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Table of Contents 1. Fiction: "Going to meet the girl of my dreams" (4-25) 2. Nonfiction: "Missing my best friend" (26-27) 3. Poem 1: "Bookshelf of Life" (28) 4. Poem 2: "Like father like son?" (29) 5. Poem 3: "A poem about breakups" (30) 6. A note from the author. (31) 7. Rough Drafts


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(32-59)


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Going to meet the “girl of my dreams”

Chapter 1

It was during a most delightfully depressing time that my two best friends and I went on a trip upstate to find the “girl of my dreams.” The most recent and unknowing recipient of my whole heart and soul had rekindled a long distance texting relationship that had consumed us as middle schoolers looking for anyone to call a “girlfriend” or “boyfriend.” So two of my friends and I decided to make the three-hour drive to Fort Wayne to see her. I was just starting up my second year of college, coming off a drug infused, party filled, yet rather boring summer. As the school year started, I was once again taken over with a fear of loneliness. A feeling that I am so used to, I am almost lonely without it. There’s nothing like walking around a campus and seeing pretty blondes with perfect smiles and all-knowing brunettes with eyes that peer deep into you on every sidewalk and knowing you’re probably going to die alone. Ahh, the girls in the yoga pants and oversized sweatshirts mocking you with comfortability. Some people call it self-esteem, but that makes no difference to me. As I waded through the pool of gorgeous girls day in and day out, I tried to convince myself that I wasn’t a loser. I bragged to myself, reiterating that I had not one, but two female friends in my life that I could talk to whenever. With my only real hope being that I could catch them in a moment of drunken vulnerability and play the charming hero I was so uncertain I knew how to play and potentially become something more than friends.


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I’m not an ugly guy, I am a self-conscious and self-hating guy. I have red hair, which isn’t always a good thing, but I think I pull it off. I have a strong jaw, stubbled with little red hairs that I rarely shave, because they grow so slowly and sporadically that you have to actually look for them to find them. My hair is longer than most. It curls naturally at the ends and lays fairly gracefully across my forehead. I have an average build. I’m a little short, but all my friends are short, so I don’t stand out too much. Once, when we were on Molly, my friend Spencer told me that I was “hot” and all my other friends agreed. Molly makes you become so close with people that you can tell them anything, and you’re also willing to tell them anything to make them happy. Regardless of what Spencer really meant, that moment is one of the best in my life. I go back to it constantly for reassurance. The compliment meant so much, because Spencer is as beautiful as a young Dorian Grey, inside and out. Spencer is chiseled like a modern day Adonis and looks good no matter what he is doing, except talking to girls. He has perfectly styled brown hair and sincere eyes that even seem to be gentle when he is joking around at your own expense. Spencer was raised Jehovah’s Witness by his very devout and strict single mother. Spencer only started hanging out, outside of school, when he agreed to let us sneak him out in the middle of the night during sophomore year of high school. Spencer, my brother Kyle, my friend Sean, white trash Bell Watkins and I snuck into my grandmother’s house while she was away at my aunt’s for the night. We got drunk on cheap vodka, lemonade and independence.

Chapter 2


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I was trying to make my thick red hair stay in place as I added a slight bit of gel to my mane, something I rarely do. My dad would have called me a fag for it if he saw me—at least under his breath. He had become more accepting of modern styles and culture through force and over-exposure but still wasn’t comfortable with how “metro-sexual” his sons had become. Kyle and I never gave a damn about what our father old farmer Jack Paradise thought. He’s more judgmental than I am, and if there is one thing a judgmental person hates, it’s another judgmental person. Out of nowhere my best friend Will came walking in, careless as always, not noticing a thing and caring about less. “Gonna be ready to go soon Reub?” “Yeah, I just gotta finish packing, I’m ready to get so shit faced.” I say without looking at him, still fixated on myself in the mirror, like always. I can’t help but look at myself in the mirror whenever possible. I go to the bathroom constantly just to check myself out, make sure I’m not wearing one of my stupid faces. “Right on. You think Spence will be ready when we get there to pick him up?” He asked digging through my cabinets looking for junk food. If Will Flemmens is at your house, you are feeding him. He has the smallest frame of all my friends, weighing in at under 130 lbs. and around 5’7 on a good day. I think he just eats so much because he has the biggest personality in the group, and like all living things, personalities have to eat. Will is crude, never failing to tell an inappropriate joke at a bad time. He would gladly get drunk and tell anyone about how we accidentally got high on meth a few years ago, and how we all said we enjoyed it and would do it again! He had no filter, he would say the “N” word within earshot of a black person walking by, he would make fun of a retarded person in public. Because of this, he is either loved or


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hated by everyone that knows him without exception. I love the son of a bitch. Sure he owes me money, he owes everyone money, but what people don’t understand about Will is that he lives on the edge, not because he is a thrill seeker, but because he likes to watch other people who think he is. The plan was for Will and I to meet at my house around 4 o’clock and take my car to Greenwood, 30 minutes away from my house, to pick up Spencer at his apartment. After we loaded up Spencer and his overnight sack, we would hit the road, taking 465 to I-69N straight to the promised land of Fort Wayne. Spence and Will were tagging along for multiple reasons, all with varying degrees of responsibility for their decision to come. Neither of them had ever been to Fort Wayne, one of the largest cities in Indiana, an oxymoron to some, but a draw to country boys like ourselves (I had been once for a funeral when I was 10 or 11). They were also both very intrigued when I told them I intended on hitting a few of the finer watering holes in the city. Not being 21 but having a fake ID means you’re 21, at least that’s how I’ve always taken it. Will was the only one over 21, but he was not the only one looking forward to hitting the bars, that was the main reason we all went.

Chapter 3

As I mentioned earlier, I also went to meet a girl, a girl named Mandy. Our “relationship” started how any fling starts these days I suppose, one of us likes another’s picture on Facebook. Pretty soon we were liking everything each other posted, whether relevant, or funny, or sad. If it came from her, I did all I could in the social media world, short of looking like a creep/rapist, I liked it. Pretty soon we started snapchatting back and forth,


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she was way prettier than I could have hoped for. I must have looked through all of her pictures a million times. She was so cute. So perfect in how she didn’t smile on purpose, her hair flowing in the wind like a supermodel on some beach in the south of France, Mediterranean skin so flawless, she was like a diamond of humanity. So I tried my best to be interesting. I told her of my secret dreams to write poetry and prose, how I reflected my horribly boring life and struggles into my work with eloquence like The Bard himself. She could have said anything and I would have been satisfied, I was satisfied with the simple fact that she replied. I grew crazy over the thought of her thinking of me. I thought of her constantly, without end, and to think she thought of me just once or twice a day, gave me a feeling so deep inside it rattled my spine. It was addicting, it was a high. She actually seemed interested in me and my interests, she was not a reader, she didn’t know who Wilde, Joyce or Proust were, but she loved that I did. This girl was everything to me. There are two things in life I love, looking smart and feeling adored, and she could do no wrong. In the car on the way to Spence’s, Will and I shared a joint and polluted the music I was playing with useless conversation. The one thing that brought us together like no other, was stoned conversation. There are some people I dread the thought of having lengthy conversations with, like my parents or teachers. I feel like saying less makes my words more valuable, so now I say nothing at all without being prodded by questions. One day I will state my opinion on something and for the first time, they will listen. But with some people, like Will, I am fascinated by their every thought and cherish our every shared word.


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“Would you rather have one year of immunity from the law or one year of being able to fly?” I asked, his answer means something to me. I think it’s because when I ask him these hypothetical questions, he actually listens and considers what he says before he just blurts something out. Most people just blurt things out, without really caring what they said. “Immunity from the law of kaworse” he said in his southern Indiana accent that only pokes out from time to time. “I could do anything, and be as rich as I wanted to” he added. What he would do, would be get high on everything under the sun and indulge in every devious pleasure known to man, this we had in common. I liked hanging out with Will, he joked around all day, and made me feel more at ease. I have a tendency to take things too seriously sometimes, I only goof around with things that matter the most. We pulled up to Spencer’s apartment, high and on-time, the way things should be done. Oscar Wilde said, “Punctuality is a theft of time.” but as someone who feels like they are always waiting on the world around them, I do my best to be on time and do my part in keeping this world going. If it weren’t for people like me, who knows how far back in this world we would be. We wait for Spence to get his things together, he lackadaisically packed his bag, carefully examining which clothes he would and would not bring, he could not have packed more thoroughly for an overnight trip.

