• Kenneth Oray. I do not believe there is a person on this planet who is happier than Kenneth Oray. Every morning, Kenneth will, without doubt, find me at school, and pat me on the shoulder, asking, "How's you're morning going, Orson?" And, each morning, without fail, I answer, "Acceptably," as if that were the truth. I have become adept at hiding my emotions, so much so that many cannot see the hurt inside. Many do not see my subtle facial expressions or my tears as I fight the war inside myself. Many only see my outer shell. Kenneth only sees my smile as I reply, each morning, undoubtedly, "Acceptably." Each time I say this, he smiles and his eyes light up. It would seem that he lives just to open his eyes in the morning. It would seem that he has much to live for. I, however, do not.

    It is May 30, 2008, and I am standing in my bedroom, doors shut and windows closed, staring at my phone. As I sit in the small glow cast by the night light in the corner, I am awaiting a call from one Kristen Redmont. I have had a crush on her for almost half a year, and I have asked her out five times. She has said no to each one. Only recently has she begun speaking to me as a friend. Yet, when I hear her voice shake as she speaks, I can hear the emotion dripping to the floor. It makes me nervous.

    As I await her call, I can't help but wonder, "Is this really all worth it? She may have changed her mind..." Deep down, I desperately hope that this is not the case.

    "Hey, man!" Kenneth says, smiling at me. I simply nod my head, smiling weakly as he pats my shoulder, as he has done for so many mornings in the past. "How's your morning going?" he asks, smiling wider.

    "Acceptably," I reply, falling into my daily routine.

    "Wonderful!" he exclaims, smiling at me. I smile back, the familiar screaming ringing in my ears as I hold back the tears.

    It is February 17, 2008, and I sit in a classroom, listening to our Kinesiology professor speak about nothing. He does not teach. He simply reiterates what he finds in the textbook. I silently doubt whether or not he is actually qualified to teach, and from the solemn expressions on my fellow classmates' faces, I can tell that they are fighting the same battle within their heads. As the teacher drones on, Kristen passes the door leading to the hallway. As I see her, she smiles and waves slightly, continuing to walk down the hallway.

    After class, as I look around for her Kenneth walks out of the classroom and spies me. "Hey, man!" he shouts in his low, cheery voice. I turn and smile. I am unafraid to show emotion. I am still alive, vibrant, full of life. "Lookin' for Kristen?" he asks, laughing slightly. He knows how I feel about Kristen, and he, more than likely, saw her wave to me in class.

    "And what if I am?" I ask him, faking indignation.

    "Well... she's, uh..." he begins, raising a finger. Suddenly, I writhe in laughter as her fingers begin to tickle my sides. I protest, saying, "Stop, stop!!" But she does not stop. I finally turn around, smiling evilly, and begin to tickle her as well. It is strange. I have only known her for a month, and already we are engaging in such intimate contact. I ignore the warning in my mind, continuing to tickle her as I smile and laugh. Kenneth rolls his eyes, walking away without another word. I swear I can hear him say, "Love is in the air," as he continues to stroll away.

    As Kenneth walks off, the loneliness begins to sink in anew. However, just as the strands of darkness cling to my soul, I spot a familiar face wading through the hundred faces of the crowded hallway. It is Nathan Welbourne, another friend of mine. He walks slowly towards me, sighing loudly as he reaches me, almost as if walking to me was a chore. "Dude..." he begins, sighing again, "That new math course they have me taking... Jesus..." He runs his hand through his short, blonde hair, exhaling again.

    "Is it really that bad?" I ask, trying to express interest. I have none. I only feel torture.

    "You have no idea..." he says, laughing. I smile weakly at his expression, which is one of utter annoyance. With whom or what is truly only a mystery, but I assume it is frustration with the school board that he is expressing. In truth, he may be expressing annoyance at my questioning. I do not know. With that, he walks off, slowly, saying, "I'll see you at lunch." I simply nod in response and walk off.

    It is December 31, 2008, and I am lying beside Kristen, staring at the ceiling. We have taken to doing this often, just staring at the ceiling. I am not sure why. Perhaps it is because we enjoy the weight and warmth of the other's body next to our own... perhaps it is because we do not know what else to do. We have been dating for six months now, and we are content. I smile at her, and she smiles back, seeming to light the room with her smile. I roll over on my side, kissing her gently, and stroking her hair lightly. As I pull away, she brings me closer, whispering, "Don't... don't go..." I whisper that I will not, and she seems to relax. I fall into her waiting arms, simply kissing her cheek softly, and continuing to stare at the ceiling. "I love you," she whispers, as if it were a secret kept only between the two of us, "And... I always will," she finishes, as an ultimatum. As she lies to me, and I to her, the clock strikes midnight, and the New Year begins. We seal our old year with a kiss, leaving it behind us. Little did we know we left our feelings as well.

