black and white, cigarette, modern

and their reply will cause me to buckle to my knees

Every night around this time, I take a pill to help me sleep. With a glass of water, and a bit of hope, I'll float off into the only place that I feel welcome… darkness, silence, emptiness… sleep. This nightly ritual that I never deviate from is nothing more than a game I play with my brain to keep it from realizing that it's now the time to dream. Dreams aren't welcome anymore. I reject the idea of dreaming, because my dreams are populated with content pulled from the deepest recesses of my brain. It's a place where memories of girls I've loved, and friends I've had, parties I've attended and smiles I've worn while visiting beautiful places and having wonderful times in a world where there was always someone on the other side of the table, and when at my most lucky, someone's hand always wrapped within mine. In a dream, there are no rules, no boundaries, and unless the it's part of the story, no rejection. I reject dreams because I remember them the next day. The stories where I've found love, or life, or success, or treasure… unroll on their own, without any way for me to shape them and restrict them with the sad realities of an ever increasingly lonely existence. And when I wake up the next day, and the idea that things might have turned out just a little bit differently is fresh in my head, the sickness in my stomach brought on by the fear of ending up all alone prevents me from doing anything else but wishing I was someone else, or somewhere else, or in a different time.

Every morning after the sleeping pill fails, after a night of dreams playing out like a movie marathon, I search for the words to describe what I just felt, and what inside my head I just saw. I scramble to slap together sentences that might deliver some meaning, but just as any other time I've managed to get my thoughts in order, the sentences mean absolutely nothing to no one, and the cycle continues. I live with an increasingly painful, terminal hangover-like sickness brought on by my mind running freely with the idea that somewhere in the future, I will say something to make someone smile, and their reply will cause me to buckle to my knees, and the chain reaction that follows will spawn a story so epic that Romeo and Juliet will look like a young man and woman, brought together through an old fashioned arranged marriage without ever knowing one another, being completely incompatible and under the pressure of their culture to make things work, causing the man to develop a drinking problem and, full of the anger he has from being stuck in a mediocre job with no opportunity for promotion, to relentlessly beat his wife who longs for a familiar face she sees through the window that looks on the street below, forming a fantasy of him rescuing her from her prison and taking her away where they'll live happily ever after.

I so badly wish that I was a musician. I wish I could write poetic and beautifully structured lyrics coupled with the crescendos of instruments punctuating the lines of deepest meaning. Music is so universally adored, and every person I've ever wanted to notice me has, at least once in their life, put on a pair of headphones, pressed play, and willingly let the tears flow as the lyrics touched their heart. But instead of being able to create a monumental symphony that expresses the beautiful thoughts and simultaneously simple and epic dreams that fill my un-beautiful body, I'm a hack that spits out streams of conscious onto a computer. I'll never have the experience of standing on a stage, thousands of people watching me jump around and sweat from the adrenaline and rush of making an impact, performing to a crowd where there just might be one girl who, being bounced around the floor, hears the words I scream about the life I want to lead and realizes she wants those things too, and she feels the same way, and that I put a smile on her face, sticks her arms up in the air and is pulled above the crowd, and makes her way to the stage where she admires my performance from the side, until after the show when we can try our fucking best at being happily ever after. Instead, my words are thrown into a file, converted into 1s and 0s that, from a distance, all look the same, pushed across the internet where they become one page in a place of billions, with no way of getting out unless a random search leads someone's eyes their way, most likely becoming confined to a list of things no one wants to read, the description pushed further and further down the list as time goes on.

There is nothing I wouldn't give to be able to take one person, just a single girl who I think is beautiful, who I find charming, or funny, or talented, or mistreated, and explain to her who I really am. I want to tell someone everything about me, why I've ended up this way, where I've gone wrong, why I deserve to be forgiven, what makes me confident that a second chance is all I'll need to change her world. I'd love to call up one of the girls who popped into my dreams, and tell her I've been thinking of her. And due to the unfortunate fact that I'm no one and mean nothing, reassure her that I'm not meaning to be creepy, or weird. I'd love to let her know that I think she's beautiful, and that I've always thought so. And that I want to know how she's doing, and what she's been up to, and how life has treated her while I've been invisible to the world. I'd do anything for the opportunity to outline the great qualities she possesses, and tell her she deserves the world. And then I'd thank her for the privilege of being able to talk to her, and have a moment of her time. In a perfect world, dare I say in a dream, she'd smile and question me back. She'd listen as I told her how lonely and rough these past few years have been, and how the nightmare of depression and suicide isn't any easier to recover from when the whole world is passing you by. She'd comfort me as I confessed how afraid I am of ever being myself again, and of ending up completely alone. And maybe as the conversation went on, she'd find that everything I want, and everything I am fighting for, is exactly what she's wanted all her life too, and this conversation would lead to another shared over a cup of coffee, and then a walk in the park, and then dinner, a movie, a night on the couch getting drunk and messing around. Or maybe she'd just wish me the best, and give me a generic compliment hinting that a girl not her would be lucky to have me. Or maybe she'd just be a really good looking friend, and we'd confide in each other and share our deepest secrets, way into our golden years without becoming anything more. But just the idea of being able to talk to someone, and share with them the thoughts that eat away at me each night, and turn to tears on those dreaded occasions when the sleeping pill takes too long to kick in, is something I long for with every ounce of my being.

But words in a journal can't express that. They can't make it sound appealing, or convince someone to give it a try. They just reinforce the fact that while some people pose for pictures, kissing each other on the cheek, or spend nights on blankets looking up at the stars, or even nights alone with that tight feeling in the chest one gets when they can't wait until they see their other half again, I have a sleeping pill, a glass of water, an empty spot in a king size bed where another body should be, and a computer. But God, what I could do with a song…..
black and white, cigarette, modern

a revolutionary street gang armed with AK-47s

This post is a copy of something I was asked to write by my psychologist for a therapy session.  His goal, as well as mine, is to get me to start writing again as a therapeutic output in order to release a lot of the feelings that have been crippling me and keeping me from getting back out into the world again.  Knowing a lot more about my psychological condition, and realizing that bi-polar disorder left untreated, which so far has been the case since any psych treatment I've been receiving so far has been geared towards depression and suicidal tendancies, is more or less a roll of the dice when it comes to how I'll feel or react and whether or not I'll be social and outgoing or hide from the world, has led me to realize that I writing about what I'm going through, my feelings towards people and situation that I dearly miss, and my ambitions for the future and regrets of the past, is not what triggers the extremes in my behavior.  Bi-polar disorder can be very effectively treated with medication, and now that I'm going down a path that seems to be the correct one for the true nature of my condition, I can write like I used to without fear that a touchy subject will trigger my withdrawal from the world and complete isolation.  Anyway, without any more preamble, here is my first attempt at writing in a very, very long time:

One of my favorite posts I ever wrote in my LiveJournal was the entry about my dog being in heat and comparing it to my situation with Kayla... it's one of my favorite because it illustrates how i compare every situation around me to what i'm going through emotionally, and how i'm plagued by worry and fear to a point where it almost cripples and suffocates me. the thought of loving someone or something so much, and having the fundamental belief that the ultimate purpose of one's life is to be directly involved, influence, impact, and change, for the better, the lives of the people you love, the isolation and ignorance that is an inevitable part of someone else moving on, drifting apart, losing whatever feeling attracted them to you in the first place, is compounded by my racing, obsessive, and constant thoughts over and over into what I believe to be a massive failure of my ability to fulfill the duties that a friendship or relationship entails. This feeling of having let-down people who, free from the weight of these emotionally crippling criticisms that fill my every idle thought, can with exponential quickness move on with their lives, experience new things, meet new people and fall in love again until the memory of our friendship, or relationship, or experiences together, are long forgotten, because of my failure to be memorable, or attractive, or brilliant, or simply put, "good enough," and my inability to victoriously distinguish myself from the competition, hurts me in ways that even the most painful wound or injury never could.

I have always believed that the true measure of a person was the company they keep. To be, not just loved and appreciated and praised, but of value and purpose, has always been my goal. I endured the most lonely years of my youth with the strength I gained from the belief that one day I would find a companion who would not only share this belief but that it would be the quality she would find most attractive, and would set me apart from th competition, and having, in the most primal sense, found my mate, I would have achieved all that life required of me, and my ultimate goal would be to nurture that love, continually reaffirm that I was the right choice with my words, deeds, actions, behavior. I believed that if I was given the opportunity to love someone unconditionally, along with their reciprocation, that was all I would need to be finally and forever truly happy.

Using that unit of measurement, I have failed miserably. Not only was I proven wrong, having won the fight, gotten the girl, and finding no relief from paranoia, fear, and anxiety, but if I were to instead measure my life's success using the more traditional methods such as level of education, how far I've progressed along my career path, how much money I make and have, how many material things I possess, and how many girls I fuck on a regular basis, I have, once again, failed miserably. I had a pretty good run for a while. Though my earlier school years were filled with loneliness and isolation, the combination of being the only child in my entire grade to be deemed “gifted” and having undiagnosed ADHD stumping teachers and administrators who decided being in classes with older kids and “independent learning” scenarios by myself, some kind of magic happened when I hit my eighth grade year and I skyrocketed to a position of popularity and power, being chosen by the school administrators to take command of the district's computer network in addition to fulfilling the duties required of me as a student, and while the underlying sadness and dream of finding my one and only would creep up on me when my head hit the pillow at night, I was generally happy and fulfilled.

I followed up high school with a half-assed enrollment at university 3 hours away from home that lasted only a semester. While I could justify coming home by claiming the classes didn't interest me, and that my inability to focus and follow direction made classroom learning not suited to me, the true reason for my detachment from the college experience and the quick rush to give up was that I was home sick. I missed the high school world where I had things to do, people to love and that loved me in return, and the reputation I had earned as a creative, taskmaster who found success in all my endeavors.

It was after these years that I finally found the love I thought would solve all my problems. I had found a soul mate. I jumped in head first and devoted my every second to nurturing and tending to that relationship. And while it was perfect for the majority of the time we'd spent together, her enrollment in college and full commitment to the college experience which included exposures to ideology that I believed was the exact opposite of the beliefs and values our relationship was founded on, was a major factor that tore us apart.

Following this breakup, I was devastated. I had fought ferociously in the war for her heart and soul, and had naively never even entertained the idea that I'd be defeated. When it became clear that I had lost, I, like so many leaders of revolutions so self-absorbed with the view that only they could save the people, I launched a scorched earth policy and immediately started to self-destruct. When it was clear (or so I thought) that I had finally hit rock bottom and still had no effective outlet for the tidal waves of feelings that pounded the shores of my brain, I decided to finally seek help.

When I went to my medical doctor with the intent to seek an anti-depressant, I was already a full-blown drug addict regularly abusing opiates. Being an addict and a “pill-popper,”, I knew of no other solution than to continue to take an oxy, or a few vicodin, or whatever else I had or could get, and self-medicating was really a day by day behavior. My thoughts were too concerned with how I was going to get my fix that day, or the next day. There was no long-term strategy. I didn't have a timeline that, if followed, would eventually reduce my intake and dependency or end with treatment or rehab. That same lack of a long-term vision was what drove me right into the arms of an anti-depressant. I already took pills every day. Of course I could handle one more. What would it hurt? It would get me out of this rut that I was in and I could be happy again and get back to my normal life, sans soul-mate. I never realized the nightmare this would lead to. Sitting in my car parked in front of the doctor's office, baking in the heat of the springtime sun, I would have never been able to picture myself in the place that I am in now. Had I been able to, it would have frightened me more than any horror movie, ghost encounter, or run-in with a revolutionary street gang armed with AK-47s.

My experience with doctors and seeking medication to treat my depression and other psychological ailments can be compared to LBJ's experience with the Vietnam War. The country, and himself as the President, were in a predicament but were not yet involved in a full-scale war. He never really wanted to go to war. He wanted a quick fix and to get out as soon as he could. But, with the misleading advice of his generals, the increasing brutality and relentless attacks from the Viet Cong, he let others convince him that agreeing to their proposition, going to battle, would bring victory in a short amount of time, at the expense of a brief period of minor sacrifice. But with every new request from the Department of Defense, LBJ's commitment to war grew and grew until two years later, he looked back and wondered “how the hell did we get here?”

I feel the same way. I can't blame the doctors, because I ultimately was the one who had the final say. They could promote the latest miracle drug and write the prescription, but I was the only one who could make myself tip my head back and swallow. But reflecting on everything that has happened and where I am now at since that first doctor's visit, I can't believe the reflection I see in the mirror and I can't help but think “how the hell did I get here?”

