. I don't he was ever as proud of me as he was the few times I did that.

But unfortunately, as I mentioned above, my time spent with Bob didn't last more than two years. He moved out to live with his brother and other family members in Rochester, New York, on an alpaca farm. From there, he would send us letters and photos every month or two, either of the crazy weather they were having or members of his family in the crazy weather they were having. They had a photo printer and loved to use it.

Aside #6: Seriously, if you went through my photo collection, you would wonder why half of it is comprised of unidentifiable blurry people in snow gear waving at the camera from off in the middle-distance.

One of my favorites was not of either of these things, though. It was of Bob and a young alpaca named Don Diego, standing outside of a veterinary office where the animal was to get some shots that day (as explained on the back of the photo). Along the bottom, a caption reads "This won't hurt?" which was for me at the time, the pinnacle of all things humorous. I put it up on my wall immediately.

A few weeks after sending this last picture, in apropos of nothing, Bob had a stroke in his sleep and passed away. From the moment I found out until the moment I saw him lying in his casket after flying out to Rochester with my parents for the funeral, I didn't believe it was possible for him to be gone. But he was.

It rained on the day of his funeral, which is always fitting. I was in shock for most of the evening afterwards, not really talking to anyone or getting to know these family members I'd never met before. Seeing this, Bob's brother and his wife offered to take me out to the stable to meet a few alpacas, an offer I gloomily accepted.

After meeting the half-dozen they owned and posing for a few obligatory pictures with each one, we returned to the house to print said pictures out to take home with us.

Immediately after plugging the camera in and turning the printer on, a sheet started running through it without having the order to do so. Curious, everyone in the room watched as the printer spit out a sheet of four identical pictures of Bob standing next to Don Diego, caption and all. No one said a word. Then Bob's brother started laughing, followed by everyone else.

It was then that I realized that he'd once again inadvertently taught me a life lesson, one that I value most of all: always keep 'em laughing.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

My Near-Miss

I've mentioned this before in a few posts in the past, but let's go through it again:
The summer in-between my freshman and sophomore years in high school, my parents uprooted me from my birth state, Texas, and moved me to the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona.

Shortly after moving all of our possessions and selves to the Grand Canyon State, we were told that we would have to endure the plight of having to live in an apartment for a month while our house was being completed.

Since we'd moved during summer vacation, this left me with no convenient outlet for trying to find friends, leaving me to desperately prowl around the complex looking for people my age.

To make a long story short, the only person I ended up meeting during this adventure was a twentysomething pot dealer named Garth, who had an affinity for The Doors and a bong made out of a real human skull. Essentially, Garth was not exactly the type of friend I was looking to make at this point in time.

Aside #1: Though he does sound a lot like a few people I know. My, how times change.

Not long after this failed friend-finding mission, I began hanging out across the street from a high school a block away from the apartment we were staying in (not my future high school, by the way) in hopes to maybe hang out with a small group of teenagers that I'd noticed leaving the school one day in the early afternoon; looking like they were part of some sort of school club.

And part of some club they were. As I would later find out, this half-dozen strong collection of my peers turned out to be the school's Yu-Gi-Oh trading card game club, meeting up before the school year had began to plan out meetings and the like while sharing an enjoyable game of Yu-Gi-Oh between friends.

Aside #2: This blog post is brought to you by Yu-Gi-Oh: "The Funnest Trading Card Game Out There!"

But like I said, I was completely unaware of this fact as they walked up to me and started questioning me relentlessly. During this questioning, I couldn't help but stare at the sole female member of this microposse, named Jessi, who returned my advances by staring and smiling at me flirtatiously. So in order to get closer to her through her friends, I walked around the area with them over the next hour, pretending to get to know all of them, but only truly being interested in her the entire time.

Luckily, my "hard work" paid off, and everyone else with a penis left Jessi and I alone, talking to one another like it wasn't a huge deal (which it totally was, for me). Eventually our conversation winded down, and we exchanged numbers and made plans to do something the following day.

Thrilled, I returned home to tell my mother, who didn't share my excitement. Crushing my hopes of having Jessi over to our apartment the next day, she told me that she and my stepdad would be visiting our new house all day the next day, and that I was not to have any visitors while they were gone.

Naturally, I completely ignored this, and invited her over anyways, reasoning to myself that they'd be gone all day, and that if I had her over right after they left and had her leave a short time later, all would be well.

Surprisingly, all was well. They awoke the next morning, got dressed, and left without suspecting a thing. As planned, Jessi came over shortly after they'd left, and we walked around the complex for a few minutes, talking, before heading to the apartment to "hang out."

Aside #3: I used quotes to point out the euphemism I'm trying to convey here. I hope I've now drawn enough attention to it.

Before I continue, I'd like to take a second to break down Jessi's appearance during this meeting, from head-to-toe. I've intentionally not said anything about it until now. You'll see why.

-Short brown hair with multicolored streaks in it.
-Big eyes, with tons of eyeliner. Wore a small jewel on her upper cheek.
-Small, diamond lip stud.

-Huge breasts barely contained by a band shirt she'd taken scissors to.
-Tons and tons of bracelets. So. Many. Bracelets.

-Short jean miniskirt.
-Leopard-print tights.

-Semi-tall socks. Yes, over her tights. Yes, in the summer.
-Converse she'd drawn all over, rebelliously.

What I'm getting at, is that besides for her ridiculously proportioned boobs (which totally wasn't why I liked her), she was just like 80% of the girls that were at that age when I was. Except sluttier (which was totally why I liked her).

Basically, she was not the type of girl you want your mom catching you with. But lo and behold, fifteen minutes after I'd taken her back to "my place," laid her out on my parents' bed (after closing and locking the door, of course), and taken her shirt off, my mother opened the front door and stepped into our living room.

Hearing this and panicking, I handed Jessi her shirt and ushered her into the adjoining bathroom, telling her to step into the shower/bath and close the curtain, just in case. Closing the door to the bathroom and opening the one that lead from the bedroom to the living room, I stepped across the threshold and faced my mother.

"Hey, what are you doing?" she asked suspiciously.

"Nothing. I was just going to the bathroom in there," I said, completely innocently.

"Oh really?" she asked, stepping past me and into the bedroom.

Aside #4: Growing up, my parents always assumed I was up to no good, or lying to them. This lead to me usually being up to no good and lying to them about it.

Scoping out the room, she lingered at the threshold for ten seconds before deciding not to go further; her mannerisms not unlike a velociraptor from Jurassic Park.

Aside #5: I'd almost have rather her been one, come to think of it. In fact, I can safely say that I'd rather be put in a cage match with one of these prehistoric killing machines than my own mother. Freud would love me.

"Well, we just went out to eat down the street before going to the house. I forgot my sunglasses, so we had to come back," she explained, after turning around and walking towards the front door.

"...oh, alright," I offered, following her to the door while consciously trying to make my rapid heartbeat stop showing through the front of my shirt.

With that, she left. After watching my parent's car pull out from the parking lot and waiting a few seconds to make sure she didn't come back for some illegitimate reason, I walked through the living room and bedroom, opening the door to the bathroom, finally pulling back the shower curtain to find Jessi standing there, still shirtless and shaking slightly.

"Why didn't you put your shirt back on?" I asked.

"I didn't want to make noise!" she exclaimed. "I didn't know if she would walk in or not!"

Completely ignoring her ridiculous reasoning and grinning, I said, "I thought for sure she was going to find you."

"Me too," she said, stepping out from the tub. "What happened?"

As she put her shirt back on, I explained the events of the past few minutes.

"Wow, I can't believe we came that close to getting caught. I should probably leave in case she comes back," she said, once I'd finished speaking.

"! She won't be back for a few hours," I pleaded. "Please don't leave."

Aside #6: The first, but not the last time I'd say those last two sentences together.

"I don't feel comfortable here anymore. I'm gonna go," she said, sadly.

Less than five minutes after my mother had, Jessi departed from the apartment, promising to call me sometime in the next few days so we could meet up again. She never did.

