Empowered: Act 3, Part 2

Empowered: Act 3, Part 2

So I haven’t been able to update as frequently as I’d like, but that’s because I’ve been incredibly busy at work. But guess what? It’s paid off in the form of a promotion. That’s exciting news for sure, and what’s also exciting is Carl not being such a whiny bitch anymore. He’s ready to turn things around, and the first stop is Elcsum Gray. But can that fence be mended? Find out now!


Putting down his pen and closing the cover, Carl tucked his notebook – a personal tome of his father – on his bookshelf next to those stories of wizards and warriors, instead of hiding it away his his desk drawer. It would serve as constant reminder of who his true hero is and always will be.

His mom said she reminded him of his father; it’s time he started acting like it.

Rubbing his face to try to subvert any tears that may form, he reached in to his top drawer to pull out his cell phone. He unlocked the phone, scrolled right to his contacts application, down to ‘E,’ and hovered his thumb over his best friend’s name. As it wavered precariously over the screen of his phone, Carl’s mind became flooded with thoughts:

What if he don’t actually wanna talk? What if Ock’s wrong and El’s happy with the way things are? Shit, if he did wanna talk, why hasn’t he made even the slightest attempt to? If…

…if I wasn’t so afraid, this’d be easier.

Exhaling deeply, he put his phone in his pocket and laid down on his bed. As he stared at the ceiling, he asked himself one question:

What would El do if he fucked up as bad as I did?

He pondered for a moment before springing up from bed. Like his mom said, what El would do is act confident if he weren’t. If Carl were to fix their friendship, he’d need to be strong for once in his life.

Grabbing the keys to his car, he sped over to his friend’s house, but not before making a quick stop along the way. His heart thudded with nervousness as he pulled up and parked on the street, noticing that only El’s car was in the driveway.

Walking up the sidewalk and ringing the doorbell, he immediately heard footsteps approach the door. Carl’s heart skipped a beat for a moment; what was he going to tell him? Sure he was sorry, but what could he ever say to really make things right?

Guess I’ll have to wing it, Carl thought half a second before El opened the door.

The door opened with swift *woosh*, and immediately upon seeing him, Carl uttered, “El, I…”


“…I’m sorry.”

Emphatically banging on the door, interspersing the knocks with “El!” and “Let me in!” but to no avail. Attempting a different method, he ran over to the backyard to face El’s open window.

“El!” he yelled, but with no reciprocation.

So he tried again.

“El! El! El! El!”

No response.

Now jumping with all his strength to try to have his voice carry farther in to his friends room, he began, “Fine! I know you don’t want to talk, but at least listen. El…I know I fucked up. I’m sorry, man. I’m a piece of shit. I don’t know what I can say or what I can do except tell you that you were right. I was…I am jealous of you, and it was wrong for me to feel that way. And if I had taken the time to ask more about you and how you’ve been doin’ with things and if you got any problems of your own, I woulda realized that you don’t have it perfect, either.

“But I didn’t…and then to make shit worse, I ditched you the second I got a girlfriend, even though you’re there for me rain or frickin’ shine any time I needed you. And then I topped it off by acting like you were the asshole and socked you right in the fuckin’ face. What the hell kind of person does something like that?”

Finally peeking his head slightly out of his window, El said his first words to Carl in months:

“A raging douchebag.”

“That about sums it up, don’t it?”

After a brief pause where both parties needed a moment to let things settle, El called out again, “I’ll be down in a second.”

Smiling, Carl sprinted over to the door to meet his friend.

“I missed you, man,” El replied after opening it to see Carl once more.

“You, too.”

“Are you done with all of it?”

“Yeah…yeah, I am. I, uh…I talked to Ock about some things. Dude can be pretty wise sometimes.”

“When he can actually get words out,” El said, allowing a minor smile to form.

Moving away from the door, El motioned for Carl to come in, and the two walked silently in to the kitchen.


“Oh, I almost forgot,” Carl said, lightly hitting himself in the head. “One sec.”

Running from the house and to his car, he rummaged through the back seat to retrieve a square white cardboard box and then jogged back to El’s door.

“Here’s the pizza I owed you,” Carl said with an unsure smirk.

“You’re a prince,” El replied. “Come on; let’s eat inside.”

“Just you here?”



