About two years ago I moved to Denver, trying to escape the hum drum small town life of South Park. I planned on running away from that upside down town years before that, but having a dad with a drinking problem and a mom with no credible job makes it hard to get in to any college other than South Park Community. I spent my years there studying business, learning everything I could about managing people and using my indifference to other's opinions to my advantage; I knew I would make one hell of a boss—commanding my peons and not giving a shit if they called me a dick behind my back. I knew I was a dick. I embraced it.

I used my "I'm a dick" philosophy to get me through college. Whenever anyone asked, "Hey, we're going to this boss-ass party, you down?" I would give them a menacing glare, tell them to fuck off, and continue pouring over my books. This gave me quite a reputation, but I didn't give a shit—I was, and still am, a dick.

College life was boring, I went to class, studied, ate, had a few boring relationships, and eventually graduated with honors; college life was easy. No real relationships, one night stands mostly; girls can't put up with assholes too long. Also, I was never necessarily "in to" any of the women I slept with. It was just something to do to pass the time.

Friends came and went, no one sticking by me, no bros to hang out with at the end of the day, just myself and my school work. My best friend from high school was off in some art school in Denver and even though I cheered him on, I missed him every minute of every day. He was the only one I could tolerate and who tolerated me in return. Not really a lot to build a friendship off of, but when no one else can stand being around you too long, the mutual feeling is comforting. I missed his refreshing, shy smile. I missed his paranoid tendencies and delusions. I missed the smell of coffee.

Thinking of him and his absence every day made me a little insane. On my graduation day, I nodded to my sleeping father and disinterested mother in the audience, hopped in my car, and drove straight to Denver. Not like I need a U-Haul for clothes and my guinea pig Spot.

My first day in Denver I invested most of my savings on an apartment in a small building on a busy street, my landlord allowing me to pay her in advance for the first three months until I found a job. I unpacked all my things and went scavenging thrift stores for furniture. None of it matched, but it only cost twenty bucks for a dresser and bed frame, so I'm not complaining.

The next day I applied to every company I could find, from big banks to small fast-food chains; I wanted a job and I'd suck someone's dick to get it. I needed to stay in Denver and minimum wage slave labor was not going to cut it. By the time I had gotten back to the apartment my only suit was covered in sweat and city grime, but my hard work paid off. I had five interviews and three job offers in the next month, each one better than the next. Seemed like companies were looking for fresh, newly educated faces to add a spark to their production and I had that face. I took the highest salary at Western Union, which was a Human Resources position handling their customer service representatives. Perfect.

The job was easy, handling people is easy. Everyone needs to be told what to do and when to do it and I'm the guy that does it. But, easy gets boring after a while and the fast-paced city life slows to a meager crawl. That "fresh face" garbage and nice pay lured me in and now I'm stuck. I spend most of my days bouncing a small red ball off of the wall next to my desk, trying to keep my mind active. There's a small grey area in the white paint where the ball has hit so many times it's revealed the dry wall. People rarely come in my office and the only meetings I've been to have been about how we don't have the money to keep all of our staff, so we decide what temps we want to fire.

Welcome to my middle aged mediocrity. Where failure is noticed more than success and success is rewarded with more work and more responsibilities for the same pay. It makes me wonder why I wanted to leave my small town to begin with. I feel like an old man and I'm only 26.

"Craig." My boss taps at my door and I don't even pretend to look interested. My chair, still reclined, faces the wall with the growing grey spot. My boss eyes the spot idly, "We really need to paint over that." Then turns to me, "Do you have the customer service surveys compiled? I need the percentages by 2 p.m..."

I look at my clock, its 10 a.m. You see, we have these surveys customers complete after a phone call with our representatives. After a week the ratings of the surveys go to HR, which then get funneled down to me for me to compile together and evaluate. What do customers think are good? Bad? What can we improve to make the customer's experience more enjoyable? Who has the lowest score? Highest? What factors contributed to those scores? It's like an open book quiz, but they give me a week to complete it and for those seven days that's my only task. I completed the recap six days ago.

I lazily reach in to my desk drawer, it's empty except for a thick binder with "Customer Service Surveys—10/02-10/08". Each week gets its own binder. The binder is heavy and when I hand it to him, the poor guy struggles under its weight. He grunts thanks at me, and continues in the direction he was going.

