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A tear gently ran down Schuyella's cheek as she packed away the last of her memories.  The box was overflowing with backstage passes, tour t-shirts, and seemingly insignificant keepsakes that encompassed her life.

"It all just fits in a box... All of it.  My entire life..."  Schuyella used the sleeve of her hoodie to wipe her nose.  "Mom.  Mom!  I'm all packed."

"Schuyella, do you really need to take all of that with you?  You know your father's house is so tiny."

“Ugh, Mom...  Of course I need it all.  It's MY LIFE..." No one seemed to understand Schuyella, the least of all her parents.  They were good people and cared for young Schuyella the best they could, but the divorce caused damaged.  She hurt in a way that was poetic- wearing thrift store jackets that set her apart from normal kids who didn't hurt, spending time alone thinking deep thoughts, and a casual roll of the eyes or a sigh to let everyone know she wasn't satisfied.

"Fine, Ella.  Give your stepfather a hand and take this stuff down to the car."  Schuyella gladly agreed.  It was the last step before she started her new life.

The Pacific Northwest was a far departure from her rugged desert lifestyle but young Schuyella felt at home in the cool, damp mist.  The dark clouds seemed to emulate they way she felt on the inside. 

Schuyella’s new life began as abruptly as she’d arrived and she started school the next morning.  Wearing her favorite ironic hoodie and filling her ears with white molded plastic, she drowned out the world with hipster emo tunes that gave her the piece of mind that someone, somewhere in the world was just as misunderstood as she was.

Sitting at a lunch table alone, gazing out the window into the deep pale green forest, a subtle “excuse me” penetrated her sadness wall.  Startled, Ella ripped the earbuds from her head and addressed the stranger.

"What?  ...I mean, can I help you?"  Schuyella was caught off guard and annoyed by the interruption but some how it didn't matter once she set her sights on the strange character’s face.

"I could smell you from across the room..."   The young man said, slowly looking away.

"Huh?  Is that some sort of pickup line?  I don't smell…"  Schuyella completely confused by the young man but was instinctively transfixed.

"There, from across the room, I could smell you.  I don't even know why I'm telling you this, you'd never understand."  Suddenly his eyes flash green and he turned and walked away.  Gone as quickly as he had appeared.

"Hey, wait!"  Ella shouted.  It was too late, the cafeteria door slammed shut.

Gaining the attention of surrounding tables, Ella sunk back in her chair and tried to figure out which earbud went into which ear.  “Those L’s and R’s are so tiny…” she thought to herself.  One more annoyance in such a troubling world.

“So, I see you’ve met Briward” a friendly but unfamiliar face said as she sat down across the table.  “He’s dreamy, isn’t he?  …Don’t even think about it though.  He’s… different.”

“What do you mean, ‘different’?”  Ella normally would have thought such a straightforward conversation with a stranger would have been awkward, but her curiosity surrounding Briward gave her an unfamiliar confidence.

“He’s apart of the Culligan family, they adopted him when he was young.  They’re a like the Partridge Family, only darker…”

“Like musicians?  I’m a musician, played the guitar for years but recently picked up the bass,” Schuyella said while hiding behind her bangs.

“No, Schuyella.  Not just normal musicians.  I warned you, stay away from Briward.  Just trust me…”  The young girl’s lips tightened and eyebrows dropped, she was deadly serious.

“How do you know my name?”

“Everyone knows you, Schuyella.  You’re the new flavor of the week.”  The young girl smiled but her jealously shined through.  “I hope we have a class together, next time have lunch with us so you don’t have to sit by yourself.”  The girl motioned to her table of friends while standing up.

“Sometimes I prefer to be alone, but thank you…” Schuyella let her gaze return to the forest where she lost herself once more.  What did the girl mean about Briward being different?  Why did she tell her to stay away from him?  As the questions mounted Ella’s eyes became fixed on a large tree.  The tree towered above the rest and green moss rose high into the mist.  Briward suddenly emerged from behind the base and motioned for Schuyella to come out and meet him.

Schuyella rubbed her eyes.  Realizing it wasn’t a dream she quickly gather her books and hit the exit.  Briward was on the other side of the door waiting to greet her.

“How did you get over here so fast?” Schuyella said.

“There’s things about me, Ella, things you wouldn’t understand…” Briward said, again slowly looking away avoiding eye contact.