This all is a crucial component of my thoughts on the diagnosis of bi-polar disorder, which was the topic on which I was to write. I look at the arguments I have with my family, and the reactions I have to the simplest irritations, and the way I'm now perceived by the people in my life who have stuck around since the good days when I was happy and full of life, and I wonder when I became so fucking mean. I always had so much patience and compassion. Now, when my mother comes home from the grocery and I find that she's purchased every type of lunch meat that I don't eat and not a single type that I do eat, I flip the fuck out and launch into a speech claiming she intends to inconvenience me or punish me with starvation while jumping around the kitchen and making gestures that would make Adolf Hitler appear as cool and collected as Barack Obama. I never acted like this before. And I know that this reaction is not only unfounded, but incredibly inappropriate. I realize this while I'm screaming, yet I can't stop myself. This kind of behavior repeats itself over and over, and each time I end up apologizing, and claiming that I didn't mean what I said, I know my actions were wrong, and explaining, but not blaming, my bi-polar disorder. I have the best of intentions, and my apologies are sincere, but I can only apologize so many times and claim that with therapy and medication I will eventually get better, before everyone just assumes it's bullshit, and that I'm just a disrespectful, ignorant asshole and I always will be.

I realize that this has occurred for some time, and that I have always had episodes and outbursts like this long before I ever became depressed and sought treatment and even knew what bi-polar disorder was. What I didn't realize, until I made a effort to really pay attention, was how severe this behavior has gotten. I'm terrorizing my friends and family when I don't have any more friends or family to lose.
black and white, cigarette, modern

Dear Kayla

 Kayla, I still love you. I love you just as much, if not more, than the day I first saw you, or the day we first kissed, or the day we sat in your car and you told me that you couldn't be with me at the moment, because you still wanted to have fun, but someday, we'd be together and it would last. Throughout everything, I've still held to that belief, and for the past three years, despite all the times I've tried to kill myself, or overdosed, or done stupid things to self medicate myself, said horrible things to make you mad in an effort to trick myself into thinking that you didn't hurt me, and you weren't still hurting me, and I could move on from this, every single night I've prayed and prayed to a God that I believe in, and one I wish I could at least explain my beliefs about without you laughing or mocking me, in an effort to maybe get you to at least experience some kind of peace, in this case through spiritual means, by believing in a higher power, and surrendering yourself to it when the going gets rough, that our love would be rekindled, and the feelings we once shared, the feelings that were honest and pure and so happy and inspiring, could be felt again. On August 15, 2009, the last night you spent in West Middlesex before you moved to Edinboro, the night that I eventually ended up trying to hang myself in the basement of the Kouch house and later was checked into the psych ward at Sharon Regional hospital, you told me that everything was a lie and that you never loved me. You told me that you used me. And while I've spent so much time being in so much pain, a pain that I wish that for just one second you could feel yourself so you could understand why I'm slowly dying inside, I've never been able to believe that things weren't real. I know that from the second we met each other, years ago at a softball game, something sparked between us and that spark has never died. It turned, over time, into a beautiful light, and while sometimes it was bright and beautiful, and other times it was dim and hard to see, that light has never burnt out. You, your friends, your boyfriend especially, have tried so hard to put something overtop of it, to smother it, to soak it with water so it could never be re-lit and those feelings never rekindled, but I know it still burns, even if it's incredibly dim right now.

I remember making so many promises to you that I ended up breaking. Each day I repeat the mistakes that I made, and the times I made you frown, or cry, or just lower your head in disappointment, over and over in my head, and it upsets me to the point where I can barely breathe. I hope you know that I would do anything in the world.... ANYTHING.... to make amends, to take back those mistakes. If I could live my life over, I'd introduce myself to you the first time I ever saw you, and I'd tell you I was completely in love with you the very next day, and I'd do everything I could to live my life in a way that made you proud of me, want to be with me, feel safe and comfortable with me. I'd live my life for you, in hopes that we would never ever have to be apart. Being apart from you is the worst punishment, and while I'm not entirely sure of what I did to deserve this pain that keeps me awake every single night, until finally I've cried myself to sleep, the pain that has kept me so depressed and miserable that I've lost all my friends, my clients and job prospects, my talents and family and other relationships, because I hide in my home in embarrassment, pain, and fear, the awful things I have done to deserve this karmic eternal heartbreak, I'm trying every single day to make amends and fix things and punish myself more so that eventually I can make things right, and win a smile from your beautiful face. Just one smile that I could see come from you with my own eyes, not in a book of pictures that I keep next to my bed, and not through the digital format that has now become the only way I can communicate with you, would be worth this entire struggle.

I wish I could explain just how much I love you. I wish I could put into words, or express with actions, how important you and your love is to me. I can promise you that if you were to come to me today, and offer me a handshake, or even just a simple gesture that showed that I was worth some kind of acknowledgement from you that I exist, I would go through this struggle and sadness a million times more. I have no other desire in this world than to regain your friendship, your acceptance, your compassion and your love.

Once you watched videos of me from a party I had on New Year's Eve 2007, the night you made the decision to continue to date Bruno instead of me. And while I tried my hardest to put on a good face and pretend like nothing was wrong, and force myself to have fun, you noticed how sad deep down that I was. You promised me that you would never make me feel that way again. I would give anything if you could tell me what I did that was so horrible that made you decide that I deserved to feel infinitely worse? You once left me a voicemail, even after you were dating Brian, telling me that you wanted to help me, and to be by my side, while I fought my sickness and my struggles. Where have you been?

I have needed you for so long. I have needed you by my side. When I met you, I lost all ability to find satisfaction, comfort, love or affection in any other human being. You are my eternal soulmate, even if you refuse to believe that I am yours. I wonder if you could just see into my heart for once brief second, and understand how badly I hurt down to my very core, after what seems like an eternity since you replaced me with someone else, would you apologize, or feel any guilt or sorrow, or if you would realize how true my love is and if that would be enough for you? I wonder if you'll ever know that while I may not right now be the fun, outgoing, adventurous, partying guy that fit in with your crowd of friends that you met at Edinboro and changed you into someone who ended up hating me, with you by my side and with your love I am capable of becoming anything and everything that would please you.

I hate being forced to write my feelings on the computer, and not having any guarantee that you will ever see them, read them, or reflect on them and care, when it was once so easy to just sit in the same room as you and share every single feeling we ever felt, our deepest thoughts, our dreams and ambitions. You shared with me so much about you, and that's why I refuse to give up on you, and I refuse to walk away. I refuse to throw in the towel, because I remember every single word you ever said to me, and it is my eternal goal to ensure that the beautiful soul, deep down, underneath the hard hearted disguise you put on to the outside world, lives on forever, and gets to achieve everything she has ever wanted to, and is loved unconditionally, forever, no matter what happens, no matter how hard it is.

You once described me as your brick wall, in that no matter how hard you push, I don't give way, and no matter what you throw at me, I never fall. But I have to tell you, I'm crumbling. I'm decaying from the inside out. Without you, I am dying, slowly, alone, and it scares me. I am scared to death that there is the possibility that I may never get to see you again. I may never be able to share a smile, or a kiss, or a hug with you. I'm so afraid that we will never speak again, that I'll never know what is truly on your mind, or what your dreams are, or where you are now and where you are going. I am so frustrated that I don't know what you want, or what you need, and I'm helpless and stuck and unable to bust my ass to help you, even in the smallest way, even if it's behind the scenes and you don't even know that I had a part in it, to make you happy. I want to badly to please you, to contribute to your happiness. I want more than anything in the world for the love we had, the kind of love that is impossible to destroy, to resurface, to finally get to breathe after spending so much time suffocated by the will of others, your fear or losing out on fun and adventure, and being a follower of the other people in your life that have so much influence on you that they are able to keep someone who loves you more than all of them combined from even being a distant acquaintance, let alone a regular part of your life.

I hate typing this. I wish I could speak to you in person. I wish we could go to coffee like we used to, or sit in one of our cars at the old baseball field where you used to go to think when you lived at home. I wish you could call me at 3:00 AM, after you spent the day and night with your friends, and even though I had to wait so long just to hear your voice, it was worth it because I was lucky enough to hear the beautiful things you said in the beautiful way that you said them right before your head hit the pillow.

I promise you I'm not crazy. I'm not a stalker, and I'm not someone you need to fear. I would never do anything ever again to even upset you for a brief second, let alone hurt you. And if you gave me the opportunity, I would never let anyone else hurt you either. I will protect you from all pain, all evil. I will give you the life that you want, and the future and the family that you want and deserve. Think of all the dreams that we had. We had such beautiful hopes and dreams, and they were so real, and so true. They weren't childish or naieve. They were built upon the true, sincere, and deeply flowing love between two people that, even after all of this turmoil, even after you being away for so long, and being held hostage by someone else, who has removed you from your friends, your family, and your world and your home, can still bloom and come back stronger than ever. We have faced so many difficulties in our lives together, and yet we always found our way back to one another. But I'm not strong or patient enough to wait it out this time. When you left, you took the biggest part of me with you. I gave you my entire heart, and I'm nothing without you.

I remember when you told me that when we first started dating, your grandmother said that I had brought you back to them. I still believe that when we are together, we are both the most honest, pure, and best versions of our selves. I want to be that way again. Even so, I love every single version of you. When I criticized your friends, and stubbornly refused to let myself get to know them better, it was simply out of jealousy and fear. I wanted you all to myself. I wanted all of your love. I was afraid that someday, if someone came in and did the right talking at the right moment, and I wasn't paying attention, you and I would end up exactly where we are now. Losing you was the biggest mistake of my life, and one that I can't live down. I can't stop trying to win back your love, and I don't think I ever will.

Somehow, I've always had the feeling, deep down in my gut, that has been reinforced by dreams and the occasional update on you that I hear from someone who is still a part of your life, that my mission here on this Earth was to love you eternally, and unconditionally, and always be there for you. I always know when you are sad, or when you are in danger, or trapped, even if we are not speaking. But I can't bear to not be on speaking terms with you anymore. I remember the days when I eagerly awaited to be woken by your phone call at 7:00 AM, so you had someone to talk to on your way to school, even though you were dating someone else. I remember you calling me on your way home from work. I was always the person you could turn to if you needed company, or advice, or companionship, regardless of who you were in a relationship with at that time. I still am that person, and I still can be. This time apart has felt like an eternity, and I miss you and love you so much, and have such a genuine desire to be a part of your life, that I would gladly let you call me to discuss anything, no matter how badly it might sting my heart, or how jealous I might be. I just want to hear your voice again. I would give my last breath just to have you call me and insult me. I miss you and love you and need you that badly.

I'm so sorry that I am asking you to be held to the promise you made to me that you would always be there for me, that you would be by my side whenever I needed someone. I have been so alone since you have left, and it has eaten me away inside. But I know, deep down, that the second you came back, the second you walked through my door or rang my phone, that every painful experience that I went through, every tear I shed over you, every horrible betrayal I was witness to, would go away, and leave my mind, and I'd never speak of it again. You are too important to me for me to waste time rehashing the past. I would just jump straight to writing the future. If you are ever worried that we could never be anything again, even if its just simple distant acquaintances, because I could never forgive you, nothing could be further from the truth.

I just hope you can forgive me. I hope you can forgive me for letting you slip away. I hope you can forgive me for not fighting harder, not trying harder or doing more or doing everything short of crime to keep us together. I know that my purpose on this earth is to love you with all of my heart, and I do. You are the reason that I still live and breathe, and if I didn't believe in true love, and didn't believe that some day, we would be together again, and have the most amazing story to prove true love to share with and inspire generations of people, I would have just given in to those dark moments when I was so close to death. I couldn't bring myself to do it, because I was afraid that I'd never say goodbye, that you didn't even care enough to show up at my funeral, that you wouldn't even blink an eye at the thought of saying goodbye to my lifeless body for the rest of yours. But now, I know that the reason I have not yet let myself die is because I refuse to believe that what we have is not true love, even if its buried under so much hate and confusion and emotionally misleading manipulation from others in your life.

