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June 27th, 2019

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05/15/2019 01:55 PM 

mother's day | drabble.

H A P P Y M O T H E R ' S D A Y-- ;

It’s a difficult day for me. It always has been too. In school, while everyone was asking about plans, and shooting gift ideas back and forth, I was the odd man out. I sat around quietly, listening, but never engaging. To me, it was just another day. My mother probably wouldn’t be home anyway. She’d probably be off drinking to forget it was Mother’s Day -- to forget she’d made the mistake of becoming a mother in the first place. But how could I tell people that when they were just trying to involve me? I couldn’t, so I always just kept my mouth shut.

I didn’t have any plans, and I never had any real gift ideas -- nor did I ever try thinking of one -- but I had a tradition of my own that I couldn’t explain to my nosy teachers or classmates. Each year, on Mother's Day, I’d leave a rose I got from the gas station on her pillow. She never acknowledged it, but I always felt the need to do it, because a part of me couldn’t stand the dysfunction of not celebrating. A part of me hated to tell the people around me I didn’t celebrate because I had no relationship with her. A part of me just wanted some kind of normalcy about it.

I pondered this every time I stood at the card rack for Sarah while we were married, and I find myself pondering it now as I stand at Walgreens choosing between a blue rose or a yellow one. They’re plastic, but they’re a step up from the gas station ones I used to get my mom. Each one has a different frilly bow. The yellow one has a purple bow and Sarah hates purple, so I go for the blue. Savannah runs up to me with her arms full of chocolate. “What’s all that?” I laugh, kneeling down so I can help her get some of it. I told her one, but she’s always been an over-achiever.

“Mom likes all these and I couldn’t decide!”

I look over the pile. She’s not wrong. Sarah could have spent an hour in the store picking out candy, because she liked everything. “MM’kay, I guess we’re getting these. You find a card too?”

“Yeah!” She hands me a card tucked away in her little hot pink purse she’s been carrying around. The card has a bouquet of flowers and a sweet message on it. I look it over briefly, then throw it in our basket. “Is that flower for mom too?” Savannah asks, her eyebrows furrowed.

“It is. You think she’ll like that one?”

“Yeah…” Savannah smiles. “Is it from you?”

“We’ll say it’s from us both.”

“Mom never gets you something for Father’s day, ‘cause you guys aren’t married anymore,” Savannah informs me. She looks guilty, like she’s tattling, but I’ve already known about that obviously.

I should stop getting her things, I guess, but just like with my own mother, I can’t stand the lack of normalcy in it. More importantly, I don’t want Savannah to suffer the lack of normalcy in it. Me taking her shopping for this is our tradition, and without me taking her, it’d just become another day. I don’t want her to have the same lack of connection I did. “Eh well, we’re not married, but she’s still your mom, right?”

Savannah doesn’t seem satisfied. I know as I say it that it doesn’t explain why Sarah never gets me anything. “Yeah… but what about you?”

“Some people see it differently.” I stand up to walk to the register, taking Savannah’s hand. “She doesn’t have to get me anything, and you’re right, I don’t really have to get her anything, but I want to. And plus, you and I get to go together, which is pretty awesome, right?”

”Heh, yeah!” Savannah beams. She has her mom’s smile. It makes Walgreens look like a place in Heaven. It centers me every time I feel like I’m losing myself. She’s a good kid. She doesn’t deserve this awkwardness.

“Then I say the tradition continues on. What about you?”

“The tradition continues on!” Savannah agrees, then starts to march ahead of me.

Walking up to my own house never gets easier. Despite everything I say and think about keeping some level of peace between us, I can’t help but resent the place. I can’t help the way my chest aches every time I have to ring the doorbell ( it’s custom, and I’m the one who installed the damn thing ) of a house I paid for and tailored completely to fit us. Sarah answers the door with the same indifference on her face as always. She’s learned to turn off the scowl every time she sees me, but I don’t think I like the indifference much better. I think she’s taking pity on me. I look like Hell still from my most recent escapade. They say getting clean makes you healthier, but I’ve never felt weaker in my life. Most of the time I can barely hold myself up, but I keep having to remind myself that it’s still early. I still have a long way to go.

Savannah runs up and gives me a quick hug, “Love you daddy!” She says, then rushes inside with the Walgreens bag she’s trying to hide from Sarah.

I smile, watching her. “Love you, honey,” I call out.

Sarah watches her, then shakes her head, smiling. Then she turns to me and clears her throat. The tension Savannah cleared immediately returns. “Thanks for taking her.”

“Sure. Happy Mother’s Day, or somethin’,” I tease, holding the rose out to her.

I did this last year too. Last year, she threw it in my face, but this time it makes her laugh. “You know, you don’t have to keep doing this.”

I’m already halfway down the steps, headed back to my car. “I know I don’t.”

I revert back to the kid who’s laying roses on his mom’s pillow, not expecting anything, but not able to stop himself. I know I don’t, but once again, I can’t stand the lack of normalcy. Once again, I can’t resist. I hate this stupid holiday.

05/06/2019 04:24 PM 

remorse || drabble.

cw: drug addiction, blood

R E M O R S E -- ;

“What the f*** are you doing, dude? Why is your kid calling me in the middle of the night, when you’re right here on the couch?”

Casey can barely understand the questions being hurled at him, let alone answer. He didn’t wake up until Jacob woke him. The whole apartment feels unreal, like a dream, or an alternate universe in which everything has stopped making sense. He can’t understand Jacob, because it doesn’t seem like Jacob is speaking a real language, so he just stares at him with a deadpan expression on his face, wondering what he’s doing there. In the background, he can hear Savannah sniffling, and asking if he’s okay. He can understand her, but not Jacob, who’s throwing his arms out into the air. Casey flinches at first, even though Jacob is nowhere near him.

“You have got to get your sh*t together, dude. Right now, Sarah has every right to take Savannah away from you, do you realize that? Where is Isaiah?”

“I don’t know?” Casey answers sluggishly. The pieces aren’t fitting together. What did he miss? He’s too out of it to argue. The fog in his head is disrupting any ability to process what Jacob is going on about, and really, all he wants to do is go back to sleep.