Chapter 4

As we drove, I told the boys of how Mandy and I had known each other before, lying about actually having met before. I didn’t want them to know that I had only texted this


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girl and that I had only seen her face in pictures. I want to be loved by someone else so much, my friends know my obsession but not the extent to how it controls me. I want love, and I didn’t want to tell them the truth and have them ruin it for me. I knew she wasn’t a catfish, so there was no real reason for me to be truthful with them. I didn’t want to sound like a loser, these guys look up to me, at least I really hope they do. We smoked more weed and drove along the interstate like the only car for miles, without a care in the world. We decided that I would meet up with Mandy on my own after we got to our hotel, Will and Spence would go ahead and hit the first of many bars on their own, they couldn’t wait to start drinking. I would meet up with them after a couple hours to drink in the night. I was so excited, I stayed up all night playing out what I would say to Mandy as she opened the door to her apartment and saw me standing there for the first time. I planned on getting flowers to bring for her, a cheesy move, but I hoped she would think it was sweet. There was only one problem, she hadn’t texted me back that day, I must have checked my phone a million times on the way, each text not from her was of no bother to me, it only annoyed me that it wasn’t her on the other end of the line. What was I going to tell my friends? They expected me to go out and meet up with this girl, how lame was I going to look when we get there after our 3-hour drive, and she’s not there? “Mandy is on her way home from her lake house and won’t be back until tonight, she is just going to meet us at the bar” I said without a particle of truth. The guys didn’t say anything other than “cool beans”, but I felt their suspicion like a cold draft moving in from a creak in the door all the way to my toes in my shoes and the hairs on my neck simultaneously. I didn’t know if they believed anything I said anymore,


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especially when it came to the fairer sex. I have a decent track record, some very pretty girls under my belt, but I have also embellished my exploits from time to time. I am guilty of making up dates with fake or sometimes real girls, to make myself sound better. I am sure I lie to convince myself that I am not the piece of shit I see when I look in the mirror, and they are merely caught in the crossfire. That’s why this was such a tough situation for me, this was a REAL girl and a REAL date, we had planned it a couple weeks in advance. When I first brought it up, Mandy couldn’t believe I was willing to drive three hours to meet her, smoke a joint and watch television on her couch. I couldn’t believe she was so close, “they are never that close” I thought. I have big dreams of sleeping snuggled next to someone, someone whose everyday actions blow me away with jubilation. I had been close before, in high school I had a girlfriend I was infatuated with. Unfortunately, she broke my heart, in a way that I’m not sure if it ever correctly healed. I have many enemies, being so cynical and off-the-rails almost guarantees them, but I wouldn’t wish watching the love of your life slipping away with some college frat-boy during a party on the worst of them. I didn’t see them have sex, but I saw the worst part. The courting, the way she fell acceptingly into his grasp as they danced. Not caring I was there, out of her sight. I didn’t stop her, I knew it was useless, I saw the way she looked at him, she would never look at me the same way and I knew it. That experience left me in the worst shape of my life, knowing how love felt, how it influenced everything I did and wanted. I didn’t leave my bed for three days, I cried like a child, weeping for my loss and the pain in my heart. Ever since, I have been chasing a high like a ragged fiend living on the streets of life, a love high. I want what I thought we had, I just want to feel it with someone else.


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Chapter 5

As we got closer to Fort Wayne, Will started searching “Fort Wayne strip clubs” on Google. It was settled that the last stop on our manly night, would fittingly be a gentleman’s club. We coasted along the interstate, singing our hearts out, wearing out the strings on our air guitars like madmen. Punk rock is the most intoxicating thing I have ever come across. Acid will make me stare at the wall in amazement, noticing the aura of every piece, every bump made by the paint brush raising up like the Rockies. Xanax will make me act like a jackass in Denny’s, it will make me eat the food left at the neighboring table by the prior guests and steal the measly $2 tip they left for the toothless waitress with unwashed hair. Xanax will even make me forget I did all those things, and gives me after it is all said and done, an entertaining story starring none other than yours truly to my complete surprise. Punk rock however, moves me spiritually. Punk rock makes me shed tears, punch walls and jump around my room like I just hit a buzzer beater in game seven. Nothing understands me like punk rock, it knows how I fail miserably with girl after girl, how I can’t tell my parents I want to move out so I can sleep in and get high whenever I want. Punk rock knows how I don’t fit in, even when I seem to. “My band covered this song during our last show” says Spencer, not braggingly, he never brags. “It went over pretty well dude; I think we’re about to make some T-shirts finally”. Spence is so cool, he can play multiple instruments, sing with perfect pitch and most importantly, he looks like a rock-star doing it. “This song is great dude, it’s so honest” I said back to him.


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The song was Gum, by the English band Moose Blood. Music brought us all together. The only thing that made us closer was getting fucked up, but that was rarely done in silence. “My parents told me that if I stop smoking I can move back in” Will said after some time without conversation. “Are you gonna do it?” I asked laughingly, knowing the answer to come. “I’m gonna try to convince them I did” he says chuckling, “I’m not allowed to stay at LuAnn’s anymore, her dad thinks I stole all of his hydrocodone” he said. “So where have you been crashing bro?” Spence asked him in a concerned voice. “I’ve been sleeping in the park most nights. It sucks.” Will answered. Spence felt sorry for him, I felt sorry for myself that he had a girlfriend and I didn’t. In my opinion, he was better off than I. He had to face the elements on a nightly basis, but I had to deal with the desolate climate that hungover my room, I had to stay in my selfdegrading mind, a much colder place than the park on a cool night.

Chapter 6

When we got to the hotel, we changed into the finest clothes we had, we had decided to go out on the town in style. I wore tight maroon pants that made my legs, especially my calves, look far more appealing and toned than they actually are. I put on a white button up shirt, that I tucked in under a brown belt to match my stylish brown wingtips. Over it all, I threw I silver blazer, the cherry on top of my sundae of an outfit. We all looked like married men on a bro-trip in Vegas, ready to take on the world, one drink at a time. We decided to leave the weed behind in the hotel, we didn’t want to risk the Uber causing a


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fit and throwing us out or “calling the party poopers on us” as Will always says. Our first stop was across the road from our hotel, no ride was needed. As we entered the bar, over dressed and overly eager, we caught a glance from every dude, chick, geezer and employee in the place. We looked good, and knew it. We sat down at a table, it was only 8 p.m. The establishment was also a family grille during the day, so we had to tell the insecure, chubby white waitress we were only there to drink. We started out with a round of beers, mine a Blue Moon, a delicious brew that is set over the top when a slice of orange is dropped into the mug, hinting the hops with a citrus aroma and taste that pairs symbiotically with the drink. We sat there, reminiscing over past parties and times we had almost gotten caught by the law or our parents. “Dude remember when you fought that professional boxer?? That has to be the dumbest thing I have ever seen anyone do! You fucking idiot!” Will yelled at me, he’s never quiet. Of course I remembered, it was one of our favorite stories. “Dude, that’s not a bad as Travis trying to hook up with D-Ray that night! He says he was just talking to her, but I could see he was trying to mount that big girl like a horse!” Spence added in, he never let that part slide, especially when Travis was with us. “He denies it, but I saw the way he looked at her in his drunken state and he was not trying to keep it PG! He was gonna bang that big gurl on the couch, damn thing probably couldn’t have taken it!” he said, barely audible because he was laughing so much. “Are you talking about her or the couch?” Will chimed in instantly. We all let off a roar of laughter, it filled the room, drowning out every other conversation taking place in the bar.


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As we sat there having fun, talking about the good old days and ordering the night’s special of Captain and Coke a few times over, I couldn’t help but keep checking my phone. I was glad we were having such a good time, because that meant they didn’t ask me about Mandy. As it grew later, I realized that I was not going to meet my enchantress, not that night, all I could do now was hope I didn’t make too much of an ass out of myself when I inevitably texted her later that night, drunk out of my mind, horny and vulnerable, a three-part recipe for regret.

Chapter 7

We left the first bar after a few rounds of pool, everyone there was so miserably boring, they all cared too much for their perfect little lives to live like we were. Our second stop was at a hole in the wall biker bar. We had to Uber to this venue with an Indian college student who didn’t do much drinking, he didn’t seem to do much of anything but drive people around to the places he never goes himself. At the biker bar, sat three regulars drinking in the Fort Wayne night as they most likely did every night. Other than the ordinary gents, there was a plus sized black bartender, who was sweet as an old lady who rarely gets visitors at her nursing home, but undeniably bored with her routine. We sat at the bar among the loyal customers and ordered three of the night’s specials, a $4 pitcher of beer, one for each of us. It was at this bar that we undoubtedly, got hammered. We sat down in between the guys on a corner of the bar, myself on the far left, sitting next to the oldest and most beat of the bunch. Will sat in the middle, with Spence on his right and the other two guys on his right. The old man was white, overweight, had on a stained T-shirt that he probably wore twice a week and a fishing


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hat. He sang along to the country songs that he played on the jukebox and drank his beer with a heavy hand. I can’t remember his name. However, I remember him telling Will and me, who was getting in on both my conversation with the old drunk and Spencer’s conversation with the other two guys, it several times. “My name is Reuben Paradise” I told him firmly, trying to not seem like the twenty-year-old I really was, “and this is Will Flemmens and Spence Mitchell” I added, introducing my drunken friends. The old man turned out to be a delight, he was like an old water pump, what you worked for was what you got, no filter at all. He told us about how he had gone to see Bruce Springsteen 27 times in concert, and how he drove a truck in his younger days and had been all over the state. The beat old man told us about how he still got it on with his wife, he assured us that he “licked her like a mixing bowl” and she returned the favor, he was a riot. Spence spent his time talking with the other guys, one fat and the other not as fat, about the best strip clubs in town. It had become clear that our original plan to hit seven or eight different places was not going to work out, especially if we continued to order so much to drink at each place. We decided we would only go to one strip club, after we left the biker bar, and then would call it a night. As we drank and talked about football and politics and country music, the worst kind of music man has ever made, I started to forget about Mandy. I couldn’t wallow in my disappointment with such a racket going on around me. Will ordered us shots of Hennessy, and one for the lonely barkeep, who was really enjoying the change of place we brought to the sorry bar. Within five minutes, Will did another shot of peppermint vodka with the bartender, Spence and I needed a minute to catch our stomachs before we ruined a good night with public vomiting. As we talked, the old man showed us what he had been carrying in his pocket,


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a bag of marijuana, just waiting to be smoked. The bartender couldn’t care less about the drugs in her place of work and turned a blind eye to our lawbreaking. The old man promised to smoke a joint with us, if we went and bought papers from the gas station about a half of a mile away. Will was out of his seat before the guy could finish his sentence. He was through the door dragging Spence down the road with him immediately while I stayed and watched our beers. When they got back, the old man kept his promise and rolled up a rather healthy looking joint while we waited anxiously by the bar. We had smoked earlier but our high was gone. We were now drunk, but not high and drunk, so there wasn’t any hesitation from a one of us, we needed to smoke. As the old man was in the bathroom, rolling up our treat, a few more people walked in and sat down at the bar. A couple in their 40’s walked in and sat down away from the action, and kept to themselves the whole time. Behind them came a beat up, out of her prime, but still pretty blonde woman in tight jeans that exemplified her natural curves and black shirt that made her average breasts pop. I was drunk and not at my best when it comes to judging beauty, but trust me, she was a milf.

