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Writings and Rantings

Pins and Needles

I hate needles. Biggest fear without a doubt. So I imagined what it would be like waking up with them stuck in my arms. Add in a polyfidelitous relationship, then write about it. This is the product of my weird daydreams.

When I woke, everything was blurry. My eyes were foggy and my limbs felt numb and absolutely everything hurt, from my innermost organs to the outer layers of my skin. I felt a creeping feeling, like a bunch of centipedes crawling up my arms. With a quick glance around through my still blurry eyes I realized where I was, and an even quicker flash of thought towards my arms, I realized I should be screaming. So, I did just that, I screamed.

“Shhhh babe, relax, relax. Please, just calm down,” I felt arms pushing down on each of mine, pinning me in place, trying to keep my hands still so I would not rip the needles from my arms.

“I’ll go get someone, a nurse or something, oh god, just hold her.”

“I got it, just go,” the voices sounded familiar but in my foggy brain I could not put faces to them. Words were floating through my brain, words like ‘love’ and ‘boyfriends’ and ‘happy’ and I know there was a little bit of ‘mine’ mixed in there too.

I was still screaming when a voice that I identified as a nurse came in, hushing me right along with the two disconnected male voices. Slowly, my consciousness faded, as did my screaming and then I was back asleep.

Whatever was in the IV gave me dreams. Bad dreams, bad like your whole world crumbled beneath your feet, bad like losing everyone you love and not being able to shed a single tear, bad like watching your heart get torn to bits in front of you. It also gave me good dreams, good like forests made of candy so dense you breathed sugar, and infants with rosy cheeks laughing and giggling, and warm blankets in a Christmas snow.

When I woke back up again, my arms were strapped to the bed with what looked like brown leather belts padded by white fabric, my wrists held flat against the plastic bars of my hospital bed. My blurred gaze trailed up my arms, from the straps back to the IV needles.

“Matt. Matt. Matt, she’s waking up.”

“What? Huh? Oh! Hey, babe. How’d you sleep?”

“Should we get a nurse?”

I grumbled loudly, shaking my head slightly. I did not want a nurse, I wanted to go back to sleep so I could ignore the needles in my arms, and more than that, I wanted the needles out of my arms.

“Okay, got it, no nurse.” He laughed, and suddenly their faces came into view.

I looked around, slightly panicked, trying to ignore the sensation in my arms coming from the needles and restraints. My vision was clear only for a second as tears started to prick at my eyes. I squirmed in my restraints, trying to wriggle out of them and crawl away, away from the needles, away from the hospital, away from everything. My shoulders thrashed wildly, and I kicked my feet, and tears started streaming down my face. Someone, probably one of the guys still hovering over me, leaned down and pressed my legs back into the bed, holding them still as I continued to jerk around. I could hear myself whimpering, feel my face contorting in distress, then it all went…fuzzy. My body was numb and I could hear nothing but static. My mind felt hazy and my body felt weak. I could barely feel myself go limp just as my eyes slid closed and I blacked out.

This time I did not dream. There was just darkness for what felt like hours. Like someone had turned off the lights and I was just staring into the darkness of the night, no stars, no streetlights, just me and the void.

When I woke up again I could feel more restraints on my legs, but I could not see my body; I was covered in a white hospital sheet from the neck down, my legs, my arms, the needles all hidden from view. I knew they were still there, I could feel them—the slight pinching sensation, the pressure in my arms, the uncomfortable itchy feeling I got whenever I was around needles, all clear signs that they were still there.

I looked up to see I was surrounded by doctors and nurses, all leaning over to stare down at me.

“Well,” one of the doctors sighed, patting my shoulder gently through the sheet and smiling down at me, starting to move away, “You gave us quite a scare for a minute there.”

I did not respond, simply watched as all but one of the people in scrubs filed out through the door, and the one who stayed behind began whispering to the two guys from before. They were all standing in the corner of the room, but the second the last doctor left, the other two rushed over, one on either side of me. They each leaned over, one pressing a kiss to my forehead, the other to my cheek.

“Hey sweetie,” the one I recognized as Jay said, pulling up a chair next to me and sitting down, “How are you feeling? You passed out and scared the shit out of us.”

I mumbled a little, hoping the noise I was making sounded positive. I did feel a lot better. The queasy feeling in my stomach was gone and the cold sweats were stopping. The splitting headache was fading. Every issue I still felt was a symptom of the needles and my immeasurable fear of them.

I felt a hand sneak up under the sheet on either side of me, two hands coming up to interlace with my own, and two more crossing over top of me to lock with each other. I held on tight and imagined the needles were somewhere far away.

I felt warm and content for the first time since waking up. The needles still itched and I still felt weak, but at least I was not screaming. I started to drift off again, hearing whispers about letting me get my rest.

I floated in and out of consciousness, half awake, half asleep, mostly just weary from my earlier thrashing. That’s when the real nightmare started. I felt my bed moving and the warmth—radiating from somewhere, from everywhere—heard the screaming, smelled the smoke, felt my throat closing. It all happened so fast but my eyes would just not stay open. My eyelids opened and closed in slow, languid blinks. My brain felt hazy, from smoke or maybe just dreaming, who knew.

Then I felt the burning and I was sure it was the worst of the nightmares, the searing pain ripping through my body, the licks, like kittens from the flames, curling and bouncing around me.

Then there I was again, alone, just me and the void.

Sorry I have not written in so long, I have felt terrible about it, both for your sake and mine. Anyway, I hope this helped make up for it a little.

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Onism

Onism – n. the awareness of how little of the world you’ll experience

I spend a lot of time scrolling mindlessly through dictionaryofobscuresorrows.com and looking for words that inspire me. This time the word that popped out at me most is onism. I realized recently that for a website about me I do not tend to share much about myself, so, hopefully, I will do some of that here.

Just a few days ago I moved in to the New Jersey Institute of Technology where I plan to major in Mechanical Engineering. This was not originally part of my plan, not the right college, not the right major, not even the right state, but it works in with my plan okay, or, at least, okay enough to continue on. I adapted, it’s what people do. My plan starts at college, for which I have no actual plan of how to survive now that I am here. The plan glosses over those four years like they are nothing, skipping straight to the exciting stuff. After college, I hope to join the Peace Corps. Every piece of it has appealed to me since I discovered it was even an option. For those who do not know much about the Peace Corps, I would spend two years in another country, helping in whatever I have been assigned to help with, learning about the surrounding culture.

So that’s the next six years. Seems quite a bit to have planned out, especially the way I have planned it. Two years out of the country, probably somewhere remote with no outside contact, does not exactly allow for many connections to be made where I live. Upon returning I will come back and have to practically start from scratch, from a social standpoint, and that is pretty much exactly what I want. Aside from that, I hope to come back and start grad school, work with Engineers without Borders, and eventually design and create robotic prosthetics.

