I'm amazed at what my life has become, and what changes have already taken place - and things have just gotten started. Allow me to let you in on my past life.
Where do I start? How about three years ago?
My life, up until that point, was dull, drab, and boring. I didn't go out much and I didn't have much fun; it was just me hanging out with myself, watching movies, listening to music. I worked as a phone sales rep for a high performance parts warehouse. I loved my job, and the people I worked with were fun to be around, and that was the extent of my social life. My life before I had my "awakening" was fairly standard. I did my morning routine, went to work, went home, slept, and repeated. Pretty basic, and very dull. I just kept to myself.
At work, I was the comedian, making anyone’s day a little better by making them laugh at something. I was on a first name basis with most of my clients, too. My work life was grand.
I never had a mechanical aptitude. My mind could comprehend a particular task, but my hands couldn't follow through with what I wanted to do. Figuring the job I had, I should have been a wiz at mechanics, right? I started at the warehouse when I was seventeen, pushing a broom and pulling orders. It was a start. After a couple years of doing that, my manager asked me if I wanted to take a step up and work in the showroom, selling parts to the public. Of course I was interested, so I did it. And I got a nice raise to boot! That was great: talking to the people coming in, poring over mountains of catalogs looking for the exact part they needed. It seemed, with service like that, I was getting a lot of repeat and regular customers asking for me, specifically. After a little better than two years of doing that, the owner himself asked me if I was interested in moving inside to the offices, where I would be working the phones and taking national orders. Another raise, of course. I had the same job, but this time, a phone was glued to my ear and a chair attached to my backside.
One thing about me is that I'm not an emotional person - not totally closed off, but close. I never cry; I can get totally pissed off over stuff and nothing really shows, but the inferno burning inside keeps building. It's helpful at work, but not so good in my private life.
Who doesn't own a computer? Until three years ago, I never felt the need for one. It was one of those 'spur of the moment' things. I had a bug up my ass one day, said 'screw it,' and got one: with all the toys, of course. Once I was hooked up with the proper internet connection, I went surfing - with a vengeance.
One day, after checking my regular haunts, I decided to do some exploring. Googling 'Am I gay?'. I was barraged with hundreds of pages of, well, trash. Picture sites were the norm. Intriguing, yes, but not what I wanted. I wasn't exactly sure what I was looking for, but I knew I would know it when I found it.
Those "top" pages got me almost nowhere, but then I stumbled across a story site. I was thinking 'They write stories about this stuff?' I started reading some of the notable stories. Most of those were nothing but jerk-off material, totally shallow stuff. But, I saved the site, and then started looking at some of the multi-chapter stories. Some weren’t much better than the one hit wonders, but I found a few that struck a nerve, emotionally. It seemed like some of these writers knew me, or even more, were me. After reading more of them, that nerve was getting hammered, telling it to "WAKE UP!!"
After several months of reading those stories, things were starting to click in my head, but not totally. New emotions were peeking out all the time, but nothing that took a firm hold of me. Then I read 'the story.'
That fateful evening, I clicked on a link to a story I’d missed before. It was epic. The first chapter drew me in; after I'd spent an entire weekend glued to my computer chair while I read 'em almost nonstop, the other thirty chapters took my emotions to levels I'd forgotten I had. I laughed, I cried, and I sat on the edge of my seat, wondering what would come next. THIS story woke me up; it almost spelled out for me what was missing in my life: someone. Someone I could care about, and someone who would care about me.
The entire next week at work I was a basket case. All my emotions were out of control and taking me over, and I was at their mercy. Half of the week, I had my head in my hands, trying to get things back under control. By Wednesday, my boss - Dave, the owner of the company I worked for - asked me into his office to see what was happening.
"Darren, is there anything I should know about?" he asked, unsure of how to approach the subject.
"Dave, last weekend was rough." My present condition made this pretty obvious.
"I can tell. Do you want to talk about it?" Dave walked around his desk and closed his office door, and sat in the chair next to me.
"It's been going through my head for months, but it's been in there for a lot longer. It's about me, personally." It started dribbling out of me.
"What's going on, Darren?" His voice expressing genuine concern.
"I'm not sure how to approach this, so I'll say it right off: I'm not straight." There, I said it... kinda.
"And? I'm sure that isn't all. Just for the record, I couldn't care less WHAT you are, it's WHO you are that I'm concerned with." He patted my leg, showing his support.
I sat there dumbfounded for a minute, before answering him. "Thanks Dave, I really appreciate that. Should I go into it a bit?"
