I Am Not A Sad Story

There is a running myth abut me that I am somehow confident and happy and even remotely well-adjusted. I’m not sure where people get that. It seems to take a lot for people to see deeper and see me as the fumbling, neurotic fuck-up I so aggressively believe that I am. This is one of the many disconnects I have with the world around me.

I don’t often open up about myself or the things going on in my  head. There are a handful of friends who have seen me at my miserable, self-loathingly lows. I’ve had often fragmented, frustrated conversations with my parents that end in a “chin up, kiddo” sort of mentality. But the truth is that I am plagued by vicious anxieties that pick at my bones and a growing depression that recently began flexing its ability to stop me in my tracks. Usually its something that I’ve been able to bury, put somewhere off to the corner, but as I try to make a place in the world for myself, its becoming frighteningly apparent how big a problem these things can be.

I can’t remember a day where all these issues started becoming issues. I think I was largely a happy kid. But I remember moments where that image is fractured a bit. I remember being picked on and bullied, but I also remember that I had done my fair share of bullying in return. I remember being angry that on my seventh birthday they made me swing at the piñata last because I was bigger than the other kids and someone broke it before I got a chance. I remember leaving my own party that day and just running away off into the fields behind my house. There are so many disjointed memories of being lost or scared, even in my own home. Whether it was someone I didn’t like came to watch me or my sister’s boyfriend being mean to me or being dropped off when I was six and finding no one at home. There are so many memories of being young and alone. To the point where it began to feel like alone was the way I was meant to be.

There are many dirty parts of my life that I choose to remain secret. Some I don’t disclose to therapists. Some only a few friends know of. I tend to think I grew up a bit faster than I should have. The fact that my parents were never home became a legitimate excuse to be used in class for why I didn’t do something. A point that many of my friends eagerly vouched for on my behalf.

But I never felt depression until high school, when waves of paralyzing apathy or anger or frustration would wash over me, leaving me feeling completely powerless and once again alone. It was in high school that I started seeing myself as something other. Alienated and off to the side. Something that didn’t quite belong. Someone not good enough. While the bouts of serious depression or panic were few and far between (except for dealing with homework) there was a growing sense of self-loathing that was always present.

This past year the bouts of depression and anxiety have become more and more frequent. Growing steadily until in the past few months where depression often feels like a daily battle and my anxiety and bouts of panic derail me at every turn. A few weeks ago I sat at my desk at my internship, knowing that there were pressing things and deadlines ahead of me, but still I sat there, motionless and paralyzed for hours. This little ball of pain sat on my chest and scratched at my insides. In the ensuing weeks deadlines have come and gone with a good deal of panic but no action. I now boast four or so job that offer little to know compensation and so I sit, defeated in a ball of panic and dread and watch as all those precious responsibilities slip past.

I frighten myself a lot of the time. I’ve cried more in the past four months than I think I have since I was a baby. Most days I feel so disconnected from the people in my life. So far from their love or their affection. I feel isolated and abandoned most days. This utter unsympathetic self-hatred burns at me, saying that I deserve to be alone. That this is how I am fated to be. There is this crippling belief that I am not in control of my own life. That its just spinning out of my grasp, kicked around for others amusement or placed on a high shelf and forgotten. It is felt so genuinely and with so much earnest that I often forget to do things for myself or that that is a possibility for me. This unconscious belief that my happiness leads to other people’s suffering on some level leaves me completely numb.

It’s hard to articulate exactly what I feel. It’s harder to believe that anything I am writing holds any weight or any purpose. That it is anything beyond my self-righteous pity party that no one cares about. Something that will sit as an ugly, self-indulgent scar on the internet.

I wish I felt as connected as I should be. There are a lot of people in this world that I love purely and wholly. But I don’t often feel it in return. I look out into the world and it yells back at me with this crippling apathy. This constant belief that everyone hates me as much as I hate myself. That my co-workers see me as cumbersome and in the way. That my intern advisers don’t like my very existence and see me as a bother or worse, a waste of space.  It’s this thing I’ve always seen of myself. I’m too much. Too much of everything. Too big, too loud, too phony, too quiet, too bombastic, too timid, too assertive, too passive, too fat, too selfless, too self-absorbed. Complete, vicious contradictions. Unsettled at all times no matter how I adapt.

