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If you left home after high school, heading back can be a complicated experience. No matter how much you've changed in your new life in the big city, it's easy to find old emotions -- feelings you thought long dead and forgotten -- come roaring back, and dealing with them can be a challenge. Personally, I've found the best way is to just act like a total rock star and show off how cool you've become.

I mean, I'm not saying that you should drive your BMW in donuts on the front lawn of that guy who stole your girlfriend when you were 14, but hey, if you've got a BMW, I won't tell. If you don't have a BMW, then ...

6
Remember to Play It Cool

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I know what you're thinking. "I should call everyone up and see if they wanna haaaaang!" That's what your brain says, good-naturedly. But your brain is an idiot. That's how loser brains think. Punch your loser brain in its brain-nuts, because it has led you into a trap. If you call your friends and tell them you're there, you will betray that you care about what they think, and will therefore have already lost. Remember, you're so important now that you barely acknowledge their existence. And that's where Facebook comes in.

Because of Facebook's confusing privacy settings and, let's face it, blatantly predatory relationship with their users, the site provides you with a wealth of information about all your old high school friends. Simply hire some high-level hackers to attack someone's Facebook profile, and they can easily learn anything about their private life you want. If you're doing this on the cheap, then you can probably figure out their daily schedule, roughly -- when they go to the gym, when they get off work, their primal fears.


Learn to see committed relationships as the thermal exhaust ports in the Death Stars of our lives.

The next step is simple: Appear at those places, dressed in the most expensive clothes that you just bought for this very occasion and then washed twice to make it look like it ain't no thing. "Oh, hey Kevin," you'll say, shortly after ordering some weird, made-up coffee like a macchiato, "Funny seeing you here. Yeah, I just got back in town a few days ago. I'm here on business." No need to specify what kind of business, I'm sure they'll remember.

5
Be Subtle About Your One-Upmanship

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Let's face it: Because you left Bumfuck Doodyville to go live in somewhere cool like Los Angeles or Whatever Cities Florida Has, people are going to expect you to be sorta cocky and condescending. So you have to subvert expectations by being cocky and condescending, obviously, but don't let them know that's what you're doing. For example, remember that since you've traveled so much and are now so worldly and awesome, you haven't caught up with those pointless old skills like "remembering when stores close" or "dealing with the weather."


Haha, no way that's a real picture.

How do you illustrate your superior incompetence? I'll give you an example.

"If we're going to hang out at home, we better buy some beer now," your friend Leroy says, checking his watch (He still wears a watch! How quaint!), "It's almost 8 O'clock."

"HAHAHAHAHAHA!" You laugh, "HAHA! HAHAHAHA! HA! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" Continue laughing, shaking violently in your seat like you're suffering a massive seizure. Laugh until your throat is raw and tears run from your bright red eyes like water from a broken faucet. "AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! HAHAHAHA!!!!"

Wet your fucking pants with glee.

When everyone has shut up and all other conversation pieces are long forgotten, explain your delirium. "In the big city," you say, "we have all-night liquor stores!"

Wait through exactly 7.6 seconds of stunned silence.


Felicity sips her beer, while Sinead gives you that subdued glare she's known for.

Then ...

"AHAHAHAHAHAHA!" You scream, eyes bulging from their sockets like you just ejected yourself onto the surface of Mars. "BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" Trust me. They're impressed.

Around this time, Leroy gets an understanding look in his eye, and goes quiet. The four of you lean over your beers.

"We know why you really came back," Felicity says to you. "It's okay. We'll go together."

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4
Pay Your Respects At Shatterskull Peak

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It's brutally windy by the time you reach the edge of that cliff, the one you hadn't seen since that night in August of 2007. It's clear tonight, clearer than it has any right to be. The full moon stares down at you in unblinking judgement. Your long coat flaps in the wind like a tattered battle flag, and though you can see for miles, the whole world is pitch black. Leroy approaches from behind and squeezes your shoulder.

"You did what you had to do," he says.

"We all did," you answer, but you're not sure who you're trying to convince.

"I never thought you'd be back this shitty town. I thought you were gone forever."

You snap open your old Zippo, light a cigarette, and smile. But your smile has a tint of melancholy. You're complicated like that.

"The past isn't like an old pickup truck," you say. "You can't sell it on Craigslist for $1500 and move on. It follows you. It's like a little gremlin that sits on your desk, watching you work and shitting in your coffee. It's like, no matter how many times you freshen your cup, there's always gremlin shit in it."

"You always did have a way with words."

"Not enough," you say sadly. "Not enough."


"Not enough," you say a third time, and immediately wish you hadn't.

Sinead interrupts your reverie with an annoyed sigh.

"Can we cut this out?" She snaps. "That past is the past. It's time we all moved on."

Felicity tries to interrupt her, but Sinead shushes her with a sudden scowl.

"Some of us have hearts," Leroy whispers, almost to himself. "Not all of us are as cold as you."

"Don't act like you regret it," Sinead shouts. "If you could go back, you wouldn't do a goddamn thing differently. That son of a bitch had to die. We had a chance to stop his work, and we took it. I ain't ashamed, because if we hadn't, everything he did after -- and you know he wouldn't have stopped -- would've been on our conscience. Do you think it would be any easier to live with that?"

