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.