And lately all these fears and paranoias and worries and hatreds have ground me to a complete halt. I have thoughts about what it would be like if I were to die in a car crash and I get these flashes of all the people who would miss me and all the things they would say and I feel their hurt so completely that I start bawling while sitting in traffic. And in those moments I know that I am not the garbage that I feel I am so explicitly. I am reminded of all the legions of family and friends that love me so completely. But then I’m left with a more haunting after image. A persistent question: Why do I have to go to such a dark place to finally feel everyone’s love?

I don’t know how I’ve become so disconnected from everything and everyone. More so, I don’t know how I’ve become so disconnected while appearing so engaged from the outside looking in. But I’ve reached out for help. I’ve begun to seek therapy once again. This time with these feelings a little more clearly articulated. A little more willing to eradicate that gnawing pain inside me. And that’s why I don’t want to keep it secret. I don’t know who all will read this. Probably no one. It is quite far off from the humor that usually populates this blog. But it felt important to share.

My mission through writing is to reach out to kids and young adults who feel all of these feelings. That feel so lost and alone and need something to hold onto. But I think I still need something to hold onto myself. A reminder that the story is still being written. And a happy ending will be on its way. We all have stories inside us and I don’t think mine is a sad one.

Too Old for Young Adult

I felt a little out of place as I sat down in the theater to watch “Paper Towns.” I was by myself, as per usual, and looking around the theater I realized that I was the only one there that was not a 15 year old girl or a parent who was dragged there against their will. No, I was a man on the verge of 23 years old sitting alone in a movie designed for teenagers.

Maybe its my crippling self-criticism, but I feel like this is a bad move. Not that anyone really cared at all. I just always have this nagging feeling that someone is lurking in the shadows judging me. Saying things like “Eww, what’s that creepy dude doing here? Why is he crying? Did his dog die or something? There is no way he’s this worked up over the lives of fictional teens.” But I am that worked up because as much as I judge myself for it, I really do like coming of age stories and YA lit.

Teenagers are always less scary when they are fictional.

Teenagers are always less scary when they are fictional.

I wasn’t always so open to the idea of young adult novels. I didn’t really read any of the Harry Potter books ’til my junior year of high school. I looked down on anything written from the perspective of a high school student with miserable disdain. After all, I was a serious writer. I tackled the hard subjects like death and loss and the inability to find a girlfriend. Anytime I asked a friend what book I should read, they’d say The “Perks of Being a Wallflower” and I would scoff like a pretentious little jerk.

Then I read “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” It felt like life punched me in the stomach really hard but I was sort of happy about it. Never had I read a book that dealt with the issues that were currently floating around in my head. I’d never read anything that tackled anxiety and depression in such a visceral, real way. No monsters and magic. No ghosts. Just pain and emotion and hope and it flipped the script on my life.

I watched this movie in theaters three times in one week.  Ph: John Bramley © 2011 Summit Entertainment, LLC.  All rights reserved.

I watched this movie in theaters three times in one week.
Ph: John Bramley
© 2011 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.

Here was a book that tackled all the subjects I liked to thing I understood and it spoke directly to those who live it daily. At the end of the day all of my work was about the same things: that growing up sucks. Whether you’re 12 or 25, growing up is painful and awkward and it sucks. But here I held a book that spoke to me about those things, let me live in a world where these problems were addressed and sort of made things ok.

To this day I hold onto that book tightly. It’s the only book I’ve ever read three times and if I leave home for more than two days, you can guarantee that that book is on my person. Whenever I’m stressed out or depressed, I pick it up or watch the movie. It doesn’t quite make it better, but it makes it manageable. And that’s a powerful thing.

After that I started doing my best to find more and more books like it. That tackled the same issues, that had that same protective impact for its fans. I discovered Ned Vizzini’s “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” and Simon Rich’s “Elliot Allagash.” Rainbow Rowell and most importantly John Green. These books and writers became my guides and my teachers. Before long it dawned on me that this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to write novels about the struggles of growing up that could help teens and young adults the same ways these books helped me. To tackle life’s problems and pains with a glimmer of humor and hope.

Hope and fun are important. Otherwise you become

Hope and fun are important. Otherwise you become “Man of Steel” and nobody wants that.

So I try my best to read as much of these novels as possible. Which is weird because I’m pretty sure if you saw me just hanging around the Young Adult section at Barnes and Noble for extended periods of time, you would call the cops on me.

