Piano practically dropped. I am an artist. He began to crawl along the dirt path, which led to the cottage, a term he considered funny simply because no one lived in cottages anymore. It's true that it's quaint, he guessed, but at the same time it sounded pretentious or uppity to classify that small house as a cottage. Piano hadn't gotten very far, but his nails were already caked with layers of dirt as were the front of his button-down shirt and jeans.

What will I paint when I get home? he thought, slithering down the path. Oak trees, snakes, pinecones, nature things, scenery! All those things so bland and dull, as if painting an oak tree or a nature scene - without employing a radically new perspective - wasn't cliché in and of itself. He approached the front door as his mother arrived from somewhere, though he didn't know where exactly.

"I thought I told you not to crawl around anymore," she said, shaking her head. "You're almost 24 years-old."

Looking up at his mother, who towered over him at that juncture, "I don't want to perpetuate the stereotype of the tortured artist, or even lend a shred of credence to it by sprinting to my room and painting a masterpiece, but I kinda gotta do this. I'm trying to get, you know, inspired?"

"Well.... Don't get your clothes too dirty then."

Success! She stepped over Piano, unlocked the door, and walked inside. I do my own laundry anyway, so the dirtiness of my clothes is not of your concern, Madame. Off his medication for some time, his strangeness was allowed to roam free, unhampered. His family members didn't think he needed the medication, but he was convinced he did. Nevertheless, none of his family members were granted full access to his thoughts and processes, and his paintings were the most in-depth instances of his unstableness they were permitted to see. His latest, Girl, 22, Dates Man, 33 (the man standing in a dune of ambiguous white powder) had garnered only bewildered looks from his audience - his grandmother, afterwards, asked Piano's mother if he'd been acting differently lately.

"No, he's always been like this."

Upon completion of the painting - Piano's meisterwerk as his German personality, which appeared intermittently, proclaimed - he vomited, spraying remnants of cucumbers, carrots, and miso soup everywhere. After he finished retching, dry heaving, and wiping his mouth off, he put his hands on his hips and stared at the artwork. This painting sickens me, both literally and figuratively.

Having become interested in painting via cheaply recorded art shows on public broadcasting networks, he knew he was at least capable of being average. And really, that's all he wanted. At about the same time, he began dating a girl, the one who is mentioned above and below. She had dreams you see - her name is Dawn - and she had a limitless supply of energy and drive, but decided to discard the latter in the end, settling for whatever came along, which, in this particular case, was dating an older man who wasn't seemingly going anywhere. At any rate, she had wanted to go to Europe when she dated Piano, and possibly even live there while going to school. It never transpired. Piano was thankful that he hadn't uprooted himself for someone else. The thing is, he decided, people get bored with their current surroundings and situations after the newness wears off. Visiting is one thing, but living there is entirely different.

So, he had no part of it.

But in regards to painting, he had always been told by teachers, instructors, and professors alike to be ready to answer one question, above all, without hesitation - what does it mean? Like any artist of any medium, Piano was continually faced with the less tactful query: what's the point? The point of his then-latest painting had been established during a dinner meeting with a friend, a meeting that ended with the two of them staggering out of the venue. Essentially the point had been established long before the actual work, and Piano knew exactly what he planned to paint, but he also knew that his work was bound to instigate.

"I guess once you get past a certain age, age doesn't really matter anymore," Piano told Bass.

"I think 18's a little young to be considered an adult. I mean, even 21 is sometimes pushing it, but ultimately it depends on the person. I've known you for two years, and I've never really seen you be immature in any way."

"I'm 24 years-old. I'd like to think that if I wanted to date a 21 year-old, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, a 45 year-old, that I'd be able to do so without much backlash from anybody."

"It's more about character, though," said Bass, after taking a drink from his mug of beer.

"I guess you're right. At first the age thing did bother me. It just seems unnatural for Dawn to date someone so old. There's an 11-year difference between them, and he's less than half the age of her parents."

"What do you think about her following you around?"

"It's inevitable, her invading my space. These goddamn online communities will be the death of us all probably. I should just delete all that shit, and be a recluse as far as the Internet's concerned. Nothing is private anymore."

"Everything will work out. You'll see."

"Supposedly he sells drugs, too. She broke up with him for that originally, but I guess they got back together later on."

"Where'd you find that out?"

"From another friend. He just seems...kind of," staring upwards in an attempt to lasso the right word, "worthless. Maybe that's too harsh, though. Maybe the question I want to ask is - what has he accomplished in life? Or what will he accomplish in life? I'm not looking to compare us. I just want the best, probably not for her, but for myself. I want to be content, and at peace."

"You mean, like, dead?"

"Haha. You know me too well."

"A toast!"

"To death! May it be swift!"

Bass, after downing his drink, admonished, "All you can do is take the good with the bad, and do the best you can."

"Or take none of it all," said Piano, smiling.

"I guess that's an option, too, but the thing you have to remember is that relationships take time and effort. Sometimes, though, they just don't work out."

"At this point in my life, a relationship sounds like the fate worse than death. I'm not going to wait for the right woman to come into my life. I'm going to paint. I'm going to paint in solitude until someone recognizes me for what I am."

"What are you?"

"Determined, I guess. Determined to succeed."

About the author:

Jason Jordan is a 23-year-old writer from New Albany, Indiana who always says he's from Louisville, Kentucky because people actually know where that is. He's been published in The2ndHand. His debut is entitled "Powering the Devil's Circus," and can be ordered through his official website -