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Part 4: I’m Here

“The Untitled CRoys Project”

Fiona

She always believed in three kinds of pain. Just three, nothing more.

The first kind was the easiest to describe: physical pain. The pain felt when your physical human body had been damaged or harmed in a clearly visible manner. Whether it be a scrape on the knee from falling off a tricycle after first learning how to ride, the piercing moans when recognizing the onset of appendicitis within your stomach, or being shot in the face for simply being in the wrong alley at the wrong time on a drunken night home, physical pain was the easiest to diagnose and to cope with.

Fiona’s second form of pain recognized as a nurse was a bit more problematic: emotional pain. She tended to see this in those visiting the hospital patients, not just the patients themselves after they realize what trauma they’ve been through. While most physical pain, if lucky and watched upon by the heavens above, healed over time, emotional pain was much more likely to linger in both one’s conscience and subconscious for the duration of life. That image of the car barreling towards you and your loved one just before her mortality was snatched forevermore, the sense of utter failure and isolation when you realize your paralysis is real and normal human motion will never again be in your grasp, the despair when the narcotic overdose that landed you in the ER has pushed your family completely out of your life – all of it lends itself directly into the category of emotional pain for its eternal scars on how you emote in the future.

The third and final type of pain Fiona denoted was the most difficult and troublesome of the three, as she could never exactly put it into words, even after the multitude of patients she’d tended to throughout her career. That is, until she herself was standing over her loved one, Rylan Jackson, as he lay asleep in his starkly white hospital-standard bed.

“Fiona.”

The devoted and visibly shaken girlfriend turned at the sound of her own name. A fellow nurse she didn’t know had arrived to check in on Rylan. Normally most guests would be asked to spend a few moments in the waiting room at this time, but there was no way in hell Fiona wasn’t going to milk her career privileges and stay by Rylan’s side.

This moment in her life was truly the third form of pain: the pain of the unknown.

Fiona, in a way, had made it one of her life’s mission to put into perspective the demon that was the Unknown. She figured once she had her answer, it would be easier to care for her patients and provide the best possible guidance and support. However, she was currently trapped in the Unknown’s tight embrace without having a single clue what was making her numb. All breath had been knocked out of her when she saw Rylan bleeding his life away. She was unsure if she would ever have clarity as to why.

If Rylan didn’t wake up, there would be no why. Because only Rylan knew why.

Suddenly overtaken by that sole word – Why? she kept taunting herself – Fiona slowly made her way to the uncomfortable florally patterned chair next to her boyfriend’s bed and stared at him. She ignored the nurse’s duties while the plague of “why”s pushed her deep into an angry place. A painful place.

You idiot. What the actual fuck, Rylan? What did you hate about your life so much that you couldn’t talk to me? Was I not enough for you? Did I push you to this place? Weren’t we always honest with each other? That day I made us late to your parents’ dinner because I thought you had gotten me pregnant…that day we promised to always tell each other the truth. I never wavered. We fucking promised! Look where the fuck you are now. Don’t you fucking dare do this to me. You’re not leaving me like this. I’ll bring you back just to strangle you myself, if I have to. This ends on my terms, you got that? I fucking love you too much to let this end on yours.

A single tear rolled out of each of Fi’s eyes as her anger transformed into confusion and devastation once more. The nurse, finished with checking the vitals he needed to, gave Fiona a brief nod of support before stepping out of the room.

Fiona pushed her chair closer to Rylan’s bedside and was about to take his hand in hers, when she decided against it.

Why…?

~~~

She raced home for a quick shower, leaving Rylan in the care of their mutual friend Aaron. Fi had attempted to contact his father, but the nursing home said such news might send the elder man back into the psychotic break he had just been recovering from. Fiona and Rylan had known Aaron well for a while, ever since he was once their neighbor many years ago. He was her next best lifeline, with Rylan’s mother helplessly watching from her grave from the ground.

But she couldn’t worry about Aaron right now. She needed to get in and out of the house to return to Rylan’s side for when he awoke. Aaron had told her to take was much time as she needed, but the longer Fi was away from her best friend’s side, the more unfocused and dangerous the world became.

She tore into the bedroom, grabbing the first pair of underwear, the first T-shirt, the first pair of pants she saw before running into the bathroom and stripping her tragedy-tainted clothing. She threw them out the bathroom door as if contaminated and contagious. Slightly true: Whenever the image of Rylan’s slumped body near the tub popped into her head, the memory made her want to immediately vomit.

Fiona hesitated before throwing herself into the shower. Blood still remained all over the floor. His blood. Spilled blood. She gingerly took a moment to take a large step over the lava to get into the shower, however —

“Shit!” she howled as she lost her grip on the slippery tiled wall, forcing a foot to slide through Rylan’s lost fluid. Simultaneously disgusted and terrified of the gore, Fiona controlled her fall to land in the shower. She hit her head against the wall and landed with an echoing thud.

The shower remained off as Fiona remained in the tub, naked and alone, and cried out tears of failure.

In perfect ruin, Fiona clutched her utterly vulnerable body, hoping the feeling of holding herself would dilute the pain even if just for a moment. Sitting still, but in complete freefall. The emotional whiplash she’d experienced in the past six hours had depleted any fight left in her. It was all too much, too fast.

What signs had she missed? How did she not know anything was wrong with the one person she thought she knew better than anyone else? Did that make her a terrible human being? Was her love for Rylan not enough? How many questions could she keep asking before one fucking answer was thrust her way?

One final sob forced a realization. Fiona wasn’t going to get any answers brought to her. She was going to have to do the leg work herself to understand what was happening around her. There may not have been much fight left in her, but that didn’t matter. She was still expected to fight.

The loyal girlfriend wiped away the ugly amount of snot at the bottom of her nose before reaching for the shower dial. A quick, determined scrub with soap and five minutes later and Fiona was back out, fully clothed in something more fresh. She needed to pull herself together, if not for Rylan, for herself.

To ease the pain.