But looking back, I'm very glad she didn't. Any girl that thinks, even for a split-second while under loads of stress, that putting on a t-shirt is loud enough to be heard by someone in a different room, through a closed door, is no girl for me. I don't care how slutty she is, or how big her boobs are.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Arts & Crafts Story

For the better part of three months now, I've been telling the dedicated three or four-dozen of you that read this blog stories from my childhood, teenage years, and adulthood. Thanks to feedback I receive on a weekly basis (keep it coming, by the way), I know what sort of stories will be successes before I even post them. I don't want to say this has made me want to go out and seek things that are post-worthy, but I've definitely had an ear to the ground as far as my more-recent shenanigans go. That being said, I'd like to mention before I weave this tale that this is something that has happened very recently (I'm going to be intentionally vague and say in the last two months), and is probably the closest post to near-live-blogging that I'll ever do.

I am, by nature, an observer. I can't help it. I don't want to say I'm quick to judge, because that would be misleading, but unfortunately, that is a sort of residual side-effect of my personality type. Since I've obsessively been doing this for most of my life, I've become quite good at reading people, something that has (overall) likely hindered me more than helped.

But sometimes, my judgments are wrong. Such was the case a few weeks ago when my friend Lydia and I attended a sort of mini-arts & crafts party thrown by her artist fauxncle, Wayne.

Aside #1: "Fauxncle" is a word I just made up to describe Lydia and Wayne's relationship. Though not related, Lydia referred to Wayne as her uncle. So he is her "faux uncle," or "fauxncle" (pronounced "funkle"). I know that isn't linguistically sound (HA!), but it sure is fun to say.

Held in a seedy-looking building in an even seedier-looking area of downtown Dallas, it was hard to know exactly what I was getting myself into. Despite being derelict, and feeling the type of place you would go if you wanted to purchase some of the more serious drugs, there were at least five freshly-printed and posted signs in the vicinity of the front door warning visitors to not feed the wild cats that roamed the area, because the owners of the buildings did so already. This amount of effort and care put forth more than mixed my expectations of what we may find inside.

But my opinion on the building and its inhabitants changed as soon as the door opened, and we were greeted by a welcoming, hairy-legged girl that looked like the physical manifestation of the term "modern hippie." Stepping inside, she directed Lydia and I to a large room filled with a dozen other people, surrounded by various crafts projects in different stages of completion.

After walking around the building for a few minutes, admiring the decades-old architecture, Lydia and I each took a beer from a cooler at the end of a wall lined with communal snack food, and sat down at one of the tables in the crafts room.

Since the entire following exchange felt like it belonged in a movie, I am going to present it to you, the reader, entirely in screenplay format (slightly abridged).


TY: Our protagonist. Neurotic. Doesn't do well in social situations, usually seeming reserved and quiet in interactions with strangers. Is not working on an art project during exchange, because he is uncomfortable with doing so in front of other people.

LYDIA: Friend of protagonist and guest to party. Faux-related to WAYNE. Smiles a lot. Can be seen pushing art supplies in TY's general direction when not speaking to group. Is working on a colored pencil drawing during exchange. Fun fact: Shares exact birth date with protagonist.

Host of party. Fauxncle of LYDIA. Has known LYDIA's mother for many years. Is a professional artist, but obviously humble. Can be seen bustling about in the background of scene, worrying about whether or not the inoffensive Indian music playing in the background is offending anyone.

LINDA: Guest to party. Old friend of LYDIA's mother and WAYNE. Larger woman with glasses and a ponytail. Talks in odd voices a lot. Very, very good-natured. Is working on a cut-and-paste construction paper scene during exchange.

OLIVIA: Guest to party. Friend of WAYNE. Young woman with hippie qualities and a beaded bracelet that makes a lot of noise when she shakes her wrist "like this." Is also working on a colored pencil drawing during exchange.

Guest to party. Friend of WAYNE. Despite being in her mid to late-forties, has the lined face of a woman that has been through a lot in her life. Is also working on a cut-and-paste construction paper scene during exchange.

CLAIRE: Guest to party. Young daughter of SAMANTHA (aged around 9). Seems intelligent for her age. Is working on coloring a page torn from a coloring book during exchange.


A table at an arts & crafts party. Everyone is sitting around, listening to music and working on various art projects (save for TY). We join a conversation already in progress.

(to LYDIA)
Yeah, I've known your mom for years, but I don't think I've ever met you besides when you were a little kid! How old are you now?

(to LINDA, while taking a sip of beer)
I'm twenty. I'll be twenty-one in a few months.

(to TY)
What about you?

(to LINDA, motioning to LYDIA)
It's funny, she and I actually have the same birthday. Same year, everything.

(to LYDIA and TY, then to entire table)
Well isn't that neat! They have the same birthday!

(in unison)

(to TY)
Can I say something sort of weird? (TY nods) You look just like a guy that was in my art class in high school.

(to SAMANTHA, awkwardly) Thanks, I guess?

(to TY/table)
Damn, I can't find my phone.

(to LYDIA)
I never lose mine. I have my little squirrel pocket.

LINDA reaches into her shirt through the neck and fishes out a small cell phone.

(to LINDA)
I wish I had something like that. You should invent a bra that has a squirrel pocket built in, if there isn't such a thing already.

(to TY, then to entire table)
That would be so neat! Guys, I should invent a bra that has a squirrel pocket built in!

(to LINDA)
That would be so neat!

Shot cuts over to SAMANTHA, who is telling CLAIRE that yes, she may go over to a different part of the room. CLAIRE runs off, enjoying herself.

How old is she?

(to LYDIA, gazing at CLAIRE lovingly)
She's nine. She's the light of my life. (voice becomes watery) I love her so much.

Aside #2: Based on her sentiments towards her daughter and the way she acted and looked, I formulated an entire fictional storyline in my head for this woman minutes after I met her. Either I am the least imaginative and most observant person in the world, or am the most imaginative and least observant person in the world.

What was her name again? I'm terrible with names.

(to TY, smiling)
Her name is Claire.

(to TY)
I never have trouble remembering names. I learned a trick a while back, where I would make up a song to remember names. Like mine when I met you was (in singsong voice) "Nice to meet you, Ty! Nice to meet you, Ty! Nice to meet you, Ty!"

(to LINDA, laughing)
I'll have to try that sometime.

(walking up to table, to TY and LYDIA, then to OLIVIA)
Do you guys want to come upstairs to my studio with me for a bit? You can come too.

(to WAYNE, nodding)

TY, LYDIA and OLIVIA stand up from their seats, bidding the rest of the table goodbye (for the time being).


After this session of banter, the four of us walked over to an old freight elevator located behind the room we'd been in, where Wayne asked the three of us if we'd like to take it, rather than the stairs, to the second floor. Never wanting to pass up a chance to ride a rickety elevator that is older than the oldest living member of my family, I gladly accepted, as did Lydia and Olivia, and we stepped onto it as Wayne ran upstairs to turn it on.

After thirty seconds that were filled with me pontificating to the two women about how old I thought a dolley we'd found on the elevator was, we stepped off of the elevator and followed Wayne down a hallway to his studio.

Aside #3: Yes, I talked about the markings and "tells" of old dolleys for a full thirty seconds, and I could have gone on for much longer. I watch a lot of antiques shows.

There are cliches about artists being messy for a reason, as it turns out. Scraps of wood, finished and half-finished artwork and a rogue glow-in-the-dark dinosaur toy were just some of the things that littered the shelves, floor and every other available surface around the room. It was very endearing.

Then Wayne did something that will make the little stoner in anybody squeal with joy: he pulled out an old aluminum lunchbox.

Aside #4: Totally just implied that all pot smokers store their stash in aluminum lunchboxes. Funny thing is, I'm okay with it, because the world would probably be a slightly better place if that were the truth. Also, if there is ever a drinking/smoking game meant to be played while reading my work someday, all I ask is that right now be a time you take a shot/hit.

While talking to we three guests about various things (cats, sandwiches, beer, etc.) Wayne began putting his pungently-odored weed into a small pipe, packing it down perfectly like a seasoned pro. Soon it was being passed around from person-to-person, as the four of us joked about how one in four people has herpes.

Twenty minutes later, we returned (via freight elevator) downstairs, all occupying our previous seats and positions within the room, as if nothing had happened. As I sat there, stoned and observing the interactions between the motley crew of complete strangers that surrounded me, I had an epiphany and thought to myself:

"Arts & Crafts are pretty cool."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My Other Life

Since I'm lazy and have only written half of this week's post, I'm going to republish something I wrote almost two years ago. I promise it's just as funny as the day I released it. Enjoy. New material will be posted this sometime later this week.

I lived a completely false online life for three days using Omegle.
Omegle is a chatroom that connects you with a random person around the world. These strangers can range from horny Turkish men to Chinese people using a IP address-masking site to chat with people. It's interesting, fun, and scary.