Awareness doesn’t strike until the following morning, and even then, it takes hours before the pieces come together. He has a text message from Jacob that he has to read three times over to understand. Once upon waking the first time, once again when he wakes up an hour later, and then finally when he’s sitting up, at one o’ clock in the afternoon. He has no idea how he’s lost so much time. He can’t believe he’s been asleep that long.

[ msg: Jake ] I took Savannah home with me. Text me when you’re ready to talk.

Bits and pieces of the night start coming to him. What he regarded as dreams reveal themselves to be memories -- Savannah crying, while holding a towel over her bleeding hand; Jacob barging in and shaking him awake before immediately beginning to question him; and even before that, when he thought he was safe because Savannah had gone to bed. “F***…” he hunches over, leaning his head into his palms. Be it from the pills or from the sickening realization of what he’s done -- and what he’s put Savannah through -- he feels like throwing up. It reminds him of the sickness he felt in Charlottesville just before he ran off stage. The same sickness, the same uncontrollable shaking, the same dizziness and outside-himself feelings. The same dread.

How could he do that to Savannah? How could he let her see him that way? How could he leave her to fend for herself? This was the very reason he hated his mother. It was the very reason he got so furious with Sarah, and yet, he’d still fallen into the trap. No, he’d waltzed in, thankful for the invitation.

It takes some time for him to gather himself enough to lift his head again. He stares at his phone with tears obscuring his vision, though by then, he’s memorized Jacob’s text word for word. He’s annoying himself with his sniffling, because he doesn’t think he deserves to cry. He doesn’t think he has the right to cry. He’s f***ed up. It’s everything in him, usually, to admit he’s wrong. It’s not in his nature to admit he’s wrong, but this time, he’s astronomically out of line. He needs help, and he has to suspend his pride to admit it, even if it’s killing him. With a deep breath, he finally brings himself to respond.

[ msg to: Jake ] I’m ready to talk. I’m so sorry.

04/16/2019 12:56 PM 

thanks for everything || drabble.

T H A N K  Y O U  F O R  E V E R Y T H I N G  -- ;

“I think you’re getting a bit big for that, kiddo.”

Casey didn’t look over. He recognized his aunt Barb’s voice already, and actually, he had no desire to look at her. He was experiencing a profound temptation to dunk his head under water and avoid her, but instead, he just laid still. A lackadaisical stare focused on the sky, although it wasn’t particularly captivating or -- to his disappointment -- distracting. Clear as it had been all Summer, it only looked gray to him that day. Everything looked and felt gray. Casey’s grandmother babysat the neighborhood kids on Saturdays, and for that reason, she kept a kiddie pool by the porch in the backyard. On bad days, provided the kids weren’t using it, Casey would lay there -- most of the time fully dressed in a T-shirt and shorts -- for hours, smoking cigarettes and contemplating. Water consumed him to the neck while his head rested on the rim and his arm propped up to keep his cigarette from getting wet. Aunt Barb was right in that he was too big. His legs hung over the ledge of the other side.

“Dinner’s almost ready.”

“I know…” he muttered, taking a long drag of his cigarette.

Barb’s eyes went wide. “Whoa, hey, what is that? Your grandma’s gonna kill you if she sees you with that!”

“She can take it up with Jennifer if she’s got a problem,” At that point, Casey finally looked at her with a half-hearted smile. “Highly doubtful she accepts returns though, so it might not be worth it.”

“I’m pretty sure even your mom would have cared about you smoking, Case.”

“Are you sure?” Casey mused, arching his eyebrows. He sat up, pulling his legs into the pool so he could sit criss-cross, leaning over to stifle the cigarette into a leftover fast food cup. “Have you talked to her at all? My mom?”

Barb was staring into the plastic cup with her lips pursed together. The way she hesitated made Casey’s chest tight, though he couldn’t really piece together why he even asked -- why he cared.

“Is that a no, or….?” Casey prodded with his eyebrows knit together, his head tilting. He was smiling, the way he would have had Barb experienced a brief lapse in memory, or had stumbled on her words, but really it was involuntary. He didn’t know what else to do.

“We haven’t talked since I picked you up,” Barb finally admitted. Casey thought her answer would release the sudden tension in his shoulders, but it didn’t. The water that calmed him just moments prior now felt ice cold and uncomfortable. The urge to run caused him to ache all over. Why did he ask when he didn’t want to know?

“So like six months ago.” Casey rolled his eyes. “She got rid’a me, so she doesn’t really have to, I guess. No offense.”

Barb just shook her head. “Well, you have us now.”

“Yeah…” Casey brought his knees to his chest, resting his chin on top of them. He stared away from Barb at the grass. It looked gray too. “I do have you.”

“Are you okay out here?” Barb asked. “Are you happier?”

Barb’s question was coming just a week after Casey was called into his principle’s office for fighting (his knuckles were still plagued with bruises all over). It came two days after he was caught shoplifting, and a single night after he got drunk enough to decide it was a good idea to burn a smiley face into his forearm with a heated piece of metal. Was he happy? Absolutely not, but what was he then? Was he even sad, or was he just bored? Angry? He could have spent hours trying to dissect his own feelings, but in the end, he knew he would only come empty-handed and overwhelmed. There was one answer, at least, he could give her with complete certainty. “I honestly f***ing hate it here,” he blunted. Barb didn’t say anything, but she was staring at him like he’d just committed murder right in front of her. “There’s nothing to do but like… get messed up and then think about how messed up you are… Don’t you ever get sick of it?”

“So you’re bored?” Barb asked, raising an eyebrow. “You know, most kids just watch TV when they’re bored, kiddo.”

“I’m really glad that’s good enough for them, but I wanna go out and make something of myself. I’m not inspired to do that here.”

“You’re talking about your music?”


“You mean that you’re not inspired about your music when you’re out here?”

“I’m not inspired about anything…” Casey said, lifting his head to look at her. “Right now, I’m just the messed up weird kid, you know? I wish I could be more than that.”

“A good start would be staying out of trouble,” Barb remarked. 

Casey glared at her, then looked away. “I do stay out of trouble, it’s just when people f*** with me first.”

“Uh-huh. Then, what is that?” Barb pointed at the cup with the cigarette.

“It’s a cup.” Casey said tonelessly, all expression dropping from his face, although there was a ring in his voice -- the subtle chime of sarcasm -- before, seconds later, a smirk finally emerged.