Placing the pizza down on the kitchen island, the boys each pulled up a chair and sat down, grabbing a slice and putting it on a plate in front of them as they did.

“So for what happened to us…” Carl began, not certain about how to finish his sentence, “I don’t know if I can say sorry enough. Sorry and…thanks, as weird as that sounds.”

“Thanks for letting you hit me in the face?” El remarked with surprising levity.

“Ha…well, it started to help me realize, like you said, how much of a fuckin’ d-bag I was.”

“Well, you got it out of your system, let’s hope.”

“I wanted to say sorry right away, you know,” Carl said. “But I really just didn’t know how.”

“Yeah,” El remarked solemnly, wishing that Carl had.

“Face healed pretty quickly, though.”

“God wouldn’t allow me to not be pretty for too long,” El quipped, a devious grin now on his face.

“Still a dick,” Carl laughed, shaking his head.

Walking over, El outstretched his arms. “Come here.”

Sharing a hug, El replied, “Really did miss you, bud.”


“Okay, enough of that homo shit,” El joked, “there’s something I’ve been wanting to ask you for the past four months.”

“What’s that?”

“Just how good did it feel to pop Wing in the nose?”

“Really, really fucking good,” Carl answered, smiling.

“Ha! I can only imagine. But I hear he hasn’t let it go yet.”

“That right? What’d you hear?”

“Wants to fight you at prom. Figures they won’t expel him that close to graduation, and if he has the chance to embarrass you in front of all those people, he’s gonna do it.”

“Where’d you hear this?”

“Lax practice. Guys talk.”

“Well, too bad for him, I ain’t going to prom.”

“If not prom then some other time. Just be careful,” El warned.

“I will. You gonna go? I was just talking to Ock about it earlier tonight.”

“Me? No.”

“Really? I figured you’d be all over that.”

“To tell you the truth, man, I was pretty bummed these past few months and never bothered to get a date or a ticket. And now there isn’t anyone left to ask anyway.”

“Sorry, man. I actually got tickets if you want ‘em.”

“Don’t sweat it. We’ll bro out that night.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

“So what have you been up to these past few months?” El asked.

“Readin’ a lot of comics. Playin’ a lot of video games.”

“Jerking it?”


“Business as usual then?”

“More or less. How ‘bout you?”

“Chillin’ with the guys. Seeing a lot of Ock lately. Yawn’s had some parties, too.”

“Guess you got our friends in the divorce,” Carl joked, referencing their falling out. But as the words escaped his lips and brushed pain across El’s face like paint on a canvas, Carl’s heart immediately dropped.

“El, man…shit. Ock told me what happened with your parents. I’m…”

“No, no…it’s cool,” El replied, hurt but not offended. “It’s for the best I realized.”

“Really? How so?”

“Just…they were really unhappy for a long time. And, yeah, I wanted them to stay together. But I guess I accepted that if I want them to truly be happy, then they’re gonna have to be apart for a while.”

“I…yeah. I never would’ve thought of it like that.”

“Yeah, I mean, it’s not like I figured it out right away. But one night, I was just laying there in bed, staring at the ceiling. And I was playing through all the scenarios in my head: Mom and dad getting back together, us going on a vacation, smiling, taking pictures, all that stuff. But the thought of it all just felt kinda empty, ya know? Like it was all just fiction. Because then I thought about how much they fought, how many times my dad would storm out of here after a big blow up, or how many times I caught my mom crying…I don’t know. I guess I realized I liked the idea of them together than them actually being together, ya know? I don’t really know how to explain it.”

“Makes a lot of sense actually,” Carl mumbled.

“So, yeah…been dealing with that, but it’s been alright. Life goes on, ya know?”

“Certainly hope so, man. So you hear back from any schools?”

“Yeah, I was between UCLA and UCB for a while, but I’m got in to the honors program at UCLA, so I think I’m gonna go there.”

“Still thinking pre-med?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“Any idea what kind of medicine you’d wanna get into?”

“No clue. Too soon for that. You decide on your major yet?”

“Not too sure, either. Something in English, I guess. Like journalism.”

“That’d be pretty sweet,” El said as he took a big bite of the greasy cheese pizza that Carl had provided.

“Yeah, but who knows. Like you said, too soon to really know.”

“Well, whatever you go with, you’ll be great.”