    As I walk through the halls to my next class, I cannot help but wonder: Why is man like this? Why does man make promises he knows he cannot keep? Why does a man lie? Is it out of fear that one tries to deceive the truth? Is it out of malice? Or stupidity? I am unsure. I simply resign it to the greater category of life's unanswered questions and continue my stroll. I can see her sitting on the wall further down the hall, surrounded by friends. They laugh and smile, and as she looks my way, I catch a glimpse of the girl I used to love... but it fades quickly, replaced by a cold, unfeeling face. Almost as unfeeling and cold as my own.

    It is October 25, 2008, and I sit next to Kristen on a blanket in the middle of a lightly wooded field, atop a hill covered in green grass. As we eat, she says, "I've been thinking... and... I know, it's only been half a year, but... I don't think I want this to end." I smile at her, explaining that I don't want our relationship to end, either. She comments that I have an unmatched way with words, and I smile. As I lean over and kiss her, she smiles, too. "So, it's settled?" she asks. I say yes. "Then... we're gonna get... married?" she asks. I nod, feeling an overwhelming since of joy. Little do I know that I am simply caught up in the moment, relieved to have found someone in the world who will accept me for me. Little do I know that I am making a one of the most reckless decisions I have made in my life. I would not dream that things would go wrong... I would only think that she was the one. Yet, as it stands, I simply smile, and begin to refer to her as my fiancee.

    As we stare at each other, I can feel the urge to scream well up inside me, but I repress it due to the fact that our school, full of three hundred other students, is nestled snugly in one hallway, therefore I must control my emotions to avoid drawing unnecessary attention. And so, I continue my trek towards my Physics class, ignoring her as I pass. I can briefly see her smile and wave at me, as a show for her friends, but I simply walk by, staring forward.

    It is July 25, 2009. and I am at Roy Welbourne's house. I have known Roy for five years. He smiles at me as I reach the door and knock, waiting for him to come forward. He arrives at the door, opening it, and smiling. There is a woman by his side. I smile at both of them and enter the house. It takes all of my energy to keep from bursting into tears as I see the happiness on each of their faces. I blink at both of them and smile, a hollow, unfeeling gesture of friendship towards the both of them. She has already left me. And so, I drove two hundred miles, without a map, to my hometown, to see the only living human beings who can make me forget my sorrow. Roy is the first of the many that I have come to see, and he does an adequate job of lifting my mood as he rants about various objects and sings about random subjects. All the while, however, he glances lovingly at the woman who was over with him. I can see the love in the air between them, and it is stifling. I can only watch as they mirror what Kristen and I did so many times over the thirteen months that we were together. I smile, feeling uncomfortable, and fight back tears, for I know that this will last for as long as she is around... and I don't know what else to do. I am alone.

    Three days later, I call Tom Ouray, a friend I have known for eleven years, since we were in first grade, and ask if he is still in town. He is not. As he explains to me his situation, I smile at the phone, as if it were something from another galaxy. He then finishes, saying, "But I truly am sorry, dude... that has to suck. But, hey... Listen..." He took a deep breath, and I could hear a nervous laugh escape his lips as he said the four words that I had been waiting to hear for so long. "You can do better."

    Later that day, I am driving to Jake Greene's house, another friend I have known since first grade. As I pull into his driveway, I am greeted by a familiar smile as he opens the door to greet me. I smile, shaking his outstretched hand. As I walk inside the same house I have visited for so long, I can't help but feel a sense of nostalgia. We sit around, talking and playing our guitars until early the next morning, and do not regret it. We only regret the fact that today is the day that I leave my hometown once more, to migrate back to my current residence, to confront the hurt of the reality of life.

    After I pass her, I can hear someone call my name. As I turn around, I can see Kristen standing up and walking towards me. I simply smile and await her first sentence. As she reaches me, she asks how my morning has been.

    "Acceptable," I say, smiling at her. "And you? How are you feeling?"

    She smiles at the first question, but frowns at the second. Without answering my inquiry, she simply walks away, her friends casting angry glares in my direction, following her. A single tear falls down my cheek, and I am sad, because in my mind,

    It is still May 30, 2008, and as I pick up my ringing phone, glancing briefly at the blinking picture of Kristen, I am greeted by three simple words. Words that I have been dying to hear for months. "I love you, Orson... I love you."

    Characters and their "Actors" or the people who influenced me (Last names omitted due to request. Oh well, you know who you are.):

    Orson Ardnt: Ethan
    Jake Greene: Austin
    Kristen Redmont: Meghan
    Roy Welbourne: Christian
    Nathan Welbourne: Trey
    Rena Lander: Jade
    Kenneth Oray: Juan
    Tom Ouray: Kevin