”Good lord.” They shared a laugh the erupted, then quickly simmered. “I worry about you… you know that, right?” She was staring at Casey’s arm, particularly where he’d attempted to brand himself in a severe lapse of judgement as well as sobriety.

Casey nodded. “I know.”

“And I WANT you to go out and do whatever it is you wanna do.”

“I know.”

Suddenly, Barb became more stern. “And I know it is extremely hard being the new kid, in a place you don’t really know or like, but sometimes you’ve gotta tough it through the hard stuff to get through the good stuff. You’re not gonna get many places if you’re stuck in jail.”

Jail sounded like a sanctuary compared to Reno. Barb’s words were uplifting on the surface, but to Casey, they were as uninspiring as everything else. He didn’t want to tough it out anymore. How much more was he supposed to go through before things looked up? He just didn’t have it in him. Despite proclaiming his desire to make something of himself, he’d already given up on it some time ago. That was the point he was trying to get across, yet the words were huddled together in the back of his throat, and he could neither lure, nor force them out. Barb didn’t need to know. If she knew, everyone would know, and everyone else would find it necessary to offer him encouragement he’d established he no longer wanted. Instead, he decided to at least hang onto the sentiment -- the fact that she had the patience to offer advice to a lost cause. She was one of the few people in his life that would put in that kind of effort.

“I’m not gonna go to jail,” Casey started climbing out of the pool while Barb stood.

“You better not,” Barb jokingly scolded. “Now go put on something dry, you’re gonna catch a cold or something. Dinner’s gonna be ready soon,” she reminded him.

“I’m not really hungry,” Casey admitted, grabbing a towel hanging on the rail of the porch, and draping it over his shoulders. He stopped at the door with his lips pursed together. Among the collection of things Casey was no longer inspired about, food had found its place. The thought of eating anything made him sick.

“Chili is your favorite, though, right?”

“I’m not really in the mood for it. I think I’m just gonna go to bed, honestly.” As he opened the door, he gave Barb one last glance over his shoulder. “Hey, aunt Barb?”

“What’s up, kid?” Barb eyed him strangely as she came up to the porch.

He swallowed thickly, lowering his eyes. He felt like he was choking, but he knew he get it out there. “I love you a lot.”

Barb smiled, but she looked more shocked than anything. “I love you too,” she said, with an inflection that made her seem like she was questioning whether or not she was responding properly. “Get some rest, okay?”

Casey gave a small nod, still unable to look at her. “Yeah. Thanks for everything.”

03/28/2019 04:55 PM 

shop-lifting || drabble.

S H O P - L I F T I N G -- ;

Status check: Two people in the candy aisle, seemingly unaware of their surroundings, and probably unable to see him. Wanda up front, fixing artificial red curls in a compact mirror, clearly distracted. Casey looked to one side, then the other, then finally before him at a rack of toothbrushes, his lips pursed together. His eyebrows knit together while he weighed his options. It couldn’t be that hard to get away with, he thought. He’d seen his friend Thomas walk out of stores with his pockets completely full before, and he never got caught. Billy never seemed to get caught doing it either. He could have ventured a little further by questioning whether or not the morality of shoplifting changed if it was a basic necessity -- in his case, a toothbrush, since his had been unwillingly donated. He couldn’t rely on mouth rinse and gum forever, right?

Walking out of his room to some kind of burly -- and grotesquely hairy! -- titan walking around in a towel with his toothbrush was, without a doubt, one of the most horrific things he’d ever seen. Casey shuddered at the memory, and in that moment, made up his mind. He looked down the aisle again, his heart pounding. The candy aisle couple was on their way to the register. Casey used the moment to check the toothbrush for any magnets or stickers (something his friends taught him some time ago, before he’d ever even considered stealing), then slipped it into the pocket of his jacket. He turned down the next aisle, then another, waiting for the couple to start handing out cash to Wanda before he made his way to the door, though he didn’t quite make it there.

“Excuse me, are you gonna pay for that?”

Casey paused. Wanda was staring at him with narrow eyes. The couple looked at each other, hurried to gather their things, and took off, leaving Casey alone with her. “Are you gonna pay for that?” Wanda repeated.

Play dumb, Casey thought. Another tactic he’d observed, yet never practiced before. “For what?”

“Casey…” Wanda shut her register, leaning her elbow on the counter. Wanda didn’t have to try to be intimidating. She had a harsh look on her face whether it was a good day or bad, and a lack of patience wasn’t just reserved for shoplifters and kids. But there was some kind of softness underneath that stare. Because she knew Casey and all the other kids in the area, she assumed some kind of responsibility over them. Even while scolding him, she sounded like a disappointed mother. “You think I don’t notice it when you and your friends come in here and take half the store with you? I’m sick of it! Next time, I’m gonna call the cops!”

Casey grit his teeth together. As much as he wanted to defend himself and argue he’d never stolen a thing before, he knew he wasn’t exactly in a position to be believed. He folded his arms, staring at the ground. Why was she choosing him to make an example of? Why not his friends if she already knew about them?

“I’m friends with your mom, you know. I have her number and everything.”

“I know.”

“And next time, I’m gonna call her, so she knows what you’ve been doing,” Wanda threatened. “If you walk out of here with whatever you’ve got in your pocket, I might call her right now.”

At that, Casey scoffed. That was an option he hadn’t considered, only because he was thoroughly convinced Jennifer would either not answer, or not care. However, he did want to avoid dealing with cops, so he gave in. It wasn’t worth it if she called the cops on him. Wanda and the burly titan could win that battle all day long in that case, but he couldn’t resist a final jab -- a reminder to Wanda that being friends with his mother wasn’t something to brag about, nor was it any kind of ammo against him.. “Well… if she actually picks up, can you tell her Casey needs a toothbrush?” he remarked, tossing the one he’d tried to steal on the counter. “Sorry.”

Wanda stared at the toothbrush with wide eyes, beginning to recede. She pursed her lips together, taking a few seconds before shaking her head.

“Just… don’t let this happen again.”

03/26/2019 08:35 PM 

elimination }} d r a b b l e.

E L I M I N A T I O N -- ;

“Hopefully you don’t take this as a mark against your talent. You actually received the highest number of votes this week, but we’re really concerned that your lifestyle isn’t conducive to the image TALENT! is trying to represent.”