But I don’t know enough about the genre to just shop on Amazon and have them shipped discreetly to my house. I have to get in their, pick up the books, flip around and see what grabs me. Because lets be honest, for as much good stuff one can find in that section, there is just as much, if not more, god awful garbage. So I have to take my time and sift. Which I can never comfortably do.

My trips through the Young Adult section are all designed to loo like accidents. I casually stroll up and down the fiction aisles, looking at the names I should have read in college. Giving a long linger over a handful of Nabokov’s so that any passers-by think that I am sophisticated and am a true student of my craft. “Oh, of course I’ve read “Pnin.” Like in third grade.”

I'm sorry Mr. Nabokov, one day I'll read your work. I promise.

I’m sorry Mr. Nabokov, one day I’ll read your work. I promise.

Before long the fiction section turns into the young adult fiction section. I pick up a book with a colorful cover and make a show of being interested by its novelty. I pick it up, flip it over, and then set it down. Then I’m in.

I give myself about five minutes max. It’s like moving through the porn section at old video stores. You rush through, grab something that looks vaguely like it suites your interests, and you bolt without making eye contact. If there are already people in the section, I walk away.

Occasionally I’ll be shopping and a parent will be looking for the “Hunger Games” books or “Divergent” or whatever new dystopia allegory is in theaters this weekend and I’ll debate pointing them in the right direction. The conversation in my head goes “Oh thanks, do you work here?” And I’m all like “Nah, I just reading about 16 year old’s love-lifes.” And then they scurry their pre-teen away and give them a lecture in talking to strangers with beards.

So I don’t talk to anyone. I never ask someone for suggestions or where to find something. If I can’t do it on my own, I guess I’ll just suffer.

I don’t know why I’m so weird about things like this. Between fear of judgement from parents and aggressively rude teenagers, I also have this fear that my peers and educators are looking down on me. I went to school to be a writer. I was supposed to read Mark Twain and Graham Greene and Dostoyevsky and be inspired to create great works of literature. To handle my craft to tell stories of importance.

I also write my novels here, to make sure that I am the optimum level of cliche.

I also write my novels here, to make sure that I am the optimum level of cliche.

But I have no desire to write moody dude poetry. I want to write stuff that’s goofy and fun. I want to write about stuff that freaked me out when I was younger and only continues to freak me out more as I grow up. I don’t want to take down the government with a think piece. I want to let some chubby kid know that it’s ok to be sad sometimes.

That’s the battle I have everyday. Do I write something I want to write and have fun or do I want to write something important? As if those two things don’t occupy the same space. Sometimes this battle between what I want to do and what I feel I need to do to live up to my potential is crippling. More like all the time. I oscillate between this projects and that story and what I want to do, “but no the people on tumblr will not like me” and “I’ll be letting Professor Rabb down…” so much that it paralyzes me.

Part of me wants to write the Great American novel. Part of me wants to write about vampires.

Part of me wants to write the Great American novel. Part of me wants to write about vampires.

This blog is the most that I’ve really done to write for myself lately and I can’t even keep that rolling out consistently. I’m just kind of stuck soemtimes and I want to break that. I want to tell stories that I’m passionate about. I want to write with the type of passion I did in high school when I should have been listening to an Algebra II lecture. But I’ve become so hyper-aware of expectation and what it’s like to have to live up to something, that I forget that there really is no pressure on me to do any one thing. No one really gives a shit and as horrible as that sounds, that’s really freeing sometimes.

After seeing “Paper Towns,” I kind of got reenergized to tell a story that I want to tell. To write something that may have helped me or someone like me navigate his way through college or something like that. I try to stop focusing on doing something important and focus on doing something that feels right to me. Something that makes me love writing.

I mean, I still only allow myself five minutes in the Young Adult section, but maybe one day I’ll allow myself a little longer when I’m admiring my work on the shelf.

Nightlights Are Now Required

I’m a big ol’ scardey-cat. I flee from bugs, I jump at sudden noises, I scream when someone sneaks up on me. It’s an involuntary reaction, but a spectacular one. An eruption of high pitched squeals and a dorky flailing of limbs. But my fears are not limited to sudden surprises and creepy crawlies.