"Only if you’re comfortable with it." He adjusted his position in his chair.
"It started with some stories I found online. Most were trash, but a small few went beyond excellent. One, in particular, woke up something in me that has been dormant since I was a kid. As you can tell, I've been a basket case since then." Wow. Did I actually say all that?
"That's been obvious. I'm glad that now at least I have an idea what's going on. I'm not going to get on your case about the work, but it does need to get done, at whatever pace you can manage," he said. Did I mention that I have the coolest boss on the planet?
"Thanks again for letting me unload a little and for listening, Dave. I just have to figure out how I can deal with this and move on." I wiped my face with my hands, and then stood up.
"Time will tell, Darren. If you ever need to talk, my door is open to you, anytime." He stood up too, and then held out his hand.
"Thanks again, Dave. I might take you up on your offer someday."
With that, we shook hands, and I went back to my desk so I could finish the day without any more drama. I just hoped that was the worst of it - I'm not very good at emotional turmoil.
The next few months went along fairly well...ok, not that well. Depression seemed to be the feeling that fit the best. There were good days, but the bad seemed to outnumber the good to a high degree. It was bad enough that most days, I thought about various ways to "take care of it" and be done. Period. Driving too fast and going into a tree sounded just fine to me. I couldn't take much more. The mental stress was getting unbearable, and something was going to break.
I spent much of my waking hours when not at work in front of my computer, reading. Finally I went to the website of my favorite author after a long time of putting it off. What I found there were people like me. Some were going through, or had been through, what I was experiencing now. I found an oasis of sorts, a place where I could ask questions, answer what I could from others, and become a part of that community.
I liked that place. I was becoming one of the regulars there. Between messages back and forth to other members, and phone calls back and forth, I was doing better. The depression was still there, but not taking a hold of me like before.
The months following that were better, but I was still searching, and not finding what I really wanted. I talked with Dave several times after our first talk, and shared with him what was happening, in my head and in my life.
Then I hit another one of those suicidal times, and I needed a way out - any way out. I was at my desk one day, in a terribly foul mood when Dave came up to me. I'd barked at several my fellow employees already, and he must have heard about it. He didn't look pleased.
"Darren, my office, now." Yup. Definitely not pleased.
I tossed my headset on my desk and followed the boss to his chambers to discuss my fate. I couldn't have cared less at that point.
"Take a seat, Darren. We need to talk," he said as he shut the door, and took the chair next to me.
"What do you want?" I asked with some heat in my voice.
"I want YOU to calm down and relax. Talk to me," he said quietly, but firmly.
"Life sucks," I grumbled out.
"Only if you let it. What’s going on in your head?" He moved to the edge of his seat.
"I want out - out of everything," I said, as a tear rolled down my cheek.
Dave rocked back in his chair after that volley.
"Why? I realize that what is going on in your life is throwing you for a loop, but - and I promise this - things will change for the better." He put both of his hands on my shoulders as he said this.
"How can you be sure? I'm just a nobody," I barely croaked out.
"You're NOT a nobody. You see something, and you take charge. I've seen it lots of times." He leaned in, looking me in the eye.
"That's here. My home life is non-existent."
"Well, we're about to change that. I'm going to throw you a bone." He got up, and walked behind his desk.
"Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to give you two weeks vacation - effective now - and paid, of course. I want you to take a trip: drive someplace, maybe see an old friend, SOMETHING. Just get away and get your head in order. There’s just one thing I ask," He said as he looked down and filled out some form or other.
"What’s that?" I asked.
He raised his head and looked me right in the eye. "Call me and let me know how you’re doing." He handed me the completed form, an authorization for time off: two weeks, or more if I needed it.
"Are you sure?" Reality was setting in.
"More than I have ever been about anything. You look good when you’re on your game, but I haven't seen that man in many months. I’d like to see him again."
"Okay. I owe you big time for this, and I'll do my best," I stated.
"I know you will, because that's who you are. But you owe me nothing. You’re one of my favorite people here and I want to keep it like that."
"Thank you, Dave." I actually smiled a real smile for the first time in ages.
With that we both got up and were closing in for a handshake when Dave pulled me in for a hug.
"Now, get out of here. I want to see the real Darren in a couple weeks - reloaded and ready to work." He patted me on the back a couple times for emphasis.
I waved and headed to my desk, checking for anything I'd be needing. Seeing nothing, I headed for the parking lot.