I was assured that it had nothing to do with my abilities as a musician, but that didn’t help. That reassurance came with undeniable sincerity, but the blow that followed felt like the verbal equivalent of being pushed on the ground and kicked in the stomach until I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t do anything but stand there in the conference room, completely dumbfounded.

“You know, some people have left for reasons like this, then came back to try again in later seasons. I did.” Felicia Moore was a winner-turned-judge from a few seasons prior. I already knew her story. I was a fan of hers, and we’d actually shared a few good conversations about trying and failing; about struggling for the opportunity to be on the show. I thought I was in her good graces because we had that common ground, but when she spoke to me, she sounded like a completely different person. I didn’t want to come back next time. I didn’t have the resources to just come back next time. In the beginning, I took solace in the idea that, if I failed, I could just go back to my grandparents and it would be fine, but that was when I was sure that would never happen. That was when I was sure I would win. I didn’t want to go back to Reno. I definitely didn’t want to go back to living in my car.

I didn’t want to leave.

“Trust me, kid, we wanted to keep you,” Byron cut in when I still couldn’t bring myself to speak. I didn’t know him so well when I first got there, but he’d become something of a father figure to most of us. He was the one consoling the losers usually, and right then, I was the loser. I was the loser, and I was anything but consoled. I felt sick. “We don’t want to have to do this, but it’s not just us here,” he went on.

By then, panic was starting to set in. The idea of this being just a really bad nightmare was drifting further and further away, forcing me to actually consider what I was going to do. What was I going to do? How could I call my family and tell them I messed it all up? Would I ever see Jacob and Isaiah again? I finally managed to breathe, and then after a deep breath, I could finally speak, sort of. “Cool,” I answered with my teeth grit together, my arms folded. Now that I knew it was real -- or had accepted it was real -- all I wanted to do was run away before either of them had to see me cry about it.

Byron took the lead again, clearing his throat. “Now even though we couldn’t keep you in the competition, we would really like for you to perform one last time on the show.”

Everything paused.

My heart, Byron and Felicia, everything in the background. We all stood together in time purgatory while I tried to process Byron’s offer. Either he was pitying me, or it was the network’s effort to squeeze some ratings out of me while they still could. It was a bold move in either case, and in either case, it sounded like complete and utter bullsh*t. “Wow,” I said. The word flew off my tongue before I could catch it, carrying my new found rage with it.

“You don’t wanna do it?” Byron asked, glancing at Felicia, who shrugged.

“No, I don’t wanna f***ing do it,” I snapped. “This is humiliating enough with just the three of us, you want me to go out there and humiliate myself more for ratings?”

“Casey, that’s not --”

“-- And it’s also bullsh*t that, this whole time, you guys were pretty supportive of me, and now you’ve just completely changed you minds. I was upfront about myself. I was upfront so that you could have the chance to eliminate me right off the bat, but you choose to do it now? After showing off my story to everyone to get them to vote for me?” In all fairness to Byron and Felicia, I didn’t think they had anything to do with what footage actually aired. And I would be the first to admit, I initially thought my story might boost my chances a little. I never foresaw it being the end of me. I didn’t see it shattering me again. I knew it wasn’t them. I knew it. I knew it, yet I couldn’t hold myself back.

“This has nothing to do with ratings, Casey,” Felicia finally said, stepping forward. “The performance was mine and Byron’s idea, we just wanted to give you something. We don’t usually do this for contestants who get eliminated this way.”

“But it was about ratings,” I remarked. “Because the reason you’re kicking me off is because my moral standards or whatever might cause people to not watch the show.”

”Eliminating you wasn’t our decision solely, you have to understand that,” Brian interfered.

“And you have to understand how it looks on my end to be told ‘well we don’t want you on the show because of your life choices, but here, give us one last pity-performance’. I don’t want it. I just wanna go.”

“That’s fine,” Byron said, holding up his hands. Felicia and him exchanged glances again, but I couldn’t read either of them. Byron remained pretty unreadable when he looked at me again, his eyebrows slightly raised. “It’s fine if you don’t want to do it, we definitely won’t make you. You’re free to go then, but you can’t yell like that in here. Okay?”

I didn’t understand the way he was speaking to me. I felt like a child being scolded by their parent, in a family not even living on Earth. Nothing made sense. Even I wasn’t making any sense. My head was spinning, and my heart felt like it was about to jump out of my throat. If I took a step, I worried my knees were gonna collapse. How could they do this to me? “Fine,” I huffed, looking at the ground.

“Can we arrange a ride to you?”

“To my car out front? I think I can make it.” With that, I finally gathered the strength to walk. I had to get out of there before I started yelling again.

When I got out to the hall, all the other contestants were coming from practices. Part of me wanted to find Jacob and Isaiah, but another part of me didn’t want anyone to know. I walked with my head lowered in a rush to the door, but was pulled back by someone calling out to me.

“Casey!” Jacob was jogging to catch up with me. I didn’t want to face him, but now that the opportunity was right there, I couldn’t turn it down. I stopped and we stared at each other for a few seconds. “What’s up, dude? Where you goin’?”

I resisted my nagging temptation to run. In truth, I did want to see him, in case it was the last time -- in case our pact never came to fruition. I looked down, feeling like I was choking on my words. Just as I didn’t recognize Felicia earlier, I didn’t recognize myself. “Home, I guess.”

“Wait, what do you mean home? You quit?” Jacob asked. “This isn’t some like, weird prank, is it?”

I wished both those things were true. I wished it were literally anything else. I wasn’t ready to talk about it, so instead I just pulled Jacob into a hug. At that point, I probably needed it a little more than I wanted to admit. “You and Isaiah go out there and kick ass, okay? Tell him I said seeya’ later.” I hugged him a little tighter, then let go and continued on out the door without another word. I wanted to turn right around and tell him everything. I wanted so badly to give him a better answer -- an explanation -- but the hallway was suffocating me. Too many people had seen me already.

I sat outside the venue for some time, staring at my phone. I needed to call my grandparents, but I didn’t want to. I just wanted to sit and sulk for awhile. How could I tell them about how I failed? About how I’d achieved high ratings, only to blow it by being having a train wreck personal life? My chest hurt. I couldn’t stop shaking. Yelling at Byron and Felicia didn’t make me feel better. Blaming them didn’t make me feel better. Crying definitely didn’t make me feel better, but once I was away from everyone, I couldn’t hold it back.

