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I never thought this is what my 20's was going to be like.
Everyone says it's your teen years that are the hardest because of puberty and finding yourself and all of that. I can't even begin to talk about how big a crock of shit that is, at least for me.
My 20's have been more hardcore than anything I've dealt with in my teens. For starters: as a teenager dealing with normal circumstances, high school is the enemy. Why? Because it's the first time you, as a person, enter a "mock society". High school is its own world with its own social structure and you've got to find your place. Mainly, high school is the first time you get a look at the broader spectrum that you didn't witness as a child. Your understanding expands. Your idea of self begins...BEGINS to form here.
At least for me it was this way.
Teenagers think anything beyond the teens is old. They can be loud, obnoxious, wanna-be know it alls, but it isn't who they truly are. It's all part of them growing, changing, evolving, trying to find their way both physically and mentally in the world. They want you to hear their opinion and simply just want their opinion to be considered and their words to be considered on the same level as yours. They hate to be dumped by the wayside just because they are teenagers and therefore, "don't know shit" to those of us who are older. They just want to be equal.
Concepts you couldn't get me to understand as a teenager, but in my 20's I see it, and much more, clearly. See, the 20's is when shit really hits the fan. For many it's the first time they are leaving home. It's time to establish yourself and learn to walk like an adult instead of crawling like a child. Even heavier responsibilities are headed your way, and for the first time, you can no longer be protected from life by your parents. It's your time to step out into the world. For the first time, your life is pretty much in your hands. You have been given the right to decide your fate.
It's also when you truly begin to find out who you are. Mentally, physically...sexually. The world is a much different place when you're actually "out" in it, versus "just visiting". I guess to sum up what could be a very long explanation: the teen years are preparation for the 20's, where the REAL game begins.
And currently, I felt like I'd not only failed that game, but had failed so badly that there was no way possible to fix it and make it right.
Twenty-eight years old and I had gone out to chase a dream three years ago. Had gone back to college to pursue my AS degree in game design. Yep. That's right. Little Riley used to be one of them thar Nintendo freaks back in the 80's. I wanted to design games ever since then, but everyone knows that up until the turn of the new century it wasn't accessible to the average joe...unless they knew what avenues to take.
I don't know what I'd expected college to be like...but I don't think it was quite like what I'd experienced so far. Whereas in high school it was more about who did and did not have popularity, here it was more about who led and who followed.
You'd be surprised to see how content people are to just follow.
You'd be surprised to see how powerful the people who lead can be.
I'd gotten my taste of it. From two of my younger peers (21...22 I think) who now, I know, were threatened by my skills. I'm up there with the top students in our graduating class. What rockets me past them? I remember all the old school level design and creation stuff. Had actual, real, exposure to it for more than just a weekend. And it's like knowing about all the old stuff about computers before Windows took over everything. You can apply that knowledge to current issues because at the end of the day Windows is still just a disk operating system. DOS.
Anyway. I don't know what all was said, and I'll never really know I guess, but it made it to where a lot of people didn't want to work with me on projects, mainly in our two big design team classes. And it wasn't because they didn't think I had the skills. But nobody wanted to associated with the "thirty-year-old-virgin".
That apparently was what they'd dubbed me because I was as old as I was and had never had a job in the field. One of the other older students in the class told me.
Not that my skills hadn't gotten me noticed. A few big gaming companies (who'd done their job fair at our school) had expressed a deep interest in me. Too bad that with the economy like it was, (and the job market going a level past hell to an all time low) they couldn't hire me on or even bring me in as an intern until things were better. With the way things were being talked about, that wouldn't be until sometime next year.
So here I was reflecting on where I was in my life and not feeling sorry for myself, but feeling as if I should've known better. The situation at school was causing me to fail classes because I couldn't get anyone to work with me, up into the point to where instructors were asking me what the problem was. At first I hadn't said anything, thinking it was just my imagination. But once I was sure, I told them, and guess what?
They couldn't do a damn thing about it.
So I checked up on what classes I had left and saw that what they were teaching were things I already had a firm grasp on. No need to stay for an expensive review. I'd decided to graduate with my AS instead of my BS. It was a lesser degree, but I'd already failed two classes because of the business with those two dumb asses, and it was evident that situation was not gonna change until they were long gone.
I was going to be going back home to live with my mother.
I was not going to have any job.
I was not going to have any money.
I was not going to be standing on my own two feet.
This was NOT how it was all supposed to work out.