Once I got home, I had to take stock. The thoughts going through my head were "Where am I going to go? What am I going to do? "
I woke up in the middle of the night, and as I was getting a glass of water, a thought came to me: I could go see Tom. He lived about 800 miles away. He used to live up here, but moved south a couple years ago. I dug out his number and looked at the clock. Seeing it was well after midnight, I decided to call him in the morning.
I hardly slept that night, and woke up early. I looked at the clock, said 'screw it,' and picked up the phone. I'd forgotten about the time difference, though.
"Ummm................hello?" Tom said sleepily.
"Tom?" Yup, I called too early.
"Yeah.................. is this Darren?" He was starting to wake up at this point.
"Yup, how did you guess?"
"I thought that phone number looked familiar. What can I do ya for?"
"You want some company for a few days? I need to get away for a while, and the boss gave me some paid leave." I gave him a quick run down of the situation.
"I'll still have to work, but you’re more than welcome to come down. We can talk about the old days and do whatever comes up." Was that excitement in his voice?
"Sounds good. I'll be leaving tomorrow hopefully, and be there Monday probably," I said, practically bouncing on my chair.
We talked for a while about what was going on in our lives, and made some tentative plans for once I got there.
"Great! Keep me posted." He said. He still had to get ready for work.
"Will do. I'm looking forward to this."
"Me too. I'll talk to ya later, Darren."
"See ya soon, Tom." I hung up the phone, still smiling. I was pumped . I had a plan; I just had to act on it.
I turned my apartment upside down looking for things I wanted to take with me - clothes, camera, and stuff. After getting everything packed, I needed to make sure the car was ready.
I decided to take the car in for an oil change and a once over. This is my baby: she's a 1988 BMW 325i, 6 cylinder- 5 speed. I love this car, and it flat out flies. I got it about two years ago because it looked cool and you just can't beat German engineering. I'd added some nice wheels and tires, but that was the extent of the modifications.
The car got a clean bill of health and I returned home. I needed some sleep since I was leaving on an 800-plus mile trip bright and early. I got everything set to go, put my bags on the couch and then turned in for the evening.
'Today is going to be a great day,' I remember thinking as I woke up the next morning. I packed everything in the car and headed to the gas-n-gulp to fill the tank and get some road munchies: pop-tarts to start, of course, and a couple bottles of my favorite beverage.
I popped my favorite Ozzy Osbourne CD in, cranked the volume, and made tracks south. This was going to be a vacation to remember. Only good things happen on vacation, right?
I’d never traveled too far out of my area before, so everything I was seeing was great. The mountains, the valleys, and even the miles of cornfields held some interest. Going through the occasional metropolis and the gridlock that went with it was slightly unnerving though. Crazy drivers, ya know.
When I came up on an accident scene, the highway patrol had the traffic detoured to a state road for a while. I found out that the scenery was better off the interstate. Hey, no problem, I figured. I had time for local scenery.
I must have missed my turn someplace and I noticed it just about the time my car started acting up. I heard a knocking noise from somewhere under the hood that started off lightly, but got louder.
"FUCKIN' GREAT!!!" I yelled, as I punched the steering wheel.
I was surrounded by miles of cornfields when the car finally told me it’d had enough. I coasted it to the side of the road and sat for a minute, taking stock. I was in the middle of nowhere, my cell was barely registering a signal, and I hadn't seen another car in over an hour.
'I'm screwed and barbecued,' I thought in that eery calm that comes just before panic. Wait, didn't I say something about only good things happening on vacation? I might need to rethink that.
Peeling off my seatbelt, I stepped out of the car and took a deep breath. I could see a crossroad just ahead of me with the road names on it, so at least I knew where I was at. I just hoped that the vultures circling overhead weren’t a sign of things to come.
I flipped my cell open and called information, getting the number for the tow company in this area. I dialed the number, and waited............... and waited. Just when I was about to get really agitated, someone finally picked up.
"Just Passing Thru," the guy answered.
"Hi, do you tow?" I have this thing for asking the obvious.
"Yes, we do. Where are you at now?" The tow guy asked.
I give him the names from the signs.
"I know that area; I can be there in about a half hour," tow guy stated. His voice was reassuringly calm and affable. I could feel myself settling a little.
"Sounds great. You can't miss me. I'm the only guy out here in a red BMW that has vultures circling." I had to be funny.
"Hehehe, All right, then. I'll be there shortly."
"Thank you." I hit 'end' and stuffed the phone in my pocket. With a sigh, I took a seat on the fender of the car to wait.
So there I sat, waiting for my fate to arrive.Next Chapter