“I was hoping I didn’t miss you,” a voice came from the door. Byron was coming to sit down beside me.

I set my phone down, looking out at the street. My stomach churned at the mere thought of eye contact. I was surprised he came after me after what I said to him and Felicia. I pulled my knees to my chest and shrugged. “Sorry for what I said.”

“I get it, kid,” Byron said. “But you know what, this doesn’t have to be the end for you. I don’t want to see it be the end for you. This was one avenue that didn’t work out this time, but you have what it takes to make something of yourself.”

I wiped at my face, nodding. “It just sucks.”

“It does suck,” Byron blunted, pulling out his wallet. “Tell you what, though… clean yourself up, get your act together a bit, and then stay in touch, okay? Like I said, I don’t want to see this be the end for you.”

I looked over the business card he handed me. There was a part of me thinking the number written on it was a dead end -- a consolation prize, or maybe an attempt to get me the hell away from the venue. But I held onto it, because at the time, I had nothing else. “Thanks,” I answered, starting to stand.

Byron stood up with me, dusting off his jeans. “You know, Casey, you were someone I really thought was gonna win.”

At that, I couldn’t help but scoff a laugh. “Ch’yeah, so did I.”

We shared some kind of sad laugh together over that before Byron straightened up. “You sure you don’t wanna do the performance?”

“I think enough people have seen me cry today, and probably for a lifetime,” I declined. I knew Byron and Felicia had their hearts in the right place, but I still didn’t want the network making anything else off me if they were kicking me off. “I’m gonna go, I’m sure you have better stuff to do than tend to my stupid hissy fit.”

Byron laughed a little, pulling me into a hug. “We’ll miss you, kid.”

“I’ll miss you too.” I took a deep breath as I pulled away, staring at the venue door. I didn’t want to start my trek back to my car. “I’ll miss all of it.”

“Be good out there, okay?”

“Sure thing.” I nodded and started walking off.

“And keep in touch.”

“Same goes to you.”

I felt a little lighter after talking to Byron. Even though I balked at it initially, his business card gave me a sliver of hope my time wasn’t entirely wasted. Maybe it didn’t have to be the end of me.

03/05/2019 10:52 PM 

we're in! }} d r a b b l e.

W E ' R E  I N ! -- ;

We were all packed into the lobby of the venue, filling it to the brim and then some with noise, and voices in every pitch you could imagine. In one corner, a girl was practicing a rendition of Can You Feel the Love Tonight? to her parents, while they held each other and cried over her stunning vibrato, and encouraged her. Another guy was singing My Girl to his girlfriend with the most impressive range I’d ever heard in person. A large door led to a long hallway of conference rooms, and every half hour, ten of us would be pulled to sit inside and wait for one of the rooms to free up. Which meant every half hour, ten people would be released, either crying tears of joy, or tears of sorrow. Some were panicking while their family and friends gathered around to console them. I sat alone in the third row of chairs with my guitar in my lap, with no one to practice for, but it wasn’t like I hadn’t spent the last year or so going over the same song in preparation for this. I was stealing small naps every few minutes or so to make up for not having slept the night before.

A woman called out names with a soul-sucking tonelessness while people spilled from the door behind her. Isaiah Flynn, who I met earlier in the morning, came from the door with a huge smile on his face, holding up a silver ticket to a woman I assumed was his girlfriend. We were too far away for me to congratulate him, but we exchanged nods. I made a mental note to look for him later and went back to my guitar. Finally, after two more hours of sitting there, I heard my number.

”…and 2406! Step up please!”

I froze. I was really doing this. This was it -- make or break, do or die. Win, or go back to living in my car. I started second-guessing myself. There were people dressed to the nines, people dressed in costumes, and people dressed in clothes that hadn’t been washed in weeks, yet for some reason my old jeans and T-shirt felt inexcusable. I worried about having to possibly explain the split in my lip, and then probably getting eliminated for underage drinking. I had to be a role model after all. What if my finger slipped? I was out for sure.

”Last call, 2406!”

I scrambled to my feet in disbelief I was about to lose my chance over a daydream. Ten of us huddled up by the door, signed our name to a sheet of paper, and then waited a little longer in the hallway for the conference rooms to clear out, which was supposed to take another thirty minutes -- just enough time for the nerves to build. I watched people come in and out of doors all along the hallway. After some time observing, I deduced that in every group of ten, only five would be chosen. I watched more of them come out cheering and dancing; more coming out sobbing, covering their faces. How would I look when I came out there? Who would I run to? Where would I sulk if they shot me down on the first try? I found myself watching the ground so I didn’t have to look at all the people before me, running to the arms of support systems I didn’t have. I didn’t want to think about what I’d do. My heart was about to burst through my chest by the time they got to me, and a startling portion of me was tempted to throw it all away and jet right out the front door without ever having performed.

My brain fought my legs all the way to the door, into a small room with a makeshift stage in the middle. Six people sat at a panel-style table, jotting things down on their clipboards.. What most didn’t know was that you had to pass through quite a few auditions before you ever appeared on television. I was on the first of about six.

”Good morning,” a red-haired woman with a stoic expression greeted me from the left end.

”Hello.” I waved, feeling instantly scrutinized, even though all six of them appeared relatively indifferent to me. I was just one face in a crowd of thousands. I couldn’t imagine being tasked with narrowing all of us down, especially not after hearing and meeting so many talented people in the lobby. My stomach churned suddenly. Thousands. Narrowing it down. I felt like the odds were completely stacked against me. They were probably looking for the smallest excuses to eliminate me.

”Okay, what’s your name, and where are you from?”

”Casey Caverly, from Reno, Nevada.” I didn’t know why I thought to say Reno, since I didn’t live there anymore. ”Well, sort of…” I continued on, watching the ceiling. “I moved out here almost a year ago, just with the intention of living in LA, but auditioning was on my mind too.” I also didn’t know why I felt the need to explain my situation to a bunch of people who were just there to hear me sing, and send me on my way, but they seemed interested, so maybe I was doing something right.

”That’s quite a move. Did you have a back-up plan?” The woman pressed.