~~~

Aiden

A new fearlessness and confidence washed over Aiden during his first week as a new resident of the Bay Area. He’d been to San Francisco plenty of times throughout his childhood, but the thought of starting fresh in a new city – at least for now – seemed to provide Aiden a constant stream of comfort, freedom, and happiness.

Happiness. Something he wasn’t necessarily the most used to feeling.

A large part of his new found attitude was due to his temporary living situation. Aiden’s admittedly sudden decision to sojourn in Shaky Town only succeeded because his old college acquaintance Tom Steele was millennial-prosperous enough to have a guest room in his apartment. Convenient for Aiden, perfect for Tom who needed to fill a void in his life post-breakup from his boyfriend who decided to start dating women again after being a homosexual for the better part of the past decade.

Ironically, Aiden and Tom weren’t close in school. They met freshmen year under not-so-ideal circumstances when they both realized they had been dating the same idiot. Two years of bickering and immature boy drama later, they entered senior year on a cautiously optimistic note, having put the past behind them. The post-grad years brought them closer, having run into each other multiple times when they visited the others’ city. Aiden learned to appreciate Tom’s desire to dramatize everything, and Tom learned to appreciate Aiden’s cynicism.

And it was their opposing personality quirks that each needed right now. Tom needed Aiden to support his notion that all men were garbage. Aiden needed Tom to tell him that Rylan’s issues were actually as insane as he believed. It all conformed into Aiden’s guest room mooching.

Sister Fran wasn’t pleased when she heard her of brother’s getaway plans. Voices raised between the two when Aiden first flat-out told her he was leaving. Little Chase wasn’t so thrilled either, throwing his stuffed stegosaurus at Aiden as he got in the car to drive away.

Since Aiden’s first attempt to end his life, she had kept him close at all times, always afraid he was going to run away and off himself in solitude. Her nursing job kept her on edge, having seen terrible tragedies happen to every type of person. She and her colleagues frequently mused on how many suicidal teenagers were admitted in the pediatric ward she worked in, which kept the memory of Aiden’s darkest moment forever fresh in her mind. However much Fran always worried about a relapse though, Aiden somehow knew he could never go back to that dark place again. He was scared of getting close to that dark place, but somehow he trusted himself to have more control. To understand his hindsight.

Aiden reassured his sister and nephew that he was going to be back. He didn’t use the word “soon,” because he didn’t know how much time he would need to empty his mind of Rylan and his clusterfuck of a life; but Aiden knew he’d come back home. He’d never be able to leave his sister behind. However, Fran still didn’t understand why he needed to leave in order to gain peace of mind. Her concern was the inspiration for his, for now, final blog post: “Hiatus”…

…Which Tom was currently reading as Aiden, fresh from a cold shower, walked into Tom’s overly modern living room.

“Dude,” Tom muttered. “Your readers literally adore you. You’re actually a Tumblr queen.”

Aiden snatched Tom’s iPad away. “Oh shut up. You know I don’t even know how to use Tumblr.”

Tom snatched it back. “That’s beside the point. You honestly wrote a piece about moving to the other homo city, and you get back thousands of comments about how genuine and relatable you are. How is that even real? If you had any vocal talent, you could be more internet famous than Troye Sivan.”

“Can you not with the comparisons? And if you actually read it, you’d know it was about more than moving here.”

“Mmm.”

“You don’t believe me.”

“I didn’t say that.” Tom stood up to make some tea, clanking the teapot unnecessarily loudly as he filled it with water. “I just don’t understand why you share your feelings with the world about taking time to evaluate your life and get the response back that you do. Shit feels too private to me.”

Aiden scrolled through comments ranging from “You just convinced me to go to SF” to “Bro’s gotta get over himself,” before admitting, “It doesn’t feel too private – it is too private. But that’s why I write. I can articulate…or express…myself in ways I can’t with an in-person interaction. The thoughts in my head ring loud and clear, but I can’t verbalize it, only type it. And I never did this for the response, though now that there is one, I’ve felt a  purpose I didn’t feel before. All I wanted was to see my thoughts on the page and understand myself. Now I can do good with it. I can help others.”

“Mmm.”

The couch crasher sighed. “What now?!”

“You think too much. I gotta get you laid.”

Giving a glance over to Tom, Aiden realized his friend was chugging his mug of tea. “…Did you even let the water boil?”

“Lukewarm is better.”

“You’re a disgusting human.”

Tom faked a horrified expression as Aiden returned to his room to throw on clothes appropriate for enjoying a night out in the city. Looking at himself in the mirror, Aiden forced himself not to pause to stare at his reflection. He even didn’t hesitate when glancing at his suicide scars like usual. He wanted one night to forget the bullshit, forget the past – and he was going to succeed whether Life liked it or not.

“Aid, what are you wearing tonight?” Tom yelled mid-tea slurp. “Better be something slutty.”

Aiden was half a second from responding when he saw his phone light up with a text from Fran. Happened to walk by – that cute guy from the suicide walk is in the ER for trying to take his life. So sad.

Tom appeared in the doorway, throwing a box of condoms at his friend who seemed frozen in place. “Yo, you gone mute?”