Chapter 8

The blonde was already drunk as she entered the bar, sitting down a few seats to the left of where the old beat man was sitting at the bar. As she walked in, we were walking out to the back patio to smoke the joint our new friend had just rolled for us. Out on the patio, we lit up the bud and started taking selfies like 14-year-old girls, making sure to get our new friend in as many of them as possible. As though the night would have been


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forever forgotten if not perfectly documented by blurry pictures of forced faces. The bartender was also out on the patio, smoking a cigarette, leaving the bar unattended to my best guess. We asked her if she wanted to smoke the joint with us, ignoring that we were invited ourselves to partake and it was not really our weed to be sharing. She thankfully declined saying she didn’t smoke, something I never quite understand, how does one not enjoy getting high? Life is so dreadful without it. As we are passing around the joint, the modern day olive branch, becoming even better acquainted with the beat old man, I send my first drunk text to Mandy. I tell her I am disappointed, but I don’t want to turn her off of me for good if she isn’t already, so like the zero I am, I also take some of the fault. I apologize. How insane? I am pathetic. Our time on the patio is cut short when Spencer drops the half smoked joint in between the cracks of the wooden planks of the deck, losing the doobie for good. We are all too drunk to care, so we go back inside and greet the new patrons. Back in the bar, the blonde milf had become pretty interested in Will and I. Making a point talk to us and touch us as much as possible. I don’t pretend to know what women want, or how to read their every move, but this woman was being obvious in her actions, she was flirting. She was using any excuse to touch our faces, shoulders or blazers. I knew it was a good idea to dress up, I thought to myself gleefully. At one point while Will had made his way to the bathroom and Spencer was chatting up his friends on the other side of the bar from before, she told me I was the cutest thing she had ever seen. She was drunk and horny, and so was I. I can only assume she was saying the same things to Will when I left to go take a piss or when I snuck outside with the stealth of a ninja to go puke on the bushes. There came a point however, when the flirtatious charade was


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up, her boyfriend walked into the bar. The milf was probably around 45-50 years old, her boyfriend however was 23. Spencer and I noticed the boyfriend, and like everyone else in the bar, we struck up conversation with him. It was at this point the milf told us she was 29, which was about as believable as Ruth Bader Ginsburg telling you she is 40. Will had joined us now also, however he did not pick up on the fact that the new gentleman in the conversation was with the blonde, and that she had changed her attitude dramatically. Will went on flirting, even inviting the blonde back to our hotel room! Her boyfriend was understanding at first, Will was very drunk and barely had his eyes opened as he talked. As though he was just spouting lines he had rehearsed before. I tried to make Will understand the situation without having to pull him aside by asking the couple, “So how long have you guys been together?” “We’ve been together about 2 months” she said, still friendly but definitely no longer flirty. At this point Will leaned over and told me he was “trying to fuck” seeming to either not comprehend or not care that they were actually together. I told Spencer to go ahead and order the Uber. We were about to get in some trouble, I could feel it. I went back to talking to the regular guys from when we first came into the bar, Spencer joined me. Will stayed, talking to the blonde, almost cutting off her boyfriend from the conversation by perfectly placing himself between the two of them. As the Uber was five minutes out, we decided to drag Will’s drunk ass outside to keep him from getting in a fight with the boyfriend. Will asked the milf for one more cigarette before we left, he had been bumming them all night.


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“$20 I’ll sell you the rest of the pack” she said to him, clearly annoyed and fed up with him by now. “$20 you suck my dick in the parking lot” Will countered jokingly. The milf did not take this as a joke. She stood up off of her stool, and hit Will with a right hook that would have made Mike Tyson think twice. “Oh shit we have to go!” I yelled. “Do you want some too?!” she screamed at me, as if I had anything to do with it.

Chapter 9

Will ran outside trying to get away from the crazy bitch, she followed behind, making sure to hit him in the face a few more times in the parking lot before we left. Wanting to leave her mark and proof of his stupidity on his face for the next day. We got them separated and waited in the parking lot for the Uber. Fending off the boyfriend, who was out in the parking lot also trying to finish Will off for his behavior, acting the part of the macho man. They didn’t seem to understand that we had to wait for our Uber, we couldn’t just leave, we didn’t have a car with us, none of us could have driven anyway. The Uber eventually came and picked us up. Will had a swollen eye and busted lip that covered his teeth and made it look like he had lost one or two in the fight. “I can’t believe my first bar fight was with a girl” Will said jokingly, too drunk to care about his busted face. “Yeah she kicked your ass” Spencer said. We had the Uber take us to the strip club that our friends at the biker bar had recommended to us. I have never been to a strip club sober, but I imagine it is a


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dreadful place. A place of such lust and indecency shouldn’t be faced in sobriety, it is far too corrupting. As we enter, paying the five-dollar cover charge, we strategically made sure our first steps were towards the bar. The bartender was indifferent as he served Will and I our pitchers of beer, there were too many customers for him to be cordial, I was too drunk to care. Spence was done drinking, he could barely stand and didn’t want to have to be carried back to the hotel. He could also tell that would be Will’s fate, so he was actually acting responsibly. As we made our way through the labyrinth of the club, past hordes of bunched chairs and empty stages one could not help but smell sweat, cheap cologne and beer, the smell of shame. We sat down at a far couch, away from the action so we could regroup and regain control over ourselves. The fight had rattled us, and was of course, all we were talking about. We took one final picture of the three of us on the couch, before a cocktail waitress came by and told us no pictures were allowed. She offered to let us take shots of vodka out of test tubes from her cleavage, I was running out of money, Will was too drunk and Spencer’s standards were too high, so she went away soon after knowing she wasn’t finding any money in our corner. Eventually Spence and I went and set up on pervert row, the line of seats right up next to the stage in front of the dancing women, where everyone can clearly see each other's face and the true feelings possessing us. Will fell asleep on the couch in the corner of the strip club, he was out for the night, and wasn’t bothered once by a bouncer, waitress or dancer. I can only imagine they deal with drunk idiots like him passing out there on a nightly basis, there is a reason all of the furniture is leather. It is customary to pay every stripper that gyrates in front of you, so I quickly ran out of money sitting on pervert row. I had to borrow singles from Spencer, who was having the time of his life. He had never


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been to a strip club before, and couldn’t get enough of this Gomorrah we were in. The girls were very open, offering up far more touching and pulling men into their chests far more than any other strip club I had been to. They sure knew how to make those men give up their hard earned dollars in just a few seconds, but that’s what the men wanted to spend it on. They wanted to see tits, they wanted to feel cool and they wanted people to want to be them. That’s how men always are if you ask me. I made my way to the restroom at one point, where I was greeted by the black bathroom attendant on duty. Part of me wondered if his main purpose was to make sure people didn’t come into the bathroom to do cocaine or jerk off, what a job. I talked to the chap for a minute, he was very cool and had clearly seen it all. He sprayed me with cologne, the same cologne that stung the nostrils when you walked into the establishment. Spencer even bought a cigar from the guy a few minutes later, I wondered if he liked his job, he must have met some wild people and seen some wild things. Nothing that happens in the strip club is ordinary. Sitting there in the strip club in between moments of hiding my boner, drinking my overpriced beer and talking with Spencer about how great life is, I felt ashamed I was with all of these girls and not with Mandy. I hoped she would never find out I came here when she didn’t respond to my texts and calls. Now I hope she reads this and feels responsible, at least partially responsible for my actions, she had more influence on them than I did. Chapter 10

Spencer eventually ran out of singles and the dancers stopped coming around once they caught wind, we no longer had reason to stay. I chugged the rest of my beer and slammed the pitcher down with pride. We went over and found Will slumped on the