”Not at all,” I admitted, lowering my head, smiling only because I felt ridiculous. Out loud, it sounded completely absurd. “I don’t really have a place or anything, I live in my car. So I guess I just thought, if I blow it out here, I’ll just go back to Reno.”

”Wait, you live in your car?” A blonde woman chimed in for the first time. She seemed more inviting than the others. Even in the midst of apparent shock, she still sounded warm, and friendly.

”Yeah…” I felt my face heating up. I wanted them to know for some reason, yet I didn’t want the attention on me. I wanted to talk about it, but I didn’t want things to get too serious. Instinct, or something equally uncontrollable and annoying, propelled words from my mouth faster than I could catch them. It was my downfall -- my nervous tick. “I’ll give you a grand tour sometime, it’s pretty spectacular.”

That got people laughing at least, which ultimately -- finally -- urged them to switch subject to more mundane questions like my favorite bands, how long I’d been singing, how long I’d been playing music, when I knew I wanted to be a musician. Those were questions I’d prepared for. I’d rehearsed responses to them a thousand times, forward and backwards. In the heat of the moment, it sounded like mush to me, but they never kicked me out so I had no choice but to assume I was doing okay.

Finally, the red-haired woman straightened, getting to the point. “So, Casey, what are you going to play for us today?”

I could already feel the eye rolls before I answered. I wondered how many times the panel heard people say what I was about to say, and how many times they’d been disappointed, or downright offended by the result. I felt like I was digging my own grave as I answered, “Actually, it’s something I wrote myself.”

- - - -

How I was even coming close to containing myself was beyond me. I felt flustered, yet numb; I felt beside myself, yet eerily present. I didn’t say a word to anyone in the hallway on the way out, because I didn’t have capacity to form one. I felt like someone kicked me in the gut, in a way I never imagined would be at all satisfying, but there I was, reveling in it - reveling in everything.

It was like a tiny, hopeful string had sutured ou whole little group together, binding us to each other in an explosion of emotion not one of us could properly describe no matter what side we were on. But we all understood it. We were united through it without ever having to explain. I understood why so many people burst from the doors in hysterics, speaking in gibberish only those who were equally excited, or distressed, could comprehend. All around me, people were hugging, and crying, and laughing, and it was more beautiful to me than ever. I felt guilty for ever rolling my eyes at it -- for spiting it because I envied it. I wasn’t exactly among them, but I felt like I was.

”Yo, Casey!”

I glanced over my shoulder, to the first familiar face I’d seen since noticing Isaiah Flynn in the lobby. I met Jacob Brooks earlier in the morning too. The kid was younger than me with twice the vocal power, which I both respected him for, and hated him for. We played together with Isaiah for a little while outside before we were assigned seats. We all bonded over the fact that our numbers happened to be in exact order: 2405, 2406, and 2407. I’d been so wrapped up, I hadn’t really noticed we’d gone in around the same time. “Hey.” I waved.

”I’m in!” He beamed, flashing his ticket.

Isaiah, Jacob and I made a pact to stick together as long as possible. At least in the case of Round One, we were successful. I finally succumbed to some kind of childish giddiness, holding up my ticket with a smile I could no longer contain.

“We’re in.”

02/22/2019 02:47 PM 

what have you done? pt. 2 }} d r a b b l e.


tw: drug overdose, suicide attempt

W H A T  H A V E  Y O U  D O N E ? -- ;

”Heyyy, he is awake!”

”Yayyy, he’s awake.” Casey gave a weak smile as Christian neared the bed, like he was forcing himself to celebrate with him, but what reason did he possibly have to do so? What was there to celebrate about being stuck in a hospital bed, still fighting for his life after both his exes found him dying alone in his apartment? He felt like an idiot, yet all of it was bitterly nostalgic. Being completely lost in what felt like another realm, with no concept of time other than the fact that it was still dark outside; delirium from copious amounts of medication that offered little relief; the stiff bed in an obscenely bright hospital room; the worried faces and crying he could only remember in small bits that made little sense upon true awakening; memories he wasn’t sure were even real. Most familiar was the interrogation from the nurse about why he’d done it -- if he’d been feeling depressed, if he partied too hard, For his convenience, she had a list of psychiatrists for him to get in touch with, but Casey had been there, done that, and he wasn’t about to do it again.

”Was Sarah here?” Casey strained just to speak above a whisper, his eyebrows furrowed. Another familiarity was the fiery feeling raging through his stomach and throat, making it hard for him to gather the strength to breathe, let alone talk. But he swore he recalled Sarah being in his apartment, so he had to ask. He had to know it wasn’t a dream.

”She was, but she left,” Christian answered, taking a seat beside Casey.

Casey smirked. ”Probably didn’t want me to know she helped me out.”

”It was actually Sarah who realized something was up with you,” Christian explained. “She lost Isaiah and Jake’s numbers, so she called me instead. Guess you were texting her some weird sh*t.”

”Nice...” Casey shut his eyes, though a hint of his smile remained on his face. He felt Christian’s hand brush his hair back as his head drifted off to the side a bit.

”Sooo are you feeling okay?”

”I’m miserable,” Casey blunted, still with his eyes closed. “This bed feels like cardboard and I’ve had to pee for like three hours.”

Christian laughed. “You know what I mean, dork.”

At that, Casey’s eyes fluttered open, smile fading as he stared at the window.

“If you really wanna know… I wish I tried a lot harder.”

02/21/2019 07:31 PM 

what have you done? }} d r a b b l e.

tw: drug overdose, suicide attempt

W H A T  H A V E  Y O U  D O N E ? -- ;

There was rustling at the door, and faint bickering Casey couldn’t quite understand. It brought him back in time, to his hotel room in Pahrump. Some nights, the neighbors on either side were loud enough to surround him room everywhere in the room, yet he could never understand it, and that always irritated him more. He didn’t move, just listened with a furrowed brow, staring at the door while the voices continued. What used to keep him up at night as a teenager with sensory overload was lulling him to sleep as an adult who’d spent the entire night hosting a one-man party, complete with a handful of painkillers and a bottle of Jack to wash them down with. At some point, he’d apparently issued invites. The knob on the door rattled. The bickering continued. At some point, he swore he muttered something, but he wasn’t sure what he was saying, or if anyone could hear him. He wasn’t entirely sure if the door was real, if the people behind it were there.