"Might as well cut my sack off while we're at it."
"What?" my roommate looked up from his computer desk and over at me
on the couch.
"Nothing. Just thinking out loud." I answered him, sitting down the cup I'd been holding in my hand while I'd been thinking.
"Were you still going to the store tonight?"
Damn it! That was right!
"Yeah..." I pulled my cell out of my pocket to check the time. 11:54 pm. I should've already been at the store! "I'm gonna go now."
"I'll probably be gone by the time you get back, so come check out this spec and tell me what you think about it."
First person shooters were my forte All the way back to Wolfenstein 3-D and Doom WAD files. That was all I'd really focused on until Everquest, World of Warcraft, and City of Heroes came along. I wasn't one of those types who'd gotten completely intoxicated by those games and left my real life to join the virtual life. I just thought the concept of a game that took place in a virtual world was an awesome one and if taken to the next level, it could be even more.
The game my roommate called me over to look at was World of Warcraft. I'd liked the game back when it was originally released, but lately it was like watching a diamond reverse its process and turn back into a hard, black piece of coal. I'd already quit playing a few months ago, but my roommate had been holding out hope that the new rules and mechanics would reverse the coal inducing process.
I looked over his spec, asking him what he was going for. Once he had a good idea of what he wanted to do, I showed him three possible ways to get what he wanted. Having never played any of the caster classes in his entire WoW history, this was going to be a trip for him.
Once that was done, I made sure I had my keys
and wallet and went out the door headed for the store.
"Wish I had somewhere other than there to go tonight." I thought to myself, walking down the stairs that led to the underground carport.
My roommates did. All three of them. They had girlfriends they would go visit and spend the night with every weekend. In my entire three years of being at the school, only one girl had shown an interest in me, despite my showing . Too bad she had just turned 18 and I was not about to rob a cradle just to have someone at my side.
Then, there was also the fact that girls weren't particularly my cup of tea. It was something I'd gotten over a long time ago, being gay, but what annoyed me was that I wasn't "built" to be. I didn't think I looked bad, but apparently I didn't look good enough either. I thought I had a pretty tight dress style, but apparently it wasn't the correct one. Then, for the killer, I was the wrong color. Apparently nobody liked black dudes except for other black dudes. And they were VERY picky over who they went after.
Things could've been worse. I could've been living in a dorm with three other guys instead of the apartment we had. School sponsored housing had four apartment complexes they put students in. Two bedrooms got four people. One bedroom got two people. I was cramped, but at least we got our own bathroom, (kinda) our own kitchen, a front room, and two bedrooms. So there was space to move around without leaving the apartment.
It didn't make much room for privacy, though, and that's why my roommates spent the night over to their girlfriend's houses. It gave me an entire apartment to myself, a good thing for when I needed to work on projects...a bad thing for when I didn't have anything to do and would now have nobody to talk to. Not that I wasn't a likable person because I was. I'd be that one friend that everyone comes to and talks to, who offers good advice, always seems to know what to say, and always seems to know what to do...at least in your case.
The store was packed, as always. Never understood why they thought it was cute to have two lines open during the night time hours in this area when they know everything else nearby is 24 hours. And it was Friday too? People were getting so fed up, they were putting their stuff to the side and leaving the store. One dude three people behind me got into an argument with his wife over whether or not he was going to stand in line over the phone. I probably would've left myself, had I had anything more to do.
But it was a good time to think. And I was thinking about something that had made itself heavy on my mind lately.
I was wondering if I was closing in on another depression fit.
I'd had them three other times in my life. The first at age 19, the second at age 22, and the last at age 25. Each time it was when I came to the conclusion that no matter what I did, I could never make my life any better. And it wasn't that I was the kind of person to just sit and go "woe is me". I tried...did everything I could possibly do to try and make things go right and to be on the ball like every other twenty eight year old out there seemed to be.
I'd never had a boyfriend. Something I could've easily gotten past if it weren't for the fact that I hadn't tried. All the dudes I'd ever been interested in were always straight. Without fail. I'd had gay friends in the past and hung around with them. I remember one night we'd all gotten drunk. There were five of us, plus two other people. Once they went to bed, how about all the guys started making out with each other? None of us were in relationships with each other. Some of us didn't even know that much about one another. Yet four guys. Kissing. Right in front of me. Yeah. I was odd man out. This was after I was almost sure one of the guys like me.