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couch like we had left him, we woke him up subtly by pouring beer on his head while slapping him in the face. He had not really touched his pitcher, so I decided to sneak it out of the club under my blazer, against my white button up shirt. However, as we walked out of the club, the most repugnant smell hit me in the face, a waft of sewage and spoiled food. Will had puked in his pitcher, and it was now all down my white shirt. What a scene it must have been for the Uber driver pulling up, Spence standing and puking in the bush to my left, Will on his knees puking in the bush to my right. I Gronk spiked the pitcher on the ground in anger, the plastic container must have bounced 12 feet in the air I was so upset. It was at that time that the bouncers chased us off the property and made us wait for our ride in the parking lot. We didn’t have to wait long. We rocked out to music on the way home, bumping rap music about gun violence and sexual abuse as our Christian dad of an Uber driver brought us back to our lodgings. It had been a long night; it was now three or four in the morning. We went inside and sat down for a full three seconds before we remembered we had weed in the room. We went out to my car to smoke, but both of my friends fell asleep by the end of the first bowl. I smoked a couple more by myself, listening to the smooth guitar and imperfect voice of John Darnielle and his band the Mountain Goats. I was for the first time that night, alone with my thoughts. I thought of what I would tell them in the morning about Mandy. I decided to be semi-honest and just tell them things didn’t work out, we had had such a good time they didn’t care about my love life. I sat there, staring out the windshield of my car from the driver's seat, smoking my pipe. Wondering which way and how far she was from where I was sitting. It was undoubtedly the closest we had ever been to each other, and would probably be the closest we ever get. I cursed myself for


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being a romantic and falling for every girl that I think falls for me. Would anyone ever have these feelings about me I thought? The answer is probably no, no one is as crazy as I am. Or at least, other people are too busy enjoying life to dwell on unimportant parts like these I thought. I fell asleep out in my car. We went in after about 30 minutes of sleeping in my car and crashed on the hotel beds, without taking off our shoes or socks. I had forgotten about Will’s puke that ruined my white shirt, I slept in his bodily fluids all night. We all seemed to wake up around 9 a.m. at the same time, wanting to sleep longer but being unable to despite being deathly tired. We called down to the front desk and got a late check-out for 12 instead of 11. That hour becoming more important than family or love and almost as important as air itself.

Chapter 11

We left the hotel and went to a strip mall where Will bought a T-shirt with the money he had saved by passing out at the strip club and bypassing the dancers. We smoked weed in the parking lot and talked about how crazy our night had just been, looking over photos we had taken, reminiscing every detail we could recall. I had gotten a text from Mandy, she told me she was sorry about last night. She said she was too nervous to finally meet me; she was too “shy”. I didn’t know what to think, either this girl is a terrible liar who should have just continued to turn a deaf ear to me and not respond. Or she is more like me than I thought. I thought of all the times I had called off meetings and dates with girls because I was too nervous and didn’t have a full proof plan for the evening. I told her I was upset, I told her that there was no way she was more nervous


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than I was. I had sweat through 3 undershirts that day because of the anxiety. Mandy invited me over that afternoon, but we had to be back home by then. Part of me thinks she knew that. Part of me also thought I had salvaged my relationship with her and had hope for our future. We drove home nauseous and tired, without saying much to each other. I threw my white shirt out on the road, I didn’t want my mom to find it in the clothes hamper and ask questions. It couldn’t be salvaged anyway. We were all beat, and ready to lay in our beds without seeing or talking to the outside world for a day or two. Mandy texted me the next day and made plans to meet me in Indianapolis in two weeks, far from halfway for her to drive. I got excited about finally getting to meet her, but I didn’t make any plans.


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Creative Nonfiction Sample: It was after my sophomore year in high school that my best friend Tyler moved away to Texas to live with his dad, and left me in the wake of trouble we had gotten in here in Indiana. After becoming closer than ever during the soccer season in the Fall, hanging out every day after practice kicking the ball around in the yard, sneaking out during the night to go to parties and talking of the ever too far away time when we finally move from under the firm grasp of our parents. During the Winter, Tyler started to spend the night at my house even more as the divide between him and his stepfather grew. After we were caught drinking beer at Tyler’s house once, his stepfather Chris installed cameras throughout their house and started constantly watching his every move. Chris began grilling him for things like eating too much food, being up late at night and many other things that I myself and my other friends did on a daily basis with no concern from our parents whether biological or through marriage. As Tyler stayed at my house more and more, our friend’s started to call it “Tony and Tyler’s”, my parents loved having him over, I loved having him over. However, his parents only grew to loathe me and my influence more. In January I got my license, and for the first time, we felt like we owned the world. We could go anywhere, hangout with anyone, and do anything without our parents for the first time. As our privileges grew, our experiences with parties, girls and drugs also grew. It’s not quite clear if we went out looking for trouble, or trouble was looking for us, but regardless, we found each other. In the Spring, Tyler and I, along with a couple more friends were caught smoking marijuana by our parents. While it was not my first time being caught, and certainly not


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my last, Tyler’s parents were not as “understanding” with the situation. As was the case with most of the times Tyler got in trouble with his parents, I was seen as the catalyst for his delinquent behavior. Tyler was given a choice, he could move with his mom and stepfather away from our hometown where all our friends were and would be forced to stay in the house with his horrible stepfather every day, or he could move to Texas with his father. In the end, I wasn’t upset with Tyler’s decision. It would have been selfish of me to want Tyler to stay with his family, which moved three hours away, so I rarely would have seen him anyway. I was upset that I wouldn’t have anyone to talk to any more about who I was crushing on, I didn’t have anyone to talk to about struggles with my older brother and parents for independence. It was the worst moment in my life at that time, I was distraught and there was nothing I could do about it. I wasn’t allowed to see Tyler at all his last two weeks in Indiana. My other friendships grew, as Tyler’s leaving affect far more people than just myself, but nevertheless, I missed my best friend.


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Poem 1: Bookshelf of Life In my room sits a bookshelf overflowing with various notebooks, textbooks, novels and pamphlets. Some of them I purchased myself, some of them were gifts. These books are my escape when I am bored, when I am lonely, or when I am sad. The entire works of Shakespeare sits side by side next to “The Idiot’s Guide to Bartending”, “Cannibal Killers” and “Fight Club”. There are books I will never read on my shelf, such as Gorbachev’s "Perestroika" which is simply up there for novelty, sitting next to the Magic Treehouse books I adored so much when I was younger. They are the books that instilled my love of reading. There are books I will read again, my favorites, “On the Road” and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” two books that really hit home for me. There are books I will never forget on my shelf, such as “War and Peace” which I read only because it is so long and “The Doors of Perception”. This bookshelf represents me as a whole, who I am and what I know. It also represents my future, what I will learn, and what ideas will sweep me off my feet as I grow. I hope to have my own library with walls stocked with books when I finally get my own place. Who knows how these books will shape me, and what is still to come to my shelf. Who knows what is still to come in my life and what I have yet to learn.


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Poem 2: Like Father like Son? “Gonna be a scorcher” … my older brother said as we continued to stack the hay on the wagon, moving slowly across the seemingly endless field behind the loud "bang whoosh rawr" of the tractor and baler. I shouldn’t have drunk so much vodka last night, I’m sweating it all out and it’s stinging the multitude of cuts and scratches that cover my arms turning them into a topographical map of some horrendously mountainous land with multiple red rivers running through. My arms are however, nothing compared to the pounding in my head. I swear we always work the hardest on days I’m hungover, almost without fail. It’s not like I can say anything to my dad, who sits upon his throne in the tractor overlooking the field with pleasure. He is living out his dream, farming with his sons, like so many generations of our bloodline before. The same blood running down my arms. My older brother is also drunk, but he on the same supply as my father. They both live for this Midwestern hell. He too has dreams of one-day farming with his kids. I’m the odd man out, I’m the one who likes to sit inside and read the classics of Shakespeare, Wilde, Joyce, and Emerson. My dreams are not of farming, but traveling the country on foot hitching rides as I can, like a modern day Jack Kerouac. I’m the one who excels in school and has dreams of wearing a suit and tie to work every day, not sweaty ragged shirts with holes in them and torn jeans with patches not for style but to make them usable for another few years. I’m the disappointment.


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Poem 3: A Poem About Breakups I will never be the same after what I had with you, I hope I changed you in some part too. You broke my heart, you left me no choice, I laid in bed for days when it was over, trying to forget your voice, your touch, your smile, your eyes, your love. I almost wish we had never met. I almost wish we had never broken into that abandoned house, or laughed together when you ruined that blouse, at that party where we told everyone that we were official. I wish you would’ve thought about my feelings before you shot my heart with that cheating missile.

There was some good, you did show me how happy I can be, When I’m with someone who enjoys the same things as me. It’s been two years now; I can’t hold a grudge much longer. I wish you the best, the whole experience has made me truly stronger. I know what I want, I want what we had, I just want to feel it with someone else.


