Sun. Jun 4th, 2023

Finding a starting point is not as easy as one would think. Deconstructing emotional trauma is hard; it’s like going to the scene of train accident and desperately trying to figure out which car caused it, but then realizing the futility of it. It doesn’t matter which car caused it because all of them ultimately paid the price. Our minds function like trains, with the brain being the engine driving senselessly into the sea of the unknown, hitched by a twist of fate to the most irrational parts of ourselves. Emotions. And when one of these ‘cars’ slip, lose a wheel or explode for Christ’s sake, well, it will take even the most rational parts of ourselves with it.

But Stephen, you’re a writer.

Just because I choose to set my story to page doesn’t make me a prolific being with access to knowledge the common man doesn’t. My eloquence has never saved me any hassle, and in most situations leads people to distrust me, for fear that I am condescending to them. I was never the smartest man amongst my friends, nor did I claim to be. This forced me, as a man who hung around the ‘gifted’ kids, to become resourceful and socially observant to the point where I could assume the role of intelligence until it was truly mine. That’s when I met her.

I was thirteen, and her name was Kelly.

I don’t understand why I was such an asshole, honestly. A flaw of character, perhaps. Arrogance. Or Fear. Most likely fear. No, too cliché even for my younger self. To be loved, and welcomed wholeheartedly was something I dreaded, as it would lead to my inevitable normalization. Being normal. Something I desired more than anything, but something I was petrified of.

To be normal. I spit at the thought of it.

She was a quirky, curly haired redhead that stood four and a half feet on a good day. She wore these chic black glasses that flared to a point right at where the frames would eclipse her temples. I was always jealous that I couldn’t wear more stylish eyewear. I sported something more akin to Coke bottles than anything. She had an eclectic, nerdy style to her, something I would develop interest in later in my romantic life. At this age, I was chasing the cheerleader types; you know exactly what I mean by that statement. The girls that developed early. Enough said, no?

So imagine my reaction when I get a note passed from this girl’s friend to me. Kelly is so into you, Stephen. You should totally ask her out. The page of notebook paper was littered with little doodles and other things that teenage girls would scribe on such documents. I stared blankly at the page. Fuck. What the hell am I supposed to do with this? My thoughts went briefly frantic. Literally a clusterfuck for young me. Sure, she was cute, but she had nothing from which I could latch onto so to speak. I had lied my way through several conversations with her up until this point about a plethora of topics that interested her, and it was only now that I realized the error of my ways. I had lied my way into a situation that only had good outcomes. To quote a professor I once had, “Neat, huh?”

I found the one fucking bad one. Beginning to see the trend?

I don’t think I had actually wanted to hurt her, but rather I was scared of the world around me silently relishing in my settling. It wasn’t that I didn’t want her; I cared far too much about my reputation to settle for anything less than the best. Society’s standard of the best. I was blind, or arrogant, or young, or anything. I wasn’t kind. I wasn’t thoughtful. I was a boy who was determined to make himself the paragon of success and popularity.

She was just collateral damage.

I can’t remember if she cried in the moment. But I remember the looks on every face as I dropped the line. Some looked on in disgust, a couple of the other boys laughed, and the teacher just contorted her face into one of disappointment. I felt shame – please understand that. But I thought I was doing what I had to do to rise up. Desperation for attention is the bane of many. I was simply the next victim of a fatal flaw. Like Oedipus or Achilles or Judas, my desires had bested me and caused me to act irrationally. I had presented it so flatly and without admission of my internal qualms that I thought I might start acting in shows. What is acting but escaping your own fabric for that of another personality?

It’s a slippery slope if you don’t like yourself.

Kelly acted in the musicals alongside me, usually as an ensemble member or dancer. I was usually put forth into the role of the villain – an irony that still hasn’t lost its touch on me. She watched me assume the roles of personalities far worse than my own, but they only served to perpetuate the feelings she had about me. I don’t know for sure, but if I had been in her shoes, I would’ve hated my guts. Especially when I broke up her and her boyfriend the next year.

Oh, I forgot to mention, I recanted my feelings of animosity within a year. I wanted her bad.

Whether it was the thrill of the chase or the fact she didn’t have ridiculously colored hair anymore, I wanted her. She became the material of my wet dreams. Graphic, yes. But also accurate. The amount of time I romanticized and fantasized about her as a boy was shameful. I shouldn’t even be declaring it so unapologetically. But it’s the truth. She started dating a prick by the name of Sebastien – a Spanish man with the typical skater boy hair. I often wonder what she saw in him. I remember using her suppressed emotions against her, playing on the fact that she was into me in the past. It worked fairly successful, too. Other than Sebastien trying to jump me after class with his two friends. Once again, not incredibly proud of this. However, once again I would not benefit from this twist of fate.

Enter Tyler, stage right.

Alexander Breth is a fourth year student majoring in English with a concentration in visual rhetoric. ✉

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