Now if I was attacked by an army of gummi worms, that'd be a way to go out.

Now if I was attacked by an army of gummi worms, that’d be a way to go out.

My imagination has a horrible habit of running away with itself. In the darkness of night I have this phobia about looking at windows. Spooky stuff is always lurking in my mind, some madman or demon is always just in the next room. Most nights I can shut it down after some time but there was one night when I was younger that my imagination got so out of hand that I can’t help but laugh about it now.

I moved to Houston, Texas when I was about 14. We moved into this house that was way too big for our family that has always been fairly compact. It had five bedrooms, four baths, two stories, two living rooms and tons of empty space that I would practice my sweet karate moves in when I was home alone.

I was home alone quite a bit growing up, my parents worked a lot and I got used to spending most of my evenings alone. But for the most part since moving to Houston, my parents always came home at night. But one Saturday, my parents decided they were going to spend the night downtown, leaving me home alone for the first time in this way too big house.

I didn’t think anything of it. I’d stayed home alone for the night before. I ordered a pizza early that afternoon and set up shop on the computer. The office was upstairs and off to the side, overlooking the empty foyer area. We moved around a lot and simply didn’t have enough stuff to fill every inch of the house.

I sat at the computer and went to town on some Buffy the Vampire Slayer trivia quizzes. For hours. Just question after question. “What is the name of Adam Busch’s (actor who played Warren Meers) band?” “Common Rotation.” “Which cast member originally started acting when they were young in order to overcome their stuttering problem?” “Nicholas Brendon.” I was a machine.

With the years of watching Buffy, you'd think I'd have a few strategies for dealing with bumps in the night.

With the years of watching Buffy, you’d think I’d have a few strategies for dealing with bumps in the night.

Next thing I know, I look up and the sun had gone down. Not just a little down, not oh look at the sunset. Like pitch black. The only light in the entire house that is on is my computer screen because I had not realized that it was now one in the morning.

I looked out over the silent blackness of the house and succinctly powered down the computer and proceeded to turn every light in the house on. I was hungry so I ran downstairs, cranked the TV on to cut through that stomach churning quiet and set the oven to reheat my pizza.

Once I got to the kitchen was the first time my imagination really got flared up. I casually looked at the back door as I watched the heat rise and I noticed the lock. When it is locked, it is completely horizontal. I habitually lock doors, a trait that used to annoy my parents, so it was odd that when I looked at the lock it was sitting diagonally. About half way between being completely locked and unlocked.

My stomach dropped. I was sure for some reason that I had completely locked the door, would have made sure it was tight. And the longer I stared at it, the more I could swear that I saw it move. Tiny movements. I rushed into the living room and turned the TV up even louder, to apparently let the murderer know that there was definitely someone to murder inside. I mean if it was a burglar, I guess that could scare him off but if it was some murderer he was probably all, “Jackpot! Some loser watching The Real World! The Real World Slasher strikes again!”

It's the Axe Body Spray.

It’s the Axe Body Spray.

I tried to distract myself with the show but I could still see the lock and I kept imagining all sorts of sounds. The clicking of the lock. Clattering. Someone softly singing “Oh Imma Do Some Murdering.”

Eventually I turned the oven off, my appetite suddenly gone. I cranked up the TV even louder. That is my go to defense. Lots of lights and a loud TV, so I can see him coming but I can’t hear him, which sounds like an awful plan.

I streak upstairs to my room and slam the door behind me. I dig through my closet searching for these swords that my uncle used to give me and my dad every Christmas. I had like six swords in that closet and I took every one of them to my bed. I guess I thought my killer was a pirate of some sort and that I would apparently grow four extra arms in the heat of the moment.

My bed was just a mattress on the floor at the time. I thought I was super cool at the time but that night it proved to be very stupid. Because I had the lights on outside my door, light was showing through the crack at the bottom of the door. Due to my angle however, every time I shifted the shadow of the door itself would kind of shift along that light, making it appear that someone was pacing outside my door.

At that point I couldn’t take it anymore. I knew this was all in my head. There was no one trying to break into our house, there was definitely no one pacing outside my door like a velociraptor in a Jurasic Park movie, just taunting me and being a dick. I turned on a rerun of Friends and cranked it up. Maybe the killer would give away his position by laughing at one of Chandler’s hilarious quips and I could stab him with five swords.