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Reflective Essay: (Author's note) I have always heard that writers write what they know, and in this portfolio, I have done just that. In every piece, there are elements and themes that connect them all to me and my world that I live in. After reading, you can probably tell that I am an avid reader, I love the classics but also dabble in some modern works as well. I spend a lot of time alone in my room getting lost in my books and the words of my favorite authors and poets. There are artists that I regard higher than anyone else dead or alive, and their work has surely influenced my writing style. I encourage anyone who hasn't read some of my favorites like, "On the Road", "Wolf in White Van", "A Picture of Dorian Gray" or "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" to do so immediately, I hope they will change your lives as much as they have changed mine. Like the characters I write, I am nothing without my friends. I have the best friends in the world, who have helped me get through bad break-ups and not fitting into my country farm family. When I think about the great personalities my friends have, and just how much of a role they play in my life, it really is easy for me to write about them or about character's based on them. My friends and I have had some crazy times; some might think of us as "hicks" or "delinquents" but I've never really been in the business of giving a shit about what other people think about me or the people I care about. It's far too easy to get caught up in trying to be the person other people want you to be. Everyone feels lonely from time to time, including myself, but I must admit that I have exaggerated feelings in the pieces to make for better fiction and poetry. I truly am a happy person that enjoys the hell out of my life. There's a great quote from one of my


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favorite movies, "American Beauty" starring the ever talented Kevin Spacey. In it, Spacey's character says: "Both my wife and daughter think I'm this gigantic loser and they're right, I have lost something. I'm not exactly sure what it is but I know I didn't always feel this... sedated. But you know what? It's never too late to get it back.� I think the worst part about life, sometimes we're so unsure how we feel, until we find something that shakes us and really wakes us up to the realization of our own happiness. I must admit, I have really enjoyed writing and how it has helped me express myself. In my writing I have really been able to find and label what it is that makes me happy.


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Rough Drafts, in the same order as above: 1. Chapter 1 It was during the most delightfully depressing time that my two best friends and I went on a trip upstate to find the girl of my “dreams”. The most recent and unknowing recipient of my whole heart and soul had rekindled a long distance texting relationship that had consumed us as middle schoolers looking for anyone to call a “girlfriend” or “boyfriend”. So two of my friends and I, decided to make the three hour drive to Fort Wayne to see her. I was just starting up my second year of college, coming off a drug infused, party filled, yet rather boring Summer. As the school year started, I was once again taken over with a fear of loneliness. A feeling that I am so used to, I am almost lonely without it. There’s nothing like walking around a campus and seeing pretty blondes with perfect smiles and all-knowing brunettes with eyes that peer deep into you on every sidewalk and knowing you’re probably going to die alone. Ahh, the girls in the yoga pants and oversized sweatshirts mocking you with comfortability. Some people call it self esteem, but that makes no difference to me. As I waded through the pool of gorgeous girls day in, and day out, I tried to convince myself daily that I wasn’t a loser. I bragged to myself, reiterating that I had not one, but two female friends in my life that I could talk to whenever. With my only real hope being that I could catch them in a moment of drunken vulnerability and play the charming hero I was so uncertain I knew how to play, and potentially become something more than friends.


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I’m not an ugly guy, I am a self conscious and self hating guy. I have red hair which isn’t always a good thing, but I think I pull it off. I have a strong jaw, stubbled with little red hairs that I rarely shave, because they grow so slowly and sporadically that you have to actually look for them to find them. My hair is longer than most, it curls naturally at the ends and lays fairly gracefully across my forehead. I have an average build, I’m a little short, but all my friends are short so I don’t stand out too much. My friend Spencer told me once on Molly that I was “hot” and all my other friends agreed. Molly makes you become so close with people that you can tell them anything, and you’re also willing to tell them anything to make them happy. Regardless of what Spencer really meant, that moment is one of the best in my life, I go back to it constantly for reassurance. The compliment meant so much, because Spencer is as beautiful as a young Dorian Grey, inside and out. Spencer is chiseled like a modern day Adonis, and looks good no matter what he is doing, except talking to girls. He has perfectly styled brown hair and sincere eyes that even seem to be gentle when he is joking around at your own expense. Spencer was raised Jehovah’s Witness by his very devout and strict single mother. Spencer only started hanging out, outside of school, when he agreed to let us sneak him out in the middle of the night one night during sophomore year of high school. Spencer, my brother Kyle, my friend Sean, white trash Bell Watkins and I snuck into my grandmother’s house while she was away at my aunt’s for the night. We got drunk on cheap vodka, lemonade and independence.

Chapter 2


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I was trying to make my thick red hair stay in place as I added a slight bit of gel to my mane, something I rarely do. My dad would have called me a fag for it if he saw me, at least under his breath. He had become more accepting of modern styles and culture through force and overexposure but still wasn’t comfortable with how “metro-sexual” his sons had become. Kyle and I never gave a damn about what our father old farmer Jack Paradise thinks. He’s more judgemental than I am, and if there is one thing a judgemental person hates, it’s another judgemental person. Out of nowhere my best friend Will came walking in, careless as always, not noticing a thing and caring about less. “Gonna be ready to go soon Reub?” “Yeah, I just gotta finish packing, I’m ready to get so shit faced.” I say without looking at him, still fixated on myself in the mirror, like always. I can’t help but look at myself in the mirror whenever possible. I go to the bathroom constantly just to check myself out, make sure I’m not wearing one of my stupid faces. “Right on, you think Spence will be ready when we get there to pick him up?” He asked digging through my cabinets looking for junk food. If Will Flemmens is at your house, you are feeding him. He has the smallest frame of all my friends, weighing in at under 130 lbs and around 5’7 on a good day. I think he just eats so much because he has the biggest personality in the group, and like all living things, personalities have to eat. Will is crude, never failing to tell an inappropriate joke at a bad time. He would gladly get drunk and tell anyone about how we accidentally got high on meth a few years ago, and how we all said we enjoyed it and would do it again! He had no filter, he would say the “N” word within earshot of a black person walking by, he would make


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fun of the retarded in public. Because of this, he is either loved or hated by everyone that knows him without exception. I love the son of a bitch. Sure he owes me money, he owes everyone money. What people don’t understand about Will, is that he lives on the edge, not because he is a thrill seeker, but because he likes to watch other people who think he is. The plan was for Will and I to meet at my house around 4 o’clock and take my car to Greenwood, 30 minutes away from my house, to pick up Spencer at his apartment. After we loaded up Spencer and his overnight sack, we would hit the road, taking 465, to I-69N straight to the promised land of Fort Wayne. Spence and Will were tagging along for multiple reasons, all with varying degrees of responsibility for their decision to come. Neither of them had ever been to Fort Wayne, one of the largest cities in Indiana, an oxymoron to some, but a draw to country boys like ourselves (I had been once for a funeral when I was 10 or 11). They were also both very intrigued when I told them I intended on hitting a few of the finer watering holes in the city. Not being 21 but having a fake ID means you’re 21, at least that’s how I’ve always taken it. Will was the only one over 21, but he was not the only one looking forward to hitting the bars, that was the real reason we all went.

Chapter 3 As I mentioned earlier, I also went to meet a girl, a girl named Mandy. Our “relationship” started how any fling starts these days I suppose, one of us likes another’s picture on facebook. Pretty soon we were liking everything eachother posted, whether relevant, or funny, or sad. It came from her, so I did all I could in the social media world, short of looking like a creepo/rapist, I


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liked it. Pretty soon we started snapchatting back and forth, she was way prettier than I could have hoped for. I must have looked through all of her pictures a million times. She was so cute. So perfect in how she didn’t smile on purpose, her hair flowing in the wind like a supermodel on some beach in the south of France, mediterranean skin so flawless, she was like a diamond of humanity. So I tried my best to be interesting. I told her of my secret dreams to write poetry and prose, how I reflected my horribly boring life and struggles into my work with eloquence like The Bard himself. She could have said anything and I would have been satisfied, I was satisfied with the simple fact that she replied. I grew crazy over the thought of her thinking of me. I thought of her constantly, without end, and to think she thought of me just once or twice a day, gave me a feeling so deep inside it rattled my spine. It was addicting, it was a high. She actually seemed interested in me and my interests, she was not a reader, she didn’t know who Wilde, Joyce or Proust were, but she loved that I did. This girl was everything to me. There are two things in life I love, looking smart and feeling adored, and she could do no wrong.

In the car on the way to Spence’s, Will and I shared a joint and polluted the music I was playing with useless conversation. The one thing that brought us together like no other, was stoned conversation. There are some people I dread the thought of having lengthy conversations with, like my parents or teachers. I feel like saying less makes my words more valuable, so now I say nothing at all without being prodded by questions. One day I will state my opinion on something and for the first time, they will listen. But with some people, like Will, I am fascinated by their every thought and cherish our every shared word.


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“Would you rather have one year of immunity from the law or one year of being able to fly?” I asked, his answer means something to me. I think it’s because when I ask him these hypothetical questions, he actually listens and considers what he says before he just blurts something out. Most people just blurt things out, without really caring what they said. “Immunity from the law of kaworse” he said in his southern Indiana accent that only pokes out from time to time. “I could do anything, and be as rich as I wanted to” he added. What he would do, would be get high on everything under the sun and indulge in every devious pleasure known to man, this we had in common. I liked hanging out with Will, he joked around all day, and made me feel more at ease. I have a tendency to take things too seriously sometimes, I only goof around with things that matter the most. We pulled up to Spencer’s apartment, high and on-time, the way things should be done. Oscar Wilde said, “Punctuality is a theft of time.” but as someone who feels like they are always waiting on the world around them, I do my best to be on time and do my part in keeping this world going. If it weren’t for people like me, who knows how far back in this world we would be. We wait for Spence to get his things together, he lackadaisically packed his bag, carefully examining which clothes he would and would not bring, he could not have packed more thoroughly for an overnight trip.