Another moment of genuine, panicked hesitation, and then –

“Pick a shirt for me to wear. Let’s get trashed.”

~~~

Fiona

Something caught her eye before she left the house. Fiona turned to the small table beneath the Home Goods-purchased silver mirror by the door. Next to the handwoven bowl she had savored from her trip to Zimbabwe many years prior was a promotional card, one meant to provide, according to the overzealous neon font, free admission to a new gay bar on the Sunset Strip when it opened next weekend.

Fiona turned the card over in her fingers a couple times before placing it back on the table. It was funny, she wondered as she caught her reflection in the mirror, how Rylan was a much more outgoing, sociable person than she ever was. It was partially why she was so attracted to him in the first place; he could expand her world more than she could ever know. Though a world traveler, she relied on Rylan to keep her in tempo with the city and always fulfilled in life. His wide social circle of everyone from coworkers, to college friends, to the gay scene, to the Valley scene helped her with her introverted tendencies.

What made it so funny, though, was that it was not she who was lying in a hospital bed for attempting to take her own life. It was Rylan. The extrovert himself was damaged beyond sight, and besides angering, upsetting and confusing her, that fact was simply illogical.

One more glance at the bar pass card and Fiona stepped into the sunlight. She quickly texted Aaron she was on her way back to the hospital, misspelling multiple words as the illogic distracted her. As she got into the car and began to drive, Fiona suddenly understood that Rylan’s internal damage was a whole piece of him she didn’t know, rendering her boyfriend farther away emotionally than she had realized. Their relationship wasn’t what she thought it was. It all had to be reevaluated in the wake of Rylan’s actions.

As she finally approached the hospital after enduring typical Angeleno traffic, Fiona realized her relationship with Rylan would have to be reevaluated a third time in the wake of not just his actions, but his thoughts and truth. Nothing from here on out was going to be the same for them. Fiona maintained her composure though, sitting in the car for a minute after parking to stare at herself in the rear-view mirror. Her steely green eyes stared back at her. Whatever happens, she declared to herself, you are going to get answers. And you are going to be okay.

~~~

Rylan

A hazy, beautiful light faded into view, as if his vision was a personal noir film. Where was it coming from? He couldn’t shift his view to anything else, his eyes stuck in place. The light eventually filled the scope of his sight, but nothing clarified…until a squeeze. Where? To the left. Farther south. Soft. Warm. Intimate. A second squeeze, and a gentle rub. Hands. Remember hands. A hand on his.

Clear reality slammed into his line of sight as his eyes took on a life of their own and snapped open. Bright whites everywhere, but still the warm hand.

“Ry…I’m here.”

His eyes trickled over to the left to make sense of the voice. Wasn’t female. Focused vision made clear a man was at his bedside. Shaggy, sandy hair. Clean face. Sharp blue eyes. Latin tattoo, Semper fi. His mind put the pieces together and popped an answer out.

“You weren’t supposed to pull this shit again,” Aaron murmured.

All he could manage out of his dry, crusted mouth was, “I’m sorry.” And then, almost as if on cue, he again succumbed to unconsciousness as Fiona appeared in the doorway.

Part 3: What Do You Mean?

“The Untitled CRoys Project”

Rylan

Nothing induced more of a cringe for Rylan than to kiss Fiona before she went to bed, though she would never know how he tensed his emotional muscles for the moment. There was no spare second throughout the day that he didn’t feel guilty about clouding his true feelings to his best friend, but sometimes being honest with your best friend is the hardest honesty to achieve. Because then the truth is real. And Rylan didn’t think this truth would ever be something he was ready for.

Their touch of lips signaled a brief transition, one that denoted when Fiona’s night ended so she could wake up early for work as well as when Rylan could leave the house to meet up with some “buddies.” If Fi knew exactly which buddies he was entertaining with his presence, she might feel differently about her true love having a nightlife of which she wasn’t a part.

Rylan was fucking lucky, and he fucking guiltily knew it. Fi was that girl who, once you gained her trust, hardly wavered, if ever. She listened, she responded, she loved, and she most definitely cared. Rylan couldn’t bare to let her go because she was his best friend. Without her, he’d lose his compass. He already lost one in his mother. He couldn’t lose Fiona Panecelli too.

As Rylan left their apartment to walk the typical couple blocks down to his car, he reminded himself what was at stake: Stability. He thrived on it, yearned for it.

He got in his car, took off his sweatshirt to reveal a British flag-printed tank, and breathed slowly.

Fuck stability. He needed this. Ignition on.

~~~

He walked up to the Abbey, the easiest club in the world to switch multiple times between being a hetero and a homo. Any form of ‘preference’ was accepted here. Easy enough if he was caught in a situation that warranted his anxiety.

Living in Glendale allowed Rylan to slip into his forsaken identity, as the distance between home and Boys Town kept his facade as a gay man safe from his reality. Though he didn’t make the transition often, he made it enough to easily slip into the nightclub without much of the usual anxiety he had in daylight.

Passing through the gothic arches of the premises, the collage of strobe lights, darkness, and thrashing beats smacked Rylan in the face – and he liked it. It was everything a vagabond adolescent dreaming of sexy figures slinking up and down poles could have wanted. The vibe was hot, the mood was infectious, and Rylan was – scratch that, should’ve been – on the prowl.

Instead, Rylan made his way to the bar, ordered a whiskey sour, and kept darting his eyes around the place, either avoiding every guy’s gaze who came his way or intensely looking for someone in particular. The drink came, the payment went, a soft slap on the ass from a stranger, and then –

There. In the thick of the dense, sweaty, sexy crowd.

The waves of his brown hair were unmistakable, especially when matched with his crooked smile. Their brief and random past aside, Rylan knew he needed to talk to him for real. He began to push through the throngs of men clad in neon tanks to enter the dancefloor. A bass-heavy remix of a Rihanna b-side seared through the air. He ignored the frequent “hellos” and hands grabbing him as he passed, not needing the attention of an essentially worthless one hour hook up. All he wanted was –

“Aiden.”

The object of his desire didn’t turn around, instead continuing to thrash with the rest of the crowd. Rylan put a hand on his shoulder, again shouting above the bass, “Aiden!”

The young man who wasn’t Aiden turned around in slight bewilderment of Rylan’s hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry,” he shouted back, “what’d you say, handsome? I’m Grant.” The random pulled Rylan into a deeply unwanted hug, though the tight embrace did help Rylan’s heart from splintering any further than it had in the last three and a half seconds.

When Rylan didn’t reciprocate the name-sharing: “What’s your name, dude?”

“It was nice meeting you.”

He threw the rest of his drink back, dropped the glass on the floor, and awkwardly shuffled his way out of the crowd into the outside patio. Approaching this bar for round two, Rylan turned his head to find a barely familiar face from months ago. The one who called him Ryan Reynolds. His friend. Aiden’s.

“Hey.”

“Hey cutie, whatchoo doin’ here by yaself?”

“I was hoping someone I knew might be here.”

“Oh my goodness, I love a hot – oh, two vodka sodas please and thank you!” Davinia flashed the bartender a smile before drunkenly refocusing on Rylan’s depressed and increasingly sweaty figure. “I love a hot reunion! Who’s your man candy? He treatin’ you right? Why don’t choo hang with me and my crew…”

As she began to pull Rylan towards her squad for that inevitable Instagram, he sputtered through his anxiety to suddenly admit, “it’s Aiden! Your friend…you know…Aiden…”

Davinia whirled around so fast that the drag queens on either side were whiplashed with some serious hair trauma. “How you know my boy?”

Rylan, caught unaware by the woman’s sudden fierce protection, didn’t know how to be honest without coming off as Aiden’s personal, yet only sometimes, stalker. So he said the only thing that came to mind that was halfway sincere.

“I like him.”

The loyal friend un-narrowed her eyes. “Sorry, baby. I think you missed him.”

Rylan furrowed his brow in confusion as he kept his body thrashing to the hard beats around him, knowing he was only going to be disappointed by what he heard next.