The other day, I was in a decent mood. I was able to smile, even though no smile, since February 16, 2009, has ever been true, and as I walked upstairs to my bedroom, and my window was open with a nice breeze blowing through it, I thought what a wonderful day it would be for a telephone conversation with you. I felt that I was strong enough that if you called, we could just talk for hours, and I wouldn't get angry if you mentioned Brian, and I wouldn't say things that would make you angry or uncomfortable. I would have even tried my best not to cry, since you used to always tell me that you would only hang out with me if I didn't cry. I don't know why you felt that you had the right to tell me what emotions I was allowed to experience, but I know that if you felt any of the pain that I've been through in the past few years, you would understand and you would cry too. And as much as I want you to be happy, as much as I want you to never have to experience a single second of sadness or pain in your entire existence on this Earth, sometimes I wish that you did miss me. Sometimes I do wish that you realized you made the wrong decision, and that you terribly hurt and destroyed someone who loved you with a love so pure, and would have given his last breath to make you happy. Sometimes I wonder if you ever remember the beautiful moments we shared, like when you told me that we were soulmates, or when you told me, even when you were dating Brian, that we'd eventually be okay. I wonder if you remember the first time we met, at the Carnival, when you turned around and I saw a face so beautiful it was like a movie scene. I wonder if you still have the engagement ring that I bought you, or if you've thrown it, along with every other memory from the time I was yours and you were mine, away. My mind races with these thoughts every single night. I haven't slept a decent sleep in years. Please, one day, please love me again. Please accept my love and devotion, remember the promises we made, and give me a decent night sleep.... just one, even if it is only one, before I pass away.

I know one day our love will bloom again. I can't wait for that day. I can't wait to tell the story of our love, a love that, through all odds, and throughout the most painful and traumatic times, survived even though you were ripped away from me. I wonder, are you trapped? Are you stuck in Pittsburgh because you've alienated everyone back home? Are you tired of living the life you've chosen? Do you ever want a break? Do you want to come home, and relax, and cuddle in the park on a sunny day with our Dog, and spend time with our families, no matter how much they get on our nerves and bother us, because they are our blood and they love us even if they can't express it properly? Do you want the family we planned? I know I do. I've grown a lot in the time since you've abandoned me. I'm no longer married to this area, and to the career I once dedicated myself to. The only thing I'm certain of is that I love you and want to be with you. I want to use our love to inspire people. I want to go around and travel the world, helping out less fortunate. Let's do that. Let's go to other countries and volunteer our time. Let's do something that will help embarrassed the world, contribute to the world, change the world. I know our love can change the world, and so can we. That's all I want to do. Please come home. Please come back into the arms of someone who will always love you, no matter what you say or do, no matter what you look like or what you think, no matter what you were, what you became, or what you want to be. I love you. After all of this, I still love you. Will I ever be able to successfully prove that point to where you feel safe with me again? Can you imagine anyone else still dedicating their entire life to you after all of this? You are the most beautiful girl in the entire world, inside and out. I dream of you every night, and I always will. I know you always wanted someone that would love you unconditionally, no matter what. I'm sorry if i'm not who you thought that person would be, or if you're ashamed or rof me, but it's true. I love you with all of my heart, inside and out, every second of every day. I have from the moment I first met you, and I will until I die. But I need you, too. I need you so badly, so please, can you find it in your heart to dig deep, underneath all the bullshit and the tumultuous events of the past few years, and remember that we are soul mates, and keep your promise. I will always keep mine.

I hope you read this. I hope this is finally the letter that, after years of ignoring me, you decide to give a chance. I hope you really truly realize just how powerful and real our love was. I have seen the pictures of you in the past few years, and I've seen your smiles. They aren't real. I know you well enough to know those smiles aren't real. But when I look at the pictures of us, when I look through the book I made of you and I, I know that smile was real. Deep down, I know that you know it too. So, if finally my prayers are answered, if finally, my fight and struggle for you is over, please come back, please smile for real, and please let our love return to what it was, and grow a thousand times stronger than it was before. With us together, the possibilities are endless. Let's love one another and change the world.

But if you say no, if you're not ready, if you're still convinced I'm evil and you hate me, I hope you still remember that I love you more than anything and anyone in the world, and if you need anything, no matter what it is, even if it'll hurt me or even kill me, please ask. I'd rather die helping you than live with the pain I experience now.

Love always and forever,

black and white, cigarette, modern

every single kid who didn't go to the Sadies Hawkins Dance in seventh grade

 Alright, alright. I'm sick of seeing pictures of awesome fun frat/tech parties at SxSW. The truth is, even today, with beautiful aluminum and glass iPads and faded denim jackets with just the right amount of black mixed in so it isn't the same color of those stupid denim shorts that were so cool when you were in third grade, computers aren't cool. Trust me. I'm a living example. I'd much rather be having sex right now than typing this on my new laptop. I'd much rather be having sex right now than mentioning that I bought a new laptop because that'll subtly convey that I have some type of wealth. I want a gold-digging slutty hungry road-head giving girlfriend, not a Tumblr account, okay?

In reality, every single kid who didn't go to the Sadie Hawkins Dance in seventh grade because he wasn't invited spent that night on the computer, talking to the five people he knew (four male, one female, not hot, probably had a crush on you, you never ever would bang her, she knew everything about you, kind of mentally perfect you but just too fat, even though you don't think you're judgmental about that kind of stuff, i mean, you're not one of "those guys" are you? it's just THIS girl. i mean, she's your friend, right? you can't ever date her because that would fuck up the friendship. and, well, i mean... she's fat. i can't help it.) on AOL Instant Messenger and thinking that one day he'd be the guy who showed that computers can be cool and he'd have a sweet car, a vagina all to himself (that was part of another, living, person), and billions of dollars because computers aren't just for geeks now. Yeah, that happened already. It was called the late 1990s. Those guys were still complete nerds, they just had money, and no matter what the girl says, she's a gold digger. Okay? Maybe not all girls are gold diggers, but the ones who date millionaires are. It's never going to repeat itself again. The "dot-com boom" completely fucking destroyed the economy, let losers accumulate wealth that was wildly over-valued and over-inflated because the investment bankers that actually could fuck girls whenever they wanted without knowing how to use a computer (because they had money) were STILL MAKING MORE MONEY THAN THE NERDS and didn't want to stop the party. So, I think, it finally took Apple to release laptops that looked like toilet seats and for a company to seriously be called "Yahoo!" for people to be like "oh, whoa, whoa... holy shit, this is a little out of control." and then all the geeks quickly cashed in their stock options, traded in their Ferrari for a Hyundai Tiburon, and bought a decent-sized "manchion-ette" in the suburbs of Silicon Valley, and decided to launch the next Facebook killer. Every single one of them failed. The investment bankers are still having sex.

I guess I'm bitter. I haven't tried to write anything in months, I'm still a dead-inside emotionally scarred unemployed nerd who is hopelessly in love with his ex-girlfriend who probably thinks I overdosed by now and will never love me again. I have no skills that exist outside of this laptop, except maybe writing with pen and paper, and telling racist, mean, sarcastic jokes, but even those talents are really rusty because I've spent the last 2 years of my life "getting clean and sober from drugs" (there is no way to make that sound not-lame. every single way to phrase the act of not doing drugs anymore and becoming healthier is absolutely cringeworthy) and hoping my ex-girlfriend would miss me and come back. I also watched a lot of BBC America, gained weight, and had several bad haircuts and several drunk text-message conversations with what I thought were potential "getting over the ex-girlfriend" prospects, but in reality were girls I had crushes on before her who were already settled down and fucking the person they would for the rest of their lives (in reality: until they cheat on them. My graduating class was full of sluts. Yes, I'm only saying that because I didn't sleep with any of them.)

When will I learn that writing with comments in parenthesis isn't funny or cute or something I want to ever remember, that I'll be single forever, and that I probably should get a real job somewhere else because I'll never be that cool geek that fades into oblivion with a Hyundai Tiburon?

I say "hopefully I'll start writing more" to the two people who might still read this and haven't completely given up on me yet, but the reality is that I'll probably be suicidal and miserable for four more months before I even post an update to this thing again. I'm just not myself anymore. Steve Kudelko died on February 16, 2009 and whatever is in his old body will hopefully be dead soon too.

no closer to home than we were to our destination

There was a really long time after my downfall... that's what I'm determined to call it now, instead of breakup, or mental breakdown, or trying to kill myself and ending up in the psych ward, or being a drug addict without a home and living in a garage, or going to rehab, since that all happened at lightning speed for me.... anyway, a long time after my downfall, where I stopped listening to music. I just couldn't. When I was a drug addict at my worst, music didn't matter. I remember at first going to pick up the girl I was dating at the time, or giving dealers a ride to pick up their product, or just driving around town, desperate when everyone when everyone's burners had been expired and I couldn't get a hold of anyone, where I would carefully create a playlist, hoping that others would be impressed with my musical taste, or enjoy the music we were listening to, or join with me in sampling new bands and sounds while wasted. Then I realized, what the fuck did they care? They wanted my money, or they wanted a ride, or they would have liked anything about me because I was the guy paying for their next fix. Then, drugs were all that mattered, even to me. I didn't listen to music for a really long time. I used to joke with my friend David McClelland (such a hard name to type when my left shift key is broken because I burned it with a cigarette) about how it seemed that our favorite music seemed to be from the era right when we first discovered Napster, downloading music, lots of it, onto our iPods, or playing it while we were working in the office of our very first company, when Spearfish was in its early infancy, or how we'd always have a special playlist made for pool parties, or foursquare tournaments, or just any get together. The Postal Service, Weezer, Dashboard Confessional, Something Corporate, Death Cab for Cutie, The Starting Line.... those bands. Then, I realized that a lot of people thought I was gay for listening to that style, because I wasn't alternative and "love the earth and eat grass and fuck plastic products" and started listening to Tom Petty and The Verve and Sufjan Stevens. I liked that music too. I liked all music. Music was such an important part of my life, and everyone's life who was in my life. Music ruled the world. Then, it all stopped. The music just stopped playing. That's a perfect way to describe the way my life was at that time.

Not only was the music not playing, but I was living in a silent movie, in an era of talkies, and Dolby Digital soundtracks, and THX fucking surround sound "feel the beat throughout your entire body" world. No one noticed me, because no one could hear me. I could scream all I fucking wanted. All people saw was my mouth opened, and if they paid attention long enough, a black screen with white text would quote what I had to say.

For a long time, it hurt to listen to music. Every song reminded me of the time I spent with someone, something I had experienced, something I had loved. I couldn't listen to anything without crying, without thinking of a back story and getting down. Memories continue to cripple me to this day. My downfall as a functioning human being is that I remember too much, and am too sentimental, and I just choke to death on my own thoughts and feelings that I give way too much significance. But in a way, I'd rather do that than throw everything and everyone away and just move on. I could never dispose of a person or a period of my life, just like that. Music brings those memories out in me, and for quite a time, the musical tastes I had at the time.... MGMT, Lights, Jack's Mannequin, The Maine, Secondhand Serenade.... they all had memories attached that drowned me with my own tears.

In listening to music again, I've had to confront and power through a lot of that suffocation head on. For a brief while in the past few years, reality/documentary shows about compulsions and OCD have been popular. On those shows, all therapists tell the patients that the only way to successfully deal with an anxiety attack or a panic attack is to just sit through it, breathe through it, and wait until your anxiety level drops down. People who had to touch seven light switches before they went to sleep because if they didn't they thought that a space alien would rape their firstborn son with a huge black dildo.... people who were afraid to drive because they would have panic attacks in traffic and were deathly afraid of having a panic attack so they just stayed inside.... they all had to face their fears, on reality television, and just breathe until their anxiety levels went down. They weren't instantly cured. But with a lot of therapy, and with confronting the beast head on, face first, they got better. I'm having to do the same.

I've always been afraid of winter driving, ever since I was in a winter accident. One of the things that bothers me the most is driving at night, when it is snowing, and the snow is blowing right at the car. In the dark, unable to see anything except snowflakes flying towards your windshield like the stupid old Windows screensaver, or a spaceship blasting towards another planet passing millions of stars, I freak out. When that happens, and I'm pushing on the gas, expecting to go forward, but all I can see are snowflakes, it feels like the car isn't moving forward, and I freak out. The first time this happened, I was on my way to State College with Corinthian Jones to visit George Metz and see Sarah Silverman, my favorite female comedian, perform at the BJC on campus. That same situation happened, and in the middle of Cori telling me a story, I pulled off to the side of the road and just started screaming at her to "shut up." We were somewhere on 80, no closer to home than we were to our destination, and fucking FedEx trucks were passing us like it was a derby. Back then, in late 2006 or 2007 (I can't remember... those were the good, pre-"in love" years, and they're all a blur to me now), there were no psych meds. There was no Valium or Xanax for panic attacks. There was no Vicodin to make me forget the world around me. There was no Paxil, or Zoloft, or Effexor or Risperdol to zombify me. I only had myself, my friends, and my natural coping skills. So, I waited for a while, until the army of FedEx trucks went by, and I pulled back onto the road and kept on going. We made it, on time actually, and had a fantastic weekend. When did I lose that ability to just breathe, wait a while, and keep on going? Did someome steal that from me, because I relied on them, or did I just naturally lose it to other coping mechanisms over time?

