tree house

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Mountains looked fucking pathetic from so far away. Little triangles. Little pointy majesties. Little points on a little crown on a little planet gone to shit.

Might’ve been my birthday. Still wasn’t sure on that. I kept track of it for ten years and then I was like, who the fuck is going to tell me I can’t just be seventeen forever? Okay?

Like, fuck you.

The wood planks beneath me cranked a righteous moan, reminded me straight up of this homeless chick I’d seen once drifting down the street, demonic and swooning spit-marbled teeth at me. Pennies, she’d moaned. She just needed pennies. A penny, singular, even. Kept moaning like something pretty nasty had gotten her brain stuff, made it all gray and fuzzy with rot. You ever think about that? Rot’s not really green, is it? It’s the same color as a brain is anyway which is horrible because really think about that: If our brains rot, who’s there to say it’s actual rot and not just our brains being terrifying pieces of shit? Huh? Who’s there to say?

So, anyway, whatever, I muttered something snarky in passing to this homeless chick, and she had reached out in a clawing cloy – actually fucking got me. Fucker, man – fucker. I had screamed a shrill call of the wild and she let go but not without cursing me a bunch and hoping all my kids ended up incestuous fuckin’ messes, like something out of a scary movie. She kept talking about all these kids I don’t have, never will have, didn’t want anyway. She kept talking about how ugly they were gonna be but I had tuned her out. You can’t listen to BS like that, y’know? Keep trucking, son. That’s what they say. Keep on trucking and eat your stupid vegetables.

The wood cranked out again, planks clunking together and wheezing away, push and pull. A fight; love-hate. Over and over they all pressed into each other, seemed to recognize their grains as one and the same, and then they bowed in grotesque repulsion. As if they recognized something they didn’t like about being so similar. As if they had wanted to change, be oak instead a’ pine, or some shit. I dunno.

Tree houses. Tree houses make you think shit like this, especially the tree houses that are falling apart. Like mine. That’s when you look at mountains like some hippy on acid, when you start seeing mountains for what they really are: Rocks with huge fucking egos.

And then the big globes up in the air, you see that? Beyond the mountain points, where the tippy-tops meet the froth of cotton cloud, big-ass silver globes. They just sit pretty up there, watching. Waiting. If they see you they crush you like you’re a fleshy bowling pin. That’s it, that’s all. Nothing fancy like in the movies long-gone, and believe me, I saw ’em all before all the electricity and generators ran out. I know what we human-being creatures thought would happen to us, and we were all really melodramatic about it, tell you that much. Like, you wanna talk ego? Talk human beings. Inflated ego up the wazoo. Who the fuck thinks of that shit? Like, aliens coming down in some parade of spaceships like they actually give a fuck what we think about how they look, to us. To us.

Anyway, these globes? They find you and start rolling in this sloping curve, down and down, until gravity breaks and they hit the dirt, supernatural smooth. Psycho kinds of calm. They’re quiet, too, you never hear them coming. And then they just steamroll over you, single smack of gore, and you’re done. You’re finito. There might be a few hundred human-being creatures left or just me. I romanticize on that sometimes. How nice, y’know? Being just me, all alone.

The wood stopped cranking. I counted the globes and one was missing so I counted again. Thirteen total at all times. That was for the last two days, anyway, thirteen sitting still. One might’ve moved to check on a target but I never saw them dip into the trees. Too humid. The machinery, man, that shit gets slow in the humidity. West coast water does that, slows stuff down.

But goddamn, only twelve now. I must’ve stared at the mountain crests too long. I took my notebook and flipped through for my protocol – ‘scuse me – THE Protocol.

“When a globe disappears and there is complete and tangible silence, be fuckin’ quiet,” I read. “Extinguish fires, lights, anything that will draw attention and be fuckin’ quiet. A breath hitching in the back of your stupid throat could draw attention so hold your breath. Hold. It.”