So I decided to do something interesting. I decided to create a person, and live that life via Omegle. Here is a little bit about "me":

Name: Nicole Myers
Date of birth: January 19, 1983 (age 26)
Hair: Brown
Eyes: Green
Height: 5'5
Weight: 115-125 (depending on "the time of the month").
Location: San Fransisco, California, USA by way of Tyler, Texas, USA.
Occupation: Receptionist at a law firm.

Other parts of my persona:
-I own a male cat named Pablo.
-I went to law school for six years, and graduated seven months ago.
-My father has connections in the business, and got me a job in SF. He is rich, and paid for my college education. He is expecting me to work my way up the ladder.
-I live in a two-bedroom house on a hill on a street with trolleys that pass by.
-I am a workout fiend. I own a treadmill and enjoy swimming.
-I like my men built, but not bulky.
-I can't seem to find a good man in SF that isn't either gay or an asshole. Or both.

Under this persona, I managed to get a few bites. One was a single, 40 year old man living in Texas. One was a 28 year old Norweigian milk factory worker. But the most interesting by far was a 20 year old SoCal-based video editor named Troy.
He and I had a two-hour conversation that was mostly about "me," and how cute he thought I sounded. Green eyes drive him crazy, he likes to surf, and is absolutely a cocky, shameless douchebag with an IQ in the double-digits.
Anyways, Troy and I chatted it up outside of Omegle. I created an email address ( and talked back and forth with him for about two days.

This is a social experiment conducted on a complete stranger; unbiased and absolutely aloof. Ladies and gentlemen, I present:

The Troy and Nicole Emails

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My Bad Timing

If I were a believer in luck, I'd consider myself an unlucky individual. My timing, it seems, is never exactly right. One of the better examples I can think of to illustrate this took place during my sophomore year in high school.

When I was that age, I was amongst the thousands of other post-pubescent teens that wanted to be a photographer for a living. Not because I particularly enjoyed taking pictures, or even had any skill with it, but because it's one of the things my grandfather had done for a living, and I thought it would be cool to follow in his footsteps.

Aside #1: His biggest claim to fame is taking this picture.

I'd enrolled in a Journalism course to hone my nonexistent abilities, while also hoping to blow through the class without actually doing anything. That, unfortunately, was not the case, as my teacher absolutely hated me and everything I stood for, and would often send me out of class for reasons unknown.

Aside #2: It's ironic that this class is what made me realize I appreciate writing more than anything else, isn't it?

There was a silver lining, however. On the first day of class, I'd noticed a girl sitting two rows behind me that I'd never seen at school before. Her name, I would later find out, was Stephanie, and I liked her the moment I saw her. Much to my disdain, she seemed to be completely out of my league, possibly even playing a different game altogether. I knew I wasn't going to get her attention by just sitting in front of her and doing nothing, so I flirted the only way I knew how to at the time: via a passed-back note.

To my surprise, it worked. Within two weeks we were regularly passing each other longer and longer letters, meeting up after class, walking home together, liking each other more and more as time went by. She would draw me pictures, and I would bring her hand-picked tiny flowers from ouside the school to leave on her desk before she came in every morning. It was sort of disgusting, actually.

Then, out of nowhere, just as I was about to make my move and ask her to take a chance on me, she began dating someone else. His name was Brad, he had an eyebrow stud, and I hated him more than anything on the planet for unknowingly taking her from me. I thought my world had ended because of it.

Deeply apologetic, Stephanie tried talking to me the day after I'd found out. But being as stubborn as I possibly could be, I refused to talk to her, initially.

But that didn't last long. Soon we were talking just like we had been when she was sans boyfriend, hiding our "friendship" from Brad.

Romanticizing the situation, I told her one day soon after we'd started talking again that I'd be patient, and that I would wait around for their relationship to fail, after which I'd sweep her off her feet and treat her as she'd never been treated before. She didn't seem to mind hearing these sentiments, though she didn't exactly agree to the terms after I'd said them.

Aside #3: I assume this was because doing so would throw her into what some people would consider a "morally grey" area. I wouldn't know, my morals are so out of whack that this sort of thing doesn't even faze me anymore.

Despite the lack of a verbal contract, I decided to soldier on and wait for her to be freed from Brad's grip. Soon, a month had passed, and Stephanie's attitude towards me and her attitude towards she and Brad's relationship remained exactly the same. She was, as they say, caught between a rock and a hard place.

It was only a matter of time before I exacerbated the situation further by doing something stupid and rash. Naturally, I did just that. One day after a particularly flirtacious walk home from school, I surprised her completely by kissing her, out of nowhere.

Aside #4: My advice to anyone, ever: kiss everyone that gives you an opening. The worst that could happen is they turn you down, right? ...right?

Shockingly, rather than act offended and push me away, she kissed me right back. Even more shockingly, she continued to kiss me for the next 45 seconds.

Then the moment I'd been waiting for since I'd first met her ended, and we pulled apart and looked at one another. With an immeasurable amount of calm, Stephanie turned on her heel and walked up the concrete path to her front porch, not saying a single word. When she got to the door, she opened it, stepped in, then turned around to look at me. Smiling, she shut the door and I walked away, grinning like an idiot.

Unfortunately, this encounter changed nothing. The next few weeks went by in the same fashion as the previous few had, with her leading me on while dating Brad. Becoming frustrated at not having a chance with her, I began to slowly cut her out of my life as I started to date a different girl.

A month after we'd kissed, I had stopped talking to Stephanie completely, and was completely satisfied with the status of my relationship with my girlfriend. Things were pretty good.

But just as I'm sure you can infer by my use of the term "things were pretty good," naturally everything soon took a turn for the worse.

To make a long story short(er), Stephanie and Brad broke up, she began talking to me, convinced me to like her again, and I broke up with my girlfriend so that she and I could be together.

Aside #5: Don't tell me I'm terrible, I was young and dumb and will probably do this exact same thing another half-dozen times in the future. Regardless of whether or not I'm referring to women, I will never, ever turn down a free upgrade.

Over the next few days, we began hanging out often, holding hands and kissing in public like any normal couple would, and I assumed this meant we were together. I couldn't have been happier. All of the time and effort I'd put into our future relationship was finally paying off, and I felt that I was being rewarded for what I considered to be unwavering patience when it came to the situation.

Aside #6: Nothing says "jaded" like thinking you're unflappable after you've given up on something twice.

Soon, evidence that showed that Stephanie didn't feel the same way about our "relationship" began to surface. Mostly in the form of her cutting me off as I'd done her (with less justification in her case), and dating Brad again, leaving me heartbroken and regretting the day I'd began talking to her.

That was nearly four years ago, and despite breaking up and getting back together a few times between then and now (like the overdramatic couple they clearly are), Stephanie is still with Brad. They'll probably end up married someday, have children, and end up divorced because that's the way life is. At least my foot isn't caught in that bear trap.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Airsoft Gun Story

When I was a teenager, I was convinced that someday I would become a professional artist, despite the fact that I only exhibited what could be called "talent" in one out of every ten pieces I worked on. I was convinced that this was a mere bump in the road to stardom. After all, I reasoned, Van Gogh's artwork was considered trash when he was alive, and it was only in death that he actually became famous. Maybe my artwork was the same.

Aside #1: And people say I had an ego. Pshaw.

Regardless, when I moved to a new school at the beginning of my Sophomore year, I enrolled in a mid-level drawing class to hone my "abilities" even further. Taught by a gruff, mustachioed ex-coach that had no artistic ability or training whatsoever, I could tell from the first day that the rest of the year that I spent in that class would be completely wasted, and that it wasn't going to help me in what I then saw as my future career.

So I spent most of my time slacking off rather than working on whatever assignment we'd been given, talking to the other five guys that were sitting at the same large, square table as me.
Amongst these fellows was a goateed teen named James. With his long, black, greasy hair and affinity for wearing suggestive t-shirts with massively baggy pants, he was usually the singular scapegoat our teacher chose to scold if we were in trouble as a table (which we often were). He must have been used to this sort of misdirected anger, as it usually rolled off his back without affecting him at all.

Aside #2: This is where I would normally imply that he was verbally abused at home on a regular basis, but to save time, I'm just going to say it: He was verbally abused at home on a regular basis.

