It's a very strange time for me in many ways. I find myself with an unusual amount of free time. Part of this lies in a rather dwindling set of local friends. Most of the time it's just me and Chris. Which is pretty cool. The older brother I never had. But I had, through choice or circumstance, become very much a social creature. I actually had(have?) a desire to be around people, or at the very least a person or two that I am close to, just about all the time. A younger (or is it older?) version of myself would have scoffed at this notion. Wanting to be around people? How very not anti-social. But that kid was an angsty, angry teenager. And before that he was an outcast preteen. Let's trace the stages, shall we? Up to 2nd grade I was about a perfect a kid as you could want. Strong, tall, brilliant, got along with everyone. But the genetic curse of my forebears kicked in during 2nd grade. In two ways. First, as the NC standard IQ test. Provided to help identify children with exceptional needs, on both ends of the spectrum. I, of course, am of the gifted end. We have something in my old school system called A.G. which stands for Academically Gifted. It was a special program within the regular curriculum that catered to our need for more challenging work. And I liked it. I hadn't, yet, started to become bored with easy work, as my teachers were pretty good about finding stuff for me to do when I finished up my classwork. But then my eyes started to get a little bad. It would have never been noticed if not for the Little League. I was always squinting when at bat. Part of this was the sun constantly being in my eyes, but my eyes were losing strength. So now I was really smart and wore glasses. Begin standard stereotype teasing now. But it wasn't too bad, as I had really cool friends and family. Then on to 5th grade. That's the first shift. No longer did my teachers find me work to do when I was done. In fact a substitute once got mad at me for doing something else when I was supposed to be doing typical substitute busy work. Even though I was done. Took away my coloring book. The meanie. Anyway, since I was no longer being so aptly supervised, ADD started to kick in. It's likely that I had been exhibitting signs of ADD much earlier, but I was always kept busy. So I started to slip out of the mainstream. It didn't help that I was becoming a little chubby. Too many books, video games and junk food, not enough exercise. Which wasn't entirely true. I had the preteen baby fat. I was fairly lean in my much younger days. Downright skinny, really. But the chubby, the love of books and solitude, the intelligence, it drove a bit of a wedge between me and my peers. Middle school didn't help in the slightest. 5th-7th saw a lot of me being picked on. A lot. Because I was chubby, because I liked books, because I took medication, because to me deoderant was deoderant, even if it had a pink case. Sure was Sure. It hadn't occured to me that there was anything wrong with it until someone grabbed my bag and rummaged through it. Then I was dubbed "girly deodorant boy." By, of course, the taller and more built slow mutant who lived down the way. Stirred the bitterness, but I had my books, my games, my friends. And then, miracle! During the summer between 7th and 8th grade, I grew 6 inches. and A further 3 through the course of the school year. In three months, three months, I grew 6 inches, going from 5'3" to 5'9" and gained 10 pounds. And dropped 4 inches off my waist. I was wearing a 28. And suddenly, I was a little more acceptable to my peers. Still an object of taunt by those uncreative enough to find new things to torture. But, of course, things didn't stay pleasant. My dad left the summer of my 13th year. I still don't know what all happened, but I guess he had finally just had enough of my mom. Which I can understand. The man was patient for 17 years. But that left some psychological scar tissue. Instant angsty, nonsocial, hate-the-world teen. I was a different breed, though. I knew what was going on in my head. I couldn't control the hormones, or the wild and unpredictable moodiness, but I could understand why it was happening. I did alright keeping things under control. Not great, mind you. I was, what, 15? Who has any control at 15? Started to get that rebelliousness. I was given chances and opportunities to delve into teen peer pressure, but just didn't care too. My best friend through most of my early teen years was Jayson Barber. His parents were the prototypical "cool" parents any teen could want. But they had raised Jayson to be responsibile and independent. So I'd go over there, we'd go cruise or whatever. Sometimes he threw parties, popular parties to anyone, because of the mostly unsupervised nature of things. I could have tried weed or drank beer or engaged in many a single girl for an evening, but didn't. Even when I had thrown away my faith for the whispered promises of heresy, I still held the values. It wasn't until I was 17 that I shifted back towards something more pleasant. It was January of 1999. I was driving my brother and my cousin. It was dark, I