Who has time to be scared when you're hanging out with these lovable dorks?

Who has time to be scared when you’re hanging out with these lovable dorks?

No laughter. Not even my own, because quite frankly a bunch of white people’s pseudo-problems are not as amusing when certain death hangs over your head. At about two o’clock I was still all wound up so I called my friend Sal. I’m convinced that Sal was some sort of vampire because he picked up the phone like it was nothing. He was just sitting around bored and unable to sleep. Because he sleeps during the day. Like a vampire.

I told him my story of the night and we laughed about how ridiculous it all was, but I kept an iron grip on my sword because I ain’t no chump. We talked for hours. First about how freaked out I was but then about random things. He was my best friend for the last few years in Louisiana before the move and we had stuff to catch up on. We talked until five a.m. Long after Friends had faded from the airwaves and just as the birds were starting to stir again.

I thanked him for keeping me company and calming me down. It was safe now to go to bed because it was five o’clock and people were waking up somewhere and bad things don’t happen when other people are awake. I don’t know where the logic in this came from but it’s something I hold fast to. No matter how freaked out I get, if I can last to five a.m. I suddenly feel better.

Nothing bad has ever happened during the day. Ever.

Nothing bad has ever happened during the day. Ever.

The next morning I walk around the house and turn out all the lights and hope my parents won’t receive in spikes in the electric bill. I put my pizza away that I just left on the counter. I turn off the TV downstairs and note that nothing in the house seems to be disturbed. The lock is still in that weird diagonal position. I had survived a night alone with Chase’s brain. It’s a big feat.

As I look more and more at getting a place of my own, I keep thinking about incidents like this. They’re not uncommon for me even though this is the most extreme. Bumps in the night keep me on high alert for hours, often until the five a.m. bell calls it off. I mean what is the appropriate amount of time to wait for something to kill you in the night before falling back asleep?

I wish I had more chill. That my thoughts didn’t mess with my head to such an extent or better yet, never went to such unnerving places in the first place. But the overactive imagination, good or bad, is a side effect with my chosen line of work. To constantly have the brain firing, creating stories out of thin air, eventually its gonna grab a hold of some unpleasant things. So we laugh. Say, “Chase, you so crazy” and move on.

Eventually that imagination is gonna help me live more dreams than all the nightmares I created in the dead of night. Until then, I’ve got my nightlight armed and ready to go.

Maybe An Apocalypse Sounds Good After All

The more people ask me what I’m going to do now that I’ve graduated college, the more I realize just how much I was banking on that whole 2012 apocalypse thing.I don’t think I did the best planning for life after turning 20.

I’m not saying that I believed in the whole Mayan prophecy thing, but part of me totally believed the whole Mayan prophecy. This was not the rational or even coherent part of me. This was the part of me that also often battles the fear of ghosts and enjoys watching “Pawn Stars.”

I'm not sure which creeps me out  more: ghosts or those chins.

I’m not sure which creeps me out more: ghosts, the end of the world, or those chins. I think they’re all connected, to be honest.

When I was in high school, I would laugh at the doomsday prophets, but deep down I was doing the math. I’d be cleaning the bathroom when I would get that glazy eyed thousand yard stare and wonder, “If the world really does end in 2012, how old will I be?” 20 years old. So I started planning for what I could accomplish by the time I turned twenty and subconsciously forgetting that, “hey, maybe you should figure out what’s going to happen when you turn 21 or 25. Because you know, the world was not going to end you dumbass.”

Even on December 20, 2012 I kept walking around thinking, “The world might end today.” I wasn’t quaking in my boots or anything. I was stocking up my End of Days bunker although I did happen to have a ton of cans of tuna at home. Just in case. I kind of felt like I should do the whole “Last day on Earth” hoopla. Carpe that diem. Do all the things I’d always wanted to do. You know, just in case. But I looked around my room and realized that I did have a bitchin’ Buffy the Vampire Slayer collection so I felt accomplished enough to take a nap.

I was a little surprised to wake up on December 21. The new year came and it felt weird to see dates that said 2013. I mean, John Cusak made a movie about how I was going to die. It takes some time to recover from that. But after a day or two the shock of living in this world that shouldn’t exist wore off and I went on being a normal person who wasn’t crazy. And it was refreshing.

Damn you, Cusack! Didn't you hurt me enough with "Must Love Dogs?"