The rest of us at the table appreciated this, and would often pontificate about the injustices served to him and how much we appreciated him taking the fall, in order to make his plight seem worthwhile. This semi-symbiotic relationship between James and the rest of us worked, much to our collective surprise.

Then, one day about midway through the school year, James was telling anyone that would listen that he was planning on going over to a friend's house after school to have an "airsoft gun war" (as he called it), and that he'd brought his (unloaded) pistol to school so he didn't have to stop at home to pick it up on the way to said "war." Since our school didn't have lockers, and required students to carry around their backpacks all day, this was a particularly risky decision. But he'd made it to our shared fifth period without any harm befalling him, meaning he only two more to go.

After James' admittance that he was packing pellet-firing heat on school grounds, the six of us discussed the finer points of guns, shooting things, and shooting things with guns. During this conversation, James had a weird gleam in his eye.

"Do you know what would be cool?" he asked, not pausing for responses. "If someone took a picture of me holding this with the classroom behind me."

Aside #3: This is not EXACTLY what he said, but rather the general idea behind what he said.

Realizing that no one had a camera, and never wanting to miss an opporotunity to impress my peers, I stupidly offered to take a picture with my then-slightly-uncommon camera phone, to be emailed to him afterwards.

So we set up the photo, and I took it just as the teacher had his back turned. As promised, I sent it to him, and after that class ended, forgot about the situation entirely.

That is, until the next week, when I was called into my school's principal's office. Upon entering the room, I was informed that I was to be suspended if he found out that I was lying about anything said in the following conversation. Sweating profusely, I agreed to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Aside #4: I wasn't afraid of being suspended, exactly, I was afraid of what my parents would do to me if I was suspended.

Opening a folder, he showed me a full-page printout of the picture I'd taken of James holding his airsoft gun in our art class.

"Did you take this picture?" he asked, handing it to me.

Not needing to look down, I shamefully replied. "Yes. About a week ago."

"James said you did. He also said that the gun was Photoshopped into his hands, and that he really didn't bring anything like this to school. Now, I've looked closely at the pixels, and I can tell this isn't Photoshopped. Did he really bring a gun to school?" he asked, crossing his arms.

Aside #5: I'm not even exaggerating with the whole "I looked at the pixels" thing. I swear.

In my mind, protecting James wasn't worth getting suspended over, so I told him the truth like I'd promised.

"Yes, he did. But it was an airsoft gun, and it wasn't loaded!" I added.

"That doesn't matter," he said. "He still brought a weapon to school, and will be expelled because of it. Thank you for your honesty. You may go back to class now."

Feeling like shit for sending James up the river, I went back to class and waited to be shunned by my art-room classmates later that day for what I had done.

But I wasn't. Apparently James had named all of the people at that table as accomplices to his "crime," and all five of us had been grilled by the principal. Not a single one denied that James had indeed brought the gun, meaning I wasn't the only one who valued my own educational safety over that of another student's. This made me feel better, because in my head, it was better to have split the blame rather than take it all.


Two years passed, and James was finally allowed to come back to school. Forgiving me for what I had done, we became friends again and began to hang out regularly. We had a good relationship.

Or so I thought. I would learn a year later, after we'd drifted apart again outside of high school, that during this time, he'd kissed the girl I'd been dating. On two seperate occasions. Once while I was in the same goddamn room.

So if you learn one thing from this story, dear reader, let it be this: If you rat someone out, even as part of a group, and they claim that they've forgiven you, I promise they haven't. People hold grudges, and will take every chance they get to make a move on your girlfriend when your back is literally turned.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My First Offense

Someone close to me once said that I'm "always doing the right thing, the wrong way." A truer sentiment about my character has never been spoken, especially when you consider a project I tried to start last November.

This "project," if it can be called that, involved me going to large corporate stores during the busy holiday season, stealing toys, and donating them to charities that help children in need. I called it "Retail Robin Hood," and while I won't give the details of my previous escapades for fear of what could possibly happen if they fell into the wrong hands, I do feel safe talking about the time I was caught.

Aside #1: I can't tell people to do what I did, but if you do try it, let me know how it goes.

It was late in November, and on a whim one morning, I'd decided to go to a Wal-Mart not far from the apartment I was living in to see what I could get away with getting away with. Like an idiot, I deviated from my usual fool-proof methods (avoiding cameras and people and quickly putting things in the messanger bag I'd brought in), and decided to try something new. Walking by the electronics department, I picked up a discarded shopping bag and put it in the cart I was pushing. After that, it was more of the usual, with me filling up the shopping bag with the items I'd planned to steal.

But apparently, around this time, I'd caught the attention of an plainclothes loss prevention employee. Just as I was walking out, he approached me, and asked me for proof that I'd bought the items in the bag.

Naturally, I had none, and started freaking out, telling him to "get away from me," and that he had "no right" to approach me like that, never stopping walking.

Aside #2: Totally grasping at straws, here. I wish I could say that I was calm and collected, but I was nowhere near it. I panic easy.

I suppose me not having a car threw him for a loop, because he eventually stopped following me, and I started running. Hiding in an adjecent parking lot, I put the bag of goods in my messanger bag, filling it up completely. After this, I took my sweatshirt off (because I knew he'd submit a description of me to the police, whom he'd said he was going to call), and hung it from my bag since it wouldn't fit inside.

Bad idea. Almost immediately after I'd left the parking lot, two police cars pulled up next to me, telling me that my sweatshirt matched a descrption given by the man at Wal-Mart as someone that had stolen a bag-full of things.

At this point, I realized all hope of escape was lost, admitted my theft, and was immediately put in handcuffs and read my rights. I was then put into the back of a police SUV, which took me back to Wal-Mart to tally up how much the stuff I'd stolen was worth.

Aside #3: You have not experienced embarrassment until you're caught stealing a bunch of little kid's toys from Wal-Mart. It was impossible to explain and not look like either a weirdo or an idiot.

After plenty of sitting and waiting, I was informed that everything I'd gotten away with was worth $155.60, after taxes, meaning that in the state of Texas, I'd committed a misdemeanor offense (which is over $50, less than $500).

So naturally, we went to the police station where I was fingerprinted, photographed, and essentially treated as if I was a murder suspect. I was put into a cell, where I would remain for the next few hours, sitting around with four other people whose offenses had been considerably more serious than mine and trying to sleep.

Aside #4: I take back what I said in aside #3. It's far more embarrassing to admit that you stole $150 worth of toys to a hardened criminal that is in jail for shooting someone.

Then, around midnight, we were informed that we were all going to be moved to an actual jail rather than a holding cell. We were handcuffed, legcuffed, and all waddled into the back of a transport van in the freezing weather.

One particularly bumpy ride later, we arrived at the facility, where we were split up in relation to the offense we'd committed. One of the people that had been with me since the police station, a twentysomething guy named Manuel who was in for drug possession.

Aside #5: I find it necessary to note that he was wearing a Led Zepplin shirt and had violet-tinted (prescription) glasses. He also was not talkative. At all.

The two of us were ushered into a waiting room, where we met up with another pair of offenders that had apparently been waiting for a while. Sitting down next to them (far away from Manuel, who took it upon himself to sit as far away from us as possible), they started talking to me.

This is what I learned about the both of them:

Criminal #1: Brandon
Age: 19
Appearance: Black, handsome, wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt.
Job: Worked at a gym teaching kids gymnastics.
Hobbies: Gymnastics, smoking weed.
Reason for being in jail: Punched a guy in the sternum for getting "all up in his face." Nothing else happened past this, he assured me. The person called the police on him and they came to his house and arrested him.

Criminal #2: Juan
Age: 43
Appearance: Hispanic with a lot of tattoos, most religious. Wearing khakis and a polo shirt.
Job: Cleaning pools.
Hobbies: Raising his three kids, smoking weed.
Reason for being in jail: Breaking probation by smoking weed.

The three of us sat there, whispering back and forth to one-another for a few hours while we were waiting to be processed. At one point, a kind-looking female woman in scrubs came out of an office, wrapped Manuel in a thick woolen blanket, and whisked him off to places unknown. We didn't know why.

Eventually, the three of us that remained were ushered into a small bathroom with a half-dozen individual showers. After undressing, rinsing off, and redressing in our one-piece dark blue prison jumpsuits, we each underwent physicals before being lead into a glass-walled holding cell where we had "breakfast" waiting for us.