The next time was when Kayla and I were broken up and I had to drive up to Edinboro, to be with her to hash out a few important things we needed to deal with, and to save our relationship. There was a massive snow storm, and I was driving North. This was early January 2009. That afternoon, I finally got snow tires on my weak, rear wheel drive BMW snow sled that I was afraid to drive anywhere that winter. I don't know if it was the placebo effect of the snow tires, or the fact that I needed to save my fucking relationship and any hope of having a future family and life, but I drove through that fucking storm like my life depended on it. Of course, in my mind, it did. I didn't care if there were FedEx trucks, or my car was sideways, or the snowflakes were coming through the windshield and poking me in the eyes. I was going to make it up to Edinboro, and I did. As stupid as it sounds in retrospect, I always say that night was the night I became a man. I mean, I'd fucked and smoked and gone to bars previously. I had been registered for the Selective Service. But that night, instead of pussying out and saying it was too difficult to drive or the conditions weren't safe or whatever the hell else, I just did what I had to do for my relationship.

Now, even though there are ton of psych meds, hours of therapy, and an ample supply of Xanax and Valium at my disposal, I panic. I was coming home from Pittsburgh after dropping off my friend Nick Kouch at the airport to fly out and meet his internet love he found on Facebook, and right as the car got to New Castle, a snow storm hit, and the "starfield simulation" panic attack set in. I choked. I drove 20 mph. Everyone around me hated me, but I couldn't do it. With all the windows down, I couldn't breathe. Luckily someone else in the car was able to take over. I just panicked, and all the progress I'd made, and all the previous winter driving hours I'd racked up since that very first accident, just went out the window. Fuck! Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck!

That was on a Monday. Ironically, that previous weekend I had made progress. That weekend, Nick had drill for the National Guard in Pittsburgh, the city that I now fear. Back to back Saturday and Sunday, I had to wake up at 4:00 AM and pick him up and drive him down to Pittsburgh, and then again drive back in the evening to pick him up. His National Guard armory is in Oakland on Walnut Street, an area that I'm very familiar with since my sister went to Pitt and I often took her back to school, and also its near the Apple Store, which I used to frequent often back when my business was successful and I had money and much equipment to get repaired, and also one of my favorite stores, Cards Unlimited. But, one of the nights, his National Guard outfit had a Christmas party at some fucking social hall in a suburb of the city. Thankfully I have Google Maps GPS and turn-by-turn directions on my phone, so once he had texted me the address, I knew i'd be able to get there eventually. However, that evening drive, alone, was also the time I had picked to face my musical fears, and power through my anxiety attacks. On the way down, I decided to listen to the full length album from Lights, which is a Canadian singer who I had introduced to Kayla, and we both liked, and had some significance in our relationship. Her songs are very much biographical or at the very least relatable to everyone, and me being so fucking sentimental, it was very hard to listen to her beautiful voice, the perfect construction of songs, without crying my fucking eyes out. But I had to finish the album. She's one of my favorite artists, and I hadn't actually listened to the entire album since my downfall. So, I plugged my phone into my car's radio, and as I drove, I listened and cried. And then Google decided to be a dickhead, and I got lost, and it got dark, and I couldn't find Nick, and I was in the ghetto, and I was afraid I'd run into Kayla and her boyfriend singing Christmas Carols and holding hands and walking through the streets with bags from a sex store and they'd throw rocks at my car and break the windows and just as confusing and obnoxiously out of control this sentence was, my mind just short circuited and I almost lost it. Fortunately, I was able to breathe a little better, and I finished the album, and I ended up at that shit hole social hall in the middle of the fucking ghetto. Nick drove home, and I just closed my eyes until we had gotten far enough out of the city that I felt safe enough to open them. Having had enough of him not knowing that in Pittsburgh, you can't be nice and expect someone to let you merge lanes, and that speed limits aren't realistic, and that you have to be aggressive, I made him pull over, we both pissed on the side of the road, switched seats, and I drove the rest of the way home. While I had pushed through my anxiety about listening to music, still by the end of the three-day weekend from hell, my nerves were completely frayed, and I gladly went to my next therapy appointment.

I'm starting to enjoy music again. I have always come up with ideas for movies, and started to write scripts, from inspiration I get from hearing a song. For years, I've had the perfect playlists saved on my computer for different parties, events, and weddings. I guess that's why I've always wanted my company to be an event planning and production company. As long as the moments don't directly involve me, I'm great at planning them. I'm great at making sure the atmosphere is perfect, there is the right decoration, the perfect mix of retro old-school glitter paint and poster board, and modern multimedia flat-screen projection boards and a complete audio/visual lighting/video/music spectacular. It's funny that while it is said that most girls grow up always thinking about and planning their wedding, for a long time, I had my planned too. Only it was totally different. I didn't know what dress the bride would wear, who would stand at the altar, or all that shit. But I knew how when my bride and I walked in the room, the lights would dim. Right as a video on how we had met, chronicling our relationship through pictures and home movies and interviews with relatives and mutual friends that knew us, the timeline would get to the point where we became Mr. and Mrs. Kudelko, and as the video said "introducing, for the first time", the lights would dim, just a soft sparkling atmosphere greeting us as everyone watched me take her hand in mine and walk through the door. I knew the song that would be playing. I had considered it being a song by Lights. I knew just what songs and lighting effects and ambient background video would be perfect for the father/daughter dance, the mother/son dance, and knew that both she and I wouldn't want the traditional 70s bullshit music playing, as if after Celebration was written, no one ever thought they could top it. Logistically, I had everything planned.... until my downfall.

However, in starting to listen to music again, I still think I could plan other people's moments. I can still, by slipping the headphones into my ears, plan beautiful points in time for other people. Eventually, that's what I aspire to do. I don't feel like I have long to do it, but that's topic for another piece of writing, but I just instinctively know that I don't have that much time yet. Maybe that's why it was so important to me to plan my own wedding. It's a sick reminder of the last two years of my life that I now have my funeral planned in my head, logistically, though I'm still worried about the "guest list" and if a certain important person will be there. I just know that even though I've survived a lot, the end is coming near for me. That's why I want to get my shit together in 2011, build my life and my business, and give plenty of people their beautiful moments while I still can.

when they share their final kiss for the night

Three years ago during the holiday season my life changed completely, and while I never thought something as dramatic and romantic and fulfilling as that would ever happen again, something of equal impact happened today. For two years now I've been trying to force my way back into the life of a girl who once loved me. And I ask myself why? There are the obvious reasons.... I miss her, I love her, I want to be there to watch her grow and change and experience life, to take care of her and catch her when she falls. But.. by doing any of that, am I doing what I really, truly want to be doing, which is giving her the best life one could possibly have? No, I'm not.

At a time that feels like just yesterday, I sat in a coffee shop a week before Christmas as a young girl who I hadn't spoke to in a long time sat next to me. We weren't sitting opposite one another, like acquaintances sit when having lunch at a diner. At a square table, she sat in the chair that was 90 degrees to the right of mine. And while we caught up and told stories and gossiped, and I took silly photos with my cell phone camera that would still show up to this day if she ever called me again, a relationship that I had wanted forever but didn't even know truly existed... something that I had by then resigned was just a work of fiction to get boyfriends and girlfriends into a movie theater... blossomed. As her current boyfriend protectively dropped by and I watched them kiss directly in front of me, I cringed. I knew he wasn't the right guy for her. I loved her. Whatever he felt... whatever he called it... it wasn't true love. And so over the course of the holiday we became so intertwined that by the time the affair was called off by her in a devastating act on New Year's Eve, our lives and hearts were too interlinked to successfully be separated. So began the most exhausting process in the world.... the process of loving someone with every ounce of your being.

That winter season was as if her and I were two magnets, and some higher power just decided to toss us around in his hand... sometimes sucking us together in and instant, and sometimes repelling us apart so that no free will or human intervention could prevent the forces of nature keeping us apart. We laughed and cried, kissed and shared, planned futures both together and separate. We had our ideal plan, and our backup plan. She left and came around. I tried to forget her, tried to move on. What seemed so impossible at that time, two years ago.... removing this girl from my heart and my soul.... was infinitely easier then than it is now. And yet, for some reason, we ended up together. One day she just randomly decided that enough was enough, and I was made her boyfriend. The passion had never stopped, but now it didn't need to be hidden.

The first time we slept in the same bed, we held hands the entire night. I remember the feeling of her breath on the tip of my nose, and the natural smell of her body that I just absolutely adored. When she smiled at me back then, it could light up a basement room with no cracks in the walls for any light to sneak in. That love was so real, it was unescapable. Together, isolated from the world around us, we fit together like a puzzle. It was if we had been created by God as one solid piece, and then cut apart and dropped in two separate places on the Earth, and given the task of finding our way back to one another. Then the world around us started to enter. We had our first fight, our first temporary separation, the conflict as to who had better friends, who was more dedicated to our collective "us", who loved who more. But it didn't matter, because even after those fights, even in the coldest moments or the darkest of times, we still both loved each other.

Then over the course of time, I lost her. I failed to continue to impact her and impress her the way others around her did, and love wasn't enough. It wasn't strong enough to keep the outside forces from invading and changing and alienating her. Do I believe she now is a natural progression of who she was then? No. I think that somewhere in the process of normal human growth and evolution, she was dramatically influenced and manipulated by a force darker than any of the horrible things we had experienced as a couple, and that changed her view on us. It changed her smile. The same smile that she gives now, the same facial reaction she has to what and who she currently loves... it's not the same. It's not as pure, and innocent, and real. It's forced, strained, tired. She's been through a lot, and she shows it in every word she writes, every expression she gives, and every decision she makes. And all I ever wanted in life was to be beside her when she made those decisions, if not so I could help guide her along, having believed that in our extremely passionate and deep love affair I'd gotten to the very core of her being and learned who she really was, then so I could at least always know who she was. I don't know who she is anymore. I'm denied that privilege by my own failure to accept a breakup, or properly support her, or just because the people who influence her now don't like me. Whatever the true reason, the reality is that I am incapable to force myself back in. And even if I was, it wouldn't be the right thing to do. It wouldn't be real.

Our real love was a result of a girl in a beautiful red coat looking into the eyes of an awkward boy who didn't even know that she remembered him. It was the result of holding hands every time we could, kissing each other at each red light when we were in the car, and exploring each other's bodies not because we were perverted or addicted or vulgar, but because we were so in love that we wanted to memorize every single inch of each other. The sad thing is that my stomach cramps up at the thought that she has forgotten everything about me, her stomach most likely cramps up at the thought that I still vividly remember every single inch of her.

I'm scarred by the fact that I truly fell in love with someone who I couldn't be with forever. We made mistakes, and we weren't given the opportunity to deal with them alone, to therapeutically heal and move on and make new plans. Instead, she had a life she had to live, and had to instantly jump back into it and be okay. I had lost my life because she had became my life, so while she aggressively moved on to the next target of her heartbeat, I sat idly and replayed everything that ever transpired between us over and over in my head. I was so badly bruised and hurt and abandoned that I questioned every word she ever said to me, making it even worse. All I wanted was reinforcement, an apology, a "do-over." But I pushed too hard and pushed her away.

I still remember one of the last times we were together. I had brought her back to school after Easter vacation, and had just finished helping her carry her laundry back to her dorm room. As the elevator went to the ground floor, she kissed me on the neck and held me in her arms. It wasn't as passionate as we used to be. But it was real. And in that kiss, in that second or two of time, I knew that what we had was real. I knew that what we shared and experienced with each other was so powerful that there was no way in the world that it could ever completely die.

While we may not talk now, and she may not have salvaged a single remnant or reminder of our time together, and the uncertainty of that keeps the tears flowing every single night as my head rests on the pillow in my big, cold, empty bed, I am confident that every kiss was legitimate. And it never felt fake anytime we held hands. We were truly in love with each other, and we shared a deep bond that can't be broken by breakups and manipulation and trauma and fear. It can only be hidden, suppressed, suffocated. And instead of pushing and pushing and begging her to find that love again, I need to truly love her myself.

