††††††††††† I followed the trail back down to my childhood. It wasnít as well marked as I remembered. At the base of the hill, when I had reached the stream, I realized why that was. The trail had been left to nature, plants had overgrown it until all that was left was a rut in the ground, if I was lucky. But I wasnít in the mood to hike back up the side of a mountain, so I pressed forward.

††††††††††† I remembered the first time I had come down this path. I was probably thirteen at the time, and I was following the lead of my friend Kevin. Ė Kevin died the night before his twenty-first birthday when he hit his head while stage-diving. Ė With us also, was Jared. Jared was AustralianÖ or maybe he was from New Zealand, come to think of it. At that age, I had little concept of the fact that New Zealand was its own country, and not just some vacation spot for Australians. I have no idea what happened to Jared; havenít seen him in years.

††††††††††† I had come searching for my childhood in part because I needed the exercise, but more so because I needed to get the hell out of my house for a while. Relationship and career troubles combined with too familiar walls had me going stir-crazy. Maybe I shouldnít have quit my anti-depressants cold-turkey, without consulting my doctor. Nah, thatís too easy an answer. Besides, who wouldnít be going a bit batty when their ex-girlfriend was doing the many annoying things that mine was?

††††††††††† Perhaps it wouldnít be so bad if I didnít see her so often. She lives hundreds of miles away, yet I see her every day, online. Ė Iím a bit of a geek; so is just about everyone I know. Ė But even that wouldnít be so bad if I didnít get to see guys who are local to her, coming on to her. Then she wonders whatís up my ass when I remove myself from it. Am I supposed to stand by and watch as she moves on? Does she expect me to help her find a new boyfriend? How much is enough to make her happy?

††††††††††† Sorry, darliní, I donít have any particular need to watch you getting it on with some guy. I donít need to watch you bare your tits to all, offer pity fucks to people I donít like anyway, get drunk and stoned, or just generally make a mess of your life. And I donít think you have the right to be pissed at me for that.

††††††††††† Maybe it would be different if I had moved on, as well. But I havenít. I didnít want to break up, even though I was the one who said it. After months of her giving me ultimatums, I felt it was time to give her what she wanted; not me. To talk to her, youíd think that she wanted me. We had about the best relationship Iíve ever heard of. We completed each otherís thoughts, we cared for each other, looked after each other, backed each other upÖ But then there are the times when sheíll just snap, and no matter what you do its fucking wrong. Canít walk, canít drive, canít speak. Sometimes sheíll admit that she knows she does it. Usually, though, its your own damn fault.


††††††††††† So a few weeks ago, there was this major change in the structure of my friendship tree. This place we usually hang out was great, until our old boss showed up one day. So my ex flips out; quite appropriately, if you ask me. But the bossís old roommate, John, tells us to shove off if we donít want to deal with him. Now I had been having some minor issues with John at this point, so I was more than willing to move on. I backed her up, and we moved to a new spot. Within hours, though, she was already willing to forgive John. Days later, it was all forgotten. I doubt she even remembers that it was John who made us leave, not the ex boss.

††††††††††† Sheís always favored John, though. When she moved, she was very enthusiastic about the career options where she was going. For my field, thereís pretty much a negative unemployment rate. She was so enthusiastic about this, that she spent weeks telling John he should move up there and get a job. She never mentioned that I should move up there, thoughÖ And we were dating at the time.

††††††††††† After she had moved, she laid this bomb on me, thoughÖ Why hadnít I wanted to move up there with her? Well, frankly, she knew why. I was in school at the time, with one quarter left to go on my Bachelorís degree. I wanted to move, but I couldnít do it. Not for a couple months, anyway. So there was really never a point for me to suggest it.

††††††††††† Would you like me to move up there with you? Oh, well thatís too bad, because I canít.

††††††††††† She still talks about how John should move up there, never me. John was also the one she was offering the pity fucks. Even after Iíd convinced her there wasnít really much about Johnís sex life that she needed to pity, she still offered a couple times.


††††††††††† Paradise Falls would be more of a paradise if it werenít for all the algae, I think. A gentle stream falls Ė trickles really Ė about twenty feet into a shallow green pool of water, covered with a layer of pale green goo. I knew it was never really much to look at, but I seem to recall it being a bit more attractive than this. I suppose thatís part of reminiscing; things are never as good as you remember them to be.

††††††††††† I didnít even stop, I just turned back. Turning up what I thought would be a nice gentle incline, I found myself sitting in the shade next to Indian Creek. Ė Now thereís a PC name if Iíve ever heard one. Ė I finally got my place to rest and think, and the gnats got someone to harass. I thought about all the things that had bothered me about my ex, all the things I wanted to tell her, but they were either too old or just hadnít been worth the argument. It was then that I had my realization.

††††††††††† I didnít need to find clarity, I already had clarity. I needed to find a girlfriend who wouldnít play mind games with me, then turn and complain about people playing mind games. Ė Isnít that always the way? Ė A girl who wouldnít insult me, flaunt her opportunities in front of me, or get pissed off when I try to protect myself. Of course the problem is that I still want my ex. Frankly, I can see myself married to her. But for that to happen, sheíd have to change and Iíd have to change, and I donít know how likely that is.

††††††††††† Sheís very big on the idea of me changing, but her thoughts on herself changing I think can be summed up with two words: ďFuck off!Ē


††††††††††† So, now Iím looking forward to a nice soak in the bathtub. Maybe Iíll get drunk tonight. I have vague plans about meeting some nice girl, but I know that Iím not likely to put myself in a situation where Iíll meet one for a while. I think Iím all right with that, just as long as I donít have to watch my ex flirt anymore.

††††††††††† Enough bullshit, I need a bath.