I'd keep making stupid mistakes that kept fucking up my chances at getting settled and getting on my own two feet again. I'd already messed up having one hell of a job a couple of years back. Could've been set right now if I would've just toughed out being in a new town and wouldn't have gotten all screwed up over issues with my father, the fact that I didn't have any friends there or any family. The job I happened to work for was one of those jobs most people don't even dream of getting until they were twice my age.
But I never cry woe is me, because I don't see anyone else doing that. It had to be me. I had to be fucking up somewhere in the mix. That was the only explanation. There was just no way a person could go through life and have buzzard's luck seemingly 9 times out of 10. And that would piss me off and I'd get so frustrated with myself because I didn't have it in me to take control of my life. Seemed the more I tried, the more it resisted. Looked like it would be that way until I was dead in the ground. And to realize that it was what I had to look forward to for the rest of my life...who in their right mind would look forward to that?
Each time it ended with me trying to take my life. I didn't see how I could break the cycle and I didn't see my life becoming any better than it was. Kinda like now. The thing was that I didn't want to die. All the times I'd tried to take my life, it was to try and end my current existence in hopes of getting another chance. Maybe the dice would be rolled in my favor and I'd get to be on top instead of at the bottom in the balance.
But my body has always been...unusual.
Despite the fact that I looked like a nine pound weakling, my body had always been incredibly resilient. Oh I got cut, I got bruised, I even got sick like other people. But I always healed faster, my body always bounced back faster and harder against illness. So much to the point to where over the past six years I hadn't caught a cold. A slightly runny noise whenever I smoked a cigarette was the closest.
It was my super resilient body that had saved me
from all the attempts on my life. Attempts that would've put the average
person down. I was sure. I'd read up on some of the things I'd attempted.
And while all the times knocked me flat on my ass, I always came back.
"Baby, is that all for you?" came the voice of the checkout lady.
I looked up. Did all five of those people go
already? Apparently so, and apparently I'd been moving with the line while
it had taken place.
"Uh, yeah. That's it." I answered her.
She was fast and cordial as she checked out the five things I'd waited almost thirty minutes in line to buy. Thankfully it wasn't anything that needed to stay cold. She looked tired and like she'd been worked so far past her shift that she was about a half a step from being dead on her feet. Still, she was truckin' and sent me on my way with a tired smile and a thank you.
Home was just right up the street and I could've
walked, but had chosen to drive. Unless one of the two roommates I was
cool with was there and wanted to walk with me, I didn't test walking around
certain parts of LA at night alone, no matter how "safe" and "brightly
lit" it was.
"Lost Boys sounds good. I think I might watch that." I thought to myself as I got out of the car, having parked in the garage.
I'd refused to watch the second one after hearing
how absolutely horrible it was and how it had nothing to do with the original,
say for one character who felt like he was slapped in as an afterthought.
"Keys?" I said, checking my pockets to make sure they were in there before locking and closing the door. I had a bad habit of locking my keys in at least once a month.
I heard them jingle when I shook my right pocket.
I locked the door and shut it, then headed to the stairs that led back up to the complex. I'd come through the doors and was on the third step up when I noticed something. It was like walking into a house and their being a television on somewhere in the house. You can't hear it yet. You can't see it. But you can feel it.
My mind tried to help me out, tried to make sense
of what I was feeling, but all it could work out was something was wrong.
What kind of wrong, I didn't know, but something was wrong. Whatever it
was that was wrong must've been urgent because I got the sense that I should
find out what the source of the issue was.
"Nope. You're gonna take your ass inside, make this food, and watch Lost Boys." I told myself.
Then I began to wonder why I'd even felt what I'd felt.
Then it hit me again.
I was at the top of the stairs. I stopped right in
"No, I felt that shit this time." I thought to myself. It was almost like a physical pull from the left.
What the hell was going on? Why did I feel like this?
That feeling answered me again, tugging harder on me. My feet felt like they were moving. I looked down and realized they were. I was walking. Why was I walking? When had I decided to do that?
I let myself keep going. Around the corner...past my apartment...around the next corner and off to the right.
All while I walked the feeling remained the same. It never got stronger or weaker to let me know if I was getting closer or moving further away. I just know that my feet suddenly came to a stop and there was an urge to turn to my right and look.
It was a wall. Not a full one. Just a wall that served as a blocker for the stairs that were behind it that led up to the second floor. I caught one minor detail that was different about this particular wall. There was a service door on it, probably used for the plumbers to crawl in and mess around with the pipes, or for the cable company. The door was just slightly open. Anyone else walking by wouldn't have noticed unless they were looking directly at it.
