Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kalo Taxidi

I'm going on vacation. I'm heading off to Greece. I'll be gone for about two weeks in May, starting on the 6th. This trip was in the planning since last year around Xmas time. A friend of mine wanted to go to Greece for the summer. But given the unexpected personal losses and life changes that happened earlier this year, my friend wasn't sure if I still wanted to go. So I brought it up two months ago when we were talking, and I assured my friend that I still wanted to go. Life is too short, and I want to enjoy it with great friends while I'm still here.

So I'm going to Greece. Truth be told, I wanted to take a cruise, because I wouldn't have to pack and unpack so much. Also, I have fun on cruises. Still, I'm looking forward to living among the locals for a short while; I'd like to hang out with other tourists, and maybe get off the beaten path and enjoy the secret spots only locals know. I plan on visiting the sites frequented by my namesake, perhaps spread some luv while I'm there ;)

If you have any tips and advice on Greece, please feel free to let me know. If you want a postcard, let me know and email me your address at eroswings AT . I'll take lots of pictures and tell you all about it when I return. I'll miss y'all!

In the meantime, I'm going to schedule some posts while I'm gone--just a few to keep you entertained til I get back. I'll let you know when I'm back in town.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A cold drink: Water

Crunch and I took a statistics class together. That's how we first met. We ended up doing some group work together, and then started hanging out even after our semester project was done. He was a pretty smart guy when it came to math. He was studying to be an accountant, looking to crunch the numbers. That's why I call him Crunch. He was the youngest in a large family, the first to go to college. He took a different path from everyone else. He succeeded when they expected him to fail. In him, I could sense a rebellious spirit with an incredible strength. Tell him he couldn't do anything, and he'd work twice as hard to get it done. I could identify with that. I admired that indomitable spirit. But as focused and intense as he was when working on a project, he knew how to let go and have fun like the rest of us.

After graduation, Crunch worked for a small accounting firm. In a few years he moved on to a company that specialized restructuring the finances of companies looking to downsize, grow, or merge. His job takes him all over the world, always traveling. So having him in town was always a treat. It's rare that all four of us ever get to hang out anymore. Lunch with friends is more than just a meal; it's an event.

The waitress returned to refill our drinks. When she left, Crunch began his tale of what had happened the night before,"Well, it was pretty normal; I mean, we ended up at her place, and once we got to the bedroom, she turned on some music to set the mood. Then she started dancing and taking her clothes off."

"Like a stripper?," asked Flash.

"Yes, but without the pole," answered Crunch,"although, I got the feeling she was pretty familiar with working around poles."

We laughed at that. Crunch continued,"Anyways, we finally got down to doing it. She was wild and noisy! And when we were done, we laid on the bed, all sweaty and trying to catch our breath."

"Sounds like you had a good time," I said.

"I did," replied Crunch,"but then ten minutes after that, things got really weird."

"What you mean weird?," asked Flyboy.

"Well, we heard a truck pulling in; she jumped off the bed and ran out the door. I didn't know what to think. But she ran back in and grabbed my clothes, threw them at me, and told me to shut up and hide in the closet."

"What?," asked Flash.

"Yeah," said Crunch,"She pushed me in the closet, told me to keep quiet because her husband was home earlier than expected!"

We groaned and laughed at that. "Dude," said Flash,"You were messing with a married woman! Homewrecker!"

We kept on laughing. "So what happened next?," asked Flyboy.

Crunch answered,"Well, I was kind of flabbergasted at being shoved in the closet. The closet doors had those horizontal slits in them that lets you see into the room. She jumped in the bed, threw on the covers just as the husband walked through the bedroom door. She acted all surprised that he was home early. That dude was huge! He was like a big bear!"

"Did he say 'Someone's been in my bed!'," joked Flash.

We burst out laughing as Crunch narrated,"Nope! Luckily, the wife turned on the music while the husband took off his shoes. She started kissing him and making out with him."

"What?," I asked.

"Yeah," said Crunch,"They started going at it."

"Holy crap!," exclaimed Flash,"All while you were hiding in the closet?"

"Yup," said Crunch,"They went at it, making all sorts of loud noises while I was still in the closet." We laughed some more at the thought of Crunch hiding in the closet while the couple was getting it on.

"How did you get out?," I asked.

"Well," answered Crunch,"luckily, he passed out when he was done. It didn't that long, but it was long enough to wear him out. Soon as the dude started snoring, his wife signaled for me to come out of the closet and leave. I wasn't sure at first, but she winked and mouthed that it was okay. So I slowly opened the closet doors and with my clothes in hand, I snuck out the bedroom. Put on my pants by the door and got the hell out! Didn't even stop to put on my shoes and shirt til I was around the block."

The image of Crunch running down the sidewalk in the dark with no shoes and no shirt got us laughing again. Soon enough, the waitress returned with our orders. And as we ate our lunch and joked about our experiences, I made mental note to take in everything, to pay close attention to the moment. It's been over a year since we last saw each other. It's hard to believe that a few years ago, we were college kids chasing girls and parties on the beaches; staying up late to study for midterms; living off of pizza and fast food places. It just felt good to reconnect and spend time with good friends and continue to share our lives and experiences. I looked at every one of them, and I realized that as different as our backgrounds were and the directions our lives had taken, we shared a rebellious, independent, adventurous spirit. We didn't let others tell us how to live; we chose our own paths and in each other we found a kindred spirit, we found a friend, someone who understood.

When we were done eating, we paid our tab and left the waitress a big tip. It was nearly two in the afternoon. Still a lot of sunshine, so we did what we did best, went home and grabbed our gear and headed to the beach. Along the way, we stopped at store to pick up some snacks and alcohol. It was Crunch's turn to be our designated driver. The rest of the afternoon, we hung out at the beach, caught some waves, and just laughed like we hadn't in a long time. The next day, we'd go our separate ways again, never knowing when we'll ever have the opportunity to be together again. But that didn't matter. The important thing was that we were here now, and whatever happens after, we know that we'll always be there for each other. And for the next few hours, we were just four friends enjoying the surf and sun, no worries, no cares, just having a good time.

The most important moments in our lives come and go quickly. We can't hold on to them; we can't really plan for them. So when they happen, we need to embrace them, and live in them for as long we can. Cherish the people you luv in your life, and let them know how much they mean to you. You never know what the future might bring. Now is all we have, so make the most of it, because life is really too short.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A cold drink: Root Beer

I met Flyboy through one of my roommates when I started college. My roommate had an obsession with cleaning and organizing. I guess it comes from having a father who was drill sgt in the army. On the one hand, it was kind of nice having a clean roommate; it balanced out our other roommate who was messy pig! Still, my cleaning roommate was a neatfreak. I'd come home from school or work, tired, kick my shoes off by the door, then flop on the couch for a break. Cleaner would come in a few minutes later, pick up my discarded shoes, then place them next to the sofa where I was laying. I'd vacuum the floors in the morning, and he'd do the same that afternoon, as if somehow, I didn't vacuum right; whatever, it kept the floors clean and I like clean floors!

Cleaner was joining a fraternity, and he tried to get me to pledge. I'm not the fraternity type. But that's how I met Flyboy. Flyboy was one of Cleaner's fellow pledges; a few of them used to come around the apt when we had parties or just to hang out. The second semester, Flyboy and I ended up in the same biology lab. We became lab partners and started hanging out more. He came by the apt so much that I started stocking up on root beer, because that was his favorite drink. At the apt, Cleaner and Flyboy would start preaching about the benefits of joining a fraternity and all the connections that come with being a member. I'd tease them, "I don't need to buy friends. The best ones are free!"

I just thought it was silly to pay a lot of money to be a part of an exclusive organization that promised brotherhood and fun. You can get that for free. Still, it was a quick way to make friends if you had problems reaching out to new people. If you like fraternities, then go for it. It just wasn't for me. I've had my fill of exclusive cliques and clubs to know that I don't like being told what to think or what I could or could not do.

Cleaner and Flyboy's fraternity was amazingly very well mannered. Actually, they reminded me of the boybands who were popular at the time--so clean cut, so preppy, so unbelievably boring! Okay, so they took trips to the see their other frat brothers in the bigger colleges; they held mixers when only fraternity and sorority members could attend. But by and large, they reminded me of Stepford wives, everything so planned out and limited and proper. When Spring Break came around, the fraternity decided on a ski trip to Colorado. Now, Spring Break is traditionally the time college students take a break from midterms and freezing weather and head south to the beaches to tan, party, go crazy and have a good time.

Cleaner was gung ho about skiing; but I could tell Flyboy wasn't so enthusiastic. So, I told him that a few friends and I were heading down south, just a few hours to one of the biggest Spring Break hot spots. It was miles of beach filled with hot bodies from all over. Flyboy looked interested, and I invited him to join our little group. Besides, we'd be near a border town, cross into Mexico where the legal drinking age was significantly lower than the US. That settled it. Flyboy joined us that week, and I introduced him to Flash and Crunch. We had a blast that week on the beaches and bars, on both sides of the border. By the time we came back to school, we had formed a solid bond.

Come the end of the first year in college, Flyboy was hanging out with us a lot, usually at the apt or the beach or the clubs. That summer, I moved to a different apt. Cleaner went back home, because he wasn't really happy with his college experience. It wasn't what he expected. He wanted to try a different school, and I wished him luck. Flyboy was still active in his fraternity, but I could tell that he did this out of obligation; he'd rather hang out with us. Flyboy had a wild, rebellious side underneath the preppy, good boy image, and with us, he was free to enjoy that side of himself.

Flyboy is the middle son of a wealthy family with pedigree and history. He was expected to graduate from college, join the family business, marry an appropriate girl, and raise the next generation. His oldest brother had all ready done so, ensuring the family line would continue. I guess that's what afforded Flyboy some leeway in coming to a smaller college and not the traditional bigger, more well known universities his family had attended. I imagined it was must've been hard to keep up appearances when he went home for breaks. He always seemed depressed, having to hide who he was becoming during his time in college. He enjoyed the freedom (and distance) college provided. But when he graduated, he followed the path of his family, marrying a sorority girl he had been dating that last year in school. I never liked her, as she seemed so snobby, looking down on us as bad influences on Flyboy; nevermind that we didn't have the right connections or family or wealth. Still, we tried to be polite and not bad mouth her in Flyboy's presence. We wished him well.