I closed up the notebook – common sense stuff – and turned off my reading lamp. Evening slurred through my window, covered everything in dank darkness. Chilly, wet darkness. I shivered.

I could hold my breath for 30 seconds now. Well, rounding up from 27 seconds. I tried it now, got to 28. New record. Huh.

Wood still wouldn’t crank. I pressed into it, didn’t make a sound. I shuffled to the soft spot, this little wet mark where the stuff was getting soft and smelly, and punched into it – rough hole around my wrist, the sudden gush of natural air choking on my fist. But no sound.

“Fuck.”

complete and tangible silence

Couldn’t read my notes anymore so I sort of sat there and stared at the mountains again. Only twelve globes hovering in different spots, different coordinates. I’d tried mapping ’em out once. It all came back to triangles, pyramids. Even if they moved, even if more joined the herd, I’d still get crisscrossing triangles in my doodles. Stuff of Egypt, I s’pose. Those little monsters love Egypt. They fuckin’ love that stuff. Maybe Cleopatra was in one of those globes. Would love to meet that chick, she seemed legit as shit.

I scratched at my head and it didn’t sound like anything. I mean, I felt it. For sure I did. I hope I didn’t make it up, anyway. I tried to hum a bit. I imagine I made a sound but I didn’t hear myself so it felt sort of retarded as hell, humming like that, so I stopped that real fast.

I guess I knew what was coming before it was coming, so don’t think I’m stupid or whatever. I felt it in my essence first. My purest essence, the stuff that makes you feel alive and dead in the space of a nanosecond. Then I saw the eclipse, total eclipse of any shred of light into my little tree house. Silver blinded me, split my brain and sutured it back up in a melted conglomerate of primal reactions like, what the fuck? and, why now? and i shoulda been better.

And, oh, why not the mountains? Fuck, why not take a mountain? I was so little. I was so insignificant and fuck it, man, take a mountain. Please, please, take the mountain –

Kept rising up. The globe kept pushing into the tree house, and I think it was trying a mid-air somersault. Creative extinguishment, I s’pose. Gotta give it credit for that at least. I remember respecting that even as I wanted to tear my eyes off thick, orbital nerves.

I remember the respect. Yeah.

So, anyway, it kept going. It kept rolling. It was really lugging itself like all of it was some sort of struggle, and I screamed a bunch but you know, I couldn’t hear any of it. The globes swallow sound up like a vacuum. Schwaaaap.

Scwhap-swallow.

I felt my funny bone splinter first. You can laugh about that, it’s whatever. Sort of ironic. Sort of bizarre. Then my shoulder and my spine cracked with that, too, same time. I felt each knub of my spine split to powder and all my muscles fused together before falling into this puddle of muck that suddenly became pretty peaceful. Can you even imagine? Death so painful it’s actually kinda nice. Like, hey, you’re dying. Let’s throw you a bone while all your actual bones smither and splitoon.

I remember the last second. Saw the mountain. Then silver. Another flash of the mountain. My other funny bone broke. I felt okay after that, though. I felt okay.

I think today was my birthday.

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Mango

https://www.flickr.com/photos/juniatha/170963947/in/photolist-6i4Auj-cCVLvq-28W2Sk-GDZuE-5h6t4d-6oJFCK-rv2pbq-skfUW-cCVL1J-5vQTxR-6CdYe-9Sg3JX-eSAJa2-eEJozK-g7eCg-51rF7K-GE1qR-x4PP6-9WLhGk-eYLPvM-78HrsC-4VNA8r-driu8B-oQQ5gm-33Nb2b-87iQEv-q4AfUD-8bBrjR-iG5xz3-fpA4SH-4ACGGu-7eJCkp-8zo2PQ-7J62wp-6oJF6Z-8zo2PG-iG4sT1-eBMbXj-8Ki3Ff-bypXn-Dxtyp-2KXkBc-b2giz-7Qeon4-4BZstS-FvWk8-9Tn1PR-euzjGa-FvWr4-5uQnRP

“You smoke it like – here. Yeah, like that.”

