'Runaway Empire' Manifesto: entry #6 / by Andrew Yorke

“You look like someone looking for trouble.”
I turned around to find a young woman of no more than twenty with brown hair and brown eyes and skin the color of dark cream. She wore brown jeans with a dark green, dolman sleeve pullover, hair in a loose updo. Her accent was smart but acutely Texas, the sort that could rope many a man and break his heart. Her demeanor was casual as she tilted her head and gave me the once-over with a smirk.
— Runaway Empire, page 8

Roughly three years before we ever spoke, I heard of this young woman (we'll call her "Ann") through a friend of mine. "You guys are perfect for each other", my friend told me. Of course, there was one small problem. I was already in a serious relationship of more than a few years, and I had no intent on pursuing other options. Still, we were introduced through our mutual friend using Facebook of all things. We traded a few messages, and it became clear that there was a kind of connection I had not felt with many people. Hell, in some ways I had never felt that kind of connection. That connection allowed me to begin realizing a new side of me. One that was temporarily removed of the scar tissue. Most people call it falling in love, but it still seems more complicated than that. Well hell, it was more complicated than that. I felt no sexual vibe at the time. That complication simply wasn't there.

The messages quickly stopped and our lives kept on trucking. Two more years went by until I found a posting for a cause Ann once spoke about. She was heavily involved, planning protests and other forms of demonstrations. I had an interest in helping her with this cause, so I shot her a Facebook message. One thing led to another, and the line of communication became steady once again. At this point in my life, the relationship I spoke of earlier had ended peacefully. It was the first time I was single in five years.

She and I both played guitar recreationally. One thing led to another, and we ended up recording songs on our phones and sent them to one another. One song turned into three, and three turned into six. Still, we had not met in person.  Another time we sent dozens of photos to one another. Photos of our past, starting with early childhood all the way through the awkward high school years and up to the present. It became quite clear that a genuine connection emerged through the avenues of modern technology. She unravelled a part of my life I felt would never surface again. Moments of my childhood suddenly felt more authentic and pure. I was able to recall moments of my youth which strongly encouraged ambition and taking risks. She brought that out of me again.

I tried madly to set up an arrangement to meet Ann in person, and several times it came close. However, something always got in the way. Then one day, I tried calling her. No answer. I sent her a text. No answer. I even sent a few emails. Again, no answer.

I received no answer for three weeks, and it drove me stark raving mad. It really did. No joke. No kidding. I was stressed out, worrying if something happened to her. I thought of the worst. Then a strange voice from the back of my head (or somewhere else in my body) slapped my brain.

She's dating someone else.

The thought made my stomach drop. That was the reason. It had to be. Sure enough, a week later I received a text. She explained that she was in a serious relationship, and did not want to cheat in any way. She felt she had already gone too far. I understood completely. These things happen all the time, and I couldn't blame her for being human. Still, it hurt. There was an emptiness I couldn't seem to fill.  It would be over a year until I spoke with her again.

And you know, a funny thing happened. During one of my evening walks with my canine friend, I came to a very large field in the middle of an abandoned apartment complex. The space and the multi-colored sunset allowed me to think on a different level. You know how you go to certain places when you need to think? Well, that's what this place turned into. I walked around this field so many times, probably looking like an absolute lunatic. But during those walks, I began to understand more about myself. What Ann did was inject purpose into my life. Self-fulfilled purpose is probably a better way of saying it. I wanted to take up causes, and I wanted to help the world. I wanted to be remembered as a healer, not a destroyer.

There was also one other thing Ann did. She, without knowing, encouraged me write and publish my work. I can't tell you what she did that triggered this response. But she did.

So I wrote 'Sharon Tate' and 'Waiting for Love at Airports' along with numerous other unpublished works (including my first completed novel). When starting to write 'Runaway Empire', I knew a romance was necessary. It took no time to think about motivation. Ann became Michelle in my mind, and the romance unfolded easily.

Being an author of fiction, it's nice to be able to write out an idea you wish to see in real life. It also has its downsides. I mean, obviously. What I'm writing down isn't real. It's not what actually happened. As I elaborated on the romance between Michelle and Arthur, I realized there was more truth to it than I thought. While very few of the events occurred, the feelings did. They were real. They were felt by both. In my opinion, Michelle and Arthur's budding relationship is probably the most realistic depiction of love I have written thus far.

After completing the final draft of 'Runaway Empire', I received a text message from Ann. After working tirelessly, she was accepted into the Peace Corps, and was going off to a far away land that demands tireless humanitarian efforts. This was the place for her. Her text was simple, "I want to see you before I leave next month."

We settled on a time and place. As the day approached, I realized how weird this situation actually was. I was about to meet Ann for the first time in person, but it felt as if I had known her for years. You gotta hand it to the internet. It steers the world of relationships into a far more undefinable territory.

We met at an IHOP. Our mutual friend was also there. Naturally, I was late. But as I turned the corner into the back of the restaurant, there she was. I couldn't help but smirk. Despite the unusual expectations internet relationships of any flavor provide, she matched up to my expectations. In a strange way, I was Arthur in that moment.

After breakfast, I took her to the airport. Unlike the ending of 'Runaway Empire', our worlds were too different. She was going one way, and I was definitely going the other. We both knew it, and as we hugged we both shared that realization together. It was the strangest feeling - the feeling of complete understanding. It was the same bond I felt years before, but now it felt stronger than ever.

So there you go. There's a confession for the world to see. The character of Michelle is based off a girl I know. Big surprise, right? Like Michelle, Ann is quite the hero. With one of the art pieces I made while making 'Runaway Empire', I used a number of images that defined what I observed in the world around me. If you look closely, you will spot Ann. I had to acknowledge her presence in my life with this particular piece. For whatever we were and whatever we are now, it is undeniable that she has a major impact on my life as an adult and as an artist. You always have to be thankful for those kind of folks, right?

Until next time.