But to get back to the original thing that started this rant about all of my plans for the future—onism. Engineers without borders reaches 45 countries and the Peace Corps reaches 64. It’s amazing all the places they help, some places I barely knew existed. And while, yes, the ultimate goal of me joining these programs is to help people, to touch as many lives as I can in the most positive way possible, I also want the chance to see as much of the world as I possibly can. Something about writing that feels selfish to me, the urge to explore, it feels so small with all the problems around us; yet, I cannot seem to help this overwhelming urge I have to see everything.

Since starting college I have had the distinct pleasure of meeting some incredibly intriguing people. I met two girls born in India who lived in Ireland before moving to America, a guy who was born in England and lived in Singapore before moving to America, and so many people with so many amazing talents I can’t begin to describe, like a guy who has the mysterious ability to wake up in a different city each night with no recollection of the night before, and a bunch of people with impressive artistic ability, including a guy who “accidentally” painted a beautiful picture of a woman while attempting to paint an owl. My roommate speaks somewhere around four languages if memory serves, and is proficient in I believe another five. I met people who know where every party is by some black magic and people who truly believe themselves to be invincible.

In short, I feel inadequate, I feel unimpressive, but most significantly, I feel jealous. Some of the people I have met have seen more than I could ever dream, while my best stories are all fictional. My greatest adventures come in the form of books I have read and stories I have written. Yes, I suppose college is the best time to rectify that, but I cannot help but feel I have wasted my years so far. If I live as long as the average woman, I will be impressed, but I still will not have had the time to experience all that I wish to. I live with this onism constantly, and I think no matter what I end up experiencing in my life, it will never be enough. There are universes to explore, but I will barely see enough of the country I live in to be satisfied. I suppose that’s all there really is to this whole mess of thoughts I just vomited onto this screen: that I will simply never be satisfied.

 

 

I know I have said this many times before, but I honestly plan to write more, (though, the best laid plans of mice and men, right?) whether it be about my college adventures, or more fiction to keep the peace in my mind through the haze of classes, or more angry rants instigated by stupid people. However, my first class starts in mere hours, so I must part from my keyboard and my thoughts and try to get some rest before everything starts happening too much all over again.

 

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Flowers in a Graveyard

I grew in a graveyard, small, but strong. I was the little bit of life in a garden of dead and I was all the happier for it. My petals were gold and my leaves were long and pointed and anywhere else people would’ve called me a weed, plucked me straight from the ground. But here, here I was sacred. The man who cut the grass always cut around me and the people who came to visit always stepped over me. I was loved, maybe misplaced, not quite where I should have been, all alone in my graveyard, but I was always loved.

Once a little girl came and blew me a kiss. I was just a little blossom then, but the warmth of her kisses made even the sun feel cold on my stem. I watched the people pass, some days so many of them I feared for myself, some days so few I pitied the stones surrounding me. Some of the people that came, their eyes sparkled and their faces were soft and sad. Some people looked angry, all sharp edges and cold, hurt stares. Some people seemed crazy to me, laughing at the sight of me, then crying mere seconds later. Every face held a different feeling, a different story, a different way of dealing with the pain they were in. Some faces appeared over and over, some so often I wished I had hands to wave hello. Some came with other flowers, dead ones, the corpses of my brothers and sisters, and for a moment I shared in those people’s pain. But that moment was fleeting, after all, I did not know them, and I am not built for complex emotions. Sadness, yes, but not so prolonged a sorrow as humans.

At the end of that first year, when the slight chill touched the air and the people came in slightly more clothes, my gold pedals turned soft and white. People smiled at me less, finding less comfort in the small flower they once knew. I was dying then, only a grim reminder of death where I once was a pleasant reminder of life. Until one day the little girl, the one that blew me a kiss, she came and pulled me from the ground, tearing out my roots and crumpling my leaves. For a moment, I was afraid. I thought this was the end. That’s when a miracle came. I was floating, high above the graveyard. The people with the shining eyes looked up, watching me float above them and they looked so beautiful. I was dead but I had never felt more alive. I could see them, all of them, all of the stones that had kept me company through my short life, and here I was, joining them in a life beyond.

When I grew again the next spring, I was confused. I did not know where I was or how I had gotten here. I was in a yard, in front of a big blue house. The house, I came to discover, was inhabited by the little girl and her family. I watched her grow this summer and she laughed when she saw me. She made sure I stayed, even when her parents cut the grass or her dog romped in the lawn. I was precious to her, and this year, when my pedals turned white and soft, she lifted me up, more carefully this time and brought me back, back to the graveyard, all the way in the back corner where the stone walls protected me from the elements.

The next year, when I returned, there I was, sat in the graveyard, alone again in my corner. The little girl visited the spot, at the beginning of the summer to see where I had grown. She was not quite a little girl anymore, but her smile was brighter than ever. After she left that day, I never saw her again, and I hoped she had moved on.

I spent years in that corner, dying and growing back, sometimes alone, sometimes with company, always content to watch the people. They were all sad, but they were all still going, arriving, leaving, sometimes returning, sad for the moment, but with so much time to feel happy again. And when the stones tarnished and cracked and the visitors grew old and eventually stopped coming altogether, I was content, just to sit in my corner, swaying in the breeze, thinking back on all the faces full of emotion and the stones, stoic and unyielding where they stood. Year after year, I grew in that graveyard, small, but strong, a little bit of life in a garden of dead, and I was all the happier for it.

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The Beautiful Eye in a Storm of Disaster

YUS I AM WRITING AGAIN IT FEELS SO GOOD. I hope this is the end of my severe bout of writer’s block.

My mother and I often argue whether I am capable of writing about what I have not experienced. I, of course, think I can, but I will let you be the judge of that. She said I cannot write romance because I have not experienced it. I wrote this to challenge that. Admittedly, I also looked up the elements of a romance, and the first I found was that all the subjects of the romantic relationship had to be likeable. I wrote this to challenge that as well.

I hated him. I hated the way he came into my life and changed everything. I hated the way he looked like a god descended from the heavens and the way he smelled of fresh cut grass and lemons and rosemary. I hated the way he spoke as if he knew everything, as if he knew me. I hated the way he looked at me, as though he could see right through me, but chose not to, chose instead to look at me—no, not look at me, stare at me. I hated the way he felt like warmth and soft flannels and home when he wrapped his arms around me. Most importantly, I hated the way he loved me. I hated the way that he offered up his whole soul to love me.

When we met I was a self-pitying mass of hate. When he left, I cycled right back. People said I started off bitter, became better, then went right back, as though I never knew him. That was what I wanted. Not to become that awful, miserable person all over again, but to exist as though he never had. To continue with my life as though he had never been part of it, had never waltzed his way into my thoughts, my heart.

He had come to my room late that night, looking for someone else. I never found out who that someone was. He knocked on my apartment door and froze, less like a deer in headlights, more like a the way a statue looks right before it is knocked down—as though he had always been frozen, existing with completely still as a natural state, but inciting pity and sorrow in those that look at him. His eyes were watering slightly, probably because he was not blinking, and they conveyed fear where his face screamed subtle joy. It was unsettling, how expressive his face was. I asked him what he wanted, my tone too harsh to be fair. He did not respond, merely smiled and ran away. I closed the door, rolled my eyes, and forgot it had ever happened.