“This way?”

“Hold it in. You’re not holding it in.”

A shattered cloud, exhaled. I looked to him for a flick of the eyes, maybe a chuckle. He was good with that kind of thing, the eyes. The laughter. He had this smile that could burst your fucking heart. I toyed with the vapor pen, twirled it once before handing it back. Seven Moscow Mules into my night and I wasn’t crying yet, and I considered this a small war won. We looked at each other for a second and I made him want to kiss me. Long and hard, the way of cinema and all things theatrical. Again.

Again, I said.

The Strip bustled because it was Friday night here, and there, look all around you: A trillion lights smeared down to the west. Cars honked into the east, drunks hobbling their way home after Bar Marmont made good on the promise to treat them, and their livers, kindly. We sat on the edge of a cement ledge guarding the parking lot to the kind of taco place everyone warns you about. It’s the guac, I’d heard. Maybe that’s why people got so sick. Or the meat. Yeah? Maybe. We could see everything though. Laugh Factory shined tacky-bright; I’d gotten friendly with the owner of the place recently, Laugh Factory dude is what I called him, mostly because I laughed at all his bad jokes, of which he’s got a lot. So we hugged when we saw each other out at the bar. He’d do a little set and I’d laugh. Once, he looked at me, drunk, and joked I was probably so fertile I’d have a baby in eight months instead a’ nine.

A car swerved near the gas station. There, up there to the north? The Hills, baby.

I shivered under my sleeveless blazer, a draping thing that frames you in a violent blossoming if you walk the right way, which I always made sure to do. I wore it special for today. For tonight. I’d gone for my run earlier, got my five miles in amidst a daydream of how eyes might wander to me as I blossomed, how the Men might perceive me this time, specifically, out of all the times they had admitted admiration for my person. This outfit, I kept thinking, would be The One. Collected and casual and with such slick verve, the Men would be darting to me like fruit flies on a hot day. And me?

Mashed mango magnificent.

“You have a good relationship with your dad. Obviously,” he said after a drag. I gave him a sigh and a guffaw, hoping he’d notice some quiet exhumation of the soul, some shift in me. He didn’t. “So, how many guys is it going to take for you to feel attractive? Huh?”

I motioned for the pen and tried to hold the vapor. “I dunno.” My throat burned after a few seconds and so I exhaled with the slightest wheeze. I suddenly imagined myself a practiced smoker in her seventies, derailing on the smallest details of a dull life long lost. “It’s that,” I said, coughing to scratch the burn, “I just get sad. And that’s different. Because of the guy before.”

“You get sad. You’re gonna let one fucking gay guy make you sad?”

“He wasn’t gay. It’s just… I’m the plaything, I guess. Nothing more than that, and that’s my vibe out here. That makes me sad.”

“People treat you like that, it’s because you’re probably giving out that vibe.”

“No, no. It’s like, porcelain-doll syndrome – everyone wants to look, no one wants to touch. All these guys? They want it, but they don’t go for it. They’re afraid I’m gonna break or something.”

“That’s not how it is for me.”

I rubbed his back. I coughed. “Look, you ever feel so fucking sad that it becomes nauseating? Like, you’re emotionally nauseated. You’re gonna throw up. I was at work a couple days ago and I thought, oh my god. I’m going to throw up because I feel so fucking rotten right now. A spiritual flu. I thought I was gonna have to go home.”

“Huh.”

“And it gets so bad sometimes that it’s just this emptiness. This vast emptiness, so completely empty that it turns in on itself, an inversion, and it intensifies to the point of actually becoming dense. It’s that empty. That’s why you see me trying to laugh all the time.”

“Some of the laughter seems fake, I noticed.”

“Yeah?”

“Well, yeah.”

I swung my legs. A woman and her friends stumbled into an Uber for their ride home. Looked like one of the nicer cars, a pricier fare. I wondered if the Man with them was gay, or straight and hoping to get a fuck.