It would seem that Flyboy's life was set. But that was not to be. His marriage didn't last a year. He ditched the family business and followed his own dreams. He joined the military and became a fighter pilot; that's why I call him Flyboy. He's been doing this for years now, yet I still can't help but worry about his safety. It's why we hadn't seen him in over a year; he'd been deployed overseas, living off a large naval carrier. But he seemed happier. He was doing what he wanted to do, living his own life. His immediate family was shocked and a little resistant to his new life. But they've come around. It helps when the matriarch of the family, his grandmother, is a big supporter of the military, having lost two brothers in the Korean War. Her father was a WW2 veteran. And it is nice to have a war hero in the family. But what's even better is having Flyboy back, the four of together again just like the old days, when we were young, dumb, and full of fun.

"So, Flyboy," said Flash, "how did it go with your chick?"

Now it was Flyboy's turn to tell us what had happened the night before. Flyboy drank his root beer then said, "Well, nothing really happened with her."

"Oh, did you just go home?," asked Crunch.

"Not right away," said Flyboy,"When we got to her place, she took me to her room and we started making out. We started taking off our clothes and right after she took off her top, she got off the bed real quick and stumbled towards the bathroom. I could hear her throwing up in the toilet."

"Awww, that's just fantastic!," I said,"Isn't that just a sexy sound, blaaahhhh." We laughed at that.

"So what did you do?," asked Flash.

"Well," replied Flyboy,"I went in after her to make she was all right, ya know? Maybe hold her hair back for her." We laughed at that.

"Because you're an officer and a gentleman!," I said.

"Of course," said Flyboy. We laughed some more as Flyboy continued,"So after that, I helped her back to the bed, where she passed out. I made sure to turn her head before I left, that way she won't choke her own vomit if she threw up again."

"Nice," said Crunch,"You are a gentleman!"

We laughed again as Flyboy narrated, "I figured I'd call a cab and go home. But I was thirsty, so I headed into the kitchen to look for something to drink. And that's when I ran into her mother."

"Oh," said Flash,"Awkward."

"Yeah," said Flyboy,"it was awkward, trying to explain to her who I was and what I was doing in the house. But after telling her that I just finished putting her daughter back to bed after what had happened, she seemed to relax. Then she said that her daughter sometimes drank more than she should. I thought that was funny, coming from the mother who was drinking from a bottle of wine. She offered me a glass. We started chitchatting, and the next thing I know, she started hitting on me."

"What?,"asked Flash,"So what did you do?"

"Well, I just went for it," said Flyboy. We laughed at that.

"Dude," said Crunch,"You were attacked by a cougar! Rrrroarrr!". We laughed at that some more.

"I thought I smelled patchouli," joked Flash.

Flyboy laughed,"I'd prefer to think of it as her way of thanking me for taking care of her daughter."

"So she took care of you in return! How courteous of her,"I replied,"Such exquisite manners are so rare these days! Truly you were in the presence of a lady, which makes you the tramp!"

"Woof! Woof!," said Flyboy,"We did go at it like dogs."

That got another round of laughter. It's been too long since we had this kind of fun, too long since we shared each other's company and twisted sense of humor. Sometimes, boys just need to be boys. I was glad that Flyboy took a weekend out just come hang out with us, and I was glad to be in the company of my friends after so long.

Years ago, when we got near graduation, I was worried about Flyboy coming to terms with what was expected of him. I wasn't sure if he would be happy, giving up his dreams and subduing his identity for the sake of his family. And for a while, he succeeded in suppressing his true nature. But I was so glad to see him embrace his true self, going after his dreams, living out his own life, even if it meant going against his family. But he did it, and I was happy for him. Of course, his job is dangerous, always entwined with the possibility of death; but had he forsaken his true nature and lived a life not of his own choosing, wouldn't that be death as well? We all die eventually. But it's how we live that truly matters, and right now, being with great friends makes life a truly spectacular, wonderful experience. Live in the moment, for as long as you can. Time moves on with or without us, and you never know where life will take you next.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A cold drink: Dr Pepper

Flash and I first met in an undergraduate English writing course. We were choosing a volunteer project to write about, and we ended up going to a turtle sanctuary, to help clean up and assist in some of the turtles care. He was from the hill country, deep in the heart of Texas. That explained his preference for Dr Pepper and the twang in his speech. He grew up on a farm, and he always wanted to be close to the beach. He didn't have a car, but I did. And I enjoyed going to the beach just as much as he did. So we ended up riding around a lot together--to classes, clubs, parties, or just the beach.

In a way, we were kindred spirits. He was youngest in his family, and like me, he was considered the black sheep. While his elder brothers either became farmers or local law enforcement, Flash had his sights on traveling beyond the county borders. He wanted to see the world, and he worked hard to earn enough money to get to college. That's something I can relate to and totally respected. I was only a few years older than him, and in a way, I was kind of protective of him, like he was my little brother. I looked out for him, and I wanted to make sure he'd be okay. His enthusiasm for new things and new experiences reminded me of myself when I first left home to be on my own. I was lucky to have made some good friends who were more worldly than me. They looked out for me, and I wanted to do the same for Flash. I gave him some tips and advice while letting him choose his own path. I figured, some things in life, you can only learn the hard way. But he knew that I'd be there for him if he ever needed it.

While I was still undecided on a major in college, Flash knew what he wanted. He majored in Fine Arts, wanting to become a photographer. That's why I call him Flash. And he took some really great pictures. He worked for a newspaper and did events photography for a few years. Then he started freelancing. The brown haired farm boy was soon off to see the world. He's been to some great places, some dangerous places, and some really remote places. But he was here now, drinking his Dr Pepper before proceeding to tell us about his experience the previous night.

"Well," Flash said,"after we got dropped off at her apt, we went in and started making out in the bedroom. Anyway, so we strip down and I'm going down her when it happened." He paused for a sip of Dr Pepper.

"What happened?", asked Flyboy. We were all curious.

Flash looked around, then lowered his head and whispered, "She queefed."

"What?," I asked.

"She queefed," Flash repeated.

We started laughing. Crunch said, "That is bullsh*t! Queefs are an urban legend! Like the Chubacabra or Big Foot!"

Flyboy asked, "Are you sure she didn't just fart in your face?"

We laughed at the thought of that. But Flash insisted, "Nope. I'm telling you, it wasn't a fart; I know what a fart smells like. Besides, this was a soft blowing sound, it felt different."

"Like a summer breeze?," I couldn't resist teasing.

"Well, it did make me feel fine," laughed Flash.

Flyboy asked, "So what did you do?"

Flash answered,"I pressed down on her stomach to see if she'd do it again, and she did!"

We burst out laughing at that.

"Oh you sick puppy!," said Crunch, "What was her reaction?"

"She looked all red," said Flash,"but when I laughed, she did, too."

"Did you go home after that?," asked Flyboy.

Flash replied, "Hell no! We just went ahead and did it. And when we were done, she queefed again, only the sound lasted much longer this time."

We laughed at that. Still the same old Flash, always down for new experiences. There was a time when I was afraid something bad might happen to him. He seemed so naive when we first met. But he's all grown up now, a little wiser and more worldly. But he still had his enthusiasm and his sense of adventure. I still worry about him, especially when his work takes him to danger zones, like war torn regions or near pirate infested waters. But I'm also proud of him, and I have confidence in him to survive. Still, I'll always be on the look out for him, because that's what friends do. They look out for each other. Right now, it just felt good to be able to look around the table and see my friends. It's been too long since we last hung out together. And I was so glad to have a chance to just hang out once more, even for just a little while.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A cold drink: Iced Tea

It was ten in the morning when the alarm woke me up. Usually on Sundays I wake up at noon, look at the clock, then roll over and go back to sleep. But not today; I had plans. I laid in bed for a few more minutes. First, I tried to get my bearings. Then I worked up the strength to stumble out of bed, driven by the need to relieve and refuel. Eventually, I ended up on the sofa, going over missed calls and messages, deciding who to call back and who to ignore. I needed to buy time to start waking up and recover from the night before.

This weekend was boys weekend out. I had just completed an intense, time consuming project. I was worried the week before that I might not make the deadline. But long hours, less sleep, and hard work paid off. I got the project done earlier than expected. So, I was winding down Friday afternoon, ready to go home and just sleep the rest of the weekend away; I was going to make up for all the sleep I gave up during the week. I was tired. But a surprise phone call jolted me full of energy. It was from my friend Flash, informing me that two of our friends, Flyboy and Crunch, were back in town for the weekend.

The last time the four of us had spent time together was over a year ago. Since then, I've only seen Flash a few times. The most recent was about two months ago. There was a time in college when the four of us were inseparable, but that was many years ago. When we graduated and moved on to our careers, we found ourselves heading into separate directions. Not that it was bad thing. I mean, we all grow up at some point in our lives. But we tried to maintain contact, whether it be by phone, email, or the occasional letter. We didn't keep it up often, but when we did reconnect, we picked up right where we left off, as if time had no meaning, our friendship still intact. These were my college buds, and we shared experiences and time together that only served to strengthen our bonds and ties to each other. And seeing them again reminded me of just how lucky I was to have really great friends.

And that's who I was going to see this Sunday morning. We were scheduled to meet for lunch at noon; but I'm really slow when I wake up. Thus, I needed to set my alarm early, so I'd have time to wake up, shower, dress, then head out. We arrived at the cafe around the same time, and we took a booth at the far corner, away from the few customers eating their pancakes and waffles. The waitress came over with some menus and took our drink orders. I wanted an iced tea; Flash ordered a Dr Pepper; Flyboy wanted a Root Beer; and Crunch asked for a glass of water. As soon as the waitress left we started talking.

We had gone clubbing last night. It didn't start out that way. Saturday we spent the day on the beach, swimming and surfing the few waves that arrived. Then we had dinner out a restaurant; from there, we went to a bar, and eventually found our way at a club. It was my turn to be designated driver. I didn't mind. Flash had his turn Friday night; we went bar hopping til we ended up at a bar by the water, staying til closing time, laughing and catching up.