Chapter 4 As we drove, I told the boys of how Mandy and I had known each other before, lying about actually having met before. I didn’t want them to know that I had only texted this girl and that I had only seen her face in pictures. I want to be loved by someone else so much, my friends


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know my obsession but not the extent to how it controls me. I want love, and I didn’t want to tell them the truth and have them ruin it for me. I knew she wasn’t a catfish, so there was no real reason for me to be truthful with them. I didn’t want to sound like a loser, these guys look up to me, at least I really hope they do. We smoked more weed and drove along the interstate like the only car for miles, without a care in the world. We decided that I would meet up with Mandy on my own after we got to our hotel, Will and Spence would go ahead and hit the first of many bars on their own, they couldn’t wait to start drinking. I would meet up with them after a couple hours to drink in the night. I was so excited, I stayed up all night playing out what I would say to Mandy as she opened the door to her apartment and saw me standing there for the first time. I planned on getting flowers to bring for her, a cheesy move, but I hoped she would think it was sweet. There was only one problem, she hadn’t texted me back that day, I must have checked my phone a million times on the way, each text not from her was of no bother to me, it only annoyed me that it wasn’t her on the other end of the line. What was I going to tell my friends? They expected me to go out and meet up with this girl, how lame was I going to look when we get there after our 3 hour drive, and she’s not there? “Mandy is on her way home from her lake house and won’t be back until tonight, she is just going to meet us at the bar” I said without a particle of truth. The guys didn’t say anything other than “cool beans”, but I felt their suspicion like a cold draft moving in from a creak in the door all the way to my toes in my shoes and the hairs on my neck simultaneously. I didn’t know if they believed anything I said anymore, especially when it came to the fairer sex. I have a decent track record, some very pretty girls under my belt, but I have also embellished my exploits from time to time. I am guilty of making up dates with fake or sometimes real girls, to make myself sound


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better. I am sure I lie to convince myself that I am not the piece of shit I see when I look in the mirror, and they are merely caught in the crossfire. That’s why this was such a tough situation for me, this was a REAL girl and a REAL date, we had planned it a couple weeks in advance. When I first brought it up, Mandy couldn’t believe I was willing to drive three hours to meet her, smoke a joint and watch television on her couch. I couldn’t believe she was so close, “they are never that close” I thought. I have big dreams of sleeping snuggled next to someone, someone whose everyday actions blow me away with jubilation. I had been close before, in high school I had a girlfriend I was infatuated with. Unfortunately, she broke my heart, in a way that I’m not sure if it ever correctly healed. I have many enemies, being so cynical and off-the-rails almost guarantees them, but I wouldn’t wish watching the love of your life slipping away with some college frat-boy during a party on the worst of them. I didn’t see them have sex, but I saw the worst part. The courting, the way she fell acceptingly into his grasp as they danced. Not caring I was there, out of her sight. I didn’t stop her, I knew it was useless, I saw the way she looked at him, she would never look at me the same way and I knew it. That experience left me in the worst shape of my life, knowing how love felt, how it influenced everything I did and wanted. I didn’t leave my bed for three days, I cried like a child, weeping for my loss and the pain in my heart. Ever since, I have been chasing a high like a ragged fiend living on the streets of life, a love high. I want what we had, I just want to feel it with someone else.

Chapter 5


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As we got closer to Fort Wayne, Will started searching “Fort Wayne strip clubs” on Google. It was settled that the last stop on our manly night, would fittingly be a gentleman’s club. We coasted along the interstate, singing our hearts out, wearing out the strings on our air guitars like madmen. Punk rock is the most intoxicating thing I have ever come across. Acid will make me stare at the wall in amazement, noticing the aura of every piece, every bump made by the paint brush raising up like the Rockies. Xanax will make me act like a jackass in Denny’s, it will make me eat the food left at the neighboring table by the prior guests and steal the measly $2 tip they left for the toothless waitress with unwashed hair. Xanax will even make me forget I did all those things, and gives me after it is all said and done, an entertaining story starring non other than your’s truly to my complete surprise. Punk rock however, moves me spiritually. Punk rock makes me shed tears, punch walls and jump around my room like I just hit a buzzer beater in game seven. Nothing understands me like punk rock, it knows how I fail miserably with girl after girl, how I can’t tell my parents I want to move out so I can sleep in and get high whenever I want. Punk rock knows how I don’t fit in, even when I seem to. “My band covered this song during our last show” says Spencer, not braggingly, he never brags. “It went over pretty well dude, I think we’re about to make some T-shirts finally”. Spence is so cool, he can play multiple instruments, sing with perfect pitch and most importantly, he looks like a rock-star doing it. “This song is great dude, it’s so honest” I said back to him. The song was Gum, by the English band Moose Blood. Music brought us all together. The only thing that made us closer was getting fucked up, but that was rarely done in silence. “My parents told me that if I stop smoking I can move back in” Will said after some time without conversation. “Are you gonna do it?” I asked laughingly, knowing the answer to come. “I’m


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gonna try to convince them I did” he says chuckling, “I’m not allowed to stay at LuAnn’s anymore, her dad thinks I stole all of his hydrocodone” he said. “So where have you been crashing bro?” Spence asked him in a concerned voice. “I’ve been sleeping in the park most nights. It sucks.” Will answered. Spence felt sorry for him, I felt sorry for myself that he had a girlfriend and I didn’t. In my opinion, he was better off than I. He had to face the elements on a nightly basis, but I had to deal with the desolate climate that hungover my room, I had to stay in my self degrading mind, a much colder place than the park on a cool night.

Chapter 6 When we got to the hotel, we changed into the finest clothes we had, we had decided to go out on the town in style. I wore tight maroon pants that made my legs, especially my calves, look far more appealing and toned than they actually are. I put on a white button up shirt, that I tucked in under a brown belt to match my stylish brown wingtips. Over it all, I threw I silver blazer, the cherry on top of my sundae of an outfit. We all looked like married men on a bro-trip in Vegas, ready to take on the world, one drink at a time. We decided to leave the weed behind in the hotel, we didn’t want to risk the uber causing a fit and throwing us out or “calling the party poopers on us” as Will always says. Our first stop was across the road from our hotel, no ride was needed. As we entered the bar, over dressed and overly eager, we caught a glance from every dude, chick, geezer and employee in the place. We looked good, and knew it. We sat down at a table, it was only 8 p.m. The establishment was also a family grille during the day, so we had to tell the


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insecure, chubby white waitress we were only there to drink. We started out with a round of beers, mine a Blue Moon, a delicious brew that is set over the top when a slice of orange is dropped into the mug, hinting the hops with a citrus aroma and taste that pairs symbiotically with the drink. We sat there, reminiscing over past parties and times we had almost gotten caught by the law or our parents. “Dude remember when you fought that professional boxer?? That has to be the dumbest thing I have ever seen anyone do! You fucking idiot!” Will yelled at me, he’s never quiet. Of course I remembered, it was one of our favorite stories. “Dude, that’s not a bad as Travis trying to hook up with D-Ray that night! He says he was just talking to her, but I could see he was trying to mount that big girl like a horse!” Spence added in, he never let that part slide, especially when Travis was with us. “He denies it, but I saw the way he looked at her in his drunken state and he was not trying to keep it PG! He was gonna bang that big gurl on the couch, damn thing probably couldn’t have taken it!” he said, barely audible because he was laughing so much. “Are you talking about her or the couch?” Will chimed in instantly. We all let off a roar of laughter, it filled the room, droaning out every other conversation taking place in the bar. As we sat there having fun, talking about the good old days and ordering the night’s special of Captain and Coke a few times over, I couldn’t help but keep checking my phone. I was glad we were having such a good time, because that meant they didn’t ask me about Mandy. As it grew later, I realized that I was not going to meet my enchantress, not that night, all I could do now was hope I didn’t make too much of an ass out of myself when I inevitably texted her later that night, drunk out of my mind, horny and vulnerable, a three part recipe for regret.