Damn you, Cusack! Didn’t you hurt me enough with “Must Love Dogs?”

Until I graduated college and realized that those decisions I made when I thought I was gonna die at twenty had to carry to being an adult. I mean, it’s not like I went on some crazy meth bender or robbed seventeen banks in Missouri. To be honest, for someone who kind of thought the world was ending, I lived a remarkably boring life. I ate a lot of pizza. Probably should have done a few more push-ups.But now it seems that I have to make my little foray into art school actually payoff and that fact has a tendency to stop me in my tracks.

Every once in a while I’ll just stare off into the distance as I do the dishes and think, “I spent how much money getting a writing degree?! Why would I do that?!”

It’s hard coming back home and being showered with questions like “So what are you going to do now?” and “What does one do with a writing degree?” I sit at home and read Aquaman comic books. That’s what I do with a writing degree.

Who needs a plan for the future when you can spend all day pretending to be the king of the ocean?

Who needs a plan for the future when you can spend all day pretending to be the king of the ocean?

I want to come up with grand, oddball plans when I get these questions. “Oh, I’m moving to Spain to become a bull fighter.” Or, “I’m going to reshoot the film ‘Free Willy’ on my iPhone with my neighbor’s cat.” But then I just feel bad in comparison when the real answer is much less exciting. “I’m just kind of seeing what comes my way. I tell people I’m writing a book but I’ve been stuck on chapter 16 since February.”

But the funny thing is that I haven’t stopped fearing the end of the world. I just think I’m living in it now. I keep worrying that my world is falling apart around me, because I don’t have a plan for what comes next. It’s not the end of the world, though, no matter how much easier that would make things. It’s the exact opposite actually. It’s just the start. And it’s time to no longer be content with just having a bitchin’ Buffy the Vampire Slayer collection.

Too Polite for a Man My Size

The Winter quarter is coming to an end which means air travel is once again right around the corner. But I have learned from my past transgressions. My one bag is packed weighing in under 50 pounds, I have put my overcompensating smile away, and I have enough books to make it around the world without ever having to talk to another person. But no matter how prepared I may be, there is still one villain lurking, waiting for me.

airplane_seats

My nemesis. We meet again.

I was not built for airplane seating. It’s not that I am particularly fat — I can buckle my seat belt just fine — but I am just wide. I’m a big guy with big manly shoulders and arms that require the use of both armrests to cradle my rippling biceps and stuff. Plus my legs can’t fit comfortably in my own car, lot less wedged behind a man reclining back in his seat so far that he’s practically in my lap.

This all is uncomfortable enough but it is made a thousand times worse

by my ridiculous politeness. You have to have a certain arrogance to be big on an airplane, or at least to be big and comfortable. You have to take the space you need, other passengers be damned. That’s why you hear so many horror stories about obnoxious flyers, those guys know what’s up and how to make it work.

image31

You see a pest. I see a hero.

I, on the other hand, am always so worried about making others uncomfortable that I would go to great lengths for your comfort. I make myself as small as I possibly can, pulling my arms in tight to my body, leaving both armrests free. I try to avoid any sort of contact. Accidental arm touching, eye contact, pesky breathing. It’s three hours of very focused hell. It is very hard to write without my elbows invading my neighbors space but I try. And then put it away after accidentally crossing over the armrest into enemy territory and the writing operation is deemed to risky.

I am always spitting out apologies for any misstep. Apologies that are usually met with a grunt as he falls back to sleep. Once we land, my neighbors will exit the plain after a “comfortable” ride and go about their day, completely unaware of the sacrifice I made. But a great man does not seek praise for the service he provides.

So tomorrow, I will board a plane headed home and suffer in silence so that everyone can travel in peace.

I Just Wanted a Glass of Water

Bars make me ridiculously paranoid.  Probably because I’m supposed to have never been in one, seeing how I am still 20 years old and underage. But I’ve looked like I was 21 since I was 12 so I’ve never been given any problems.

I would love to avoid bars but unfortunately my parents like to go and if I want any family bonding time I have to tag along. There is one bar around town called Cindy’s Downtown where they like to go. They’re good friends with everyone who works there and I don’t make a lot of ruckus so no one ever really gives me any problems for being under 21.