On Saturday night, the club was full. It was just by chance that we ended up meeting a small group celebrating a bachelorette party. These girls were all ready drunk, and before the night was over, we danced and drank with the inebriated ladies. We ended up going home with a different member of the party. The fellas took the limo with their ladies; I took mine in my car. These ladies were out for a good time, and it was our intention to give them just that. The plan for our group was to meet for lunch at a local cafe the next day. And that's where we were now, at a small cafe, looking over the menu and talking about events from the previous night.

"Dude," Flash asked me,"How'd it go with that chick you went with last night?"

So I replied, "You know I don't like to kiss and tell," which got groans and laughs from the other fellas. That much was true. I've never been one to broadcast my private adult recreation activities. I've always considered what happens behind closed doors to be private and nobody's business. I guess I'm just old fashioned like that. I mean, I'll talk in general terms sometimes, but I don't like to give out the explicit blow by blow. "But in this case, I have something to share."

That got more laughs and perked up their interest. Okay, I did have something to share, and in this case, I think it was perfectly fine information to share among friends.

"So, tell us, dude," Flash said, "You must've had a helluva time with that chick. She had the biggest rack in the group."

That was true, my date did have the biggest bosom in the group. And she didn't hesitate to rub them all over me while were on the dance floor. I wasn't sure if it was the alcohol or maybe she was just a party animal. But she when she danced, she got down and dirty, grinding herself on me most of the time. Not that I was complaining.

"That chick was wild on the dance floor," said Flyboy, "You must've had crazy fun with her!"

"Well," I said, "Crazy is definitely one way to describe my experience." So I proceeded to tell the fellas what had happened when I took her home from the club. She lived about three blocks from the club in a two story house. She told me that she had two sisters as a roommates; but we didn't have to worry about her sisters, because they lived upstairs. We were staying downstairs. I parked the car, opened her door, then followed her inside the house.

We passed through a large living room and a den before ending up in what looked to be a master bedroom. It was kind of hard to see with only a small nightlight shining in the room. She didn't want to turn on the lights. I figured it she liked doing things that way. She kissed me, and then started to unbutton my shirt, soon, we had most of our clothes off and ended up on her large bed. I noticed a bunch of pillows stacked on the bed. I supposed she like sleeping with a bunch of pillows. But tonight, the way her hands were all over my body, gripping me, pressing me against her meant that she wasn't interested in any sleep tonight! And soon we started grinding our bodies together, moaning, twisting and turning til she was on top of me.

She started kissing my neck and then worked her way down my chest, slowly going south. I let out a sigh, then I turned my head towards the stack of pillows next to my head. My eyes had become accustomed to the darkness. I noticed an odd shape on the pillows. It wasn't shaped like the other pillows. No, it seemed round, like a small ball. And it had a scent that I found very familiar, sweet and clean. I moved my head closer and focused on the oddly familiar shape, when I noticed a faint rising and falling from it, accompanied by a soft sound. Then it all became alarmingly clear. Holy crap! It was a baby!

"A baby!?!," exclaimed Flash.

"Yes, a baby! In the same bed!," I replied.

"You motherf*cker!," laughed Flyboy, "Literally, you are a motherf*cker!"

"Holy crap!," said Crunch,"So what did you do?"

"Well," I said, "What could I do? I certainly didn't want to have sex next to a sleeping baby! Nothing kills a mood faster than a baby in the room, you know."

The fellas laughed at that. So I continued. Anyway, I sat up and gently extracted myself from my partner. She asked me what was wrong, and I told her that there was a baby sleeping on the bed. Oh, she said, don't worry about him. He's been sleeping through all night now. I was like Huh? She explained that the baby was just over two and a half months. It was her baby, and he was a heavy sleeper. I was having a little trouble focusing on sex when I just discovered that I'm about to do some newborn baby's mama.

The guys laughed and Flyboy asked, "What's the problem? She had the baby like over two months ago! You know, they do stitch them up afterwards."

That got a ewww and gross and some chuckles from the rest of us, and I answered, "Well, just because the locks have been changed since the previous tenants moved out, don't mean the house is move in ready! Besides, it felt weird with a baby right there. I imagined him waking up and becoming traumatized by what he saw. I can picture him talking like Stewie from Family Guy, What the deuce!?!"

That got more laughs. Crunch asked, "So did you go home after that?"

"Eventually," I said.

"Dude," said Flash, "That is just messed up, man!"

"Oh, man," I said, "It gets even better. As I was getting dressed, I tried to wipe some of the sweat off my chest. Except it didn't feel like sweat and it smelled funny. And when I looked at it closer, I realized that it wasn't sweat. It was milk! She had leaked on me! That's why her boobs were so big. She was lactating!"

That got some oh gross and loud laughs from the fellas. Crunch joked, "Did you taste it?"

I said, "Uh, no. Maybe if I was drinking a cup of coffee and needed some creamer, I might've tried some."

That got more laughs, "Well," I said, "That's my night. What about yours, Flash?"

Flash was still laughing but managed to say, "Well, it's not as crazy as yours, but it was surprising nonetheless!"

The waitress returned with our drinks and took our food order. As soon as she was out of an earshot, Flash began to spin his tale of his adventure from the night before.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bear Back and Pussy Galore

When they're not busy fighting off enemies or searching for a new home, those Battlestar Galactica heroes take the time to bring your attention to some very important issues. And when they speak, it's best to frakkin listen!

Cylon Model Six says: Your cats depend on you. Play with them. Never leave them...unattended; make sure they have a cozy spot...and be sure to show them love and affection everyday.

You heard the cylon!

Have you played with your pussy, lately?

Have you given that pussy good company?

Show that pussy some love and affection! Play with it! Caress it! Feed it! Show that pussy a good time!

Lee Apollo Adama says: Bears suffer and die for the Queen's Guards' caps. Support the campaign to end this cruelty.

You heard the man! Keep the bear back in Canada!

A lot of people have been affected by this issue.

Yogi Bear: The Ranger done took my Boo Boo! Bring my Boo Boo back!

Save the black bear!

The only muffs that ought to be wrapped around the heads of the Queen's Guards are of the human variety.

Any volunteers?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Don't rock the boat, baby

A few of my friends have babies. And that's nice for them. I like babies; they're cute and I don't mind babysitting every now and then. But let's face it, they're a lot of work. And as happy as I am for my new parent friends, I really not too thrilled with some of the things they say and do.

Please, don't call me during happy hour, wanting me to listen as you put your child on the phone in the hopes that the child will say something cute. Honestly, I can't hear anything other than you in the background, trying to coax the kid to say something. It's a little annoying to let this go on for minutes at a time. I'm at happy hour for a reason. I have some drinking and socializing to do; most likely, it's been a crappy day at work.

And don't be telling me how much better your life is since having your child. I mean, every parent should be proud and happy to have children. That's only natural. But don't make it sound like your life was crap before you had kids. Because all I'm hearing is that I'm crap because I don't have kids, as if babies are the latest high tech gadgets or newest fashion trend; and you having one somehow makes you better than me. It's great that you have a kid; that was your choice and I supported your decision. So, please, don't try to to look down on me for deciding not to have any right now...or ever.

And finally, having a baby changes everything. Really, it does. And it should. That means you can't party or hang out with me like you used to. The rest of us don't get together to go clubbing or bar hopping just to spite you. We really just want to enjoy a night on the town, and sometimes, these things just happen at the last minute. Spontaneous gatherings happen, and we can't always give you a 24 notice to get a sitter so you can join us. So don't be mad when you hear that we went out and had a good time. You used to do the same thing. But you've got a baby now, so things change.

I'm happy my friends have kids. It's all part of life. But you have to deal with changes that come with having kids. And those changes include deciding whether you still want be friends or not. We might not be able to do the same things like before, but we can still hang out and do other fun things. It just takes some readjustment and work. Having a baby means growing up; don't let it be about friends growing apart. Don't rock the boat, baby.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Taxing Neighbors

Today is tax day in the US. It's the last day to file your taxes. And as usual, I always wait til the last minute to file my taxes. It's not that I owe the gov't money or anything; I just forget. On the way home today, I listened to a radio station that proposed making April 15 a local Good Neighbors Day. It's when we talk about what makes a good neighbor and how thankful we are for them!

So in the spirit of Good Neighbors Day, I'd like to recognize those neighbors who've made my apt living experience quite memorable.

So, here's to you Cougar lady from 14C! You surprised me with your neighborliness when I first moved in to those apts on the south side of town. You were gracious, you were open, and you invited me over for coffee (and into your bed) while your husband was working. What a welcome!

Unfortunately, I don't drink coffee (and I have my own bed to sleep in, but thank you for your concern about me getting enough sleep). Your friendliness was duly noted. Thus, it was only fair that I be neighborly to your husband, when he came home early that day, knocked on my door to ask if I had seen a man come out of your apt. So I told him of that other man who jumped out the back window just minutes before, wearing only his underwear, hiding behind the bushes. The fact that your husband chased that man, beat him up, then threw you out of the apt was his way of freeing you to share your friendliness with the world. Thank you, good neighbor, for making me feel welcomed!

And here's to you, too, Old Couple from 20A! You were very helpful, providing me with useful information about living in those apts on the north side of town. You wanted to come into my apt and take a look at all the renovations that were recently done. I showed you the new carpets and the new paint on the walls that the apt manager showed me a week before.

You both complimented what a splendid job maintenance did in that apt, replacing the old blood soaked carpet and filling in the bullet holes on the walls, after that drug deal went bad with the previous tenants. Your information helped me make up my mind to move somewhere else after my lease expired. Thank you, good neighbors, for filling me in on all the important details (that the apt manager left out!).

And finally, the Old Bird next door at my current apt. Thank you for your sharing spirit! You've shared food with the neighborhood cats that have eaten those birds that used to crap on my car when I parked it under the tree. And those cats now poop in my front yard and leave filthy paw prints all over my car, especially after I've just finished washing it.