~~~

Aiden

What the fuck was wrong with himself, he couldn’t figure out. Sliding down the slippery surface of the wet tiles of his shower that same night, Aiden realized that entire conversation with him at the walk had torturously revolved in his head for the past month and a half. No actual sight of him, though. Just constant visions of someone who wasn’t supposed to matter to him.

Aiden didn’t close his eyes as his shower head dumped tears on his skull, drops that stroked every inch of his weary face. He didn’t let himself succumb to actual crying. Instead, he focused all of his freefalling energy into watching a stereotypically confused ant climb up the tiles. It slipped every half second, but it kept trying.

Aiden wondered if the ant cared that it was incessantly failing at escaping its prison. Probably not, he thought. A fleeting flash of empathy afterwards proved that he desperately wanted the ant to care. So he could care. So he could get the fuck out.

The ant fell to the ledge of the far end of the shower. Just like it, the past month and a half of obsessing over a pathetic guy who couldn’t admit his own sexuality in this day and age was a freefall into his old ways. However, this time, suicide was not an option. Fran would be happy to know that suicide wasn’t anywhere close to being added to the list of ways to get Rylan out of Aiden’s head. Aiden, on the other hand, was livid. Rylan’s secrecy and clouded intentions irked him to no end, and knowing that stupidly dreaming of a future with such an attractive man who lied pushed him further towards the darkness he worked so hard to climb out of.

He was self-aware that he still hadn’t learned to communicate properly. Aiden knew he might probably feel better if he talked to Fran or another of his closer friends about what was in his mind. But the entire scenario felt pathetic. Small. He saw a guy twice in his life who was more question mark emoji than human. So what?

But Aiden was wired to know the truth at all costs. He couldn’t live without it. He wouldn’t live without it.

I need to know the truth, he thought as the ant finally regained its footing to try its Everest climb again. Aiden slowly reached up behind him to turn the shower knob off, then opened the door. The ant stumbled from the noise and movement but, though Aiden didn’t see it, still climbed its way out.

~~~

Rylan

Davinia pulled out her clearly used iPhone (fingerprints galore) and proceeded to pull up a webpage in Safari. Aiden’s blog. The most recent post read, “Hiatus.” “Here’s your proof. He’s moving to San Francisco for a bit. Taking some time for himself, which, if I know him at all after our days in college, the boy desperately needs.”

Rylan could only stare at that word: “Hiatus.”

“You okay, hon?”

Nope.

“But he’s coming back, yeah?”

“Ooh boy you got bit by some bug somehow someway! You glowin’!”

Rylan couldn’t help but smile. That’s how looking at Aiden made him feel…but this was so fucking stupid. Why was he standing here talking to a stranger about his feelings? He lost out. Again. Better to go back home to what he knows. Fiona. Her smile, her forever cherry-kissed breath. Emerald glinting eyes that crinkled when she laughed. Love he could never reciprocate.

Because he could never be honest with her.

With anyone.

No one would ever know him like Aiden did. And what does that say about himself, knowing Aiden knew him only two days out of his twenty-nine years of existence? But Aiden picked up on it all so quick, so fast. And Rylan couldn’t share one simple truth with him. It was so easy, and he blacklisted his own heart.

He then realized this is what the purest form of isolation felt like.

“I’m sorry, I have to go. Sorry I bothered you.”

“You okay, baby?”

Rylan bulleted. He needed to get the inevitable over with.

~~~

Fiona

Eyes opened on too bright windows because the curtains were never shut. Body rolled over to see no companion.

Rylan. Where was he?

Before she stepped out of bed with the energy of a teenager who took five miles jogs in the morning, Fiona stared at the vast space of vacant bed surrounding her. She knew Rylan so well after seven years together that she didn’t have to question him hanging out with the “crew” while she went to bed. Why should her early-rising nursing responsibilities have to prohibit him from having a social life? At the same time, did he have to go out so damn often?

Rylan was a restless soul. Fi knew that, and that’s what she loved about him. Having been born in Taiwan and living her life in six countries before having met Rylan and settling in California, she knew all too well that some people, including herself at one time, just needed to be out living. Just living. Doing whatever felt fulfilling.

Did it worry her that Ry seemed more restless than usual over the past couple months? Of course. She’d be stupid not to. He’d mentioned work-related stress in trying to move up the corporate ladder for the firm, coupled with a strong longing to return to his days of the art curating he did in Brooklyn. Fiona, however, thought she was doing the best she could to help him through that. To support him in whatever needs he might have.

Fi knew that she might be seen as whipped or overbearing to other couples, but she understood herself to simply be caring. Let a bitch take care of her boyfriend.