She deserves to smile the way she used to, and so now I wish that her new boyfriend can make her. I pray that he kisses her at every stoplight when they are in the car, and that she smacks him in the ass every time he's walking up the stairs with a hot cup of coffee. I hope they experience those cute, sentimental memories that may seem so insignificant and stupid and pointless to everyone except the two that experienced them together, because I know, deep down in her heart, if she ever reads this, and she is truly herself, she'll remember and she'll feel and she'll love, if only for a fraction of a second. I hope that someday he can bring back her natural smile, and erase the years of running and searching and scars that has been woven into the way she speaks to and treats other people. I hope that in the privacy of their own bedroom, late at night, when they share their final kiss for the night, that she is truly happy. Because if she is, then I have no reason to continue to force my way into her life.

For so long, I've wanted to remind her that I'll always be here for her. I've just wanted her to know... to be aware... to remember. I promised her that I'd be the first person she ever met that wouldn't abandon her, that wouldn't give up on her, that would love her eternally... and even if she's not in my life anymore, that doesn't mean that I broke that promise. I still love her, I'd still do anything for her. Still, two years after extreme depression and abuse and psychological hell, she is still the first thought that pops into my head in the morning, that puts a smile on my face and propels me out of bed. I hope she's in love now, and she is happy, and I hope that never ends. I hope she never has to feel pain or abandonment or sadness again. I hope there is always someone to put their arm around her when she's cold, to brace her forehead when she's crying, to hold her hand when she's scared. I hope that the boyfriend that she has now gives her everything she's ever wanted in life, because even though she left me, that doesn't mean that she doesn't deserve the world. I truly love her, and once I realized that, I realize that it isn't about me. Maybe I have to cry in order for her to be happy. Maybe I have to be alone so that she may be together with someone else. Maybe there a finite amount of pain and love in this world, and in order to keep things in balance, she had to hurt me in order for someone else not to hurt her.

I'm not saying I'm a martyr. I'm far from it. I'm a damaged, sensitive, psychological mess from Western Pennsylvania that isn't able at this current time to give her what she wants or deserves. But I can love, and pray, and hope. I can put out positive energy and hope that she experiences everything the world has to offer, and has someone by her side to do it. It's been two years since I've been able to buy her a Christmas gift, and I don't have much to give anymore. So I guess my gift to her is that I'll stop trying. I'll stop trying to force myself into her life. I won't periodically e-mail her or text her or do something to get her attention, just so she remembers I'm alive, and that I love her. I won't selfishly ask her to consider my feelings, what I'm left to deal with as a result of our mistakes. I won't hold her feet to the fire because she promised to love me forever, and instead abandoned me when things got tough. Maybe she had to. Maybe she was meant to. It's not like I'm any stronger than her. I'm just stronger in different ways. Instead of having the strength to forbid myself to communicate with her, to have been able to bow out gracefully and wish her the best and been satisfied with being distant friends who might wish each other happy birthday each year and occasionally say hello, I've been strong enough to deal with the horrible, horrible pain of having lost her, and not killed myself yet. I could have very easily taken the easy way out, and never cried again, never have had that tightness in my chest again, or have had a panic attack when seeing someone she's friends with again.... but then I would have broken the promise to always be there, just in case.

I'm no longer going to fight my way into her life and force myself in. It hasn't worked so far, even though she's always been worth the fight. Because I remember that kiss on the neck in the elevator, and the sound of her voice when she'd call me at 3:00 in the morning after all her friends had turned in for the night and she had no one else to say goodnight to, and I remember the look in her eyes every single time we were together. What we had was so real, that she'll always know that I love her, and she'll always remember, if she's ever in a serious enough bind, that I'll be there to help her, to care for her, or nurse her back to health. She knows. Deep down, in the very bottom of her heart, what we had exists. It was way too powerful not to. Hopefully she never has to rely on me. Hopefully who she is with now will keep her happy and loved and fulfilled for the rest of her life, and she'll never cry, or miss anyone, or feel abandoned. Hopefully he does a better job than I did. She deserves that. I truly hope that he loves her a thousand times more than I ever could, because if he doesn't, she needs to be with someone that does.

I resign my fight for her because it's what she deserves. She doesn't deserve to be reminded of everything I didn't do for her, or everything I couldn't give her. She needs to be in the present with the guy who is making her knees buckle and her heart beat fast every time she walks by. I was lucky enough to love someone like her, and have her love me back, if only for a little while, and that's more than I've ever deserved. It was a huge gift from whatever higher power is out there, and instead of crying about the moments she isn't next to me, I should instead be thankful for the moments that she was next to me. We both know how deep our experience was, and if I loved her enough as I needed to, she'll always remember that I'll be here, even if she has to be the one to seek me instead of me constantly seeking her.

I still have hope that one day, at random, I'll see her walking down the street, by herself, and our eyes will lock and that spark will ignite the fire right where we left off. I'll always hope that I share the rest of my life with her, because it kills me that we've already missed so much of each other's lives as it is. But at the same time, I also, at the same time, hope that the boyfriend she has now never leaves her side and keeps her warm and safe forever, because she deserves love and happiness a lot more than I do, and at the end of the day, as long as she's safe, and happy, and loved, that's all I could ever want. Sometimes I'm just selfish enough to wish that it was me that could provide her with that. But on this Christmas, the only gift I can give her, the only thing I have left of me to give her, is that as long as she continues to hate me, I'll never forcefully or intentionally ruin a moment of her life with the thought of me.
black and white, cigarette, modern

the meow of a cat that had been left in a field for days

Sometimes I wonder why God doesn't watch over West Middlesex. In a small town where the only recreational activities are going to Church, eatting pizza or ice cream, high school sports, or high school pregnancies, the higher authority, the being that can ultimately save us from evil, turns his head the other way as this town aggressively destroys itself. It's a small town that deceivengly looks beautiful in the fall, with houses that have big porches that look out onto yards sprinkled with leaves that blend into Main Street, and a row of small businesses just trying to make it so that the friends of the business owner's children can always remember the weekend breakfasts in the big kitchens of their friends who had parents with enough money to act loving to everyone. If someone famous had been shot here, Travel Channel would talk of the small town beauty, the industry that once was, the ghosts of the convicts that haunt an abandoned riverside building. But instead, we all kill each other before we have a chance to get famous. The ghosts of former friendships, people who used to be gentle, loving, and friendly before they turned their back on this town haunt the memories of the sentimental ones who chose to stay behind. Industry consists of places that will inevitably be vandalized by the kids who are too fucking cool to show any respect at all, and this town will eventually die while they laugh and spit on the eroding concrete sidewalks.

There is a quiet, lonely evil in this town. It's the same feeling that one gets as a kid walking from the school campus to the convenience store. The warm sunshine and calm safety that is in the air in your youth evolves to a fear of seeing someone you once were friends with around the corner and an evil that you feel destroying the happiness and optimism of everyone around you. This small down is at war with the cultures around it, and right now it's a stalemate. Even drugs and gang violence don't give a shit about this town. We don't need that. We're perfectly capable of destroying ourselves.

When I was younger, I had a really great life. The depression, low self-esteem and general displeasure that genetically flowed through my veins kept me from enjoying it to the maximum, but I had a very great life. I had friends that I loved, and friends that loved me. Beautiful girls at least knew what my name was, and I had a few close friendships that had the potential to evolve into something else if I wouldn't have been so stubborn. Adults and figures of authority gave me a decent amount of flexibility to be myself and push boundaries without the threat of disciplne, and while I didn't have Brady Bunch parents that forced my sister and I to discuss our day around the family dinner table, they didn't burn us with cigarettes, spend their money on crack, and force us to wear last year's style of sneakers either. It was an ignorant bliss, but I was happy, and I smiled. Others I knew smiled.

As I grew older, I kissed girls on their couches, and sat across from them in restaurants and they smiled. I took walks in the park with friends that told me how they had finally found love and wanted so much out of their future, and they smiled. I knew people who went away to college and came back for the homecoming football game and returned for the summers, and when they saw how this area welcomed them with a safe familiarity, they smiled. I really don't know anyone who smiles anymore.

For so long I beat myself up trying desperately to find a way to make this town a place where the girl of my dreams would be happy. I thought if my business could help other businesses, the economy would grow, the downtown shops would get bigger, and she wouldn't hate it here anymore. I wanted this town to succeed AND I wanted our relationship to succeed. In a perfect world, I wouldn't have had to choose between the two. In the end, she made the choice for me and left this town with such hate for it and me that she'll never happily return. Sometimes, if I am strong enough, I'll take a brief glance at a picture of my ex-girlfriend on the internet. She doesn't seem to smile the way that she used to smile in pictures with me. I love the girl unconditionally, and while I really don't believe that the only reasons she ever smiled so much in the past was because of me, I cry myself to sleep praying for her to truly be happy, to eventually forgive me, and to not hate this place she came from forever.

Tonight, at the convenience store, I saw my old friend Julie. She looked at me and I started to say hi, as if we might speak. She half-smiled, I half-spoke. The noise that came out of my mouth sounded like the meow of a cat that had been left in a field for days, so malnourished by the time he reached my back porch that he knew he was going to die but he wanted something to eat, one last time, anyway. She walked past me, I put my head down and walked forward, and her boyfriend walked in the store after. Nothing more happened. We don't speak anymore. Julie used to be my absolute best friend. For years, I trusted her with every single detail of my life, and she trusted me with the same. We were inseparable. If someone would have told me then that in 2010 we wouldn't even speak to one another, I probably would still be laughing. That girl was such an important part of my life, so crucial to the development of my mind and heart and emotions, that I owe her more than I could ever possibly repay. I took her for granted and I regret that more than I could ever put into words. We drifted away. Julie was the kindest, most gentle, optimistic, genuinely happy and loving person I ever met. But when she walked into the store on a cold, grey, exhausting night like tonight, she didn't smile. I just kept my head down, checked out, got into my car and cried all the way home. I haven't stopped crying since.

I was raised to believe in God, to pray, to believe in a higher power that would keep us all safe. But after tonight, I'm disappointed in the God that I've prayed to all my life. I am upset with him for turning his back on a town that had so many beautiful, loving, sweet, innocent, amazing people that had so much to contribute to this world, and who contributed so much to my life. I'm upset that at one point I knew who I wanted to marry, knew who I wanted to be at the wedding, knew who I wanted to be friends with all of my life, and now I have to beg the same God that neglected me just to let the people who were once in my life to speak to me again. From the amazing times we all shared..... to not even speaking. It breaks my heart. I wonder how many other people have been affected by this. I wonder how many people are trying to keep warm in their houses tonight, while the frigid cold air fills the town that no one is giving enough love to keep warm.

I understand that when people grow up, they change, and their friendships change. I know it's extremely rare that any person reaches an old age over 60 and still speaks to everyone that formed their character growing up. But still, in school, when teachers made sneaky remarks about how the insignificant arguements that were so important then wouldn't mean dick to us in the future, no one told us it'd be as bad as this. There was no full disclosure on growing up. Why didn't some adult who lived this before us stand up in the front of the room and scream at us and say "growing up is going to be the most painful experience of your life. No one that loves you now will love you in the future, and if you rely on this town to be your companion, you will be alone forever." Why didn't a counselor or advisor or even a family member slap us all across the face and let us know that "you all change as you get older" wasn't even a drop in the bucket to describe what will happen when God turns his back on a town full of people that desperately need his love?
black and white, cigarette, modern

with my arm wrapped in a blood-soaked towel

About a year and a half ago, my entire life changed. Everything and everyone I ever relied on and felt comfortable around was thrown up into the air and destroyed as if a tornado came through my life, uprooting friendships and relationships and jobs. To be honest, I think it was the best thing that ever happened to me. While this journal is probably looked at as a pity party for myself, or a way for me to get attention, really it's just a way for me to say the things that I'm too embarrassed or afraid to say to someone's face. It's a way for me to disclose things that people should be aware of if they want to have a relationship with me, without me actually having to sit down and tell them my life story. This is my place to come clean. This is my place to share.