Thank you, Old Bird, for sharing your countless medical conditions and illnesses whether I ask about them or not. Without your arthritic hands or replaced knees acting up, I would only have the weather channel (and looking to the sky) to determine whether I need to pack a poncho or not. Thank you for being a weather girl and for freely sharing personal information that only your doctor should be aware of!

With such colorful experiences with neighbors, is it any wonder I treat my neighbors the same way I treat the IRS? The less contact, the better! I hope you find yourself among good neighbors; or at the very least find good stories to make it all worthwhile and remind yourself why you're not a hermit in a cave somewhere.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Snake Sense

How do you know you're in Texas?

When the sign at the rest stop says this:

What a welcoming and relaxing sign after driving for hours. If I didn't need to pee before, well I definitely needed to go after reading that sign!

It's bad enough they're on planes,

but now I have to look out for them in the urinals?

Really, the only snake I want to worry about is my own.

Monday, April 13, 2009

We used to be friends Part 3: Time

The last week of school was known as Seniors Week. It was five days dedicated to a specific activity for seniors all ready done with classes. Monday was volunteer project day, when the graduating class would leave a gift for the school and posterity. That year, we chose to build an extra ramp to connect the upper campus and lower campus. The old ramp was a long way around the perimeter of the school. The new ramp was a shortcut and made traveling faster for students who needed the ramps to get around. It was a great project. The rest of the week was dedicated to fun. Tuesday we went to the beach and played games in and out of the water. Wednesday night we had a bonfire, where we burned old assignments and had smores and roasted hot dogs and sang songs and danced around the flames. Thursday was carnival day, where set up games and played them all day and had our last talent show that evening. It was the last chance to sing your heart out with your band or show off the dance routines your crew used to battle other crews. And finally Friday, the big night of the Senior Ball.

All through the week, I had avoided Thor and Morrigan. I was still having trouble dealing with my angst towards them. Not that they noticed or anything. They seemed so focused on each other. Typical teenage love, I suppose. But I spent that whole week with my other friends, which was a good way to spend whatever time we had remaining. In a week, we'd all graduate and go our separate ways. Some of us were going to school to far off places; others were getting jobs; and a few had signed up for military service. So for one more week, we got to enjoy just being teenagers, without any real responsibilities, still holding on to some semblance of innocence before the real world would intrude on our dreams and hopes and youthful optimism. By the time Friday rolled around, I think I was able to pull myself together and focus on the big picture. I may have lost my two closest friends in one of worst ways imaginable, but I still had other friends that I needed to spend time with, before the clock ran out and we'd become adults.

Friday night came and I was all ready for the Senior Ball. I had mousse in my stylish mullet and wore a white dinner jacket to match Zaria's black gown with a white off-the-shoulders trim. Of course, I also used a generous amount of Aqua Velva--I had shaved that day, not that I needed to shave everyday. At the time, I only used a razor at least once every two weeks. It took that long for my facial hair to grow. I caught a ride with a friend and we went to pick up our dates, gave the girls their corsages, and posed for pictures before we took off to the country club that was hosting our Senior Ball.

It was quite a sight seeing my classmates dressed up in tuxedos and glittering dresses, everyone excited for what promised to be a fun night. It was our last big formal high school dance. Big hair was in, and there was probably a serious dent in the ozone layer from all the hairspray that went into the creation of monstrous bangs and mile high hair. We posed for more pictures before we all went inside for dinner and voted for our Royal Court of the Senior Ball.

Thor and Morrigan were in the running for King and Queen. No surprise there, the golden couple of the hour would make the perfect King and Queen. I wasn't sure if I wanted to hurl or wish them luck. Zaria was a cheerleader, so naturally, she was expected to run for Queen, and as her date, I was entered to run for King by default. Not that I expected to win or anything. I never ran for anything other than a few offices in some clubs and organizations that I liked. I always thought the Royal Court at these formal dances was just fluff, another feather for the popular kids to put in their caps. It was just another excuse to measure their popularity. So superficial and such a waste of time. So, imagine my surprise when Zaria and I were voted Queen and King!

Ordinarily, I would've seized the opportunity and do something totally inappropriate and rebellious for laughs, but looking at Zaria shine that night made me put on my best behavior. The girl needed something to be proud of after the rough time she was going through. So I smiled and danced the first dance of the night with her. Then we each danced with a member of the Royal Court, the runners up. I had to dance with Morrigan, which was awkward. She congratulated me, but I could tell she was totally oblivious to my inner turmoil. I wasn't sure if it was good acting on my part, or because she was so high on new love euphoria that she was blind to everything else. I was quite relieved to move on to another partner and the slow song was over. And I was so glad to hear the DJ change the beat. When his speakers blasted out, "Everybody Dance Now!", we filled the dance floor and got our groove on.

We danced to Mary J Blige, TLC, Mariah Carey, Ace of Base, and The Real McCoy. Hip Hop and Euro Pop and R&B tunes were in heavy rotation that night. Of course, this being a high school dance, we did a couple of line dances as well. All the formality and pretense at being dignified went out the window as the hours ticked by and we partied hard on the dance floor. By ten thirty, some of us were sneaking out to the golf course to make out and take the party even further. I was getting hot and sweaty and needed something to drink. Luckily, Zaria needed a break from dancing; her shoes were fabulous but they were killing her feet. I left her at the table with our other friends and excused myself for some fresh air. Of course, I headed out to where my delinquent buddies were hanging that night. Only when I found them, there were other kids from other groups there as well.

There is something magical about the last big dance that breaks down barriers and brings about a general feeling of congeniality among classmates. It's like we knew this was the last time we'd all be together, and we all wanted to get along and leave on a good note. So, I wasn't surprised to see nerds and jocks and artists mixing it up with my delinquent buddies. Or maybe it was the alcohol and mood altering substances that were being passed around. But whatever the cause, the effect was the same; we just wanted to enjoy our last time together, party hard, and just have fun.

I found myself sitting next to Camulus, who greeted me enthusiastically and put his arm around my neck. I could smell a hint of alcohol coming off of him, which explained his very friendly mood. He usually carried himself so seriously around school, smiled every now and then, but he was really focused on whatever needed to be done. Camulus was our star athlete. He had been MVP several times in volleyball, basketball, football, and rugby. He was the king of the jocks, one of the top dogs in high school. He had groupies who followed him everywhere, fawning over his every move, though he seemed oblivious to them. I first met him back in junior high school; he was one of Thor's inner circle. We didn't really become friends until we started high school and shared most of our classes that year. We also joined a lot of the same clubs and activities.

When Zaria and I started a Business Club in our junior year, it wasn't because we were so gung ho about business classes. The truth was, we thought it would be funny to set up a club just for yearbook pictures then dissolve the club soon after. But the joke was on us, as a lot of students signed up and joined our club. Camulus was one of those students. Zaria and I had to create a constitution and mission statement and hold elections for the club. It was a lot of work we didn't anticipate, but it was worth it. We held fund raisers, toured business facilities, and held conferences where business leaders were invited to share their wisdom with our members. We even got corporate sponsors for prizes when we held the first ever regional business class competition with other high schools. Camulus held the title of fastest typist and top accountant for two years in a row. He was smart and athletic. He was going places, and it was an academic scholarship that was paying his way to college, even though he got athletic scholarship offers as well.

Camulus was Tamar's date. In fact, they had been going out for most of our senior year. I didn't see the high maintenance princess anywhere. Okay, so I thought Tamar was an airhead and she came off as snobby. She liked to lecture us about the proper way to act or the right clothes to wear. But she was Camulus girl and Morrigan's friend, and I could at least tolerate her. I stayed out there for a few minutes, laughing and joking with my friends as they passed around the booze and shared a lit one. I had a buzz just from second hand exposure.

I headed back inside because I didn't want to leave Zaria by herself too long. But when I got back, it seemed that I didn't have to worry about Zaria being alone. She was on the dance floor, making out with another guy! He was one of my quieter nerd friends, and Zaria was giving him the best night of his teenage life! I was worried that Zaria was going to toss him aside once she was done with him, but I figured, well, let him have his fun. It was Senior Ball night. Everyone should have a good time.

I was surprised to find Tamar sitting alone at our table. Earlier, she was sitting at a different table with Thor and Morrigan. So I sat down next to her and said hello. She told me that everyone seemed to be having fun. I agreed. Then she she explained why she was sitting at our table. It seems that Thor professing undying love and devotion to Morrigan got on Tamar's nerves, making her want to throw up, so she left the love birds to themselves. I thought that was funny, so I laughed. I looked at Tamar, who was smiling at me, and I thought, Ah, what the hell, it's Senior Ball night, so I asked her to dance. She accepted. And we danced through all the fast and slow songs. I had to admit that I was having a good time with her.

When midnight came, the Ball was over. But the after parties were starting. There were quite a few, one in the woods, another at the beach, and one more at another isolated area by the river. The plan was to go to all three. But first, I had to make sure Zaria was okay. She was taking a ride with my nerd friend to the party by the river. My friend was driving, said that he would make sure Zaria got home safely. Tamar offered me a ride to the woods party, and I told her I'd help look for Camulus while she went to freshen up. I found Camulus behind the building with a few of our friends, drunk and laughing. Soon, the others left to go to the beach party, and we told them we'd meet them there later. Camulus took one last puff. Then he let it out slowly. In the haze of smoke, he looked at me with an impish grin. I told him, "You look like you're having a good time."

He laughed, "I am." Then he got a serious, thoughtful expression on his face, "You know, I'm going to miss my friends. I'm going to miss having you around, dude."

I replied, "I'm going to miss having you around, too, dude."

Camulus said, "I luv you, man."

I laughed, "I luv you, too, man."

"No," he said. He face was suddenly in front of mine, I could feel his hot breath on my face, "I really mean it." Then he leaned forward and surprised the hell out of me! I didn't see this one coming, that's for sure. Holy moly! I didn't know how to react. I did not expect this! I mean, I was hoping to get lucky tonight, only this wasn't exactly what I had in mind. I didn't know whether to be freaked out or flattered. The truth was, I kind of froze. But it happened real fast and it was over before I could think. I could smell his cologne mixed in with the heady scent of booze and magic puff. I decided it was probably the mind altering substances that were having this effect on Camulus. I thought I should play it cool.