None of you can speak. Even Leroy looks taken aback. And in that moment, the shadows in the treeline behind her moves, and a figure steps forward.

"I knew I'd find you here," he says. "Recounting the CliffsNotes of your own life."

3
Relive Old Times

You squint.

"Kevin?" you say. "You followed me here from the coffee shop?"

"No," Kevin says, smiling. "Kevin left town shortly after you did. I got reconstructive surgery -- Kevin and I had the same build, and I needed a new way to face the world."

Impossible. It can't be. It can't be. Before you can stop denying the truth before you, Sinead gives voice to your fears.

"Philbert?"

"Let me shed some light on this subject," Philbert says, flicking on a flashlight. Felicity's hand flies to her mouth, suppressing a scream. Sinead's eyes narrow, and her hand tightens into a fist. You groan.

"Goddammit," Leroy mutters. There's a crack of lightning to punctuate his curse, and it begins to rain.

"We killed you!" Felicity screams, "We fucking killed you!"

"Yeah, I was in a dark place, but I managed to dig myself out of it," Philbert says, grinning. Your reactions are redoubled. Felicity falls to her knees in agony. Sinead digs her fingers into her palm, and a drop of blood falls to the soft, damp earth. Leroy winces, and you grimace in disgust

"Jesus Fuck," you mutter, "Alright, yes, because we literally buried you in the ground. Clever."

"It is clever!" Philbert shouts. "Puns are hard!"

"Yeah but it's, like, the only joke you ever do," Leroy clarifies. "The only one. The only one ever."

"That's why we murdered you," Sinead growls, providing exposition.

"That punishment didn't really fit the crime," he snaps back. A few seconds tick by.

"Oh, punishment," you say. Felicity falls to the ground, clutching her head in agony. Leroy rolls his eyes.

"Dude," He says.

"Oh, and he said 'CliffsNotes' right when he got here," You add, remembering. "That was how he announced himself."

"What a prick."

"We're standing on a cliff, see."

"Fuck it. Let's kill him again," Sinead shouts, and she advances on Philbert, cracking her knuckles in preparation.

"Hold it!" Philbert says, producing a grenade from his pocket. He pulls the pin. "This is a somewhat volatile situation. If it were to get out of hand, it may just ..."

You all wait.

"... Explode," He finishes lamely. Felicity's eyes snap open, and she stands up.

"I think we're about done here," she says as she walks forward. Then she smacks the grenade out of Philbert's hand and socks him in the jaw as hard as she can.

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2
Make Sure He's Dead This Time

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In a panic, you and Leroy pounce on the grenade.

"Get it over the cliff!" you shout, but neither of you are any good at dealing with problems more complicated than your average game of Mario Kart, and you are both completely collapsing under the pressure of the current situation. You paw desperately at the deadly explosive, but only manage to bang your forehead against Leroy's and lose track, accidentally grabbing a small rock instead of the bomb that threatens all your lives. Sinead joins you and immediately slips on a patch of wet grass, knocking Leroy into your thigh, giving you a killer charlie horse. It's the dumbest thing that any of you have ever been a part of, but through sheer luck, you manage to kick the grenade onto the precipice.

"Mah salmushun!" Philbert screams, clutching the mass of shattered bone and oozing flesh that used to be his face. He lunges for the weapon but, being as utterly incompetent as everyone else at Shatterskull Peak, only manages to knock it over the edge.

"Mroooo!"

Mad with desperation, Philbert tries to grab the tumbling explosive, and his torso slips over the wet rock. Now he dangles by the last knuckles of his three outstretched fingers, his legs kicking over an inky black pit of nothingness. Behind him, the grenade explodes, illuminating the cruel scene like a lightning bolt from hell.

Sinead stands over him.

"Hurp Mlurr!" He gurgles.

"Get a grip," she says, and stomps on his hand. He screams as he falls, his body enveloped by the blackest shadow. Sinead turns to you, her eyes narrow slits. In impatient response, Leroy rubs his eyes, pinching his nose to ward off a headache.

"'A grip?'" He asks. "Seriously?"

1
Make Solid Plans to Return

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Look, it's tough to keep up with your friends. I know that as well as you. But it's important, because it's rare to meet someone who can either anticipate or put up with your shit. Friendships need maintenance, but the best ones never feel like it. Some friends can go years without talking and then pick up where they left off like it ain't no thing. If you've got a friend like that, it doesn't hurt to give them a call and ask them about their cat -- but that's not the point.

At the end of the day, the best way to show you're successful in life and the best way to keep friendships alive is the same thing, and it's as simple as being there for people you care about when they need you. If you can do that just once, then you're one of the best there is. And it's worth the effort, because you never know when you're going to find yourself standing on the edge of your own Shatterskull Peak, desperately trying to kick one of life's little grenades into a mythic, black void. After an experience like that, even if you're not as cool as you always hoped you'd become, you can still grab a beer. Just like old times. Only better.

JF Sargent wouldn't have survived this last week without his friends, but now he wrote a story for them so they're all even. He's also an Editor and Columnist for Cracked with a new article here every Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook

For more from Sarge, check out 5 Women Cut from Pop Culture History for Being Too Important and 5 Ways Video Game Addiction is Ruining Gaming.

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