After finishing our meal (which consisted of terrible oatmeal, a few chunks of syrup-soaked fruit, a roll and a small carton of milk with some burned coffee), Brandon became bored and decided that he wanted to practice doing backflips in our confined cell, much to Juan and I's amusement. He did three before a guard posted outside threatened to come in and "make him stop."

Luckily, before Brandon could find another apparently rule-infringing way to entertain himself, we were removed from the holding cell and taken to a small room with a televison where we were locked in and forced to watch a 15-minute long, decades-old video four times in a row before someone outside the room realized it.

Aside #6: Making fun of that video with the two of them was one of the funniest things I've ever experienced. Brandon's silly, naive sense of humor meshed with Juan's dry, bitter sense of humor perfectly. They made a good comedic duo.

We were then lead into a series of rooms to get our cots, pillows, toothbrushes and other such things before being taken to the block and having a cell assigned to us. Splitting up for the first time in hours, we entered our respective rooms to set up our living areas.

Upon entering mine, I introduced myself to my cellmate (who was covered in gang tattoos and named "Eddie"), and we began talking about what had brought him there. He explained that he'd been cut a deal in a nonviolent robbery case, and was currently on his second day of a six-month stint he'd be serving.

This admission opened a lot of doors for us, conversationally speaking. The two of us sat side-by-side on the bottom cot for an hour, talking about the road that had brought him here and the things he had done wrong in life. He said that he'd promised his girlfriend (by whom he'd had a daughter) that he wouldn't be breaking the law anymore, and that he promised to be a better man after he got out. She'd agreed to stay with him, as long as he kept that promise. It was touching, in its own weird way.

Aside #7: Sometime during this discussion, I brought up the fact that I'd seen Manuel wrapped in a blanket and taken somewhere else. Eddie informed me that this was standard procedure for people that were at risk of harming themselves.

The two of us left the cell after our discussion, and mingled with our "neighbors." After sitting down at a table with Brandon, Juan, and a few people they'd made friends with for a little while, I noticed a small bookshelf tucked away in a corner, and decided I'd walk over and see what sorts of reading material they had in store.

To my absolute shock, I found a copy of one of my favorite books, by my all-time favorite author: "The Long, Dark Tea-Time of the Soul" by Douglas Adams. Elated, I took it back to my cell and began reading it immediately.

Two hours later, Eddie entered our cell, saying that that I'd "disappeared," and that he was "afraid someone had made [me] their bitch." Laughing, I told him that no, I'd just been excited because I'd found the book, that it was one of my favorites, and that I was sorry to have worried him like that.

Suddenly, a voice came over our cell's intercom.

"Walters, your bail's been posted by your father. Walk up to the front desk with your things," it said, before crackling into silence.

"Well, I guess this is goodbye," I said to Eddie, taking the blankets off of my cot. "Good luck over the next six months. I think you'll be fine."

"I hope so, man," he replied. "I really do."

"Here," I said, offering the book I'd been reading to him. "Read this, it'll blow your mind into a million pieces. You can thank me later."

"Oh, thanks! I was gonna check it out after you'd finished, but I guess I don't have to wait anymore," he grinned.

"Promise you'll read it?" I asked.

"Yeah, I promise," he said, still smiling.

"Alright, because if you don't, I'll come back here and kick your ass. You don't know the things I'm capable of," I joked, keeping my face as straight as possible.

He stared back at me, completely serious, before erupting in laughter and reaching out to shake my hand.

"Nice meeting you, man."

"You too, Eddie. Again, good luck out there in the real world. Don't be an idiot anymore."

And with that, I left the cell. After saying goodbye to Brandon and Juan, I left the building hoping I'd made an impact on at the people I'd met during my 24-hour stay. Because they definitely made an impact on me.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

My First O.N.S.

When I was in high school, I wasn't really the type of person that partied all the time. Sure, I had some experimental phases with booze and drugs, but for the most part, I was a fairly straight-laced teenager. This is because I realized something about myself during said experimental phases: weird shit happens to me when I'm any form of inebriated, as I've illustrated before (see "The Blackout Story" and "The Shower Door Story" for proof).

One of the earliest examples I can think of this took place early in the summer between my sophomore and junior years. I'd recently become friends with a guy that lived down the street from me named Joseph, and was invited to a "small get-together" he was holding at his house while his parents were away for the weekend.

Aside #1: Cliches exist for a reason, as it turns out.

Naturally, I accepted his invitation and walked over to his house just as the sun was setting the night of the party. Upon arriving, I realized just how small this get-together was. The so-called party consisted of me, him, his girlfriend, his sister, his sister's boyfriend, and his girlfriend's best friend, Melissa. To his surprise, I told him that I was completely okay with hanging out with this small group as opposed to a larger one. I've never done well in crowds, and this wasn't even close to the capacity of some of the smaller parties I'd previously attended.

Shortly after I arrived, we all began drinking mixed drinks at a relaxed pace while sitting around, listening to music and talking about nothing in particular. About an hour into this, Joseph's sister and her boyfriend became bored and disappeared into her room, presumably to have ridiculous amounts of sex. Seeing this as a chance to kick the festivities into high-gear without wasting too much of the alchohol we had on, we began taking shots of the high-end vodka Joseph had somehow had managed to get his hands on.

Aside #2: Nothing says "inexperienced" like getting plastered at 8 PM.

After we'd all had our share for the time being, we began to talk about past relationships we'd been in, and why they failed. When you're generally a depressed drunk like myself, this is one of the worst topics of conversation you can possibly be involved in. For me, it's mostly because I end up (sometimes rightfully) blaming myself for the generally premature demise of every good thing that has come my way.

If the specificity of the above paragraph wasn't a strong enough indicator, that night was a shining example of just how self-deprecating I can be. If that weren't shameful enough, a certain song came on the "party shuffle" Joseph's computer had put together, smack in the middle of my tirade about how badly I'd treated the few girlfriends I'd had in the past.

That song, dear reader, was a sorrowful track titled "Tiny Vessels" by former indie-cred band Death Cab For Cutie.

Aside #3: If you've never heard the song here it is:

Listen to at least 30 seconds of it so you know what I'm talking about for the next few paragraphs. Even better, listen to it as you read the next few paragraphs.

The instant this song came on, my eyes inadvertently began to water and I couldn't figure out why. I didn't have an attachment to this song, nor did I find it to be particularly depressing. Yet there I sat, pontificating about my faults and blinking profusely to prevent tears from running down my cheeks as I did so.

Noticing this before the two females in the room did, Joseph reached over to change it, using the excuse that it "didn't belong on party shuffle," trying to help me save face before I was in danger of being considered the third female in the room.

But being a glutton for punishment, I stopped him from doing so. By this time, everyone in the room was fully aware that I was crying, and soon Melissa was by my side, holding my hand and telling me that everything would be okay.

Less than five minutes later, she kissed me. Ten minutes after that, we found ourselves in Joseph's parents' bed (at his reccommendation), removing our clothes frantically.

Now, I'd known Melissa for around a year at this point, and had always harbored a sort of I'll-never-get-her-but-I-can-still-admire-her-from-afar-type crush on her. After all, she was blonde, had gorgeous blue eyes, and (at the risk of sounding like a complete douche) had fantastic boobs that any self-respecting guy at my school would have gladly paid any amount of money to see. I never would have guessed that a few uninhibited, drunken tears shed during a self-thrown pity party would have been the correct route to land her in the sack, but I guess it was. For some reason, I didn't find this odd at all.

Despite the fact that she was out of my league, and despite the fact that this should have been one of the most memorable nights of my four years in high school, this is precisely where things start to get fuzzy as I think back. I can blame it on the fact that we did it in the dark, or I can blame it on the vodka, but when I think back to the actual sex itself, I don't remember much besides the fact that it took a little while to get started, was good while it lasted, and that we both enjoyed ourselves and passed out immediately afterwards.

Aside #4: Oh, and I also remember Joseph coming in pre-penis-insertion and handing me a condom as we both laid in his parents' bed, naked. That was pretty cool of him.

The next morning, we both woke up at the same time. Despite the fact that my breath smelled awful, my head was pounding, and I felt like I could throw up at any given moment, I did what every guy does after a one night stand and decided to try to attain the "morning after lay." But I didn't get a single taste of the coveted pre-breakfast poon.

Aside #5: If I ever become ridiculously famous, and future historians speak of my contributions to literature and additions to the general lexicon, I hope one of them mentions that I coined the phrase "pre-breakfast poon," assuming I just did so.