He whispered, "I luv you, man."

So I replied, "I know you do; I can be very lovable, you know. I'm like candy; everyone wants a piece of me!"

That made him laugh, and broke the serious mood. And I joined him in laughter. We headed to the parking lot and met up with Tamar. It felt weird seeing Camulus give Tamar a quick kiss on the cheek and hug her. I put the encounter behind the building out of my mind. I chalked it up to booze, drugs, and Senior Ball mayhem. It was a wild night, and some things just happen.

When we got to the woods, there was all ready a small campfire going. Someone had their car stereo on and there was booze. A few of were all ready drunk; some were dancing around the campfire; others were making out in the back of their pick up trucks. And there was laughter. Some of these kids were spending the night here. We stayed for a little while, mingling with some of our friends before we headed out to the river. There, we saw another campfire and more booze and music also from someone's car stereo. I saw Zaria, still making out with my nerd friend in his car. We met up with some friends and sat in the back of a pick up truck. Tamar and I had sodas while Camulus drank more booze. We were mostly talking about what our plans were and how we were going to keep in touch. Of course we teased each other as we recalled our embarrassing moments from high school.

Thor and Morrigan showed up, but they kept mostly to themselves. That was fine with me. I mean, I was still kind of mad at Thor for asking Morrigan out when he knew that I liked her. But suddenly, other things had happened tonight to take the edge of my angst. Or maybe it was just the second hand exposure to that magic haze some of my friends were creating. Meanwhile, Camulus was totally drunk. We thought it best to take him home. Thor volunteered to take Camulus home with him; it wouldn't be the first time Camulus crashed at his place. So we helped him into Thor's car and then Tamar and I headed for the beach party.

I have to say it was a strange feeling to be hanging with just Tamar. It was even stranger that it felt comfortable being in her company. On the way to the beach party, she asked if I had been to another remote beach on the outskirts of town. I said yeah, I have. There was really nothing out there. It was quite some distance from the main road, very isolated. She asked me if I thought it was a great spot for skinny dipping. And I said that it was. Then she asked if I wanted to go there, and I thought, Why not? So I said sure.

I'm not sure what exactly possessed me that night, but we never made it to the beach party. I saw a side of Tamar that I'd never seen before. Sometimes, things just happen and you just go with the flow. It was an unbelievably unreal night at the beach, and the isolated atmosphere induced us to act on our wildest impulses. Anyone who's been on the beach can tell you that rolling around in the sand is not comfortable or sexy. In fact, it's down right irritating with the sand grinding into your knees and elbows, getting into all those crevices. But, I'll never forget the thrill of running free on the sand and into the water with another person, excited to know you were both doing something risky and thrilling. The water maybe cold at first, but your mind and your body will be focused on other more stimulating things. You feel your heart racing, and a sense of urgency and adventure taking over your body as you look at the other person, getting closer and closer. And when you finally touch, lightning rips through your bodies and you're overcome with need and desire, consumed by hunger and wanton lust.

After that night, I never looked at a Ford Mustang the same way again. I'll always remember just how incredible it felt to press cool, wet skin against the warm, metal hood. The simultaneous stimulation of hot and cold senses propels a pleasurable sensation into blinding ecstasy, over and over again. It was an otherworldly euphoric experience that devoured our body and souls. The unquenchable flames of passion would burn us all night until the rising of the morning sun broke the spell that had overtaken us. Senior Ball night was over; it's magic was done.

I was still in a state of bliss when Tamar dropped me off the street near my home. I wanted to take a little walk to enjoy the solitude before the world woke up. I wasn't sure if I was dreaming. It didn't feel real. But I could still smell her perfume after a shower and the stinging on my back was a firm reminder that what happened was real. I fell asleep, worn and exhausted from activities and emotions of the night before, and I slept and dreamt of fire and ice.

When I woke up much later in the afternoon. I found myself staring at the ceiling, half asleep, still deciphering what was real and what was in the realm of dreams. But as I became more awake, the bright sunlight bursting through my window revealed the harsh truth. And I felt sick. I felt terrible. I was feeling a heavy weight in the depth of my chest. I closed my eyes, but I could not hide from the light of the terrible truth. I had done a terrible wrong. I had committed a grave sin. I had become the very thing that I despised the most: A traitor.

I had cursed Thor for forsaking our friendship and stealing Morrigan when he knew that I had feelings for her. And now, I had done the very same thing and betrayed Camulus. I felt so low, so angry and disappointed in myself. How could I have done this? I felt like such a treacherous heel, a hypocrite, a Judas among faithful friends. What's even worse was that I truly enjoyed my time with Tamar, however brief, knowing that we would never ever get a chance to do it again. I was ashamed that I lost control and throughly enjoyed it. I felt so disgusted with myself. I couldn't believe how weak and evil I had become. I felt so awful that day, and it was only Saturday. On Monday, I would have to face these people again, and I wasn't sure if I could. I didn't think that I would have the strength. I had no idea what to do and I felt lost, angry, and sad. What was supposed to be a great ending to a good experience was turning into a bitter, painful time. I wasn't sure if I even knew myself anymore.

But Monday was graduation, and when it came, I had no excuse but to attend. I had to deal my friends one way or another, and I knew that I could never move on in life until I faced my fears. I was the first one to show up. Graduation wouldn't take place until a few hours later. I was soon joined by Zaria. She seemed so chipper and excited. I was just nervous. She told me, "Wow can you believe that we're saying good bye to school and each other?"

I said, "No, it still feels unreal."

Zaria said, "And it's like everyone is breaking up, too, ready to start new things."

I was intrigued, "What do you mean?"

"Well, I tried to call you this weekend, but you weren't answering your phone," that was true. I had been avoiding contact all weekend. She continued, "But Thor and Morrigan broke up."

"What?" I was shocked. They were broken up all ready?

"Yeah," Zaria continued,"Morrigan said it didn't make sense to stay together when they were going to different places. She figured if they made a clean break, they could still be friends and move on."

"Oh," I said. I wasn't sure if what I was feeling was relief or sadness; maybe it was both.

But Zaria went on, "And Camulus and Tamar broke up, too."

Ouch! I felt a painful twinge in my chest. It was guilt, and I was reminded of the horrible thing I had done. Zaria said, "But they said that they weren't ready for a serious relationship or something like that. But they'll still be friends."

"Huh", I said. Then I saw Tamar approaching, and I felt my heart flutter. I didn't know what to say to her when we greeted each other. But I finally managed to muster up the courage and say, "I'm sorry to hear about you and Camulus."

She looked me in the eye and said, "Don't be sorry; it just wasn't meant to be. We've been over for while now. We weren't ready for anything serious," she paused, then spoke softly enough so that only I could hear her, "I think he was in love with someone else."

"Oh," I said, and I dared not speculate who this other person was. And when Camulus arrived, we joked and acted like nothing had happened. I still felt guilty, but I wasn't going to bring up anything to damper the spirit of the day. I would carry my secret shame with me, alone. No one else needed to know. Whatever happened that night is nobody's business.

The rest of our friends started filtering in. The last person I greeted was Morrigan. Her eyes were red and puffy, as if she had been crying recently. When I asked her if she was okay, she said that she would be. When I asked her if it was true what they said about her and Thor breaking up, she confirmed it.

She said, "He was nice; he treated me well, and on some level, I think I'll always love him. But," she paused,"you can't force yourself to love someone, no matter how great they are."

I just nodded. She looked me in the eye and whispered, "Sometimes, you have to experience what you don't want to find out who you really love. Sometimes, you find that they've been there all along."

I didn't know how to take this. Once again, she was confusing me. What exactly was she trying to say? And why was she leaning her head against mine, hugging me so tightly? I felt awkward and conflicted. If she was making a pass, then this was my chance to seize the opportunity and make her mine. But we had run out of time! And would I even take that chance? I mean, she had just broken up with someone else. Not just anyone else, but another close friend. Could I do this? Could I hurt Thor the way he had hurt me, by going for what I want and forsaking our friendship? Did we even have a friendship anymore?

It was just too much for me to handle. It had all ready been a tough few days. I couldn't cope with any more drama. Life was about to get hard as soon as we left these classroom walls. So, I decided then and there that I would not pursue anything with Morrigan. It was just too hard. I wasn't sure what she wanted from me; I wasn't sure if she even knew what she wanted! The only thing I could do now was be her friend. That's the only thing I could handle at the time. Life was complicated all ready; I didn't need any more twists and turns and surprises in my existence. So I kept it at that, and I made sure Morrigan knew that we would be friends, nothing more, nothing less.

As for Thor, he didn't come to our usual gathering place that day. In fact, I didn't see him until a half hour before graduation. He had surrounded himself with his entourage. And though we posed for pictures afterward and congratulated each other, something had change. We could see it in each other's eyes. Our friendship had been dealt a devastating blow, and we weren't sure if it could ever recover; we weren't even sure if we wanted it to recover. The last time I saw him was later that night at a party at one of our friend's house. I had gone out for some fresh air and happened to look up at the second floor. There, on one of the balconies, sat Thor, all by himself. I wasn't sure if I should I approach him or not. I wasn't sure what I wanted from him. An apology? I don't know, but I knew that we had spent too much time in each other's lives to just walk away without saying anything. So I went back in the house and headed up to where he was sitting.

I carefully approached him on the balcony and greeted him, "Hey."

He looked at me, and nodded towards the chair on the other side. I sat down, and we watched our classmates below, running in and out of the house, laughing, dancing, drinking, playing. They seemed so far away from where we were, even though we could hear their voices and the music from the party found its way to the balcony. We sat there for a few minutes more in silence. It felt awkward at first, then it felt comforting. I didn't want the silence to be broken. It seemed right, seemed safe. But it didn't last. Thor spoke first, "I really loved her, you know."

I said, "I know."

He continued, "I still do."

and I replied, "I'm sorry."

