Prologue

Click! Take a photo. Snap! Done. Now move onto the next one. After all, a picture's worth a thousand words, right? So what would several pictures be? Three-thousand words? Five-thousand? A million? It doesn't matter. They're just words.

Everyone sees it. We all see the photo, the filmy surface. The mask. But that's just it. It's only a mask, a guise to hide ourselves. It's not real, not life, not us. Very few people can read a picture right. Even fewer ever try. They see what they want to see; a photo shopped face, an elastic smile.

What are the words even saying? What kind of story is buried beneath the façade? What kinds of people exist there? Who are they?

Who am I?

What do these pictures say about me, about who I was? Knowing me, you'd probably expect the typical answer that you would have gotten at any point after the accident. Fear and anger and hate… That's all I knew, all I could feel for so long. But at that time, in those photographs, everything was okay. I was good, I was happy, I was loved. And then it all just fell.

And who's to say whether or not we made the right choices. Who chooses how everything falls into place? I don't believe in God, but there must be someone or something making these decisions. They say you're in charge of your own future, but I don't believe that. I never wanted this to happen. But back then I didn't care. Whatever got me through the day was what worked for me.

I was only thirteen when it all collapsed. I guess you could blame me. After all, they were only out so they could pick me up from school. I was always in trouble. Most teachers hated me, students applauded me. Maybe that's why I played the devil's advocate. I did the opposite of what everyone wanted, what they expected, me to do even if I didn't agree with it. I played both sides and argued every point just to get under someone's skin.

I was good at it. I was in control of every situation. You couldn't beat me. It's not like I hated school. That's not why I acted out. Honestly, I loved it. I was brilliant. By the time I turned thirteen, I was a sophomore in high school. Unfortunately, being a genius wasn't enough. I had to step up or risk getting crushed. That school was ruthless. But I tried, I did the work. I think that's the only reason I wasn't kicked out of that school all the times I should have been. Not all the teachers hated me. Most of them didn't look past my phony exterior, didn't even try. But some of them realized it was just an act. They looked at my work and saw my potential and they fought for me. I'll never forget them.

Everything broke. What was I supposed to do then? How was I supposed to act or feel? Everyone looks at you and tells you the hurting will end, that you'll get over it eventually… But you never really do. The pain never goes away. Even now as I sit here, wondering where he disappeared to, I can feel the old familiar aching that I had pushed down for so long. Being here, being with him, I thought I was finally coming out of it. I guess not.

Maybe I made the wrong choices, or said the wrong things. I did what was needed to survive, to keep myself happy. In the end, I survived. But at the same time I lost myself. I always made sure I kept my distance from everyone. I couldn't risk getting hurt again. Being alone and afraid like that… You can't call that living. It's just barely making it through.

Where did he go? He just left without so much as a goodbye… Don't I deserve at least that much? No, I suppose I don't.

How did I let things get this far? It all used to be so easy. And as I sit here in the rain, I can't help but wonder… Where did this all start? Maybe it's time I figure it out.