I don't know how long I stood there debating on whether or not I was going to open the door and look inside. I had no idea what had forced me over here...it was no telling what might be on the other side.
Sitting my bag down on the ground I walked up to the left side of the door and pulled it open. That way if anything rabid or crazy was inside I was protected by the closed end of the door and would be able to slam it shut if I had to.
I took a quick look around, suddenly aware
I was standing out in the open acting extremely strange at just after mid-night
and anybody could be looking at me. I wasn't important enough for anyone
to be paying attention to, luckily, and turned my attention back to the
"Hello?" I called in, being careful not to speak too loudly.
"Did I just say hello like an idiot?" I thought to myself.
Okay, when did I become so sure that there was something in there to say hello to?
I pulled the door completely open, allowing what little light there was to shine inside, reflecting off the silvery metallic back of the door. I squatted down to take a quick look and see what I could see. I could see the beginning of the real wall about seven feet away...dirt...what looked like a passage going off to the left...more dirt...a passage going off to the right...spider webs.
I already knew I wasn't about to crawl in there and go down any of those passages. The situation was weird enough that if I was, in fact, trippin', I didn't want to go in there and go down one of those passages without a flashlight and either mess up something or get caught by management. It would be a little difficult to explain to them what I was up to.
Moving away, I pulled the door closed...and saw a pair of something pop out from the darkness.
No. Not pop out. Reflect.
They weren't the eyes of an animal. They looked
like the eyes of a human.
"Hey..."I called re-angling the door enough for the light to show into the corner.
Sure enough there were a pair of eyes there. I could
just make out the silhouette of the face they belonged to. The eyes blinked
awkwardly as the light hit them. A hand came up to block the light out.
A hand that even in the dim light I could see had a gash in it.
"Hey, you all right?" I called to the person.
From out of nowhere my body tensed.
A funny tingle hit my body. What was that?
"I..." my voice croaked.
I coughed. Cleared my throat.
"I'm not gonna hurt you, okay? I can see that it looks like you're hurt, and I don't think I should leave you here because you look like you need help." I called out to the person inside.
Whoever it was lowered their hand and switched position. The tingling in me felt like it was mellowing out, but moving closer. I stepped away from the door, not sure who or what to expect, but I got the feeling they were about to step out.
What came out was the last thing in the world I was expecting.
It was a boy. He looked young, probably not even
sixteen yet. And he looked like he had just had been dragged through four
different layers of dirt and had had his ass kicked by at least three other
kids his age. His hair was completely jacked up and in some spots looked
clumped up. His clothes looked recent, but his black shirt was slashed
on the right side. One of his shoes was missing. His dark blue jeans looked
like they were stained just below the left kneecap.
"I...don't feel so good." he spoke in a maturer voice than I'd expected.
He's going to fall.
As soon as the thought crossed my mind, I saw the
boy's eyes flutter and his body start to give way. I moved and caught him
just in time to keep him upright.
"I...just need to rest..." he spoke, allowing his body to rest on mine for a moment before he picked it back up on his own two feet.
Another weird thing about me.
Even though my existence was what it had been, there were these moments where something would seem to set itself up for negative consequences, only to work out for a very specific purpose.
All my roommates were gone and would be gone for the weekend. I had the place all to myself. Even if they would've been around, I could've taken the kid back to my place and it wouldn't have been a problem. But it was very convenient that I could bring him there and not have to deal with questions.
Questions I didn't know the answers to as I led the boy into the apartment.
He was doing better. Able to walk on his own, but
he still couldn't quite stand. I led him over to the couch I'd been sitting
on lost in thought earlier and helped him sit down.
"Thank you..." he said, then opened his eyes and looked directly into mine. "Brother."
And another feeling came to my notice.
Why did I suddenly feel like I knew this kid?
No...not knew him.
"I'm sorry." he said, taking me from my thoughts. He had nice eyes.
Pretty almost. I could swear they were sparkling.
"For?" I asked, yawning.
Jeez. When did I get so tired? I had all the energy in the world a few moments ago. Now I felt like I needed to have a seat on the couch myself.
I sat on the loveseat instead.
My eyes started to itch.
But I didn't want to close them. I didn't want to touch them.
I just wanted to keep looking at his eyes.
They were...oh, they were so nice to look at.