“Talk to me, Briward.  Make me understand…”  Ella pleaded.

“Schuyella, do you like music?”  Briward’s eyes met Ella’s and penetrated into her subconscious.

Breathless, Ella replied “I, I love it… It’s my life.”

“Make music with me.  Make my creative juices flow, Ella.”  Briward never blinked and his eyes glowed a bright green.  Schuyella took a long hard swallow and nodded her head.  “Here, give me your hand,” Briward reached for Schuyella.  She gently placed her hand in his.  Chills ran down Schuyella’s spine and her knees became weak.  Suddenly Briward flipped Schuyella onto his back and he began to run.  Faster and faster they raced through the forest until they became a blur.  Bounding over ravines and leaping from tree to tree, Briward made his way to the most secluded part of the forest.

The two made their way into a clearing where Briward had an expansive stage set up.  Full lighting, blasting speakers, and every instrument imaginable.  Schuyella was mesmerized.

“Ella, let’s rock.”  Briward picked up a guitar and let out a wailing riff.  Schuyella, proud of her new found bass skills, plugged in and rocked a spine shaking rhythm.  The two rocked the forest for hours, exchanging glances and face melting solos.

Suddenly, Briward’s guitar became silent and he became very still.  “Ella, stop your amazing rocking!” he shouted.  In an instant a blur came rushing through the field and jumped onto the stage.

“Well, well, well.  What do we have here, Briward?  A mortal?”  The strange creature bellowed.

“Easy, James.  We’re just here to rock.  Maybe melt a few faces…”  Briward negotiated.

Ignoring Briward, James began to circle Schuyella.  “What is that smell?” he said as he brushed back the hair from her face.

“Stay away from-“ Briward started to say before Ella interrupted with “Okay, that’s it.  What the fuck is wrong with you two freaks?  I took a friggin’ shower this morning.  Jimmy, you smell like a donkey’s nut sack.  Brian, take those ridiculous green contacts out.  I’m done.  No more Twinkle, no more Schuyella, no more long gazing into Brian’s eyes!”

“What are you doing, Sky?!  You can’t break character.  We’re in the middle of a scene!”  Brian’s voice was shaking with anger.

“Sean, stop fucking narrating.  ‘Brian’s voice was shaking with anger…’ what the hell is that?  You think you’re fucking Steven King or something?”  Schulyer lashed out.  Sean began to think that the Twinkle thing may have been a bad idea himself.

“Schuyler, you do look beautiful though.  You make a hot woman…”  -Sean

“That’s it.  We’re done here.  Jimmy, you ever fuckin’ brush my hair back like that again and I’ll punch you in the nuts.” –Schuyler

“Hahaha, you’re the Hugh Grant of storytelling.” –Jimmy

“What?  What the hell does that even mean?” -Schuyler

“Did you just say he was the Hugh Grant of storytelling? Hahaha” –Brian

“Hahaha” –Sean

“Hahaha, alright douche bags- let’s play a song.  Jimmy, Brian, Sean…  Welcome back.” -Schuyler

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The façade of my vociferous "happily single" column onslaught can no longer be kept up. That really bums me out. It has nothing to do with putting my foot in my mouth or the painstaking conversations that will ensue once a certain few get their hands on this confession. No, the lies can no longer continue because an amazing woman has crept under my skin. "Under my skin" is such a disgusting and horribly visual phrase. Like a splinter starting to fester, turning red as it swells. That exactly is how it figuratively feels. That's right, I just said exactly and figuratively in the same breath.

"You know what I mean though" as I scratch my head and start to back-peddle. I had just finished explaining to one of my many "relationship experts" how I've finally found someone who has everything I want in a girl but that I just don't want it right now.

She looks at me like a disappointed mother, "what's wrong with you?" Her eyes were piercing and the question was so simple and direct.

I took a deep breath, my mind raced with thousands of brush-off answers until 'fuck it' popped into my head. I stalled for several more moments, looked her right in the eye and said, "I'm scared…"

<

"Sean, I've never taken you for a liar but that's one of most honest things you've ever told me…" The disappointment disappearing from her face was followed by intrigue that my pea-sized heart might actually be beating. "This girl is good for you," she continued.

"Yeah, as good as a hole in the head." I've always had a way with ruining moments.