Another spark of awareness came before he ever realized he blacked out, his eyes snapping open, a sudden gasp of air stolen after what felt like an eternity, but it would be the last free one for some time. The door was wide open. Dark figures frenzied around him, yelling, and crying. A lot of crying. A lot of yelling. He had to be in the hotel. Right?

“Oh my God, Casey…”

”Casey, what did you do? Sh*t, man, what did you do?”

There were hands all over him, feeling his neck, his chest, tapping his cheek. He couldn’t feel anything, but he could see it through warped vision, the way dark extensions jutted out toward him. He shut his eyes, suddenly feeling a shift of weight throughout his whole body, putting an unexpected pressure on his chest. He could feel the contents of his stomach shifting, waving, curling in a way that was oddly nostalgic. He couldn’t even breathe, let alone answer the panicked questions the shadowy figures were bombarding him with. What had he done?. His head lulled again, then jerked when his body was hoisted up. Casey didn’t know where they were going, he just felt himself moving. More figures were huddled around him, two remaining dark, while the other two managed to ignite some form of familiarity. Christian was on the right side, walking alongside him on the phone with someone, but it sounded like he was speaking a different language. To the left was Sarah, crying. Even in his stupor, he wanted to reach out for her. She was shaking her head, her face wiped clean of the anger that usually tainted it -- the anger he usually faced when they had to see each other. What was she doing there?

Had he invited them both?

What had he done?

A bunch of hands started coming toward his face, strapping something over his mouth, despite the resistant turning of his head. Another came for his arm, as if to steady him. And the last -- Sarah’s -- brushed through his hair. He stared lackadaisically at her while she broke down into a sob.

”I’m so sorry. God, I’m so sorry.”

What had she done to be sorry for?

With all the mush in his head, he still found himself silently asking:

What had he done?

02/14/2019 04:46 PM 

unravel }} d r a b b l e.

U N R A V E L -- ;

This was beyond Casey Caverly’s typical -- even comedic -- stage fright. He’d been sitting there too long, stuck frozen in the dressing room, staring at the mirror, not at himself but seemingly through himself. At nothing in particular. Just staring, wondering how he was supposed to get from Point A: the dressing room, to Point B: the stage when he couldn’t find it in himself to move. How could he sing when he couldn’t even speak? How could he walk when he couldn’t breathe? Casey was booed first thing by a group of Sarah’s friends at their first show back on tour in San Diego. Undoubtedly, whoever they were bought tickets for the sole purpose of confronting him. Even though they were promptly escorted off the premise, the lingering possibility of it happening again made him weary of every show that followed, until eventually, the uncertainty began to suffocate him. His own head was the only place he could hide, though there was no solace to be found there; he’d been rendered a prisoner, both of his mind, and the tour itself. He was stuck..

”Casey!” Stephen barged into the dressing room, then paused, his eyes shooting open. Casey heard him, but didn’t move. The urgency in his voice made him wonder how long they’d been looking for him, and how many places they looked before Stephen realized he was still locked up in the dressing room. “What the hell?”

”You act like you just caught me jerking off or something,” Casey mused with a half-hearted smile, turning his head away. He didn’t want the attention on him. He didn’t want anyone to come back for him. Despite the lax comment, his hands were still nervously fidgeting in his lap, his heel tapping repeatedly against the floor.

”That might be more understandable than you just sitting here while everyone’s waiting for you,” Stephen remarked.

”Would it, though?”

”Alright…” Stephen came inside and shut the door, so it was just the two of them. The isolation made Casey’s chest tight. He glanced at the door, as if assessing his ability to make it through without Stephen stopping him. The odds were against him as Stephen parked himself right in front of it. “Look, I love you kid, but you’ve been a nightmare this whole tour. What’s going on with you? You’ve been storming around barking orders and snapping at people all day. You tore Isaiah a new one because he was a minute over on the soundcheck. Now it’s five minutes past show time, and you’re the one who’s nowhere to be found.”

Casey lowered his eyes. He could hear people scrambling around outside, and an impatient roaring from fans from the venue itself, yet he couldn’t bring himself to stand.

”Is this maybe too soon for you?” Stephen asked, causing Casey’s eyebrows to furrow.

”Too soon?”

”You and Sarah just split up a few months ago,” Stephen blunted. “Maybe you’re not ready for a tour yet, Case… and that’s okay, but I wish you told me a little sooner, because this is gonna look really bad.”

”I don’t wanna cancel the tour,” Casey blunted , turning his back to Stephen, staring at his hands. With his chest aching, it was hard for him to muster anything above a whisper, but that didn’t stop him from trying. “I was never gonna cancel the tour. I just didn’t think it would be like… this.”

”Like what?” Stephen prodded, folding his arms.

”Like this… like…. this is so intense, dude. Everything just feels so intense. I can’t breathe, I can’t think right. I haven’t slept in like three days… I just feel bad, I feel like sh*t.” Casey explained, raking the stray hairs off his face with a shaky hand. “People were literally waiting in front row to boo me off the stage. People have been harassing me on all my posts, and promising not to come to shows, and that makes it hard to wanna go out there. I get like this… sick feeling, not knowing what’s gonna happen when I walk out there, and she just gets to hang around like everything’s okay and awesome, and it’s bullsh*t. It’s absolute, one-hundred-percent bullsh*t. I shouldn’t have to be the one canceling anything…” Casey was reduced to momentary silence, having lost his breath completely during his rant. He let out a deep breath in the hopes of pushing some weight off his chest, but nothing was working. “I don’t mean to yell at everyone or be a nightmare or whatever, I’m just frustrated, I’m so f***ing frustrated.”

”Casey…” Stephen finally stepped forward, stooping down in front of Casey’s chair so Casey had no choice but to look at him. “You need to take a deep breath.”

”I just said I can’t!” Casey snapped. “I just said I can’t breathe, dude, that’s part of the problem.”

”Okay, do you see and hear yourself?” Stephen rose his voice, as if to overpower Casey’s. “Do you see what this is doing to you?”

Casey once prided himself on his adaptability. He was fine when forced to live in a hotel, fine when his classmates in Reno beat the hell out of him for no reason. Even during the nastiest period of his relationship with Sarah, he was still miraculously able to maintain his composure enough to get on stage. But right there, in front of Stephen,he felt himself unraveling. He sat there in silence, gnawing on his nails with his free arm crossed tightly over his stomach.