I learned two weeks later that he had moved into the apartment next to mine. I rarely left my apartment, having far too much work to do inside. I was an aspiring writer at the time. My parents were dead, leaving me a small fortune, so I had time to pursue this passion, not that I was able to mold those passions into words. My language was dry and my storyline was too meticulously thought out to convey any emotion. Until the night the power went out before I had managed to save my latest three chapters.

The emotions I should have woven with my words came out in another way that night as I quickly and methodically trashed my whole apartment. Once everything was sufficiently destroyed, I collapsed, right in the middle of the wreckage. I had not eaten in days, having been too enveloped in my work. I heard the knocking and yelling at my door, followed by a loud cracking noise that I assumed to be lightning just before the world began to fade.

When I awoke, I did not recognize where I was. The mass underneath me felt familiar, like my couch, but everything else was so different, so pristine. There were neat stacks of paper where there used to be torn scatters. There was sparkling floors where there used to be dirty tiles. Everything felt…tidy. I sat up quickly, too quickly, dizzying myself, but spinning to look around anyway. My vision blurred, but when it cleared again, I saw him. He was sitting at my feet, on the very edge of my couch, his head leaning to rest on the back and his eyes shut tight. He looked peaceful. So, I did what any sane person would do: I shook him. Violently. While screaming.

He woke with a start, but smiled as soon as he saw me.

“Oh,” his voice was smooth, and this angered me. I thought it should be gravely from sleep, but it sounded like a piece of music, unwoven and hung loose like silk. He stood, saying, “I guess I must’ve fallen asleep. I am so sorry. You should eat something. You look like you haven’t in days, and I’m guessing that’s why you passed out.”

He started towards the door, but something in me wanted to give him a reason to stay, so I said the first thing that popped into my mind: “You do a lot of guessing.” I was used to my harsh, rude tone, but for some reason it made me cringe.

“I guess I do,” he laughed, and his laugh sounded nothing like I imagined it would. It sounded like tinkling glass chimes placed underwater and drawn out into a rich, pleasant sound. It felt warm and I scowled when I realized my lips had twitched into a smile at the sound.

He left after that, mumbling an apology for the broken door and promising to fix it by the end of the day. I left to buy food and when I came back it was fixed, with a note taped to it.

The handwriting on it was sharp and angled, and begged me to take care of myself. Specifically it said, “Please, take care of yourself, or I might be forced to do it for you.” He addressed it with his name, apartment number, and phone number, all of which I put in my phone and promptly ignored for another week, leaving the letter to collect dust next to my sink.

By the end of the week I had grown unbelievably irritated. I could not find anything. I was looking for the paper where I kept the list of passwords for everything, when the frustration became too much. I texted him.

Where did you put my list?

Well hello to you too.

Hi. Where is it?

Do you mind me asking who this is?

Your neighbor.

The one who made me lasagna, the really anxious one, or the one with far too many parakeets?

The one whose door you broke and couch you crashed on.

Oh, well in that case.

There was a knocking at my door mere seconds later, and I shouted, “It’s open.”

He helped me find not only my list, but everything else I had been searching for over the course of the past week. He hummed the whole time, happy and light, and left with a quick wave as soon as we were done. When he left I felt oddly empty, lonely. I texted him again, telling myself it was curiosity’s fault, it could not be helped.

Which one am I?

Pardon?

You had descriptive traits for each of your neighbors. Which one am I?

The beautiful eye in a storm of disaster.

?????? What does that even mean????

He never responded. At least, not until the confusion and curiosity felt like it was eating me alive and I pounded on his apartment door three days later.

He answered with a smile and a smug, “I was wondering how long it would take you.” He gestured for me to come in, and though I had no intention of staying, I entered anyway.

“What did you mean?” I demanded, sick of playing this dumb game.

He hummed and walked into his small kitchen area, scooting behind the island, ignoring my question entirely. “Do you want anything?” he offered, “Tea? Coffee? Something else?”

“No, what I want is for you to answer my question.” I moved around the island so we were on the same side of it and I tried to make my stance look powerful, menacing almost, but next to him I just felt small, unsure.

He sighed, moving closer to me until we were face to face, right in front of each other, a breath apart. He whispered, “It’s much less fun to tell you.” Then, he kissed me, and I felt like I might pass out all over again.

After that I became a softer person. I stopped taking the offensive when I spoke. I laughed more. I smiled more. I left my apartment more. Sometimes it was just a short trip, a trip next door to visit him, sometimes it was further, right out of the building. We went to the park or different restaurants around the city or just for walks around the block. I went out by myself more too. I found myself becoming a better person, in ways that I knew the old me would have loathed, but I did not care. It was fun. Everything felt lighter in a way. I met up with old friends, many of whom were absolutely astonished by the change. They said it was like meeting a whole new person.

During this time I also took a break from my writing. I tried to get an actual job, and succeeded, but I worked few hours and was only a cashier, so it was not exactly mentally stimulating for me. When I did get back to writing, my words had gained passion, energy, depth. So much so, that in reading over my old words in addition to the new I noticed a complete lack of continuity. Nothing flowed, it was like the chapters had been written by two different people. So, I started over.

One night, around three in the morning, he knocked on my door. He knew I was awake, I often did not even consider sleep until the first rays of sun peeked back over the horizon, and I was deep into a chapter. Plus, we had been texting less than an hour before. He walked in before I had the chance to answer, and I looked up from my screen to smile at him, then went back to my writing as soon as he smiled back. He walked over, coming up behind where I sat on a stool facing the island in my kitchen, fingers gliding over the keys effortlessly. He kissed the back of my head and wrapped his arms around me, placing his fingers over where mine were darting around. We sat like that for a moment, my hands still moving and his gently drifting over mine, barely touching the tops of my fingers. I felt his forehead come to rest on my shoulder and heard him sigh before I stopped typing.

He removed his hands from the tops of mine, instead bringing them to rest on the sides of my waist. I turned my head, just the slightest bit towards him so I could see the top of his head, and whispered, “Is everything alright?” He hummed an unconvincing ‘mmhmm’ in response, never lifting his head. His hands drifted to wrap around my stomach and he lifted his head slowly, taking a step closer so he was pressed directly to my slouched back. He removed one of his hands for a second to slide a small stack of papers on my counter closer to him before replacing it where it encircled me. The papers were just a quick short story I had written in order to clear my head when I could not get the next chapter to come to me. It was about the past two years. It was about us.

He read silently, resting his chin on my shoulder, and I continued typing. Every so often I would hear him huff out a short laugh, or hum in agreement and recognition of the words as something that had happened to us. My hands were moving slower than before and my thoughts were moving even slower than my hands and it was creating a mess of words on the screen in front of me, but I did not care. I was content to just listen to him breath and feel him shift slightly as he read.

That night, after he finished reading, we went to the roof and drank and watched the sun come up over the city. It felt so cliché, and I knew my past self would have abhorred every second of it, but now I did not mind so much. In fact, I enjoyed listening to him gush about how much he loved my writing and how much he loved me, and watching the light paint the city the millions of colors that come with a fresh day.