I looked over again and we didn’t kiss this time. We just looked. That by itself has its own positives, its own trials and tribulations. You can ebb and flow with a look like that. You can shatter someone with a look like that. You can bring someone back to life with a look just like that.

“I’m doing this for you, y’know,” he said. “It’s to protect your emotions. Women – they feel it more than Men. I feel like they do. Unless you’re so emotionally dead – “

I snorted. “Me. Definitely me.”

He let me have another smoke.

“Well, alright then. But this is for you. I dreaded telling you. And I still think you’re amazing.”

And this was the moment in which I wanted to cry. The vodka churning in my stomach, the vapors seeping into my nasal cavity, that god-awful smell of burning chemical: all of it latching onto my brain stem and climbing, rooting into me, pincers of an alien persuasion. I slumped while it happened, let my aggressors take hold. I wanted something to take hold at least. If this person beside me wouldn’t do it, something else would. And it did. That swirling majesty of depressants and soft-core hallucinogenic grabbed me in a gut-punch and absolutely fucking flayed me.

But I still couldn’t cry.

He cleared his throat. “It’s just complicated, is all.”

My lips twitched into the grimmest of grins, jack-o-lantern lit, a kind of mouth-y upturn so constricted with anger and masticated shock that it threatened a horrifying psychosis. “Look. My mother said something pretty great to me back when I was complaining about my last boyfriend. I kept saying it was too complicated. And she said that it wasn’t really complicated at all. It’s actually really simple. It’s so fucking simple. Just ask yourself: are you happy?”

“Well. Sometimes I’m not. But yeah.”

“Are you happy, though? Ninety-nine percent of the time, are you happy in general?”

He laughed about that. “Oh, you know.”

“Then do what you fucking want. Go be happy. And, y’know, we’re creatives. We romanticize everything. You’re just romanticizing all this because it’s more beautiful that way.”

He eyeballed me, facetious. “Very profound.”

We walked down the street. I crowed that the Men hated him for stealing my affections. A lot of them. Men with families, Men on soap operas. Men with things to say, things to be done. Men who didn’t even know that they hated him yet.

“But, y’know, I think I like that.”

“I’m sure you do.”

I sat on his lap at one point, too drunk to stand. I worried I was too heavy for his knee but he didn’t seem to mind. My mind’s eye cried looking at him, morbid anguish creeping. Why had I wasted the last month on such a person? Why had I wasted a single iota of my being?

We found Sunset Blvd once more, and he hailed a hulking black SUV that seemed suspicious. My cab ride home for the night. The Man inside eagerly accepted me into his vehicle. The door stayed open, my would-be person standing there and waiting on a kiss.

Kiss.

The door closed.

“Usually twenty-five for fare but I give you deal. I give you twenty,” the driver said. He started the drive. “He boyfriend?”

“Something like that but not really. Not anymore.”

“Oh?”

“He has a girlfriend. Who lives with him. I didn’t know that until now. Something like 2 years with her. But I didn’t know.”

“Oh.”

“By the cafe. Here. Up the street. Yes. Make a left. Thank you.”

The driver stopped the car and I shuffled my money – nineteen and not a dollar more in my wallet. I looked up at him, intoxicated puppy-dog eyes. Bruised ego. Mussed hair.

“Is nineteen okay? I know you said twenty.”

“Is okay. What is… uh, what is mood?” he slimed. “Huh? He didn’t care for you. I could care for you.” He wrangled himself to lean into the back. I felt my entire body tense.

“No. No, please.” I got out of the car. I found my keys.

“What is mood? Miss?”

I somehow found the building. I somehow found the elevator. I somehow pressed buttons leading to my home. I slid a messy key into the door and locked myself inside.

What is mood?

A shattering. A disengagement. A chill. A sweeping sorrow. A disappointment. A sickness. A longing. An aching for something I never even had in the first place.

The Men, the fruit flies – they’ll sense that, though, which means they won’t come to feed, and so I forced the best smile I could. I climbed into bed and laughed, even.