I guess I should start by saying that even though I give off the impression of being an inconsiderate asshole who doesn't care about anyone but myself, will screw anyone over without thinking twice, and have no morals, boundaries, or ambitions, that's entirely not the case. I'm very comfortable around people who I've known forever. If you have been a part of my life for a very long time, around you I will be loud, obnoxious, inconsiderate, and abrasive. Not intentionally. Sometimes I get too comfortable. A lot of times I'm just not up to speed on whether someone is my friend or not. Sometimes I'm not aware of the rallies behind my back, or what someone else has told you to believe. I was always bad at knowing when a girl liked me, and how much she actually did, but I'm infinitely worse at knowing when someone who used to be a friend of mine no longer wants anything to do with me anymore. In recent years, I've learned that just because someone was really close friends with me in high school, they aren't always going to be welcoming, or accepting, or willing to put up with the childish and immature behavior that was amusing to them back before they found a successful career, or married the person of their dreams, or moved to a city outside West Middlesex, and automatically earned the right to feel like they are better than everyone else. Even though I give off the impression of being comfortable, I am very shy and very scared. I don't trust anyone. I doubt everything anyone has ever said to me.

I spent the majority of my childhood and early adult life being extremely conservative. I was conservative out of jealousy. It's very easy to pass judgment on good looking people who are getting wasted, fucking the shit out of other good looking people, and shoving losers into lockers or tripping them on the sidewalk, because I never got to experience those things. Once I dipped my dick into a girl for the first time, I didn't oppose premarital sex anymore. The first time I got drunk with a group of friends and made people laugh the next day with stories about the experience, I thought nothing was wrong with underage drinking. I'm hypocritical, because I'm jealous. My entire life, I've wanted to be someone else. I wanted to be good at video games, so I could really fit in with the gamers. I wanted to be funny and outgoing and arrogant, so I fit in with popular people and was invited to the parties where the beer and vaginas flowed freely. I wanted to be good at music, so I wasn't just another mediocre instrumentalist in the band. I wanted to be amazing at something, and I wanted people to like me for whatever that would be. Unfortunately, everything I'm good at is boring. Who gets wet over someone who has the product key for Windows XP memorized, or is great at documenting a breakup on a website for years after he should be over it?

I tend to deal with these insecurities by making fun of others or myself. I put up a front that portrays me as this cold asshole with no morals who is so empty that you will never get through to me with appeals to my emotions, or by reminding me about the good times we've shared. I don't really feel this way. But, I feel the need to defend myself. If you're going to try to make a fool out of me in public, I'll fight back twice as hard. If I can't make you look like an idiot, I'll switch things up and do a better job of making fun of myself. There isn't anyone who hates me more than I hate myself. That's a fact. The self-confidence in which I present myself as the better alternative between two people.... that is all an act so that you don't win. I've spent so much time being made out to look like a loser, an asshole, a bad person, a failure, a disappointment.... that I feel like it's my turn to take control over that reputation. Like a black person calling themselves a nigger, I can call myself a loser because I can own that, and turn the fact that I've disappointed everyone that has ever believed in me into something I can laugh at. I can do a better job of destroying myself than you can. That's about the only thing I'm really great at. Take away my ability to be self-deprecating, and everyone is right.... I'm a failure who deserves no friends, no companionship, and is never going to amount to anything in life.

My friendships with people have always been tainted by backstabbing and manipulation and competition. The people who I have always considered my "best friends" were always the ones with which I seemed to have the most competition with, the most confrontation with, and the ones who were able to hurt me the best. For a while, like the past 3 years, it seemed like most of these stupid rivalries were over. I really thought that the whole "you shouldn't be his friend, just my friend, because he is bad, and oh, did you hear this about him" bullshit was over. It wasn't. A few months ago, I found out that one of the people who did it the most when we were immature high school students was back at it again. And like usual, his army of soldiers fell into line, and there went a huge chunk of my friends. Who knows what I did that he used as ammunition. I probably had a legitimate reason for whatever I said or did, but that doesn't matter. In the world of friendships, there is no such thing as equality. There is always a group with a leader, and everyone defects to him or her. There will always be a popularity structure, a ladder to climb, and unofficial dues that must be paid, rings that must be kissed, and a doctrine that must be followed. That's life. For a very long time, I participated in this game willingly. At times, I even wore the ring that needed to be kissed. But after I hit rock bottom, I decided I didn't want to play anymore. This time, I don't care. Now, if you talk about me behind my back, just keep doing it. Yes, it bothers me, so you have succeeded. I'm not going to try to pretend it doesn't. But do I have the desire to fight back? No. The friends I have today, on June 22, I can count on one hand. But they are the ones who matter, and they are the only ones I plan on keeping.

For a long time, I wanted to stay in touch with as many people as I could. I wanted everyone to like me. I wanted to fit in everywhere I went. But that's just too exhausting now. I don't have time to talk to people just so they don't forget I'm alive. I don't have time to keep up with every person who has said something critical of me, and planning out a strategy of embarrassing them back, or stealing their friends, or showing up where they are so that it looks like I don't care or that they don't bother me. This year, on the Fourth of July, I am going to go to a party that I go to every year. I am going to see a ton of people who I used to be friends with. And for the first time, I am going to realize that I am not friends with them anymore. But I'm not going to pretend that I still fit in, and I'm also not going to try to fight back or be their friend again. After a while, friendships are just over. I've been gone for WAY too long for things to ever pick up where they left off, and while I was gone, the other relationships have matured and grown and people were added and there just isn't room for me anymore. I'll talk to the few people I know at the party who are still my friends, and I'll probably go home early. Will it be sad? Yes. I'll probably leave before midnight and cry myself to sleep. I miss the friends that I used to have. But I'm just not in their group anymore, and I just don't have the energy to try to come back. That doesn't mean we didn't have great times, because we did. Otherwise, I wouldn't miss them so badly. I enjoyed Game Fest and band camp and other Fourth of July parties. I liked going swimming, and going to Boardman to eat. It was a really fun time in my life, and out of all the groups of people who I've been friends with in my life, that group was probably the most honest. It wasn't a popularity contest. It was just a group of people who were close to each other. I'm just not close to them anymore, so it's only fitting that I move on quietly without a fight.

The reason I'm alone now, rebuilding friendships from scratch, out of everyone's mind and memories, is because I hit rock bottom. My life turned upside down, and I couldn't turn it right-side up, so instead I just did everything I could to destroy it. I haven't told a lot of people exactly what happened. And it's hard to say exactly what happened without it being a very long and drawn out story, so I'll do my best to summarize.

On February 15, 2008, Kayla Mihalcin broke up with me. I was in love with her. I wanted a family with her. Prior to that, her and I were inseparable. I didn't see my friends as much as I used to, because I spent all of my time with Kayla. I didn't mind that, though. I should have done a better job of balancing both, but I didn't. Instead, I found love for the first time and because I had been searching for true love for as long as I could remember, I spent all my time enjoying it. I chose love over friendship, and in the end, I ended up with neither. After her and I broke up, I went through the most self destructive phase I ever had in my entire life. The friends who I had before Kayla weren't really enthuiastic about taking me back, considering I had ignored them for a girl who ended up hurting me. I guess it served me right, and everyone who thinks I got what I deserved is totally correct.

As the months went on, the pain got worse. Kayla hurt me more each day. She didn't do it intentionally. She isn't a bad person for it. I just hurt more every day I went on without her. The more I thought about the promises she made to me, the more she kept taking me back into her life and pushing me away because I couldn't just act normal around her and put the pain aside, the worse I felt. I drowned my pain with alcohol and drugs. I acted like an asshole to people who I shouldn't have said mean things to, just because I wanted to be the person who was being a dick for once. It felt good, in a sick way, to make other people cry, instead of being the one crying. I turned into a monster. The more drugs I did, the more detached I was from the only friends I had left who cared about me. But the drugs made me look on the outside the way I felt on the inside. They made me the piece of shit that I thought I was. I really hated myself. I felt like I was the biggest piece of shit on the planet, so I treated myself like one. I didn't worry about overdosing, or healthy limits, or proper nutrition or rest. I woke up, did the bare minimum I had to do to get through the day without getting fired or going bankrupt, and then around 6:00 PM, I would get angry that it wasn't time to go to sleep yet. Sleep, even though I could never get to that point naturally, was the only time where I wasn't crying, wasn't wanting to die, wasn't destroying myself. So, I'd drug myself up and drink myself into a sleep. And then the next morning, I'd wake up, learn what I had done when I was intoxicated, and start it all over again so that I could punish myself for the things I had done before.

The only thing that hurt worse than being single was having lost all of my friends. I was so full of self-loathing and unhappiness that I would hide in my house. I wouldn't answer my phone, I wouldn't go on the compute for days. I wanted to be completely off of the radar. I didn't want to talk to anyone. I just wanted to be miserable on my own. I was toxic, and I was damaged, and no one else understood. I couldn't put on a happy face and act anymore. A large part of my life, all I did was joke around and act like an idiot to make people laugh in an effort to hide how lonely and miserable I was. Even when I was at my most popular, I hated myself so much. I have never liked who I am. I couldn't act anymore. I couldn't show up to people's houses, or to restaurants or bars, or parties, and pretend like I was getting better. I just wanted everything to end. I either wanted to go back a year ago where I was happy, or I wanted to die. Since time travel wasn't possible, I realized what needed to be done.

On August 14, 2008, I saw Kayla for the last time. I brought her a check for the computer I had sold for her. The night before, I visited her at the laundromat. As we were both leaving to go home, she told me she loved me and that she'd miss me. The following day, she told me that was all a lie. August 14, 2008, in the basement of the Kouch house, I grabbed a razor blade and dug into my arm and started vertically cutting the vein completely out of it. Each dig swipe of the blade brought me closer to death. But at that point, I just wanted to die. I lost my girlfriend, all of my friends, my family, my business, and my desire to even wake up the next day. With my arm wrapped in a blood-soaked towel, I broke down, and following advice of the few people that saw what I had done, went to the hospital. At 2:30 AM on August 15, 2008, I entered the psychiatric ward at Sharon Regional Hospital. I remained there for 2 weeks.

At the hospital, I realized that this was my only chance to ever get better. Even though the level of depression and drug usage I currently experienced was at an all time high (or low) for me, I had been sick my entire life. Never had I ever been happy with who I was, and I had always had an addictive personality. I harbored long, unrequited crushes on girls all throughout school just because the first time they ever talked to me I experienced a short burst of happiness that I had never felt before. The first time I ever drank, I was probably one drink shy of alcohol poisoning. If something made me forget about how much I hated myself, I'd latch on to it, repeating the behavior over and over and over again. I had been just as addicted to girls as I had been to oxycontin. Making people laugh was just as satisfying as a shot of heroin. If I could have packaged the feeling I got when I impressed someone with a video I had made, a computer job I had completed, or something I had written, I would have packaged it and snorted it several times a day. I was addicted to not being Steve Kudelko, because I hated Steve Kudelko. I still do, just so you know.

I committed to the program I was in. I attended groups, I detoxed cold turkey. Up until the day I entered the hospital, I had slept with a note next to my bed that said "Kayla, I love you more than anything in the world. This is not your fault." I did this because I often fell asleep by mixing several different sleeping pills, benzodiazepines, and alcohol, and knew that there was always the chance that I wouldn't wake up the next day. That was the only suicide note I had the energy to write. Everything else I had already said in this journal, or in an e-mail. Upon entering the hospital, not only didn't I sleep with the note, but I changed my nightly prayers. Instead of praying for her and I, I prayed for her to be happy. That's it. I had to give up on the dream of her and I. I had to get healthy again.

In the hospital, I met a great group of people who I bonded with and became close friends with. One girl, in particular, was in the hospital for similar reasons. She had just gotten out of a really awful relationship. She was also suffering from clinical depression and was suicidal. She too just wanted to be happy, to get her life back together, and find a companion she could trust. As the days passed in the hospital, without any influences from outside, we grew closer. I started to feel a little bit better. I was learning why my previous relationship failed, why I was unable to move on, release memories, and be happy with myself. I was starting to be less stressed, to put together a plan for myself to follow when I was released from the hospital. Inside the hospital, things were great. However, the outsiders that visited me had no idea how psychologically damaged and sensitive I had become. Every visit, they gossiped about who did what to who, they reminded me about the outside world, and when they left, I felt worse and worse about returning to the outside. After two weeks passed, I was released with an arsenal of medication, and plans to attend an outpatient program.

Upon leaving the hospital, I was thrown back into the world that put me there in the first place. My bedroom reminded me of my failed relationship. My phone contained the numbers of friends that no longer cared, my e-mail inbox was full of reminders that as a business owner, I had obligations to fulfill. I needed to escape. I needed a way to physically be in the world outside the hospital, but not exist there mentally. I called the girl who I met in the hospital, and we started dating. I had someone who told me they loved me and who thought would help me forget about relationships passed, and with her came access to a world of drugs I couldn't have even imagined before I went into the hospital. Once again, I wasn't present in the world anymore.

