Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now) by Phil Collins

The following contains some very harsh truths that could be triggering for some, including discussion of suicide. If this seems upsetting, you might want to consider a different story.

You might recall a few songs ago that, as a teenager, I had not learned how to process my feelings when I was a teenager.

I say that because it’s an important plot point for what’s about to come. And it starts like this: The onzaine had shifted. One long-time couple rather suddenly broke up, with one starting to date another within the group. Yes, awkward, to say the least … it also affected me because the new couple included the person whom I had secret infatuation.

But things got more complicated. Because that’s what high school and emerging emotion does, apparently. (I sit, today, as the father of two teenagers, mildly terrified of what they’re going through and trying to be as supportive as I can be without smothering them, because of what’s about to happen.) I found myself falling for another in the onzaine, recently left single.

Yeah, I know, you’re currently screaming at the screen: “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?! STOP!!” I know. Believe me, hindsight is one of the most painful lenses you’ll ever wield. And hindsight is utterly useless when you’re mired in the situation.

The situation? I wasn’t the only single guy in the onzaine. And one of my best friends was “the other guy”.

Yes, “other”. As in, “not the most likely” or “the alternative choice”. This was the bullshit floating through my head. Thank you, popular culture feeding me lies about how someone’s affections can be won. As if it’s a game, a contest, a fucking prize. Effectively objectifying someone into a goal. (This, incidentally, is not a lesson I would learn until over a decade later.)

I was in the midst of raging and confused desire. And didn’t have a single fucking clue how to manage it.

How bad did it get? Holy fuck, bad. Really bad. (Honestly, if you’re still reading and think you might not like how this turns out – though, spoiler alert, no harm done and I lived – now is the time to go read something else.)

I don’t remember if I ever had a heart-to-heart. I don’t think I did, at least not with her. (I might have had one with another of the onzaine, I vaguely remember being admonished for being an idiot, though in much kinder terms.)

Then I committed the heinous sin of the “pity me” soundtrack. Yep, I did that. Holy fuck, of all the stupid things I’ve done, this is still waaaay up there on the list of “are you fucking kidding me?!” things.

Pity me. Oh my god, I’m the most unfortunate creature to have ever existed on this planet. Please reconsider.

What inhumane utter freak would do this to someone else?!


Sigh. Yep, I was “that guy”. I did things that I now look back on and, for a brief moment, believe it was someone else. Because I can believe it wasn’t me. But it was. And, my gods, what a monster I had become.

Top of the order for that soundtrack? Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now) by Phil Collins. To this day, I am still haunted by this song. As much as I would like to pretend that this chapter in my life didn’t exist, it’s there, plainly obvious.

So, yes, it’s in my soundtrack. Because soundtracks aren’t all about happy times, they have to reflect the pain, too.

At some point, not too long after, it became painfully clear to me that I wasn’t the choice (which, by the way, correct phrasing, because that’s what it is). So I went shopping. With “the winner” (my phrasing, however stupid it remains, but it is the truth of how I saw it).

I bought Paul Simon’s Rhythm of the Saints. (We both loved music.) And I avoided the fucking topic all night, the one I knew I had to be at least enough of a decent human being to address. Which I finally got the balls to say as I was being dropped off.

I won’t come between you. I know I’m not the one.

Or at least something like that. I can’t remember exactly the words, as I was becoming terribly numb from the realization that was setting in. I left the car, and went inside.

It was the next morning when I hit bottom. It was a weekend day, not sure if Saturday or Sunday, but the sun was up and I was still in bed. I remember this because of the following thought that went through my head: “I lost. I have nothing to live for.”

I know, I know, I know. Holy crap, teenage drama, right? Again, I had not been, in any way, prepared to deal with emotions. Up until that year, I actually thought of myself as a machine: I looked human, but I had little doubt I was a machine inside. Rock hard heart, no soul, etc. The onzaine had changed that, effectively breaking me open, making me vulnerable, and in a good way. But I had no ability to cope.

And then I saw it. My Swiss Army knife. Sitting on my deskside table. I don’t know why it was there. But I remember looking at it. And I imagined flipping out the knife. I wondered how much it would hurt to cut my wrists.


This is more or less the voice that went through my head. Okay, not an actual voice, but the equivalent of. And, yes, it’s a very dangerous thing to go through one’s head. It’s a very dark, painful thought.

I don’t remember if I picked up the knife or not. I don’t remember if I held it in my hand, or if I just continued to stare at it, and let the conversation play out in my head.

Yes, you will die. And yes, they will mourn you.

Yes! That’s exactly what I wanted, eternal suffering, they will forever–

And then they will forget you.

This one, I remember. It might as well have been a 2x4 to the head. I was more afraid about being forgotten than I was about being left behind, or left alone. There was nothing more terrifying than being lost without remembrance.

Holy shit, if anything caused a 180 in my life, it was this. Nothing happened, not that day and not any day thereafter, not to threaten my life, anyway. I realized that suicide is only an exit, not a solution. I pried my sorry ass out of bed, put the knife away in a proper drawer, and got on with living.

Okay, still with me? Good. Because you need to know that my life didn’t exactly change. While I spared myself from death, I didn’t entirely change my way of thinking. That would take years yet to come, and a lot more main.

As uncomfortable as all of this is, I accept that this is a part of my life, and I think a part I had to experience, something I needed to live through so I could come out the other side a better person.

But, I think, never better than the two people who had to live through this with me. Because they did, and they never abandoned me despite what I did to them. To this day, they are still amongst my best friends, though rarely seen due to the realities of life and distance. They got me through even harder parts, they’ve seen my darkest moments, they’ve stood by me when all I could do was burn everything around me.

It took me far too long to learn from them. And I hope, if you’ve read this far, you’ve learned a few things, too.