And he answered, "So am I." His voice was heavy with sadness, and I could feel that we were both on the verge of tears. I wasn't ready for that. I couldn't handle that. The emotions were getting to be too much. So I said, "I'm going to miss you, man."

He looked at me, and smiled a sad smile, "I'm going to miss you, too, you know?".

I just nodded; then I got up. I went over and held out my hand. He looked at it, then he looked at me. I felt my heart racing. I wasn't sure what I was expecting or hoping for. He grabbed my hand, stood up and we hugged. And when we parted, I could feel my eyes starting to water. I needed to get away. I could tell he was on the verge of crying too. It was like we were mourning the loss of our friendship, and we didn't know where to go from here. We were still so young and immature, but at the time we didn't think so. But we were at a loss as to how to repair the damage, how to regain our trust. The truth was, I wasn't smart enough or wise enough to handle the crisis. If I had been his real true friend, I would've comforted him through his loss. But I wasn't mature enough, and I didn't know any better. All I could think about was running away. It's how I dealt with my problems with my family. So I said shakily, "You take care, man."

And he replied in a voice just as emotionally choked, "You, too, man."

And I walked away, never to see him again. A few days later, I got on a plane and left my hometown, never looking back. The painful memories of friendship lost and betrayal changed me. I wanted to become a better man, a stronger man, and a better friend.

I lost contact with all my friends eventually. It started gradually. Weekly phone calls and letters tapered to monthly contacts; then just holidays. Eventually, we moved so much that we lost contact totally. And for a long time, I didn't speak to any of them. Life was an adventure for me and I was making new friends. But during the quiet periods when I found myself alone on a beach or under the stars at night, I couldn't help but wonder about my friends. I had spent so much time trying to forget about my painful experiences at home, I had buried the good times along with the bad.

But life is full of surprises; the true bond of friendship is one of those pleasant surprises. It started with email. Suddenly, I didn't need an updated address or phone number anymore. Email offered a connection, no matter where we were. I started reaching out to my friends again, and in no time, we started talking again, picking up where we left off. Zaria was the first one I talked to; then Morrigan emailed me; then Camulus and even Tamar. My other friends started contacting me again. Thor sent me an email. And I sent a reply. But that's as far as that went. The truth was, we were still feeling raw emotions, and the wounds we had suffered weren't quite healed yet. I wasn't sure if they'd ever heal.

Meanwhile, Zaria joined the service after college and is an officer in the Air Force. She's been deployed to Iraq twice and is on rotation to Afghanistan next. I keep her in my thoughts and email her at least once a month to check up on her. Camulus opened a successful accounting firm on the West Coast, where he employs a small staff of people. Tamar got married and has children. She and her husband own a car dealership--I didn't ask if they sold Mustangs. Morrigan became a psychologist specializing in adolescents. I figured if anyone understood angsty, confused teenagers, it would be her.

My relationship with Morrigan was getting complicated again. Over the years, we've been taking vacations together. The last time we spent a few days in Las Vegas. We partied, we danced, we gambled, we got drunk. While sharing a bottle of wine on the bed, she confessed her love for me, then kissed me and promptly passed out. I chucked it up to the wine and let her sleep it off in my bed, her head curled up on my shoulder. I didn't bring it up the next morning, pretending nothing had happened. The truth was, I wasn't ready for her. I still had feelings for her, but I wasn't sure if it was right. All I could think about was Thor and how Morrigan broke his heart. As for Thor, the last I heard was that he had gotten a job in gov't after college, working in disaster management. I guess he was following the path his father set out for him, getting involved in gov't then eventually politics.

It's been over ten years since Thor and I last saw each other, much less spoke face to face. It seemed like such a long time ago when were such good friends and had that devastating fall out. And I hadn't thought of him in quite some time, content with the belief that what happened, happened. That's life. We live, we learn, we move on. And I had made peace with that.

That is until my mother's funeral two months ago sent me home. I was so caught up in being there for her that last week and dealing with her funeral afterward. I didn't have time to visit any of my old friends and old haunts back home. I wish I had more time, but things were too intense and too crazy in my family. Nothing's changed, I suppose. Except this time around, I felt more in control, and I could speak my mind freely and walk away without feeling any guilt.

I arrived early at the airport for my departure, once again getting ready to leave my hometown. I had a few hours til my flight arrived. But I didn't mind hanging out at the airport with my nieces and nephews, away from the distractions and drama of home. But if I thought being at the airport prevented any drama, I was wrong. It was my niece who pointed him out. She worked at the same place as he did, at an engineering firm. I guess he eventually followed his own dreams of becoming an engineer. I was proud of him.

And when I turned to where she was pointing, my heart quickened just a little bit when I saw him. There he was, Thor. Still tall; still with a the golden hair, except, it was now parted to the right; not the shaggy golden locks he sported in school. He had gotten older, so had I; we weren't skinny kids anymore. I got up and approached him. His back was towards me; he had a small child in his arms, looking out at the runway. I took a deep breath, tapped him on his shoulder and then stood next to him.

He turned to me, his eyes got wide, his mouth opened, but he didn't say anything.

So I smiled, held out my hand and said, "How's it going, Thor?"

He grabbed my hand, shook it, then reached over for an awkward hug with this small child almost crushed between us. "Dude," he exclaimed, "When did you get back?"

"Two weeks ago," I said. He looked surprised, so I explained, "Family emergency. My mother was ill. Then she passed away. So, I've been pretty busy; haven't had a chance to see anyone."

"I'm sorry to hear about your Mom. I didn't know," he said.

"Thanks. That's all right. She went peacefully," I paused, "I'm leaving tonight."

Thor looked surprised, "All ready?" I could hear a sense of urgency in his voice.

"Yeah," I said, "I wish I could stay longer, but I got to get back home. Besides, I came to do what I needed to do. But I'll definitely be back next year."

"You sure?," he asked,

"Definitely," I said, "I've kind of forgotten that there were important things back here that I needed to come back to."

Thor nodded, smiled. So I asked him, "So, who's this?"

"Ah," he beamed, "This is my son. He's my youngest." I held out my hand and shook his son's tiny hand. The little boy was but two years old.

We spent the next hour catching each other up on our lives. I congratulated him on being an engineer and getting married with two kids. We laughed at some of the stuff we remembered doing back in school; then we talked about old classmates and friends, filling each other in on what we knew. It was an exhilarating feeling, talking to him again. It was like the old days when we used to joke around and laugh. And it felt good.

When the time finally came for me to head towards the departure gate, we finally touched upon the subject that tore us apart all those years ago. He asked me, "Do you still hear from Morrigan?"

She was the one friend we had yet to discuss. So I answered, "Yeah, I still hear from her." Suddenly, the awkwardness returned. I could see the angst returning in both of us. In his eyes, I could see the yearning, the deep, visceral response he was having to the mention of Morrigan. He still loved her, after all these years, he still had feelings for her. And he also exhibited guilt, looking away. So I told him, "She's doing fine, you know."

He looked me in the eye. For the moment, the conflicting emotions were put to rest. I told him, "Look, I'm heading out to my gate, but it was great seeing you again, man. I mean it."

This time, I took his hand and then hugged him. He looked at me and said, "Yeah, it was good seeing you, too. You gonna keep in touch?"

"If you have the same email, then yeah, I'll definitely keep in touch. Otherwise, give me your new contact info."

He said, "It's the same email, man. You have a safe trip, bro."

It was the first time in over ten years that I had heard him refer to me as 'bro', and it felt good. I smiled at him, and headed out towards the departure gate. For the first time in a long time, I felt like maybe, just maybe our friendship had survived, that after all that we've been through, we were still friends.

For two months now, Thor and I have been exchanging weekly emails, catching each other up on what's been going on in life. It's taken a long time to get to this point, where we could talk without getting overwhelmed by guilt and intense emotions. But I feel like we're on our way to recovering our friendship. Except the fragile relationship we've built is about to be tested.

I haven't told Morrigan that Thor had asked about her when I went home two months ago. I wasn't sure if should drag up any hard memories and long buried feelings. But that's not the main problem. Morrigan asked me to go on vacation again this summer. She said she had something important she wanted to tell me in person. I'm not sure what it is, but I can't help but guess. I confess that Morrigan still gets to me, that the feelings I had for her are still there. And if I let myself go after her and follow my heart, then I would be doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. I mean, Thor maybe married now, but he still has feelings for Morrigan. And he hurt me bad when he went after her, knowing that I had feelings for her. Even though it ended badly, he still loves her, and a true friend would respect that and stay away. Friends never let a woman come between them; but were Thor and I really friends? A long time ago, we used to be friends.

Thor sacrificed our friendship for a chance at Morrigan's heart. Would I be able to do the same, and betray our newly reformed friendship for Morrigan's love? I don't know. And that's my problem. I really don't know.

Friday, April 10, 2009

We used to be friends Part 2: Change

Thor and Morrigan had become two of my closest friends. They weren't the best of friends to each other; but they had an understanding and were mostly polite to each other when we shared company. Although, they sniped at each other occasionally. We mostly hung out during the school year. During summer, they took off for vacations, going on sailing adventures or seeing exotic places that the upper class families usually went for holidays. Me, I stayed home and hung out with my neighborhood friends, playing games, camping out, or just going to the beach. We started having bonfires and stayed up late into the night. We took a radio with us to the beach at night and sang and danced under the stars to the songs playing on the FM station.

House music was on the rise. Depeche Mode and New Order moved the masses to the innovative, inspiring beat of electronic music. Madonna and Janet Jackson ruled the airwaves. Hip hop was rumbling in the underground like a volcano that would soon explode across the music landscape. And by the time we started high school, MC Hammer was the biggest musician on the planet. Parachute pants were the trend of the day. Not that I owned any. Still, fashion had changed, and we traded our tight torn jeans for oversized, loose clothing--big T shirts, baseball caps, and baggy jeans barely held up by extra long belts.

And it wasn't just fashion that was changing. Puberty had taken over our bodies. Hormones were let lose and we grew taller, moodier, and hairier! We were feeling intense emotions we had never felt before and the stirrings in our loins frightened and fascinated us with their primal, uncontrollable urges. It was a confusing time; it was an exciting time. Everything felt new and dramatic. We were dealing with deep conflicting issues for the first time, and we didn't have the benefit of experience to temper our reactions. It was a time of many changes.