Graciously and politely turning me down before getting out of bed and redressing herself, she left me laid out naked on a bed owned and slept in by people I'd never met, feeling cheated out of a prize I didn't know I had to win. After all, I had assumed that our experiences the previous night would inevitably lead to a relationship, or at least consideration of one, but her disinterest in me that morning lead me to believe otherwise. I felt like she had used me for something, and I didn't know why.

Lo and behold, I was right. A week later, I was talking to Joseph about what had happened, when he told me something that would forever change my opinion of women.

He explained that Melissa had been waiting for the right moment and guy to lose her virginity to for weeks, and I just so happened to fit the bill in both cases. He then told me that it was because she'd had her eye on a "sexually experienced" guy, and didn't want him knowing that she'd had no previous experience herself.

Aside #6: I've never, ever met a guy that would turn down a virgin who is all-too willing to have sex. This guy had some whack priorities.

I didn't know exactly how to feel. One side of me considered the fact that she'd seen me as the "right" guy to lose her virginity to as vaguely flattering, but the other side of me was disappointed that she'd known all along that our relationship would never extend past that night.

After plenty of time spent wondering how I should handle the situation, I realized that I was approaching it like a scorned woman would. I was hurt because someone had used me for sex, for their own selfish reasons. It then dawned on me that most men would kill to be in my position, scoring a no-strings attached one night stand with an attractive female virgin. I felt like an idiot for behaving the way I did.

So it was on that day, during the summer directly in the middle of my high school years, that I decreed that I would never again be the bitch in any situation I found myself in. And I haven't looked back since.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Stalker

Through the final two years of my three years in middle school, not a lot of things remained constant in my life. I was going through the hell known as puberty, I'd switched schools in between the 6th and 7th grade, and was still "discovering" myself.

Aside #1: Consider that a polite euphemism for "started to masturbate regularly."

One of the things that did remain constant towards the end, however, was the undying affection of a girl named Erica. I was thrown off by her advances when they began via a note slipped into the grates of my locker one afternoon. Written in green ink on notebook paper, it went something like this:
Dear Ty,

I saw you walking. We have a class together. Your cute [sic].

Call me.
(phone number)

Reading the name at the bottom of the note, I was confused and also flattered. I'd never heard of this person before or noticed anyone named Erica in any of my classes.

Then it hit me. A year younger than me, with braces and thick glasses, Erica was the mentally disabled girl that was in my Computer Literacy class. I wasn't sure what to do, and I definitely didn't want to hurt her feelings, so I ignored it.

Aside #2: My motto: "Don't want to hurt someone's feelings? Ignore them!"

But she was persistent. Over the next few weeks, she would drop more notes into my locker, despite the fact that I never replied to a single one or gave her any indication that her feelings were reciporicated in the slightest.

It started to get worse, too. Every time she walked by me in the hall, she would giggle, look down, and rush out of my field of vision. I was beginning to get worried. My sensitivity towards the handicapped like Erica made it difficult for me to say no without devastating her.

Aside #3: At this point in time, my mother was a Special Education teacher, so I was well aware of how emotionally unstable she may be. I don't mean to generalize this group of people, but it was a distinct possiblility.

Soon after her barrage of notes had started, spring break began. I was given a week off from my moral torture, and to be frank, forgot about it completely.

But the following Monday, I opened my locker to find a bright red envelope with my name on it. Opening it, I found a card with yet another plea to call her, and to my horror, a wallet-sized copy of her school photo with her name on the back next to a bright-red heart. She just wouldn't quit.

I knew I had to take some sort of action against her, for her sake and for my own. So one day, after school had ended, I walked to the special education room where Erica spent most of her time, and asked to talk to the teacher that had been assigned to her.

I was then introduced to a polite, soft-spoken teacher named Mrs. Morris, who, after I'd explained the situation, told me that one of the side-effects of Erica's particular disability was that she became obsessed with people that she found attractive, as a coping mechanism.

Aside #4: I say "coping mechanism" because she was apparently incapable of admitting these attractions like a normal person, instead choosing to become obsessive.

Apparently she'd cycled through celebrities, teachers and other students before, and had lost interest after a few weeks. Mrs. Morris assured me that Erica would become "bored" with me if I continued to ignore her, and the notes would stop. Thanking her for her candor and help, I left.


Three weeks later, the notes still hadn't stopped, and were becoming more and more unsettling. I began seeing her several times a day, as opposed to the two or three times I'd normally run into her. I can't say that I was scared, but I was definitely uncomfortable.

So I went to talk to Mrs. Morris again after school, to tell her that Erica's obsession with me hadn't waned. Immediately after I'd entered her room, she rushed over to me.

"Oh my gosh, I am so sorry she hasn't stopped bothering you," she said. "I haven't been able to contact you because I forgot to write down your name, and Erica refuses to tell it to me because she knows exactly why I want it. I was this close," she held her fingers apart a small amount, "to following her throughout the day and hoping she'd run into you."

After explaining what had been happening over the last few weeks, she sighed and took a folder out from her desk.

"These are what Erica has been drawing during her special ed. period," she said, opening the folder.

Handing me a stack of paper, I leafed through them. Every single one was a childlike drawing of either me alone, or she and I together, holding hands and partaking in various activities she must have assumed couples did regularly.

Aside #5: The few I can remember are she and I walking through a park, playing with a dog and eating dinner together.

"She's on a level of obsession with you that I've never witnessed before," continued Mrs. Morris. "I'm not sure what to do about it."

"Well, what if I told her that I'm not interested?" I asked. "Would she freak out?"

"I'm not sure," she said. "We've never had her take it this far before. The last time she drew pictures of someone like this, it was of Orlando Bloom, and we had to convince her that there was no hope. She didn't take it well."

Aside #6: And that was the only time in my life that I've ever been inadvertently compared to Orlando Bloom. Get on my level.

"If I were to do it," I continued, "I would be very gentle in letting her down. I could even lie and tell her that my fake-girlfriend doesn't like that she's sending me these love notes."

"You know...that actually might work," she admitted. "Well, I guess we'll try it and see how it goes."

We then made plans to call me out of class at a certain point the next day. She told me that Erica would likely "spaz out" when I entered the room, but to not show her that it made me uncomfortable. After planning out what I should say to her, I left.

The next day, I was called to the special ed. room just as planned. Walking down the hall, I rehearsed what Mrs. Morris and I had decided that I would say. Soon, I was at the door to the room. Taking a deep breath, I opened it.

The instant it swung open, Erica turned towards the door and saw me standing there. Just as Mrs. Morris had predicted, she started freaking out, not quite knowing how to contain herself. I walked over and sat in the chair across from her, as Mrs. Morris sat in the one beside her.

"Hi Erica," I said.

"Hi..." she said, in between making excited noises with her mouth.

"Erica, Ty has something that he needs to tell you," chimed in Mrs. Morris, looking at me and nodding.

"That's right. I came here to tell you that I think it would be best if you stopped writing notes to me. My girlfriend doesn't like it, and is getting jealous," I lied.

"Girl...girlfriend?" she stammered. "You...don't have a girlfriend..."

We hadn't planned for this. Thinking on my toes, I said, "Actually, I do. She goes to a different school. That's why you've never seen me with her."

"Oh...well...okay..." she said, sadness in her voice.

"But Erica, if you want to be my friend, I would be more than happy to come down to this room once a week to talk to you. But you've got to promise me you'll stop writing notes to me."

She looked at me for five seconds before looking away again and smiling.

"Okay..." she agreed, still grinning.

After spending a few more minutes talking to her, I left. I worked out a deal with Mrs. Morris before I did though, agreeing to be called out of one of my elective classes on every Thursday until her obsession with me had faded.

Two visits later, she was finished with me, and had moved on to a new crush. I saw her in the halls from time-to-time after that, but she never acted the way she had when she was obsessed with me.

I ran into Mrs. Morris some time later, close to the end of the school year. She told me that she had been working on this facet of her behavior with Erica, and that what I had done helped this cause immensely. She said that she expected this habit to be knocked within the next few months, if all went as planned. And I hope, for Erica's sake, it worked.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Camp Story

In the middle fifth grade year, I was given a chance to attend a four-day camp alongside approximately 80% of my classmates. We took a fleet of buses to the middle of nowhere (Oklahoma), and the 100 or so of us stayed in cabins with volunteer parents or teachers that had come on the trip with us.