Three days past after that before I noticed anything was wrong. It was not his personality that gave it away—he was just as bubbly and energetic as before—it was the physical look of him. There were bags under his eyes, eyes that normally shined with happiness, but had now dulled to a somber contentment. I hugged him and he felt thinner, and his skin had taken on a gray tinge. There was something about the way he stood, something about the look on his face, something about the way he radiated less energy. I asked him if he was feeling alright twice that day, and both times he responded, “I feel perfect.”

Two days later, I went to his apartment and the door was locked. I knocked, and there was no answer. That much made sense, he only locked his apartment when he left. I had a key, and when I went in, no one was there. I called him and his phone went straight to voicemail. He was not often unreachable, but I kept myself from assuming the worst. I assumed that maybe he was out, maybe grocery shopping or something, and maybe his phone had died. I assumed so many maybes to avoid even thinking of what I felt in my gut to be true.

Two more days past, all of which I spent hiding in my apartment, my brain traveling to worse and worse possibilities. Then, I got a call from his parents. They had met me twice previously and knew to call me first. They said he had asked for me, but the doctors said only family would be allowed. They said he begged the doctors, as much as he could beg, just to get to see me one last time. They said that after the first day in the hospital he gave up begging, deciding it would be worse if I knew, worse if I was forced to sit in the hospital outside his room incapable of doing anything to help, worse if I was able to see him, worse if I saw him like that.

I hated him. I hated the way he made that decision for me. I hated the way he left me. I hated the way that he lied to me. I hated the way he told me he felt perfect. I hated the way he was gone and the way he was never coming back and the way I got no explanation. I hated the way he cleaned my apartment, scrubbed my soul, polished my heart. I hated the way he took my passion with him when he left, causing me to stop writing and delete everything I had already written. I hated the way he would not be there to knock down the door and fix everything when I trashed my apartment that night and fell in the center, clutching the note he had taped to my door. Most importantly, I hated the way he left me: a crushed eye in a storm of disaster.

TADAAAAAA! Romance-y enough? Sorry, I tried not to kill anybody, but with a start like that, it sort of felt inevitable and completely necessary.

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Just Something to Say Something

I have had two novel ideas and three fanfiction ideas in the last month and all I have wanted is to write a short fictional story for this damn website. I have done everything I know to do to get inspiration and it is just not happening. Well, that’s not true, it’s happening, but in the wrong place. I thought that if I wrote those fanfictions and started on those novels that I would feel at least some of the satisfaction that normally comes from me writing. Yet, here I am, writing what feels like an apology to all three of the people who actually read this blog regularly (you have my infinite thanks, by the way) and to myself for so many things, including not writing anything on here in over a month. There is something about the instant gratification that comes from writing on this website that improves my mood by a thousand percent. Even writing this, this sad, meaningless paragraph, knowing it is going somewhere that people will see it feels rewarding. Fictional stories and opinionated ramblings alike get seen, whether it be by all three of you or not, it feels like I am doing something, like I am accomplishing something with my time that brings me a little closer to becoming a real writer. That’s all I want. I know that I would be one step closer if I actually put some time into the thirty novel ideas I have had over the past few years, but I just cannot bring myself to pour so much of my heart and soul into something that is going to take years to mean something to anyone besides me. I know what I write now, on this website and others, means nothing as it stands now, but it is at least being seen, whereas these novel ideas might not work out or might fall flat or might just never make it anywhere past my laptop. What I am trying to say is, I throw myself into what I write, and I do not have the energy, the willpower, or the heart to spend that much time on something so important to me (read: my writing) just to watch it fall. I am perfectly okay watching it happen to the rest of what I write, but for now, I cannot bring myself to do something that means something without letting it break me. I have no strength for that and no inspiration for anything else, so for now, the three of you get this. This sloppy, miserable, way-too-long-to-be-a-paragraph paragraph, that I hope serves as means of an explanation/apology, but will hopefully not only alleviate this heavy feeling in my chest that comes from not producing anything worth showing to an insect, but also aid in my lack of inspiration.

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Equality? Hardly.

Not to bring anyone down, but it needs to be said.

I have been postponing writing about my feelings on marriage equality for a very long time for many reasons, mainly because it is something I feel so incredibly strongly about that I never thought I would be able to put all of my feelings into words at once. So, today, this historic day, June 26th, 2015, the day when marriage equality was achieved throughout all of the United States, I will try my hardest to express my feelings all at once. I will likely fail, but there are some things that are just too important to not say today.

I am so, indescribably happy about what has happened today. I am happy that my friends and I can now marry whomever we fall in love with. I am happy that people who have been in happy, healthy relationships for years now finally have the opportunity to marry the people they fell in love with. I am happy that everyone in my country is now free to build or destroy relationships the way straight people have been for years. I am also so very, very happy for all the things this means. This means child custody and hospital visitation and health insurance and all the other perks that go along with actually being married.

Yet, I am also sad, and angry, and scared. I feel this way because this means that the majority of people will think that the fight is over (at least here in America). It means that people will stop seeing homophobia. They will say things like, “You got your marriage equality, what more could you possibly want,” and, “You accomplished your goal, now go away.” People will think that the discrimination against anyone not straight is over. Now, this might be a huge milestone, a giant leap towards equality, but not big enough, this is far from over.

Yes, now anyone can get married, but can anyone walk down the street, holding the hand of someone they love without getting dirty looks or crude remarks or being physically attacked? Can anyone kiss their significant other without fear of parents screeching about having to explain it to their children? Can any child, discovering who they are, live without the fear of having to explain to their parents what makes them happy? Can absolutely anyone and everyone live without fear of being attacked, emotionally, mentally, or physically, for something that makes them happy?

Homophobia has not gone away with a simple legal verdict. There still people that are not safe walking down the street and there are still children afraid to live in their homes.

Then of course there is the heteronormativity issue. People need to ‘come out’ to nearly everyone they meet because they are assumed to be straight. It is nerve racking. Meeting new people becomes an anxiety ridden roller coaster of, “when is it appropriate to tell them and how will they react?” There is an ‘assume straight until proven otherwise’ policy that desperately needs to change. A weeks old boy will be called a lady’s man, teenage girls are asked whether they have a boyfriend yet, toddlers of the opposite sex seen together are asked when they are getting married. The heteronormative culture is forced onto people from such a young age and can be incredibly harmful in their growing process. Not only that, but it perpetuates homophobia, and will now aid in making homophobia invisible now that we have marriage equality.

I knew when I started writing this that I would not be able to finish it or even think of all the things I wanted to say, and I know the next few days will be full of me thinking, “Damn, I should have written (insert facts about something really important and relevant)” but it is completely unrealistic for me to think I could touch on all the issues. I am sure I will eventually write about discrimination within the LGBTQ+ community, my distress over marriage equality still not being achieved in other countries, more issues with heteronormativity and so-called ‘homophobia,’ and many other issues concerning these topics; however, if you leave reading this with one message, let it be this: our struggle is far from over. So, celebrate, enjoy this milestone, but be prepared for everything to get harder.