My time was spent with her. Kayla didn't even care if I was alive, or if I existed. I had been so alienated by my friends that most of them weren't even aware that I had been in the hospital Phone calls and messages from anyone who had existed in my previous life went unanswered by both sides. I thought I was happy, but I was only destroying myself even worse. Her and I fought. When we weren't fighting, we were high. My family wanted nothing to do with me. Even though, when it came to my family, I had long been on the other side of a canyon with a bridge that was rickety and scary to cross, the fact that my father and sister didn't even care to visit me, along with the fact that I was now worse than before I even went to the hospital, pretty much burned the bridge entirely. I was alone. It wasn't long before I was kicked out of my house.

I spent my days with my psych ward girlfriend, living in hotels, sleeping at friends' houses or in garages. It was a careful balancing act of hustling every day. Making sure I had enough money in the morning to get high so that I could function through a day of work, and budgeting the money I made that day so we had enough for a place to stay, and enough for drugs. The days we didn't have enough for a place to stay, those were the days we slept in garages. As sick as it sounds, I was just happy I wasn't my normal self. I was so sick of the Steve Kudelko that dropped out of college, lived with his parents, and was widely regarded as a loser by everyone, that living a lifestyle that is only glamorized in movies before the part where the main character gets his shit together was enough for me. I still wanted to kill myself, but I knew that this lifestyle would eventually lead to it.

Soon, my psych ward girlfriend's husband came back into town. I didn't explain that? Oh. She had been separated from him for over a year, but he refused to sign the divorce papers. He was also a drug addict, so bad that he suffered a stroke as a result of a heroin overdose. He was in his mid-30s, and my girlfriend was 27. I was 22. His parents had kicked him out of their house, where he lived with them and he and my girlfriend's son, who was 3. My girlfriend also had another 5 year old son with a different father. Both guys turned out to be assholes and drug addicts. I started to see a pattern here. Brian, ironically the name of her boyfriend AND the name of the boyfriend that Kayla replaced me with, stayed with us in hotels. He had money. She took care of him. She said she took care of him out of necessity, because he was sick, and because he was technically still her husband. I was jealous. How could I not be? I was sleeping on the floor of a cheap hotel room with a married girlfriend I had only known for a month sleeping in the bed with her husband who used to beat the shit out of her. I had no money, no cell phone service, and no one else in my life. As I sat outside the hotel room one night, looking out onto the traffic, all I wanted to do was call Kayla. I thought if she saw how badly she hurt me, how miserable I was, how badly another girl was treating me, she'd love me enough to at least listen. We had gone through so much, and it was so passionate, she had to still have some love for me. How could she not? I figured if anyone would care, she would. I didn't have a cell phone, although, in retrospect, she wouldn't have answered anyway. I was truly, and finally, alone and on my way to death.

After a while, the husband left. My girlfriend convinced his parents to take him back. We were finally alone, though we couldn't really enjoy it. We celebrated our first night of freedom by overdosing on oxycontin and going to see a movie with my friend Brittany. All I remember is the beginning of the movie, looking down at my cell phone, and the credits rolling. Afterwards, we came back to our hotel room, and bullshitted. We enjoyed a bunch of snacks we bought at Sheetz with food stamps. After Brittany left, we made out in bed. She was on her period, so we couldn't even do the one thing that really kept us together... fuck the shit out of each other. We got into a fight about how much money we had to get high in the morning, and chain smoked until we fell asleep.

The rest of that month is a blur. Eventually, she ended up going to jail for a DUI she had gotten a long time ago. I moved in to my parents garage. I didn't have a key to the house anymore. A few weeks later, I entered a methadone clinic and began rehab. I started back on my medication, and see several psychologists every week. I'm doing a little bit better now, and have been drug free since January 3, 2010.

What bothers me the most about the former friends I have that call me a shitty person, try to steal other friends from me behind my back, and claim that I'm too awful to ever have anyone be my friend again, is that while I was going through absolute hell, with no way of getting out on my own, they were no where to be found. They were too busy judging me for doing drugs, or for not being at college with them like I had planned to be long ago. Throughout our entire lives, I was there whenever they needed me. If their parents split up, they came to my house. When girls or guys made them feel like shit, they came to me for advice. I was always willing to offer a shoulder to cry on, or a place to stay. I gave advice, listened to their problems, and did their best to cheer them up. I was there through death, drama, and meltdowns. And now, I was all alone.

Throughout that entire time, that spanned much longer than a few paragraphs in an online journal, everyone else lived their lives. They moved on, entered new relationships, found new friends. Everyone else became closer. They went places, experienced things, created memories that I wasn't a part of. How do I come back to that? I can't. It hurts, but I can't go back to the friends I used to have. We're done. And yet, for some reason, I always try to pretend like nothing ever happened. I show up when I'm invited places, and am extremely uncomfortable the entire time. I just don't want to do that anymore.

I'm not proud of the way things turned out for me. I'm really not. This isn't a glamorous story, and I'm not looking for sympathy or anything similar. I'm just explaining where I was. I'm telling everyone what happened to me. I failed everyone, including myself, and lived through a small fraction of my punishment. I'm not the same anymore. If people judge me, and think I'm a loser for turning out this way, they're exactly right. But they're also fucking assholes who I'm very glad aren't friends with me anymore. The only good thing that came out of this is the people I've lost. The people who think they're better than me, the people who I was fake friends with for years, the people who I tried to hard to get to like me or love me who never would have anyway.... they're gone. I'm no longer a part of them, and it's refreshing, in a really empty, lonely way. There are times when I wish I could call a group of people and go to wing night like we used to. I want to have people over to visit, or chat with them on the computer. I'd like to go to parties, be invited more places, and have more people to talk to. But I don't belong there anymore. I have to rebuild everything from scratch, and I'm really trying.

There are a few people from my past life that I really don't want to be without. I really want to be able to rebuild a friendship with them. I'm trying very hard, but it's not easy. It's hard for me to deal with the resentment they have towards me, or the disappointment, or the fact that it's hard for them to be involved with me when everyone else in their life isn't. I understand that. And it's also equally hard for me to explain what I've been through, how hurt I've been, and how it's so difficult for me to not be paranoid, or afraid of losing someone, and why it's difficult for me to trust someone.

Last summer was the worst summer of my life, but this summer will be the hardest. I'm trying to rebuild. I'm trying not to be lonely anymore, not to be empty. I'm trying to be successful and find a purpose. I'm trying to find love, even if it's from a distance.

I guess I just still want people to know, that even though I'm not going to put on a show, and dance around and be obnoxious, when you say things about me, or want to make a fool out of me, I still hate myself more than you ever will, and you will never be as disappointed in me as I am. But, if anyone ever wants to give me a chance again, it'll mean more to me than you'll ever know. I lived through a shit storm, but that doesn't make it any easier to be lonely, and only have memories of the past.

black and white, cigarette, modern

sweep her off her feet while she's sober

I know I write about the metaphorical equivalent happening in this journal all the time, but today, I literally, physically, chased after a girl and then she laughed at me. In downtown Hermitage, dodging a Hummer that almost hit me, I burned all the energy my pathetically out-of-shape body had stored, and tracked her down. With sweat pouring out of my skin like a sprinkler system, I jumped into her car. She called me retarded. I couldn't disagree. I was so embarrassed. I felt like such an idiot. We went to a restaurant, where I quickly slid down into my booth like a wilted flower, trying to keep the red on my cheeks out of sight.

In a way, I feel bad writing about this situation. First of all, it's not really something that is completely appropriate to be public. I'm withholding any details that could intimately describe anything. I'm also scared to write about this situation. I'm worried that writing about this will make things worse. Basically, the reason I am writing about this is because all of the feelings I have bottled up inside might just be paranoia, or loneliness, or habit, but I need to get them out. The situation might be completely different than what I'm interpreting. I don't know if I have the privilege of bringing things up and talking to her. I don't know if that would be appropriate for me to do. I also am aware that her life is so incredibly complicated right now that I am nowhere near her priorities. (I actually don't have a problem with that. I just fear if I bring this up she'll interpret it as I think I expect to be a priority. I don't. I just want to be the person she chooses to relax and unwind with.) So, I just want to get things out of my head, so I can relax, so I can analyze them, and hopefully get a peaceful night of sleep. Hopefully I'm just worrying, and things are better than they appear. I'm lost right now, and I have to say, I feel pretty embarrassed and stupid.

Eight days ago, I struck gold. I was sitting at home with Nick, minding my own business, watching television. I had no evening plans, no weekend ambitions. I was just a single guy hanging out with his pseudo-brother and friend. And then, she called me. It took one ring of the phone before my heart leaped into my throat and I jumped up like an addict at a pharmaceutical sales convention and someone shouted “free samples.” I went to the bar. She drank, I remained sober. In between cigarettes, the same routine played out. The one where she talks about how she's unhappy with the relationship she's in, and I tell her how damaged I am from the relationship I haven't been in for a while. We wonder aloud why things never worked out between us. Usually the fact that I go after girls that are unattainable is to blame, and we go inside. Things were following the script when all of a sudden, everything veered off course with a kiss that was slightly more romantic and noticeably longer than the ones that usually occur at this point in the sequence. Soon, multiple kisses followed, along with a compliment about the way I kiss. A smile turned into an erection, and fear turned into a stronger, closer grip on her body. The sequence was all fucked up now. While we were inside, and she was roaming around, my mind was moving faster than a lightning bolt. Ten years flashed before my eyes, everything was over analyzed, and the “here, we go, Steve Kudelko, you're falling for another girl” sequence started to play out. However, I actually have liked this girl forever. The “you're falling for another girl” sequence could actually be better described as the shocking, new “holy shit, how is this happening after all of this time?” sequence. Soon, we left the bar.

On the way home, we discussed what happened in the time that we had last seen each other. She married someone, started a family, and found out he was not really that great of a person. I had multiple mental breakdowns, had a chance to start a family ripped away from me, and tried to kill myself several times. She had a wedding while I had an overdose. While she was in his arms at night, needles were in mine. We definitely traveled down different roads. But here we were, at the same place, at the same time. I'm too initially optimistic to call anything a coincidence, so I called it fate. I proposed the idea that when she was ready to break out of the trapped life she was in, she'd give me a shot, and finally let me take care of her, and we'd finally love each other officially, in public, along with legitimate titles and hand holding in public and penetration to consecrate the damn thing. She agreed. We talked about why these things didn't occur before.... why we failed in the past. The only reason was that other people got in our way.

We arrived at my house, and she came inside to use the bathroom. I sat down on my bed, played with the puppy, and waited for her to come out. A few minutes later, our backs hit the bed as her right arm was parallel to my left. As I cleverly slipped my hand into hers, she grabbed my other arm and crossed it over her chest. I thought she wanted a hug, but she actually wanted me on top of her. As I moved to where she wanted me, her nose brushed against mine as if this was a long existing ritual, always starting with the brushing of the noses before transitioning into the greatest make-out session either had ever experienced in their lives. Our lips fit perfectly together like a carefully constructed puzzle, and every turn of the head, tiny nibble by the teeth, and grip with the arms flowed perfectly like a meticulously choreographed dance routine. Had we made out on a public stage, our performance would have been so magnificent we would have received a standing ovation. My hands glided across the most beautiful body I had ever felt, every curve perfect in size, every inch of skin perfectly soft, and amazingly scented. I moved to the music that was playing in our heads, never missing a step, never skipping a beat. It was as if I had found what I had been meant to do my entire life. Never would I ever be able to perform any routine, no matter how carefully I study, like I shared my love that night.

We got up to leave several times, each time starting with her asking the question “Why didn't we do this sooner?” and another kiss being the answer. Finally, as Nick waited patiently outside, we made plans to spend the next week together, as she didn't have to work, and we reluctantly pulled ourselves away from each other and I walked her to her car. My mind was blown away by what had happened, and the biggest smile I had ever sported stretched across my face. Even though my mind was racing, and I was in complete and total awe of what had just happened, I peacefully slept, happier than I had ever been before.