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Chapter 7 We left the first bar after a few rounds of pool, everyone there was so miserably boring, they all cared too much for their perfect little lives to live like we were. Our second stop was at a hole in the wall biker bar. We had to uber to this venue with an Indian college student who didn’t do much drinking, he didn’t seem to do much of anything but drive people around to the places he never goes himself. At the biker bar, sat three regulars drinking in the Fort Wayne night as they most likely did every night. Other than the ordinary gents, there was a plus sized black bartender, who was sweet as an old lady who rarely gets visitors at her nursing home, but undeniably bored with her routine, almost to the max. We sat at the bar among the loyal customers and ordered three of the night’s specials, a $4 pitcher of beer, one for each of us. It was at this bar that we undoubtedly, got hammered. We sat down in between the guys on a corner of the bar, myself on the far left, sitting next to the oldest and most beat of the bunch. Will sat in the middle, with Spence on his right and the other two guys on his right. The old man was white, overweight, had on a stained T-shirt that he probably wore twice a week and a fishing hat. He sang along to the country songs that he played on the jukebox and drank his beer with a heavy hand. I can’t remember his name. However I remember him telling Will and I, who was getting in on both my conversation with the old drunk and Spencer’s conversation with the other two guys, it several times. “My name is Reuben Paradise” I told him firmly, trying to not seem like the twenty-year-old I really was, “and this is Will Flemmens and Spence Mitchell” I added, introducing my drunken friends. The old man turned out to be a delight, he was like an old water pump, what you worked for was what you got, no filter at all. He told us about how he had gone to see Bruce Springsteen 27 times in concert, and how he drove a truck in his younger


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days and had been all over the state. The beat old man told us about how he still got it on with his wife, he assured us that he “licked her like a mixing bowl” and she returned the favor, he was a riot. Spence spent his time talking with the other guys, one fat and the other not as fat, about the best strip clubs in town. It had become clear that our original plan to hit seven or eight different places was not going to work out, especially if we continued to order so much to drink at each place. We decided we would only go to one strip club, after we left the biker bar, and then would call it a night. As we drank and talked about football and politics and country music, the worst kind of music man has ever made, I started to forget about Mandy. I couldn’t wallow in my disappointment with such a racket going on around me. Will ordered us shots of Hennessy, and one for the lonely barkeep, who was really enjoying the change of place we brought to the sorry bar. Within five minutes later, Will did another shot of peppermint vodka with the bartender, Spence and I needed a minute to catch our stomachs before we ruined a good night with public vomiting. As we talked, the old man showed us what he had been carrying in his pocket, a bag of marijuana, just waiting to be smoked. The bartender couldn’t care less about the drugs in her place of work and turned a blind eye to our lawbreaking. The old man promised to smoke a joint with us, if we went and bought papers from the gas station about a half of a mile away. Will was out of his seat before the guy could finish his sentence. He was through the door dragging Spence down the road with him immediately while I stayed and watched our beers. When they got back, the old man kept his promise and rolled up a rather healthy looking joint while we waited anxiously by the bar. We had smoked earlier but our high was gone. We were now drunk, but not high and drunk, so there wasn’t any hesitation from a one of us, we needed


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to smoke. As the old man was in the bathroom, rolling up our treat, a few more people walked in and sat down at the bar. A couple in their 40’s walked in and sat down away from the action, and kept to themselves the whole time. Behind them came a beat up, out of her prime, but still pretty blonde woman in tight jeans that exemplified her natural curves and black shirt that made her average breasts pop. I was drunk and not at my best when it comes to judging beauty, but trust me, she was a milf.

Chapter 8 The blonde was already drunk as she entered the bar, sitting down a few seats to the left of where the old beat man was sitting at the bar. As she walked in, we were walking out to the back patio to smoke the joint our new friend had just rolled for us. Out on the patio, we lit up the bud and started taking selfies like 14 year old girls, making sure to get our new friend in as many of them as possible. As though the night would have been forever forgotten if not perfectly documented by blurry pictures of forced faces. The bartender was also out on the patio, smoking a cigarette, leaving the bar unattended to my best guess. We asked her if she wanted to smoke the joint with us, ignoring that we were invited ourselves to partake and it was not really our weed to be sharing. She thankfully declined saying she didn’t smoke, something I never quite understand, how does one not enjoy getting high? Life is so dreadful without it. As we are passing around the joint, the modern day olive branch, becoming even better acquainted with the beat old man, I send my first drunk text to Mandy. I tell her I am


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disappointed, but I don’t want to turn her off of me for good if she isn’t already, so like the zero I am, I also take some of the fault. I apologize. How insane? I am pathetic. Our time on the patio is cut short when Spencer drops the half smoked joint in between the cracks of the wooden planks of the deck, losing the doobie for good. We are all too drunk to care, so we go back inside and greet the new patrons. Back in the bar, the blonde milf had become pretty interested in Will and I. Making a point talk to us and touch us as much as possible. I don’t pretend to know what women want, or how to read their every move, but this woman was being obvious in her actions, she was flirting. She was using any excuse to touch our faces, shoulders or blazers. I knew it was a good idea to dress up, I thought to myself gleefully. At one point while Will had made his way to the bathroom and Spencer was chatting up his friends on the other side of the bar from before, she told me I was the cutest thing she had ever seen. She was drunk and horny, and so was I. I can only assume she was saying the same things to Will when I left to go take a piss or when I snuck outside with the stealth of a ninja to go puke on the bushes. There came a point however, when the flirtatious charade was up, her boyfriend walked into the bar. The milf was probably around 45-50 years old, her boyfriend however was 23. Spencer and I noticed the boyfriend, and like everyone else in the bar, we struck up conversation with him. It was at this point the milf told us she was 29, which was about as believable as Ruth Bader Ginsburg telling you she is 40. Will had joined us now also, however he did not pick up on the fact that the new gentleman in the conversation was with the blonde, and that she had changed her attitude dramatically. Will went on flirting, even inviting the blonde back to our hotel room! Her boyfriend was understanding at first, Will was very drunk and barely had his eyes opened as he talked. As though he was just spouting lines he had


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rehearsed before. I tried to make Will understand the situation without having to pull him aside by asking the couple, “So how long have you guys been together?” “We’ve been together about 2 months” she said, still friendly but definitely no longer flirty. At this point Will leaned over and told me he was “trying to fuck” seeming to either not comprehend or not care that they were actually together. I told Spencer to go ahead and order the Uber. We were about to get in some trouble, I could feel it. I went back to talking to the regular guys from when we first came into the bar, Spencer joined me. Will stayed, talking to the blonde, almost cutting off her boyfriend from the conversation by perfectly placing himself between the two of them. As the Uber was five minutes out, we decided to drag Will’s drunk ass outside to keep him from getting in a fight with the boyfriend. Will asked the milf for one more cigarette before we left, he had been bumming them all night. “$20 I’ll sell you the rest of the pack” she said to him, clearly annoyed and fed up with him by now. “$20 you suck my dick in the parking lot” Will countered jokingly. The milf did not take this as a joke. She stood up off of her stool, and hit Will with a right hook that would have made Mike Tyson think twice. “Oh shit we have to go!” I yelled. “Do you want some too?!” she screamed at me, as if I had anything to do with it.

Chapter 9 Will ran outside trying to get away from the crazy bitch, she followed behind, making sure to hit him in the face a few more times in the parking lot before we left. Wanting to leave her mark and proof of his stupidity on his face for the next day. We got them separated and waited in the


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parking lot for the Uber. Fending off the boyfriend, who was out in the parking lot also trying to finish Will off for his behavior, acting the part of the macho man. They didn’t seem to understand that we had to wait for our Uber, we couldn’t just leave, we didn’t have a car with us, none of us could have driven anyway. The Uber eventually came and picked us up. Will had a swollen eye and busted lip that covered his teeth and made it look like he had lost one or two in the fight. “I can’t believe my first bar fight was with a girl” Will said jokingly, too drunk to care about his busted face. “Yeah she kicked your ass” Spencer said. We had the Uber take us to the strip club that our friends at the biker bar had recommended to us. I have never been to a strip club sober, but I imagine it is a dreadful place. A place of such lust and indecency shouldn’t be faced in sobriety, it is far too corrupting. As we enter, paying the five dollar cover charge, we strategically made sure our first steps were towards the bar. The bartender was indifferent as he served Will and I our pitchers of beer, there were too many customers for him to be cordial, I was too drunk to care. Spence was done drinking, he could barely stand and didn’t want to have to be carried back to the hotel. He could also tell that would be Will’s fate, so he was actually acting responsibly. As we made our way through the labyrinth of the club, past hordes of bunched chairs and empty stages one could not help but smell sweat, cheap cologne and beer, the smell of shame. We sat down at a far couch, away from the action so we could regroup and regain control over ourselves. The fight had rattled us, and was of course, all we were talking about. We took one final picture of the three of us on the couch, before a cocktail waitress came by and told us no pictures were allowed. She offered to let us take shots of vodka out of test tubes from her cleavage, I was running out of money, Will was too drunk and Spencer’s standards were too high, so she went away soon after knowing she


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wasn’t finding any money in our corner. Eventually Spence and I went and set up on pervert row, the line of seats right up next to the stage in front of the dancing women, where everyone can clearly see each other's face and the true feelings possessing us. Will fell asleep on the couch in the corner of the strip club, he was out for the night, and wasn’t bothered once by a bouncer, waitress or dancer. I can only imagine they deal with drunk idiots like him passing out there on a nightly basis, there is a reason all of the furniture is leather. It is customary to pay every stripper that gyrates in front of you, so I quickly ran out of money sitting on pervert row. I had to borrow singles from Spencer, who was having the time of his life. He had never been to a strip club before, and couldn’t get enough of this Gomorrah we were in. The girls were very open, offering up far more touching and pulling men into their chests far more than any other strip club I had been to. They sure knew how to make those men give up their hard earned dollars in just a few seconds, but that’s what the men wanted to spend it on. They wanted to see tits, they wanted to feel cool and they wanted people to want to be them. That’s how men always are if you ask me. I made my way to the restroom at one point, where I was greeted by the black bathroom attendant on duty. Part of me wondered if his main purpose was to make sure people didn’t come into the bathroom to do cocaine or jerk off, what a job. I talked to the chap for a minute, he was very cool and had clearly seen it all. He sprayed me with cologne, the same cologne that stung the nostrils when you walked into the establishment. Spencer even bought a cigar from the guy a few minutes later, I wondered if he liked his job, he must have met some wild people and seen some wild things. Nothing that happens in the strip club is ordinary. Sitting there in the strip club in between moments of hiding my boner, drinking my overpriced beer and talking


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with Spencer about how great life is, I felt ashamed I was with all of these girls and not with Mandy. I hoped she would never find out I came here when she didn’t respond to my texts and calls. Now I hope she reads this and feels responsible, at least partially responsible for my actions, she had more influence on them than I did.