 

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Rückkehrunruhe

Rückkehrunruhe—(return unrest) n. the feeling of returning home after an immersive trip only to find it fading rapidly from your awareness—to the extent you have to keep reminding yourself that it happened at all, even though it felt so vivid just days ago—which makes you wish you could smoothly cross-dissolve back into everyday life, or just hold the shutter open indefinitely and let one scene become superimposed on the next, so all your days would run together and you’d never have to call cut.

(Source)

We spent four years learning. Four years memorizing. Four years preparing for the future, for college. We spent four years planning and replanning and editing our paths. We spent four years getting to know each other and four years learning how our school worked and four years being shaped by each other and our environment. We spent four years together mourning good sleeping habits and begging for at least semi-tolerable grades. We spent four years learning scientific names and doing studies on beaches and taking water tests. Four years. And now? Now we go our separate ways, remembering what we can and cherishing those memories, but never fully remembering what we experienced.

I went to a very different high school. It was a vocational school, one for the smartest kids in the county. We all had to test in, leaving behind our old friends and school, starting new. A fresh start with new people and a harsher course load was what we expected. What we got was so much more. I have tried a million times to write some sort of tribute to my school, but it is impossible to describe in so few words. The shortest I could probably describe it would be hands-on hell. And some days, just hell. But other days, other days it was amazing. One day I would be sobbing and screaming in a vain attempt to memorize Latin names I would never need again, and the next I was sitting on the beach throwing oranges into the ocean and laughing at how ridiculous that was with some of the best friends I have ever known.

Despite this rollercoaster mix of hell and pure bliss, high school has been my immersive trip. I remember starting with marine biology and ending with environmental science and having chemistry and aquatic ecology and physics and oceanography somewhere in the middle, but those are not even all of the science classes I had. My astrophysics is blending with my calculus and my British literature is blending with my computer science. As strange as it sounds, the past four years have been put in a blender and become one. Of course, there are chunks, little things I still remember, like learning that the scientific name of the northern pufferfish is sphoeroides maculatus and how the moon was formed by a mars sized object colliding with the earth, but I cannot remember whether I took statistics or trigonometry first or how many people were in my class before they all started dropping out.

I have never really been able to accurately describe my school. When people ask I have always just said, “It’s a fish school, a school for intelligent people with a focus in the marine environment,” but it was so much beyond that. Every class was more intense than the last, whether it be a science or a math or even an English or gym class. It was also a group effort. My graduating class was seventy kids and I had some sort of relationship with every single one of them. I can tell you where every kid is from and something about them that I learned through some experience with them. They were more than friends, they were like a family. Sometimes I hated them, sometimes I loved them, and all the time they drove me crazy, but that was okay because we were crazy together. There were many occasions where I would be up at three am studying or writing a million papers or just trying to finish daily homework and would get text that said something like, “at what point do we say screw it and not bother sleeping at all,” or, “Yo, what’s the answer to 73, I keep getting this weird number,” or, “WhY thE ACtuAl FuKC Are TherE So MaNy DaMn TREES,” and looking back, those are messages I will cherish for eternity. I will not cherish them because they were funny or strange or because they happened at such ungodly hours. I will cherish them because they came from friends, friends that knew that—whether I had the answer to the world’s hardest math problems or not—I would be there for them at said ungodly hours. They knew that I was awake with them, memorizing scientific names of a hundred fish or eighty seven trees or trying to figure out why the hell Macbeth was so damn nuts or how to solve such awful integrals. They knew that, even when I could not answer their texts, that I was right there with them, wishing I was doing anything but exactly what I was doing, wishing I had not even bothered attempting this school, wishing I was smarter than I am.

But that is just it, isn’t it? We are not smarter than we are and we did attempt this incredibly challenging school and we did make it through everything we had to. We all graduated, we all learned, we all succeeded. We succeeded where others failed, and where most others did not even bother to try. We did it together, and we did it damn well.

I wish I could just hold the shutter open indefinitely on this immersive vacation, watching the past four years as one scene becomes superimposed on the next, so all my days run together and I never have to call cut, but I know I cannot, I must move on, as must everyone else that graduated with me today.

Everyone at high school graduations always says goodbye, I hope I see you again, best of luck in the future. I said my goodbyes, but I have no doubt I will see my classmates in the future. I will see them on television when they cure cancer or become the president, I will see them in magazines when they join the thirty under thirty, I will see them on campus tours when they become professors of big universities, I will see them in press conferences when they announce their latest discoveries, I will see them in line at patent offices, and I will see them everywhere, in the people around me, in their hearts and thoughts, as they change the world.

 

Dedicated to the MATES class of 2015, people who have helped me grow, learn, and become who I am today. Without each and every one of you, I would have never made it this far, and for that I am eternally grateful.

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I Finished My Novel–Part 1

Well this is awkward. I may or may not have based the main character of this piece on myself. Is that weird? That’s totally weird. Alright, well it’s a little too late for me to be concerned with weird. I am weird. I will figure out how to deal with that one day. In the meantime, here is part one.

My favorite time of the year is that time right between fall and winter and between winter and spring. That time where it is not quite warm but not quite cold and you know it will probably snow this weekend despite the weather not really indicating that right now. That time when you leave the door open and the screen closed even though it’s raining and has been for days and will be for more. Even if it does not rain, the air will still be damp and the ground will be squishy and everything will have this wet feeling with a nice cool breeze in the moderate temperature air. If it was any warmer out the humidity would be killer and if it was any colder you would have to wear a jacket but it is not so you do not and everything is just perfect. It is those in between spots, not quite one thing and not quite another and not quite anything describable.

I love the snow, I really do, but the pouring rain, the type that beats on the roof so loud you cannot hear yourself think, so no one bothers to think, nonetheless speak, the type that makes everything else silent, demonstrating its incredible power over all sound—that type of rain is without flaws. It leaves nothing to be desired. In the cold people bundle up to block it out and eventually it becomes too much for our bodies which have evolved to fit our temperature controlled environments. In the heat people peel off layer after layer, wishing there was just some way to make it even a little bit cooler. But this, this in between time, this time without flaw, this time without desire, this is the time I live for.

 

It has been six months and four days since I finished writing my novel. Six months and four days to the exact minute, to the exact second. Six months and four days and three seconds, since I am typing this. Twelve seconds. Fourteen seconds. Sixteen. Seventeen. Eighteen…

It is three thirty three in the morning on September twenty fifth when I finish my novel. Three threes. I think of the rule of three—things are always wittier, smarter, all around better when written in threes. It is funny to me, I am not quite sure why, but it is immensely funny that I have managed to not only finish my novel at this exact time, but also that my brain continues to be stuck on the rules and formulas and recommendations of writing even now that I am done. And oh am I glad to be done. Yet, my brain keeps going, thinking about the rule of three, and how, in a story, there should never be coincidences (such as this one) unless they hinder the protagonist, and how you are supposed to write what you know.