Which is why it was a bit ironic that she fell to her knees and immediately passed out when she stepped into the bathroom that morning to see Rylan bleeding out from his wrists. Both of their eyes locked on each other’s as they folded shut to subconsciousness.

Part 2: Wrong Victory

“The Untitled CRoys Project”

Aiden

Ironically enough, when push came to shove, the decision to take his own life never brought the word suicide into his mind. All Aiden could think about was fixing the problem. The problem was himself. The solution had nothing to do with incorporating a tragic categorizing of the action. Aiden just wanted to be free.

Freedom, however, wasn’t so easily accomplished through his blogged experiences. More than ever people asked him why he felt the need to commit suicide, why he didn’t want to be a part of his friends’ and family’s lives anymore, why he didn’t want to continue living the one life he was given.

The fear that no one would clear their head and just listen to him swirled around his psyche as he walked through Echo Park’s 3rd Annual Walk to be Heard. Once his blog went viral, the publishing company Aiden worked for jumped at the chance to sponsor this year’s event, unfortunately culminating in an even bigger fear of his: speaking to a crowd. A mass of people that had already been touched by the fingertips of the depths he brought himself back from.

What if he couldn’t say what he had already committed to in writing?

“Aiddie!”

A rush of green and burst of light-up Sketchers slammed into Aiden, resulting in a sudden loss of balance and personal acquaintance with the pavement. Aiden laughed as he hugged his rambunctious nephew and rolled on the ground.

“Aiden, ohmigosh – Chase, honey! You can’t do that to Uncle Aiddie!”

Aiden took his attention away from the fervor of the three year old to his approaching sister, who looked more worn down carrying a picnic basket than Aiden was being thrown to the ground.

The brother stood up to hug his sister. “Hey Fran. Good to see you, babe.”

“I regret naming him Chase every other day.”

Chase ran off to a nearby patch of grass to, well, chase a butterfly.

“You just have good foresight.”

Fran, a current brunette despite her ginger origins and a freckled face only a certain Easy A actress could outdo, slightly tilted her head and smiled with her eyes to acknowledge her assistance in helping him “fix the problem” in a more healthy way. Gifted since birth with foresight. Being the younger sister had its advantages.

She fixed one of the lame duck spikes in Aiden’s hair. “You ready?

Aiden looked at her. He didn’t know if he was supposed to be ready for this. He wasn’t ready for blogosphere fame, nor did he anticipate it when he posted his story.

“I was drunk when I hit the ‘submit’ button.”

“That was behind a computer screen. Anyone can do that. You’re about to speak honestly in front of a good chunk of people. You’re physically sticking to the words you wrote, and that’s the strongest thing a man can do.”

Air left Aiden’s lungs.

Not okay now.

“I’m so proud of you.”

But it will all be okay.

Aiden stared past his sister at her little child running as carefree as the butterfly he chased flew higher and higher into the obviously sunny skies above.

“Hey.” Fran clasped her hands softly around Aiden’s face to bring him back from his encroaching fears. “I’m here for you. Talk to them like you talk to me. They only want to know it’ll be okay, too.”

He nodded. “Are mom and dad coming?”

The sister refused to break eye contact. “I said that I was here for you. Don’t let them into your head now.”

“I know. I just…wish they were here for some reason.”

Fran pulled her older brother in for a hug. Comfort.

“What definitively matters is you are here, Aid, and you are here for these people.”

The two siblings held each other in silence for a few minutes. Recollecting on the strength they shared and the fresh lives they had ahead without their respective demons. A short, poignant familial moment only shattered when an eager event coordinator approached Aiden with at least twelve smiles on his face.

“Mr. Trighton?”

“That’s me.”