“Thanks, man. So, you ever end up bangin’ Glacier?”

“Nah, man. All she wanted to do was make out. Like constantly. Just kiss. Some junior high bullshit.”

“You poor bastard.”

“I know! What about you, though? Any new girls?”


“Have you spoken to Spore at all?”

“No. As much as I’ve wanted to, I was just too depressed and too ashamed. I, uh…I didn’t handle the breakup too great.”

“You don’t say…”

“Ha, I was just talkin’ to Ock about that, too. I mean, I’d be lying if I said I still don’t think about her, but I guess I just realized that, looking back on the whole thing…”

“…you liked the idea of it better.”

“Something like that.”

The two boys shared a poignant smile and continued to eat their pizza.



We’re slowly dwindling to a close! Though his friendship with El has been revived, will Carl have the power to fix the rest of his life? And what about this threat from Wing? Prom’s a few short weeks away, and even though Carl might not be going there, something’s definitely going down.

See you next time for another installment of Empowered!

Empowered: Act 3, Part 1

Empowered: Act 3, Part 1

Hello, all! I present to you the long-awaited (?) premiere to the final act of Empowered! After spending a month as, well, a little bitch, Carl’s finally getting his life back on track. He’s got a long road ahead, but his journey will soon be coming to an end…for better or for worse.

So sit back and enjoy. The end begins.

Months later.

It was now early May, and Carl was more alone than he had ever been in his entire life. Having learned of the fight with Wing, the school gave Carl two weeks of out-of-school suspension and placed him in a different gym class. This didn’t do much to quell the feelings on either side; Carl and Wing continued to detest each other and would share looks of mutual antipathy whenever paths were crossed.

The worst part about that, however, wasn’t the animosity; it was that Wing was one of the few people who still acknowledged his existence.

Octane continued to play mediator; he chose no sides between Carl and El as the pair hadn’t spoken since the day of the fight. Spore, too, was effectively out of his life. She had become an expert at focusing intently on a point in the distance any time they walked passed each other. To her, Carl had become another face in the crowd.

Carl knew that he screwed up. He knew everything was a mess. And he knew he that he had become his own worst enemy.

But what he didn’t know was how he was supposed to fix it.

He wanted to apologize to El. He wanted to make things right by Spore. He wanted it all to go back to how it used to be…but something held him back. Any time he went to pick up the phone to dial a number, the thought of uttering the words ‘I’m sorry’ seemed like an impossibility. He pretended that it had been pride holding him back, but deep down he knew that he was just too afraid to try to make amends. If he tried and failed, then that would mean he’d truly had lost them both forever.

Even his notebook, which in the most desperate of times provided a small degree of solace, went untouched. Writing down what happened would make the reality of the situation too palpable. And even more so, he was too ashamed to let his dad ‘know’ what happened.


Finishing up another day of school – one day closer to leaving it all behind – Carl walked in to his home. He was soon stopped by his mother.

“Sit,” she commanded succinctly while pointing with fierce intention at a kitchen chair.

“Mom, I don’t really want to…”

“I said sit!”

Taken aback by her tone, Carl did as he was asked and sat down at the kitchen island to face his mother.

“You, young man, have been throwing everything out of whack around this house these past few months, and it ends now.” Raising her fist straight up, she extended her forefinger and said, “First the anger and depression with Spore,” raising her middle finger, she added, “then not only the fight with that Asian boy, but with El, your best friend,” straightening out her ring finger, she then finished, “and now moping around this house, treating your family like people who live with you instead of people who love you…it needs to stop, Carl. I’m – we’re all – drowning in your negativity, and I’m sick of it.”

“Mom, just because you can ‘feel’ what I feel doesn’t mean you at all understand,” Carl remarked with an eye roll as he got up from the island and began to walk away.

“I did not say you could leave, young man!”

Carl, whose mother had rarely taken this kind of tone with him, looked at her with tinge of fear and sat back down.

“Carl,” she began, her voice placating, “I’ve always told you how special you. And you are, Carl. You really, really are. What you’ve had to deal with in your life, it’s not easy, and it’s not at all fair, no. But do you know how you’re not special? How you’re feeling. Everyone – and I mean everyone – has gone through this, Carl. The anger, the jealousy, the bitterness, the loneliness, the self-loathing…you’re not the first one to ever have to deal with it. You’re not even the only one of your friends who feels it.”