The next day, I visited her at work. For some reason, upon sober reflection on the day before, she wasn't as intimate or attracted to me as before. In fact, both of us seemed to be quite shy. Though we thoroughly enjoyed our time together, she admittedly was nervous around me. The voice inside my brain that enjoys scaring me told me that she was regretting everything that happened. That she was lying. That she didn't really take anything that happened seriously. I pushed that voice out of my head, and visited her again on her break the following day. That day, things went much more smoothly. We sat outside, chain smoking and laughing, with my arm around her the entire time, sharing kisses in between cigarettes and stories by the various co-workers that came and went around us. However, after that day, things seemed to go downhill.

We didn't talk for a day or two after that. She sent me a message saying that her phone was off, so we attempted to communicate through the computer. Maybe computer messages just aren't capable of sharing as much emotion or love as cellular phones, but for the first time, the paranoid voice in my head was making a lot of sense to me. The competition I had been assured wasn't a threat was a very big fucking threat indeed. Someone who, while I was going through hell, was getting closer and closer to her and to a group of people who had been friends of mine. While I was completely off of the radar, by my own choice (or because my lifestyle chose for me), he impressed her, and attracted her. Fuck. He's going to be in this area soon. Of course, the paranoid voice asked me if I was even going to be remembered once he was here, or if I could ever compete with him. Was I good enough for her? He was.

The paranoid voice in my head is a fucking asshole, and he really wants to see me fail. The more time that passed in between conversations with her, the more I realized that I couldn't ever be good enough for her. When she leaves the trap she's in now, she'll end up moving on to someone who isn't me. That is exactly what I'm afraid of. So, I make an idiot out of myself by continuing to beg and plead for her attention and time, even though it's clear that she's not interested, and it's clear that if she's not spending time with the person she's legally committed to, she'd rather spend it with the charming gentleman who fucking isn't me.

I have a few days to try and impress, try to prove that I'm capable of making her happy, and making her smile, and taking good care of her, and leading a family. I have an impossible task ahead of me where I have to sweep her off her feet while she's sober. I really don't know what to do. So, I pray every morning the second I wake up, and I pray right before I go to sleep. “God, please let this work out. Please don't let me trust the wrong girl again. Please let me find love. Please finally let me be worth someone's time and feelings.” And every time I'm sitting alone, waiting for her call, or for her to message me back, fearing that she's dreaming of someone who isn't me, I cry out inside my head “Please pick me. Please choose me to run away with. Please let me be the one who cheers you up. Let me take away your stress. Let me tell you the things that you should be hearing... like that you're beautiful, and funny, and brilliant, and worth everything in the world.”

I spend every day wishing that whatever I am doing at the moment, I was doing with someone else. When I see previews for movies, I think about how great it'd be to have someone accompany me to the show. When I see sunsets, I wish someone was next to me, on a blanket, watching the same sunset with me. I don't care what stupid, mundane, boring tasks I have to do. I'd be the happiest person in the world if someone was next to me while I was doing them. I want to share what happened during my day with someone who would actually give a shit. I want someone to ask me how I'm doing, or how I'm feeling. I want to ask someone else that, and hang on every word they say. I want a best friend, someone to experience life with, someone to do sweet things for. I want her to be that person. I want to surprise her with a flower, or breathe the cool, evening air, while we're holding hands in the grass in my backyard. I want to cuddle with her and take away all of her stress and just listen to her talk my ear off about whatever she thinks is important. I want to share my life with her, and I want her to share her life with me. I want to know how she's feeling, what she's thinking. I want to watch movies with her, go to concerts with her, look across the table at her beautiful brown eyes during a romantic dinner, and sit on the same side of a booth with her at breakfast when we're both hungover. I want to love her every second of every day, and have her actually want that. What do I have to do to be appealing to her? Will any of this ever happen? Will she ever come to me when she wants to be happy, or wants to relax, or wants to feel loved?

I just wish I felt as confident, worthwhile, and loved as I did last Friday. I also wish that I didn't feel like such a fucking loser talking about this, and that the mosquitoes on my back porch would stop gnawing on my leg. I wish that for the first time in ten years, we wouldn't let things stop with a kiss and instead explored what seems to be destiny. Really, these mosquitoes need to fucking knock it off. I love you. Please give me a chance. Not anyone else. Not that other guy. Please just love ME back.

black and white, cigarette, modern

a traveling salesman advertising the advantages of being my friend

I've been gone for far too long. I'm coming back, and things are incredibly different. While I was suffering through my own personal hell, the world went on around me. A year and a half is a lot longer when thinking about it in retrospect, a lot longer than it seems when you're struggling to stay alive every day, going through the motions thinking to yourself "tomorrow will be better." Old friends have moved away, died. New people who I never even knew have risen to a position of importance. People rally around them. They have a strong presence in the lives of people who mean a lot to me, and it's fucking scary and confusing. I was gone for way too long, and now I'm faced with the task of deciding what friendships can be revived and which ones I have to let go and walk away from, without turning around to see the back of the other person's head moving away from me at a must faster pace. What a better time to do this than the summer.

Something about the smell of summer air brings back memories at a rapid pace. Places I've visited, drinks I've had, conversations I've been in, girls I've kissed. It's full of the images of destinations..... houses, parties, concerts, back seats, bedrooms.... memories suffocate me. The biggest reason I've been confined to hospitals and medication and therapists for the recent past has been because I have an inability to forget. My mind is a camera capable of recording every smell, taste, sound, scene, thought. If I could package this, I could make movies so realistic that they would blow everyone's mind. But unfortunately, I write. I take a 2D medium and try to explain millions of dimensions and feelings and the translation just isn't there..... readers don't feel what I feel.... and I'm left with no one understanding what I'm going through... what I'm trying to say.... how much they mean to me.

I used to write so much when I was in high school. All of my friends did. We used LiveJournal as a way to cry without having to explain our tears at the lunch table, or as a way to end a fight without having to have a drama-filled conversation that people in the hallway would overhear. We used it to explain who we were as people, and to let people into our hearts and minds. Everyone expressed themselves. Now, expressing yourself seems to be limited to the way you look in your Facebook profile picture when you're drunk, how many followers you have on Twitter, how many text messages interrupt someone's attempt to have a real human conversation with you in public. I think that when we all wrote, we all were more real, more unique, and closer to each other. Now, feelings are restricted to 140 characters, or however long a Facebook status can be. What's the fucking point? I am going to start writing more. This is all I have left, my last chance at getting people to really know who I am, to impress them or attract them by sharing my feelings, desires and dreams. Hopefully reflecting on my days will be therapeutic in a way, and also help me become the person I used to be before my life crashed down around me.

I don't fit in anymore. While life was going on without me, alliances were made, people settled in to friendships, relationships, marriages. The lines were drawn. And while lines used to be crossed all the time, and everyone didn't mind, now people protect their territory, and the methods of dealing with an outsider have gotten more manipulative, sneaky, disgusting. While I was fighting for my life alone, everyone else was building an army. You can't defeat an army. Even if you plead your case and think you've gotten your point across to one individual soldier, as soon as they're back to base, the dogma and rhetoric that made them loyal to a single entity will fill their heads again, negating the traction you've gained. The struggle just doesn't seem worth it anymore.

It's hard to find my place. I'm not a gamer, I'm not a geek, I'm not popular. I'm kind of in-between all of those incredibly juvenile descriptions for groups. I'm Steve Kudelko. That used to be good enough. That used to be a breath of fresh air for me and other people. But now, it's setting me apart just enough to feel excluded and out of place every where I go. When I'm with people, I feel like i'm just so close, but not close enough. I feel like I'm grabbing at something that is on the top shelf, and it's on the tip of my fingers, but my arms and legs just won't extend any more. I can feel the tip of it, but I just can't grab it. I feel like every conversation I have with someone from my past is more of a job interview or a time for me to plead my case, like a traveling salesman advertising the advantages of being my friend, more than a relaxing environment where I can just be myself.

I thought I was getting better, moving forward, and finally happy. But I'm not. Not really. Yesterday, for the first time in months, I just broke down and cried uncontrollably. I just laid in bed and sobbed, complete with the weird inhale/hiccup hybrid that kids usually do when they cry. I cried myself to sleep at 7:00 PM. I woke up around midnight, and no one had tried to get in touch with me in that span of time, so I just went back to sleep again. When I sleep, and I dream, I'm not alive, and that's the greatest feeling I can feel right now. It all comes back full circle to my desire just to be loved. I just want someone to give to me what I'm so capable and willing to give back. I try aiming and focusing my love on one person, like a sniper rifle. I try shooting my love all over the place and seeing if it sticks in at least one place, like a machine gun. But I'm a terrible shot, and I hit no one. It's frustrating, to have gone through an entire life without ever really feeling happy, and safe, and respected. I feel like I'm just a joke to everyone... just a dirty secret.

It doesn't help that I seem to always get involved with people who are involved with someone else. I don't intend this to happen. It's just the way things work out. Either someone is looking for a way out, or a change of pace, or they're stuck. I'm a temporary distraction, but it's only temporary. Just like a hobby very rarely becomes a full time job, the person on the side is highly unlikely to ever become a permanent fixture. I'm just a joke... a dirty little secret... waiting in the background for a day that will never come.

I try so hard to remind people that I exist... I'm alive... remember me, your friend? Remember how you said you liked me? Let me remind you, over and over and over again. I've been so badly damaged in the past that I'm constantly paranoid. I don't feel comfortable believing or trusting anyone, because no matter how close we've been, things always seem to fall apart. I'm destroyed, so I'll try way too hard and bombard you and suffocate you until your only desire is for me to go away. That's me. That's Steve Kudelko. I'm the opening act for your favorite band. You've never heard of me before, but I entertain you when I'm in front of you. One might even say you enjoy my presence. But after I walk off stage, you won't remember me. You'll never tell your friends how good I was. You won't buy my CD. I'll just continue along the tour, stopping in city after city, forming temporary relationships day after day. I fucking hate this.

I don't want to be the only person who makes the moves. I want a girl to contact me first. I want her to remember to call, to want to talk to me or see me. Maybe I'm not being annoying, and the guy making the moves is just what girls expect. Maybe I'm so paranoid that I'm being obnoxious, that I'm really not, but it's all in my head. I really don't know. I'd like to find a girl that's honest with me, who can tell me what her expectations are, and help me get myself back together. I'm a drug-soaked relic of someone who loved to smile, and gave his heart to everyone who would have it. Everyone took a sample on a little toothpick, and tried me out, but no one was ever serious, and now I have nothing left.

I'm not interested in going out on dates and meeting new people and playing the field. I'm too damaged for that. I no longer have the energy to put myself out there. I've been abused too many times. I can't stomach another lie, another rejection, another breakdown. I only know how to wait for someone I really like, subjecting myself to months and years of mental and emotional torture, until a tiny window of opportunity presents itself. When that window opens, I dive through it head first. I give everything I have, down to my very last breath. I take a chance that I've taken so many times, and somehow I always think it's going to be different. When I tell you I love you, I really fucking mean it. When I say I'll be there for you and I'll take care of you, that means that I will dedicate every single cell in my body to making sure you're safe, happy, and loved. I wonder if anyone has ever believed me. I wonder if that even means anything to anyone, or if that's not what they're after at all. If not, just tell me what I have to do... tell me what you want... tell me what will make you want me, and I'll change or break myself trying. I just want someone to love me back, to do the same, to have even the tiniest bit of dedication to me, so I'm not so fucking empty and alone. All I've ever wanted in my entire life is for someone to be there by my side, to mean it when they say they love me, and to try, even just a little, to make me feel like it's true.

I hate being temporary. I hate being a side project. I hate only being able to love someone a few days out of the week, only being good enough when someone better than me is out of communication. I wait for hours, clear my schedules, and sit, tapping my toes nervously, waiting for a call, or a chance to give someone a kiss. If that time does come, I'm the happiest I've ever been. If it doesn't, I've wasted my entire day. I accomplish nothing, and look like a fucking idiot. I'm so tired of being embarrassed because I thought someone cared about me more than they did. I have let so many people make an asshole out of me.

I want to be good enough for someone. I want to be memorable. I want to deserve their trust, and honesty, and faithfulness. I would give ANYTHING to be able to go to sleep at night and know that I'm loved.

I'm empty. I'm not as strong as my competition, I guess. I'm trying so hard. All I want is to be happy and stay that way for a while, not just have it die after a few days have passed and the magic we shared when we kissed has long been forgotten by your lips, your brain, and your heart. I just want love. I have so much of it to share, and no one wants it. I really want to find out why mine is so undesired, so tainted, so toxic. I really just want to climb the tallest building and scream. Please, love me back this time. I've loved you forever.