“Right this way, sir. We’re all very excited to hear your story.”

~~~

Once at the podium on stage, Aiden took a deep breath, surveying the beautiful day that encompassed him. Two months since that chilly night at Revolver had brought on the bright colors of late spring that he loved. Everyone around was naturally happy. That’s how humanity should be, he thought. Naturally happy, no strings attached.

“Hi.”

The crowd stared back at him.

He glanced at his sister in the crowd. A gentle head nod of confidence given in return.

“Usually when someone says hello, you should greet them back. Didn’t your mothers teach you anything?”

Laughter. At me? With me?

“My mom didn’t teach me that, actually. She, uh, didn’t teach me too much at all.” The laughter swiftly silenced itself. “Sorry…that might have been too real too fast…” He swallowed. “Um…I mean…”

Aiden’s eyes flitted in every direction possible before landing on Chase, who surprisingly locked eyes with his uncle. His innocence was so powerful right now, forever shaping fresh existence until he was no longer hidden from the dangers of the world. Aiden’s nephew was lucky he had a parent who would always protect him from himself.

“Whatever,” he blurted. “My parents were always in my life…in their own way. I found myself, oddly, without safety in the arms of the two human beings who gave birth to me. To this day, I do not know why that is, and that uncertainty made me attempt to take my own life when I was twenty-four years old.”

An immediate and insane ringing zipped into Aiden’s ear when he realized how dead silent the world around him was. The crowd was staring intently at him, waiting for him to speak his truth. And it was in this moment of simultaneous silence and ringing that he realized he didn’t have a truth to share, or one that made sense to anyone else but him. They wouldn’t understand. No one ever understood him.

“I…”

Fran mouthed: “Breathe.”

It won’t all be okay.

“I’m sorry. I can’t do this. Not yet.”

As if he was having an out of body experience, Aiden swiftly descended the stage steps while his heart stood still at the podium. The eager event coordinator was too ready for disaster and immediately blew a horn to signal all walkers to head to the starting line.

Confused and pitying murmurs could be heard from behind the stage where Aiden went to sink on the grassy surface of the earth. His vision wasn’t blurry, but he wasn’t trying to maintain any clarity on the world surrounding him. Head pounding, heart dripping into his mouth…Aiden felt disgusting for ditching what was supposed to be the most openly honest and freeing experience. He felt belittled by himself. Worthless.

Fucking fuck, what was wrong with him?

He could hear Fran’s distant calls to him as she ran over with her son. When Aiden finally turned his head to find guidance in his sister, he not-so-subtly mumbled, “Holy shit.”

Behind Fran, his parents were walking away from him towards the parking lot.

Also behind Fran but walking towards Aiden was a familiar man who once wore flannel.

With nowhere to physically hide as everyone would witness him doing it, Aiden forced himself to focus on his breathing and not look at anything but what was right in front of him. Of fucking course Lawrence and Julia and Mystery Man would appear at the same time at one of the most currently vulnerable moments in his life. Why the fuck did his parents actually show up? Why weren’t they saying hello? I fucking disappointed them again, that’s why, he thought. 

Aiden quickly gave Fran a reciprocated “what the hell” stare while simultaneously eyeing Rylan in the background to halt him in his tracks.

As his sister threw him into a tight embrace, “Did our parents really listen to me trash them in front of a crowd and then not mention to my face I trashed them to a crowd? And subsequently watch me burn faster than the meteor that wiped every fucking dinosaur on the planet?”

“I think they’ve done more shocking things than acknowledge the truth about the situation. Aiden, forget this. You tried your best. No one thinks less of you.”

Aiden opened his mouth to speak, then reconsidered. A long painful moment in his heart passed before asking, “Do you think I disappointed them again?”

The two of them sat against the stage without realizing a pile of dirt was beneath them instead of grass. The two watched Chase in the distance, showing no signs of tiring out. Fran lay her head on Aiden’s shoulder and sighed. “I don’t have an answer for you.”

“I sense a theme emerging.”

Fran noticed Aiden accidentally, almost distractedly, making eye contact with Rylan.

“You know him?”

“I think so.”

“What’s to think about – you know or you don’t.”

“Thanks, Mom.”

“Go talk to him. He’s a cute one.”

“Oh please, Francesca, don’t go there now. I’m a mess.”

The sister shoved her brother Flannel’s way just as the walk marshall shouted for everyone to gather on the trail to begin the mile. Fran watched as Aiden numbly walked over to Rylan, using his fake-smiling skills to thank those who congratulated him on his speech.

The two men stood in front of each other. Rylan pulled him into a hug almost immediately.

“Long time no see,” he said.

“Yeah…for sure. Did you, um, know I would be…here?”

“I was actually just taking myself for a walk. You know, enjoy the weather.”

“LA never has weather like this.”

Rylan smiled. “And I happened upon the crowd. Thought I’d see what the commotion was. Didn’t realize you were such a fire-starter.”

Aiden self-consciously grinned. “I don’t know what to say.”

The event marshall sounded a horn again, commencing all the walkers to begin their walk of solidarity. Rylan gestured to them.

“I think you’ve spoken enough today. In a good way. Shall we?”

Aiden raised an eyebrow. “You want to walk?”

“That’s what I came for. I didn’t say I had to do it alone.”

The two slowly meshed into the line of walkers. Intrigue and confusion clouded Aiden’s attention, forcing him to miss Rylan silence his own incoming phone call from Fiona.

 ~~~

“I’m sorry if that was hard. Being up there.”

“I’m used to fucking up. I’ll get over it.”

A soft silence.

“Was that your family? With you by the stage?”

“That it was.” A grimace. “That it was.”

“I sense a story.”

“You sense my life.”

“Got it.”             

Four and a half seconds.

“So…you’ve heard enough about me. What’s your story?

“Not much to tell, I’m afraid. Born in Fresno. Survived. Moved here six years ago.”

“Riveting.”

“Not all of us have a near-death experience to anchor the drama of our own lives.” Two seconds. “Sorry, that was harsh.”

“A bit. But yeah I almost died.” A moment. “Doesn’t that make me more macho than you?”

“Have you seen these arms?”

“Are you really showing off your clearly exercised arms to me while questioning my masculinity?”

“Am I required to ask another question in response?”

“I don’t know. What do you think?”

Chuckles. Then too long of a pause.

“What brought you solo to Revolver that night?”

Another laugh. “I want to say ‘I don’t know,” but I know you won’t be satisfied with that answer.”

“You don’t need to satisfy me, just tell me the truth.”

“Felt like riding solo. That’s all.”

“Do it often?”

Three seconds. “Depends on the day I’ve had.”

“What type of day would that be?”

“Dunno. Sometimes you just want a change of pace, you know?”

“I can understand that. Go solo, on the prowl for bottoms. Go with friends, on the prowl for an orgy. Being gay is so easy.”

Almost immediately: “I’m not gay. I mean, I am, just –”

“Just?”

“I –”

“Should I be concerned?”

“What do you mean?”

“Because you showed up alone at a gay bar, and you showed up alone here, both times running into me, both times being cagey, both times looking really fucking cute. That’s why I’m asking if I should be concerned. For my life.”

“You think I’m cute?”

“We’re not talking about that right now.”

Passerby: “We’re all proud of you, sir. Thank you for being here and doing what you do.”

“Thank you. That means a lot to me. Truly. Enjoy the walk.”

Six seconds.

“That was nice of her.”

A shrug, then a head tilt.

“Do you want to know why people commit suicide?”

Five seconds.

“I’m being serious. Do you want to know?”

“No.”

“Because we feel not only quintessentially alone, but actually bereft of seeing the future. Of seeing what we meant to anyone else, including ourselves. Because no matter what nothing seems honest. There’s no point to live if honesty isn’t tangible.”

“I’m sorry, Aiden.”

“I’m not asking you to be. I’m asking you to tell me the truth, because this is weird.”

Three seconds.

“I should go.”

Four seconds.

“You do you.”

Aiden didn’t bother to watch Rylan exit through the park behind him. He kept walking forward. One look back, and he’d end up back where he was three years ago – living in a world of dishonesty.

That’s not to say it wasn’t tempting, though.