Before Carl had a chance to refute this, Insight continued.

“Do you know how inferior Elcsum feels all the time? Do you know how he feels the need to act a fool because he’s afraid people won’t like who he really is? He’s so concerned with what people think of him that he’s created this false persona that he thinks everyone would like. The jokes, the false confidence, the way he is with girls…it’s all an act.”

“You could tell all that by being around him?” Carl asked, surprised at the scope of his mother’s power.

“His sense of self-worth – how little of it there is – pours out of him, Carl. It’s a constant stream. And I feel so, so sorry for him. I know you’re jealous of him…”

“I’m not jeal—”

I know you’re jealous of him,” Insight reiterated after being cut off, “but despite everything he has going for him, he’s just as scared and lonely as you are. No one’s perfect, Carl. And no one truly has it easy. You won’t get anywhere in this world until you accept the fact that we’re all troubled and we all have issues that we need to deal with. In that way, we’re all powerless. Not just you.”


“Make up with him. Be the friend he needs. Get your life back in order.”

Carl looked down for a moment before meeting his mom in the eyes. This woman, whom he had always considered an overly emotional, overly intrusive mess, stood before him stronger and more intelligent than he had ever realized.

“And what if he doesn’t want to?” he asked, looking down once more.

“You won’t know until you try, baby. But, from what I know about the boy, he’d be just as eager to rectify things as you are.”

“I’m an asshole, ma.”

Walking over to her son, she leaned in to give him a kiss on the head. She then promptly smacked him on the back of it.


“I know you’re upset, but that’s no excuse to use that kind of language.”

Carl smirked as he rubbed the back of his head. “I love you, too, ma. And, um…thanks.”

“Anything for my baby angel,” she replied with a smile.

“Why did you take so long to tell me all this?”

“I was hopin’ you’d figure it out for yourself,” she said, “but then I remembered how damned stubborn you can be sometimes, just like your father, God rest his soul.”

“I remind you of him?”

“Every day.”

“Thanks, ma.”

“Except he wouldn’t curse in front of a lady, young man.”

“I said sorry!”

“I’m just teasin’ you. Why don’t you go get washed up? Dinner’s gonna be ready soon.”


Later that night, Carl, deciding to call one of the few people who still didn’t mind being around him, picked up his phone to ring Octane. He couldn’t deny the validity of what his mom had told him; he needed to get himself back on the right path and fix things, starting with El. So for the first time in a long time, he reached out to a friend. He was tired of avoiding his friends. And he was tired of avoiding the truth.

“Yo, man,” he said in to the phone after Octane had answered.

“Yo yo, what’s up, what’s up?”

“Nothin’. You doin’ anything?”

“Ain’t doing shit. You wanna come over?”

“Yeah, let’s chill, but wouldn’t it be quicker if you…”

He then heard a booming *swoosh* sound lasting around seven seconds followed by a *knock* *knock* *knock* at the door.

“…came here.”


“What’s-what’s-what’s going on, man?” Octane asked as the two hung out in Carl’s room. “You haven’t been too chatty lately.”

“Yeah, well, shit’s been shit, ya know?”

“Ha, yeah, man. I’ve noticed.”

“Has El said anything about…anything?”

“Not really. Doesn’t really bring it up.”

“I see,” Carl replied, not sure what to make of that fact.

“You try talking to him?”


“You should.”

“I don’t think he wants to talk.”

“You-you-you’d be surprised, man. Dude misses you for sure.”

“How do you know?”

“He just hasn’t been the same since, ya know?”

“Yeah…” Carl said.

There was silence for a beat until Octane changed the topic slightly.

“You never asked him about his parents, did you?”

“Must’ve forgotten,” Carl admitted, slightly ashamed. “What about them?”

“They got a divorce. It’s been super hard on him.”

“They…really? They always seemed so happy, though.”

“Yeah, well, I guess they were-were-weren’t gonna fight in front of his friends or anything.”

“I can’t believe he never said anything.”

“You never asked, man. You always go to him when you have a problem, but can you-you-you name a time when you asked him if he had any of his own?”

“I never even thought to,” Carl answered, his shame growing. “Has he mentioned that to you before?”