Chapter 10 Spencer eventually ran out of singles and the dancers stopped coming around once they caught wind, we no longer had reason to stay. I chugged the rest of my beer and slammed the pitcher down with pride. We went over and found Will slumped on the couch like we had left him, we woke him up subtly by pouring beer on his head while slapping him in the face. He had not really touched his pitcher, so I decided to sneak it out of the club under my blazer, against my white button up shirt. However as we walked out of the club, the most repugnant smell hit me in the face, a waft of sewage and spoiled food. Will had puked in his pitcher, and it was now all down my white shirt. What a scene it must have been for the uber driver pulling up, Spence standing and puking in the bush to my left, Will on his knees puking in the bush to my right. I Gronk spiked the pitcher on the ground in anger, the plastic container must have bounced 12 feet in the air I was so upset. It was at that time that the bouncers chased us off the property and made us wait for our ride in the parking lot. We didn’t have to wait long. We rocked out to music on the way home, bumping rap music about gun violence and sexual abuse as our christian dad of an uber driver brought us back to our lodgings. It had been a long night, it was now three or four in the morning. We went inside and sat down for a full three


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seconds before we remembered we had weed in the room. We went out to my car to smoke, but both of my friends fell asleep by the end of the first bowl. I smoked a couple more by myself, listening to the smooth guitar and imperfect voice of John Darnielle and his band the Mountain Goats. I was for the first time that night, alone with my thoughts. I thought of what I would tell them in the morning about Mandy. I decided to be semi-honest and just tell them things didn’t work out, we had had such a good time they didn’t care about my love life. I sat there, staring out the windshield of my car from the driver's seat, smoking my pipe. Wondering which way and how far she was from where I was sitting. It was undoubtedly the closest we had ever been to each other, and would probably be the closest we ever get. I cursed myself for being a romantic and falling for every girl that I think falls for me. Would anyone ever have these feelings about me I thought? The answer is probably no, no one is as crazy as I am. Or at least, other people are too busy enjoying life to dwell on unimportant parts like these I thought. I fell asleep out in my car. We went in after about 30 minutes of sleeping in my car and crashed on the hotel beds, without taking off our shoes or socks. I had forgotten about Will’s puke that ruined my white shirt, I slept in his bodily fluids all night. We all seemed to wake up around 9 a.m. at the same time, wanting to sleep longer but being unable to despite being deathly tired. We called down to the front desk and got a late check-out for 12 instead of 11. That hour becoming more important than family or love and almost as important as air itself.

Chapter 11


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We left the hotel and went to a strip mall where Will bought a T-shirt with the money he had saved by passing out at the strip club and bypassing the dancers. We smoked weed in the parking lot and talked about how crazy our night had just been, looking over photos we had taken, reminiscing every detail we could recall. I had gotten a text from Mandy, she told me she was sorry about last night. She said she was too nervous to finally meet me, she was too “shy”. I didn’t know what to think, either this girl is a terrible liar who should have just continued to turn a deaf ear to me and not respond. Or she is more like me than I thought. I thought of all the times I had called of meetings and dates with girls because I was too nervous and didn’t have a full proof plan for the evening. I told her I was upset, I told her that there was no way she was more nervous than I was. I had sweat through 3 undershirts that day because of the anxiety. Mandy invited me over that afternoon, but we had to be back home by then. Part of me thinks she knew that. Part of me also thought I had salvaged my relationship with her and had hope for our future. We drove home nauseous and tired, without saying much to each other. I threw my white shirt out on the road, I didn’t want my mom to find it in the clothes hamper and ask questions. It couldn’t be salvaged anyway. We were all beat, and ready to lay in our beds without seeing or talking to the outside world for a day or two. Mandy texted me the next day and made plans to meet me in Indianapolis in two weeks, far from halfway for her to drive. I got excited about finally getting to meet her, but I didn’t make any plans.


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2. It was after my sophomore year in high school when my best friend Tyler moved away to Texas to live with his dad, and left me in the wake of trouble we had gotten in here in Indiana. After becoming closer than ever during the soccer season in the fall, hanging out everyday after practice kicking the ball around in the yard, sneaking out during the night to go to parties, and talking of the ever too far-away time when we would finally move from under the firm grasp of our parents. During the winter, Tyler started to spend the night at my house even more as the divide between him and his stepfather grew. After we were caught drinking beer at Tyler’s house once, his stepfather Chris installed cameras throughout their house and started constantly watching his every move. Chris began grilling him for things like eating too much food, being up late at night and many other things that I myself and my other friends did on a daily basis with no concern from our parents whether biological or through marriage. Chris would look for any reason to pick a fight with Tyler. As Tyler stayed at my house more and more, our friend’s started to call it “Tony and Tyler’s”, my parents loved having him over, I loved having him over. However, his parents only grew to loathe me and my influence over him more. In January I got my license, and for the first time, we felt like we owned the world. We could go anywhere, hangout with anyone, and do anything without our parents for the first time, we were finally "free". As our privileges grew, our experiences with parties, girls, and drugs also grew. It’s not quite clear if we went out looking for trouble, or trouble was looking for us, but irregardless, we found each other.


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In the spring, Tyler and I, along with a couple more friends were caught smoking marijuana by our parents one night. While it was not my first time being caught, and certainly not my last, Tyler’s parents were not as “understanding” with the situation. As was the case with most of the times Tyler got in trouble with his parents, I was seen as the catalyst for his delinquent behavior. Especially by Chris. Tyler was given a choice, he could move with his mom and stepfather away from our hometown where all our friends were and where he would be forced to stay in the house with his horrible stepfather everyday, or he could move to Texas with his father. Tyler had not lived with his dad in 10 years, and saw it as an opportunity to rekindle a lost relationship. In the end, I wasn’t upset with Tyler’s decision to move. It would have been selfish of me to want Tyler to stay with his family, which had moved three hours away, so I rarely would have seen him anyway. I was upset that I wouldn’t have anyone to talk to anymore about who I was crushing on. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about struggles with my older brother and parents for independence, which only got worse after Tyler left. It was the worst moment in my life at that time. I was distraught and there was nothing I could do about it. I wasn’t allowed to see Tyler at all his last two weeks in Indiana. My other friendships grew, as Tyler’s leaving affected far more people than just myself, but nevertheless, I missed my best friend.

3. In my room sits a bookshelf overflowing with notebooks, textbooks, novels and pamphlets. Some of them purchased by myself, some of them gifts. These books are my escape when I am


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bored, when I am lonely, or when I am sad. The entire works of Shakespeare sits side by side next to “The Idiot’s Guide to Bartending”, “Cannibal Killers” and “Fight Club”. There are books I will never read on my shelf, such as Gorbachev’s Perestroika which is simply up there for novelty, sitting next to the Magic Treehouses books I adored so much when I was younger. There are books I will read again, my favorites, “On the Road” and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, and books I will never forget, “War and Peace” and “The Doors of Perception”. This bookshelf represents me as a whole, who I am and what I know. It also represents my future, what I will learn, and what ideas will sweep me off my feet as I grow. Who knows how these books will shape me, and what is still to come to my shelf. Who knows what is still to come in my life.

4. “Gonna be a scorcher” … my older brother said as we continued to stack the hay on the wagon, moving slowly across the seemingly endless field behind the loud "bang whoosh rawr" of the tractor. I shouldn’t have drank so much vodka last night, I’m sweating it all out and it’s stinging the multitude of cuts and scratches that cover my arms turning them into a topographical map of some horrendously mountainous land with multiple red rivers running through. I swear we always work the hardest on days I’m hungover, almost without fail. But it’s not like I can say anything to my dad, who sits upon his throne in the tractor overlooking the field with


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pleasure, he is living out his dream, farming with his sons, like so many generations of our bloodline before. My older brother is also drunk, but he on the same supply as my father. He lives for this Midwestern hell. He too has dreams of one day farming with his kids. I’m the odd man out, I’m the one who likes to sit inside and read the classics of Shakespeare, Wilde, Joyce, and Emerson and dreams of not farming but traveling the country on foot hitching rides as I can, like a modern day Jack Kerouac. I’m the one who excels in school and has dreams of wearing a suit and tie to work everyday, not sweaty ragged shirts with holes in them and torn jeans with patches not for style but to make them usable for another few years. I’m the disappointment.

5. "A Poem About Breakups" I will never be the same after you, I hope I changed you in some part too. You broke my heart, left me no choice, I laid in bed for days, trying to forget your voice, your touch, your smile, your eyes, your love. I almost wish we had never met. I almost wish we had never broken into that abandoned house,


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or laughed together when you ruined that blouse, at that party where we told everyone it was official. I wish you would’ve thought about my feelings before you shot my heart with that cheating missile.

But you did show me how happy I can be, When I’m with someone who enjoys the same things as me. It’s been two years now, I can’t hold a grudge much longer. I wish you the best, the whole experience has made me truly stronger. I know what I want, I want what we had, I just want to feel it with someone else.

Tony Lain's Portfolio Creative Writing 270  
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