I was excited that first day of high school. I spotted Thor and he smiled and waved me over. He had gotten taller, and so had I. We were both still skinny kids; his hair was longer; I was sporting a faux hawk. We were generally happy to see each other. We greeted each other enthusiastically and proceeded to catch each other up on how we spent our summers and compared our class schedules. There was a general excitement in the air, and we were caught up in it as well. We met our other friends and soon started laughing again.

A movement at the corner of my eyes caught my attention. I was suddenly captivated by appearance of the longest, smoothest pair of legs I had ever seen. I slowly scanned those legs upwards. My gaze lingered a bit on the tiny white shorts that encased the top of those long, lean thighs. And when those legs started strutting, I moved my eyes up a long torso to see who those legs belonged to. And I was stunned to realize that those legs belonged to Morrigan! Clearly, she had undergone a growth spurt over the summer.

Thor grabbed my shoulder, leaned in and whispered, "You still got a thing for her, huh?"

I replied, "I can't help it; the thing has gotten bigger."

Thor raised an eyebrow, and we chuckled at the realization of the double meaning of what I had said. Thor said, "Stop bragging you perv."

I laughed, "It's not bragging. It's the truth!"

High school was great time of experimentation for me. I had made peace with my father's passing, and it made me realize that life was too short. The summer before high school, I got a real job, with a paycheck and taxes and punch cards! It was my first job, and surviving it changed my perspective. I realized that if I wanted things to happen, I had to take action and make them happen. No one was going to hand me my dreams on a silver platter. I wasn't that lucky. Life is what you make of it. I decided to become more active in school, meet new people, and try out new things. I felt very empowered, that I had some control over my life. At least in school, I could make my own choices and decide what I was going to do that day. I was also starting to take a stand, refusing to do the things I didn't want to do. I was starting to question things, earning a reputation as a smart ass and rebellious kid.

My circle of friends expanded to all types of people--jocks, smart kids, artists, gangsters, and party kids. I felt just as comfortable and at home with my nerd friends as I did with my delinquent buddies. I floated in different circles, and I enjoyed it. I was also speaking up more. Thor brought it to my attention one day over lunch. He said, "Dude, I remember when you were so quiet and kept to yourself. Now you're just all over the place, and out of control."

I laughed. I didn't think I had changed on the inside. I was still the same person, only I was learning to speak my mind and express myself. And while I was busy making friends across the spectrum, Thor had solidified his standings in his circle of upper crust followers. These were the rich kids, some of them were real snobs. In time, he would be the leader of their affluent pack. He was also a part of the jocks circle, full of talented athletes from different backgrounds. But Thor and I still hung out and even played on some of the same teams in high school. We were still close, and we still shared things with each other that we could not tell our other friends. He confided in me his fears of never living up to the great expectations of his family, of never reaching the goals he set for himself. I shared my fear of getting stuck in our small town; I wanted to see the world.

Meanwhile, Morrigan had branched out into the smart circles, the intellectuals and nerds and drama club. She also hung out with the athletes because of her excellent volleyball and tennis skills. In fact, that's why she took to wearing those tiny white short shorts. It was part of her tennis uniform. I had gone jogging one evening and happened to end my run at the park when I heard someone call my name. It was Morrigan. I didn't know she played tennis at this particular park.

She introduced me to one of her tennis buddies. I had seen her before at school, one of the rich, society girls. I didn't really care for her, but she was a member of Morrigan's circle, her close friend. I called her Tamar. Tamar was one of the fashion clones at high school, always wearing the latest trends, vying for queen bee status among the popular girls. I didn't find her particularly interesting, but then I never really made an effort to get to know her. Still, I was polite to her.

Once I learned that Morrigan played tennis at this particular court, I made an effort to run by that park a lot, just so I could see Morrigan and hang out. I also started studying up on tennis, so we'd have something to talk about and I would appear genuinely interested in the game. I didn't want to look like some perv just out there to watch girls in tiny, tight shorts run around, and bounce, and pant as they worked those rackets and whacked those balls. And the funny thing is, I actually became really interested in tennis, and I still follow tennis to this day.

My feelings for Morrigan were conflicted as we grew older. I guess I always knew that I liked her a lot, but it wasn't until I was a 16 that I realized that I might possibly be in love with her. Not that I knew what love was; but it was a strong feeling of attraction that I've never felt before. The only person I told this to was Thor, and he kept it to himself. He wanted to know what I was going to do about it. I told him I wasn't sure. And that was the truth. I wasn't sure how to handle it.

On the one hand, she was one of my closest friends, and we shared an amazing connection. She told me her greatest fears and her biggest hopes. She wanted to be independent and she had great ambition; she wanted to prove that she was just as good, if not better, than her older siblings, whose academic accomplishments her father frequently bragged about. She told me that she trusted me with things she didn't think her other friends would understand. And I liked that I could be honest with her, as she was with me. She didn't hesitate to tell me when I was acting like a total jackass, and I did the same for her. In a way, we were sort of each other's anchor, the one who held the kite string while the other soared to the heavens. I wasn't sure if I could risk ending a great friendship over unrequited love. I didn't think I would be able to face her after making a move and then getting rejected. I didn't think I was brave enough for that.

But on the other hand, we flirted a lot. She enjoyed telling me dirty jokes and we shared a twisted sense of humor. It was a little confusing trying to read her. She liked to lay her head on my shoulder and frequently asked me to massage her shoulders. And if we were sitting on a bench or the grass, she'd put her legs over mine. I suppose that would be normal behavior in any friendship, except, she seemed upset when other girls did the same thing with me. She would give me this dirty disapproving look when she caught me with my arms around another girl. But rather than waste time analyzing the ambivalent nature of our relationship, I decided it was safer not to pursue anything more with Morrigan. I could live with just being friends, and at the time, that was enough.

It's not like I needed Morrigan's approval on the girls I wanted to spend time with. In fact, I rather enjoyed spending time with other girls. It wasn't easy, and I didn't always succeed. But I figured it was much better to take a chance and ask a girl out. Was I nervous? Hell, yeah! I remember my heart racing, sweating, and trying not to sound scared; but I hated feeling regrets and missing out much more than the anxiety of asking a girl out. I found a great way to meet girls was by joining various clubs and activities. Whether it was painting a mural or planting trees or singing in a choir, there was always time to meet new girls and hang out with the ones I liked. But the best place for me to approach girls was the dance floor. Dances were a great way to spend a short time with various girls and try to leave a good impression. I enjoyed dancing, and a lot of girls liked to dance, so it was a win win situation for me.

I was earning a reputation as an all round good, fun guy, quite different from the quiet, loner image I had in junior high school. But my relationship with Thor was also changing. We had always had this friendly rivalry that started when we first raced each other back in junior high school. Back then, it was all in good fun. But in high school, our friendly competition was elevated by higher stakes and more dangerous games.

We weren't just competing on the tracks and fields of sports; we expanded into academic and social arenas as well. Thor was gifted in math; he wanted to be an engineer. I had to work harder and longer to understand concepts that came so easy to him. But I still kicked ass in science and classes that required writing papers. I became so good at the written word that I found myself ghost writing papers for other students, even upper classmen. I got paid well for doing it, and that money paid for my recreational activities.

Thor and I also started competing for girls. It started out innocently enough, when we both started talking to the same girl. Neither of us wanted to back off. Then we went after the standouts, the pack leaders, and most desirable girls in school. It wasn't anything serious; we just wanted to take them out once or have them as a date to a school dance. He had his family reputation and golden boy image to rely on; I had to use my charms and skills to compete. We were pretty much even, until it came to the dance floor. Thor liked to play it cool and sit on the sidelines, surrounded by his adoring entourage; I liked to get out on the dance floor and get my groove on. I had an advantage. And by the end of my sophomore year, I had girls asking me to dance, because they knew I would get out on the dance floor with them, slow song, fast song, any song.

It wasn't all fun in high school. I mean, I do remember some tough experiences. But I just felt so much more in control of my own life in school. However tough my home situation was, in school, I felt free; I knew that one way or another, I was getting out of my small town to see the world. But while I was busy trying to break out, Thor was getting boxed in. If I had spent more time with him, I might've seen the signs. But by the time I was an upper classman, I started dropping out of school teams. They were cutting into my socializing time. I couldn't very well go to after school parties or enjoy other activities if I had to stay for practice. When I was a junior, the only team I still played on was track and field, because the season was shorter, and I still enjoyed running. And when the season was over, I didn't join any more teams. So, my interaction with Thor was cut to just a few classes we still shared and the occasional lunch, when I was in school and not cutting class with a different crew.

I thought we were still close, but I was blind to the storm looming on the horizon. And by the last semester of our senior year, that storm would devastate the very foundations of the friendships and trust I've built over the years. While I was busy planning my escape into the big world, Thor was feeling trapped. I had nothing, only dreams and hopes and sheer will power to carry me forward. Thor had everything. His future had all ready been planned and laid out by his family. He would go to a top privileged college and he would get a job in government, a career in politics, like his father, and his forefathers before him. His dreams of being an engineer were dismissed and discouraged by his father. Though I tried to encourage him to follow his dreams, he couldn't imagine going against his family. He felt he had an obligation to keep up the family name and reputation. I guess he felt helpless, like he had no say in his future. Maybe that's why he did what he did. I don't think he meant to hurt anyone; he just wanted to make a choice on his own, to go after something he wanted, something that was important to him. Of course, back then, I didn't see it that way.

But Thor wasn't the only one having a personal crisis. A lot of us did. Sure, I knew I wanted to go away to far away places, but I was sad to realize that I was running away from my family, because it just hurt to be around them. I wished my family was close and supportive, but I realized that we were just too different and too selfish to ever put aside our differences and work things out. I was sad and angry that my poor mother was cursed with such ungrateful, horrible children. I couldn't change my family; but I didn't have to let them hurt me anymore with their petty feuds and manipulations. I was leaving them all behind, and I had my mother's blessing and encouragement to go forth and seek out my own fortunes.