What is mood?

I laughed and I laughed.

Mashed mango magnificent.

THE PROFESSIONAL

hospital_room_empty

No, not the movie.

This is a short piece I wrote, hoping I could dip my toes back into the literary pool just in case I decided to trash screenwriting forever. I won’t throw away screenwriting (for now), but we writers like our backup options, the things that make us feel cozy and safe. Literary prose makes me feel quite cozy. Cocoa by the fire, anyone?

No?

Whatever. I have cats.

I submitted this piece to BASTION sci-fi magazine and received a very positive email a month later from the editor-in-chief about the good feedback from his staff. Today he emailed again to tell me it was ‘not a fit’ and that while the characters engaged in an ‘interesting conversation,’ it was not big enough. It apparently needed something more to make the cut.

I read it and still feel good about it. Part of writing is trucking forward without a care for others’ opinions, even if they may be right (because he probably IS right), and then sharing it with others just for the joy of sharing the written word.

So. Here it is.

* * *

You spend enough of your life sitting in hospitals, you learn some things. Indubitably useless things, crystalline nuggets of information, pertinent if only so as to maintain a level of useless sanity and yet, still. You learn. Your brain doesn’t give a flying this or that if a something learned is a something meaningful. Hospitals exemplify that. Being a Professional exemplifies that.

I’ve learned that lungs hiss when aided by machines, soft Darth Vader vibrations. The slop is called applesauce but it’ll scratch your throat going down, pinky-promise. The color scheme is and always will be rotting pearl and heartache pink, a plasticized sheen as if some guy in a hazmat suit sprays it once in the morning and then half-asses it at the end of his shift. My pet theory is that the spray might be remnants of undesired applesauce. And the sterile hallway stink eventually saturates into the crushed ice, even when you manage to get to the ice machine first thing in the morning. When you crunch it, do so deliberately. An aggressive breed of ice like that requires some conviction.

This evening has placed me in Room 223. Smack middle of Hospice Hall, they call it. The dying and wanting to die, the geriatric overlords of society, people who hang so desperately to wrinkled tenure. I like them all the same. If you were to officially ask me, anyway, I’d tell you I liked them. I got the call early, five in the morning. A last-minute appointment for one of the last people on this rocky bulb we call Earth. We’re all waning here, sort of waiting out the physical remnants of humanity. I’ll be one of the very, very last, I do know that. My work involves uploading civilization to that virtual cloud, equivalent to shoving people – politely – into life rafts off a drowning Titanic. Such is the duty and life of a Professional Cloud Consultant. Some don’t want to go. Some want to stay and die with it, noble captains of the Earth. Screw ’em, I say. You want to stay with the polar bears? Be my guest. And if you’re my guest, that means you first, me last. I’ll probably have a beer when that day comes. Share it with that last polar bear.

My charge today is a skeletal heap of a woman named Harriet, wires and tubes threading her in gory crochet, medicated doily of a long life slipping down a clogged drain. Her head resembles a cracked pool ball, abandoned alien egg, veins mapping spot-mottled skin so loose and waxen it reminds me of raw won ton. I balance my time between watching her and checking my pulsette, the thin silver bracelet hanging on my wrist. Harriet’s pulse hovers above it in red hologram, slow and getting slower.

I clear my throat and inch my chair closer to her bed, wooden legs screeching. “You about done yet?”

Her eyes flutter. “Been a long ninety-something years. I don’t rush things.”

“Is it all flashing before your eyes, or what?”

“My life?”

“Your life.”

“Glaucoma’s making that a hard thing to tell.” A finger bent by arthritis points at her face. “They used to be blue.”

“Your eyes, you mean.”

“Cornflower blue. Now they’ve got husks and everything’s cloudy. They were my favorite part of being me.”

