He picks up his guitar by its neck, gently closing his fingers around it. Taking a seat on the floor, he begins to pluck the strings. His left hand remains in constant motion as he changes frets. The chords progress. He parts his lips to sing the songs he has heard so many times before – Newfound Mass, Pitseleh, Between Here and There — the words he listened to as he rode home on his skateboard from high school everyday, the wind gently blowing the hair from his eyes and the leaves from their branches. As his voice reverberates from the walls of his apartment, he feels enlightenment, this music filling his heart in a way no woman ever could.
Dylan speaks about his life in subtle ways, mentioning his sergeant of a father and what little he remembers about Oregon. He never could be proud of being the artist that he is when living at home, too afraid of his father’s scornful eyes. Hiding in his room, he strained his voice to reach the screeching notes on Dashboard Confessional’s The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most, an album he lived inside for months, the words constantly cutting into him. The play button became the bruise that hurt but he pressed anyway. Every year that passed fueled his father’s anger more, for his son was not the all-star athlete he had once envisioned. In fact, Dylan was an artist in more ways than his father’s mind could comprehend. He was a writer, a painter, and a musician, and this pushed Dylan’s father over the edge. The more angry his father became, the more Dylan caved inside himself, turning to any substance that could take his mind out of his body, away from his life — marijuana, mushrooms, cocaine. He fell apart attempting to escape from his father’s picture of perfection. Eventually, his family thought it best to place him into a rehabilitation center, but told him not to call, that it was for the best if they were not involved in the process of his recovery. His mother visited, bringing photographs of what he was missing out on — birthdays and family outings – when all he wanted was his father’s approval, for his father to look into his autumn eyes and tell him he was proud. However, he never received pride from the man that raised him to fail at life and love.
When he checked himself out of rehab, Dylan enrolled at Oregon State University – anywhere to escape from his life at home – and took a position at a nearby Starbucks. Most days, he loved the hustle and bustle of the business, mixed with the stress of midterms and finals. He studied Art History while painting landscapes in acrylic from his dormitory window, and he wrote of the lovers he would learn to love and lose.
He met Autumn, the woman who became all of his firsts, believing he had found true love. When he was offered a position at a Starbucks in Vancouver, B.C., he transferred to Vancouver University, and the two of them decided to move to an apartment in the city. Every day they spent together was a dream come true for Dylan. They went to movies, holding hands throughout the hours, kissing in the darkness between scenes. He did not want to believe it could end as he wished he could marry her someday. In love, he walked the city streets naive to heartache. Never did he think that it would fail him: the hope, the love he kept inside his veins for only her. Strolling home from grocery shopping, his life fell apart around him. Within an alleyway, he witnessed the woman he loved kissing another lover goodbye. The affair that his ignorance hid from him opened his eyes, shock electrifying his bloodstream as he dropped his bags. Vegetables rolled upon the pavement, and he ran as far as he could from that alley and from the woman he once loved. When he confronted her days later, she confessed what he thought he had created out of paranoia, or jealousy, or both. She left him, alone, in the studio apartment, white walls still exhaling the faint aroma of fresh paint.
Now abandoned in an apartment large enough for a family, he placed an advertisement in the newspaper searching for a roommate. The interviews proved successful, as Aiden and Dylan hit it off right away. Aiden moved in shortly thereafter. With similar backgrounds, they could relate and found themselves staying up until all hours speaking of their pasts and screwed up families. However, through every conversation, Dylan never dreamt that his life would depend upon this best friend years later.
In the summer of 2006, he decided to finally deal with his past, looking back on his childhood memories, only to have the therapy lose its value with a car crash. At an intersection, Dylan traveled straight through a green light, and a car turned in front of him. Had he been driving a smaller car, his reaction time would have sufficed; however, he drove a large pick-up truck and hit the brakes only seconds too late. Slamming into the passenger side, his head whipped forward, metal crunching into metal, and his mind went black. When he awoke, he sat on a hospital bed, white sheets covering the bruises on his arms and legs, the scrapes upon his face. All he wanted was to leave as the news of the accident grew worse. Days after it happened, the passenger in the car passed away due to injuries from the impact. Automatically, the family of this woman assumed the accident was Dylan’s fault, going so far as to scream at him in his hospital room while he was half asleep. Eventually, Aiden told the hospital to release him because Dylan could not stand the yelling any longer. This family harassed him into nightmares. Every night, he replayed the scene, seeing the woman’s smiling face crushed beneath the weight of his pick-up truck. Guilt riddled him for months afterward. He spoke of his nightmares to his doctor, and his doctor prescribed him high dosages of antipsychotic medications, which he did not really need. A year went by, each day pulling him deeper into the numbness, burying itself in every vessel in his body and every synapse in his brain. He could not bear the anguish any longer, and he turned to drugs like he had so many times in the past. Only this time, the medication that was supposed to help him turned him insane when he mixed it with cocaine. The two drugs battled for attention inside his brain, so much so that his synapses could not handle the competition.
Hours passed until Aiden found him. His lips were turning blue, his skin was cold, and his pulse was shallow. However, he was still alive. The ambulance took him to the hospital, where they determined the mixture of high levels of antipsychotics and cocaine had driven him insane. They made him want to kill himself. The nurses told Aiden, had he gotten there forty-five minutes later, Dylan would not have survived. Dylan remained on suicide watch for the next two weeks, and they took him off of every medication he had been on previously, clearing his bloodstream of the poison that had infected him for far too long.
After his release, Dylan confessed that it felt strangely good to not be on any medications. Except now the feelings were real, and he had to deal with the accident, as the drugs had numbed him from experiencing it when it happened. However, he was happy to learn that this was the way in which he would get better, to learn how to deal with his anxieties on his own, without any medications.
Dylan remains optimistic about his future, excited for the possibilities life has in store for him. Fate has dealt him an unlucky hand thus far, but he speaks about being a cat with nine lives, this life being his seventh and hopefully his best. He says he will get better because he wants to, and he sees doctors and therapists weekly. The doctors monitor his brain to make sure no damage occurred with the suicide attempt, and the therapists work with him on dealing with his past as well as guilt from the accident. He plays guitar for his friends and has even started painting cityscapes again. When the time is right, he says he will be ready to embrace love, although now his main focus is his own happiness, and he becomes more confident that he will achieve it with every passing day.