Tyler thought that he loved dark alleys, singers who only smoked weed and drank until they couldn’t even remember their last performance. Tyler followed the singers’ example, drinking until he couldn’t even remember his last performance. Hell, he didn’t remember his last name, nor had he ever wanted to remember his parents. What the hell was wrong with them, anyway? He only knew how to fight because that was all they ever did. He thought that he loved to fight, but that was when he only knew hate.

“Dammit, Tyler!” his mother yelled. “Tell your father to clean up his shit before you go to school! There’s alcohol all over the stairs!”

“Tyler, whenever your mother’s angry, turn up your radio!” Tyler’s dad said, tripping over the bottles that lay on the flight of stairs that sloped only three feet high.

“That’s all you’ve ever done!” Tyler’s mother shouted, flinging paper towels and guns off of the floor.

This was what Tyler came home to until it was all like a broken television set. His
parents’ relationship was like his relationship with his English books. He should have read them, but he never needed them. So he refused to read them, but somehow, he got by. Maybe he didn’t get very far without them. Did it matter? He knew that he had skill. He knew that all he wanted to do was write songs, not stories. All he wanted from his parents was to know that he wasn’t totally hated. He tried to tell himself that he wasn’t totally hated, because he was wanted. His mother wanted him to clean up after his father. His father wanted him to disobey his mother. So he knew what they wanted, but he also knew that they didn’t need him. He was an object of their hatred toward each other. Everyone knows that you have to throw a garbage bag somewhere when you’re sick of the mess. So he hopped on his motor cycle to meet his fellow music warriors.

“Hey, man! Nice motorcycle!” they said when he showed up ten minutes late with a black Harley.

“Thanks! It’s my dad’s, but he’s not going to remember it tomorrow.”

Tyler flipped his keys on a cross-bone keychain until it broke off like the ties between him and his parents. Bending down with skin-tight black pants and a black shirt that seemed glued to his fully-defined ribs, he felt his lungs pound. His face flamed up when he noticed a curly-haired brunette with a blue Aeropostale t-shirt and light-blue jeans pass his motorcycle and walk up to him. What a steady pace. What organized steps. She must be a dancer, Tyler thought.

When her soft blue eyes met his dark brown eyes, the color didn’t seem to matter. He felt light. The girl did not look like lust to Tyler, though the football players saw her that way. They wanted to grab ass. But she illuminated too much brilliant innocence that it was intimidating, sacred even. She was the apple that Tyler dare not touch. If an atheist had one moment to believe in God, this would be Tyler’s moment.

“Hey, are you okay?” the girl asked in a musical voice.

Am I okay? Tyler thought to himself. He felt as though he had been in both heaven and hell. He was in heaven just by hearing the one question that he hadn’t been asked, not after failing his English class just because he only wanted to write songs, not stories. But he had also been in hell because his eyeliner now smeared all over his eyes like the lines of hate he heard at home. They were smeared, and no one cleaned them up. That was his job. It had always been his job. His friends never noticed.

For seconds, he just looked at the girl, no longer hearing his friends beg him to pick up his guitar. He looked around. Five feet ahead, they paid no attention to him. They just laughed, raising their instruments in the air. To Tyler, they faded with Satan in this moment. They never needed him. He wondered if he ever needed them. They played so well together, making music for fake love, but he could not remember that love. Even if he had known love, he doubted it would look like the love from this girl. Being with this girl felt different. Being with this girl made Tyler want to pay attention in English, because he needed to know how to use words. Being with this girl made Tyler want to write a story.

“Do I look okay?” Tyler asked, still staring into the girl’s curious eyes.

She took a tissue out of her pocket and gently dabbed at the eyeliner. Tyler’s eyes were now plain, but they were clean, free of the dark hate that surrounded them. Tyler shook from the uncomfortable comfort by this gesture. He could trust her.

“You look hurt, but can I make it better?” she said. “I know that we’ve never talked, but my name’s Angel. I’m in your English class.”

Tyler just smiled, showing his teeth for the first time sober. He would never forget that name. He would never forget how it made him forget drunken nights with a crowd that would only remember him for drunken performances. He would never forget how he saw himself as someone who would finally let love overrule hate. He would never forget how he had to be broken to find love.

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