Morrigan was starting to doubt her strength, wondering if she would ever get out from the shadow of her older siblings, whose academic feats were near legend in her family. She wasn't sure if she would ever be independent; her goal was to be free of her family, to not have to rely on them to make it in life. That would set her apart from her siblings. She had her hopes tied up in getting a scholarship to pay for college. But towards the end of our last year in school, she confided her fear that maybe she wasn't strong enough. She admitted that despite her goal of being independent, she felt lonely. She avoided getting into serious involvement with anyone because she was focused on getting ahead; she didn't want to have to rely on anyone but herself. There was less chance of getting hurt if the only person you could count on was yourself. But she worried now that she was weak, because she did want to have someone to rely on. I could only hold her and tell her that she could always count on me, that I would always be there for her. She just sighed and told me that she was glad to have me in her life as a true friend.

A friend, huh? I thought to myself. And as I held her, I made up my mind to take a chance. It was our last year in school, and in a short while, we would go our separate ways, maybe to never see each other again. I decided to just comfort her for today. Tomorrow, I would take the plunge and ask her to the Senior Ball. I was going to step out of the friend zone and risk it all for a chance at love. In that moment, I decided that if I wanted her, I needed to ask her to be mine, and risk losing her forever. And when I saw Thor later, I told him of my plans. He gave me a strange look, asked me if I was ready to deal with the consequences, good or bad. There was no turning back, he said. Once you leave the friend zone, you can never go back. I told him I was ready. He wished me luck. And I went home, in a daze, knowing that tomorrow would be the day my life would change.

And my life would definitely change, except not in the way I envisioned. I had arrived early to school, getting ready to ask Morrigan as soon as I was alone with her, before classes started. But the first person I saw was Zaria, and she seemed to need a friend. Zaria was another close friend of mine. I had known her since junior high school as well. And while she was considered a popular girl, she was genuinely a friendly person. Too friendly, I suppose. She was a smart girl who wore her heart on her sleeves and had a thing for bad boys. Not surprising, seeing as she was one of the friends I used to skip school with. We'd eat breakfast at school, then catch a ride to a party off campus or visit another school to crash their dance. Sometimes we came back for lunch and class. Other times, we just went to the beach to hang out with other people.

When we were sophomores, Zaria fell for Aphophis, a senior who had a bad boy image. I didn't like the guy. And it wasn't because he was older, but he just seemed shady to me. He was a pastor's son, and he drove a nice car. But he had a reputation for cheating on girls, and I thought Zaria was too good for him. But Zaria didn't want to listen. She was in love and she couldn't see the jerk for who he really was. Even when he dumped her once for another girl, she still took him back. When we heard rumors that Apophis had gotten the girl pregnant, Zaria reasoned that he had changed and it wasn't his child. But that morning when I saw her, she finally admitted the truth. Her eyes were red and swollen, as if she had cried all night. She told me that she found out from her sister, that Apophis had gotten married over the weekend, to the girl who was carrying his baby.

I tried to comfort her. She broke down and cried. She felt like such a fool. Then she said that she felt like an idiot, because Aphophis had called her just a few days before to confirm that he would take her to the Senior Ball. But she didn't want him in her life anymore. Now she had a dress but she didn't have a date. She didn't want to embarrass herself and show up at the Ball alone. I could see my plans for asking Morrigan out were slipping away. And I sighed. I had no choice. I needed to be there for Zaria, help her through this. So I told her that I would be her date, that I would gladly go with her, because together, we'd have a great time. We always did when we got together. And that made her feel a little bit better, to know that I wasn't there to judge her and tell her, I told you so. I was a shoulder she could cry on, someone to hold her, to help her get through the tough times. That's what friends do for each other. And she was one of my closest friends. I trusted her and leaned on her when I needed help in the past. Now it was my turn to be there for her.

I didn't get a chance to see Morrigan until lunch. When I got to our usual hangout, I saw Morrigan and Tamar excitedly sharing some news with Zaria and our other friends. I had gotten used to having Tamar around. She and Morrigan were close, though I still thought Tamar was high maintenance and superficial, clueless. As I greeted them all and sat down, Morrigan was smiling and excited. I thought it was good to see her so happy, and I couldn't wait to see what could've caused her so much excitement.

I asked her, "What's up? You seem very happy about something."

Morrigan just giggled, and Tamar said, "Oh, you'll never believe what happened in Calculus. Tell him Morrigan!"

Morrigan had a glint in her eyes and smiled and said, "Thor asked me to the Senior Ball, and I said yes!"

Immediately a chorus of aaaahhs and clapping broke out from our small crowd. But the sounds of cheering and laughing faded to silence in my head. I could only hear my heart beating, I wasn't sure if I was still breathing. I thought, no, this must be some dream. I must've misheard her. There was no way this could be happening. Thor would never ask Morrigan out! He'd never do it! He couldn't, now, could he? I looked at Morrigan, who was still giddy, laughing, until her eyes connected with mine. She seemed confused, concerned, and asked me if I was all right? And that's when I realized that I had been holding my breath. I took a deep breath, put on a smile and said, "Yeah, I'm all right," and I forced out, "I'm so happy for you."

But I wasn't happy for her. I wasn't sure what I was feeling, except that it felt unreal. I excused myself to say that I had something I needed to do, and I walked away before they could ask me any questions. I could hear their laughter and excited chatter about the Thor and Morrigan getting together as I walked away. I needed to get away. I felt a pain in my chest, like someone had suckered punch me hard. I didn't know where I was going, only I needed space, I needed to be alone, away from the prying eyes and chipper chatters. I suddenly found myself in the library, deep in the sections that no one bothered to visit. It was lunch time, even the nerds had to eat. I was all alone. I found a table, dropped my backpack, and I slumped into the seat. I folded my arms on the table and laid my head down on them. I closed my eyes and let out a deep painful sigh. My world had come crashing down. And I wasn't sure how I was going to live through all of this, or if I wanted to live after all.

I didn't know how long I laid there in silence, my mind had shutdown from the influx of intense emotions that threatened to take over my body. I was barely maintaining control. I was afraid that I had lost my mind; I was afraid that I was going to cry. It was just too much to deal with. I had lost all sense of time; I could only focus on breathing. I had shut away all other noise and thoughts. And as I laid there alone, it felt like I was falling, everything had come undone. Darkness had overtaken me, and I wasn't sure if I was going to get out, or if I even wanted to get out.

I didn't hear him come in or sit down; but I knew he had come. I didn't know how he found me, but he did. I didn't know how long we sat in silence. Time had become irrelevant. For now, we were at a loss at what to say to each other. The silence was welcomed. If I could've stopped time, I would've frozen it right then, just so I wouldn't have to hear his voice. I thought that it would hurt too much to hear him speak. My best friend, my closest friend, the guy who I thought of as a brother had betrayed me. And I was afraid. I was afraid that hearing his voice would unleash a rage in me that I would not be able to control.

But I couldn't control time, so Thor finally spoke, "I wanted to tell you first," he said softly, unsure, as if he was afraid, "I wanted to ask you first, if I could."

I suddenly felt an anger building up in me, but I bit my lower lip and kept silent. Thor continued, "But I heard in first period that you had asked out Zaria instead of Morrigan. So I went ahead and asked Morrigan if she'd go with me to the Ball."

I could feel my body tensing up and my breathing was starting to get rapid. I kept my head down and tried to focus on taking deep breaths. Thor was quiet for a little while before he continued again in a low voice, unsure, and guilt ridden, "I want you to know that I never meant to hurt you, bro."

I tensed again when I heard him say that. I suddenly wanted to laugh at the absurdity of it all. This had to be some cosmic joke. Only, it wasn't so much funny as it was excruciating. Thor continued as if he was making a confession, agonizing over his words, "I'm sorry if I've hurt you, but there's something I have to tell you. Something I've wanted to tell you for a long time but I've been so afraid of what you might say."

I held my breath, waiting for what he was going to reveal. Thor continued, "I didn't know how to tell you this," he paused, "But I've been in love with Morrigan since the first day I saw her back in 6th grade. Only, you talked to her first; you said you liked her first; and I didn't know what to do."

I was stunned by the revelation. Thor had been in love with Morrigan for as long as I have! But he had kept his feelings about her a secret, all while listening to me carry on about my own feelings for her. He went on to say, "I was afraid to tell you how I felt about her, because I didn't want to lose you as a friend. You're my best friend. And I've always been jealous of how close you were to Morrigan," he paused,"I've always envied you. You have everything, everything that I've ever wanted."

I was confused, what exactly did I have? I wasn't rich; I didn't have any political connections. My family wasn't going to pay for any top private college! I certainly didn't live the high life of the affluent. But Thor continued, "You're so fearless; you know what you want and you go for it. You've always done what you wanted, no matter what anyone else said," he paused, "I just wanted to be like that, even for just one moment. And I want Morrigan more than anything else! I took a chance, and she said yes. I love her, you know. I've never felt this way about anyone before. I just couldn't keep it to myself anymore."

We sat in silence some more. I didn't know what to say. This was all too much to digest. Thor got up and left. I still sat at the desk with my head buried in my arms. When the bell finally rang to signal the end of lunch, I got up from that desk and left school. It was all too much for me to handle. The rest of the week, Zaria and I kept cutting school to go to parties and hang out at the beach. I couldn't face Morrigan or Thor. It was just too painful for me. I ignored their phone calls and avoided our usual hangouts. I changed my running route just to avoid the park where Morrigan played tennis. I felt confused and angry and sad and guilty at the same time. I didn't know how I should feel. I was mad at them, because I did feel betrayed. I was mad at myself for not stepping up sooner. I was mad at myself for feeling anger towards Morrigan and Thor when they seemed so happy together. And I felt guilty for thinking angry thoughts about them. And I was sad because I was mourning the loss of two of my closest friends. I felt so alone, because I had no one to talk to. It was the end of the world, and I didn't know how I was going to survive it.

I thought the worst had happened, that I had hit rock bottom. But I was wrong. Come the night of the dance, we would all make choices that would change the rest of our lives and relationships forever.