I wrote what I truly know. I know theatre and avant-garde music and New Jersey and robots and whiskey and turtles. My novel was four hundred and nineteen pages long, though it has shrunk through the months as I have edited, and incorporated all of those things. In writing what I truly know, I forgot what I should know. I forgot that September twenty fifth was my younger brother’s birthday. I forgot that humans are supposed to sleep. I forgot that my rent was now almost a month past due and my car payment was not going to make itself.

So, needless to say, my brother was pissed, his wife even more so when she found out that for the third year in a row I was missing his birthday party in favor of paying a visit to my second favorite bar. My first favorite did not open until four o’clock in the afternoon and I just could not bear to wait that long to celebrate. I called my brother around two, because by that time I was just reaching a point where I was inebriated enough to remember that something important was happening, but not sober enough to remember what. I started the call slurring something about learning to tie knots so I could put strings on my fingers, and ended the call screaming something along the lines of, “Well how was I supposed to know there was going to be cake!?”

He hung up on me then, and at the time I was offended. At the time I also had not slept in almost three days and was more drunk than I thought I could get off what was left of my paycheck, so I passed out, knocking over my glass with my forehead as my head hit the table in front of me with a thud. When I came to, my phone was sitting in a puddle of liquor mixed with drool and the bartender was mumbling something about having a long night ahead of her.

At some point, I am not exactly sure when, I ended up in the back of a cab. It smelled of vomit and stale cigarettes and old Chinese food, but I was in no state to complain. Someone must have told the driver my address—god knows somebody must know it by now—because some time later we arrived at my house, upon which I promptly fell out of the cab and onto my front lawn at the feet of none other than my ever so lovely landlord. My landlord, who also happened to be a friend’s ex, looked less than pleased.

This friend, a tall, loud woman with an (arguably unhealthy) obsession with dragons, had left him due to a simple lack of punctuality; however, when it came to collecting rent, he was the king of timekeeping. Luckily, I still got the perks that come with being friends with the girl the poor guy was harboring feelings for, so being twenty five days late was not only something he was used to, but also something he was okay with. I hoped they would get back together so that he would ignore that I owed him altogether.

I had not realized that he was sitting down on the porch feet stretched in front of him until he stood up. He was also tall, but nowhere near as loud as she was. He did not even speak, just rolled his eyes and walked over to pay the cab driver. He heaved a sigh as he practically scraped me off the front lawn and dragged me to the door. There was a plant next to the door—well, less of a plant and more of a pile of decaying organic matter—and instead of simply reaching in and pulling out the spare key like a normal human being, this animal smashed the plant against the concrete, then picked out the key from amidst the dirt.

“You’ll thank me when you are sober enough to remember this happened. That so called plant was an eyesore anyway. And it smelled.” He somehow managed to say all three of those sentences without moving a single muscle in his face.

“Yeah, well, so do you.” In hindsight I realize that this was not the most intelligent thing to say but he did not seem to mind.

I passed out at that point, lying on the ground. Some odd amount of hours later I woke up and found a note on my coffee table that simply said, “PAY THE RENT.” in big loopy handwriting, along with two aspirin and a glass of water, both of which I downed quickly before dragging myself to the shower. As I reached to turn on the water, I heard a soft noise and looked down to find three cats sitting inside the tub. I did not have cats. I also did not have energy, or at least, not enough to get rid of the cats. Instead I opted for dragging my feet to my room and falling onto the bed.

The curtain to the one window in my room was open just enough that I could see it was night time, but the numbers on my clock were blinking, meaning there was likely a power outage at some point—they are common in my area. Realizing through the haze of a headache that I was out of money and needed to work at some point, finding out the time suddenly became very important to me. I reached into my left pocket for my phone, which I found still covered in drool and alcohol. It would not turn on, so I assumed either the battery was dead or it was broken. I walked over to my work desk and tried to boot up my computer. It was broken in about six different ways, so I had to wiggle the power cord for a while before it turned on, but eventually the start screen with the picture of the very and angry looking turtle popped up.

I intended on opening the computer only to check the time, but out of sheer habit I somehow ended up opening my novel. There it was, in all its four hundred and nineteen pages of glory. I started to read it again, my eyes skimming the words I knew all too well. I had read and reread and reread again every page so many times I practically had the beginning memorized. I forgot completely about looking at the time, fully immersed in editing in a matter of seconds. The page number shrank and grew and shrank again for no one knows how long.

I woke up with my face laying on the keyboard and quite a few pages consisting of nothing more than the letter h repeated over and over. I hit the back button and every h disappeared, leaving nothing but the novel on the pages. I looked back at my computer and saw that I was supposed to be at work in about an hour and I had a twenty minute ride. I saved my work and shut down my computer, turning around on my way to the shower when I saw them. Three cats. Sitting on my bed. Cleaning themselves.

I did what any sane person would do: I ignored them. I went straight to my shower, which I was glad they were out of. As the water beat down on my head I decided I would deal with them when I got home if they were still there. I dressed quickly, running for the kitchen to find something to eat, but it was empty aside from six cans of Mountain Dew and one singular egg. I grabbed two of the cans of Mountain Dew and ran out the door to my car, kicking at the pieces of ‘plant’ and its broken pot on the way. God, that thing was hideous.

Now, if you have been paying attention, just as I was not at the time, you will have realized the problem long before I did. See, a cab brought me home from the bar yesterday, but a cab did not bring me to the bar. So, when I went outside to get in my car, I was shocked to find it was not there.

This left me with only one rational option. I called my brother. Predictably, he did not answer. He was probably still mad. I called again, but he still did not answer, so I called my boss and told her I would not be able to make it to work today. She said it was fine as long as I covered an extra shift on Friday. I said sure, but I did not actually know what day of the week it was, so I did not know when Friday was.

I started to walk. It was fourteen miles to the nearest rest station and another two to the bar after that. I figured I could stop at the rest stop for some food, but quickly realized I did not have the cash. So I started to walk straight to the bar.

There was a bridge about a mile from my house. It took me around twenty minutes to get there. Under the bridge there was a houseless person, sitting on the bank of the river, smoking what was left of a cigarette butt I watched him pick up off the ground. He picked up another one, and I stood on the bridge and watched. He pulled a box of matches out of his pocket, pulling one out and striking it on the side of the box. It would not lite, so he tried another one, then another, but they just were not lighting. I had a lighter in my pocket, which I pulled out as I walked down the slope leading under the bridge.

“Need a light?” I tried to speak like I was sure of myself, but I just sounded scared. I was not scared; there was nothing about this man that I needed to fear. He himself looked scared as I approached, flinching away from me and shrinking into his ripped and muddied clothing. My voice shook in what sounded suspiciously like fear, and he scooted towards me after hearing me speak, offering the cigarette butt towards me. I lit it, and he pressed it to his lips, inhaling before it burnt out mere seconds later. He sighed in what looked like pain, so I offered him the lighter, handing it to him wordlessly. It would not last long, but it was something, and I had no use for it anyway, I do not smoke.