had been driving all of six months, foggy, and just a bad intersection. I thought it was clear, but I was, very much, mistaken. I got t-boned by an '84 Buick going ever so slightly over the speed limit. In their defense, I pulled out right in front of them. Though all I remember is hitting the gas, seeing headlights off in the dark distance, and then I was asleep. I remember feeling like I was dreaming. What a crappy dream. And what is that noise? It was the engine of the car whining in high rev, as my foot was still on the pedal. Why am I in my car? Shouldn't I be in bed? Then the pain. Horribly twisted, my right arm screamed at me to wake up, take my foot off the gas and turn the car off. Remember when I said I was t-boned? Yeah I meant me personally, not the car. See, I drove a 1984 Honda Accord. A not large at all car. I lost about 18 inches of side space when the center of the Buick's grill collided with the t-bar between the driver door and the passenger door. And that line is right where my toros lined up in that car, due to my long, non-short-asian legs. So the car hit me. And my death-grip ripped the radius and ulna in twain just below the wrist. I had never been knocked unconscious or passed out before then. It's an...interesting thing to recount. But I had stared death in the face. It put me in darkness. And then, about a month later, something very strange happened. Something unexpected. A girl, I knew her only by sight from the French class we were both in, just ups and asks to sign my cast. Who was I to argue with a cute girl? Well, the signature spread from just her name to most of the space on my cast over the course of about 5 afternoons after school. We were both involved in the school's Broadway Revue, and the acting rehearsals were after school. Thus began one of my most cherished, and most sorely missed, friendships. We became very close so very swiftly. We were alike in many things. We could say something strange, and the other would know exactly what we meant, where others would misunderstand. I grew to love her in a way I have loved no other. But you never love one like you love the first. But, as is the way of things, it was never returned, not in the way I wanted. She saw me as a brother, a friend, and, no matter how close and dear, as nothing more. Which, maybe, in the end, was for the best. It kept what was between us pure, unhindered. And through her I met many wonderful girls. And thusly I spent my senior year surrounded by these amazing girls. I was a lucky guy in many respects. Optmism began to creep out from it's hardened towers. I became, despite my best efforts, a sort of leader in the halcyon golden age of the theater program at East Rowan High School. A rise and fall in one short school year. I was thrust into leading male when one play we tried to do flopped when the current leading male refused to work for his role. Sudden play change and bam! I'm the lead in a romantic comedy. What the heck. And I was paired with a girl I had known since first grade. Who had gone from a slightly lanky ugly duckling into a very amazing swan. And, of course, I had a crush on her. But we pulled it off. We all had ambition, drive. People looked up to me. I tried to put the best I had forward for them. Graduated, went off the school to be an engineer, full of promise and hope. Then I dated Anglee. Sucked in by a long, slow, determined spell. We dated very briefly during my senior year. Two months, as I recall. I dumped her. There's no real way to put it other than that. It wasn't nice, but I did it. She had begun to fall in love with me. And I was in no way ready for that. I had been told she liked me and figured, what the heck? But I let her go. Because my heart desired only Billie Feather at the time. But slowly she worked her way in until I relented to the assault. We dated for over a year. A year of neglect, abuse, infidelity, blame. But never once did I falter in what I saw as my duties to her. I was patient, I was kind, I was understanding, forgiving. I was everything her parents, and her father especially, were not. But in the end, it wasn't enough. She dumped me for a friend of mine. Had been planning it behind my back with him for months. Down the spiral again. And now I've clawed my way out of that heaping pile of wreck. I managed it around June of last year, when I first came to Greensboro for the Van Halen concert, the kick off of their new world tour. Social, social, social! But here in the last few months, I've been slowing working to a balance. Like diggin through the closet and finding that jacket you thought was just kick-ass years ago, but had out-grown in one way or another. Only now I'm a lot slimmer than I was. And it fits like a charm. Jacket of Peaceful Solitude. I'm chilling by myself, but I'm not feeling bad about it. I used to fight for the very thing I have now. I have music, I have writing.
And what the hell. Where the heck did all that come from? Riding a wave of memory after finding an old photo album. Oh well. There it is. Dusted off the old jacket. Fits like a dream. Better than when I first got it, really.