The fear of the past, while still ever present in my mind is greatly overshadowed by my fear of the future. Things are good. Yesterday was good, today wasn't bad and I'm sure tomorrow will be fine. I love that. Life is stable, controllable and running fairly smoothly. Allowing someone to become close to me could seriously screw that up. I mean, for all intensive purposes, life has taught me that things will eventually become messed up. I'm not necessarily saying that the girl who gives me the warm-fuzzies will be the one who fucks it up. I'm pretty sure I can handle that on my own. That scares me the most- I don't want hurt her. Not now, not ever.

I try to look at things as objectively as possible and I realize how pessimistic that sounds. What else do I have to go off of though? The formula I've concocted to achieve life's goals over the next several years is an extremely selfish one. There's never been a thought of someone else in my plan and I'm struggling to figure out how to incorporate that.

"Woah, slow down, Sean." I keep telling myself. "You're not even with this girl and you're talking about 'life plans'." However, this is a declaration of honesty and it is something that honestly needs pondering. I'd hate to sabotage something before it begins. Scratch that, I refuse to sabotage something before it begins. If I'm going to allow this constant festering to grow into a full-fledged infection then I need to be prepared for the sickness. Too bad love isn't something that a dab of ointment and a few days rest can cure.

As it stands at the moment, I am certainly not "happily single". I am horribly confused, brain beaten, stomach twisted and trembling with excitement as I write this. Though a splinter is the perfect analogy for what I'm going through, it's a horrible representation of what she means to me. I'll work on that. Along with allowing my mind to wrap around the concept of someone becoming significant to me. And me, possibly, becoming significant to them….

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I have a picture hanging on my bedroom wall of a beautifully discontent woman. The LA skyline is in the background, black and white. The woman’s tank top is white and her hair is black, rich sun-kissed skin glowing. Her eyes are closed but if she were to open them she’d be looking at her shoes. Her posture, however, is what ties this picture together. She’s confident. Her shoulders, cheeks and lips have not been defeated. Her head is heavy but her spirit is on fire.

I find myself thinking about her, usually before I fall asleep. I lie there and wonder what went through her mind 3.7 seconds before the picture was taken. 3.7 seconds is the amount of time I’ve decided it would take to position herself in such a way once this particular thought crossed her mind. People rarely carry themselves with this subtle indestructible confidence- and then her head lowers. It’s like she filled her lungs with that smog soaked air and is about to take the first step into her newfound realization.

I have the timing down but I can’t figure out what’s running through her mind. I’m afraid if I did, the picture would become meaningless to me. The mystery and my interpretation is all that matters. The truth would shatter that along with the 3.7 seconds of perfection leading up to the click of the shutter. Is that what I want though, the bliss of my imagination?

As the last few paragraphs have proven, I have the ability to build things up beyond their straightforward impressions. Given the right circumstances I can completely disconnect from reality altogether. That somewhat worries me. How many times have I been wrong? I’ve stepped back for several seconds, taken a breath of sweet mountain air and marched on into my perception- possibly not reality at all.

I’ve found it hard to stay grounded lately, especially when I’m left alone with my thoughts….

crushed

I read something the other day that made a lot of sense to me.  I wish I could remember what it said.

I’m so sick of television, music, movies, and books that I actively go out of my way to watch even more TV and listen to more music.  I’m a media masochist.  I’m not completely sure why I enjoy torturing myself.  Like at this very moment No No No is playing through my stereo by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. My heart sinks in such a beautifully content way.

I suppose I could relate it to all the women I’ve agonized over but that doesn’t make much sense.  What do the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have to do with my first girlfriend?  How could Karen O be crushing me just like Carrie H did?  She can’t.  And why would Karen O want to crush me?  She wouldn’t.  Unless all girls want to crush me…

I’m beginning to understand that women crushing guys is a common theme.  I mean, other than Karen O, I haven’t been crushed in a long time but that’s only because I haven’t allowed myself.  The fools in the television, music, movies and books I’ve been absorbing aren’t so lucky.  They keep going back for more and lose a piece of themselves each time.  It’s a train wreck taking place on the most gorgeous spring day of the year and that’s why I can’t stop watching.