”Casey, do you want me to call it off?”

Casey was sickened by the words he was about to utter -- words he never, in a million years, thought he would say. “I want you to call it off...” he muttered, the crack in his voice causing his eye to twitch in annoyance. “I can’t go out there, I want you to call it off.”

01/31/2019 07:52 PM 

cry-baby }} d r a b b l e.

C R Y - B A B Y -- ;

It felt like a courtroom, only simplified; on one side, the accuser, and the judge. On the other, the accused -- myself -- intensely scrutinized by the opposite party. And the jury (his mother and my grandmother), looking mortified while my principle, Mrs. Hamil explained to them that I was accused of tackling Daniel Renner outside and punching him several times in the face. It all added up, and I couldn’t deny it. Renner had a bloody nose, and teary eyes; my knuckles were bruised up and covered in blood. I was trembling with residual fury while he sat there sniffling and nodding his head, but was too scared to say anything. There was no trace of the kid who’d been tormenting me ever since the year started. His mother put her arms around him, on the verge of tears herself. It disgusted me. I leered at him from my chair with my arms folded while Mrs. Hamil told my grandmother everything -- or at least everything she knew, which didn’t take into account what Renner had done to deserve it.

“Casey…” my grandmother spoke up. I pried my eyes away, looked at Mrs. Hamil, then my grandmother. “Is that true?” she asked me. I didn’t say anything. We all knew it was true, and at that point, no one was about to jump on my side. Who was going to trust the new punk with bloody knuckles, over a sniveling baby wrapped up in his mother’s arms?

“Casey,” Mrs. Hamil prodded me again. I looked away from them, shaking my head.

“I think it’s pretty obvious I did it, I don’t see why we’re all sitting here,” I muttered, staring at the window. If my grandmother wasn’t right there, maybe I would have considered jumping out and running away, but I’d already put her through enough. When she asked me why I did it, I couldn’t even look at her. “Because he pissed me off,” was all I could give her. I was expecting some kind of outcry from Renner, but he was hanging onto his innocent act, and it was making me sick. I folded my arms a little tighter, shrugging. “He pissed me off, so I decked him.” Once again, I couldn’t find it in me to tell everyone how little I regretted it -- how I would do it all over again, regardless of the consequence.

“Ms. Renner, he’ll probably need to see a nurse,” Mrs. Hamil said. “If you want, you’re free to go. Mrs. Hadley, would you and Casey please stay?”

I watched, partially jealous, and partially relieved as Ms. Renner escorted her crybaby son from the room. That wasn’t the kid who shoved me down the stairs my first day there, or threatened to tie me up to the fence after gym class. It wasn’t the kid who yanked on my hair, and splashed his drink on me in the cafeteria. He was putting on an act and everyone was eating it up, and as pathetic as I thought it was, I envied him. I found myself wondering why people pitied him so much, yet they always looked down on me. Why could he get away with so many things, but I couldn’t? It wasn’t a secret why I was in Reno. It wasn’t new information that my mother would have never even showed up for something as silly as a fight between students, let alone coddle me, and take me to a nurse Where was my leeway? My blind eye?

“Now, I’m sure you know already from my notes that this isn’t Casey’s first incident since the school year started?” Mrs. Hamil began once we were all alone.

My heart dropped to the pit of my stomach as my grandmother (rightfully) asked, “What notes?”

“I’ve sent several notes home,” Mrs. Hamil explained. I couldn’t look at either of them. I was pissed she even brought it up. I was pissed she was dragging this out instead of letting me go too. My knuckles hurt, couldn’t I go see the nurse? Couldn’t she make it easy and just suspend me?

”And you never gave them to me?” my grandmother asked me.

I shook my head. “No…”


I wanted to answer, but I couldn’t even breathe. Mrs. Hamil spoke for me. “Well… let me just say, he’s received multiple warnings for fighting, for ditching class, and for mouthing off to our staff. I’ve tried to be patient…” Bullsh*t, I thought. “But now it’s starting to get out of hand, and I can’t continue to issue warnings if he’s not going to listen. It’s not fair to other students to give him special treatment.”

”I understand,” my grandmother said.

”I never asked for your special treatment, if that’s what you’re calling it,” I blurted out, finally looking at them. My hatred for Mrs. Hamil right then outweighed my sensitivity for my grandmother, who was probably just as stressed as I was. “I never asked for special treatment, but I did ask you to do something about Renner’s bitch ass when he started f***ing with me, and you didn’t. You told me to stop engaging, and it turned into this, and now you’re all falling all over yourselves trying to comfort him when he started it. You’re all sorry for him right now, but a week ago, with me, you’re like Oh, get over it, Casey. Tough sh*t!

Both of them were staring at me with wide-eyes. I had the floor, but I didn’t know what to do with it, so I just kept going, letting my rage control me entirely. Once I unleashed my outburst, I couldn’t reel it back in. “I’m not sorry for what I did. I’m not sorry for ditching class, for mouthing off, for any of it. So if you’re gonna kick me out, just do it so I can go home.”

“Casey, please settle down --”

“No! I don’t wanna settle down!” I stood up. “I’m tired of being the one that has to settle down!” I knew it was bad. In the very back of my mind, there was a small voice begging me to knock it off, but I was stifling it with what had become uncontrollable yelling, in a tone I couldn’t even recognize. Something else had completely taken over. “I’m the one who’s hurt! I’m the one who’s f***ed up, and all he has to do is fake some tears, and everyone is all over him, and I’m the bad guy because I got sick of his bullsh*t! All of this is complete bullsh*t!”

Mrs. Hamil stared at me more sternly. “Casey, I think you really need to sit down.”

My response, once again, slipped off my tongue before I could catch it. “And I think you really need to f*** off,” I spat, yet contradicted myself by falling back into my chair. My knees gave out. My chest ached from desperate attempts to get a good breath in, and an enormous lump in my throat told me I was about to look every bit as pathetic as Renner, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it except duck my head down and shield my face with my hands. Even that didn’t disguise it in my voice, and if it did, at least one person knew I was crying -- me. I knew it, and I hated myself for it. I hated the way I shriveled when it all finally closed in on me. I was the cry-baby all along. “I wish all of you would just f*** off…”


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