The next day I find myself exhausted. I haven’t slept much, the new pup barks throughout the night and somehow finds enjoyment from walking all over me as I try to sleep. Chris and I stayed up cleaning and organizing the office until close to midnight. That’s late for this tame couple.

He went back into the office the next morning to get some work done while I sat around and continued my Enlightened marathon. Only a few more episodes to go. The feeling of being a total bum began to creep up on me after about the fourth episode. True to form, the inner battle of “just one more episode” plagues me until I finally shut off the TV and start cleaning the house. Like suddenly doing the dishes and taking out the trash after a full morning of watching TV with the blinds closed will miraculously make me feel like any less of a sloth.

I really could just lay there all day. But it very quickly begins to remind me of the days I would be a half bottle of pills deep by noon, curtains drawn, caged in shadow and the numbing glow from a television makes my eyes bleed. Not showered. Filthy house. Animals all over. Dishes on every surface. Sunlight would poke it’s evil eye through splits in the blinds, bright beams of truth. I hated that the most. It was like little spotlights that showed the reality of my situation, moments that briefly pulled me out of complete denial. I would try to pull those blinds as tight as possible. But I was never able to escape the light.

I was supposed to meet my family for a movie over in Hollywood, so I threw on some clothes and made my bed head look purposeful. Let me tell you that requires more effort than you may think. Don’t judge.

I had some time so I decided to drive out to an AA meeting in Davie that I had never been to before. I got to the clubhouse with seconds to spare. The room was filled with smoke, several people chain-smoking as they read the opening meeting readings.

The stench of cigarettes was killer, but I hadn’t been to a meeting in awhile so I felt it my alcoholic duty to myself that I stay.

After what seemed to be the 400th cigarette was lit and I could barely see the faces in the room, I decided it was time to bolt. I try to never leave a meeting before it is over, but this was one of those necessary evils. My clothing reeked of cigarette smoke and my eyes burned. Now not only from lack of sleep, but from the chimney I was just sitting in.

I headed over to Hollywood to check out some of my old stomping grounds before the movie.

Every time I come back to where I grew up, I drive around and the same thing happens. I get hit in the chest with this feeling of sadness. Like someone has died and an ice cream scoop has just done some damage to my insides. Hollowed out dead center.

I’m taking a tour of my teenage years. Driving by my old high school, the strip mall we’d hang out at, the roads we drove down while smoking cigarettes after class. It’s like I can still see myself, still see the memories as I drive through and I watch that kid — that teenager who is lost. I’ll never see him again. It’s a feeling like none other. The realization that everything that was only existed for that moment.

I parked in front of the Subway where I once went with a guy who I thought was my answer to everything. His name was Joe. He wore baggy skater shorts, had piercings, listened to punk music and said stupid shit like “fuck the establishment”. God I thought that was so insightful. I was a rebel by association.

I felt safe. Like I was with this person who was above it all. Who was smarter than, better than. Dangerous. He skateboarded and did more drugs than any sixteen year old should have done. He made chugging Robitussin seem so sexy and cool.

I remember hanging around this plaza with him one night. He talked about damaging cars and The Dead Kennedys, who I pretended to like but had no idea who they were. He let me know that this was where he and his boys hung out. At sixteen I guess it was cool to hang out in grocery store strip malls. Really show the man who’s boss in this here town.

We went to Subway at the very end of the plaza and sat down to eat. He was everything I wanted to be but never really was. The delinquent with the messed up childhood who didn’t give a fuck about anything. I was the nervous, insecure, artsy kid from a good, upper-middle class suburban home with absolutely no reason to be sitting with Joe talking about how fucked up everything is.

But I was smitten. He was the identity I needed to feel secure. And if I had him, I had no fear.

An hour later he broke into the clubhouse at his friend Tom’s complex where they were staying. We went upstairs to the pool tables and laid down. Up to that point I was a nervous wreck, trying to sound as nonchalant and apathetic as possible. But as we lay on that pool table in the clubhouse he just broke into, I could not hide my pathetic doe-eyed lust.

But I know he liked it. I think he saw in me what he wanted for himself.

He kissed me.

It was like the world stopped in that moment. We held each other and I felt myself completely melt into his body. This was like a scene from a movie minus the soundtrack.  His would have probably been The Dead Kennedys. Mine would have been some depressing Tori Amos or Fiona Apple track that would have only embarrassed me at the time.

I wanted him so bad. I wanted to escape into his life and live in that movie for awhile. Maybe forever.

I reached down his pants and kissed him. I had absolutely no idea what to do. I had been with a ton of guys, but none of whom I really ever liked. This was foreign territory to me. I think I froze. Or something happened. But we stopped.

We ended up back at his friend Tom’s house.

They talked about Tom locking his cat up in an oven and how much acid they had done. That if Joe did a handstand for long enough he would have flashbacks.

I was enamored.

By the time Tom fell asleep, Joe and I were cuddled on the floor staring at each other, our feet intertwined.  “I’m hungry,” he announced, “I’m gonna make us something.”

He got up, wearing only his baggy shorts and boxers that hung out the back. I watched him put a pot on the stove and pour in a can of something. I loved watching this rough boy in domestic settings. He was taking care of me.

I got up and walked over to him. I picked up the spatula and began stirring what resembled Chef Boyardee. I looked at him standing next to me and he smiled. He grabbed my ass and pulled me toward him, kissing my neck.

It was then I knew what I wanted. I knew I was gay, but I never understood what that truly meant for me. At that moment I realized that I wanted a man at home, to be with me and love me. I wanted a life with him – for us to cook for each other, sleep together. To be partners in crime. It was something I had never felt before.

That feeling was so new and untouched. I was filled with a purpose and excitement. It was the innocence that makes the memory so hard to come back to. And it plays in my head like I could just find it on OnDemand for $4.99.

But it’s a movie that I can never watch again. These memories are just that. The feelings are the things that linger on. They come back so easily and it’s probably why I do these drives. I need to feel my past to know that it was real. That it happened. I have to connect in order to feel whole.

I sit here in the parking lot typing on my phone as my high school experiences play in my head. Like ghosts that no one can see. But I can feel them. I am still in my school uniform, driving my blue Honda Civic. Listening to Sublime or Portishead. I knew so little and wanted so much.

But I’m still here. My sixteen-year-old ghost is still driving around, wondering what’s next. How is this going to play out? Where can I get fucked up? Always on a mission to escape. To find the thing that would make me feel complete.

I think I’ll always have a foot in that life.