Perhaps the distance I’ve created between myself and vaginas has everything to do with Reality Bites and nothing to do with Carrie H.  It’s completely possible because no matter how many leather jackets I own I will forever be Michael Grates.  Women know this.  At least those who know me do.  What’s wrong with that though?  I rooted for Michael through the entire movie.  I actually took his side and was outspokenly upset when she chose The Douche.  It wasn’t because my life roll was similar to Stiller’s character but because he was a nice guy.  A good guy.  His heart was always in the right place while The Douche had a bad haircut and took up couch space.  It broke my heart, and that’s what made it such a good movie.

Possibly my heartache has nothing to do with all Lelaina Pierce’s of the world but the Chloe’s from Sol Goode.  In fact, I’m certain of it.  Chloe is the girl that’s always been there for you.  She’ll always be there for you.  You drink beers together, sing along to Jimi Hendrix, make fun of mutual friends and feel utterly empty when she’s not around- never realizing why.  You’re blinded by her beauty, to point of not accepting it.  Chloe is the reason why you never have any successful relationships.  Every girl you meet is compared to her, knowingly or not.

Chloe terrifies me and that’s why when Karen O explains “and cool kids, they belong together” I’m crushed.  Crushing so hard over my Chloe…

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Being the 20 something single that I am, dating is not only on my mind but also the people I surround myself with. Not necessarily even those who are single, in most cases it’s friends in relationships who try to live vicariously through my encounters. Most of our conversations are concluded by them accusing me of being a moron, I guess having the reassurance of someone at home gives them the confidence to make such statements. However, I can’t argue with them. I am a moron, or as I like to put it “relationship challenged”. I’ve been told that I need to be a little more PC so here’s my effort to make my disability sound as warmfuzzy as it could be.

“You haven’t called her back? Jesus, it’s been two days!” One of my ball n’ chain cohorts snapped.

“Two days…” I think out loud, “I haven’t even called my Mom in two days.” I say defensively as I glare back.

“You’re an asshole.” That seals the conversation. There’s nothing I can say that will change her mind, I might as well run with it.

“No, I’m a romantic. There’s nothing more alluring then stripping a girl of her self confidence and letting her neurosis run wild while waiting for the phone to ring,” I say as condescending as possible. “Plus, what makes you think she even deserves a call back?”

That pretty much sends my friend over the hill at which point she mutters “moron”. The conversation changes gears but I can’t help but think about this quandary later.

To me, two days is nothing. Two weeks is nothing. Call me chauvinistic but I often miss the days when corresponding with woman took place by horse and buggy. After the Pony Express, dating became so much harder.

See, we live in a society of instant gratification. Are you hungry? Pop something in the microwave. Missed the weather report? Hop online. Lost? Hit up your GPS. Can’t wait to see the highlights on ESPN tonight? Bust out your cell phone. Can’t sit through a goddamn movie without gossiping with your girlfriend? Send a text message! Relationships have fallen somewhere between Paris’s last “newsworthy” exploit and Howie Mandel’s nightly Indian casino guessing game. My inability to conform, according to my relationship experts, has made me an asshole.

I’m okay with that. I’m still young enough not to feel desperate and fortunate enough not to have felt like I’ve lost the girl of my dreams due to my phobia of the phone. But what will happen when that day comes? Either day, desperate or twitterpated. Am I just too old fashion to be in a relationship? Is there no room for taking time to reflect upon someone or having a sense of absence to make the heart grow fonder? Possibly.

If women of today have taught me anything, it’s that waiting is inconceivable. It’s something that you do at Planned Parenthood or the DMV and is looked upon as the same such chore. There’s no Christmas morning with these chicks, no tropical vacation you’ve saved up for. According to them, for all intensive purposes, that is what a credit card is for. I don’t believe it’s solely their fault however, they’re a product of their environment. Nothing in their lifetime has ever told them to slow down.

Somewhere between the first Iraq war and Al Gore discovering global warming, our government decided to raise the speed limits across most of the country. As these girls were entering college, a dial up internet connection seemed obsolete at which point Americans decided it would be faster to walk to the Starbucks on the corner rather than boiling water. Yet it amazes to see Carrie Bradshaw bitch about a guy who gets off in under ten minutes. You wanted everything in a New York minute baby, you got it.

Which leaves me on Island Time. I’m no Axl Rose sweetheart, but maybe all we need is a little patience? Let the butterflies turn and the anticipation eat you alive. Maybe I need to wait until my next paycheck before I can afford to take your ass out again. Or maybe you’ll be one of the lucky ones and I’ll never call. After all, I am an asshole…

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