Part 1: Night Like This

“The Untitled CRoys Project”

Aiden

The longer he tried to explain to the bartender how he received a misspelled tattoo of the word “triumph” on his left forearm, the more he realized how much more of a triumph it was to survive this conversation than to have survived a suicide attempt.

Of course, he didn’t really believe that. But good lord was it a verbal root canal trying to simplify living a life with the word “trump” engraved in his skin. Was it his fault his inebriated sister wanted to leave a mark of sibling pride on her brother’s body? Technically yes; however, the idea of denying his sister the right to scribble on his arm after putting her through the wringer seemed greedy. Plus, he had come to find the eternal mark endearing. His sister was always with him now, in a sense.

Why the bartender was so intrigued by the damn story remained to be seen. He didn’t seem to be flirting with him, evidenced by the lack of eye contact and willingness to be interrupted by other patrons. He himself, however, could not seem to leave without making sure the bartender was rooted in the facts.

“She graduated high school with honors, I promise,” he said earnestly, hoping this was the sentence to end his captivity at the table. He glanced at the opposite end of the bar, where his friends were giving him an onslaught of one-eyebrow raises. “‘Triumph’ is in her vocabulary. Thanks for the beer –”

“Don’t tell me I worked my way through the crowd to get to the bar for nothing.”

Confused as to who was addressing him, he spun about face to see a handsome man simultaneously out of place at Revolver (see: his starkly colored flannel shirt) and in his element (see: the cranberry vodka in his left hand).

As a West Hollywood staple, Revolver was a fairly low-key bar to run into all types of men. Some nights ran mostly toward an older demographic, but this Saturday night found the bar privy to a younger crowd usually found at The Abbey. All of the plasma screens were projecting music videos for the current hits found during Ryan Seacrest’s morning radio nonsense. Seeing a man in flannel simply didn’t happen too often in the city, though.

A bit disoriented from the immediate jump from the bartender to stranger, he didn’t know what to say to the handsome stranger with the firm jawline and rather large ears.

“Um…”

“Sorry,” the man in flannel said. “Not my best line.” He extended his right hand, the one free of the vodka. “I’m Rylan.”

He accepted the handshake. “Aiden Trighton. Nice to meet you.” Realizing his tone was a wee tight, Aiden threw a smile out on his face. A party trick he became well-trained in in the years leading up to his breakdown.

A hand on his shoulder – Davinia, best friend from college, best dressed female in a gay bar. “Boy, will you stop the socialite kick for a second and get your ass over here so we can celebrate?” Davinia gave Rylan a quick glance-over before adding: “Ryan Reynolds can come too, if he wants.”

Aiden sputtered for hardly a second before the flannel man put up a hand in peace. “I didn’t realize I was interrupting a celebration. By all means, carry on. It was a pleasure, Aiden Trighton.” With that, he dissolved into the crowd as abruptly as he had come.

Davinia led Aiden back to their group. “Who was that?”

“Couldn’t tell you.”

Quite honestly, Aiden tried not to meet too many new people at the bars and clubs. Living in Los Angeles made one aware of the underlying personality many locals shared: the flake, the selfish, the lost. Not that Aiden was any different from the latter. By no means was he done being lost. At least now he had found the long and winding path home. In any case, he never made particular motions to keep in touch with those he met during the witching hours. They never stuck around long enough anyway.

An uncomfortable feeling manifested in Aiden’s mind as he and Davinia re-entered their group. Sudden claustrophobia.

A colleague, Aiden couldn’t focus on who, raised his Moscow Mule. Others in the group did the same as the bar became more clamorous. “Drinks up for Aiden, for proving there’s triumph in sharing your darkest moments on WordPress – not Blogspot!”

Everyone drank their juice of choice while Aiden fake-sipped his beer. He quickly pretended to receive a phone call and slipped outside into the desert-cold Californian air. Past the bouncer was a sidewalk crawling in bar and club-goers slinking about for their next sexual prey (no rape reference intended, so stop it). Aiden quickly leaned against Revolver’s cool, brick wall, closing his eyes for a moment and allowing his hands to take in the soothing chill of the wall’s surface.

Breathe in…breathe out.

One more time, breathe it in, and breathe it away.

Not okay now, but it will all be okay.

It will.

Okay. Open eyes.

The busy sidewalk suddenly seemed to bustle less, a form of silent noise taking over Aiden’s senses. His personal calm. His silent, predatory anxiety was retreating, allowing his focus to realign on the man standing in front of him. He wasn’t facing Aiden, though; rather, he simply stood as a part of the crowd and simultaneously distant from it. The bystander who wants to participate but is unsure how to join the stream.

A few heavy seconds passed of Aiden gazing until he broke away. Something made him need to breathe deeply one more time, closing his eyes. When he did, a hauntingly familiar voice reached his ears.

“You okay?”

Not okay now.

Aiden opened his eyes.

But it will all be okay.

The man had turned around, revealing himself to be the Man in Flannel. M.I.F. Almost a M.I.L.F. Gender in the way.

It will.

Aiden looked at him for a moment, before: “Hey.”

Rylan took a couple steps forward. Not too close; just closer. “That an ‘I’m okay” kind of ‘hey,’ or an ‘Everything is embarrassing’ kind of ‘hey’?”

Shifting his feet, arms immediately crossing, Aiden genuinely quarter-smiled. “I’m okay.”

“Good.”

As they say in film scripts: beat.

“So, Aiden Trighton, why the lack of celebrating?”

It was one of those questions that bared a legitimate need for pause. Aiden did not have a straight truth as to why he needed to leave his friends. Not that being alone was a reflex, but the issue seemed to revolve more around Aiden’s lack of interest in being celebrated. He tried to off himself. His writings were only honest reflections of his experience, not necessarily worthy of accolades. Did honesty deserve celebration? Should he feel the need to be celebrated for his honesty?

“Fuck if I know.”

“Can I ask why you’re supposed to be celebrating?”

Aiden didn’t have to live up to the truth all the time, though. “Some writings I’ve put online have captured a bit of an audience lately.”