“You still get to be you.” I toy with the pulsette. “You can have your cornflower blue again when I upload you. Hell, you can have nuclear orange if you want. They got it all up there in the cloud. You wanna look like Michael Jackson? You got it, sister. You wanna be a squirrel? That, too. Amazing stuff.”

“No. My shade of blue is gone. You couldn’t ever make that kind of blue again.”

I check the time. My suit’s getting itchy. They call it the ‘simple suit,’ this all-black thing meant to make Professionals look approachable during an upload. Black tie, black jacket, black slacks. Black shoes polished so mirror-fresh you can see your past lives in the reflection. It comes off as technological grim reaper to me. But that’s me. God, it’s like wool. I work for a multi-billion dollar industry and they can’t find us better suits? I pull at a loose thread and it rips at the root, threatening to undo the whole thing. I tuck it away.

“You got any stories?” I say.

“I didn’t hire a procrastinator.”

“C’mon. You look like the kind of girl who did sleepovers at Gatsby’s place, skinny-dipped in his pool the morning after.”

Her pulse quickens and she affords a huge smile. “There’s some stuff about wars in there, too, but I don’t got the time or the energy.”

“C’mon.”

“You’re wily. I told them I wanted a nice boy who did his job, didn’t ask questions.” But she cackles, and I laugh with her.

I brush myself off and stand by her bed, my little metal toolbox on her side table. Just as I unlatch the thing, the swish of a door distracts me.

A pinched nurse swings into the room. “Mr. Morrison?” she spats. “You ought to be done soon. I truly mean it.”

Harriet glares as best she can, husks burning. “Is that you again?” She slaps the sheets with her bones. “Get the hell out. We’re busy. My brain’s going up to the cloud, lady, I’m busier than you’ve ever been in your sorry life.”

I turn away, stifling a laugh. The nurse huffs out of the room and slams the door. Harriet settles into her pillows more comfortably and I open up my tools. Syringe, a computer chip, and a touchscreen monitor to supplement the pulsette.

“Want me here or in the hallway?” I ask.

Mumbled indecipherables. I lean in. “Here,” she says. “Stay here.”

I flick the syringe, liquid bubbling. “Any last words?”

“I don’t want my kids at the upload ceremony. They took all my money.”

“You got it.”

“Only peonies when I get there.”

“Duly noted.”

She nods the go-ahead. I press into the crook of her elbow, feeling for the sweet spot, and inject slowly but surely. Her husks flicker, rolling back. This is the worst part, the pseudo-death, and so I try to walk away. I hope beyond all hope that she doesn’t dissolve into a seizing fit with foam at the mouth, but a cold hand grasps mine in a fevered clench. An ancient’s death grip.

Harriet stares up at me. A long wheeze plumes from the back of her throat. They always do that, you know, they always wheeze and it’s apparently normal. At least that’s what the pamphlets say, though I vowed to stop consulting the advice of pamphlets a long time ago. I’m happier for it.

The pulsette vibrates in a tiny frenzy on my wrist, belching bleats, as Harriet’s heart thumps to slow motion. Every beat sounds like a mountainous, unnecessary effort to keep this frail, unnecessary body up and in working order. I don’t want to watch but her hand keeps clenching with a force stronger than her heart’s frantic push and pull, and so I rub a nervous thumb over her knobby knuckles, the valleys of stretched skin.

Her squeezing weakens considerably. The medicine’s going full-force now, wracking her body with a million chemicals I’m too lazy to remember and too underpaid to care about. There was an orientation once on the makeup of the injectable we used, something about brain-altering molecules and things so tiny it doesn’t matter in the long run as long as it works. It always does.

“Cloud,” she murmurs. “Bright.”

I give her a final squeeze. “Yeah.”

And there, right before she leaves for good, before her essence or self or humanity or whatever existentialism is en vogue drifts into a pixelated wonderland of solved problems and mended hearts; right there, I think I see it. Her head tilts back and her lips curl up, Cheshire secrets, and the husks dissolve.

She wasn’t lying. The things really are honest-to-God, cornflower blue.