“No, but I see more than people realize,” Octane replied. “For-for instance, people kind of think I’m this goof, and that’s fine. What people wanna think of me doesn’t bother me. But you know who it does bother?”

“El,” Carl muttered.

“Yeah, dude.”

“My mom already laid in to me about it,” Carl said. “Never really knew, ya know? I guess, how could I?”

“He’s good at putting on a show, that’s for sure,” Octane agreed. “But you guys are best buds; you’ll be alright. Just talk it out like bros.”

“What if he doesn’t want to?”

“Said it before, and I’ll say it again: Don’t be a pussy, Freeman.”

Carl let out a light chuckle.

“I’m glad you’re back to not being such-such-such a douche.”

“Yeah. Me, too,” Carl agreed.

“Spore really did a number on ya, didn’t she?”

“For real, man. I thought she was the one.”


“Why what?”

“What about her made-made-made you feel that way?”


Carl was at a loss for words. Had he been asked this question months ago, he would’ve spouted off catchwords such as ‘fate,’ ‘destiny,’ or ‘soul mate,’ but now what he felt for her began to feel like a distant blur. And conversely, why he felt that way became all the more clear.

“…because I liked that someone liked me,” he admitted.

“Ha, I hear ya, bro. But the only person that’s gotta like you is you.”

“You know, you’re a lot smarter than people give you credit for.”

“I play shit close to the chest.”

“Ha, I can…”

“Or is it vest?”


“Close to the vest? But who the hell wears vests?”

“It doesn’t…”

“I mean, six-to-one, right? Does it matter? Like-like-like, if you’re wearing a vest but it’s really chest, the difference is like, an eighth on an inch of cloth, right? So it’d still be really close.”

“I take it all back.”

“Bitch. But seriously, dude…talk to him. I’m sure he wants to hear from ya.”

“Yeah…yeah. Thanks, man.”

“No worries, bud.”

“So, um…what about you? Everything good on your end?”

Octane smirked. “You’re-you’re-you’re learning. Shit’s good. Having trouble finding a good way to finish off the yearbook DVD, though.”

“Really? Don’t yearbooks get issued next month?”

“Yeah, dude. I-I-I gotta finish it up.”

“You know what you could do: Cap the whole thing off with prom.”

“That’s-that-that’s actually a pretty sweet idea. You just think of that now?”

“Keep a secret?”


“I really, really like musicals. I think ending things on a dance number would be awesome.”

“Fag,” Octane replied jovially.

“Ha, fuck you. You know it’s a good idea.”

“Yeah, that actually is pretty sweet. Are you gonna go, though?”

“To prom? Well…” Carl began, embarrassed, “I, um…I bought tickets last month or so. I kind of,” he then cleared his throat and continued, “I kind of thought I’d still be able to win Spore back and wanted to be prepared for when I did.”

“Word. You better now with all that?”

“Other than wasting ninety bucks on these stupid tickets, yeah. I mean, I’d be lying if I said it still didn’t hurt sometimes, but I guess every day’s a little better.”

“Time-time-time heals all, broseph. So you gonna try to go or no?”

“Probably not. You want them?”

“Nah, I’m aight. Hold on to ‘em. Might just change your mind.”

“We’ll see,” Carl replied incredulously as he turned to look towards his dresser where the two tickets were secretly housed.

“Aight, bro. I’m gonna head out. Talk to you later, my man.”

“Later, bud. And, um…good talk. Thanks.”

“Yeah, man. I don’t like seeing either you or-or-or El all messed up. Anything I can to-to-to help.”

“Appreciated, man. Take it easy.”

“Later,” Octane replied. And with a *swoosh*, he rocketed out of Carl’s house, his long brown hair and unzipped gray hoodie being swooshed back as he did.

Carl stood up and breathed deeply. For the first time in a long time, he was beginning to feel normal again.

“What next…?” he asked himself. Reaching in to his pocket, he felt his phone. He stared at it for a moment, but something didn’t feel quite right.

He opened his top desk drawer and put the phone in there, out of sight and out of mind. After closing the top drawer, his hand drifted towards the bottom one to retrieve his notebook.



With a little help from family and friends (people whom he’s been neglecting for far too long), Carl gets his ass in gear towards a path of redemption. Will he be successful, or is he too far gone? Keep reading to find out. Empowered continues in a week!