The cabins were large, rustic-looking buildings with four sets of bunk beds in them, meant to house one parent and seven kids. Our "parent" was the father of one of those seven, Kyle, and was a nice man that let us stay up past our allowed bedtimes and play card games with each other.

Aside #1: I specifically remember thinking it was really, really cool that he let us play "Bullshit," even though we had to shorten it to "BS." Even saying the abbreviation made all feel awesome.

I was lucky enough to be one of the kids given a top bunk, for reasons I can't remember (I'm sure we had to draw straws or something), a treat that was sought after in the mindset of my grade.

Anyways, the day after our first night of settling in, the real fun began. Over the next two days, we would play with snakes, practice archery, look at constellations in the sky, and did plenty of other camp-related activities that seemed incredibly exciting at the time.

Aside #2: I'd probably still get excited over archery and snakes, I won't lie to you.

Then, on the third day, we went on our first nature hike. The teachers, camp counselors and parents told us that they were combining our cabins into three large groups, and that we would each be cycling through the three trails the camp had to offer.

So our groups headed off in different directions, counselors leading the pack and telling the first two-thirds of the kids that could hear them all about how neat the wilderness was. I couldn't hear anything, because I was the last person in the massive line, but I enjoyed the walk all the same.

That was, until I felt the all-too familiar sensation of needing to urinate. Badly. Waddling towards the middle of the line where a teacher was stationed, I pulled her aside and explained my issue. She told me to follow the trail that we were on back to the cabins, go to the bathroom, and wait there to join up with them.

Following a trail backwards is simple enough, right? Apparently not. It didn't take five minutes before a combination of my overt curiosity with nature and direction-less being found me lost in the middle of the woods with no one around and nowhere to pee.

I started freaking out, which is exactly what you don't want to do when you have to urinate so bad your stomach hurts. Then I began running aimlessly towards what I thought was the camp, which is the absolute worst thing you can do in the same case.

My panicking plus the jarring motions of running equaled one thing: emptying my entire bladder into my pants with no control over the situation at all.

Aside #3: You might ask why I didn't just zip my fly down and pee out. Well, I was in the fifth grade. I'd just got over my fear of peeing while standing up next to a toilet, I wasn't about to do it in the middle of the woods where someone might see my teeny-tiny junk.

I had no idea what to do with myself. So I kept walking (not running) in the direction I thought camp was in, hoping to get back and change before my hiking group had returned.

A few minutes later, I arrived. The grounds were completely deserted, so I made my way to our cabin and walked in. Stripping my urine-soaked pants, underwear and socks off, I stepped into the bathroom and washed my legs off as much as I could using the sink.

Aside #4: Our cabins only had a sink and toilet, the showers were elsewhere.

Once I felt I had done well enough, I put clean clothes on and looked at my pile of soaked clothes that sat in front of me. Rather than wash them in the sink like a normal person would, I instead opted to hang them all from the rafters above my bed, hoping that they would dry out before we'd return that night.

I stepped outside just as the three groups were arriving at the central campgrounds to swap trails. Re-joining my group, I continued throughout the day as if nothing had happened, with thoughts of my pee-soaked pants lingering in the back of my mind.

When my cabin-mates, our "parent" and I all arrived at the cabin that night, everyone stepped into the room only to have their nostrils assaulted with the smell of putrid, stale urine. Immediately, Kyle's dad called a camp counselor and discreetly told him that "one of the kids must have wet the bed last night" and that the cabin smelled absolutely vile. I didn't tell him what had really happened.

The counselor then told us all to pack up our things, and said that we'd be moving to a different cabin since this one was clearly uninhabitable. As I packed, I thought quickly and stuffed the offensive-smelling clothes into the very bottom of my bag, where the smell no longer affected the air outside of it.

Soon after, rumors started circulating around the camp about who in our cabin had committed the heinous act of peeing the bed, and one of the seven that wasn't me was eventually singled out as the offender. He was alienated for the rest of the trip, and made fun of relentlessly for something he didn't do. Again, I never said a word suggesting that I had anything to do with it.

So I write this as an admission. An admission that I, Tyler Walters, pissed my pants at camp in the fifth grade and let another boy take the fall for it. I'm sorry, boy whose name I forgot, for all of the pain I may have caused you. It wasn't my intention, and I sure hope you didn't end up shooting a bunch of people years later because of it.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Blackout Story

I've never been one to admit that I use the internet as a crutch for meeting women. But seeing as most of my major relationships have begun in some capacity before I've even met the girl, I think it's time I finally stop denying my reliability on the written word to woo females. It's just how I function, I suppose.

One of the girls I've done this with was named Bethany, back during the week of my 18th birthday, the summer before my senior year in high school. I was "introduced" to her via a friend from school, and told that she and I would really hit it off if we began talking.

So naturally, I took his advice and began playing the game I've come to partake in all-too often. She was pretty, smart, and had a great sense of humor, and I sincerely did enjoy talking to her. She seemed to enjoy my company well, and soon we developed small crushes on one another.

There was an issue with seeing her, however. Between work and babysitting her younger sibling, she didn't have a lot of free time. On top of that, she lived more than 45 minutes away, so a trip would take a while if we'd planned to see one another.

Then one night, she called me around 10:30, asking if I could meet up with her somewhere and go to a party in her part of town that she was invited to. My parents weren't exactly the "let your kid go to a party with a girl he's never met at 10:30 at night"-type parents, so I told them that I would be spending the night at my friend's house instead.

An hour and a half later, she showed up at a park that we'd decided to meet at, 50 minutes later than she said she would. Despite this fact, I was willing to forgive her and move on.

But there was a problem. Bethany was not all like she'd advertised herself to be online, and I'm not only talking about her physical appearance, but her attitude as well. 80 pounds heavier than me, with a callous, bitter personality, she was practically the exact opposite of what she'd told me and shown me she was before.

But I was stuck. It was midnight and I was supposed to be at my friend's house, and didn't have any other choice but to go with her to this party. So we left, and arrived there nearly an hour later, both exhausted and in bad moods (me because of her deception, her because of my attitude towards her).

Aside #1: Before you think I'm an asshole for judging her like this, then treating her badly afterwards, understand my level of disappointment by putting yourself in my shoes. She literally wasn't anything like the girl I'd began to like online, and I wasn't too happy about it.

I was introduced to a large group of people upon my arrival, including the redheaded girl who was hosting the party named Allison that I immediately hit it off with, much to Bethany's chagrin. Everyone there seemed glad that I had come, and they all welcomed me into their fold with open arms, telling me to drink as much booze and smoke as much hookah as I'd liked.

Happily, I obliged, taking a 2/3-full fifth of high-end vodka and making it my own. One of the patrons of the party saw this, and dared me to chug the whole thing in one go, without stopping. Not wanting to disappoint my newfound friends, and never willing to back down from a dare, I happily obliged.

The last thing I remember hearing, as the vodka was being emptied into my mouth, was the long-haired guy that had dared me saying the following:

"See you later, duuude."

I don't remember much after that. I vaguely recall getting into a pool in nothing but my boxers, and Allison jumping in after me. I remember swimming over to her and trying to kiss her, but I can't remember if I was successful. I also distinctly remember Bethany leaving shortly after my attempt at showing affection to a girl that wasn't her, telling me that I could find my own way home.

Aside #2: I realize that I could have very easily had sex with her that night, but I'm near-positive I didn't. As I've said before, alcohol usually makes my man-parts go all limp and unusable.

Six hours later I woke up at the end of her driveway next to a pile of my own vomit. A guy with dreds that was at the party was lightly prodding me with the toe of his shoe, telling me I needed to get up and that Allison's parents would be home soon. Still really, really drunk, I slowly stood up and asked him where I should go. He pointed down the street, and I slowly started shuffling in that direction.

What didn't really cross my mind was that I was easily a 45-minute drive away from home, didn't know where my cell phone was, and was deathly afraid of what my parents would do to me if they'd found out that I lied.

So I continued stumbling down the street, until a kind-looking woman pulled over and asked me if I was okay.

"No, I'm really drunk," I replied, slurring my words.

"Well get in, I'll help you," she said, unlocking the car door.

Not caring that I'd never seen this woman before, or that she may have a secondary adgenda when it came to helping me, I climbed into her car.

"You have writing all over your face," she informed me, as we headed in the direction I'd been walking in.

"What does it say?" I asked.