A Word On Voice

Voice. Oh, man.

Voice.

What is ‘voice’ when you’re a writer? How do you obtain and maintain a voice, capture the essence thereof, speak with it and be heard, actually heard?

Voice is written and expressed in myriad fashions – it’s our existential thumbprint. It’s what separates all of us into more unique human beings. A writer’s voice is something that moves others into literary submission. And if you’ve got a strong voice, all it takes is a whisper for people to hear you.

Imagine.

All it takes is a whisper.

There are several billion people on this planet, each with a default voice. We communicate the same set of emotions, expressions, fears, and dreams with that default voice, and it’s a thin layer, a surface level, on which the human voice generally operates. It can be polite conversation, a heart-to-heart, or merely a ‘hello’ in passing. Everyone is capable of using this sort of ‘voice.’

The artist’s voice is deeper than that, varied in its depth. Its ultimate goal is to move its recipients into an impossible place, world, or emotion. It’s telepathy executed to the tune of a specific lullaby. Some people will identify with this lullaby. Some will merely hear it, acknowledge it. Some will remain deaf to it for the entirety of their existence.

The writer’s voice is particularly hard to ascertain, as everyone is capable of writing a word or set of words, just as everyone is capable of participating in polite conversation like I mentioned. Everyone can say ‘hello’ and everyone can write ‘hello.’ The point at which a writer has a ‘strong’ voice – or a voice at all – is literally a matter of determining who can arrange 26 letters of the alphabet in a manner that is agreed upon by a populace to be more appealing than how the next guy arranged 26 letters of the alphabet.

That’s really trippy if you think about it hard enough.

Seriously, think about that.

One writer could look at a woman drinking coffee and describe it exactly as it’s happening, and everyone would probably agree on the description. The emotional value of that description might be neutral, but hey – it’s accurate and so it is sufficient.

Another writer could somehow interpret the same woman drinking the same coffee exactly as it’s happening, but in a way that’s… more than sufficient. There’s tone. There are lyrical word choices. There’s bite and grit and malice, beauty and charm and lacy melody. There are decisions being made in a literary sense that it’s actually above the reader at first, a flit of magic unnoticeable to the naked eye until everything just blossoms at the end, concludes with a reverberating chill down the spine.

It’s not just a woman drinking coffee anymore. It’s a story about a human being. It’s a story other human beings want to hear and relate to; it’s a story human beings want to remember and hold close to beating hearts because they now believe it’s just added to and emotionally affected their existence as a human fucking being.

That’s voice.

Don’t be sufficient. Don’t ever be sufficient.

Look At You – A Response to Myself

Yesterday I posted something quite sad, an emotional unloading of sorts. I’m a writer. It’s to be expected.

After fielding many an encouraging comment, email, tweet coming my way, I decided what I really needed was to respond to myself.

This is that response.

* * *

Wow.

Look at you.

A writer. A goddamn writer. You don’t get paid for it – yet – but look at you, writing and dreaming and writing some more.

And look at you, sort of blossoming like a struggled little weed, pretty little dandelion with its crown of yellow, soon to burst into a cloud of white wishes. You make wishes on those, you know – you wait for the yellow to fade into something that looks like death but is more a translucent transition, and with a puff of breath you send each feathery stalk into the wind to plant more wishes. And so look at you.

Things are not perfect. They’re not lovely or swell or even a tiny bit grand – but look at you, making it work. Look at you, seeing marble where there is only grubby metal. Look at you, dancing on kitchen tile while a cup of instant joe nukes in the microwave, soon to be relished as if it were liquid gold.

Life used to be easy, boring, a mess of one and the same. Life used to be a silver platter here, one there. Life is not this way anymore, and it’s sort of exciting, isn’t it? Look at you, living life. Finally and completely. Totally and utterly. Life is here and you’re here and you both intersected at some point, you both sort of had to say hello.