He looked so grateful, like I had just offered him eternal life, when I had instead offered him a shorter route to death. Maybe I was an enabler, but the smile it brought to his face was worth it, and he was not hurting anyone. I decided that I had no further business there, and there was no way I would make it to my car by nightfall, so I turned around, heading home. Along the way I counted sixty five more cigarette butts sitting on the ground, and wondered if it would be worth it to bring them to the man, since I had no money to buy him a pack of his own. But that would make me a bad person, for giving him one of his own simple pleasures.

It did not matter, I was not picking them up, I was not going back under the bridge, and I was not giving anything more to that man. He was in my rearview, a part of my past that I would never bother looking back on. And besides, I had nothing left to give.

I was home anyway, not that I knew what to do with myself by that point. So, I turned on my computer. It was Tuesday, which meant I had a couple of days to get my car back before work on Friday. I figured I could deal with that later. There were more important things to do now. Like sleep.

Of course, when I turned to my bed, I rediscovered the cats who had claimed my bed for their own. The one difference was that where there once was three cats there was now nine cats. Well, more appropriately, three cats and six kittens. Two of the cats were pacing around the third and the kittens. I assume they were trying to protect them. I never realized that cats traveled in threes. So, I asked the internet if they traveled in packs. The internet said that, just like lions, feral cats will travel in packs. It also told me that feral cats likely would not enjoy living indoors and do not like human interaction, since they are not used to it. And it told me that, unlike most mammals other than humans, zebras are likely not color blind, and in Amsterdam bicycle fisherman are hired to fish 12000 to 15000 bikes out of the canals every year. Neither of those things were important to the situation, though I found both very intriguing.

I did not know what to do about the cats. I probably should have called animal control, especially since cats that were not known for liking indoors or humans were both indoors and interacting with humans. Strange behavior normally indicates that a call to animal control is necessary, but they looked so cute and harmless. Instead, I went to the kitchen and grabbed some year old tuna. It was left by an old roommate—I hate fish. But, despite the absolutely wretched smell, I managed to plop it into a bowl and push it onto the bed, a peace offering for the cats.

I was not sure if the cats would eat the tuna. When I was young, I had a cat and she hated tuna. Combine that with it being a year old and I am shocked they ate it as quickly as they did. It was adorable, really, the way the two pacing cats nudged awake the sleeping one, letting it eat first before scarfing down the remaining tuna. I tried to take the bowl away from the cats once they had finished eating, but one of the pacing cats stood in the bowl possessively and meowed at me, so I left it alone.

I decided to let the cats have my bed and to sleep on the couch that night. I do not remember what I dreamed, I never do, never have. My whole life I have wondered what it was like to dream. People always talk about how they had the craziest dream last night or dude, did I tell you about my awesome dream, but most of the time I just did not dream. Once, I was on medication that made me dream. It was supposed to calm my anxiety enough for me to sleep since I used to not sleep at all. I would be awake for days on end just thinking about all the little things that have gone wrong and could go wrong. Those meds made me dream that everyone was pancakes and they all ate themselves.

I have always had a problem with sleep, not just dreams. In sixth grade there was this guy who was super popular that sat in front of me in our little spots on the floor in gym class. One day he spun around on his butt and accidentally kicked me. He said he was sorry, and my anxiety ridden brain decided it would be appropriate for me to say hello instead of that’s okay. This was one of the things that my brain chose to remind me of constantly. This memory gave me panic attacks during the day and kept me up at night. That, and the almost perpetual fear that I was going to die of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Luckily the night I slept on the couch because the cats were in my bed, I only woke up twice. I would like to say that the third time I awoke, the time I decided to stay awake for that day, was when my adventure started, but it never truly started. The start of my adventure was before I was born, before I was even a thought in my parents’ minds, before they were thoughts in their parents’ minds. It started before iPhones and George Washington and Cleopatra. It started before dinosaurs and methanogenic bacteria and the collision of the mars sized object with the rock now known as Earth that created what is now known as the moon. It started before then, and long, long after then. Time is such a funny thing, happening all at once and never not happening at all ever. It means that now, the time after now, and the time before now are all when my adventure begins.

However, to explain what has happened, looking at time from a linear perspective, when I wake up is when my adventure begins.

In order for there to be this adventure, first there had to have been a problem. This problem was the growing lack of ambition and motivation that has slowly taken away my life over the years. Now, of course, I had finished my novel. Yet, I had no will to get it published. I was infinitely proud of all four hundred and nineteen pages. Every damn page, every damn sentence, every damn word, I was endlessly proud of. That pride hit a peak at three thirty three in the morning on September twenty fifth, but in that moment all of my feelings had become so overwhelming that there was no point in bothering with or acknowledging that pride. It was sensory overload and pride was the least of my emotions. There was worry and fear and guilt and hatred and love and a crushing peace that came over me and crumpled my soul up to the size of a pea. There was hope and crippling panic and a heartbreaking feeling of disbelief. I did not know what to do next or how I did what I just did. I felt accomplished and somehow at the same time like every second I had spent writing was a second wasted.

So, there I was, drowning in emotion, no idea what to do with myself with a brand new novel sitting in front of me and no drive to get it published.

Flash forward a few days and I am waking up, starting my adventure. There was a knock at my door which was what had woken me up.

And now here I was, today, typing this, burning my old novel, starting something new. The time I spent writing, working, editing, all amounted to nothing, to ash, crinkling in the flames, but that did not matter. But that is not what matters now, not yet of course. What matters now is the knock on my door and the millions of opportunities waiting behind it.

When I opened my door, what I expected was someone asking to discuss religious beliefs or some travelling salesman that did not get the local memo that I am to be left alone at all costs for fear of me screaming in German or yelling about how Satan was going to take over and make Robert Downey Jr. king of us all. Wouldn’t that be awesome!?

Anyway, what I found behind the door was neither of these things.

Part one was much longer than intended. Oh well. Part two might take a while, but I am really enjoying writing it, so maybe not. I am just not entirely sure where to go from here, but I will figure it out.

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DARE Disapproval

dareDrug education in schools downright sucks. That is all there is to it. My opinion? Drug education is important and needs to be taught; however, it needs to be improved greatly. For starters, the majority of it is straight up lies. My DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program in my school lied to me. A lot. First and foremost, I was told on a regular basis about how much peer pressure there would be to do drugs in high school. This is can be described as nothing other than complete and utter bullshit. I am graduating high school in a few months and have not once been pressured into doing drugs nor do I know a single other student who has been pressured into doing drugs. This is not to say that I have not been around drugs. In fact, my town is known for its lovely heroin epidemic and I have been offered drugs on quite a few occasions. On these occasions the people offering the drugs were indeed peers, but there was absolutely no pressure involved whatsoever. The conversations were simple enough, they offered, I said no thanks, they responded with variations of one of three responses: 1. “Alright man, more for me,” 2. “More power to you, keep doing what you do,” and 3. “Okay, cool, but if you ever change your mind, you know where to find me.” Now of course, I cannot speak to the world beyond high school, but there does not seem to be a lot of pressure to do drugs, despite that being the main thing stressed in my drug education classes.

say noAnother problem is you learn exactly nothing. Granted, I have not had a drug education class in almost four years since they stop teaching it to us in middle school, but I can count on one hand the number of thing I remember, namely: high school is NOTHING BUT PEER PRESSURE, our DARE officer gave us candy, and drugs are bad, do not even touch a drug of any kind or you will die and your parents will disown your corpse. So, basically, I learned nothing, or at least nothing at all truthful and useful. I specifically remember spending an entire class period being told to repeat the word no at an increasing volume until our DARE officer was sufficiently pleased with the tone of authority in the voice of a bunch of sixth graders. We were told that we would need to use this ‘technique’ to get rid of people who wanted to force us to do drugs. There is so many things wrong with that, I do not even know where to begin. Now, screaming the word no may be very useful in certain situations, but not a single one of those cases was discussed, instead opting to focus on screaming at people who do not need to be screamed at.