"The only word I can really make out is 'dick' on your cheek. I think there's an arrow pointing to your mouth, too," she admitted, clearly trying not to laugh.

Around then, we pulled up to a Starbucks. Tripping over myself to get inside, I sat down at one of the small tables while the woman walked up to the counter and placed an order. Putting my head down, I passed out until a few minutes later when my order was delivered to my table. The woman was nowhere to be seen, and the barista that gave me my black coffee and cinnamon cake told me that she'd told her to tell me that she was sorry that she had to leave, and that she'd had an appointment somewhere.

After trying to take a sip of my coffee, burning my mouth, and spilling it down my front, I resumed my head-down position on the table and passed out again.

Not long later, I awoke to four police officers and two firefighters standing around me, one putting a blood pressure monitor on my finger and another rummaging through my bag I'd brought with me. A third began talking to me.

"What is your name?" he asked, chuckling.

"Ty...Tyler..." I said.

"Well, Tyler, you're lucky to be alive, from the looks of it. How much did you drink?"

I raised both hands and put out my index fingers, holding them six inches apart.

"Th...this much vodka..."

He whistled. The other men started chattering.

"I couldn't drink that much," one said.

"Your liscense says you weigh around 115 pounds, is that correct?" asked the first officer, my wallet in-hand.

"Yes...I can't gain weight!" I gargled, laughing.

Aside #3: Three years later, and I don't weigh more than ten pounds more than this.

"Well, we're checking your blood pressure right now to make sure you don't have alchohol poisoning. I assume you drank all of this last night?"

"Yes...last night..."

"Well, your readings are okay, it looks like a lot of it is out of your system. You're just dealing with the residual stuff right now. We're not going to punish you, because it looks like this has done more than enough to teach you a lesson."

"I don't have a ride home..." I remembered, getting scared.

He then asked me where I lived, and after I told him, and he began to look worried. He then told me that they'd found my cell phone in my bag, and were going to call my parents to have them come pick me up. After a few half-assed attempts to prevent him from doing so, the officer was soon on the phone with my stepdad. He explained the situation, gave him the address of the Starbucks, and told him to come as soon as possible.

During their exchange, for a third time that morning, I put my head down on the table and passed out.

Some time later, I awakened while being dragged out of the shop by my shirt.

Aside #4: I'm not exaggerating, I literally woke up as I was being dragged out. My heels hit the door frame and it jarred me awake.

After being unceremoniously thrown into the passenger seat of my mother's Honda, my stepdad quickly walked around the car and sat down harshly, slamming his door. If I had any question as to if he was angry with me, it was answered by his actions.

The drive home was filled with no talking and lots of falling in and out of consciousness. When we finally arrived home, a lot of yelling was done, by both him and my mother, followed by me sitting and staring at them in a drunken stupor, not sure how to respond. They both said things to me that made me feel like the absolute worst person on the face of the planet for what I had done, as if this instance wasn't one amongst millions like it in the whole of teenager-dom.

Once they were finished with me, I walked into the bathroom and tried to kill myself by slicing my left wrist open with an X-Acto knife. But, as I've mentioned a dozen times previously, I was still incredibly drunk, and...well...missed every single vein I could have possibly hit. By a wide margin.

Aside #5: Fun fact: The reason that I started wearing watches regularly was to cover up some of the bigger scars from this day. I'm now a bona-fide watch fanatic.

After fifteen minutes of barely bleeding from the few cuts I'd managed to actually make, my mother knocked on the bathroom door.

"What are you doing in there?" she asked.

"Well...I was trying to kill myself, but I don't think it's working," I replied.

Quickly, she opened the door and found me standing there on the verge of tears.

Aside #6: The fact that I didn't lock the door should tell you how serious I was about killing myself.

The next few minutes were a blur. Nothing really important happened, aside from both of my parents being angry with me for trying to kill myself (which is EXACTLY how you should treat a "suicidal" person, by the way). After an hour of sitting on our couch and calming down, I took a shower and went to bed.

Aside #7: As I took a shower, I found that there wasn't just writing on my face. It was also on my stomach, my thighs, and shoulders. None of the things were pleasant.

Eleven hours later, around 9 'o clock that night, I woke up, still unable to walk in a straight line, but sobered up enough to face my parents. Except, something had happened to them in those few hours. I'll never know what, exactly, but a shift occurred in the both of them.

My stepdad hugged me after I walked into our living room, in a rare display of parental affection that I wasn't used to. He'd also gone to the store during my mini-coma, and had bought mango popsicles for me, to help with the dehydration that the booze had done to my system.

My mother, for the first time since I was a child, asked me to come into her room to watch a movie with her. Together we sat side-by-side on her bed at watched some lame romantic comedy as we talked about what had happened the night before. She assured me that I would be punished for it, but that I shouldn't worry about it for the next few hours, and should just relax.

This was the only time that I can remember my parents being this pleasant to me since I'd started high school, and the only time they were both nice to me at the same time since. If I would have known that all it took for them to be this way was a shitload of high-proof vodka and a botched suicide attempt, I would have done it a helluva lot sooner.

This post is dedicated to my friend and longtime supporter Jacob Seemann, to remind him that bad days happen to us all, and to keep soldiering on, no matter what.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Stolen Bike Story

I've never driven a car for more than ten minutes in my entire life. My phobia of getting behind the wheel of an automobile has made life very difficult for me, and has made me dependent on either public transportation or biking to get where I need to be. This has instilled a love of riding bikes in me that wasn't there before, and I try to get out and ride as often as possible, just for fun.

Such was the case early last January. Returning to my dad's apartment complex after riding around the area and listening to music for a little while, I rode past a tall, thuggish-looking black guy that said something to me as I coasted past him.

Being the naive idiot I sometimes am, I stopped, took my headphones off, and had the following conversation with him (code-named "John"):

Me: "What?"

John: "Man, that's a nice bike. Where you get it?"

Me: "Uh. Wal-Mart."

John: "How much it cost?"

Me: "Around $100, I think. I don't know."

At this point, there was a second guy walking up behind the first. Latino but equally as thuggish-looking, he joined our conversation (code-named "Ralph"). At this point, I was growing uncomfortable as they stood on either side of me, preventing me from going anywhere.

Ralph: You smoke weed?

Aside #1: I've decided that this is the fucking craziest way anyone has ever introduced themselves to me.

Me: Uh. Sometimes, yeah.

Ralph: You need some?

Me: No, I have plenty, thanks.

John: You got that kush? That kush is dope. Sheeeeeyut.

Aside #2: Yes, he seriously said that.

Me: ...yeah. Dope.

Ralph: You do bars? Bars are the fuckin' shit.

John: Yeah, fuckin' bars man, try 'em.

Aside #3: Bars are Xanax, for those of you not well-versed in drug lingo.

Me: No thanks, I don't mess with pills.

At this point, I put my headphones back on and turned around to ride away. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Ralph punches me in the temple, disorienting me and knocking my glasses off.

Aside #4: "Beat the hell out of anyone that doesn't buy from you" is a pretty flawless drug-selling technique, I have to admit.

Still standing and holding onto my bike, the following was said:

Me: Fucking owwwwwww!

Ralph: You best get off that bike! I'm gonna hit you again!

Me: Fuck off.

So he hit me on the side of the head again. And again. And again. Until I finally let go of my bike. John then stepped in and pulled it away, getting on it and doing what I can only describe as a small victory lap around Ralph and I as we continued to tussle.

He was in the middle of trying to rip my bag away from me, when I decided to yell for help as loud as I possibly could. No one in the dozens of apartments surrounding us did anything, but it successfully scared them into running away.

Still in a daze, I half-ran back to my dad's apartment to tell him what had happened. We immediately jumped into his truck and drove around the complex to try and find them, but were unable to. A theft report was then filed with the police along with descriptions of both of them, with promises to keep an eye on local pawn shops to see if they would try and sell it.

The story should end there. But the next morning, my dad stepped outside to get the newspaper only to find my bike sitting in a parking space across the street from his apartment, as if someone had known it was mine and had left it there for me to find. Aside from missing a few screws and the chain guard, it was in the same condition I'd left it in.

Here's the kicker, though: I don't know anyone in this apartment complex or the surrounding area, the guys that stole it didn't see where I lived (or even the area of the complex that I lived in), and the police assured me that they hadn't put it there. To this day, I still have no idea how it happened. I just take it as affirmation that superheroes do exist.