Look at you, staying at cafes all day just like you’ve always wanted. You drink coffee while you work, and it’s terribly cliché but terribly fun, and so you enjoy the hell out of it every single time. Look at you, sliding wayward glances at other writers while they work. Look at you and look at them.

Honestly, you’re living the dream. You’re an artist now, starving and hurting for money. You’re doing something most cannot because you only have a suitcase and yourself and that little cat named Ferris to look after. Vagabond. Traveler. Gypsy girl. Nomad.

You are all these things and it’s good, it’s perfect.

It will get better, that much is true. It takes time, just like with everything else – no? It takes some time or a lot of time, or not very much time at all. An ounce of it here and there, maybe. Writing is a journey, and journeys are time-consuming. Writing is for life. Do you know how long a life can be? Some live to over a hundred years old. You’re a scant twenty-one. Look at you.

Admittedly, yesterday was not a good kind of yesterday to have. It wasn’t a yesterday full of butterflies and goodnight kisses; it wasn’t full of fun or adventures. It was sort of dull and gray. There was more of that crying thing you so love to do now. There were eyes so puffy you could barely see.

But, that is allowed. Did you know this? You’re allowed to be human. To be vulnerable, to be scared, to be sad and alone – this is what makes you human.

Look at you, being human.

“I am but I’m not” is a heavy thing to say. You are, and you will be. You are, and you can be. You are, and you’ve always been.

Look at you, just being.

Look at you.

I Am But I’m Not

I don’t know what to write anymore.

It’s not for a lack of inspiration or motivation. It’s simply, I do not know how to move forward.

It’s times like these where I say to myself, ‘Why did I choose this? Why did this choose me?’ and I hate every facet of it. I hate words and I hate sentences. I hate virtual ink on a virtual page. I end up hating myself.

I felt strange today. I couldn’t drive normally – almost made a bad left turn – and all music sounded like loopy, numb, calliope constructions. I couldn’t understand any of it or my surroundings. I couldn’t understand myself.

When I was little, I used to experience a different sort of strange I couldn’t put into words – it was a hypersensitive, hyper-realization of being alive. My eyes would wobble in their sockets; my limbs would go fuzzy, yet everything was clearer than it should’ve been. Life itself suddenly separated from me, as if it were a reversal of the traditional out-of-body experience. The effervescence of life, like a vortex, vacuumed back into me like a molecular explosion. My breaths would hitch in my throat. Smells catapulted my nose and tastes were exemplified, even the grubby hint of morning on my tongue.

It terrified me. Mostly because I thought it meant I was really supposed to be dead. As if it were a mistake that I was alive, and that this was a spiritual glitch in my life-force, an angry attack against me.

It still happens once in a blue moon. I’ll get an ‘attack’ and I’ve learned how to get through it. There’s no discernible reason for its cause, and no, there’s no name.

Today – today I almost willed for it to happen. I wanted so badly to cease to exist. Very quietly, like an alien abduction, a vaporized disintegration. I wanted so badly to seep back into the fabric of my seat, then the metal of the car, then the cement on the street. I wanted to flatten like a pancake and stay that way, always looking at the sun.

Or to float away. Red balloon. Float away like I let float away a ‘We Miss You!’ balloon to honor my grandfather’s death when I was little. My mother had told me it was headed for heaven.

I want to feel constellations in my grasp. I want to drift amongst planets and galactic explosions of light.

I fucking hate the greasy smack of Los Angeles, of any city, of this country. Sometimes I lean back and close my eyes and think about when I’ll go back to Paris under sweeter conditions. Sometimes I think I might live there forever and meet a nice man and have two kids and we’ll take walks to the cemetery under the bridge. I think about the perpetual Parisian dew in the air. The breads. Oh, the bread.

Sometimes I wish for everyone to feel this completely and utterly numb.

Just the other day, though, I cried in my car and it was the first time I’d cried in ages, and I laughed through tears because it was a miraculous thing I should cry again, really cry. And now all I want is to cry.

I start and I stop. I write and I trash.

I am but I’m not.