Zero-toleranceSomething I keep coming across online is how DARE’s zero-tolerance policy towards drug and alcohol use is actually harmful, and as someone who has taken a DARE class, this is a perfectly legitimate observation. Drug education programs are completely and totally against drugs in such an extreme sense that it becomes counterproductive. They focus mainly on extreme cases like heroin and cocaine, telling you coming in contact with any of these types of substances is world ending for everyone. They tell you that taking any kind of drug at all ever is the end of your career, your dreams, your goals, and your life. Drugs are the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden and that is ridiculous. I will not get into my views on the legalization of marijuana just yet, but DARE treats it like poison rather than something potentially useful with a long history of helping people.

Side note- This is from the Rolling Stones road case that I took a picture of in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio on my trip there last week.

Side note- This is from the Rolling Stones road case that I took a picture of in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio on my trip there last week.

Drug education programs demonize drugs and drug users to such an extreme extent. Even recovered addicts are scorned in these classes for falling prey to the oh-so-evil world of drugs. In addition to all this, some parents believe that their children being taught in DARE classes in school absolves them of the responsibility to teach their children anything. This means that they are not getting the education at all, because they do not absorb what is being taught in these programs and when they do it is either wrong or, more often, has the opposite of its intended effect. The program has actually proven to be associated with an increase in drug use.

encouragementI have only been in one drug education class that helped, and it was less of a class and more of a support group. It was full of people that were addicted to drugs with a teacher that had been to jail many many times for many drug related and non-drug related offenses. To be clear, I was not in this group because I have a drug problem, I actually happened to be the only one there who had never had a drug problem, I sort of ended up there by chance. But anyway, that is beside the point. Everyone, including the teacher, sat in a circle and discussed all their run-ins with different types of drugs. I not only remember this class very clearly, but also remember every horror story as well as every “it was actually an awesome experience” story and it was the most I had ever learned about drugs in one sitting. Not only that, but I knew it was all true. There was no fluff about how terrible it was or how it would ruin your life. The teacher was encouraging, saying that recovery was possible, it did not have to ruin your life, just look at him, he was perfectly happy, rather than the usual “DON’T DO DRUGS THEY ARE EVIL AND LIFE RUINING AND RECOVERY IS IMPOSSIBLE AND IF YOU EVEN LOOK AT A DRUG YOUR LIFE IS OVER KISS HAPPINESS GOODBYE, IN FACT KISS YOUR LIFE GOODBYE YOU ARE AS GOOD AS DEAD.” Now, I will never truly understand just how difficult recovery is, I do know it is not by any means easy, but I still believe that encouraging words telling already addicted teens that it is possible is a much better tactic than attempting to preemptively horrify them.

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“The Morning After”

I stared up at the painting in absolute disgust and disconnect. I could not believe I actually painted such a monstrosity. It just did not feel like me. I could just barely remember sitting in a dark room, painting the reflection of my leg in a broken mirror. My leg, folded underneath me, battered and bruised and bloodied, covered in fresh cuts and old scars, was pictured on a background of bright pinks and blues, covered in the cracks of the mirror, chipped and falling apart. It was my least favorite piece in the gallery, but there it was, too busy and too bright in some spots and way too dark in others and just hideous.

“It’s beautiful.” The voice came from somewhere next to me, but I could not tell who from. A crowd had gathered around me and my painting. They were staring, and I felt so exposed, as if they were staring and judging my actual leg instead of a painting of it.

“What?” I don’t know why I asked, or who I was asking. I heard what they said loud and clear. I just did not want to accept it.

“It’s beautiful,” I could not tell if it was the same voice repeating for my benefit, or a different one, repeating because they agreed. Both options made me feel sick. The voice continued, “Absolutely gorgeous. What do you call it?”

I had not considered this. I had not thought up a name. Nothing had a name in my world. Not people, not places, not paintings, especially not my paintings. Names had no purpose, no meaning. Giving something a name, assigning it a set of letters to call it by, it was all pointless. Your name is not who you are, and these paintings had no concept of who they were anyway. It made no difference to them what they were called, just as it made no difference to me. I considered voicing this opinion to my inquirer, but it was a nonconformist answer, and this was an artsy person. Artsy people love nonconformity, cling to it, proclaim it as if it were superior knowledge. I did not want to give them that satisfaction, so I blurted out what sounded right, my words rich with the lovely scent of conformity, “The Morning After.”

That was all I said. Three little words and their brains started running, practically audibly. You just had to listen. You could hear the little square gears in their head spinning forward, reeling out of control and grinding together, trying to fit, pretending they fit, but not making any real connections. Above that you could hear the chatter. They spoke among themselves in small groups, arguing the meaning behind the title. The title I gave no thought to was creating its own thoughts, springing to life in each person’s mind and spewing out of their mouths. It was gross.

They asked each other questions, then responded indignantly with more questions, as though one person’s question had more tremendous answers, making the question, and therefore the asker, far superior.

‘The morning after what?’ One person would ask, to which another would respond, ‘No, no, no, the morning after whom?’ at which everyone would ooh and aah as though it was some sort of breakthrough rather than another, dumber question.

They continued asking their questions and answering with ‘deeper’ questions, going in circles without coming up with any answers. None of them thought to ask me what I meant. They looked to themselves to find my meaning. I thought that was idiotic; I was standing right next to them, holding the answers they looked for, yet they ignored me. It was as if they knew that even I did not truly know what I meant. How could I? And if I knew, I was not so sure I would have told them.

I took a step backwards, then another. I noticed the crowd part slightly behind me, people moving out of my way without even realizing they were doing it. I continued to walk backwards until I had left the crowd that surrounded ‘The Morning After’ and could see not just the back of that crowd, but also the ones surrounding every other painting. Everyone was chattering quietly, but combined it was so loud. Not like rock concert loud, or even large crowds whispering loud, more like that single fly buzzing around your room on a quiet day loud.

A reporter approached me, asking if I was the artist and if I could answer some questions. I said that I could, but I would not. Then, I left. I walked right out of the gallery, walking to the corner and hailing a cab. I was done. My manager called a few times, texted a few more, the messages getting increasingly more urgent, every message after the fourth completely in caps, and every voicemail a strange attempt at yelling while whispering. I turned my phone off. I left, and I never looked back

I don’t like the ending, so I will probably change it or add to it one day, I just wanted to get something posted since it has been a while.

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