I pick up my small red ball and restart my wall demolition. Now, I wait for next week to begin. This has been my life for two years, the same thing almost every day, sans a call from my mom asking me how my life has been going and calls from my boss telling me I'm down right OK. I don't do anything impressive, and I'm sure as hell not trying anything new to get me fired. One day they'll realize I'm useless, but hopefully when that day comes I'll have gained enough seniority in the company they'll just transfer me instead.

It wasn't until a month later that my life became interesting. My boss came to me and told me that I'll be attending five meetings every week, each meeting would be five hours long and I would take the minutes. I agreed and took the binder entitled, "Meeting Minutes—HR" out of his shaking hand. What had I done well to deserve this? I sighed and threw my new responsibility in to my desk's second drawer.

My first meeting was a mild success. Although I have only studied how to take minutes, I was able to follow everyone's opinions and keep track of decisions. This was only because they repeated themselves so many times it was unbearable. After a while, all of the discussions and decisions looped around one another and the whole page seemed like I'd copied the first part over and over.

"So, what do you think Craig?" I shot my head up from my page, my doodle of Spot left unfinished.

"What do I think about…?" I hadn't been paying attention.

The man sighed impatiently, "What do you think about changing up our menu? Changing the number choices and make it easier to navigate?" He had a glimmer in his eye, like this was a new idea. By menu, he meant in the phone tree when customers call in about their bank account with Western Union. I regurgitated the same rebuttal someone earlier had used on a similar topic to change what the options say.

"I believe that to be a horrible idea, our regular customer base would be more confused and angry and we don't want to lose valuable customers because of such a simple thing." The man nodded, seemingly satisfied with my answer.

"OK, so, how do we make it more interesting for our long-time customers?" And so the meeting ensued and I wrote down the new topic; only four more hours to go and I can go home to my guinea pig.

After the meeting I was drained. I had to do this four more times this week? I'd have to bring a pillow. I gave myself an early day, but no one noticed the paper pusher with his own scarcely-decorated office.

Out on the street I felt like I could breathe again. I took a deep breath of city air and took a glance around me; it was only 4 p.m., most businesses don't release people until 6 p.m. around here, so the street was bare. I took this luxury and made my gait nice and slow, not bothering to keep up with the quick feet of Denver. I usually just stare at my feet and ignore anyone passing by, but today I was able to look around. It was a typical city block—way too many businesses and badly parallel parked cars to be classy like 5th Avenue or anything like that. But, there was one thing that was odd; bright pink, green and blue papers were plastered over every surface. Surely I would have noticed such assaults to my senses.

I plucked one of them off of a nearby light pole. "The Art Institutes Presents: Coffee and Cardigans – An exhibition from one of our top graduates! Come meet the artist and view his unique works! Gallery opens from 12 p.m. – 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Auction will be held at 10 p.m. on Saturday"

Coffee and Cardigans? Fucking hipsters, even their titles are self-entitled. But, seeing coffee on the flyer… It reminded me of my best friend. Still, even now, I think about him whenever the coffee maker comes on in the office. Sometimes I find myself lingering in the break room too long, basking in the scent. I dream of his slender fingers sliding gracefully over full cups of coffee. His full lips gently blowing the steam away from the top, his eyes watching me, wary of my staring; they were filled with such curiosity and they dragged me in.

That same curiosity pulled me now. There was a note saying the artist would be there every night of the gallery. My heart clenched in my chest, if he's the artist, if I could see him again, just for a second, maybe I'll stop being so insane. I want to talk to him again, listen to his voice stutter through his short sentences. Feel those eyes on me, one more time.

I looked at the address, I knew where that gallery was; it was one block down from my apartment's street. I passed it once in a while when foot traffic was heavy and I needed a less crowded route home. It was a small building with a rent an art school could afford I'm sure.

Walking a bit too fast I made my way to the gallery. This was the most excitement I've experienced in a while. I could feel the spring in my step I was that giddy, I needed to calm down. I ducked in to the nearest Starbucks and ordered myself a Grande coffee, black, the strongest stuff they had. I tucked it under my arm and enjoyed the smell of it the rest of my journey. This was his favorite, so it was mine too.

The door to the gallery was wooden with old brass handles. My hands were suddenly too heavy. I couldn't do it. My nerves froze me in place. How long has it been since I've seen him? Holy shit, it's been six years. Would he remember me? Would I remember him? I'm sure he's not blonde anymore, going to art school and shit… Probably blue like the rest of the artsy types. And I'm not as short and scrawny as I used to be. I was a good 6"4' now and my work as a gym, I'm pretty impressive. I don't even have a blue chullo anymore, how is he going to know it was me? Maybe I could scowl? No, then he'll be too afraid to approach me. Maybe I should look welcoming? No... He'd still be too afraid.