Rylan, now a few more steps forward, slowly teetered on his feet with his hands in his pockets. Everyone behind him on the sidewalk appeared out of focus – ghosts in the jubilant night.

“You certainly know how to capture an audience.”

For some scarily unknown reason to Aiden, the two’s eyes were locked; chance of finding the key be damned.

“I doubt that.”

Flannel man smiled a tiny smile. Then put his hand out. Aiden’s eyes flitted back and forth between Rylan’s eyes and his hand multiple times. After a decade of hesitation, Aiden clasped his hand against Rylan’s. Flannel man used the shake to bring Aiden in for an embrace. Aiden was instantly enveloped in a warm scent, one he yearned for the second Rylan stepped away.

“I hope you stay viral.”

Aiden couldn’t breathe again.

But it will all be okay.

“Thank you.”

One more smile and the flannel disappeared from sight. The sidewalk slammed into focus. Aiden backed up against the cool brick wall of the bar, looking for anything to sober his more-feelings-than-alcohol-intoxicated mind.

An Ode: “Mother + Father” by Broods

A time in life comes when you realize you’re truly standing on your own. You’ve left your parents, your family, your friends, your safety nets…all of it behind so that you can chart your own course.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve made a video, or even had the time to make a video, but this is that point in my life. It’s hella scary. It’s hella exciting. And the only thing you can think of is being successful – not just in a career or your dating life, but to simply succeed at being your own person.

Brood’s single “Mother + Father” captivates that moment in time for me. And as quite possibly the last time I’ll make a video (never say never), I wanted to send off the last 7-8 years of my YouTube life with a personal statement.

Yes, growing up is hard to do. Making your own life is hard to do. But that’s what we do, and it’s important to realize you’ll always have your mother, your father, your siblings, your friends to fall back on. Here I focused on capturing little moments of childhood at the beach, something so simply, but something that bonds familial ties so distinctly. The little moments in life are the most precious.

Mom and Dad, this one’s for you…

…since I’m never going to be able to pay you back for the clothes I wanted you to buy for me and then I only wore them once…

With that, I present:

Boston Student Film Fest. Finalists: “The Pulse of the City”

Well this was a pleasant surprise.

My BU Hothouse team and I created a promotional video for Hotel Commonwealth in the Fall of 2013. We heard about the Boston Student Film Festival and decided why not throw ourselves into the mix. Little did we know we’d turn out to be finalists.

We get judged in Boston on March 22 (too bad we’re all studying in LA right now…).

Wish us luck!

Watch the alternative version we submitted below. The voiceover here is provided by Kellan Reck.

Trapped! But “We’ll Be Fine” by Rebecca Ferguson

It’s been quite some time since I’ve released a self-made video. I can safely say that “The Pulse of the City” video for Hothouse is to blame, as well as my entire first semester of senior year at BU.

I recently came across X-Factor UK runner-up Rebecca Ferguson, a woman who’s soulful voice is immense and entrancing. A song from her second hit studio album (“Freedom”) entitled “We’ll Be Fine” struck me – it’s an intense song, one that echoes about in your head, constantly reminding you that you’ll always be fine, no matter the situation.

With a low battery on my camera, a laziness to charge it, and a desire to create something fun for myself, I threw myself into the fresh Connecticut snow and created this vision of my character being trapped by an invisible force field. He eventually calms down and escapes – an easy depiction of being fine, but an interesting one. I took some of the same visuals from my flick for “Wide Awake” by Katy Perry, which I think has the same successful effect.

Let me know: ya feelin’ fine?

The Pulse of the City: Kenmore Square

For the past four months of this semester, I’ve been enrolled in a class entitled Hothouse Productions, which is a student-run client-driven production company based at BU.

The goal of the semester? Make the best video for your client. Or else.

Goal met. Goal met big time.

My group and I – Kellan Reck, Katie Wolosoff, and Brian Gallagher AKA Team Kenmore – took on Hotel Commonwealth, a popular Boston hotel in Kenmore Square, as our client. We met with the hotel management, who charged us with the task of creating a promotional video not for them, but for Kenmore Square.

Shooting time lapses in Kenmore Square.
Shooting time lapses in Kenmore Square.

What’s the purpose of that? The hotel wanted to promote the special area Kenmore has become for the city. Kenmore used to be quite the dodgy neighborhood, but now, thanks to the hotel and thriving businesses in the square, Kenmore has quite literally become the heart of Boston. It’s pulse.

Kenmore Square is the where you see the pulse of the city.

More time lapses!
More time lapses!

Our resulting work below represents some of the most satisfying work my Brian, Katie, Kellan, and I have ever done. From shooting on the roof of the hotel in the wee hours of the morning to staying up way past our bedtime for lil meetings that became quite the bonding moments for us, we’ve created not just a promotional video for Hotel Commonwealth to share on their website, but a tribute to Kenmore. A tribute to Boston.

Why would you need to go anywhere else?

Shooting on the roof of Hotel Commonwealth.
Shooting on the roof of Hotel Commonwealth.

BIG BIG BIG special thanks to our professor, Barry Nolan, and his wife, Garland Waller, for all of their help in making this a success.

Producer: Brian Gallagaher

Associate Producer: Katie Wolosoff

Director: Kellan Reck

Editor & Media Manager: Chris Roys

Written by: Katie Wolosoff, Chris Roys & Brian Gallagaher

Narrator: Will Keary

Executive Producer: Barry Nolan

CO-ED: Episode 3, “Everything’s Crabby”

Our third episode (aka the 3nd act of the original pilot episode) of Co-Ed ties up what we started in the pilot, and gives us one final look at this cast before we transition into our newest cast. How does that transition occur? You’ll have to wait for Episode 4 to find out or put your guesses in the comments!

All the suitemates find themselves at odds as the Jesus’ Hornblowers concert and the crab fundraiser both approach. Can friends be friends, or will this drive the suite apart?

Watch the episode on butv10 here.