The entire time I sit at my bar stool, sipping my water, barely aware of the conversation because I am constantly worried that at any moment a cop is going to burst into the bar and arrest me.

Angry-police-officer-with-nightstick-via-Shutterstock

Hydrate somewhere else!

I’m not drinking, I’m not causing a scene, and I’m there with my parents. I am doing nothing wrong of any kind  and yet that arbitrary rule of “You Must Be 21 to Enter” looms over my head. I’m not a rule breaker. I’ve written on this blog about how I rarely even jay walk. So I can never relax.

I mean, I never even really want to be in that bar anyway, so I always seem to dwell on how stupid it would be to get in trouble for being in a situation where I really didn’t want to be in the first place. But still I go, containing my worries silently in my head as I stare blankly at the sports game on the TV, knowing that any moment a cop is planning a bust and has me in the crosshairs.

I Promise That This Was Not an Elaborate Scheme to Hurt You

Whenever I am walking alone at night I always try not to look creepy, but it never works. Literally minutes ago I had a delightfully horrifying encounter.

So I am walking to the library down Oglethorpe. It’s all dark and whatnot and there’s really no one walking about, but I get this feeling that there is someone walking behind me. So naturally I look over my shoulder and discover that there is indeed a curly headed young woman walking alone several paces behind me. Cool enough. She’s clearly not a large ax-wielding maniac. So I keep on walking, rocking out to Julia Nunes in my headphones (I am learning that I am never listening to particularly manly music in these stories).

But there was something about that curly mass of hair behind me. Did I know the owner of said curly mass? I know several girls whose silhouette would fit the one walking behind me. So I take another look over my shoulder. Nothing too weird or lingering, but a definite turn to look. No, I did not know her. But now there is this lingering fact that this perfectly innocent girl, walking alone in the dark has seen me, a rather large man, deliberately turn around twice to look at her.

Then I came to a crosswalk right as it changed to the Do Not Walk signal. I stop to let the cars go. There are only a few so they go quickly, way faster than the Do Not Walk signal can change.

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These are to be obeyed. It’s a law and stuff.

Now I don’t like to jaywalk. I’m never in much of a hurry so I will wait at an intersection even though there are no cars simply to make the walk take longer. So that is what I do.The only problem is that the curly haired girl is gaining on me. I stand there awkwardly, fearing the encounter that may occur if she reaches me while I am just awkwardly standing at an empty street.

Just cross the street. That’s all I have to do. Cross the street, no interaction, everything’s fine.

I don’t move. I stand and wait for the crossing signal to change. She walks up beside me and stops because I am stopped. She looks at the road and then at me. I look at her, probably a little too long. I smile to reassure her that I am not a creep. I want to say something like “I don’t like to jaywalk.” Put her at ease. But sadly, I just stand there silent and smiling. Towering over her in the darkness.

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That’s comforting.

So naturally she doesn’t stick around and crosses the street, signals be damned. That’s when I realize that if I were some creep from a horror movie that this would be the go to move for any whack-job-street-assailant. Spot someone walking behind you, wait at a traffic stop for him or her to pass you, and then pounce. And I suddenly feel so much guilt for now putting this innocent woman in this position.

The crossing signal changes and I cross the street. Unfortunately she’s not very far ahead of me so I’m closing in fast. I want to slow down, give her time to get a good lead on me, but that would be weird. I put my head down so that she doesn’t turn and see me staring at her, but once again that’s not a great image to put out there.

I wrestle with what to do what to do, when suddenly I see her trying to open the gate to the courtyard to the church on the corner of Bull Street. I think “Hey, that’s odd. What’s she trying to get in there for?” Then I realize, “Oh man, she’s trying to get away from me.”

I want to call out to her. Say something reassuring like “Hey, I didn’t let you pass me so that I could hurt you or anything.” Or maybe run up to her and laugh out this whole misunderstanding. But luckily I bite my tongue because all of those options really only end with a face full of pepper spray.

Luckily she turned on to Bull Street once she reached it and I was able to walk passed her, hopefully letting her know that I was not an attacker. I hope she actually had to go down that street and wasn’t simply using it as an escape route.

As someone who scares easily, I genuinely feel bad every time I stumble into these awkward situations. If only there was a way to signal out to everyone that I mean them no harm. Maybe walk with a litter of puppies and a big sign that says “Nice Person.”