Oh Jesus, Craig Tucker, get a fucking hold of yourself. It's just an art gallery. It's probably not him, probably just some artsy hipster with a coffee problem. Did he ever wear a cardigan? Dammit I don't remember. I can only think about those fingers…

Getting frustrated with myself, I took both hands; coffee tucked safely under my arm, and pushed the door open. Inside the gallery was white, bright white, but you could barely tell with all the bodies. It was suddenly way too warm for a winter coat and a hot coffee. I quickly checked my coat in and bought a ticket.

"Hey," I asked the girl in the front, who was staring intently at her computer and playing with a number two pencil. I doubted she's looked at a customer all night. "Is the artist here yet?" She shrugged, lazily moving her eyes to me. Here it comes.

The girl stiffens and sits straight up, her pencil rolling off of her desk. Her face is flushed and her eyes grow three times their size. I know I look damned good in a suit, but she's kind of over reacting, like every other girl. I watch her adjust her top to show more superfluous cleavage. She clears her throat.

"Ummm," She's still wide eyed; not nearly as cute at my wide-eyed addict. "No, but, um, I'm sure he'll be back by 8. He mumbled something about being under a lot of pressure and left about an hour ago." Alright Ms. More-information-than-I-needed…

I thanked her and walked in to the gallery, being 100% more nervous. She just confirmed he was the artist. My little obsession was the one who created the dozens of pieces around me. I take my time and look at each one. The colors and media range, but none of them are of concrete objects. All of them look like thoughts, feelings, fleeting emotions… There's some about rage, depression, loneliness. They make me stare, mouth agape, amazed that his art gives off anything other than, "Oh, hey, look at that paint on that paper. Awesome."

I'm absorbed in one entitled "BC", assuming it meant Before Christ, only the colors in it were blue and yellow, with a bit of black on the bottom. The splatters were carefully placed, dripped, in a circular pattern. Blue mainly, but yellow sprouted on the top of the blue circle, almost like a little poof ball. I don't understand how on earth this could be religious, so I move on.

Every piece was beautiful. I had no idea he was so talented, I just wanted to stare at the paintings all day. It's hard to keep time inside the gallery, so by the time I looked at my watch it was 7:56 p.m. My stomach was doing small little flips; I could feel my nervousness bubble up to my throat—oh God, I'm going to hurl. I whipped around from the current painting entitled, "Espresso" and looked for the nearest restroom.

In my frantic searching, I found a glimpse of bright blonde hair. My breath caught—bathroom forgotten. The crowd swarmed around him, I could hear their praise from where I was standing. I didn't dare move one inch closer, my feet were glued to that tile floor.

The crowd broke, and I realized the man singing him with praises gestured to the painting behind me. I watched the old man's hand wave over and swing in the direction of the canvas. The crowd broke apart so the small tuft could see what the rich old bastard was waving his arms at.

His eyes weren't bugged out; they were in a calm, half-lidded state. The bags under his eyes were light, not as deep as they used to be. His skin was still the flawless pale I remember it, and he was just as thin. His slender forearms poked out from under a long-sleeved brown cardigan pushed up to his shoulders. His shirt under was a cream color with a deep V and a picture of an old coffee ad poked up from the V his cardigan made. His pants were a dark blue with a light acid wash and he had on some trendy form of sneakers. I took this all in in a second, because as soon as our eyes met, it all went to hell.

I watched his eyes bug out, he grabbed his cardigan at the buttons and tugged; I watched as the fabric stretched under his beautiful fingers. His mouth opened, teeth clenched, as he squeaked out a nervous sound. His feet went pigeon toed and I saw him shake violently once, twice…

I did the only thing I could think of—I put my coffee down, put my hands in my pockets, and walked away. I heard him squeak behind me, but I didn't turn around. I'm not ready to talk to him yet. Seeing him was plenty.

I left as quickly as I came. I grabbed my coat and walked home to my guinea pig. The walk was quiet and I was able to recollect my thoughts. I remembered everything, from the curve of his neck to his posture; I had it burned in to my subconscious. That would hold me for a while. Nothing like one good hit.

About two years ago I moved to Denver in a futile attempt to escape the hum drum small town life of South Park, and it seems like it's trying to draw me back in.